Tag Archives: general nonsense

Planning & Preparation

White Pass & Yukon Scenic Railway, Skagway, Alaska

Kathy & I are planners, and we have developed a number of tools to help us gather and pack the clothing, sundries, camera equipment and other essentials for every kind of trip we take.  I was talking with a friend the other day about our upcoming Alaska/California adventure, with the usual small talk (have you started packing, how many suitcases are you taking, etc.).  I replied that while Kathy & I have talked about the fact that our packing for this trip will be a little different than our packing for a typical Caribbean cruise (it’s rainy and 44 in Skagway as I write this, with snow and lows in the 30’s in the short-term forecast!) it’s not that difficult because we’re pretty organized.

“Pretty organized” may be an understatement.

We haven’t worried about packing because it’s not a big deal.  We’ve developed a workbook in Excel that contains checklists for every kind of trip we’ve ever taken.  It we did something different, we would probably be able to adapt one or more of our existing lists to make a new one. It’s partly because we’ve traveled a lot and don’t like to reinvent the wheel every time, but it’s also because we try hard to not take too much stuff.  It’s a bit of a challenge, but we both try very hard to enjoy coming back from a trip with stuff we didn’t use or clothes we didn’t wear.  Especially the latter.

Sherman City Hall-Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali National Park, Alaska

Being organized is a real advantage, though.  On one hand, we love to be serendipitous.  Decide on Thursday night to head for the mountains after work on Friday.  Sometimes we do, and we can be packed for a weekend in 30 minutes.  On the other hand, we never worry about having what we need because if we’ve needed it before it’s on the list, and if we haven’t needed it before it’s not.  So when we need to we can pack in a hurry, and we take comfort in knowing that – ruling out something unexpected – if it’s not on the list, we don’t need it!  And THAT allows us to enjoy the journey and not worry about the gear.

Gracious House Lodge and Flying Service, Denali Highway, Cantwell, Alaska

Packing camera gear is a lot like packing shirts.  I decide how many I think I need, know that I’ll leave a favorite or two at home, put them in a bag or case, and go.  For this upcoming trip I’ve decided to take just 3 lenses.  I could take more, but then I would have to take my huge Think Tank roller and I know I’d end up having to check it.  Plus, that’s a lot of gear that I just don’t need.  So I’ve decided to pare things down to a small backpack that I’m confident will fit under the seat.  My current lens choices are the 17-40, 24-105 and 100-400.  I keep going back and forth between the 24-105 and the 24-70.  It’s tough because the 24-70 is a significantly better lens (to me), but the 24-105 gives me a bit more coverage and I think the IS will come in handy.  Handy enough to give up the better lens?  That’s the question.

I have the same struggle with the 100-400.  My 70-200 is my favorite lens of all, and I hate to leave it at home.  But I really think I’m going to want the 400 focal length in Alaska, and while I could get that with the 70-200 and a 2X converter, having the converter is kind of like having another lens, because then I either have a 70-200 or I have a 140-400, and the 100-400 pretty much solves that.

And as I’m so fond of saying – repeat after me – the more lens choices I have the more likely I’ll decide I’ve got the wrong one on the camera.

My next decision involves whether to take a backup body, a point & shoot, or both.  There may be a few times when I’ll want to have the 100-400 on one body and a wide-angle on another body.  Not too many, but enough that I’m taking the 5D as a second body.  It would be a shame to carry all that glass to Alaska and have something happen to the new 5D, so it will be good to have a worthy backup.

Glaciers in College Fjord, Alaska

I originally planned to take along my G12 as a “walking around” camera, but when I really started thinking about it, I had to ask myself how likely it would be that I would leave the 5D Mark III behind anywhere?  I’m pretty sure that the new camera will go with me everywhere, and that I’d end up never using the G12.  So, as of right this moment it is staying at home.

One of the things I liked about my previous choices of camera bodies was that the 5D, 40D and 20D all use the same battery.  The 5D Mark III uses the same battery as the 7D, but alas I didn’t buy that one, so I’ll need to take a separate set of batteries and a charger for the other camera, too.  That’s not really a problem, but it is a bit more stuff to pack.

