Colorado Adventure: Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado

As I go through my images from our recent vacation to Colorado, I’m going to try and do short posts – mostly in order I hope – with a few photos from each of the places we visited.  I’ll also try to add a little commentary along the way.  Eventually these will all end up in a gallery on my website.

Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
I have no idea who this woman is, but based on the conversation it sounds like she is a geologist or environmental scientist of some kind.
My "Good Karma" moment - I took this photo then offered to take a photo of the whole group with their camera.
My “Good Karma” moment – I took this photo then offered to take a photo of the whole group with their camera.

Our first night in Colorado was in Manitou Springs, just west of Colorado Springs.  So from the Denver airport we headed south with the idea of seeing what we saw along the way.  Garden of the Gods was on our list of places to visit, weather and time permitting.

Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado

As it turned out we had time, but we almost didn’t have the weather.  It was threatening rain from the time we pulled into the parking lot, sprinkled a few times on the trails then really let go about the time we were living.  Good timing!  It would have been pretty toasty there if we didn’t have the clouds, and good photos might have been a little tougher to come by.

Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Colorado
People just can't leave well enough alone.
People just can’t leave well enough alone.

Hangin’ With Monte

County Road 94 somewhere in rural Colorado north of Fort Collins
Who needs The Palouse? County Road 94 somewhere in rural Colorado north of Fort Collins

Happy Birthday, Monte!

County Road 90 North of Fort Collins, Colorado
County Road 90 North of Fort Collins, Colorado

I got some skeptical looks when I told people that while I was in Colorado I was looking forward to seeing a friend that I had met on the internet.  It wasn’t quite that way but it usually got the reaction I was looking for!  I’m like that sometimes. 😉

Somewhere in rural Colorado north of Fort Collins
Somewhere in rural Colorado north of Fort Collins

Most of the readers of  this blog already know Monte, and a few had already met him.  But since I had already met Paul, Earl aka Brooks, and Paul Maxim, I couldn’t take a trip to Colorado without checking in with Monte.

County Road 94 somewhere in rural Colorado north of Fort Collins
County Road 94 somewhere in rural Colorado north of Fort Collins

When we planned the itinerary for this vacation I wanted to spend some time in Fort Collins, mostly to see Monte but also to visit the town itself.  As it turns out, it is quite the booming place, with a vibrant downtown area known as Old Town, lots of breweries and some excellent restaurants.

Sunset along the Front Range of Colorado somewhere north of Fort Collins, Colorado
Sunset along the Front Range of Colorado somewhere north of Fort Collins, Colorado

Monte came to meet us at our hotel the first night we were in town, we spent an hour or so chatting, and as I expected hit it off immediately.  You kind of get a feeling for a person after sharing stories and photographs for as long as we have, but you never know.  It was great!  Kathy got into the act, too.  We had a nice dinner and kept each other up well past our usual bedtimes.

Sunset along the Front Range of Colorado somewhere north of Fort Collins, Colorado
Sunset along the Front Range of Colorado somewhere north of Fort Collins, Colorado

The second evening Monte acted as tour guide and took us to some of his favorite photographic locations.  Many places I had seen from his photos, and a few that I had not.  And mostly places I never would have gotten to – or back from – on my own!

Sunset along the Front Range of Colorado somewhere north of Fort Collins, Colorado
Sunset along the Front Range of Colorado somewhere north of Fort Collins, Colorado

We met up again on our last evening, had another nice dinner and spent a lot more time chatting.  Fortunately we were already packed for the return trip to Charlotte and didn’t figure we would get much sleep anyway!

Hmmm, what's this button do???
Hmmm, what’s this button do???

Thank you Monte for an enjoyable time!  You are a great host and guide, and we look forward to meeting up with you again sometime or somewhere soon!

Tom & Monte Stevens at Slyce Pizza in Fort Collins, Colorado
Tom & Monte Stevens at Slyce Pizza in Fort Collins, Colorado

Lunch Time Company

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This guy was hanging out on the window outside our break room at work, and I couldn’t help but make a few portraits of him with my phone.

