Saturday, December 27, 2014


Being that it's the Christmas holiday season there's a lot of visiting going on.  Earlier in the day I was thinking about how many people I visit during the season, how many parties there are, and how many special events occur.  There are times I wish I could spread out the Christmas fun over a few months - especially January and February which in Ohio could use some help.  And then there are those people who I only see during holidays and wish I would see during the rest of the year and do a revisit of the holiday get together.

Thinking about the concept of a "revisit" also made me think about photography.  Yeah, I know, the average person would never connect these things and sure I have a photography fixation. And yes my poor wife Chris needs lots of sympathy.  But what occurred to me is that photography offers the possibility of revisiting your previous work and redoing the processing of images.  If you're not into cold weather photography or if you're not escaping to a tropical paradise, January and February are great months to look at old images and see what else you can do with them.  Perhaps you have some new software which would allow you to process an image that you never could get to work out previously.  Maybe you've learned some new ways to work with images in Photoshop or Lightroom.  Or, you could try to create black and white images from some previous captures. For instance, the image above was tone mapped in an HDR program that salvaged an image photographed in harsh midday light last summer. The image below is a black and white conversion using a dedicated monochrome program from Topaz. 

So since half time is over (why are all the interesting football games crammed into two weeks!) I'll end this post now.  But remember, when it's cold, dark, and boring this winter do a revisit.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mood and Photography

When you see this image, do you think it's sunrise or sunset?  If you see a sunrise, is it because you are optimistic and the sunrise holds forth the promise of a new day?  If you see a sunset, is it because you generally hold a different outlook and the day's end is a melancholic event?  Certainly a photographer can attempt to convey mood by composition, color, or by choosing a monochrome look.  The composition is generally determined at the time of the image capture, and will reflect the photographer's mood at that time.  But even more so, the emotions of the photographer at the time the image is processed will set the ultimate expression of mood. 

We've all heard of the tortured artist who creates masterpieces but must be suffering intensely in order to create.  For the rest of us, working on images might be a refuge from difficulties in the rest of our lives. Images we are processing probably recall a happier time when we were out doing something that we truly enjoy and probably somewhere far away from those things that cause us stress. For myself, I find that if I'm too upset about something, I can't even work to process images.  If I'm not quite that distraught, I've been told by friends that my processing tends to take on a gloomy look. The most important thing in my life is my wife, and after that my family, so if something major is going on there I can turn a blue sky sunshine puffy white clouds and field of daisies image into an expression of despair. 

So that's all for now; no real epiphany. Just something to reflect on for a moment.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Better Late Than Never

Having lived in Northwest Ohio for more than 20 years and having been an avid photographer for even longer, you might think that I've checked out just about anything photo worthy around these parts by now - especially given that this area is more famous for it's toxic algae blooms than any other natural attraction.  But even though I live on the edge of the farm belt, I had never gone to see the Five Point Steam Threshers Reunion which was in it's 54th incarnation this year. 
For you non-farmer types that don't remember the turn of the century -we're talking late 1800's to early 1900's turn of the century - steam threshers use steam power to separate wheat grain from the rest of the wheat plant. It's a task that formerly required many people to do steps with names like winnowing, thrashing, and shaking which nowadays are dance steps for rap music. Or maybe that's how they compose rap music...  Anyway it was much more efficient and caused a whole bunch of workers to lose their jobs in the fields and have to work at Walmart. These inventions were the first step in the green revolution which has nothing to do with being green today.  That revolution massively increased  agricultural production but while steam itself is white, fluffy and clean, the coal and wood fired boilers that produced the steam certainly are not.  It was very cool (well, not the weather as I was sweating like a ...) to see machines built so long ago they were even made in America  still running and threshing...  or something, as I have no clue what they were actually doing other than making lots of wheat parts fly around and try to get onto my sensor.  Anyway it was quite interesting and a way better photographic subject that the other famous summer event around here which is the algae bloom on Lake Erie.  That's happened every year for quite a while now - yet it still managed to surprise the city of Toledo's water department who allowed the algae toxin to contaminate the water supply. So to return to the original point of this blog, it was great to finally photograph the steam thresher reunion.  Maybe next summer I'll check out the algae.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Photographic Assignment

