Kathy & I spent the day yesterday exploring the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. I was channeling my buddy Don Brown just a little bit, as he is one of the best bird shooters I know. I was handicapped a bit by a 200mm lens on my Fuji, not really long enough for serious wildlife work. But I came away with a few shots that are reasonably well exposed, acceptably sharp and representative of what we saw.
The most amazing thing we saw I wasn’t even able to record! we walked back a trail into a wood, and soon found a group of egrets lounging in an area well off the beaten path. There were easily a hundred or more there, but the brush was so thick that there was no way to make a photograph. But the sound! I said it sounded like the morning after a frat party – lots of guttural sounds and weird noises. It was quite an experience, but you’ll just need to take my word for it!
I’ve written previously about how Kathy & I like to seek out train stations on our travels through different areas. I hadn’t paid too much attention to train stations when we planned this trip to Florida, but almost by happy accident I realized that southern Georgia and Florida contain many examples of train stations. Here more so than in other states they seem to generally be in pretty good shape, many of them currently used as museums, social halls or offices.
While we were visiting the station in Avon Park, a volunteer at the museum there told us that the Silver Star passenger train passes through there daily, and that it would be there within the hour. He also mentioned that there is a station in Sebring that hadn’t come up on my search, even though the Sebring station is an active Amtrak station.
While we were in Avon Park, a CSX freight train came through, then we drove to the Sebring station in time to catch the Amtrak train making its stop there. We aren’t usually fortunate enough to actually see trains while we are at these stations, so to catch two on the same day was a real treat!
Kathy & I are in Florida for a few days trying to escape the (relative) cold of home. We’re currently in Captiva Island waiting out a wet and windy day. But I’m not looking for sympathy – even at a chilly 62 degrees it’s a lot warmer here than at home, and even warmer than those of you farther north!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Several weeks ago Kathy & I finally made our journey to Key West. We had talked about going a couple of years ago, but instead decided to upend our lives for a year while we sold a house and bought another one. Last winter we had just moved in, were recovering from the move and our vacation budget was severely depleted. Things are pretty much back to normal for the time being, so when it came time to make our plans for 2015, we decided that this might be a good time to go.
Our original idea was to take a week or two and drive to Key West and back from North Carolina, stopping at a few places in Florida along the way. While we like Florida, the idea of using up a couple of weeks’ vacation time on a drive through Florida just to get to Key West might not be the best use of our time. Especially that early in the year when we have to make our meager allocation of vacation days last for a whole year! So we decided to take the money that it would take to drive there and just fly. We’ll get to see the rest of Florida another time, and as fun as I’m sure it would be to drive out through the Keys along Highway 1, that wasn’t high on my priority list. I’ll gladly wait for another time, and if the opportunity doesn’t arrive that will be OK.
We’d always heard that Key West can be quite expensive, especially in the winter. But we learned a long time ago that the best time to visit a place was when it was best there, and not necessarily the best time to be away from home. Not being fans of heat and humidity, Kathy & I agreed that regardless of the higher rates in the winter season, that was when we wanted to go. So we did our research and went prepared.
As luck would have it, we picked a really good time to leave Charlotte, but it also corresponded with a pretty chilly time to be in Key West. The temperature on the day we left Charlotte was in the low 20’s, and the forecast for Key West called for temperatures in the upper 60’s and low 70’s. Not bad. We missed some very cold weather and some snow with lows in the single digits in Charlotte. Awww! The same front that brought the cold to Charlotte also came through southern Florida, and Key West experienced some unusually cold temperatures by their standards. It still felt pretty good to us, and we had one evening where the temperatures were in the low 50s and one day the high was in the low 60’s. We had hoped for it to be a little warmer but were glad we weren’t sweating!
My impression of Key West is that it is pretty much like any other tourist town once you get out of sight of the water. Walking down Duval Street you pass the usual bars, restaurants, junky trinket galleries and T-shirt shops. There are a few really nice shops and galleries, but you have to look for them. Key West even has it’s own Diamonds International, in case you missed something during the last 20 cruise ship ports. During the day, and especially when the cruise ships are in port, it pretty much looks and feels like any other downtown shopping area. After dark is another story, but I usually didn’t carry my camera to dinner so I didn’t come home with any photographic evidence. Suffice it to say that there were sights we don’t usually see in our regular destinations!
We managed to do a lot of the usual touristy things while we were in Key West. My friends on Facebook will see that I have proof that Kathy & I visited the Southernmost Point, and we’ve decided that we need to work on getting to the other three points on the compass as well. We toured the Ernest Hemingway House, the Key West Lighthouse, the cemetery, took the Conch Train tour and a bunch of other stuff. The weather turned out to be too nasty for a trip to Dry Tortugas, so if that turns out to be the last National Park on my list of parks to visit I’ll just have to go back and get there. We also didn’t go to Mallory Square for what is supposed to be a nightly sunset celebration. We were pretty much pooped out by that time of the day and still needed energy to walk to dinner, plus the weather was nasty on a couple of the evenings so other than the people watching I don’t think there was much sunset to see.
We stayed at the Lighthouse Court Hotel, one of six properties owned by a group called Historic Key West Inns. It was an excellent place to stay and we would stay there again. I wrote a review of the place in an attempt to win a free return trip, and will publish that as a separate post.
I need to wrap this up so I can get it posted, but suffice it to say that we had a great time, and it was nice to take a vacation that didn’t involve a cruise ship. We have a few more plans in store for the year, but this was a good way to kick things off. A lot of people have told me that Key West is on their “bucket list” and I am glad to say that I have been there.