One technique that I’ve found works well for abstracts is to put my lens into manual and deliberately throw it out of focus. It’s funny, but as much as I love shooting abstracts I often forget to try that. When I was looking for an abstract for this month’s wallpaper, I wanted something that was about fall color. I came across a lot of shots, but then I remembered these. I only did a few of them but need to do them more often. I love the effect, as it is a lot like the results I get when I shoot moving water. But instead of the moving water making the patterns they come from the shades and tones in the scene.
Fall seems to be coming a little early around here. The weather in general has been very strange the last month or two. I hope everyone is able to enjoy fall wherever you are, or spring for those who are “upside down” on this earth .
We live in an age of absolutes. We have political parties who won’t support another party’s position just because it isn’t theirs, even when it is right. If we choose to not support a given cause then we are considered to be against it, even though we might be generous contributors to some other cause. When we drive it seems we are either rushing down the road like we’re on our way to a fire, or sitting at a traffic light checking the messages on our phones that came since the last red light.
Our Subaru came with a gauge on the dashboard that gives a visual reference as to whether we are “using gas” or “saving gas.” “Using gas” goes all the way to the 6:00, or “minus” position, while “saving gas” goes to the 12:00 or “plus position. When I am driving down a level road at a reasonable speed, the needle is horizontal at the 9:00 position, which in goldilocks terms means “just right” territory. But the scale between all the way “plus” and all the way “minus” is a continuum. When we first bought the car I became fixated on that gauge, mostly because I was surprised at how often it was pegged to the “minus” position and how seldom it hovered in “plus” territory. Sometimes the gauge just has to go into the Minus zone, like when pulling away from a traffic light, merging onto a freeway or going up a hill. But other than that, I have adjusted how I use the accelerator in order to keep that needle from “hitting bottom” any more than necessary.
This will sound silly, but in many ways that gauge has literally changed my life. That visual reference has taught me that the gas pedal is a control, and not an on/off switch.
My son Kevin has a term for people who pay attention to things and people around us. He calls us “observers.” I like that term because it is descriptive but not a label. Being an observer is both a blessing and a curse. Being an observer lets us experience things around us that other people overlook, for all the various reasons that people overlook things. Being an observer also makes us see all the things that people do that make us angry. One of the things I observe is how often people appear to live their lives either “off” or “on.” And for me that often manifests itself in how people drive.
I see that little needle as an analogy for the way I live my life, and I guess I project it on others as I imagine them running around with their personal needles pegged on Minus. This feeling is especially prevalent on my drive to work in the morning, as we move from one stop light to the next, all of us ending up in the same place, just in a somewhat different order. Some people race to get to the light sooner, and just have to wait longer for it to change. Others roll up to the light just as it is getting ready to change, but it’s the same cars each time. I guess in many ways I’m playing the role of the tortoise vs. the hare, but I learned long ago that no one gives out prizes for being the first person into the office in the morning. And they don’t serve cocktails to those who are still in the office at 6:00. When I leave for the day, I do so with the confidence that it will be there when I get back. Right where I left it the day before. It’s funny how that works.
So where did the title come from? I was thinking about the fact that people seem to know only two settings on their cars – “go” and “stop.” I was thinking about the fact that I can choose how hard to press the gas pedal – that it is a control that allows me to add gas gradually instead of just mashing it to the floor, instead of an off/on switch with only two settings. And I choose to live my life somewhere between the Plus and Minus settings. Sometimes it’s OK to peg the needle one way or the other, but things seem to run more smoothly when I keep the needle in the middle. And I guess I just find myself happier when my personal needle spends more time on the Plus side of the scale than the Minus.
Kathy & I headed to Charleston, SC over the Labor Day weekend to attend the Lowcountry Jazz Festival there. When I was packing up my photo gear I didn’t know if I would be permitted to take a camera to the concerts, so at the last minute I pulled out my Fuji X-10 and decided to toss it in the bag.
I hadn’t been using the Fuji in a while, in fact I’ve been on a “use the best camera all the time” kick and haven’t been carrying a point & shoot camera at all. And I have never been happy with the way Lightroom processes the RAW files I’ve gotten out of the Fuji, so I had sort of abandoned it.
I have read a lot of comments about how good Fuji’s JPEG processing is, so I set the camera up to shoot high quality JPEGs. And although I could have taken the “big camera” to the concerts I decided to just take the Fuji. In fact that was the only camera I used all weekend. We went out and did some touristy stuff and the X-10 did the job.
It did a pretty good job all in all, especially considering that it is several years old. The concert photos were taken at ISO 1600 or 3200 and came out pretty good for a small sensor. I decided to post these with no processing at all. A few are a little on the dark side, but that is mostly due to the fact that I was using negative exposure compensation at the concerts and kept forgetting to reset it when I went outside!
I’m pretty impressed with the results from this camera. In fact, based on a lot of things I have been reading lately, I’ve just about decided to try out one of their newer offerings as a possible eventual replacement for the full frame beast that I’ve been carrying. It’s tough to beat the files I’m getting from the 5D, but with results like these from a several-year-old point & shoot, I think I owe it to myself to at least rent a newer model and see how I like it. No surprise that we have some upcoming travel plans , so I may need to check out the options.
Back to the real abstracty stuff for September! Last month’s calendar photo was a little too literal to fit the “abstract” theme, but I like it and it works.
I really like this month’s photo for the pastel colors and the soft edge of the waterline against the sand. It fits into my idea of a quiet evening, which is one of the things I like best about being at the beach.
This is certainly not a new term in photography or even a new use for an old one. But it’s a way I’ve described some of the images I’ve made during our various travels. They aren’t people pictures and they aren’t (necessarily) historical landmarks, but it’s a way to describe the details that make up the greater part of the whole.
These are some of my “urban landscape” photos from our recent visit to Millersburg, OH.
About a week ago on Cedric’s Blog a few of us were commenting about how we enjoy taking pictures of people taking pictures. I had been collecting photos of that topic for a while now, but hadn’t really posted any of them as a collection. So here are a few that I was able to dig out of the archives to get the ball rolling on this.
“I’ve got to conversations going on in my head,” he explains, a bemused smile deepening the creases around his eyes. “One says, ‘Hey, you’ve got a lot of stuff you want to do, man. Now’s the time, because you’re gonna kick the bucket pretty soon.’ The other says, ‘Oh, Jeff, you want to make the rest of your life a giant homework assignment? Just relax, man. Just relax.'”
- Jeff Bridges interview in AARP Magazine, Aug/Sep 2014
Words to live by, as far as I’m concerned. Kathy & I have spent a lot of time thinking about what comes “next,” as though it has to be something different from what we’ve done for the last 30+ years. But sometimes I wonder why. I’m not unhappy with what I’ve done, and if I never get to Europe or Antarctica I don’t think I will find my life somehow unfulfilled.
A lot of what we think and feel is due to the old “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome – that somehow something different will be magically better. And why is that?
While we were in Ohio visiting my brother Bob, we went to Millersburg for dinner. Here are a few photos that I took while waiting for our table at a local restaurant that happened to be right across the street from the Holmes County Courthouse. It’s a classic building in classic (I’m sure there’s a proper word for it) courthouse architecture.
I’ve not been able to come up with a lot of words lately, but I have been making gradual progress on processing some photos. Here are a few more from our now-not-so-recent trip to Ohio at the end of June. Much more work to do, so I may just spit out a bunch of photos as I get to them.
I know my thousands of readers will go elsewhere if I don’t keep their attention.