Normally when I go out to shoot landscapes I'm just looking for something interesting with no specific use for the images in mind.  However, a bathroom remodeling project led to a need for images for an exact location that had to compliment some art that had already been installed.  Hence, the assignment...  My wife requested something abstract, and abstract in the sense of a blur rather than just a tight composition of something recognizable.  It's summer, so flowers came to mind and off we went to Schedel Garden to find some subject matter. 

One of my photographer friends, Rick, always jokes that if you want abstract, just hit a camera on a tripod while the shutter is open, and Voila - abstract.  You can also use a long shutter speed and let the wind blow, or zoom in or out while shooting.  You can also change the focus.  These images were shot handheld with a long enough shutter speed to allow me to move the camera.  How fast, how far, what direction - well that's the fun part.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Howling Good Shoot

    We recently went to New Jersey.  Why you ask?  We wanted to see governor mandated traffic jams.  How do you tell the difference between traffic jams from political spite and traffic jams that just happen?  Beats me.  They look just the same as the ones that occur from political stupidity like having road construction on every highway ringing the city simultaneously like we do back home. Anyway, we went to see wolves.  There are no wolves in NJ you say... just on Wall Street and that's in New York...  Well, in the the upper west portion of NJ bordering the Delaware Water Gap and the Pocono Mountains is the Lakota Wolf Preserve.   But you would be correct that the wolves were not originally from Jersey.  You can tell by their accents...

About an hour west of the Newark airport (and yes, Delta managed to lose our luggage on a direct flight) Jim and Becky are enthusiastic hosts for a preserve with several packs of wolves including a group of British Columbia wolves which are extinct in the wild.  These are not pets.  You can arrange an escorted photography shoot during times the preserve is not open to the public.  There are ports in the fencing allowing good camera views of the enclosures and Jim and Becky are able to keep the wolves in photographic range for you as well as provide information about wolves for your edification.  Although I'm not a crazy nuts wildlife photographer these animals are magnificent and their howling invokes a kind of primordial spiritual response.

Although when you were done with the wolves you would have the option to photograph in the Poconos and Delaware Water Gap we headed into Manhattan to photograph a different kind of wildlife.  Street photography is a discipline that requires the ability to anticipate how undirected people might work with an urban scenic backdrop and the ability to see a landscape made of buildings, streets, etc. I find that the most interesting shots occur when there is precipitation and especially at night.  This is really a topic that deserves its own blog post so I'll just end this one with another image.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Cold Winter Photo Vacation is Best

Winter.  Thoughts of photographing palm trees, beaches, or bikini clad models.  Any excuse to get out of the frozen tundra of the northern states in January and February will do - especially given the vortex crazed climate this year.  It's clear that Sports Illustrated has even given up worrying about whether both pieces of their models' bikinis arrived on time for the shoot this year just to make sure they weren't trapped in the cold, waiting for a delivery from some snarky designer...

Back on topic, I think a winter photo shoot is a better choice than some tropical getaway.  And it's not because I'm jealous of my friends who went to Hawaii, Costa Rica, or Bora Bora and missed some of the coldest, snowiest weather I've seen since my childhood in Cleveland. There are actual benefits to going somewhere cold to shoot.  And I mean cold - not 32F at night reaching 50F the next day.  I mean minus 32F as you stop at the entry to ... Yellowstone. On a snowmobile.  Ready to add your own personal windchill of whatever speed you crank that snowmobile up to.  (no more than 35 mph in the park, Mr. Ranger, I swear...)