One or more of my expert readers will set me straight, but I think this is a Pipevine or Blue Swallowtail.  I don’t see too many butterflies, but this guy was pretty interesting.  I did a little Snapseed magic to clean up the background and juice the colors a bit.

I’m currently wading through my photos from our recent visit to Colorado.  Stay tuned!

Catching Up

Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina

It’s hard to believe that it was two months ago, but in early April, Kathy & I took our latest excursion to eastern North Carolina along with our friends Bill & Cathy from Ohio.  We visited our usual haunts of Belhaven and Washington, but also visited Edenton and Bailey. Here are a few photos from that trip, just for fun.

Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Grain Mill in Bailey, North Carolina
Grain Mill in Bailey, North Carolina
Random photos from Belhaven, North Carolina
Random photos from Belhaven, North Carolina
Random photos from Belhaven, North Carolina
Random photos from Belhaven, North Carolina
Built in 1886, the restored Roanoke River Lighthouse now stands proudly in the harbor at Edenton, NC.  The lighthouse first served as a guide for ships navigating the waters of the Albemarle Sound into the Roanoke River, and then, after being decommissioned in 1941, was moved by barge across the sound to private land, where it ultimately deteriorated as a neglected residence. Its history, as one would expect, is filled with fateful events and colorful characters. After being acquired by the Edenton Historical Commission and then given to the state of North Carolina, a band of dedicated volunteers, public officials and preservationists brought it to its final home. With state funds, the structural restoration work was completed as volunteer donations and furnishings were gathered.
Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, NC.
Built in 1886, the restored Roanoke River Lighthouse now stands proudly in the harbor at Edenton, NC.  The lighthouse first served as a guide for ships navigating the waters of the Albemarle Sound into the Roanoke River, and then, after being decommissioned in 1941, was moved by barge across the sound to private land, where it ultimately deteriorated as a neglected residence. Its history, as one would expect, is filled with fateful events and colorful characters. After being acquired by the Edenton Historical Commission and then given to the state of North Carolina, a band of dedicated volunteers, public officials and preservationists brought it to its final home. With state funds, the structural restoration work was completed as volunteer donations and furnishings were gathered.
Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, NC.
Random photos from Edenton, North Carolina
Random photos from Edenton, North Carolina
Random photos from Edenton, North Carolina
Random photos from Edenton, North Carolina
Random photos from Edenton, North Carolina
Random photos from Edenton, North Carolina
Random photos from Edenton, North Carolina
Random photos from Edenton, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina
Random photos from Washington, North Carolina

Have I Changed My Mind?

Galaxy S6 photo, no processing
Galaxy S6 photo, no processing

Due to a “mishap” with my old phone, I found myself with a brand spanking new phone recently.  I had been overdue for a replacement for nearly a year, and the technology had gotten a bit dated, considering that I run a lot of stuff on my phone that hadn’t been invented when I bought it.

Galaxy S6 photo, no processing
Galaxy S6 photo, no processing

My old phone was a Samsung Galaxy S3.  It was a pretty good phone, but had started to slow dramatically and was eating batteries like I eat cookies.  The latest reviews were raving about the camera in the new Galaxy S6, so I decided to give it a try.  I haven’t taken many photos with it yet, but I’ve been pretty impressed with the ones I’ve taken so far.

Galaxy S6 photo, no processing
Galaxy S6 photo, no processing

I just may have changed my mind about using my phone as a camera.  Or is it using my camera as a phone?  I forget.  More to come!

A Matter of Perspective

Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Pixie Forest
Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Pixie Forest

A group of co-workers and I often go out to lunch on Fridays. This past Friday we had a little larger group than usual, and while we were waiting for the elevator, one of the guys said, “gee, we may need to take a bus.” And I replied, “maybe we need to call an Uber.” The resulting exchange went something like this (paraphrased):

Me: We could call an Uber and have them bring a van.

40-Something Somewhat Tech Aware Guy: Have you used Uber?

50-Something Less Than Open Minded Guy: What the hell’s an Uber?

Me: I’ve used Uber several times, it’s great. Works well. You just pull up the app, it tells you where the nearest car is, tell it where you want to go and they come.