Fog Rising from the Bay, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

I don’t usually take a computer when we travel these days, but I’m taking one for this trip.  I’m taking it mostly because I know I’m going to take a lot of photos, and even though I think I’m taking plenty of cards I want to be able to back them up.  And just in case I do run out of empty cards I want to be able to re-use them.  So the computer goes with me, along with an external hard drive for backup.  And if I get inspired to write a blog post or two, it’s a heck of a lot easier to type on the computer than on the iPad!

Marina, Ketchikan, Alaska

Since this trip involves lots of different destinations with activities in each, with appointments and directions once we get back to California, I’ve added all my maps and documents to my iPad.  So in addition to having plenty of things to read I’ve got everything I need to get us where we need to go.  Pretty slick!

So, now that I’ve got all the camera gear and computer equipment figured out, the clothes should be a – relatively speaking – piece of cake!

A Number of Good Points

Fuji X10 in "Super Macro" mode

I attended one of Les Saucier’s “Refining your Photographic Vision” workshops this past weekend. I think it was the third or fourth one I’ve attended. I seem to always get something out of Les’ workshop that makes it worth the time and cost. This time was no exception. The thing that I find most fascinating though is that a lot of the things I learn don’t always come from the instructor or even the other participants. Sometimes the best “nuggets” are things that I learn about myself.

Part of the day’s activities involves a critique of images we have selected and brought in to share. Les goes through everyone’s images and comments on what he sees, how they might be made better and he usually has some good suggestions on things to work on and look for the next time. One of the participants showed an image that, while it was not taken with an iPhone, it was processed to look like it was done with one of the popular apps. Les’ comment was that – and I’m paraphrasing – the effect should not be the subject, that the software effects used in processing our images should be used to obtain or achieve our vision for the photograph.  The photograph should not be “about” the effect. I found this interesting, because I feel that too often an image is shared to show off a technique, rather than to show someone what the photographer saw or how the photographer felt. I wrote about this several years ago in a post entitled “Don’t Make It About the Technique” where someone had suggested something similar to me about my use of camera movement to show motion in an image. The same concepts hold true here.

During the introductions, one of the participants mentioned that they were using all the latest Nik and Topaz software. Les asked how that person knew when to use what software, since the software is a tool to achieve our vision, not a vision in and of itself.

Several people in the class mentioned tools or software or equipment that they had purchased but “hadn’t had time” to use, hadn’t learned how it works or hadn’t even taken it out of the box. The problem I have with that is that too many people buy stuff without really understanding whether they need it. They just think that if they have something then they can take pictures just like the person who sold it to them. That may be true, and it may be absolutely OK if that’s what you want, but the best tool in the world won’t help a bit if it doesn’t help you achieve your intended result. And it does nothing for you whatsoever if it never comes out of the box. We spend way more time searching for recipes and magic buttons than we do actually figuring out what we want to say. Unless, of course, “look at all my stuff” is our message.

At another point in the day there was a discussion about tripods. Les gave us his “Good, Better, Best” talk and showed us his choices for Better and Best tripods. He told us that he couldn’t recommend the Best tripod because it costs too much. But the Best one is the one he uses, and also happens to be the one I use. I realize that there is a point at which we all have to determine what our needs are, and that helps us decide what price represents an appropriate amount to spend for a given tool. But when I ran those numbers for my own purchase several months ago, I decided that Best was what I needed and wanted, and while the difference was fairly significant in dollars it was relatively small in terms of my overall investment in equipment. Now that the money is gone, I never ever question my decision to buy the Best tripod. It is exactly the tool I need and has made a noticeable improvement in the sharpness of my images (notice that I didn’t say that it has made a noticeable difference in the quality of my photographs!). Again, we all have to make a choice, but for something as important as a tripod, I’m not sure the Better is good enough when Best costs only a little more.

The best nugget for me was during the critique of one of my photos when Les suggested cloning out a few distracting elements. I agreed with him and had actually thought about doing that when I originally processed the image. I thought about his comments later and remembered that the reason I hadn’t cloned them out originally was because I couldn’t get the result I wanted in Lightroom. Lightroom’s healing brush doesn’t work well on larger areas and to do it right I was going to need to use Photoshop. My desire to do everything in Lightroom (a nice way of saying ‘my hard headedness’) makes me avoid Photoshop obsessively except for the few things that I just can’t do in Lightroom. But as I thought about it I realized that it was foolish of me to allow my choice of tools to influence my artistic decisions. It’s no different from someone else using a tool or software indiscriminately to determine their vision. If I need to use Photoshop to get the results I want, then I just need to use Photoshop. So as soon as I have time I’m going to go back and re-work that photo in Photoshop to get the result I should have gotten to start with.

Overall it was a great session. I learned some things that I think will be valuable. Les’ biggest lesson is that we need to get our cameras out and go practice. So Sunday morning I did just that. This had already been planned before the workshop, but I stepped out of my comfort zone, got up well before sunrise and went out and shot some commercial photographs for a restaurant in Charlotte. But that is a story for another day.

Sign of the Times?

Bad Dogs - More from Basseterre. St Kitts

The nature photography group that I belong to is an affiliate member of the Photographic Society of America, or PSA. We have recently begun participating in a number of their competitions, some of them for projected images but most of them for printed images. Because I consider the well-made print to be the intended final result of my photography, I began to submit some of my work to be considered for entry in these competitions. We’ve got a lot of members and each club is limited in the number of images they can submit in each category, plus each photographer is limited in the number of their images that can be in any one submission. It’s all very complicated to me and I have a hard time figuring it out so I generally don’t bother trying. I just send my stuff in and if it gets picked it does, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. No big deal either way.

I did have one of my photos win an Honorable Mention in one of the projected image competitions a couple of years ago, and that was nice. I’ve been working hard at getting better with my printing and am very proud of some of the work I have submitted, so I was hoping that one or more of my prints would do well.

I received an e-mail this morning with images of the winners from the most recent competition. Mine was not included in the list of winners or those receiving honorable mention. I won’t go into a lot of detail regarding how I feel about the winners, since they obviously appealed to the people who were doing the judging. But I’ve come to the conclusion that, at least for the purposes of these competitions, the kind of work I’m submitting isn’t what the judges are looking for. I’m just not using enough software.

This is not intended to be sour grapes or anything, and to conclude that would be missing my point. But I’d be interested in knowing if there is some place or some way to get meaningful and constructive feedback on printed work that is more representative of traditional photography, rather than heavily manipulated and/or highly processed images. Maybe I’m just entering the wrong category in these competitions, but I can’t imagine that I’m the only one experiencing this. Does anyone actively participate in a print review group? Is anyone interested in starting one? It’s something I’ve considered for a while, but there just aren’t that many people printing their work these days. And of those who do, it doesn’t seem like there are many people whose goals are similar to mine. I’d be interested in knowing the thoughts of anyone reading, and might even propose that a few of us give it a try and see how it goes.  Send me an e-mail or reply in the comments.

 

A Sense of Direction

No Parking, Basseterre. St Kitts

When I ventured into this photography thing as something more serious than taking snapshots, I started off, as a lot of people do, shooting nature subjects.  Kathy & I would drive around with Kevin Adams’ Waterfalls of North Carolina book, looking for waterfalls and shooting anything we found interesting along the way.  At one point it seemed like I had a knack for finding “magic moments” where the morning or afternoon light provided gifts of dramatic clouds, fabulous sunbeams and great sunrise and sunset colors.  I was a Nature Photographer, and proud of it.

Padlock, Basseterre. St Kitts

I still find myself attracted to the mountains and to the woods, but I’ve also realized that there are photographs to be made everywhere.  I’ve made photographs in small towns, large towns, on cruise ships, on Caribbean islands, at the beach, in the mountains, you name it.

The difficult thing is that it’s hard to break old habits.  When I think about photographing fall colors I automatically think about heading for the mountains.  Same with spring wildflowers, or sunrises and sunsets.  But the seasons happen everywhere, and there are photographs of all kinds to be made in lots of places besides those we think of first.  The challenge is to come up with new ideas.  Fall at a bluegrass concert in Floyd, VA perhaps.  Wildflowers at a park or garden in Statesville.  The possibilities are endless.

God is Love, Basseterre. St Kitts

The thing I love most about photography is that it so personal.  I can photograph whatever I want, wherever I want – within reason, of course!  Rather than limit my travel to traditional photographic icons, I like seeking out subject matter wherever I am, in places where it is harder to find, and where I have to work a little harder to find something that appeals to me.

Red and White, Basseterre. St Kitts

Paul Lester recently wrote on his blog a post titled “Where I Connect” about reviewing his images in preparation for a critique session at an upcoming workshop.  Paul wrote that he “connects” with nature and people.  He and I are attending the same workshop and in going through the same exercise I’m finding that while I still do a lot of nature photography I have been connecting more and more with things other than nature, which is interesting since I have traditionally considered myself a nature photographer.  I’ll probably come up with a mix of material, but it’s an interesting process.  I don’t like labels anyway, so maybe I’ll just start considering myself a Photographer, without any prefixes.  And I’m proud of that, too.

Yellow Door, Basseterre. St Kitts

A Little R&R

Policy Out of Date

Kathy & I are spending the long President’s Day weekend (President’s Day for most banking-related employers except mine. Oh, well….) in Belhaven, NC, one of our favorite getaway spots. We enjoy coming to Belhaven because we can do or not do, as much or as little as we choose. It’s a nice little town on the Intracoastal Waterway, a little sleepy but there’s enough to do if you want something to do. We’ve got some good friends that run a B&B here, and it is nice to visit several times a year to catch up. After the hustle & bustle of The Big City it is a welcome change.

Saturday we visited Washington, NC, just down the road between Belhaven and Greenville. There’s a great wine shop there we like to visit called Wine & Words (‘Words’ because it is also a used book store). We go for the wine but I’ve also bought books there, once picking up a copy of Peter Turnley’s The Parisians for an amazingly good price.

Pink Building in Washington, North Carolina

I’ve been begging Kathy to let me try out her little Olympus E-PL2 for quite some time, and she decided that she wasn’t planning to do any shooting this weekend, so as long as I used my own memory card (so I wouldn’t corrupt hers!) I could shoot to my heart’s content. I didn’t shoot a lot with it, but I did get a chance to make some walking-around-town photos in Washington and worked a little bit around the Sunset Hour, although colorwise there wasn’t much to work with.

Looking For Antiques

Today has been wet and cold and rainy, so while I ordinarily wouldn’t spend time processing and posting photographs, it seemed like a perfect day to play around with Lightroom 4. I’m teaching a Lightroom class this coming Saturday and thought I probably should at least be able to discuss the upcoming update. I decided to just jump in without reading any tutorials, so now that I’ve spent some time with it I can look at some tutorials and figure out what I should have known before I started. Sort of like reading the manual after assembling the swing set, but I figure I can’t hurt anything. So far, so good.

2 Cool Dudes

A lot of the new version looks pretty much like the old one, although I’m obviously going to need to spend some time learning about the new Map and Book modules. There are some interesting new slider functions in the Develop Module, and that’s where I spent most of my time. It will be interesting to read about the changes and find out what I should have known before I started!

2 Cool Dudes 2

So anyway, these are a few images shot on an unfamiliar camera and processed with a partially unfamiliar program. I think they’re kind of fun, I had fun making them and fun working with Lightroom 4.

Zig-Zag
Danger High Voltage

Good Quote

Curly grass on the beach, Hilton Head Island, SC

Pentax announced a new mirrorless camera today.  A lot of the chatter I saw – on one blog, I don’t spend any time on the “forums” – was discussing the design, which depending on your point of view is either really cool or makes it look like it was built by Little Tykes or Tonka (one of the versions is actually bright yellow).  Among the usual comments like “I’d buy it in a heartbeat if only…” was a quote from someone named Paul (hopefully not my friend Paul that frequents this blog!), who in referring to the comments about it being ugly, said:

“You’d think, in a creative hobby such as photography, that folks would be… you know… creative in other ways of thinking and seeing the world as well. The only thing I have learned from reading blogs and online photo forums is that photographers now-a-days are the most conservative, dull and uninspired group (of mostly old men) on the planet.”

Boy, doesn’t that pretty much nail it.  There are exceptions of course, and I feel that I and anyone reading my blog qualifies as an exception, but I see that everywhere.  A bunch of old dudes collecting expensive equipment and hauling it around in their PT Cruisers to a bunch of checklist places and taking cliché photographs of famous icons.  Of course, no one reading this blog fits that definition so please don’t take offense!  Although I believe that is perfectly OK if that is your goal.  More than anything I want to make sure I don’t fall into that definition, and I’m trying really, really hard to avoid doing so.

Granted, a bright yellow camera and a field full of (mostly) gray and black does stand out, but you’d never lose it!  I personally tend to prefer a camera that blends in, and you would do anything but blend in with a yellow camera!  But I think you have to give them credit for thinking a little outside the box.  And this actually looks like it might be a very nice camera.  It’s got a nice, big APS-C sized sensor and it uses existing Pentax K-mount lenses as well as some new ones they are producing just for this camera.  Interesting.

Gear Interest vs. Gear Obsession

South Beach Marina, Hilton Head Island, SC - Fuji X10

There’s been a good-natured discussion going on over at Paul Lester’s blog. Paul rented a Canon G12 to try and compare with the S90 he currently owns, and several of us who have and shoot with the G12 chimed in with our words of wisdom. More recently Paul has been trying out a Nikon V1. I don’t think he’s planning to buy one but is interested in knowing what all the hoopla is about. In this day of disappearing camera shops and the inability to “try before you buy” I think renting a camera is a very smart way to go. And Paul’s a smart guy.

Of course I recently started shooting with the Fuji X10 and like it a lot. I still use the G12 and occasionally shoot with my “old” G9. I’m teaching an Intro to Digital Point & Shoot class this coming weekend and the next few weekends and will probably bring my mothballed G5 our of storage just to reminisce a bit. The G5 was my first digital camera, way back in 2004, and although I haven’t used it in a long time the files still look pretty good, albeit a bit small.

On the beach at sunset, Hilton Head Island, SC - Canon G12

On a recent weekend trip to Hilton Head Island, SC I shot with – at different times – my Canon 5D, my Canon G12 and my Fuji X10. I got good results from all three of them, but the best experience was using the smaller and simpler cameras. I especially enjoyed walking around shooting architectural details handheld. I even put the G12 on a tripod for a sunset trip to the beach. But when I went out with a backpack with the 5D, two lenses, polarizers and all the stuff to go with it, I just…didn’t like it.

There’s been a lot of anticipation lately about the latest and greatest offerings from Nikon and Canon, but every time I think about carrying around another one of those beasts my shoulders start to hurt. I could sell my car and buy the forthcoming 1DX and a 200-400, but I’d have to hire someone to carry it. I resisted the urge to upgrade to the 5D Mark II and have a passing interest in the expected replacement, but when I look at my barely-carryon-legal rolling suitcase that holds all my gear and compare it with my G12 or my X10 (Kathy won’t let me touch her Olympus!) I can’t help but long for the simplicity of my Mamiya 7 and 3 prime lenses. That, a box of 220 film and a fanny pack and I was good for the weekend! Not any more.

I’ve sort of had in the back of my mind – more recently bubbling toward the front of my mind – that one of these new compact systems is going to be the be-all and end-all for me. The image quality keeps getting better to the point that I think it will no longer be a compromise or a step down to use a compact camera as a primary camera. I’m trying to be patient, and buying the little cameras like the X10 – while certainly not cheap – give me the thrill of something new while waiting for the right system to come along.

On the beach at sunset, Hilton Head Island, SC - Canon 5D

All of this discussion is fine. Even-tempered, well reasoned and logical. What gets me shaking my head though is the people who get so fired up about the new cameras that they practically stop taking pictures while they wait for the new ones. It’s as though their existing equipment stopped working as soon as the new stuff was announced.

But hey, it’s a hobby and we can all spend our money however we want, right? As long as the mortgage gets paid and the kids have shoes, we can spend the rest on golf clubs, wine, cars or anything we want, including cameras. Does it make us happy to be the first person in the club with the new XYZ Pro 1000? Buy it! Have an itch for that new RRS tripod? Sign up!

The inner geek in me gets excited about all this stuff too, and even if I wasn’t seriously thinking about making a change I’d still be interested. It’s a little scary to me when I even think about being at the front of the line for a brand-new camera. I worry that I’m interested for the wrong reasons. When I go to Lowe’s to buy a new hammer I don’t get all warm and fuzzy comparing them. It’s a tool, and as long as it does the job it should be an impersonal and unemotional transaction. But a camera seems like another story. I guess it’s because our photography is our way to express creativity we tend to get a little (lot?) more excited about buying cameras than we do when buying a hammer.

Hopefully I can manage to watch and listed for a few more weeks at least, until we see what gets announced in early February. Then, perhaps armed with a few more facts instead of a lot of speculation, I can actually make a decision. Those of you who might be looking to pick up some good Canon lenses for a song, keep your money in your pockets. I don’t move that fast, and may just decide to keep shooting with what I have for a while. I might just decide to carry around a little less of it!

South Beach Marina, Hilton Head Island, SC - Fuji X10

A Few More Random Thoughts

Random photos in uptown Charlotte on a chilly Saturday in December

– Do people really buy the stuff that is advertised on those hand-written signs at intersections? “Microfiber Sofa & Loveseat $499” “We Buy Houses” “Carpet Cleaning – 3 Rooms $79” “Computer Repair $20” I guess they must, otherwise we wouldn’t see them.

– I find it interesting – and this is from recent first-hand experience – that when you go to a car dealer’s website, are interested in a specific car that their website shows they have and is in stock, you click the button that says “Click Here for Your EPrice!” and you never actually get a price. Never! You get automated e-mails telling you to call them for a price, sometimes the message says “please call to let me know the specific car you are interested in.” Then they send you e-mails you can’t reply to, and when you e-mail to tell them you are no longer interested they don’t stop calling!

– Is it just me, or does all the peripheral gear required to turn an SLR into a movie camera make people look like a dork? Seems to me if you need an auxiliary viewfinder, a contraption to hold the camera still, a special tripod head and all that other stuff that the camera isn’t really designed to shoot video, even though it can.

– How come so many nature photographs look so unnatural?

– How come whenever someone posts a really nice photo online somewhere, someone always has to ask either “where is that?” or “what were your exposure settings?”

– Why do some drivers feel it is necessary to drive on the grass or the berm, just to get into a left-turn lane where the light is red? A few seconds of patience and you could be there anyway!

– I recently read a Q&A in a photography magazine where someone wrote in to ask, “what settings should I use to photograph in Antarctica?” The answer person was much kinder with his answer than I would have been. Not to sound arrogant, but if you are planning to spend the money that a trip to Antarctica costs, shouldn’t you know what settings to use?

– I was talking to a real estate agent about the various methods used to market real estate these days. She told me that one of the things they do for the “less tech savvy” is mail out postcards. She then told me that the postcards contain a QR code so that the person could scan it with their smart phone and it would take them directly to a website with information about the property. Scuse me, but if someone knows enough to scan a QR code with their smart phone, they probably don’t need a postcard in the mail. Just a thought.

Magazines – Content or Advertising?

My son Kevin's Subaru STI - Taken with my Fuji X10

I spent part of my lunch break today looking at an electronic version of a major photography magazine.  I say “looking at” because there was very little to read.  I was astounded at how little content there actually was in the magazine, and amazed at how many advertisements there were. I don’t watch television and I use an internet browser that blocks advertising, so I’m not a very good judge of just how pervasive advertising is in our world, but as I flipped through the pages I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that I was actually paying for. I finally got to the point where I started thinking about writing this post and stopped reading the magazine.

Here’s a summary of what I found. Please understand that these numbers are approximate and used to illustrate a point. You don’t have to figure out which magazine I’m referring to and correct my numbers. If you do you’re missing the point:

  • The magazine has 140 pages including covers
  • The first actual article doesn’t start until page 32
  • Over half of the pages (78) are full-page advertisements
  • Only 48 pages had no advertising at all, but 4 of these were the intro and table of contents

Included in my “No Advertising At All” page count total were:

  • 7 pages of “product news” that essentially contain short advertisements for products disguised as news
  • A 10-page Advertising Feature that, surprisingly, had ads for other products mixed in
  • A 2-page “article” about a new printer that looked suspiciously like a product brochure or press release
  • A 10-page article about creating photo books that conveniently listed some companies that publish photo books
  • A 4-page article about cloud storage with similar helpful links

To their credit, there were 3 feature articles that consisted of approximately 25 pages. Of course many of these pages had advertising on them, but many contained full-page photos.

Shelby Cobra - Taken with my Fuji X10

I now remember why I dropped most of my magazine subscriptions a year or so ago. I tried a couple of my old favorite photography magazines in electronic versions because the price was significantly better than the paper version. They were tough to pass up at the teaser prices. But now that they are coming up for renewal they are wanting regular magazine rates again, and I just can’t see spending the money for something with so little content. I gladly pay for National Geographic and Lenswork as I feel that the content of those publications makes them worth the price I pay.

I used to figure that the advertising paid for printing the magazine and that my subscription fee paid for the postage to get my magazine to me and the publisher’s profit. But when my magazine gets beamed to my iPad electronically there isn’t much in the way of distribution cost. So who gets the money? I’m not sure, but I think I’ll hang on to my money, thank you very much.

Somebody's Lamborghini - And you thought photography was expensive? Taken with my Fuji X10

Thinking and Driving

"Digital Holga" Traffic in Huntersville

This is one of those topics that could easily turn into an angry rant, but it’s something I truly find amusing and I want to have some fun with it so I’ll try to keep my commentary on the light side and I hope you will agree. This is not about photography, so bear with me.

Every morning on my drive to work, between dropping Kathy off at the bus stop and arriving at my office I pass 12 intersections with traffic lights (careful to not say that I go through 12 traffic lights!). The pattern of the lights is pretty predictable, and you sort of know which ones are going to be red when you get to them and which ones might stay green depending on traffic, etc. And the amount of traffic is pretty consistent unless there’s an accident on one of the freeways. While it is a 4-lane road it’s not like the interstate where there is a “slow lane” and a “passing lane.” Both lanes move along at about the same speed. I’ve learned in my nearly 2 years of making this commute that it takes just about the same amount of time every day. When school is in session it takes 15-20 minutes, and when school is out it can take 12-15 minutes. Not a bad drive either way, all things considered.

For the most part a group of cars moves from one light to the next. Some people turn off, some cars get through the next light while others don’t, and some people enter from side streets. But for the most part you just go, and you just get where you are going.

While I’m driving I pay attention to what other cars are doing around me. I often observe behaviors and “project” an imaginary scenario on people based on how they drive. Most drivers are content to just drive, while others drive like they are on a personal mission to get to work faster than everyone else. Maybe there’s a prize, I don’t know.

Some common behaviors and general observations:

– Coming up to a traffic light, people from the right lane make last-minute moves to the left lane, and people from the left lane make last-minute moves to the right. I guess it’s like choosing the checkout line at the grocery store. It’s an amusing dance.

– If there’s a truck in the right lane, everyone moves to the left lane until there is no one behind the truck, then the left lane gets so long that people start switching to the right lane behind the truck, figuring that they will find a spot to jump back into the left lane in front of the cars in the left lane. In reality it makes very little difference because inevitably someone who moves to the left lane won’t go any faster than the truck.

– Coming up to an intersection in the left lane, someone will inevitably move to the right lane, pass the person in front of them, move back into the left lane then make a left turn. The reverse happens too – right lane to left lane.

– People seem to hate empty space. If a car in front of someone changes lanes or turns, leaving a large gap between them and the next car, they speed up to close the gap then slam on the brakes. They don’t seem to understand that they can’t go any faster than the people in front of them, but they evidently like to try.

– I saw a car with the license plate “WHATEVA.” I thought that meant the person was laid back and casual, but their driving was anything but. I guess it meant they didn’t care what anyone thought about their driving!

– At one of the intersections approaching work, I have the option to make a left turn, make a big loop that is about 3X as long as the regular way but comes at my office from the opposite direction. Since this avoids waiting through the final two lights, I always thought this “short cut” was faster even though it was longer. But one day I timed it – exactly the same.

– You can almost always tell who is looking at their phone by how much room they leave in front of them at red lights. Then they take a few more seconds to get moving when it turns green. Look out for the ones that don’t stop when the car starts moving – they have a hard time staying in their lane!

– People frequently make left turns from the right lane and right turns from the left lane. I figure they must be using GPS. Anyone who was actually paying attention would know their right from left.

I often wonder if I should have been some kind of behavioral psychologist. I find the study of humans fascinating. I always wonder what (if?) people are thinking about and what makes them tick. It’s a lot more fun than fiddling with the radio dial, checking e-mail or sending text messages. The observation of other people is great entertainment. One of these days I’ll figure out how to make a photography project out of it!

See, I did find a way to tie this in to photography!