Tag Archives: General Nonsense

The Value Of Time

Post-sunrise light at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine

“Three weeks ago, I found myself sitting on the banks of Hudson Bay, a stone’s throw from the Arctic circle, waiting for a polar bear to wake from his slumber. One can wait a long time for a polar bear to awaken. Several times, our group of photographers asked whether we should move on, and several times the answer was, “You don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.””

Most followers of this blog are already familiar with David duChemin.  He gets a little preachy sometimes, but more often than not his words of wisdom are quite wise.  In his most recent blog post, For Stronger Photographs: More Time, he writes about the difficult but valuable need to be patient.  To take the time for something to happen.  To make the time to be in the right place for something to happen.  Its a lesson for all of us, photographers and non-photographers alike.

I’ve said numerous times that the most valuable thing I have learned from photography is that it is nearly impossible to be in the perfect spot at the perfect time.  For that to happen even once is unimaginable, but to expect it over and over again is foolish and unproductive.  There is always a better sunset, a better wave, a better expression, somewhere.  But we don’t know where or when, so the best we can do is be where we feel we need to be, or make the best of wherever we are.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not generally a patient person.  But in waiting for a cloud to cover the sun, or for a wave to crash on a rock, or for shadow to spread evenly over a waterfall, there are times when patience is rewarded.  Slow down, look around, and don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.

Meeting Friends Along The Way

Joe Smith photographing on the Boothbay Harbor Footbridge in Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Over the years we have managed to create a nice group of “photo friends” here in the Land of Blog.  As Kathy & I travel, we like to make a point of seeking out our photo friends whenever we are nearby.  Interestingly, it seems that the friends we do meet are often the ones farther away.  For example, Faye lives near Charlotte after a having lived in Atlanta, but we have never met.  We saw Earl numerous times when he lived more than an hour away, but since he moved closer to us we haven’t seen him.  We have visited Monte in Colorado a number of times.  Although Jeff lives in Wisconsin and Michigan and we have visited him there, we met for the first time in Italy! 😉

When we planned our trip to New England, I knew that we would be “in the neighborhood” of several of our friends and worked to set up some meetings.  Paul and Ken, both in the Rochester area of New York, and recent Maine transplant Joe were on the radar.

Kathy, Me, Michele Bello, Paul Maxim and Ken Bello at Jines Restaurant in Rochester, New York

Joe and his partner Katherine were up for meeting for lunch at a lobster shack on the Maine coast before spending time in Boothbay Harbor.  He and I spent a little time photographing in Boothbay before we parted company.  We managed to meet up with Ken, his wife Michele and Paul for lunch while we were in Rochester visiting the Eastman Museum.

Photographers being photographers, Joe and I never thought to get a photo of us together, although we each managed to get photos of each other so there is photographic evidence – albeit circumstantial – of us being in the same place!  We asked our waitress in Rochester to take our picture, but when I looked at the camera she had never pushed the shutter button!  Fortunately we corralled a waiter who was also a photographer, so he did manage to shoot a few photos, although the lighting could have been better. 😉

Paul Maxim, Me and Ken Bello at Jines Restaurant in Rochester, New York

It’s always nice to put faces and personalities with names and websites.  We hope to do some more as we continue to travel! 🙂

Saturday In The Park

(Although it was the Fourth of September, not the Fourth of July *)

Just before he realized what I was doing.

Kathy & I met our son Scott and grandson Edison at nearby Tuckaseegee Park in Mount Holly, NC.  They have a nice playground there plus  several walking paths that run through the woods and along the Catawba River.  Edison likes to take “nature walks” so we spent an hour or so there before returning to our house to a lunch of “Tube Steaks.”

Short break on a park bench.
He doesn’t know the rules, but always “wins.”

Edison isn’t fond of my taking pictures of him but his complaints fall on (my selectively) deaf ears. 🙂

Obligatory sunstar.
Water for the soccer pitch.
Two of a kind!

