Kathy & I headed to Charleston, SC over the Labor Day weekend to attend the Lowcountry Jazz Festival there. When I was packing up my photo gear I didn’t know if I would be permitted to take a camera to the concerts, so at the last minute I pulled out my Fuji X-10 and decided to toss it in the bag.
I hadn’t been using the Fuji in a while, in fact I’ve been on a “use the best camera all the time” kick and haven’t been carrying a point & shoot camera at all. And I have never been happy with the way Lightroom processes the RAW files I’ve gotten out of the Fuji, so I had sort of abandoned it.
I have read a lot of comments about how good Fuji’s JPEG processing is, so I set the camera up to shoot high quality JPEGs. And although I could have taken the “big camera” to the concerts I decided to just take the Fuji. In fact that was the only camera I used all weekend. We went out and did some touristy stuff and the X-10 did the job.
It did a pretty good job all in all, especially considering that it is several years old. The concert photos were taken at ISO 1600 or 3200 and came out pretty good for a small sensor. I decided to post these with no processing at all. A few are a little on the dark side, but that is mostly due to the fact that I was using negative exposure compensation at the concerts and kept forgetting to reset it when I went outside!
I’m pretty impressed with the results from this camera. In fact, based on a lot of things I have been reading lately, I’ve just about decided to try out one of their newer offerings as a possible eventual replacement for the full frame beast that I’ve been carrying. It’s tough to beat the files I’m getting from the 5D, but with results like these from a several-year-old point & shoot, I think I owe it to myself to at least rent a newer model and see how I like it. No surprise that we have some upcoming travel plans 😉 , so I may need to check out the options.
This is certainly not a new term in photography or even a new use for an old one. But it’s a way I’ve described some of the images I’ve made during our various travels. They aren’t people pictures and they aren’t (necessarily) historical landmarks, but it’s a way to describe the details that make up the greater part of the whole.
These are some of my “urban landscape” photos from our recent visit to Millersburg, OH.
While we were in Ohio visiting my brother Bob, we went to Millersburg for dinner. Here are a few photos that I took while waiting for our table at a local restaurant that happened to be right across the street from the Holmes County Courthouse. It’s a classic building in classic (I’m sure there’s a proper word for it) courthouse architecture.
I’ve not been able to come up with a lot of words lately, but I have been making gradual progress on processing some photos. Here are a few more from our now-not-so-recent trip to Ohio at the end of June. Much more work to do, so I may just spit out a bunch of photos as I get to them.
I know my thousands of readers will go elsewhere if I don’t keep their attention. 🙂
One of the cars I frequently see in our neighborhood has a sticker on the back that says “Salt Life.” I’ve seen it in other places too, but never really knew what it was all about. Remember that I live a sheltered life, with no advertising and stuff, so bear with me. The other day going to work I followed an SUV that was sporting a “Salt Life” spare tire cover. Finally getting the better of my curiosity, I turned to The Google to see what this was all about.
So as it turns out, Salt Life is a company that sells stuff that says Salt Life on it. According to their website, they are “an authentic, aspirational and lifestyle brand that embraces those who love the ocean and everything associated with living the “Salt Life”.” So in other words, according to the cynic in me (me, cynical? 🙂 ), they sell stuff to people who are too busy living some other “authentic aspirational lifestyle” to actually go to the beach and enjoy “everything associated with” being at the ocean. It’s a fantastic business model – get people to pay for the privilege of advertising your brand. One of the oldest models in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m good with it. I ain’t judging. But the whole idea strikes me as kind of shallow. I mean, if we really aspire to living at the beach, then we need to get our a$$ to the beach. Don’t just buy stuff that makes other people think you went to the beach. Besides, the real beach people can tell.
My typical practice when I get back from a trip and am going through photos to process for my blog is to toss some of the picks into a Quick Collection in Lightroom. I’ll process those and when I’m done I’ll have a little group to go with whatever words I’ve had bouncing around in my head.
These photos have been sitting in my Quick Collection folder since we returned from our visit to Belhaven in late March. I think 6 out of the 8 were done, I just hadn’t finished them.
I thought I had better clear them out before I start posting more Hilton Head photos. So here they are, better late than never, I guess!
My friend Earl Moore and I spent some time wandering around Washington, NC a few weekends ago. One of the places we visited was the graveyard at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. We were only there for about 15 minutes, but we both got a variety of shots.
It’s always interesting to see the results when different photographers visit the same place, especially at the same time. I won’t clutter this post up with a bunch of words, but I do have a few of my own photos from this visit. There are definitely some similarities to what we saw and shot, but just as many differences.
