Sunday, September 29, 2013

Transition time

My blog is going to take a trip down memory land as I get more familiar with this new equipment and can produce some decent images. I am going to start with images from my time as a freelancer for a weekly newspaper in the Florida Panhandle. I was associated with that paper for 10 years and it was a lot of fun. This will actually help me post more often and getting me back to the purpose of this blog which is to talk about images.
This first image is one that had folks wondering how I got it. Since I was freelancing, I had my own gear but the paper had a crappy Tamron 400mm f5.6 prime lens. It was decent for daytime work but not much else. The editor had gotten a call that there were swans on one of the coastal dune lakes (very special lakes - more on the lakes in a later post) so I headed down to check it out.
I arrived at one of the local resort communities and headed toward the lake. I took a path that the resort had created to get closer to the water. As I started to see the water I decided I wanted to get a higher vantage point. The resort had built a low wall (about 3 feet or 1 meter high) along the edge of the path. I climbed up on the wall and started walking along it. I finally reached a point that I could see the lake and the swans. I had the 400mm on one of my bodies and on a Benbo monopod.
As I brought the camera up, I heard a rustle in the palmettos beneath me. I glance down but did not see anything at first. I brought the camera to my eye and, again, heard the rustle. This time when I looked down, I saw the open mouth of a cottonmouth snake which is very poisonous. This particular snake appeared to be about 5-6 feet long coiled up. With the height of the wall along with the distance the snake was from the wall, I figured I was about 5 feet away and that I was safe for a strike. I brought the camera back to my eye with the 400mm and took several shots hoping one would be sharp enough handheld. The image shown here was the best of the bunch.
I was close enough to this snake that I could have full extended my monopod and put it in the snake's mouth. But, needless to say, my momma did not raise a stupid boy!

And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Oh, well......

Was going to post a trip down memory lane (for me anyways!) but decided just to post a shot from lunch yesterday at a new place (to us). Still learning how to handle the new equipment. "Seeing" is the biggest change. No zooming like before from a stationary position. It is interesting but also frustrating!!

And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More interesting stuff?

I visit several photo blogs and newsletter websites each morning just for a little inspiration. Recently, during one of my visits to Theme Photography Daily website (, there was a posting of a video ( where National Geographic photographers talked about why they still are photographing still images and the impact of a still image. While the Theme response was overall positive, the writer took one exception to the comments from the Nat Geo photographers.
At the very end, one of the older photographers said: "If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff." The writer said "True mastery is to find wonder and interest in what others find commonplace."
As I ran the video a second time, I concentrated mainly on the photos of people. (I am not a landscape or nature shooter so I was not sure if I could determine if they were "more interesting.") In the end, I agreed with what the writer was saying but also agreed with the Nat Geo photographer.
How, you say? Think about it this way as you watch the video a second time. Pretend that instead of looking at a pair of Afghan men with their pre-teen brides, you ARE one of those Afghan men. Now is it "more interesting stuff?" No, it is the others' commonplace.
On the occasions that I have visited foreign countries or gone someplace for the first time in the USA, I look at everything with wonder. I shoot like a madman, looking to get as many views from as many different angles as possible because, for me, it is "more interesting stuff!"
I have watched many Londoners go through Leicester Square without a single glance around. Yet, for me, it is a shooter's paradise with so many different ethnic groups passing through.
So, "more interesting stuff" really boils down to what appeals to you as an individual. I enjoy shooting people in documentary fashion. I have never been a poser of people so I do not find it to be "interesting stuff." I am not a big nature or landscape shooter even though I appreciate the artistry of photographers like Ansel Adams or Galen Rowell.
This is one of the reasons that many high-profile shooters say you don't have to travel the world to find a story, just look in your own backyard. Of course they are saying this as they are jetting off to some "exotic" location.
That is why, for a former small weekly newspaper shooter like myself, I seek to find the extraordinary in the ordinary around me. I have mentioned Bryan Moss' book "Photosynthesis" in an earlier post. Moss, a top-notch newspaper shooter, shows the simplest of images in his book. He tosses out some words to title a few of the images. The words alone are boring. The images are not.
So here is my attempt at titling some images with boring words which will be followed by the images. Don't jump ahead. Read the title and put an image in your mind. Then look at the image. Is it "more interesting stuff" or not? Only you can decide.

Titles like "three girls talking at high school football game".

 I captured this image as I was leaving a high school homecoming football (American football, not soccer) game. I did not even bring the camera to my eye, just to waist level, pointed, and hit the shutter. As usual at these events, many of the young ladies comes very dressy as they look to go to the dance afterwards. The young men, as you can see on the right, barely dress at all much less in something more formal.

Now, how about "man walks past open Tube doors".

I really was pleased with the way this image turned out. And I actually planned this shot!

Next up is "woman picks up glass at volunteers' meeting".