* For the kids out there, a reference to a 1972 song by the best music group of all time.  Regardless what they say about bands named after bugs or rocks. 🙂

New Website Gallery: Nautica

Englehard, North Carolina

I’ve been procrastinating a bit, but this morning I finally put the finishing touches on my first new website gallery titled “Nautica.”  I discussed it in an earlier post but had been fiddling around with the pictures and updating the processing on the photos that  I thought would benefit.

A direct link to the gallery is here.

We’re off to the NC coast for a few days of R&R and visiting our Ohio relatives who insist on coming south during the hottest part of the summer.  We love them anyway and look forward to a few days of sand and saltwater.  I may take a few photos….

Boatbuilders shop along the waterfront, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
St Kitts
Boat Reflections on Far Creek, Englehard, North Carolina
Catamaran cruise in Nevis

The Power of Processing

2021 Version – Much Better!

A little photo-geekery here.  Apologies to the non-photographers. 😉

I took this photo back in the fall of 2011 along the Blue Ridge Parkway in southern Virginia.  The tree was aglow in fall color and the light made it explode out of the surrounding hillside.  I purposely under-exposed by 2 stops so I wouldn’t lose the sky or saturation in the golden leaves.  But try as I might I just couldn’t  get a final image that captured what I saw.  Image #1 is the original file without processing, and Image #2 is my best attempt at that time.

Original RAW File – No Processing

When I was looking for photos to accompany my “trees” post I came across this image and decided to give it another try.  I updated the Process Version to the latest one and took advantage of the latest masking and toning tools in Lightroom.  I finally got the image I was looking for originally!  Or at least very close to it.  I may mess with it some more, but I’m happy to have broken the code on this one.

2011 Processed Version – Reject!

I just hope it doesn’t “force” me to start looking for old files to process…I have a hard enough time keeping up with the current stuff! 🙂

Photographic Memories

Church Street Craft Festival in Waynesville, North Carolina

How many times have we seen it – a group of people taking pictures of some interesting scene or event with their phones, then showing their screens to each other as if to show off what they saw.  But did they actually see the scene itself, or are they experiencing it only through their pictures?  Will they only remember an event by looking at it on their phones?  I wonder.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Hudson’s Seafood, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

When our kids were growing up, back in the dark ages of film, camcorders were becoming “the thing” among cool parents.  Dads walked around school events with their “mini-cams” on their shoulder, documenting the events like a White House cameraman during a press conference.  Kathy & I resisted, preferring instead to experience the events through our eyes and remembering them in our memories.  We have still pictures, sure, but don’t have boxes and boxes of videotape that will never be watched.  But the memories are precious and remain in our minds.

Pienza, Italy

I just read an article in the New York Times titled “Is the Immediate Playback of Events Changing Children’s Memories?”  In it, the writer recalls a piano recital given by her daughter.  The writer’s mother recorded the performance on her phone, and as the mother went to replay it 30 minutes later, “When I saw my mother’s finger hovering over “play” on her phone, my daughter leaning over her shoulder, I stopped her: “You know what … let’s just let her enjoy the moment.”

Pienza, Italy

I think that sentiment applies to everyone, not just children.  Having a camera with us all the time, whether a “real” camera or a phone, causes our initial reaction to something to be an urge to photograph it instead of just looking at it and enjoying the moment.  It disconnects us instead of connecting us.

It’s an interesting article so I won’t repeat it here, other than the final paragraph:

“It’s been a week since my daughter’s performance. “I can’t believe it’s over!” she says twirling around the kitchen. She knows I have a video of the performance, but, interestingly enough, she hasn’t asked to see it, and I haven’t volunteered it. I think I’ll let us both remember it just as it was that night for now: raw and unfiltered, and from our own perspectives, perfect.”

