Trying to get better at just posting pictures when I don’t have a lot of words. Whew….!
Some random photos from around Western NC a few weekends ago.
Trying to get better at just posting pictures when I don’t have a lot of words. Whew….!
Some random photos from around Western NC a few weekends ago.
Public Art in Waynesville, North Carolina
As a rule I generally consider New Year’s “resolutions” per se to be a bunch of b.s. They mostly just give people something to talk about and to post on Facebook, and unfortunately are quickly forgotten. But I do think there is a lot of value to periodically evaluating our goals to determine if we are spending our time, money and energy toward things that truly allow us to meet those goals, or if the current of peer pressure and advertising has steered us off course. On a long journey, mid-course corrections are always necessary.
My friend John frequently talks about our “currency.” The idea is that in addition to money, and perhaps more so, we spend time and energy on everything we do. That is our currency, and we only have so much of each. Often we trade one form of currency for another, such as buying prepared food instead of cooking our own, or having someone mow our lawn or clean our house instead of doing it ourselves. I enjoy washing my car, but I seldom do it myself, because (a) that makes it rain 😉 , and (b) having a clean car isn’t that important to me so I’d rather spend my currency on things that give me more pleasure.
The best example of currency is how we trade a large amount of our time and energy to our employers in exchange for the money we need to do everything else we do. As our lives and careers progress, the relative value of all our currency changes. Early on we are anxious to accumulate as much money and as many things as we can, and are willing to trade a large amount of time and energy to obtain it. Later on we find that raising kids, buying houses and saving for college uses more of all of our resources – time, money and energy. Ultimately, we start looking forward to (hopefully) having enough money that we can find something else to do with our time so that, even if it does pay in money, it pays in something more. Like personal satisfaction or fulfillment.
So that’s a way-too-long way of saying that, while I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, I do often take the time to reflect on all aspects of my life to make sure that the way I spend my currency is allowing me to most effectively meet the goals that are most meaningful to me. And since this is a photography blog and not a philosophy blog (for now!), let’s wrap up by talking about photography.
When it comes to photography, my two primary themes are that (1) I love to photograph things to capture my view of the world, and (2) I love to share that view of the world with people to enjoy and appreciate it. Mostly I accomplish that through my blog, although I do happily accept money, and have a number of ways for people to purchase my work.
So in reflecting on where I am today and where I want to be tomorrow, I’ve some up with a list of things that I want to concentrate on this coming year. Essentially those come down to three things. First, I want to get better at taking my camera with me more. I wrote a few weeks ago how I tended to talk myself out of taking my camera with me, so that is something I had already identified and had started working on. Second, I intend to post more frequently on my blog. It may be just a picture or two with few words, but more frequent sharing often results in a more open dialog with those who take the time to read and comment. That means a lot to me and I would like to encourage more of that exchange. Third, I intend to do a better job of keeping my website up to date with my best and most recent photographs. I don’t do photography to pay the mortgage, but I do manage the business side of things in a professional way, and keeping up the website is the most public way to do that.
So there you go. Yesterday morning I had to go into town for a haircut. I decided to take my camera with me, got there about 20 minutes early and spent those minutes taking the long way from my parking spot to the barbershop. That also accomplished the goal of walking more, so I got two for the price of one on that currency!
I often have the best of intentions about carrying my camera with me and making photographs when we’re just out doing random stuff. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but way too often I talk myself out of taking my camera along, figuring that either I won’t see anything worth shooting, I won’t have time it will be a hassle or it will make me “conspicuous.”
Last Saturday night Kathy & I had planned a bit of an adventure, parking in uptown Charlotte, walking around a bit then taking the trolley out to the Elizabeth neighborhood for dinner and a concert. I went back and forth all afternoon about my camera, talking myself into and then out of it a number of times. Yes, self-inflicted angst is one of my specialties!
At some point in the afternoon I read one of Monte’s recent posts about Christmas in Old Town Fort Collins, and it gave me the resolve I need to say “darn it, I’m taking my camera!” I knew it wouldn’t be a problem anywhere, but just to be safe I figured out how to keep it out of the way at dinner and took one of my smaller lenses so it wouldn’t be too hard to carry (or hide, if I felt like I needed to).
As it turned out, we had a booth in the restaurant with plenty of room to put the camera on the seat next to me. One unnecessary worry out of the way. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem at the concert because it was at a church and not a big arena with metal detectors and security Nazis. Second problem solved! The only (relatively minor) glitch came when we found out that the trolley had broken down, and along with it our ride back into town! Fortunately it was only about a mile. We could have gotten an Uber, but it made for a nice, but chilly, walk.
All it all it was no big deal. I didn’t get any really great photos, but that wasn’t the point. It was more about the practice, and the point was just to get out with the camera. Hopefully I’ve learned a lesson that taking my camera along isn’t that big of a deal most of the time, and that I can spend more time making photographs and less time making excuses!