Kathy & I value quiet as much as just about anything there is to value. By quiet I don’t just mean sound, although that certainly accounts for a lot of it. I mostly refer to the kind of quiet that means the absence of noise, both physical and mental. By that I mean the constant background chatter, the incessant televisions that keep us “entertained” while we try to shop or have a meal, or the impatient and distracted “me first” drivers. It can mean also mean something as simple as having to call the bank or the cable company for the eighth time about some problem that can never quite seem to be resolved.
We go to great lengths to make our home as peaceful as possible. We don’t have a television. It’s amazing how much difference that makes. When we did have one we found that even when it was not on, it begged us to turn it on, to find something – anything – to watch. That’s noise. We love to listen to music, but when we do it is often smooth jazz or classical, with no words and no blaring horns or guitars. There’s a time and place for the big band jazz and the vocals, but we save that for working in the garage or cleaning the house. Our favorite play list on Spotify is called “Shhhhh!” (I made it up myself)
On our recent weekend with our friends Earl & Bonnie Moore, we found ourselves spending some quiet time at Swan Quarter Wildlife Refuge. At the end of a mile or so long dirt road is a good-sized parking lot. Why the parking lot is so large I have no idea, because in all the times we’ve been there I think we might have encountered just one car. The parking lot was established for the Bell Island Pier, a beautiful fishing pier that extends perhaps 200 yards or more into Rose Bay Creek, which is an inlet of Rose Bay, the Pamlico River and eventually the Pamlico Sound.
Despite the sound of the wind and surf, this is truly a quiet place. We enjoy spending time there, and enjoyed sharing it with Earl & Bonnie. It’s a place that reminds us that there can be quiet anywhere, we just might need to work a little harder to find it. There are a lot of spots like that everywhere. A few of them I like to keep to myself, although they aren’t exactly a secret. With others the key is to know when to go there and when to stay away.
Kathy & I have often discussed the possibility of relocating to eastern North Carolina. There’s a lot to like out there. It’s close(r) to the Outer Banks, we have made friends in Belhaven and Washington, and we’ve found that it’s just a great destination for a quiet weekend, whether I photograph or not. There’s a noticeably slower and more relaxed pace out there. It’s a pace we enjoy because it comes very close to the way we like to live our lives.
One of our objections to moving so far east is that it is so far from the other places we like to go. It’s a good 5-hour drive from Charlotte, and another couple of hours or so to the mountains. But at some point we realized that, being so far from everything might just be the point. Maybe escaping the hustle & bustle, the traffic and congestion, might be worth the price of having to drive a little farther to get to some of the other places we love. It’s hard to say for sure, but we may be on to something. It’s possible that being farther from some things might bring you closer to others.
For the foreseeable future, home is where the jobs are, since it’s those jobs that allow us to have the house and travel to all of the places we like to travel to. Down the road it might be another story, although I suspect the finally getting to the point where we can kiss the corporate world goodbye might lessen the need for escape. That’s a hard scenario to predict. But in the mean time, you can be sure that we will continue to seek the quiet places, whether they are close by or farther away.
Along the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina
I enjoy sharing my photography with other people, and the place I share the most is on my blog. The thing that I enjoy about that is that most of the people who read my blog, or at least those who comment on my posts, read it because they enjoy reading what I have to say and enjoy looking at the photographs I’ve made. I’ll occasionally get some constructive feedback about a process or technique I’ve used, but mostly it is just friends enjoying other friends’ photographs. I like that.
I often have a hard time sharing my photography with other photographers, especially hobbyist photographers, because too often such discussions turn into what I call a “duck measuring contest.” As soon as I show a photograph, someone has to pull out their iPhone and say, “Oh yeah, I got that. See?” or “here’s my albino Lithuanian wildebeest from my trip to the Masai last fall.” Whatever. It stops becoming a discussion about photography and becomes all about their photography. They don’t really care about my photography, they just care about showing me theirs. It doesn’t work that way on our blogs, though. And I appreciate that.
Kathy & I went to a wine dinner a few months ago at our favorite restaurant. Wine dinners are an experience that we really enjoy, and involves a pairing of nice wines with foods prepared specially to match up with the wines. Done well it is a culinary experience that is tough to beat. At these dinners we are always seated at a table with 4-6 others, almost always couples. The people are all very nice, but sometimes they know each other and Kathy & just sit there and listen, as they regale each other with tales of their most recent conquest, whether it is dinner at the French Laundry, their new boat or car, or their new 2,000 bottle wine room in their McMansion at the lake.
