I got my camera back from the shop last week and had a chance to test it out over the weekend. Kathy & I visited Shelton Vineyards with some of our nature photography buddies. As far as I can tell it looks like the machine is functioning properly. The operator felt a little rusty but I got the hang of it pretty quickly.
I’m still not convinced that this is the successful photograph I thought it would be when I made the frames, but I’ve enjoyed working on this one. I originally envisioned a high-contrast, low-saturation photo and thought it might work in monochrome, but (a) I think I’ll always be a color sort of guy, (b) I never did get the hang of what a black & white photo is “supposed” to look like, and (c) I might not be working on a good enough example. Hard to say.
I think it’s a pretty interesting scene. It’s a little cluttered, but I feel it has good balance and good light. In the post sunset twilight I was trying to capture an old-timey look that would suggest a vintage photograph, although not necessarily black & white, rather than one taken with a new-fangled digital camera.
I mentioned in an earlier post about having broken my camera while in Nova Scotia. Here’s the story.
We were driving around the Grand Pre’ valley late one afternoon, doing some sightseeing in the beautiful light that was so common there. Driving down a country road, Kathy – the eagle-eyed eagle spotter – spotted this bald eagle perched atop a telephone pole. I slowed way down to see if I could get a place to pull off, but there were ditches on both sides of the road, and the road was lined with rows of corn, so there was not a lot of choice.
Fortunately, I chanced upon a tractor path that I was able to back into, which gave Bill on the passenger side of the van a good shot out the window. My camera, of course, was in the back of the van. Keeping the van between me and the eagle, I was able to work my way around the back, open the door without causing too much of a fuss, and assemble my 70-200 and 2X teleconverter. He was still a long way off, but that was all I had.
I’m not sure why I decided to put my old 5D on this lens setup. I was probably thinking that I didn’t need to use 22 megapixels on what would probably amount to a bunch of sleepy eagle photos, and that 12 megapixels would be plenty. I just don’t remember. So, by my count I had taken 34 sleepy eagle photos, he was just sitting there, posing and looking cool. He would occasionally turn his head to one side or another, but that was about it. Zzzzzz….
On the 35th frame, the camera made a strange clunking sound. It sounded like the shutter was still open, since I didn’t hear the mirror return to its usual position. The camera sounded like I had used mirror lockup, just a lot louder. I turned the camera off, and the mirror – or at least the mirror mechanism – finally came back down. Looking through the viewfinder it was immediately apparent what happened, but I wasn’t exactly sure why or what was going to happen next. The mirror had become separated from the mirror-holder-thingie that it attaches to.
Kathy and our friends up front were still marveling at the eagle and our amazing fortune to find it with such a great place to watch, and I was standing in back of the van saying, “umm, guys? My camera just broke.” Fortunately I had the presence of mind to pull off the old body and put my new one on. Of course all the time I knew the eagle was going to fly off while I didn’t have a working camera in my hands. Fortunately, he was kind enough to wait for me, and allowed me to get another dozen or so shots off before he flew off. And I got a couple of decent flight photos. No prize-winners, but considering the circumstances, not too shabby.
After I returned home, I packaged the camera up and sent it off to Canon Professional Services for evaluation. A few days later I received an e-mail stating that they are going to repair the camera at no charge, calling it an “in-warranty repair.” A friend of mine asked me if it was covered for a period of time or a number of shutter actuations. I told him that it was covered under an “ain’t suppose to happen” warranty. I’m still waiting for it to come back, but I expect it shortly.
So that’s the story of the broken camera. Hopefully there will be a happy ending in a few days.
There were a number of good and thoughtful comments to my previous post about balance. Some of them related to the visual balance of photography, but mostly the comments seemed to revolve around the time balance involved in making time for photography, and to a lesser extent about time balance in our lives in general. I find myself more and more preferring to photograph as a part of traveling or doing other things, as opposed to making photography the central purpose of my activity. There is a subtle but important distinction between the two. Mostly it just means a change in subject matter, but because I’m photographing things that attract me or grab my attention as I go, I’m more likely to photograph things that have more interest or meaning to me, rather than just going down a checklist or conforming to some predetermined agenda or formula.