Kathy & I spent an extended Labor Day weekend visiting eastern North Carolina, generally the towns of Belhaven and Washington, NC. We’ve become friends with Andy & Karen Fisher who own Belhaven Water Street Bed & Breakfast in Belhaven, and we like to get out there a couple of times a year. We checked our records when we got home and realized that we’ve been going to Belhaven and staying at this B&B since 2007. And I like to joke that, even though we are friends with Andy & Karen they still charge us to stay there! Of course I am completely joking – it is worth every penny, plus I think she does give us a discount.
Other friends James & Yvonne McKelvey operate Wine & Words…& Gourmet in Washington. Just like it sounds, they operate a wine store with used books & music plus yummy food items. We make the trek to Washington a few times a year because James specializes in good wine at good prices. Our palates are very similar and we can count on his recommendations being spot-on. It’s a long way to go for wine, but it’s just another excellent reason to head out that way.
Another reason I love to visit the Belhaven area is that I have a number of favorite photo spots. I’m a firm believer in re-visiting places, and there are a number of places in the area that we visit every time we are there. This time, I had some new equipment to try out, and what better place to try new equipment than a place I have come to know and love?
We usually spend at least part of a day walking around downtown Belhaven and Washington, and this year was no exception. While much of the scenery doesn’t seem to change much, every so often I come across something new and interesting. And sometimes just the change in light and shadow creates something I haven’t seen before.
Another place we like to visit is Swan Quarter. While known to most people as the place to catch the ferry to Ocracoke, we’ve come to know it as a place with interesting fishing boats. About the only time we visit the ferry terminal is to use the restroom, because there aren’t a lot of alternatives in that area! Swan Quarter is home to Hobo Seafood, and a number of boats dock there. There seems to be something new every time we visit.
Another place we enjoy returning to is Englehard. It is home to several fish houses and has a fairly good size harbor with a lot of boats. It is often a good spot in the late afternoon, but this time we were there closer to mid-day. Fortunately it was a day with good clouds, so with good timing I was able to make some photos I am happy with.
Something new for us on this adventure was a visit to Aurora & Oriental, across the Pamlico River from Bath & Belhaven and accessible by road or ferry. We took the 30-minute ferry ride over and back. It is a fun way to travel and a nice break from driving. Plus the ferry itself always has a few photo ops! While we were there we came across RE Mayo Seafood in Hobucken, NC and another batch of fishing boats. We had lunch in Oriental and spent a little time exploring, but decided that we needed to head there for a whole day when we had more time. So it is on the list for a return visit!
I’ll write later about my thoughts on the Fuji X-T1, but suffice it to say that I am very happy with this little camera and have no regrets at all about making the switch. I’m still learning the ins and outs but every time I use it I feel like I’m working with an old friend.
I had a conversation recently with my favorite bartender Brian about different versions of cocktails. I had asked him to make me a Negroni, because I had never had one before and I knew that “his” version would be a good example of what the drink was “supposed” to taste like. Brian likes to tweak ingredients and often makes his own. The classic Negroni is made with one part gin, one part vermouth rosso (red, semi-sweet), and one part Campari. Pretty basic, and if you made one with just the bargain basement variety of ingredients, you’ll get the classic cocktail. But add in Uncle Val’s Gin, Carpano Antico Vermouth, Aperol instead of Campari, and you kick it up a few notches. Brian’s comment to me was that when making a cocktail, if you didn’t start with good ingredients it didn’t matter what you did but just wouldn’t get a good drink.
I think a good photograph also needs to start with good ingredients. You can’t take a boring photograph and turn it in to something amazing using only software. I recently read a caption on Facebook that had me shaking my head:
“I processed the five image HDR via Photomatix Pro with deghosting, double tone-mapping, and a Photograph subset. Final editing in Nikon Capture NX2. This was a tricky situation as I was at the site at high noon when there was so much contrast and haze in the sky. I also did a Black & White subset adjustment to the final image as well.”
What that tells me is “I was there at the wrong time of day, the light was terrible but I took a photograph anyway, hoping I could turn it into something interesting in software.” What that tells me is that it was time to find something more interesting to shoot, or else go have some lunch.
Sorry, just a bit of a rant, but I had a really good bartender story and this seemed like a good way to tell it. Oh, and I also have a few new photos to share. Enjoy!
It’s about time I wrap up the Colorado posts and move on to something new. I think this pretty much takes care of the highlights from our visit to Colorado, so unless I come across some other gems or find something that is appropriate for another topic this will just about do it.
I’m always a bit disappointed in myself when I realize that for all the time I spend walking around a town, I’m always paying attention to the “Tom” shots but I forget about the “tourist” shots! I did a better job in Grand Lake and Estes Park, but I don’t have a single “street scene” from Fort Collins, and it was my favorite town that we visited!
I did end up with a pretty nice collection, and I know someone will say that I did a good job of capturing what I saw. But I also saw a lot more, but I can’t prove it because I didn’t take any pictures!
So anyway, tourist photos or not, please enjoy this tour of Fort Collins.
Well, I shipped off 20 pounds of used camera gear this past weekend, and plan to use the proceeds to form the cornerstone of the next collection of gear. After nearly 14 years of lugging around the Canon stuff I’ve decided it’s time to bite the bullet and try something smaller. The decision is not entirely straightforward or simple, as I tend to be a very loyal consumer, and there is still a lot to love about the full frame cameras. And while I’m hedging my bets by hanging on to a solid collection of full frame gear, I’m pretty sure I can predict what is going to happen.