At the end of January I had the pleasure of joining Barb and John Gerlach for a snowmobile based photo tour of Yellowstone.  Since there is a limit on the number of snowmobiles allowed in the park each day and all snowmobiles have to be with a guide, it's much less crowded in the winter than the when the hordes of unguided, minivan transported, wildlife harassing plodders descend on the park in the warm weather. Advantage number one.  The wildlife also has to hang around the lower elevations to find food, which of course is the elevation where the snowmobile trails are located, so it is plentiful. Advantage number two.  Because the animals are close to the trails, you don't need a 1200 mm lens costing as much as your house to photograph them. Advantage number three.  The animal coats are full and lush unlike the spring and summer when they shed and look like they've contracted some horrendous disease.  Advantage number four.  The park itself is coated in about 5 feet of snow, which covers up a lot of ground which in the summer is covered with ugly drought browned grass. If it's cold enough, there can be fog and hoar frost coated trees and animals.  The animals often hang out near the thermal areas, which can give the animals an extra frosty look and make the thermal areas more interesting because of the presence of the animals. Advantage number five. Another plus to a winter shoot is that most photographers hibernate in the winter so if you have any winter images you will have something special. Advantage number six.

But the biggest advantage to a real winter photo trip is that pretty much no matter where you live the weather back home will be milder.  After the minus 30 F morning I had in Yellowstone, I was just about ready for shorts and a tshirt when I got back to Toledo at a balmy 19 F.  That's a 49 degree swing in the right direction.  Not like when you go tropical and drop from 85 to 19F and swing 66 degrees the wrong way!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Level 3 Captivity

So it's the third day of the level 3 weather travel restriction where I live.  For those of you who don't have this system, the basic premise is the county sheriff (who? we don't live out west!) has the authority to restrict travel if he believes the weather has made the roads too dangerous.  It started Sunday when northwest Ohio got 8 inches of snow rather quickly but then continued now into the  third day because the temperatures dropped below zero and some of the roads are still icy.  Only those who have "vital" jobs are permitted to drive.  The rest have to stay home and of course the kids who hadn't gone back to school yet from Christmas break don't go to school and have been out so long that they've already forgotten everything they learned this year.  Mothers of school age children are so crazed that they've likely stress eaten themselves out of any hope for a January fitness regimen.  My day job has enough priority that I could surf an erupting volcano to get to work and the sheriff would just wave as I glided by but the rest of the populace is certainly going stir crazy. I don't recall any of this level stuff in year's past; growing up in Cleveland a level 3 storm probably meant we got 3 feet of snow so I'd be out shoveling three times as long (snowblowers hadn't been invented yet or more likely my father didn't think one was worth the expense when he had kids for shoveling.)  Ice on the roads was an occupational hazard - if you had an occupation you hazarded your way to work; usually in a rear wheel drive car with no traction control, 2 snow tires in back, and something heavy in the trunk - but not too heavy since back then road salt rusted out the cars so quickly many trunks looked like some kind of reddish swiss cheese.  The government seems to be so busy protecting us from ourselves that we're going to turn into a nation of wimps where survival of the unfit is the norm.  But I digress.

At work today someone asked me if I had been out photographing in the snow and cold.  I hadn't. Not because I'm a wimp; after all I had just photographed sunrise in the Badlands at -19 F a couple of weeks ago, but because the parks don't open if it's level 3 and because in general I try to be law abiding.  Level 3 days are great for image processing, maintaining those file backups, and working on websites.  The other reason is that I'd already been out shooting twice this year on days when we had what I call a photogenic snowfall: the kind that sticks to all the branches and edges of things and really makes the structure of the trees pop. The image above is from Side Cut Park along the Maumee River and I think it demonstrates the beauty of a photogenic snowfall.  My only other comment is - hand warmers!  And I'm referring to the chemical ones that heat up when exposed to air and last about 7 hours.  I put them in a thin pair of gloves so that I can work my camera controls without my fingers freezing.

So whenever the sheriff finally rides out of town and takes the level 3 restrictions with him, I'll be out there looking for another photographic delight - snow drifts!