Cedric’s comment was perhaps the most interesting to me, because he read my words in the context of the accompanying photographs, which were more of a “centered” type of composition. Relating it to his personal preference for photos that are “grossly one sided across the vertical” he said that he rarely shares that type of photograph, “because generally they are not popular and sometimes rattle people too much.”
My reaction when reading those words was “why does “balanced” have to be “centered?”” If your vision (or your preference) results in a photograph that has the subject off to one side and it pleases you and suits your intention, isn’t that OK? Balance should be dictated by what works for us in a particular situation and what feels right to us. In most cases that might mean a result that is closer to the center than to the edge, but it doesn’t have to.
Mark’s comments focused on the parallels between visual and time balance, and the fact that he feels that he has more control over the photographic part than the time part. I agree, as there are more outside demands on our time than there are on our photographic vision. I probably would have been perfectly willing to get up at 4am for sunrise a few days, were it not for the fact that our days didn’t leave room for catching up on lost sleep, that daylight went until sunset at 9:00 and that I didn’t want to go home from vacation needing a vacation! It was a lot easier to convince my traveling companions to head out for sunset than to get up for sunrise, so it was an accommodation I was more than willing to make, even if it meant completely forgoing sunrise.
Paul’s comment referenced my decision to leave the laptop at home, stating that he often does the same when I he travels. He said that he sometimes goes so far as to leave the camera at home, preferring to remove the “self-pressure to get out and photograph and carve out that time to do it.” I’ve found that, too. Sometimes I just want to go and watch, to experience whatever it is I’m doing for what it is. I don’t need to capture it with a camera if I see it, experience it and remember it. There is a time and place for the camera, and there is a time and place to just watch.
As it relates to photographic composition, I’m convinced that “balance” doesn’t have to mean “middle.” I’d love to see some of Cedric’s “unbalanced-balanced” photographs. I’ll bet we would love them, mostly because they would reflect his vision and are made from his heart. On the subject of time, some of us choose and are able to spend all of our waking hours doing photography. That’s great. If others of us are only able to carve out a few hours a day or a week for our photography, that’s just the other end of the continuum and is OK, too. When I’m faced with a choice between a nice dinner with my sweetie and a possible sunset opportunity, more often than not I’m going to choose the nice dinner. Except for those rare times of the year when I can do both! Several of us have given up television in exchange for more time doing other things. If that’s a decision that works for us, then that’s OK. If I post dozens of photos a day to my blog or Facebook while Paul leaves the computer at home and each choice works for us, that’s cool.
I think the main lesson in all of this discussion and conversation is that balance means different things to each of us. What is balanced to me may be nothing but tension for someone else. And what someone else finds comfortable might be like chaos for me. And you know what? That’s part of what makes this life so wonderful! Each of us has our own take on what works, for the most part we have the ability and the means to express it, and in the end what matters is that what we do makes us happy. If we are able to share our work and make a few other people smile in the process, that is just gravy!
Kathy & I just returned home from a fantastic 2-week vacation to Nova Scotia with our good friends Bill & Cathy from Ohio. Two weeks – and we’re still friends!
We had a wonderful time, good weather and excellent food. And I have a few thousand photos to process! One broken camera was the only bummer of the vacation. More to come on that, but (a) I didn’t drop it, and (b) it was my backup 5D that somehow lost it’s mirror. We’ll have to see if it is worth repairing or not, assuming that repair is possible.
Today was catch up day, mostly spent getting ourselves physically ready for our inevitable return to “reality.” I don’t think there is any way to fully prepare mentally. So that’s going to hurt, but it is the price we pay. Well worth it, I think, for a couple of weeks away.
Here are a few quick highlights to show that we were there. I’ll have a bunch of things to talk about over the coming days and weeks as I get all my “film” developed. Stay tuned!