40-Something Privacy Sensitive Guy: How do you pay them? Do they have your credit card information?

60-Something Fox News Addict: Don’t you worry about getting kidnapped or murdered? What kind of background check do they do?

Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

Elevator stops at another floor.

My "Favorite" Wall, Waynesville, North Carolina
My “Favorite” Wall, Waynesville, North Carolina

30-Something Hipster Guy gets on, someone we know. He hears the conversation and asks, “you guys talking about Uber? I work for them, good way to earn some extra money.”

Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

We went on and took two cars. 50-Something Less Than Open Minded Guy wanted to drive because he doesn’t like to ride (also a Control Freak?) and 60-Something Fox News Addict drove (needed to get a Rush fix on the way).

Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

That 30-second elevator conversation reminded me of how different our impressions of something can differ depending on our perspective. Our recent conversation about cameras is another example of how where we come from can impact our impression of something, our point of view and our opinion.

Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

A Weekend with the Olympus OMD EM1

Belly dancing demonstration at the 13th Annual Whole Bloomin Thing Festival in Historic Frog Level, North Carolina
Belly dancing demonstration at the 13th Annual Whole Bloomin Thing Festival in Historic Frog Level, North Carolina

Kathy & I recently decided to take a long weekend to Waynesville, North Carolina, and I decided that it would be an excellent opportunity to try out the second of the two cameras that I have been wanting to try. While I wasn’t (and still am not) looking to replace my Canon gear, I have been wanting to try a few of the “state of the art” mirrorless cameras. I decided a while ago that of all the cameras to choose from, I was most likely to choose between the Fuji XT1 and the Olympus OMD EM1.

Belly dancing demonstration at the 13th Annual Whole Bloomin Thing Festival in Historic Frog Level, North Carolina
Belly dancing demonstration at the 13th Annual Whole Bloomin Thing Festival in Historic Frog Level, North Carolina
The Frog Level Philharmonic performs at the 13th Annual Whole Bloomin Thing Festival in Historic Frog Level, North Carolina
The Frog Level Philharmonic performs at the 13th Annual Whole Bloomin Thing Festival in Historic Frog Level, North Carolina
The Frog Level Philharmonic performs at the 13th Annual Whole Bloomin Thing Festival in Historic Frog Level, North Carolina
The Frog Level Philharmonic performs at the 13th Annual Whole Bloomin Thing Festival in Historic Frog Level, North Carolina

Back in January I rented a Fuji XT1 from Lensrentals and tried it out over a weekend in Charlotte. I wrote about the experience in a couple of posts, here and here. So for the weekend in Waynesville I decided to rent the other camera, an Olympus OMD EM1. Yes, I know the punctuation isn’t quite correct, but it’s too hard to get that alphabet soup arranged correctly!

Random photos from downtown Marion, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Marion, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Marion, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Marion, North Carolina

Whenever the time comes to replace my current camera system, I know that my two priorities are going to be image quality and handling. The 5D Mark III checks all the boxes for image quality, and after 12+ years of using Canon DSLRs the handling and layout of the menus is second nature to me. My only real reason for giving that up would be to find comparable image quality and good handling in a camera that is smaller and lighter. I can get used to just about any menu system given enough time, so I’m not too concerned about that.

Random photos from downtown Marion, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Marion, North Carolina
Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Laurel Knob Overlook
Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Laurel Knob Overlook

My impression from the Fuji was that I really liked the files. I felt like the image quality was very good, and that it would likely be a suitable replacement for the full sized DSLR. My only real objection was that the camera felt too small for my hands, and I never felt like I had a secure and comfortable grip on it. That could probably be solved with one of the accessory grips sold by Fuji and others, but I didn’t get a chance to include that in my rental. Since January, Fuji has also come out with a larger “pro” level lens that might give me something more substantial to hang on to.

Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

Being a firm believer in Murphy’s Law, I had had a feeling that when I tried the Olympus I would really like how the camera handled but that I wouldn’t like the files as much. But I’ve been a fan of the more square aspect ratio of the 4/3 cameras since my 6×7 medium format days, so I knew that would be a plus.  From the moment I opened the box, assembled the camera and lens and held it in my hands, I had the feeling that “this is it.” In fact, the entire weekend I was daydreaming about how I could get the Canon gear boxed up and sent off to trade it all in on the Olympus and a supply of lenses. I really liked the way it handled, and other than the 30 minutes I spent trying to figure out how to get the lens out of Manual Focus mode (little did I realize that the Olympus 12-40 has a “push-pull” clutch mechanism to change between auto and manual focus) and the well-documented frustration with the menu hierarchy, it was a breeze to use.

Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Pounding Mill Overlook
Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Pounding Mill Overlook
Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Pounding Mill Overlook
Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Pounding Mill Overlook

As luck would have it, I came home from a nice relaxing long weekend into a hectic week so my time to evaluate the files immediately was quite limited. I boxed up the camera and sent it back to Lensrentals, and downloaded the files to my computer. I snuck a quick peek at a few of the photos before heading off to bed, and was astonished to find that my initial impression was “yuck!” I even told Kathy – who had been patiently listening to me sing the praises of the Olympus all weekend – that my initial reaction was “leave your credit card in your wallet.” She was as surprised to hear it as I was to say it.

Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway

I’ve now had a chance to spend some quality time with the files in Lightroom, and my impression has improved significantly. I’m going to try to tread very carefully here, because (a) I’m only trying to describe my experience and am not trying to write a comprehensive review, (b) I know a lot of people whose photography and opinions I respect who use the Olympus, and I’m not trying to question anyone else’s opinion, and (c ) I am by no means a qualified camera tester.

Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina
Random photos from downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

In general I don’t find the image quality to be bad or anything, but my impression is that the files do not have the contrast, sharpness and color rendition that I get from my Canon cameras and that I saw in the Fuji files. They seem to be a little noisier than the Fuji files and I don’t feel that they have the dynamic range of the Canon or Fuji files. I suspect that this is due to the smaller sensor as much as anything. They seemed to require a little more sharpening and noise reduction than the Canon and Fuji files, and don’t seem to respond as well to large adjustments.

Storm clouds over Mount Mitchell, Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina
Storm clouds over Mount Mitchell, Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina
Storm clouds along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina
Storm clouds along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina

Admittedly I have not spent nearly as much time with either the Fuji or the Olympus files as I have with my Canon files, and I have processed a lot of Canon files over the years. I may have “gotten lucky” with the Fuji files, and given more time I might find the key to the Olympus files. But based on my limited experience with both of them if I had to make a choice I would probably have to choose the Fuji over the Olympus at this point in time. I would just need to find a solution to the lack of a grip, which I think would be pretty easy to accomplish.

Storm clouds along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina
Storm clouds along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina
Storm clouds along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina
Storm clouds along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina

I’ll undoubtedly have more to say on the subject over the next week or two, and I will certainly post some additional photos and commentary as I get to them. I might actually bring myself to make a purchase at some point in the near future. But we have a big trip coming up in June and there is no compelling reason to rock the boat. Kathy & I will be taking our first-ever trip to Colorado in June, and I’m planning to go with the tried and true Canon kit. I know it well, am confident that it will give me the results I want, and other than schlepping it through the airports we will be doing most of our travel by car, so the size and weight will not be as big of a factor.

A quiet breakfast at City Bakery in Waynesville, North Carolina
A quiet breakfast at City Bakery in Waynesville, North Carolina

If you were hoping for a little bias confirmation bias, sorry for the disappointment. 😉

May 2015 Wallpaper

Seafoam Lavender Farm in Seafoam, Nova Scotia
Seafoam Lavender Farm in Seafoam, Nova Scotia

I said I was going to post wallpapers less regularly, and I passed on April.  But I was getting tired of that scene and wanted something springy.  Spring has sprung here in North Carolina, although the usual spring-almost-summer temperatures haven’t decided to stay yet.  We’re still in that “heat in the morning, AC in the afternoon” stage that usually ends in April.  That’s OK with me!

