Category Archives: Photography

A Quiet Afternoon

A fall afternoon at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

It was almost like I had heard Jeff Curto’s words in my head, although I didn’t actually hear them until we got home.  Jeff’s most recent podcast talks about it isn’t necessary to travel long distances or to exotic locations to make interesting photographs.  Give it a listen if you don’t already subscribe.  And you know you should. 😉

A fall afternoon at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina
A fall afternoon at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

Kathy and I decided to spend a nice late-fall Sunday afternoon at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, a county park near Huntersville, North Carolina and about 8 miles from our house.  We packed a picnic lunch, laced up our hiking shoes and spent a couple of hours wandering the trails along Mountain Island Lake, the lake that we live close to, but not at.  It’s not Lake Superior, but it’s what we’ve got. 🙂

A fall afternoon at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

We’ve been to Latta a number of times over the years, and I’ve made lots of photographs there.  But it had been a while.  There are things to see and photograph at all times of the year, but I have often sold it short since it is – as Jeff alluded to – in our “back yard.”

A fall afternoon at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

Kathy & I had already decided that we’re going to stick close to home for the next few months, and are planning to get out and explore our own area.  I’ve said for years that I like to be a “tourist in my own town” but have never sat still long enough to give it a chance.  Sounds like now is as good a time as any!

A fall afternoon at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve near Huntersville, North Carolina

Take A Bow

“Take A Bow”

I’ve always had a thing for boat bows, especially reflections of bows in the water.  Shelter Cove Marina is of course full of boat bows.  Other boat parts, too!  Here are a few from our evening there that I found notable.

“Open Wide” (When I saw this I imagined the big boat with an open mouth getting ready to swallow the little boat. Weird.)
Evening light at Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Evening light at Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Evening light at Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

A Little Taste of Fall?

No, this is from last year!  From Colorado….

Kathy & I woke this morning to a temperature of 68 degrees and a noticeable drop in humidity.  We had our morning coffee & tea on the screened porch and almost needed our sleeves! 🙂

Kathy & I met our friend Paul for lunch today, and on the way home Kathy said that the shadows and colors on the houses looked like fall.  The air is crispy clear and it does have that fall look.  But we’re not fooled!  This will only last a few days before the heat and humidity return.  In the meantime we’ll enjoy it!

A Recalibration of Compromises

Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Kirk Tuck recently used this phrase in regards to making choices between camera options, specifically about different lenses.  The full quote follows:

The “science” of optical design can not have changed a tremendous amount in four or five years so you have to understand that the “new versus old” shift is largely a recalibration of compromises. Buy the new one and watch your left biceps atrophy. Buy the old one and suffer the dreaded effects of manual portage. Suffer the ruinous added weight of the original for the extra 1% of quality in the corners or choose the lightweight version and forever wonder how much optical magic they had to remove to get the lens corpulence under control.

It occurred to me, however, that the concept applies in a much broader context, especially in recent months.

Every decision we make requires some effort to balance the options, to compromise.  Do I want the camera with the big sensor that is huge, heavy and requires a large suitcase to cart around, or am I better off with the compact camera with a smaller sensor, small but excellent lenses and “good enough” image quality?  We want to travel – we love to fly but not not any time soon.  We have spent a lot of time on cruise ships but won’t for a while.  Our trip to the beach worked out really well – just like living at home but with better scenery. 😉

We love to eat our but have limited our restaurant outings.  We’ve gotten even better at preparing simple but delicious meals at home – much to the delight of the bathroom scale!

Kathy and I are currently in the process of planning a road trip to the Pacific Northwest.  The places we’re planning to visit are the places where we’re less likely to encounter big crowds.  As crazy as it sounds, we’ll probably drive within a few miles of Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks, but have no intention of stopping.  First, crowds are not our thing.  We probably would be doing pretty much the same thing even without all the Coronacrisis hoopla.  But second is that we don’t want to have to deal with the logistics of large crowds.  Third is that when we do go to those parks we want to be able to spend several days or even a couple of weeks there.  That isn’t the plan for this time.

Our recent drive to Ohio and Wisconsin taught us that we can eat, sleep, pee and get gas just about anywhere.  Sometimes it requires a little compromise on location or timing, but it can get done.  Ultimately, once we solve that basic equation we can go just about anywhere!

People ask us why we don’t buy an RV.  For some people it’s the perfect solution.  For us, we like knowing that when we get to the motel, tired after or driving or exploring all day, we don’t need to spend another hour setting up camp.  I can have cocktails made within minutes after arrival!  And the next morning, we grab a cup of coffee, drop the keys at the front desk and get on our way again.  Neither option is right or wrong, just different ways to calibrate the compromises.

