Tag Archives: 2012

The Importance of Good Light

Another copy of the same photo used in the monthly wallpaper and my printed calendar.
Another copy of the same photo used in the monthly wallpaper and my printed calendar.

I have received a number of compliments on the photo from my last post and for the same photo that is on this month’s print calendar.  This truly is a wonderful photograph, one of my all-time favorites.  This is a location I have visited a number of times, at different times of the year and in varying conditions.  The particular evening that I made the photograph that became this month’s calendar, I had exceptionally nice light.  It only lasted for a few moments, but that light, combined with very still water, made for just the right conditions.

The same location in really good, but not spectacular, light.
The same location in really good, but not spectacular, light.

I remembered a similar photograph that I had taken at this same location several years earlier, and went back and pulled it up.  While nice in it’s own way, it was a more cloudy afternoon and the light is much more subdued.  The lighting was much more subdued, which is what I would typically favor for a lot of the photography I do.  It is still a very nice photograph, but not on the same level as the later one.

Another photo taken the same evening as the first one.  A little more water movement, but similar light.
Another photo taken the same evening as the first one. A little more water movement, but similar light.

It is a good example of why we return often to a familiar location.  Because you just don’t know what conditions you might encounter.

“The Vicissitudes of Life”

A Different Perspective, Aboard Sea Princess
A Different Perspective, Aboard Sea Princess

My grandfather was a wise man, and growing up I learned a lot of my lessons about life from hours of conversations at my grandparents’ kitchen table.  We talked about everything from music, work and investing, to relationships and life in general.  In many ways I was closer to my grandparents than my parents, because they loved and appreciated me for who I was, and they didn’t carry the burden of trying to raise me and to make sure I “came out right.”

Grandpa had lots of sayings, phrases and colloquialisms that he liked to use.  One of his favorite “good-bye’s” was the admonishment to “keep your head clear and your bowels open.”  I always thought that was rather silly, but I knew what he meant.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized even more what he meant.

Skagway Brewing Company, Skagway, Alaska
Skagway Brewing Company, Skagway, Alaska

Our numerous conversations often revolved around things that troubled me as well as things that made me happy.  When I started to second guess my choice of major in my first year of college, we talked about the pros and cons.  He supported my decision to change to a business major and helped me get my first job in banking.  I didn’t talk a lot about relationships with him, but we shared the occasional tear over a lost love or a missed opportunity.    We talked about the good things and the bad.  When my grandparents experienced health issues we talked about aging.  When my parents were experiencing what were ultimately terminal health issues we spent a lot of time talking about life.

I always joked that it was because he was an avid golfer that he was able to withstand “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.”  Nothing was more exhilarating and at the same time frustrating as the game of golf (exhilarating for him and frustrating for me).  He was always good at golf, and despite my best efforts I always sucked at it.  But he applied his philosophy of golf to the way he looked at life.  Whenever we talked about things that were especially wonderful or especially troubling, he would look off into the distance and exclaim, “Ah, the Vicissitudes of Life.”

Sonoma City Hall, Sonoma, California
Sonoma City Hall, Sonoma, California

Nothing has epitomized the Vicissitudes of Life as much as the last several years.  In 2009 I spent 9 months out of work, but late in the year found a job doing what I’ve done for 30+ years.  In 2010 Scott – our oldest son – was engaged, we took a cruise with Scott & Kristin and our best friends Bill & Cathy.  In 2011 Kevin – our youngest son – graduated from college after a longer than anticipated effort, Scott & Kristin got married and we gained a daughter.

This past year showed us the other side of the pendulum.  Kathy lost both of her parents in a three month period, after a rather abrupt turn for the worse early in the year.  I lost four friends and co-workers – three of whom had retired over the last several years – in the last year.  All four well before their time.  Few things are harder than that, but through it all we’ve managed a few bright spots.  Both of our kids spent another year paying their own bills, we had a few great vacations, made some new friends and re-connected with some old ones.  We’ve inched a few steps closer to our eventual retirement and are making some great plans for 2013.

Kathy told me the other night that, despite how tough this year has been, that she is thankful that relatively speaking, her burden has been light.  She knows that despite all that happened, things could have gone differently.  It’s unlikely that they would have gone better for her parents, since the forces that took them were irreversible.  But it’s not hard to think about what things could have been like.  And she’s right.  There are many people carrying much heavier burdens than those we have been carrying.  To the extent we can help we certainly will, and to the extent we can be thankful for our own, we’ll do our best.

One of numerous fire escapes and colorful facades in San Francisco, California
One of numerous fire escapes and colorful facades in San Francisco, California

For me, the Vicissitudes of Life means being open to the things that life brings us, and understanding that with the good sometimes must come the bad.  It means not living in fear of the future or of the unknown, but it also means not ignoring the realities.  It means finding a balance between enjoying today while planning for tomorrow.  It means being there when a friend needs us, and not being afraid to ask for help when we need it.  It means supporting others when things are tough, and celebrating with them when things go well.  It means recognizing what’s important and focusing our energies on those things, and being mindful of all the things that are not as deserving of our time and attention.

For our Christmas gifts this year, Kathy & I bought new luggage.  But we’re convinced that the true gift is not the luggage itself but is the privilege, and perhaps the responsibility, to put as many miles on it as possible.  So off we go!

Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California
Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California

What, Me Worry?

Colorful Tourists, Fisherman's Wharf
Colorful Tourists, Fisherman’s Wharf

“Who says nothing is impossible? Some people do it every day!” (Attributed to Alfred E. Neuman, but who knows?)

The Weird Sisters Visit Skagway
The Weird Sisters Visit Skagway

I was doing my usual morning headline scan the other morning and came across one that read:

“Top 10 things to worry about in 2013”


So, it’s not enough to just live my life, plan for the future, eat right and exercise.  I have to read lists to tell me what to worry about?  Please.  And actually, none of the items on that list are things that even affect me.  Maybe in some distant way, but will they impact my day-to-day life?  No.  I realize that it’s not good to completely ignore current events, and I don’t.  I’m far from oblivious.  But why do the media think we need things to worry about?  I suppose it provides better ratings or page views, but that’s just one more thing to get in the way.

It’s bad enough that we can’t trust any information we get these days.  But then we get these people who feel the need to tell us what we need to worry about?  No thanks!  If we want to spend our days running around like Chicken Little I guess that just adds fuel to the fire, but that’s not how I prefer to spend my days.  Especially the preciously small portion of my days that I get to spend actually doing something I want to be doing!

Don't Walk
Don’t Walk

More Snow….

Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA

As I sit here on a beautiful North Carolina day, middle of December, trying to decide whether I need a coat to take a walk this afternoon, I thought I’d post a few more photos from our Thanksgiving weekend adventure to eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.  These were all taken in the vicinity of the Kidd’s Mill Covered Bridge near Reynolds, PA.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA

Another Example

Image processed in Lightroom from a single “-2 EV” RAW file

On my previous post, Monte asked about how the HDR version of that image came out, and as it turned out I didn’t do an HDR series on that particular photo so I didn’t have anything to compare.  Just for kicks though, I went back and found an image where I did do a bracketed series including an in-camera HDR file.

HDR Image from 3 bracketed frames, blended in Photoshop and finished in Lightroom

Most of my readers know that I really dislike futzing around in Photoshop, so I probably didn’t do the HDR version justice.  But while there are things I like about it, I’m really a fan of the contrast you get from a single file.  While the HDR version perhaps shows more “detail” I’d rather see the contrast.  Of course I’m a fan of rich, dark tones in my photos and HDR kind of defeats the purpose for me.

In-camera HDR from the same 3 frames used for the Photoshop version. Unprocessed, it’s a little dark for my taste.

I’ve made these files a little larger for those who want to pixel peep.  But please don’t criticize my Photoshop skills.  Because, especially for things like HDR, I’m really out of practice.

I hope everyone has a great Sunday!

“Let’s See What She’ll Do”

Kidd’s Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA

Walking around the inside this covered bridge last weekend, I knew that it was the perfect subject for some HDR.  I’m not a particular fan of HDR as a rule, but knew that this would be a good place to give it a try.  I took a series of bracketed shots using the in-camera HDR feature in my camera.  But when I got to playing with it in Lightroom, I decided to see what it looked like without actually blending the frames.  As it turns out I think that I actually like it this way.  I’ve had to make some pretty extreme exposure adjustments and it’s as noisy as my neighbor’s dog, but I think I’ve got the final result that I envisioned when I took the photo.  And ultimately, if I get the result I’m looking for it really doesn’t much matter how I get there, does it?

