Yesterday, Paul Lester & I made a trip to Salisbury, NC to meet up and do some photography with fellow photographer and blogger Earl Moore, aka “The Earl of Salisbury.” Earl and Paul had met previously, but while Earl & I have been following each others’ blogs for a few years we had never met.
After a cloudy and damp start it was a great day. Earl was the consummate host, showing us around town for a few hours, then treating us to lunch at a nice little Thai/Chinese/Japanese Sushi place called “Bangkok Downtown” before a final stop at the Salisbury National Cemetery. Well, final in a figurative sense, not in a literal way. 🙂
Amazingly for me, it was my first visit to Salisbury. I’m sure I had passed through at one time or another over the past 17 years, but I had never spent any meaningful time there. Salisbury has a beautiful and historic rail station, is the birthplace of Cheerwine, headquarters of Food Lion, has a beautiful downtown area and a number of beautiful and historic homes & neighborhoods.
As is typical of a Southern town, Salisbury has a lot of churches. Most of the popular denominations seem to be represented. There is probably a covered dish dinner going on somewhere in town every day. Just like at the mall, there is truly something for everyone.
I took over 250 photos, which is a lot for me, but there was a lot to see and shoot. Mostly it was enjoyable to spend time talking and photographing with friends. A number of the photos I took have more of an “urban decay” theme, and while they are interesting I won’t post them here because they don’t suit my intention for this article. I’ll probably use them to illustrate another article I have in mind, but for now they will remain unshared.
I truly enjoyed my time in Salisbury and hope to return there again soon. The train station itself is a place where I could spend hours. The cemetery will be lovely when the grass greens up, but before summer’s heat takes its toll. And there are a lot of shops and restaurants to explore…I’ll definitely be back!
One of our challenges as photographers is to try and expand our horizons a bit in order to grow our skills and refine our vision. Often that involves getting outside of our “Comfort Zone.” Hopefully is doesn’t take us so far as our “Panic Zone” but that is always a possibility. Coincidentally one of the topics of our workshop this past weekend dealt with just that – getting outside our comfort zone.
This was already on the schedule before the workshop and ensuing discussion, but the manager of our favorite restaurant told me that he needed new photos for his website, Facebook page and Open Table and wondered if I was interested in giving it a go. After a big “gulp!” I told him I’d love to do it, we just needed to set up a date.
As it happened, the weather forecast for this past Sunday was perfect, Tim (the manager) was available and the time change the night before made sunrise a much more hospitable hour than it would have been just the previous day. So off I went at 0-Dark-Thirty to shoot landscape photos in a restaurant. No problem, right? Actually it was no problem at all. Tim had gotten there early and had everything set up, and just like with a landscape shoot we just had to wait for the right light. Once it got good, I rattled off a series of shots and it was “in the can” as they say in show biz.
It was a great creative exercise for me, and stretched my boundaries just a bit. Not all of the shots are as great as I (and the client) think these are, but they will be a huge improvement over what they had been using. I don’t think there’s any danger of me becoming an architectural photographer any time soon, but it has gotten me thinking about looking for a tilt-shift lens!
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.
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.
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.
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.
A number of years ago while living in eastern Ohio, I earned my private pilot’s license and enjoyed spending my weekends in search of the “Hundred Dollar Hamburger,” which was what we called a trip to a somewhat distant airport in a rented airplane for lunch. I now spend most of my weekends on the ground, and my equipment is, at least in theory, a bit less expensive.
One winter Saturday, a good friend and I started off on a longer trip to a much more distant airport in central Pennsylvania, hoping to hone our navigational skills on the 3-hour flight and to visit a little restaurant that we had heard good things about. After an hour or so of flying, we started getting into some winter weather. It was nothing heavy, but neither of us was instrument rated and it was just enough moisture to have us concerned about icing. My friend, who was flying the plane at the time, told me half-jokingly, “I think we ought to make a 360 and get out of here.” He was of course referring to making a 180, but I knew exactly what he meant and quickly agreed. We headed back to our home airport under sunshine and blue skies. We never did get to that airport, because soon after that I moved to North Carolina and I haven’t flown a small plane since.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I have been seriously contemplating a move to a compact camera system to replace my “aging” Canon 5D and associated lenses. The decision process has been far more difficult than the one I faced over western Pennsylvania those many years ago, and the answer is much less obvious. By comparison there are many more possibilities and many more acceptable outcomes than flying a single-engine airplane into a snowstorm. My primary motivation for making the change is that I would like to have a smaller and lighter camera, reasoning that I would be a lot happier taking a nice light backpack when I travel, as opposed to my overweight, carryon-illegal Think Tank bag that I can barely lift into the back of my car and that an airline would never let me carry aboard a plane. The second motivation is that I am running way behind in technology, and I reason that something newer will give me more up-to-date dynamic range and image quality. I really am due for an upgrade of some kind. The challenge is figuring out what to do.
In the last week or so I started making serious inquiries about what kind of jackpot I might expect by selling some or all of my gear or trading it in with a dealer. I have never bought or sold on eBay or Craigslist, and have no interest in making my debut by selling potentially valuable gear in a reputedly shark-infested market. I know a lot of people do it with no problems, but I’ve heard just enough horror stories to convince me that if I decide to “dip my toe” I’ll do it with something far more harmless, like some old NASCAR die-cast that I’ve been holding on to for too long.
The answers I have gotten back have been nothing short of depressing. Knowing how well my gear still performs, and knowing what I have invested in this gear over the last 8 years, the amortization has been pretty high, to the point where I am now convinced – again, for today, at least – to stay with what I’ve got for a while longer, perhaps looking to pick up a newer used body to get me closer to the current technology. And Canon’s got some Big News scheduled for this coming Friday, so who knows? Would I like a 5D Mark III? Perhaps. We’ll have to see.
Part of the reason for the angst is that Kathy & I have a big trip planned for May. Just like pilots have to be careful of suffering from “Get-There-itis,” I seem to be suffering from a related ailment called “New-Gear-itis.” We’re taking a 10-night cruise to Alaska from San Francisco, finished off with 4 days in California exploring Sonoma and the Russian River wine regions, perhaps with a visit to Napa. We’re more Sonoma people, we’re told, so we’ll probably stay on the western side for the most part. But I’d like to be able to do it with less gear, which is why I was feeling pressured – all internal, of course – to buy something new. But now I’m thinking that maybe I just need to look at my existing equipment and to just be a little more selective about what I take. There’s more than one way to take less stuff, right?
I’ve done a lot of thinking on this, and figure that anything I do is going to be a compromise. I’ve been looking at a Fuji X-Pro 1, and while it certainly has the size benefit over the Canon, the longest lens offered is a 60mm macro. There are more lenses in the pipeline but the 70-200 zoom is more than a year away. The cost of the body and 3 lenses would require that I sell virtually all of my existing gear. That’s more risk than I’m willing to take for a brand-new and unproven camera.
The new Olympus OM-D looks very promising and I think it’s going to be a great little camera. It’s more affordable than the Fuji, certainly has the size benefit I’m looking for and has a number of lenses available, so I could have all of the focal length I’m looking for. But again, it’s a brand-new camera and I’m not inclined to drop that kind of money for something that is unproven.
So where does that leave me? If I decide I just need to have something newer, I could quickly and easily pick up a 60D, a 7D or even a 5D Mark II. There are bound to be a lot of Mark II owners getting itchy over the Mark III. Maybe I’ll find a good deal on a newer used camera, then later on I can jump on the Mark III bandwagon once it’s been out and I’m sure it’s worth the money.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and I’m sure these new cameras are going to be great. But I think that – once again – I’m going to just sit back and see what happens. The last time I went to Alaska I took great photos with my 20D, so I’m sure that whatever camera I go with this time will be just fine. And once I get to California I’m planning to spend most of my time drinking wine, so even if there is a difference I might not care!
I’m on an Alaska kick lately, and looking over some of my old photos has me thinking about going back. March is a month of transition here in the Southeast, while winter (or what winter has been this year) lingers elsewhere. While this photo was taken in August (believe it or not) it shows lingering snow above soaring mountains and deep blue water.
I hope you enjoy this journey into the archives, and I hope you have a wonderful March!
The B&B we stay at in Belhaven is on Water Street, right across the street from the Pantego Creek, and I often walk over to the waterfront around sunset time to see what kind of interesting sunset there might be. It’s easy to get to, has a good year-around view of the western horizon, and has some interesting trees and grasses for foreground interest. One of the things that calls me back time and time again are these three old posts, remnants of a long-gone dock or pier, that stick up out of the water just off the shoreline.
There’s nothing really special about these posts, but there’s something about them that keeps me photographing them over and over. I think mostly it’s just a great way to practice composition, placement and shutter speed, but it gets me out the door, and most of the time that’s the battle. I can sit in the living room and watch the sky, and if something interesting happens I can grab my gear and be set up in two minutes. But actually getting up and going there compels me to get the camera out and do something with it.
Sometimes I get an interesting shot, sometimes I just play around, but I always enjoy myself. Sometimes I have to remember to actually look at the sunset, I get so caught up with these posts! Sometimes the sky just fizzles out at sunset, but these posts are always there, and I’m always able to figure out something to do with them. Most of the photos never make it to paper but some of them do.
I and several of my blogging buddies have been having a discussion about motivation, and often we find that it takes a project, a convenient subject, or sometimes just a few old posts to get us out of our chairs and make us head out the door to make some photographs. Whatever gets you going, take advantage of it and get out there and shoot. All this fancy equipment doesn’t make photographs by itself!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
As many of you know I’ve been shooting with a Fuji X10 since early in December. There’s been just one problem. Amazingly, I’ve dropped it…twice…on the ground…onto hard asphalt. It still works!
I’ve never dropped a camera or lens before – ever – but for some reason I can’t keep this one from obeying gravity (it’s the law, after all). Both times were in almost exactly the same place doing almost the same thing. I’ve recently been using a wrist strap on both my G12 and my X10, and both times this happened I have been wearing gloves and was in the process of taking them off when the strap came right off my wrist with the glove despite my thinking that I had a good hold on the strap.
The first time this happened I had the camera for only two days. I think it must have hit my foot or something because it got scratched in a couple of places. And just yesterday it landed lens-down and ruined my brand-new, very elegant lens hood that I got for Christmas. But I think that probably saved the camera. I may be able to straighten the hood and make it workable, but it is made of pretty tough metal and has pretty close tolerances, so I’ll probably be better off to buy a new one. Crap. But the camera lives on!
It’s obviously a durable little camera, since other than a few scratches – now a few more scratches – it has been working great. It’s a wonderful camera to use and I really like shooting with it a lot. The manual twist-zoom makes very precise for composition, especially compared to the little lever zoom thing on the G12. I had been looking forward to putting it on a tripod and doing some landscape shooting with it, especially when the lens hood doubles as a filter holder so I could add a polarizer. I’m not sure I can make that work now, it will just depend on how well I am able to straighten it out.
Since it’s “winter” here, I’ll probably be shooting with gloves on for the next few months, so I think I’m going to have to come up with a better way to make costume changes!
After writing the last post I remembered that I left out a whole batch of photos that I classify in Lightroom as “Personal” and I forgot to include them when I made the selection of my favorite 11. That’s probably just as well, so this way I get to show a few more favorites, and I don’t have to explain to people why I picked a tree or something over a photo of them!