There isn’t a lot of lavender here in North Carolina.  This is a lavender field in Seafoam, Nova Scotia from a few years back.  I’ve been reliving 2013 lately and this seemed like a good candidate to occupy my desktop for a while.  I hope it goes well on yours, too if  you are so inclined.

Streamlining The Process

Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, Florida
Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Florida

Ever since I started using Lightroom to process and manage my photos, I have continuously updated and improved my workflow. I’ve used my workflow as the basis for teaching Lightroom classes, individual tutoring and consulting. I carefully devised a workflow that suits my needs, primarily of organizing and identifying my photos, as well as using the various tools such as Pick flags, color labels and star ratings to tell me exactly where in the process a given photo or group of photos was.

Nightlife on Duval Street in Key West, Florida
Nightlife on Duval Street in Key West, Florida

 

Something for everyone in Key West, Florida
Something for everyone in Key West, Florida

As efficient as my workflow has been, one of the big downsides is that I was spending a lot of time in the Develop module for each of my photos, even those that were mostly “snapshots” and would probably never be printed or posted on my website. What eventually happened was that I only had a small percentage of photos that were marked as “finished” and had thousands of photos that had not been processed. These files are ones that I had marked with a Pick flag – meaning that I thought there was some merit to the photo that warranted further processing. And that backlog was getting larger and larger, to the point where I thought I would never get them caught up.

Scenery, Key West, Florida
Scenery, Key West, Florida

Part of my workflow over the years has been to create a group of Develop presets to apply to these photos when I import them from my card. I have a set of presets that take care of 90-95% (or more) of the work I do on a photo. But as good as these presets are, they won’t address things like dust spots and crooked horizons, so I would still go in and spend countless hours tweaking and fine-tuning all of those photos, regardless of whether or not they will ever see life beyond my hard drive.

Front porch, Key West, Florida
Front porch, Key West, Florida

 

Ernest Hemingway House, Key West, Florida
Ernest Hemingway House, Key West, Florida

One of the many lessons from my recent experience with dipping my toe into the mirrorless camera pool is the realization that the files from the Fuji X-T1 hardly needed any follow up tweaking. I was so impressed with the files right out of the camera that in many cases I didn’t do a thing to them, and anything I did do was purely aesthetic, or “because I could.” It was playing around with the files from that camera that made me take another look at my regular workflow and realize that the files from my Canon cameras were also really good, but that I had gotten myself in the habit of working with all of them that I had lost sight of the fact that all that extra work wasn’t really doing anything significant toward improving the photographs, but it was taking an enormous amount of time!

Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida

I have had a really difficult time letting go of the idea that every photo had to be “completely done” before I marked it as done. Since most of my files never go beyond my own computer, it’s been my own personal hang-up, and I decided that if I wanted to change it I could, so I did. For the last month or so I have been trying really hard to “trust the Force” and let the presets do their work. I still review each individual file for level horizons, dust spots or other things, but have been working really hard to only make those few corrections and to – as much as possible – leave my hands off of those other controls. So far it has worked pretty well. I can get through a lot more photos at one time, and the extra efficiency leaves me the discretion to spend more time with a particular photo or group of photos when I want to. And gradually my backlog is starting to recede, and that is a really good feeling.

Mom & the Kids, Key West, Florida
Mom & the Kids, Key West, Florida

In an upcoming post I will talk about some of the benefits of processing old photos with the new software and will show some examples. Sorry, but that will have to wait while I work on some more photos!

Shadow of our plane and contrail on the clouds during our flight from Key West to Charlotte
Shadow of our plane and contrail on the clouds during our flight from Key West to Charlotte

A Visit to Belmont, North Carolina

Downtown Belmont, North Carolina

Not too far from our home is the town of Belmont, North Carolina. Not surprisingly to many readers of this blog, there is a restaurant there that Kathy & I like to frequent. 😉  One recent Saturday night we took the short drive, and anticipating a short wait for a table I took along my trusty 5D.  Just some random walking around town stuff, and just for fun.

Downtown Belmont, North Carolina Downtown Belmont, North Carolina Downtown Belmont, North Carolina Downtown Belmont, North Carolina Downtown Belmont, North Carolina

Photographs and stuff!