This lady was actually the founder of the CVHN organization in South Walton county, FL. I was covering the meeting and was looking for something that said what the meeting was about. I saw one of these folders, put on my 12-24mm lens, and was focusing on the words. Just about then she walked up to pick up her glass of wine and thought she would play with me not realizing how much area the lens covered. Boy, was she surprised when she heard the shutter go off!!

Finallly, "teenager opens school locker".

I saw this young lady with all the kids behind laughing and carrying on as they started the first day of the new school year. She seemed so alone as she worked to try to open her locker. I grabbed several images and then got distracted. When I turned back, she was gone. I had really wanted to get her name and show her the shot that I hoped would run in the newspaper that weekend. Just wanted to give her a little pick-me-up....
Well, did the actual images surprise you a little?
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Monday, September 16, 2013

What "Life on the Banks" is all about

Here are a couple of images that, IMO, really show what I think this blog is about. I posted image #2 to my flickr stream some time back but ran across image #1 when looking for an image to possibly submit to an online contest.
Image #1 was captured on the American Thanksgiving Day in November 2000. I had found a group of families that closed off their street, set up tables, and joined together to celebrate the day with each other with turkey and all the fixings. My wife, a reporter with the local newspaper, and I joined them to cover their celebration. With three generations of just about every family, there were a number of young children around. I caught these kids blowing bubbles and this one little girl kept trying to bite the bubbles! It was hilarious! I was still shooting film at the time and this was with my all-time favorite, Kodak Tri-X.

The second image is not that old being captured on 23 September 2011. I had recently picked up a 1,8/85mm lens and was looking to see if I could lighten the weight of my equipment as I was approaching retirement. I knew I could not keep carrying the heavy f2,8 zooms and I really had no opportunities that were opening up for me photographically. Where I had done business with a number of local resorts during the boom times and had eventually been hired as a staff photographer for a local newspaper, the 2007 recession killed most of those possible money-making ventures. Not being someone who enjoyed doing senior portraits or weddings as a mainstay, I was looking to try something else to enjoy my photography and, hopefully, make a little money at it to supplement my retirement income. So I had picked up a couple of new prime lenses and was trying them out. I was roaming around a local resort area when the skies opened up. As the rain came down, I took shelter under a store's awning. As I looked around, I spotted people coming up from the beach. Many were hustling, if not running, to get out of the rain. Strange, I thought, these folks were just down at the Gulf of Mexico enjoying the water and suddenly a little warm rain shower sends them scattering like bugs. Then I saw this pair. A mother carrying her daughter just walking along enjoying the rain. Both were smiling and laughing at the folks that were running. They, on the other hand, were definitely in no rush. This is an image that really gives credence to the title of this blog. Just a couple of ordinary people enjoying "Life on the Banks" in their lives!

And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Avoiding distractions and getting motivated

As the title suggest, I am having some difficulty getting myself going in a single direction. I had hoped that doing a little pro-bono work would motivate me, get me a few calls for possible work, etc.
But it doesn't look like that is going to happen. Instead my phone ringing, one of the major local non-profits decided to approach the local photo club (of which I am currently a member). There was little to no reference to any payment to this effort. I have several reservations to this type of club venture (see post "Exposure/credit lines do not pay bills"). IMO, to do something of this nature on a large scale devalues photography and photographers. It is a win for the non-profits and a loss for local photography businesses.
I no longer see myself as a fit with the local club and its advanced amateurs. So, after the September meeting, I have left the organization. Most of the members have never made their living from photography. It is a sideline/hobby they enjoy and, if occasionally they get a paid shoot, it is just extra money.
While I have retired, I cannot cut off a potential money source for those local photographers that hope to get some of that business in order to survive. So, now I am back to square one. What do I want to do? How can I best enjoy my photographic efforts?
Since I have sold the majority of my DSLR gear in favor of lighter and less equipment, I need to take myself in a new direction. I briefly considered an online news magazine for the local area. Something of this nature requires a mentality that I USED to have when I was shooting for a newspaper. While I might (and I emphasize MIGHT) be able to pull it off, it just seems that it is a direction diametrically opposed to the equipment I now have.
And, to be honest, I was tired of carrying two pro bodies with multiple lenses. Not so much because of the weight (although my back and shoulders appreciate the lighter equipment) but because the equipment was more than I felt I needed at this point in my life. No more high school sports. No more rushing out of the office to the scene of a fire, accident, or some other malady of life.
I have read many blogs where photographers enjoy the freedom that a single camera and single focal length lens can provide. I have even had some trouble working with both the 35mm and 50mm focal lengths in tandem. That seems a little strange to me as I carried two camera bodies for most of my career.
While I will continue to shoot with both cameras, I believe it is time to work with only one at a time. I will just have to decide which field of view I want that particular day. After all, the great Henri Cartier-Bresson worked with only one lens. Why do I need more?
While I will continue to peruse my archives for images that mean something to me, I want to try and concentrate on images shot with the new gear. I think if I focus on these focal lengths both in shooting and only maybe, just maybe, I can find the direction and inspiration that I need.
With that thought in mind, here are a couple of shots.
The first pair are of one of my granddaughters (I have four!) and is a cheat. The shot was made in plenty of light but, as I was looking through the viewfinder, I saw an entirely different image. So I played with it in Photoshop. Image #1 shows a black&white version direct from the camera. A pretty blah image overall except I did like the back composition.

