Always be a Beginner…

From January to the end of June, I was in Wyoming with my Dad as he transitioned to life without my Mom. I had a birthday while I was there, and my lovely bride sent me a book titled zen camera creative awakening with a daily practice in photography by David Ulrich. The book has been an enjoyable read, providing insight into the creative process instead of technical information. In the last couple days, I read a section titled ‘Beginner’s Mind.’ Two paragraphs in, the author says, “Always be a beginner.” The discussion then focuses on past experiences coloring what one does and thinks, and transitions into a discussion of why photography can change the pattern.

“Photography is an ideal entry to the beginner’s mind. It invites fresh seeing. It enlivens the commonplace, and can radically open your mind to what is. Since the world is always new – no moment ever repeats itself – you must flexibly adapt behind a camera.” (emphasis added)

The format of the book is discussion followed by practical exercises, identified by the title ‘TRY:’ In the ‘TRY: Cultivate Beginner’s Mind’ section, Ulrich writes, “Artists and photographers often engage the unending search for what is new and fresh. They shake things up from time to time, trying to break free of well-worn grooves of thought and expression. They resolve not to solely rely on past accomplishments. Innovation looks toward the future. However, newness for its own sake is a double edged sword. It can lead to gimmicks or forced behavior just to be different. I prefer the word freshness, like ripe fruit before it stales.”

As I read the book, I reflected on my photographic journey – the excitement of learning a new technique, trying new camera settings, seeing a different perspective of a longer lens or shorter lens. I appreciated the information provided by the author as much of my passion for photography and excitement to continue comes from the freshness of these new or different concepts. For some time, I realized that my view of the world has changed. I look at the light and the contrast the light creates. I evaluate all that I see with an eye to composing an image and then consider how I would record it. In some ways,

In some ways, I have gotten complacent. I know what I like (and don’t like) in an image of a raptor. I have my workflow for shooting a landscape and processing the image on the computer. I’ll heed Ulrich’s advice, however, and try to look at the world anew, with a fresh eye.

Recall that during last year’s fall colors, I was on the road working for FEMA and missed it. I’ve made up for it a little this year, catching color in Colorado and Nevada.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The Colorado Rocky Mountains south of Avon CO.

This was mid-September. They had color much earlier than we did in the Sierras.

But the Colorado Rockies are a little bit higher.

A view along US Highway 24.

Echo Lake, on the way to Mt. Evans.

Along US 24, just downhill from Camp Hale.

I took a drive up CA Highway 4 to Ebbetts Pass.

The colors did not disappoint.

And the skies cooperated as well.

A wonderful shooting day.

I put on my hiking boots and headed up the Pacific Crest Trail from Carson Pass on CA Highway 88. Not much color up there, but some beautiful photo opportunities nonetheless.

Downhill from Carson Pass is Red Lake. I found this scene on a back road nearby.

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I’m just about to burst…

I’m so excited about my photography right now that I’m just about to burst!  I know, it’s been 3 weeks since my last post and I’m sure you’re all asking, ‘if he’s so excited, why so long since his last post?”  The answer is simple – I’m having too much fun to make a post!  The problem with that, however, is the backlog of images to share.  I still have two posts worth of images from my trip home last month – stay tuned for them!

We’ll get to current pictures in a minute because there are fun things I want to share.  First, I’m waiting for my new lens, the Generation 2 Tamron 150-600, to arrive.  I’ve been shooting with the first generation 150-600 since it came out almost 3 years ago and have always loved the results.  The new lens has better optics, faster autofocus, and a shorter minimum focusing distance (by almost a foot!).  I found a nice home for my old lens (the new owner has already made some great images, and has nicknamed the lens ‘Godzilla’), so I’m without a super telezoom for the short term.  My withdrawal is almost as bad as when my camera body fried a circuit board last June and I was without my 7D for a time.  I’ll get through it – I promise.  With the raptors returning to the Carson Valley, I’m excited to try out the new lens!