Kathy & I enjoy visiting wineries – they have wine there! 🙂
This past weekend we met up with Earl & Bonnie and visited Morgan Ridge Vineyards, located about an hour east of Charlotte, and just south of Salisbury. I had come across a Groupon for a tour and tasting there, but had never heard of it before, so we decided to check it out. It’s out in the middle of nowhere (for us) but was worth the drive and we had a nice visit.
After a nice buffet lunch prepared by their resident chef, we received a tour from owner Amie Baudoin. One of the things we like best about visiting wineries is hearing the stories of the owners, and Amie told us some good stories and gave us the history of the place, from a farm run by her father to the present day winery, to their plans for the future.
One of the things I find interesting, and the thing that sometimes makes me a lousy photographic documenter of things like winery visits, is that for all of the photos I took (only about 50, since we had better things to do – like taste wine!) I didn’t take any pictures of Amie during our tour, and I didn’t take a single photo of the vineyards, the buildings or the grounds. I kick myself after the fact, because you would never know I was there from the pictures I did take. I just forget, I guess. But I get so far out of “snapshot mode” sometimes that I do sometimes just forget. I spend so much time looking for little details that I miss the big picture. I will admit though, that when I am doing something like a tour I also spend time listening to the speaker, which I hope shows interest in what they have to say, and doesn’t just make me look like some distracted tourist with a big camera.
We’re getting ready to jet off to Nova Scotia in a few weeks. I do need to put my tourist hat back on for that trip!
I was originally going to title this post “Take the Money and Run,” but when I thought about what I really wanted to say, I realized I was wanting to talk more about the present and the future than revisiting the past. I mentioned in an earlier post about the fact that we had sold our house, were sweating out the due diligence process and had been waiting – somewhat impatiently – to get the green light to move, and eventually to actually close the sale. Well, that’s all done now. We sent about half of our stuff to storage on May 22, moved the important stuff – cameras, computers, the bed and a little bit of furniture 🙂 – into an apartment on May 23, spent the 23rd and 24th unpacking most of what we brought, then immediately headed off to Belhaven, our favorite little town on the coast, for Memorial Day weekend. We then spent evenings this past week and this just-past weekend getting the rest of the odds and ends squared away. I got my printer hooked up and working this morning – it fortunately seems to have survived the move with no ill effects. I have some pictures to hang, but that will be about it.
We closed the sale on the 30th, so now we are houseless, but not homeless. We had lived in our house for 17 years. That’s an eternity for some people, and is the longest we have ever lived in one place. And we haven’t lived in an apartment since 1984. I think one of the lessons learned from the selling and moving process is that that is way too long to stay in one place. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but you tend to accumulate a lot of stuff, and the older a house gets the more money it takes to keep it up. And that’s money that I would rather spend on things other than house maintenance.
Our current plan is to move into a new condo early this fall. It is currently in the very early construction stages – as in there isn’t even a road to it yet. But we visited the site this morning, and there are curbs now where there was just a hint of road only a week ago. The lot is graded and staked out, so we’re thinking that as soon as the road is paved we’ll start seeing forms go up for the footers. That’s pretty exciting – building our own place from the ground up. We’re not physically building it of course, but we picked the floor plan, chose the options and got to put our “signature” on it. All very exciting.
In the mean time, what to do? We think we’re going to like this little break quite a bit. A few months where the only things we need to think about are the necessities. Sure, we need to get up and go to work every day. We need to plan meals and get our exercise. But other than that? No boxes, no inspections and no appraisals. Almost worry free! Most everyone we know tells us that we’ll get tired of apartment living very quickly, and that we won’t be able to wait to get into our condo. But I don’t know. Part of us thinks we could get used to the “footloose and fancy free” lifestyle for a few years, maybe longer. Who says we need to own a house? Only the people who have a vested interest in selling us one! Throwing my money away on rent? How about throwing it away on interest instead? Take your pick and pay The Man. Conventional wisdom isn’t necessarily conventional or wise, I say.