But this is image that I "saw" as I hit the shutter. What caught my attention was her smartphone lit up and the light it casts on her face. So I decided to work that thought and here are the results. Still nothing to crow about but, at least for me, adds something to the image. I did not totally black out the surrounding area as I wanted to have some "shadow" detail.

The next image is from my latest shooting effort. I spotted the side of the truck as I looked back when walking down an alley. When I first saw the truck, I thought, "there has to be an image there." I started back the direction I had just come to get closer ("zooming" by walking - a new experience for me!). But, as I continued to look through the lens, the image lacked that additional human element. So I waited. I saw one possibility as a young woman came walking toward me from the parking lot but she changed direction at the last moment and the image was lost. The image I got is not great as I would have loved to have had a full frontal view of the man but it was what I could get. Sometimes, in photography, that is all we can do. While the previous image is not a "true" image, I did not remove key elements and it is not anything that could not be done in the wet darkroom.

For all my flickr contacts, please keep posting. I draw much inspiration from the folks I follow. I don't always make a comment or fave an image but I always take a peek.
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Monday, September 2, 2013

When life sucks

We all have had one of those weeks where nothing seems to go right. It has been like that for my wife and I for the last couple of weeks. I won't get into what has happened but, to put some salve on the wounds, I went back to look at some of my older film images. In fact, these images are over 30 years old. I had been out of the Navy (an old submarine sailor) just a couple of years and my wife, three kids, and I were on vacation at Kings Dominion theme park in Richmond, VA. These four images brought a lot of memories flooding back and put a smile on my face. This is back when my wife and I were still adjusting to civilian life (and her having to put up with me ALL the time!) and the kids still minded us and thought we were OK parents. The first three images are of my kids in one of those bins fill with plastic balls that kids dive under and hide from each other as they play "Marco Polo." The kids really were having as much fun as it appears in the images. The fourth image is of my wife and, yes, the t-shirt does say "When God Created Man, She Was Only Joking!" It was a t-shirt she had found in a shop on St. Thomas, USVI, on our first Caribbean cruise. Sad to say, the shirt has been lost (or, at least, that is my story and I am sticking to it.).
But the thing about these images and what they have been doing to get me out of my depressed state of mind is what I think photography can do for people. Just think about it. Haven't you ever been a little down only to come across an old photo that brings back such quick memories that all you can do is smile? With today's media centering more on shock value for their images, we sometimes lose the great 'slice of life' memories that are taken every day. I love the work of Doisneau, Ronis, Erwitt, Evans, and the like. And the recent rise of the images of Vivian Maier. Images that show ordinary people going about ordinary lives like most of us today. Images that tell the real story of civilization as the philosopher Will Durant espoused in his books. Having what are common, everyday "snapshots" that mean the world to us. My youngest son (image #3) and daughter (the oldest of my kids) are grown and have their own children. My first-born son (image #2) sadly was killed in a single car accident at the age of 19 - a promising life shortened by tragedy. My wife? What can I say about the woman who has taken care of me for almost 45 years? She is an absolutely amazing woman. She took care of house and home for the eight years we were in the Navy and I was spending months at sea. Each time I came home, it was like being on a honeymoon. Now, after many years of ups and downs, she keeps me ticking even though I am still her biggest "kid"!
So, if you are ever feeling down, look through some of your old photographs and remember the good times. It may dispel that dark cloud over your head and bring a little sunshine into your life.
Now, on to today's images. Like I said, these images are from over 30 years ago. None of my kids had become teenagers at this point so they still thought their parents had a brain. I remember the kids just having a ball with other kids in that huge bin. They would jump into the balls and move around underneath, hidden from view, only to leap up and try to scare someone. And my wife and her t-shirt (she is in the background in image #4). She really enjoyed some of the looks she got and the comments that were made. Oh, and for the gear heads out there, these images were all shot with that first camera my bride got me - an Olympus OM-10 and Zuiko 1,8/50mm lens.

But I have one picture in my mind that I did not take for some reason.
One of our kids had won this huge stuffed dog. I mean the thing was as big as either of my sons at the time. But we were in a 1974 VW Bug! What to do? Fortunately, the Bug had a sunroof. So we drove a couple of hours from Richmond back to Manassa, VA, on Interstate-95 with this stuffed dog's head sticking out of the sunroof at 70mph (approximately 112 kph for our European brothers). We had to have been quite a sight rolling down the road.
As I sit here listening to The Piano Guys (google them and enjoy their brand of music!), I realize that photography is truly visual music and can lift one's spirits to the heavens. Well, that it is for today's post.
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....