St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy
St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy

Think about that when we spend our time composing photographs through that little viewfinder or on that little screen.  Remember to experience the world with our eyes, too.  I’ve often told people that the quality of the photograph is less important than the quality of the memory.  And that memory lives on long after the pixels are filed away on some hard drive.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

We’ve All Got Trees

Tree study, Hilton Head Island South Carolina

I was recently scrolling through Instagram when I came across a post by Tony Sweet where he talked about how one of his most-photographed subjects is a single tree.  I happen to know of one tree in particular in Cades Cove that I refer to as “Tony Sweet’s Tree” even though lots of other photographers know about it too.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Tree in silhouette at twilight, The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

In his post states that he has “amassed a pretty large collection of single tree images in various formats, weather conditions, and times of year.”  It got me thinking about my own collection of trees, so I went out and found a few of them to post here.

Fall along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Licklog Ridge Overlook MP 349
Tree and rocks, Pilot Mountain State Park, North Carolina

I’ve been thinking in terms of themes lately anyway, and his post made me think of another possibility for a website gallery.  The choices never end…. 😉

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Laurel Knob Overlook (aka Licklog Ridge Overlook) MP 349

(As a side note, I noticed lately that a number of people who have subscribed for email notification of new posts were not getting emails.  I think I have found and fixed the problem, but we’ll see.)

Morning along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the intersection with Virginia Route 97 near Galax, Virginia
Pastoral view along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Thoughts On Web Galleries and Finding Themes In Our Work

Charlotte Antique and Classic Boat Show at Queens Landing in Mooresville, North Carolina

I’ve been working recently (with both “working” and “recently” having quite a broad definition 😉 ) on a long-overdue update to the galleries on my website, and it has been an interesting project.  Years ago when I was doing assignment work, teaching classes and giving talks to photo groups, I thought of my website as more of a way to show off my work and validate my skills, and never really looked at it as a marketing tool.  I would occasionally sell a print, or have an art consultant contact me about buying prints or licensing some images.  All of that worked pretty well despite the fact that I really hadn’t set it up as a sales site.  I suppose I could have worked harder at it and turned it into something, but I was working at the time and just didn’t feel inclined.

Abandoned boat on Stumpy Point, North Carolina

At this point in my photographic journey, I’ve gotten away from anything that looks, feels or smells like running a business.  I’m retired and want to keep it that way.  I photograph for fun, share my work with a few people who appreciate it, and don’t expect people to pay me money (but not complaining when they insist!).  My website is still the public face of my photography, and I think a lot about what I want that to be for me.  In the past I have tried to limit the work on my website to my “serious” work, preferring to put my “vacation snaps” on my blog or on another website such as Google Photos, or now, Adobe Portfolio.  Do I change that and put all of my photos on my website?  Do I ditch the website altogether and use one of the free (or less-costly) services?  Part of me says that since I’m paying for my website I should use it for everything, part of me thinks I’m paying a lot of money unnecessarily but yet another part of me thinks I should keep things as-is, with my website devoted to my more serious stuff and using Adobe Portfolio for my “snapshots.”

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The main advantage to using Adobe Portfolio is how well it integrates with Lightroom on my computer.  I can create a Synced Collection of photos that automatically uploads Smart Previews to the online version of Lightroom.  From there I can quickly create a gallery in Adobe Portfolio to share with others.  There aren’t a lot of options, but it’s OK for my use.  Uploading to my website requires a few extra steps and is a little clunky.  It works OK but isn’t ideal for frequent updates or high volume galleries.

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

I don’t have web skills and don’t know my WWW from my HTTP or my SQL (assuming I even have those!).  So I rely on a template-based site that gives me a few good layout options and generally just makes some nice looking galleries.  Years ago I started with Neon Sky, a Charlotte-based web company that several of my friends were using.  It’s not as fancy as some of the more heavily advertised services, they aren’t as quick with updates as I would like, and it probably costs more than I need to spend for what I do.  But it works for me and I don’t really want to invest more time and effort into making a switch.