Eventually someone realizes that there are other people at the table (us) and decides to be polite and talk to us. Sometimes they’ll ask us where we live, whether we’ve ever been to Napa or what our favorite wineries are. And while it might appear that they are actually interested in what we do for a living or how old our kids are, it always seems to me to be an excuse to “pull out their iPhone” and talk about themselves. I’m not completely sure, but I think that’s because people like to find out where you fall on their own personal hierarchy. A lot of people have a need for that, and it brings them comfort to be able to rank and judge people based on their own scale of whatever it is that they value.
When I share my photographs on my blog, I never feel like someone is comparing my work to someone else’s, at least from the standpoint of whose work is better or who is a better photographer than someone else. Because for many of us it’s about appreciating someone’s work for what it is, not trying to prove we are better than everyone else.
One of the things I find fascinating is the wide variety of subject matter and the range of equipment we use. We have people shooting with the latest WhizBang Mark V, some using point & shoot cameras and others shooting with film. And it’s all good. Because what matters to us is not whether someone has the latest camera, but how they use the camera they have.
Whether a photograph was taken in someone’s back yard, Yosemite, Nova Scotia or Tuscany, what’s important is enjoying looking at photographs that show what someone sees and how they see it, not where they were when they took it or what camera they shot it with. And we learn about that by sharing. Sharing comments on someone else’s photographs and receiving comments on our own.
I recently built a new computer. Well, to be accurate, my son Kevin built a new computer and allowed me to plug in some of the parts, and I mostly installed the operating system with him looking over my shoulder. He hides his impatience with me pretty well, but he very politely allowed me to do it even though I was pretty slow and had to refer to the instructions too much. 🙂
Buying the parts was about as easy as buying a whole computer already assembled. I got a list of all the stuff I needed from a website online, confirmed my choices with Kevin and with Earl, and a few days later it started raining Newegg boxes at our house! The assembly process was fairly straightforward, too. Although it helped a lot that Kevin knew where all the plugs and pieces went. I would still be trying to figure it out if I was trying to do it on my own.
I know enough about computers to be just shy of dangerous. But I know little enough that whenever I start to ask someone a question I can feel the “please don’t ask me a computer question” tension start to build. As part of the learning process I spent a lot of time trying to figure stuff out for myself, and that involved looking at message boards. And just like on photography boards, there was a lot of condescending “if you don’t know that you don’t have any business building a computer” talk, and that can be a little off-putting. I never would have attempted the project if I didn’t have expert help, but now that I’ve seen it done, I feel like I would be a little more confident trying to make a change or even building another computer. Although the idea is that I won’t have to do that for a long time.
One of the first things I did after I got the computer up and running was to install Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC. I had not used Lightroom 5 on my old computer, because it was barely able to run Lightroom 4, and I was certain it would choke on Lightroom 5. I did have Photoshop CS6 on my old computer, but the only thing I was using it for was adding the text to my monthly calendar and sharpening the output for the web. The new versions of Lightroom and Photoshop aren’t a lot different than the previous ones, but it became apparent very quickly that I have some catching up to do.
Because I have taught classes and done tutoring in Lightroom, I consider myself a bit of an expert. I have even toyed with the idea of taking the test to become an ACE (Adobe Certified Expert) in Lightroom. But now I feel like I need to take a class myself, because after just a few short months of not keeping up, I’m already behind.
And that brings me to the point of this article. There are so many things that we have to know and understand to be photographers that it is hard to keep up with it all. We’ve always needed to be experts on the basics – composition, exposure and focus – fortunately those basics don’t change much, although the more we learn the more we find out we don’t know. We need to have a high level of familiarity with the mechanics of our equipment, and that equipment has gotten more complex as our cameras have become capable of doing more things. And then there is the output side – computers and printers. Assuming that we buy a computer that is already built, there is still a matter of getting everything to do what we need it to do, such as installing the software, calibrating the display and hooking up the printer. And if we decide that we want to do our own printing, that is a whole world in and of itself.
I love learning new things. That’s why the project of building a computer appealed to me. And there is something fun about buying all of the parts and assembling your own. And the fact that I was able to buy and build a computer to do my photography makes it that much more rewarding. But now the real fun begins. I get to learn how to use it and make it do what I want it to do, to hopefully make the final result of my photography even better. I’m glad I had some friends to help me along the way, and I’m sure I will be relying on them for more help down the road. But I’ll try to figure it out myself before I ask!