None of our choices are either/or or yes/no.  We need to consider what we can do instead  We have to look at the options and recalibrate our compromises.  Our priorities, if you will.  It can be hard, particularly for those of us who don’t care for change.  But the effort is worth it, because there are still plenty of things to do once we have worked out the details.

Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Reprocessing Old Photos – Glacier Bay 2005

NEW VERSION: Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

I’m going back through my old photos for a website update.  This one is already on my website, but I thought I would see what the current software (and my current Lightroom chops) could do with some of the files.  This is the first one I’ve tried this go-around, and I think I’ve made significant improvement.

I made a Snapshot in case I messed something up, then hit Reset.  Using the Adobe Landscape profile, I went though my usual routine with contrast, etc.  I added a gradient to the sky, using a Luminance Mask to apply the settings only to the lightest parts.  Overall contrast and saturation is much better, which is hard to see in the web versions.

It will be interesting to see what I can do with other files.  This may take a while…. 😉

Canon 20D w/17-40 f4

PREVIOUS VERSION: Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Mini Review: A Really Right L-Bracket

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket installed on the X-T4. Very clean lines and well-integrated with the design of the camera

I’ve been fans of Really Right Stuff (RRS) products since I purchased an L-bracket and clamp for my Mamiya 7 camera back in (approximately) 2002.  Paying my ‘RRS Tax’ has been an important part of each camera purchase since then.  The rare exception was with the brackets for my Fujifilm X-T1 and X-E2.  I bought very well-made brackets from a company in England which is (sadly) no longer in business.  I still have the bracket I purchased for the Mamiya, as it is a “universal” model and has fit every camera I have owned since.  Handy for those few weeks while I’ve waited for the “real” bracket to be available!

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket installed on the X-T4. Very clean lines and well-integrated with the design of the camera
Really Right Stuff L-Bracket installed on the X-T4. Very clean lines and well-integrated with the design of the camera

The biggest issue with Really Right Stuff products is that they are Really Really Expensive.  But like owning Craftsman tools or All-Clad cookware, you can’t go wrong buying the good stuff.  I currently own a RRS tripod with ballhead, and until recently had two ballheads.  I’ll never need to buy another tripod.  Unless I change my mind and decide I need a smaller one. 😉

Front angle view showing captive Allen Wrench – no more fumbling for the wrench!
Front angle view showing captive Allen Wrench – no more fumbling for the wrench!

When I placed the order for my X-T4, I also ordered an L-bracket from another manufacturer.  That bracket was supposed to cost about $65 less than the RRS version, and because it was also a quality brand, I figured I would save some money.  Because it is a brand-new camera, neither company had released their L-brackets at the time I got my camera.

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket installed on the X-T4. Works well with the swing-out screen with very little restriction in viewing options

I kept checking the Kirk and RRS websites for information on their delivery times.  Kirk’s website said that they didn’t expect to ship until late July.  As of the time of this post, the bracket is showing up on their website for ordering but is out of stock.  The photos on the Kirk website show a product that isn’t (in my opinion) as well designed and integrated with the camera as the RRS version. Plus it is $25 more than I originally expected, making it nearly as much as the RRS while not being nearly as nice.

One day I checked the websites and the RRS version was in stock and shipping.  I ordered one immediately and cancelled the order for the other one.  Of course it came 3 days after we left for our trip to Ohio, but it was waiting for me when I returned.

Sliding plate that allows for use of a USB cable, remote release, headphones or HDMI cable with the camera in the vertical position

The photos will show better than my words will, but the RRS product is exceptionally well designed.  The relatively recent addition of the magnets for mounting the Allen wrench is genius, and the sliding plate to accommodate accessories in a vertical configuration is a nice touch, much better than some kind of add-on adapter.

I haven’t had a chance to actually use the bracket in real life, but hope to be able to put it through its paces soon.  Of course as long as it works there won’t be a lot more to say!

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket before installation on the camera
Really Right Stuff L-Bracket before installation on the camera
Really Right Stuff L-Bracket before installation on the camera
Really Right Stuff L-Bracket before installation on the camera
Really Right Stuff L-Bracket before installation on the camera

Goin’ Fishing

Solitude – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

It may be a dicey time to try and get out to other parts of the country, but Kathy & I are fixin’ to get back on the road again.  We’ll be headed to Ohio and beyond for a few days.  So I’m going to end the post-a-day I’ve been doing and concentrate on taking photos and spending time with family and friends.  You may see an occasional postcard from time to time.