Hall’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

But as the title of this post suggests, what I really want to do is to come up with a better way to organize my photos.  My current galleries consist of simple subject names: Color, Glory, Flow, Form and Peace plus a bunch of galleries under the heading of Projects.  It feels to me like one of those graffiti rocks that have had so many layers of paint added to it over the years to the point where you can’t tell what the original shape was.  Most of what I post fits into those broad categories, but I feel like there should or could be so much more.  What about the Rust and Peeling Paint?  How about the abstracts, or the close-ups, or candid people shots?  I’ve got critters and signs and urban landscapes and more, but without ending up with 20 or 30 galleries that would confuse the heck out of people and make them give up and go back to YouTube, how can I classify my photos more specifically in order to make my galleries into cohesive “bodies of work?”  I’ve been working on that, and it has been a challenge in a number of ways.

Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

Starting from scratch with a collection of 80,000 images is overwhelming, so my first challenge was how to start with a much smaller sample.  Fortunately I’ve been pretty diligent over the years with using Collections in Lightroom, and I have a well-developed method for rating my photos.  I’ve also been diligent about using captions and keywords to help me locate and organize my photos.  Using star ratings I narrowed the first pass down to about 6,500 photos – still a daunting task but somewhat more manageable than 80,000.

Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

I’ve made lists and lists of possible theme titles and have given a lot of thought to what the definitions should be for each theme.  Then comes the hard part – going through my photos to figure out which ones fall into which categories and making sure I have enough decent photos to properly fill out a gallery for each one.  For someone prone to overthinking and second guessing (me!) that can be especially challenging.  For example, one of my potential themes is “Nautica,” which I have defined as “Boats, parts of boats and boat stuff.”  In my mind I’m thinking more of the details – ropes, sails, ornamentation, etc. and less about pictures of boats themselves.  But what do I do with the boat pictures?  Do lighthouses go there or somewhere else?  How about cruise ships?  Landscape photos that have boats in them?  Crab pots or buoys?  Of course the answers to all those questions are “it depends” and “they’re my rules, it’s up to me.”  Sheesh.   A few of my favorites accompany this post.

Yacht “Phoenix” in St Martin

It’s interesting how many ways there can be to slice and dice photos.  A number of them will fall into multiple categories.  Do I put some of them in several galleries or decide which one is “best?”  Decisions, decisions.  This has been an interesting exercise so far.  I’m nowhere near the end and it still seems awfully overwhelming, but I hope the results are worth the effort when I’m done.  I make no promises for when that might be! 😉

Thoughts On Blogging – Why I Write

Abandoned buildings along a dirt road stretch of Historic Route 66 near the New Mexico-Texas border

One of the bloggers/photographers I follow is Om Malik.  He recently posted an article titled Future Of Media – A Quick Reality Check that I found interesting.

Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona

I started my blog back when blogs were ‘cool’ as a way to share my written thoughts as well as my photographs.  More often than not, my posts were a way for me to clarify my own thoughts on a subject, rather than just writing for writing’s sake.  It sort of morphed into – for me at least – an alternative to social media.  Yeah, I’m on Facebook (sort of) and Instagram (sort of) and I have a Twitter account that I never look at.  But mostly I have this blog.  And while I appreciate every person who comes and looks, especially those who take the time to leave thoughtful comments, I would probably do it even if no one visited or commented.  I suppose it is my version of a journal, although one that anybody can read.

Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Twin Guns, an abandoned settlement along I-40 between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona

The passage in Malik’s post that I found especially valuable is the one where he talks – referencing still another article on the subject – about the distinction between blogging and social media:

Marc Weidenbaum, a music enthusiast and founder of Disquiet.com, expertly captures the distinction between blogs and social. “Social media expects feedback (not just comments, but likes and follows),” he writes. “Blogs are you getting your ideas down; feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.” In other words, one is a performance for an audience, while the other is highly personal, though others may end up finding it interesting. Weidenbaum also admirably points out the difference between blogs and all the suddenly ubiquitous newsletters. “And newsletters = broadcasting,” he says. “Blogging is different.”

Feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.  I don’t write for Likes or Hearts or Thumbs-up, just for me.  I post on Instagram, and while I don’t obsess over whether anyone “Likes” my photos or not, it’s nice when they do.  And a few of the people who follow my Instagram will never read my blog.  And that’s OK.

Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona
Exhibit at the place where the original route of Route 66 crosses the Petrified Forest Road in The Painted Desert, part of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Just last night I had someone tell me, “I see your photos (on Instagram) from all these far-off places but never know where you are.”  I explained that I always add the location, you just need to look at the text.  And he replied “well, I just look at the pictures, I don’t bother reading anything.”  Well, OK then.  That’s how people use social media, and that guy will never read my blog.  But I love him anyway. 🙂

“Leaning Tower of Texas” near Groom, Texas on Historic Route 66

Lens Insecurity?

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

Years ago I was at a photo seminar, and the presenter – either John Shaw, Tony Sweet or Bob Krist (I think it was Bob but it was a long time ago) mentioned that he thought we were looking at our digital files too closely.  He referred to the fact that in the film days, looking at our negatives or slides under a loupe only gave us about a 10-25% zoom factor, and that if it looked sharp under a loupe it was probably sharp enough.

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

I’ve always heard (and practiced) that sharpness with digital files is best evaluated at 100%.  That was especially true back in the days of Unsharp Mask in Photoshop.  But now that we have newer, higher-resolution sensors, I’m not sure that needs to be the case any more.  Once in a while I look at my photos think that they don’t look as crispy sharp as they should.  Is it the lens?  Is it my technique?  Is my new whiz-bang camera a piece of junk? Is it my eyes?  Am I looking too close?  But the finished digital files and prints come out consistently good, so it hasn’t been too big of a worry.

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

A couple of weeks ago I was aimlessly wandering through my Lightroom catalog and looked at some of my recent photos taken with the Fujinon 16-80 f4.  Although I’ve been consistently pleased with the lens since I got it, I convinced myself that some of them looked a little soft, especially at the edges and the corners, and I wondered about the lens.  So I went back and sorted my photos by camera and lens, looking at photos I’ve taken with some of my older lenses including my primes, and found that they all look really good but all about the same.  The primes are more consistently sharp, but that is to be expected.  That is a good reminder to use my primes more!

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

I often reminisce about the Fujinon 18-55 f2.8-4 that I sold to my son along with my old camera bodies, referring to it as “the lens that made me decide to go with Fuji” when I moved away from Canon gear.  He graciously agreed to lend it to me for a week or two, so I have been using it to take some walking-around-the neighborhood photos.  But you know, as good as it is, it isn’t significantly “better” than the other lenses I own.  I do love the more compact size, as it is closer to a prime weight-wise.  But it isn’t significantly better image-wise.  But then I remembered that old saying and decided to back the zoom off to 50%.  Lo and behold, they all look pretty darned good!  So I’m wondering – am I looking too close?

In case anyone wonders, I wrote off the 16-55 2.8 years ago as being too heavy and too expensive, regardless of how highly rated it is.  It would be defeating the purpose of downsizing from the heavy Canon gear.

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

Another thought I had was about monitor resolution.  I’m using a good but old ASUS Pro Art monitor that I’ve had for about 8 years.  It’s nothing fancy, especially compared with the newer 4K and 5K monitors out these days.  Is it possible that my monitor is not able to sufficiently resolve the files, or that a newer better monitor would show that detail better?  Or would I be just as perplexed as I am now but several hundred dollars (or more) poorer?  It’s new territory for me, but if anyone has insight I’d love to hear it.

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

In the mean time, I’ll keep my zoom at 50% and be glad that the finished output still looks excellent!

These photos, by the way, were all taken with the 18-55 and in-camera JPEGs with the stock Fuji Velvia profile.  No adjustments in Lightroom other than output sharpening.  For whatever that’s worth!

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens