Tag Archives: Photography

Happy 104th Birthday, National Park Service!

Sunset from Morton Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

“We must take all resources under consideration; all resources, because they relate fatefully to our life on earth, reflect certain grandeurs , and deserve not only our attention, but our reverence. Hence, while it is as essential as ever to protect the National Parks and Wilderness Areas, it is also essential that we protect the forests, the crops, the minerals, and the oceans, and it is essential that we preserve the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink.” – Ansel Adams

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

Roadside Finds: Jasper, Indiana

Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana

Our first overnight stop on the return home from Wisconsin took us to the town of Jasper, Indiana.  We chose Jasper primarily because it was just about the right distance for the day, but also because it looked like it had an interesting downtown area for us to check out.

Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana
Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana

I was initially attracted by the fact that Jasper has a train station, but we noted that the train station was an anchor for a new mixed-use development called River Centre.  A brand new Fairfield Inn sits along the Patoka River and is connected to the Jasper Riverwalk, a 4.5 mile multi-purpose trail that connects several businesses and restaurants, and winds through a scenic section along the river.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana
Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana
Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana

Across the river from River Centre and connected by a very nice steel bridge is the historic Jasper City Mill.  The current mill building is a replica of a mill that was established on the site in 1817 and was in operation until 1933.  Among the customers of the mill is said to have been Thomas Lincoln and his son Abraham Lincoln, who bartered goods for corn meal in 1828.

Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana
Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana

We got into town late and left early, and it was a Sunday so not too many businesses were open.  But we got a good look at the town – enough to determine that it would be worth a re-visit.  It is “on the way” to a lot of places we hope to visit, so we will be sure to add Jasper to the itinerary on a future road trip!

Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana

Roadside Finds: Dwight, Illinois

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

For our drive from Wisconsin back to Charlotte, we decided to stick completely to back roads.  Taking 2 1/2 days to make a drive that many would make in 1 is just the way we roll.  We encountered a number of interesting places along the way, some planned, many unexpected.

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

Case in point is our stop in Dwight, Illinois.  We were attracted to Dwight because of the old Texaco gas station that is associated with Route 66.  While at the gas station, I spoke with the docent there who encouraged me to visit some of the other landmarks in  town, including the historic railroad depot.  Never one to pass up a railroad depot unknowingly, we headed into town.

The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

In addition to the depot, there is a bank building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and a building  that once housed an at-that-time famous treatment center for alcoholism.  We couldn’t find the windmill or the church immediately and decided to not take more time looking.

Built in 1905, the First National Bank on West Main in Dwight, IL was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Of the three banks he designed, it is the only one still in existence. Its simple yet dignified style rejected classical influences of the time.
William Fox Developmental Center in downtown Dwight, Illinois. The building originally housed The Keeley Institute, founded by Leslie Keeley in 1879, was the first to treat alcohol addiction as a disease rather than a vice. At its peak, 800 patients arrived here by train each week, and over 200 branches of the Institute were operating in the US and Europe. The famous “Keeley Cure,” reputedly gold chloride injections, we never accepted by the mainstream medical community.
Dwight, Illinois
Dwight, Illinois

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

Thoughts On Our Recent Travel Experience

Jimmy the Rooster at Mindy’s Cafe in Downtown Dover, Ohio

We’re back home after nearly two weeks of traveling, visiting family and friends in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with a slow meander home through rural Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia.  Several people asked us “how are things out in the world?”  We didn’t exactly see the world, but for the small part we did see I thought I would share a few thoughts for those who might be interested.

For us, we went to visit family and friends, and before we confirmed our plans we checked in with everyone we were planning to see to make sure they were comfortable with “outsiders.”  Everyone was OK with us coming (or too polite to say no!), so that solved our biggest concern.  Other than that, we found that generally being aware of the rules in each state and being prepared was relatively easy.

Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana

Like it or not, masks are a reality and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.  Just about every state these days has some kind of mask mandate, so being away is really no different than being at home.  The choices are (a) wear a mask, (b) don’t go to that place, or (c) go anyway and deal with whatever happens.  I didn’t see anyone turned away for not wearing a mask, despite some headlines I’ve read. Knowing that whether we decided to stay home or travel there wouldn’t be much difference, we decided it was worth it and would ultimately not be a big deal.

When we’re traveling on back roads, we rely on fast food restaurants and convenience stores for bathroom stops.  Probably the biggest challenge was knowing which fast food restaurants had their inside service and dining rooms open, and thus their restrooms.  But there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, as each restaurant chain or franchisee is evidently on their own to decide.  So there would be places where McDonald’s would be open but Hardees or Burger King would be closed.  A few of the convenience stores said there were no restrooms, but I think they were just being grumpy.  Most of the gas stations and convenience stores were business as usual.  Along the interstate highways and turnpikes, all facilities were open, although many of the food vendors were not.

Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

Our experience with restaurants was overall very good.  We found that the restaurants that offered good food and service before continued to do so.  Restaurants that struggled with service and quality before still struggled, assuming they were even open.  And the places that have always seemed to be dirty and indifferent were still that way.  We typically only stop at those places for their bathrooms anyway, so no biggie.  We made a point of being extra nice and generous with our tips, since the people who were working are still handicapped by capacity limits.

We stayed in chain motels with the exception of our stop in Wisconsin.  The hotel chains have stopped with their breakfast free-for-all, but all had coffee and some kind of pre-made grab-n-go food items.  Sometimes it was a paper sack with a granola bar, fruit and water, and sometimes it was pre-made and individually wrapped breakfast sandwiches, fruit, yogurt and pastries.  The hotel in Wisconsin had a full breakfast spread, which we enjoyed.  We don’t generally get excited about hotel breakfast bars anyway, so as long as we could stock up on coffee and tea we were OK.

Light fixture at Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel

Traffic on the highways seemed to be typical summertime heavy.  There did seem to be a lot of trucks on the road, but also plenty of cars hauling sunburned kids and luggage, both inside and outside (kids on the inside!).  This is Orange Barrel Season everywhere, and there seems to be plenty of highway improvement money being spent.  It was interesting to see a lot of bridge repair work going on, as we frequently came across one-lane sections of road where bridges were being repaired or replaced.  For the most part, the freeway travel was congestion free, with the exception of Chicago, which I think has people that have been stuck in traffic since the 80s.  We went far around Chicago but still encountered a few backups, primarily due to construction.

Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana

From Wisconsin to home we stayed completely on back roads, stopping in Jasper, IN and Bristol, VA.  It was slow going, but very relaxing.  We managed to see some interesting things along the way.  I’ll post some more about those highlights in the days to come.

What’s next?  We’d like to get out on the road again and get out West in August or September, but we need to keep an eye on what the various states are doing.  Right now, most of the New England states and the City of Chicago – and probably other places I’m not up to date on – are requiring mandatory quarantine of travelers from states that include North Carolina.  Other states are seeing surges in virus cases that may result in similar restrictions being imposed.  And we have no interest in airplanes or cruise ships any time soon.  So for now we’re going to bide our time, work on re-losing the few pounds we gained, and see what happens.  Possibly some day trips or short overnights within our state, possibly a return to the beach if we can do it reasonably.

Street light in Downtown Dover, Ohio

The world’s still out there and nature is still happening.  Soon it will be fall and then winter, and with any luck we’ll be back out there again soon!

Downtown Dover, Ohio

Hop on Hops

Hops plants growing in a field near Greenford, Ohio

The daughter and son-in-law of friends of ours in Columbiana, Ohio – in addition to being a occupational therapist and family physician, respectively – like to play around with farmer stuff.  They are currently growing hops in their front yard and have a bee hive in their back yard.  That’s way more ambition than I had, even when I was working!  I think they are hoping to brew beer from the hops, but I don’t know their plan for honey.  Maybe mead?  We’ll have to see.  We visited their place while they were off at work in order to check out the progress and to take a few photos.

Bee hive near Greenford, Ohio

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