We have every intention of going through with the condo purchase as planned. But we’re going to use this little bit of free time to consider all of our options. And that includes deciding whether or not we want to be tied to owning a house that we have to sell again, or if we just like the idea of giving 60 days notice, loading up the truck and moving somewhere else. There’s a certain appeal to that idea that tells me that I shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. So we’ll see.
So what does all of this have to do with photography? Probably not a whole lot, except that for the next few months I expect to have a lot more time to spend wandering around with my camera. And I plan to have plenty of time to start writing for my blog again. And we’ll probably travel a little bit, maybe a lot. And that sounds like something that I can really look forward to.
Kathy & I spent this past weekend in Charleston, West Virginia. Why Charleston? We met up with friends from Ohio with whom we are planning a vacation this summer, and it is roughly half-way for both of us. It was a planning weekend for us, easier than trying to talk on the phone, or Skype, or send e-mails back and forth. A friend of Kathy’s remarked that “only we would take a vacation to plan a vacation.” Well, duh! 🙂
It wasn’t really a photography weekend, but I did take a camera. I almost always have at least one camera with me, and although I didn’t carry it to dinner, when we went out for breakfast or lunch, or just for a stretch, I took it along just in case I saw something interesting. I don’t think I came back with any prize-winning shots, but it was good exercise.
I’ll eventually get around to writing more about it, but I’ve been on sort of a “one camera, one lens” kick the last couple of months. I bought one of the Canon 50mm 1.4 lenses a few months ago, and I don’t think I’ve taken it off my camera! I just love the simplicity of the single focal length, and have really enjoyed the discipline of having to work a little bit to refine a composition, rather than just twist the zoom ring. It really makes me think about what I am shooting and what I’m trying to show. At first I was afraid the 50 would be a little wide, but I’ve gotten used to it.
I think I could have represented Charleston in a more favorable light had I gone a few weeks later, but things were still pretty brown there. The trees were just starting to show some buds and the grass – what little we could see downtown – was still pretty brown. And the whole place had that “could stand a good rainstorm” look that cities get when the snow has just finished melting. Not that they’ve had a lot of snow, but that was sort of the look it reminded me of.
In just a little over a week, Earl and Paul & I are going to go shoot some birds at the Carolina Raptor Center. I suppose I’ll have to take the 50 off for that, but I’ll probably put it back on as soon as I’m done!
I’ve been away, but I haven’t gone far. We’ve had a few things going on over the last couple of months that disrupted the little bit of posting momentum that I had back in January. I forced myself to spend a little time on the computer to process a few photos and throw a few words onto the blog so everyone knows I still love them!
A few weeks ago – seems like months – Kathy & I visited Charleston, SC for a weekend. February probably isn’t the ideal time to visit Charleston, and the particular weekend that we went was cold and windy. We spent a lot of time dashing from shop to shop, looking for shelter from the cold, and even dodged a little rain & snow on the first day there.
Charleston is a photogenic town whenever you visit. I did some photographing while we were there, and while I certainly didn’t capture the “classic” Charleston, I feel like I captured what I saw and felt while we were there. Add some color from a few flowers and trees, a little warmer weather and the results would be totally different.
One of the things that has kept me off the computer is a little “reading project” that I got myself into. When we took our cruise in January, I decided that I wanted to read the Harry Potter series. I had never read any of the books, never saw the movies, and our kids were too old by the time the books became popular for them to bring “Potter-itis” into our home. So I got the first volume as an e-book from the library before we left, started in on it, and I got hooked. I quickly finished the first book while onboard, and quickly downloaded the second volume. I just finished #5 of 7 and decided it was time for a little break. It’s great reading, but it sucked me in and wouldn’t let go!
We’re headed to “The Other Charleston” this coming weekend – Charleston, West Virginia. We’re meeting Bill & Cathy, our friends from Ohio, there to make some travel plans for this coming summer. I’ll definitely have a camera with me and hope to have some time to wander around, so I’ll be interested to see what that Charleston has to offer.