Many readers of this blog know that I have been exploring this move for some time. Over the last several months I rented a Fuji X-T1 and an Olympus OM-D E-M1. Both are wonderful cameras and have their pluses and minuses, and I know people who are faithful to both brands.
I was pretty sure that my choice was going to be the Fuji, so over the 4th of July weekend I rented it again, this time trying both the 18-55 and the 18-135 lenses. I haven’t yet placed the order – the sale prices expired before I was ready – but once I’m ready to go I’m planning to buy the X-T1 with the 18-135. My rationale is that it will be an excellent travel lens for those times when I only want to take one camera and lens, and it will give me just about all of the coverage I could want. Eventually I’ll probably buy at least one or two of the “pro” lenses, and I really want to try some of the excellent Fuji prime lenses, so I’ll keep my options open.
So while I continue to work on Colorado images, I wanted to process the Fuji files in order to evaluate them, and figured I might as well post a few. I know it’s possible to do with any camera, but I really like the fact that I can easily create a develop preset in Lightroom to quickly process a bunch of files. For the most part the results are very good with little fiddling. These have had a little bit of extra work done to them, but for the most part they are as shot with a Lightroom preset applied.
It’s hard to believe that it was two months ago, but in early April, Kathy & I took our latest excursion to eastern North Carolina along with our friends Bill & Cathy from Ohio. We visited our usual haunts of Belhaven and Washington, but also visited Edenton and Bailey. Here are a few photos from that trip, just for fun.
I’ve got a few words left on the subject of the Fuji, and on renting equipment in general. Then I think I’d like to just get back to our regularly scheduled programming. There have been a number of excellent comments on both of my posts regarding the X-T1, and those have led to a bit of extended reflection on my part.
I’ve always been a firm believer that everyone needs to find their own way of doing things. I’ve always felt that – for things that matter to me – it is always best to do a little research to see what is available, determine my preferences based on that research, then make a decision based on the results. Making informed decisions is important to me, whether it relates to the food I eat, the car I drive or the camera that I use. I don’t buy a lot of stuff, but when there is something I want it is important to me to figure out what best suits my needs and buy it. In general I only want to buy something once, and I tend to not be influenced by advertising, sale prices or reviews. If something suits my needs and I can afford it, I’ll buy it. If I can’t afford it then it hasn’t met all of my needs, one of the most important of which is that something be affordable.
One of the downsides of this kind of loyalty is that I tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to knowing what the options are. I’m not a “fanboy” about anything, but once I make a decision about something I stick with it until something obviously better comes along. But for better or worse I’m not always on the lookout for the “something better,” to the point where something better might actually be available but I don’t know about it.
When it comes to camera equipment, I have tended to pick a system and stick with it. I have purchased a couple of point & shoot cameras and I have gotten good results from them. But the dilemma I always have, especially when I travel, is that opportunities often arise where I wish I had my “serious” gear with me. As a result I have developed the philosophy that questions why I should ever take photographs with anything but my best equipment. I think that is a valid question, to the point where I carry my G12 as a backup but primarily use my 5D. Even if I only take one lens, I want to have my “good” camera with me. For a lot of folks, their phone is a good enough backup, but that’s not an approach that works for me.
The situation that I have encountered recently, especially when we fly, is that I would prefer to not have to carry the weight of a bag that contains all the stuff I want for a vacation. I have a large rolling camera bag, but the airlines always insist on checking anything that has wheels, so I compromise by taking less stuff and using a shoulder bag or backpack that can stay with me. So the choice I have is between (a) occasionally having to carry a heavier backpack than I would prefer but having the equipment that gives me the quality that I want, or (b) buying equipment that weighs less but doesn’t quite give me the image quality I want. The great thing is that that divide is getting smaller and smaller all the time. Many folks have already made the switch, but I knew that I was going to have to see for myself.
One of the great things about being able to rent camera equipment is that it can help us to build first-hand awareness of what else is available. There is a pretty ready market for used equipment these days, so I suppose if we wanted to spend the money we could just buy a camera and/or lens, use it for a while then sell it and buy something else. But that seems a lot like trading cars too often – it costs you a lot more than it is worth. I think renting is just an economical way to try something out – both for fun and for knowledge.
I don’t consider this rental to be a “once and done” event, and it was never my intention to make a decision based on one rental. I’m certainly not closing the door on the Fuji or any other camera. There are many interesting cameras on the market, and new ones are coming out all the time. There are a number of very nice lenses for the Canon that might be worth looking at. I’ve never used a Zeiss lens, but have always felt that one (or more!) of those might give me the look that I used to get with my Mamiya lenses. It’s probably worth a try. I need to be careful to not let the equipment become a distraction, and I need to be extra sure that the cost of renting camera equipment doesn’t eat into my travel budget, but other than the cost I think it is pretty harmless. And it is a lot of fun!
So to conclude, I appreciate all the feedback and comments. It’s great to know that there are as many opinions as there are photographers, and I especially like it when we can trade thoughts and ideas about cameras and photography.