“Throw this one back “(as soon as I get a photo). Baby hammerhead shark

One thing I did do, for anyone who is interested, is post a gallery of photos from our recent trip to the beach: 2020-06 Hilton Head

Casting Call – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Timing is Everything

Sunset From The Patio

Monte commented on my last post about having been inside having dinner when a nice sunset was happening.  As it turned out, Friday’s sunset here was also pretty nice, but I missed it for the same reason.  I’ve often told non-photographers that many of the best landscape photos are taken when people are either eating or sleeping.  Of course, Kathy’s version of that saying is that a sunset is best observed through a glass.  Albeit not a glass in the form of a camera lens. 😉

I had my camera all ready to go on Saturday night but it turned out to be a colorless mass of gray clouds.  But I left everything out in the office to I would be ready last night.  When the first hint of pink started in the sky I went inside, grabbed my gear and headed to the patio.  But in the course of that 1-2 minute window the pink faded as fast as it started.  I did manage to salvage a bit of the last remaining hints of color as it faded.  First photo and last photo were about 12 minutes apart.

Sunset From The Patio

Transmission towers aren’t as nice a subject as palm trees, but they aren’t drift fences, either. 🙂

Sunset From The Patio

Same Meat, Different Seasoning

ACROS+Red filter

The photo in my previous post was processed using the “Vintage 01” profile in Lightroom.  My default setting is usually an Import Preset I’ve developed using the “Camera Velvia” profile, with some of my own secret sauce.  The Velvia version with that subject came out way too saturated, so I started messing around with a few other treatments.  I created new Virtual Copies, changed to a new profile then made a few additional tweaks based on what I thought each version needed.

Original with Velvia Profile

No verdicts or preferences at this point, but it was interesting to see what the different options can do.

Vintage 01 Profile
Pro-Negative-Hi Profile
Classic Negative Profile

A New Kid On The Block

My New Fujifilm X-T4

Kathy’s birthday is coming up soon, so of course I did the sensible thing and bought her a camera.  I think she’s going to let me use it. 😉  Actually, I did buy a new camera, but it’s for me.  For her birthday I think we’ll plan to go somewhere fun for me to use it.

When I migrated from Canon cameras to Fuji cameras in 2015, I bought the X-T1, followed by a “backup” X-E2.  When it was all said and done, I had a pretty enviable collection of lenses, both zooms and primes.  The whole kit weighed a fraction of what my literal suitcase of Canon gear weighed, the Fuji cameras and lenses are excellent and I paid for most of the Fuji stuff for what I sold the Canon stuff for.  Wins all around!

Now, 5 years later the camera technology has improved, to the point where when Fuji announced the X-T4 I knew it was time for an upgrade.  The X-T1 & X-E2 are still excellent cameras.  In fact, my youngest son is going to embark on his own photography journey with the bodies and two of my lenses.  So they will go to a good home, and by keeping them “in the family” maybe I can borrow them back at some point! 😉 Not really, but I wrote that for his benefit….

I had looked seriously at the X-T3 when it came out, and it is an excellent camera.  I actually rented one to try out about a year ago.  The timing wasn’t right, I felt like I still needed a second body and it was going to require different batteries, memory cards, etc., and at the time I didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do.  But after all the travel we’ve been doing the last year or so, the more I realized that I was just carrying too much stuff.  I’ve always said – jokingly – that the more lenses I carried with me the more likely it was that I had the wrong one on the camera.  So the idea of having to choose from 2 camera bodies and 8 lenses – or heaven forbid carry all of it with me! – seemed like things were getting out of hand.

Backing up a bit – several years ago we went from a 2003 Acura to a 2016 Honda.  While we thought the Acura was a pretty sophisticated car, the 13 year difference with the Honda was astounding.  The years do (usually) mean an improvement in technology, engineering and performance.  Same thing holds true for cameras , even though in this case we’re talking about a difference of only 5 years!  At the time I am typing this I haven’t even turned the camera on, but reading through the manual (YES, I did!) I am amazed at the improvement in just the custom settings alone.  I can’t wait to see what the photos look like.

I’ll write about my initial impressions once I have had a chance to take it for a spin and see what it will do.  But for now suffice it to say that the X-T4 is a pretty fine looking piece of equipment, I like the silver look instead of the all black of my X-T1, and I can’t wait to see how it performs in real life.  Stay tuned for more thoughts and many more photos!