Here’s a “before” shot just to see where I started:

Kidd’s Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA

December Wallpaper Calendar

Joy of Christmas light show at Firestone Park, Columbiana, OH

Our Thanksgiving visit to Ohio and Pennsylvania, despite not being a “photography trip” per se, resulted in a number of decent photographs, one of which I liked well enough to use for this month’s calendar.  I like to keep with the holiday theme for December whenever possible, and I’m usually able to come up with something.

Firestone Park, named for Harvey Firestone (the tire guy), is located in Columbiana, OH.  Kathy & I lived here before migrating south to North Carolina.  And a late November visit reminded us why we moved!

Firestone Park has an annual “Joy of Christmas” light festival, and we had a chance to pay a visit one evening while we were there.  I didn’t take a tripod with me, figuring I wouldn’t do a lot of photography, but who can resist Christmas lights?  And with ISO 6400 or higher, who needs a tripod, even at night? 🙂

I hope everyone has an exceptional December and a warm and joyous Christmas holiday season!

Reality Check

Kidd’s Mill Covered Bridge, Reynolds, PA

Kathy & I spent a quiet and relaxing (except for the drive home) extended Thanksgiving weekend in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania visiting family and friends.  As is my usual habit, I spent minimal time perusing the interwebs or watching television, so I enjoyed a blissful 5 days away from all of the messages telling me what I was supposed to be doing, buying or worrying about.  Fortunately I returned to work today, so I was able to get my 5-minute daily dose (aggregated from all my visits to the break room during the day) of television “news,” so I am now up to speed again.  Fiscal Cliff, blah-blah, Black Friday, blah-blah, Cyber Monday, blah-blah, Petraeus (or not Petraeus), blah-blah, Egypt, blah-blah, football, blah-blah, William and Kate, etc.

Somehow all of that stuff pales in comparison to cherished and overdue time with loved ones.  I hope you all had time to spend with yours.

Fall in Roanoke

Along for the Ride

I’m getting back around to working on some photos from earlier this fall.  In no particular order, just whatever my attention span allows me to concentrate on!

Hotel Roanoke and Railroad Tracks
Corned Beef & Company

I had mentioned in a previous post that Kathy & I had decided to spend our fall weekends differently than we have the past few years.  Rather than chasing color up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway (something we enjoy but have grown a little weary of) we spent a weekend in Florida at a jazz festival, a weekend in Roanoke, VA visiting friends, and a weekend in which I took photos at a recreated pioneer village and photographed some kids.  That was a different fall for us, indeed.


Kathy & I have had an attachment to Roanoke since spending a single night there very early in our marriage.  I don’t even remember for sure what we did, where we stayed or where we ate, but we’ve always had good memories of our short time there, and have wanted to go back and spend some time.  This year we got to go to Roanoke twice.  Of course it was made easier because we have good friends there.  We go to see Steven and Cheryl, and just like us, they enjoy wandering around town, taking random photographs, shopping and eating.  What a deal!


We’ve found a nice historic hotel right in the downtown area that is walking distance to just about everywhere.  We can literally park the car and enjoy the weekend without having to drive.  Although this visit we did spend a little time exploring the countryside, visiting a winery and one of Steven & Cheryl’s favorite restaurants, which is now also one of our favorite restaurants!

Bright yellow leaves of Ginko Biloba trees celebrate fall in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

One of my objections to the constant driving we have done in previous years is that I get tired of driving.  And I get really tired of traffic.  Kathy drives sometimes, but my creativity seems to suffer when I view the scenery from a moving vehicle, regardless of who is driving.  And the addition of crowds just makes it harder.

Missing shutters

The other thing with fall is that it’s often very hard to find really interesting scenes.  Fall color gives the impression of being interesting because everything is a different color, but in actuality it is much harder to make an interesting photograph in the fall because of the color.  Much of what we see in the fall is just as boring as it is in the summer, it’s just a different color.  My opinion, anyway.

Open and Shut

Fall happens everywhere, not just in the mountains.  And it’s not just colored leaves that make up fall.  The air is crisp and cool, the light is warm and contrasty, and a lot of interesting things happen in the fall, such as festivals, concerts and farmer’s markets.  So my goal was to find and photograph fall in different places.  I think it was a successful approach, and in many ways I think am happier with the results than I’ve been from those in previous years.

Shadow and block