Second, I’m launching my exploration into Shutter Priority (Tv) mode.  For the last couple years, I have shot primarily in Aperture Priority (Av) mode, which controls light using the aperture opening.  Aperture size impacts depth of field, or how much the image is in focus from the foreground to the background (large openings = shallow depth of field, small openings = deeper depth of field).  For wildlife shots, especially birds, I shoot wide open.  Large aperture openings also allow fast shutter speeds, capturing detail and freezing motion.  I don’t worry about the background being in focus because I want to highlight the bird or animal in the image.  For landscapes, I use smaller aperture openings to have more of the scene in focus.  I shoot my landscapes from a tripod, so shutter speed is not really a concern.  I use Manual mode for my landscapes, allowing me to control exposure with either shutter or aperture priority, looking for the best settings for the particular subject and conditions.

What prompted me to explore Tv mode?  Sports photography!  One of my son’s friends has two little boys who play flag football.  I took pictures at a game last Saturday (they won – it was very exciting), and asked a friend/mentor to critique my work.  His comments were very helpful, pushing me to explore the wild world of Shutter Priority.  Here’s a couple pictures from Saturday.

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He had just intercepted a pass and was running into the end zone for a touchdown!

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These little guys take the game seriously – look at the intensity (or maybe fear of getting hit) on their faces!

As you can see, the focus is just a little soft.  I shot these in Av mode, so a shift to Tv mode will give me a faster shutter speed to freeze the action better.  I’m excited to give it a try!

A couple weeks ago, I went to Mormon Station State Park in Genoa to take pictures of Treffen Lake Tahoe, the Porsche Club of America’s cruise around the Lake Tahoe area.  The tour made a lunch stop in Genoa.  Go to my Treffen Lake Tahoe page (https://photorogr.com/treffen-lake-tahoe-2016/) to see my pictures from the day.

My retired guy ATV group made the ride up Mt. Patterson the other day.  Here’s a few images from the trip!

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I took this on the drive up, with my mobile phone. Note the smoke low on the horizon.

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This is the view looking west from the top of Mt. Patterson. It was mid-day when we arrived and I wasn’t happy with the light. I made the image anyway and am pleased with the result.

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The view to the north. Lots of smoke low on the horizon. The signage going up the hill described Mt. Patterson as ‘Mars with vegetation.’ I love the colors in this mountain.

On the way to Mt. Patterson, we passed the turnoff to CA 120, the Sonora Pass Road, and I just had to go back and drive Sonora Pass.  The leaves are starting to turn, and the PHOTORANGER loved the drive.

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The PHOTORANGER at the summit of Sonora Pass.

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Fall colors, on the east side of the Pass.

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Hopefully a sign of a good fall color year.  I found a great book on fall color in the Sierras, with excellent information on where to go.  Fall color exploration, here I come!

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I was amazed at the amount of water still flowing.

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The mountains had a fresh dusting of snow.

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This panorama was stitched from 8 images, then processed using a couple Nik Color Efex Pro filters. Some of my mentors/friends think it’s a little overdone. I like it!

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The scenery was stunning, everywhere I looked.

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I made several images of this mountain. I like this one for the trees in the foreground.

I didn’t forget to make images of the yard.  Here are a few.

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Remember the discussion of Aperture Priority above? This flower was shot with a wide open aperture and close up filters. The foliage in the background becomes a pleasing blur, while preserving the detail in the petals, stamens, and pistils. When I master focus stacking, the petal at the top will also be in focus.

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I finally found a Daisy bloom that hadn’t been molested by the rabbits.

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I love these Roses, but they are proving very challenging for me. I am constantly fighting the monochrome of the petals and work to introduce meaningful shadows to separate the petals. I was drawn to this composition by the dead bloom at the bottom of the image, in contrast with the vibrant blooms above.

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The last image of this post. I took a quick trip into the Pine Nut Mountains, just a couple miles east of our house, one evening last week. The sun was going down and was shining through some clouds. I’ve never made an image like this, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m not totally happy with the result, so I’ll be working to improve my image capture processes in these lighting conditions.

That’s a lot of fun for me.  I promise that I’ll get the images from my trip done and posted.  They’re worth the wait – I promise.

Thanks for reading my blog.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR