…suddenly, the screen went totally black…

…and the mouse and keyboard didn’t work. I had been editing some butterfly images (see below) and going from that wonderful creative process into problem resolution mode was difficult. I tried every set of keystrokes and other tricks that I have learned over many years of using a personal computer. I finally turned the machine off and tried to restart it, to no avail. I called the Geek Squad, my technology support team, and told them what happened. I described to the Agent the computer’s behavior over the past few months and what it was doing in the moments before the crash. I related my efforts to revive my machine but when I told the Agent the message I had on my screen when I tried to turn it on again, I simply heard a big sigh followed by those fateful words – sounds like a hard drive crash. At least she wasn’t suppressing a laugh.

Oh my! I disconnected everything and headed to Best Buy to visit the Geek Squad in person. Agent Trevor put my machine on the test bench, plugged it in and tried to make it work. Nothing. Agent Trevor disconnected everything and took it into the back room. Minutes passed. Agent Nate came out, mopped his brow, and told me that it just wouldn’t turn on for them either. We discussed my options. I bought a new hard drive and Agent Nate went to work.

After a few days, I got an email that my computer was ready. I was off to Best Buy. When I got there, Agent Nate showed me that the new hard drive was working. When I tried to get into my photo drive, however, nothing happened. My machine went back into the workshop with Agent Nate. After a while he came out and said that everything was dead again. We discussed my options now. The more we talked, the more I realized that my 4 and a half year old computer would not be revived.

Our discussion turned to a new computer. I decided on a new HP with an i5 processor and a great video card. I added a couple internal hard drives to facilitate my photo editing workflow, left everything with the Geeks to install the new hard drives and recover what they could from the old computer, and headed home.

On the way home, I reflected on the past couple days. First, that I had fortunately completed my monthly backup the week before the crash. I might lose the butterfly image edits, but nothing else. The RAW butterfly images were still on the SD card in the camera and I could re-edit the couple pictures I had worked on. Then the sticker shock associated with a new computer hit, quickly replaced by the excitement of having a better system that would accomplish tasks more efficiently with data storage that was better technology than the old.

In the next few days, I got out and took some pictures. I hiked up to the Kings Canyon Waterfall west of Carson City, got some shots of the steam powered locomotives at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, drove up Ebbetts Pass to see how far it was open, and recorded some of the flowers in our back yard. Without the computer, the mages sat in the cameras calling to me – we want to be edited! I had to ignore them, but it was difficult.

As time went by without a computer, I thought about when we bought our first computer in 1982 – an Apple IIe. My lovely bride was a junior high teacher and Apple had wisely put their systems into classrooms, then offered teachers a discount for buying a computer for home use. It only made sense to have the same computer at home as she had at school. As I recall, we paid more for that IIe than I did for my new machine. Of course, in 1982 dollars that was a lot of money. I gotta tell you, though, that that Apple was awesome. It had a huge (12″, I think) monitor with pixelated text. The keyboard was built into the computer case. Data storage was accomplished using bulky drives wired to the back of the computer case, and we had a case of 5-1/4 Inch floppy disks next to the computer.

We subscribed to an Apple magazine to help learn how to use a computer. The magazine contained programs for exciting things to do on your computer. I spent many hours typing in the code so I could have a digital fire on the monitor. Since keyboarding was a little different than typing, Apple included programs to teach us how to use a keyboard. Our oldest son, who was just a year old when we bought the computer, loved to use the cursor control program. There were two themes – a gnome and a bunny – each traveling in a two dimensional maze. The gnome was looking for gold and the bunny for carrots. When the gnome or bunny ran into a wall or ceiling (controlled by our son), the gnome or bunny would face you and stomp his foot. It was very entertaining to a one year old.

We used this computer for many years. While I was finishing my college degree, we added a second drive so I could move data without having to change floppy disks. We were really in heaven when I got a copy of AppleWorks, an integrated software with a word processor and spreadsheet. I wrote most of my college papers using the AppleWorks word processor. I had to take a technical writing class, so I took it in a summer session. The instructor required that all papers be written, graded, then rewritten as needed. Since I was married to an English teacher, I would write my papers on the Apple computer, have my lovely bride review them, and then print them (on our very impressive dot matrix printer). One day, I got a paper from the instructor with the only comment that I needed a comma in a sentence. Using AppleWorks, I inserted the comma and printed the paper. My lovely bride disagreed with the instructor and I agreed with my bride (of course), but I turned in the corrected paper anyway. At the end of the semester (when I had my A), I admitted to the instructor that I was married to an English teacher but I never mentioned the disagreement over the comma.

This rather long trip down memory lane shows just how much technology has grown and overtaken our lives. When I think of how simple that Apple IIe was to use, but how limited in what it would do compared to the computers of today. The same applies to telephones, automobiles and, of course, photography. I shoot digital cameras – no film at all. My cameras are simply a computer attached to a lens with a shutter that controls light hitting a sensor. My phone is a data management device that takes pictures and makes phone calls.

I was surprised at how distraught I was over not having access to a computer to edit my images. I determined that my creative process only begins when I compose in camera and release the shutter, and without the digital darkroom the process is not completed. I have also determined that I’m okay with that. Long ago, I figured out that the digital darkroom was critical to my photographic process. Many photographers like to do everything in camera and minimize their computer time but I prefer to have the camera record the light and then make my images happen on the computer. Personal preference rules – all processes are valid.

With that in mind, I need to wrap this up and get back to work configuring my new computer to my digital darkroom workflow. I’m amazed at the number of little things that I do, but have been reminded when I’ve tried to use them and they’re not there. In good news, however, the new computer makes quick work of editing. Where I waited several minutes for the old computer to move between PhotoShop and the various filters that I use, the new computer takes seconds. It’s wonderful.

The biggest lesson here is that good data storage protocols – including regular backup – are critical. And not just for your images, take care of your critical documents, too!

As for those butterflies, Agent Nate was able to recover all the images from the hard drive on my old computer and put them on my new computer’s drives, so all I had to do was re-install my editing software and apply some filters. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Ready for my Close Up, Mr. DeMille…

One of the reasons I love photography is that I never stop learning. Whether it’s a new technique or equipment or subject or even just a different way of seeing things, there’s always something to learn. Now that the Raptors have moved on to other places, my eye has turned to smaller and closer subjects – the pollenators and flowers in the back yard!

Over the years, my cameras and I have spent a lot of time in the yard and have enjoyed some success. Although Spring is still fairly new this year, I’ve had a good time so far. This is a Hyacinth, and it was the first flower to bloom in our yard. I put my Canon 6D Mk II with a 50 mm lens on a low tripod and got as close as the minimum focus distance would allow. I did not use focus stacking, but it may happen this year.

All images processed in Adobe Camera RAW and PhotoShop, with a Nik ColorEfex Pro filter.

I upgraded my mobile phone to an iPhone XS a couple months ago and I’m slowly exploring its photographic capabilities. With Spring so young, the Bees are working very hard and are tough to capture…but it can be done…even with an iPhone.

This flying critter was on our Peach tree – looking forward to those peaches!I also bought a new Super Telezoom lens this year and decided to see what it would do on close up shots. Mounted on my 6D Mk II body – a full frame sensor camera – and with a minimum focus distance of more than 8 feet, the Bees are very small so the following images are heavily cropped. The end result, however, is very nice.

This Bee is on one of our Chanticleer Pear trees.

Our Flowering Plum tree has been very popular with the Bees this year.

And so it begins. Spring has sprung and it’s time for some close up. I’m ready Mr. DeMille…

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Silhouettes as Fine Art…

Last month I shared some silhouette images with you – images I made during one of the classes I took at the Winter Wings Festival. I also took a class in wildlife as fine art which is the subject of today’s post.

I was out the other day and I found these two Geese floating in one of the irrigation ditches in the Carson Valley. Geese aren’t my favorite subject and the light wasn’t in my favor, but I decided to try something new using the techniques I learned in Klamath Falls and seeing if I could make some ‘fine art.’ I made several images using various exposures. Fortunately, the Geese were just floating along so they weren’t disappearing into the distance or making great ripples in the water.

When I downloaded the images and began processing, I tried several different ideas – color versus monochrome, variations in contrast and color, and a variety of filters. I ultimately chose this single color image, processing the dark areas into silhouettes to accentuate the position of the Geese on the water and in the frame using Adobe Camera RAW, and then finishing in Photoshop and Topaz Studio.

I hope you like it. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Double D and PSC…interpretations on the Sierra Nevada Range!

In my last post, I talked about the Digital Darkroom (or Double D) and the fun I was having while exploring the application of creative filters. For today’s post, I used an image made with my PowerShot G9X Mk II point and shoot camera (hence the PS Challenge piece of the title).

I don’t remember where I was going last week, but I remember that the light on the Sierra Nevadas was gorgeous. I pulled over and got out of the truck, grabbing my trusty PowerShot, and began clicking. I always bracket exposures for my landscape shots to decide during post processing what I am going to do. I bracket up and down one stop with this camera. I used all 3 exposures to merge them into an HDR in Adobe Camera Raw, then applied filters using Topaz Studio.

Just for fun, I processed this using three different filters.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

The Digital Darkroom – How Much is Too Much?

“Owing to an inherently mechanical nature, a camera (be it film or digital) essentially produces raw images that, on their own, are rarely able to adequately communicate the enigmatic complexities and expressive nuances of a subsequently crafted fine art photograph. Post-camera image manipulation has always been a basic tenant of the photography process.”

That’s how Huntington Witherill started his article ‘Beyond the Camera’ in the November 2018 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine. It caught my attention immediately! I enjoy reading Outdoor Photographer and have used information from its wonderful articles in previous posts. In the article, Witherill describes the time he got to visually inspect an original 8 x 10 inch negative produced by Edward Weston circa 1930. The negative had “…what appeared to be a considerable amount of pencil scrawling on the emulsion side …” Kim Weston, Edward’s grandson, explained that “…Edward had often used very soft pencils (and a small light-table…) in order to build density in chosen areas of his negatives…” After this experience, Witherill realized that what he refers to as ‘post-camera image management techniques’ “…comprise not only a significant part of the overall photographic process but also, in many respects, the very essence of photography technique.” He continued, “…post-camera image management techniques are a necessary and integral part of the overall photography process.”

Witherill talks about having a strong foundation in “…photography technique and craft…” to take what one sees, combined with knowledge of what a camera can record, and create a finished visual record. His process begins with knowing your equipment so you can start with a strong foundation (what I would call the best exposure) to build on using post-camera tools and techniques. The article talks about artistic expression and making the image say what the photographer wants it to say.

In the several years since I’ve been pursuing photography seriously, I’ve had similar discussions with my friends and mentors. Many of my friends have backgrounds in photojournalism which doesn’t allow for manipulation, save for minor dodging and burning (darkening or lightening) areas of an image. Other friends document events for clients, where the volume of images made does not allow time for post processing.

I consider myself an artist. I am not documenting, rather I am recording for artistic purposes. I have always favored manipulating my images, and have worked to make the subjects closely resemble the moment as I remembered it. After reading this article, however, I decided to pursue more artistic interpretations, depending on the subject.

I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun! And so, how much is too much? Only time – and future images – will tell.

With this new creative process, I have been playing with some images. The images below show a ‘straight’ version compared to¬† what I call a ‘more radical’ interpretation. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

This is an American Kestrel, processed to highlight the details of the raptor.

Same image, a little softer.

The beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains. I used a Topaz filter to make the composition a little bit abstract. I think this filter minimizes the foreground, accentuates the sky, and maintains the integrity of the beauty of the mountains.

The same image with a Nik filter to maintain the details but give more depth to the colors.

It’s Still August – More Backyard Challenge!

The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler, but the wildfires in California are still wreaking havoc on the views and the air quality. My lovely bride’s efforts in the backyard are paying great dividends for me, however – take a look!

This is a Julia Child Rose.

It’s beautiful from all angles. My lovely bride planted this on while I was away this last Spring.

These were the last Blackberries in our yard. We had a decent crop this year – very tasty at breakfast.

I love our Hibiscus and it’s a favorite subject when blooming. I saw this bloom with a portion backlit by the morning sun and the lower portion of the bloom in shadow. I made bracketed exposures, merged them in Adobe Camera Raw, and applied a custom filter in Nik Color Efex Pro. I wanted to emphasize the texture in the leaves, so I combined a little Glamour Glow with the Detail Extractor to make it happen!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

A very fun evening!

Action Camera and Tamron lenses sponsored a photo walk in Virginia City yesterday evening. Ken Hubbard, the walk leader, is a national representative for Tamron lenses. I’ve had the privilege of taking night photography workshops with Ken previously, so I was excited to explore Virginia City in the evening light.

The town is quiet at 8 p.m. A few cars on the street but, with most stores closed, the pedestrian traffic was very light. VC’s street lights are beautiful, and cast an orange glow on everything. I chose building exteriors and store windows as my subjects for the evening. The store windows offered challenges with interior lights creating hot spots the images and competing with the ambient light from the street lights. I set the Canon 6D Mk II on Manual, played with ISOs of 100, 200, and 800, and various apertures. Shooting on a tripod, I bracketed exposures. This allowed me to be choosy in my selection of images to combine while processing. I also experimented with black and white for several of the images, as you will see in the images below.

Walking up Main Street and I saw these bottles in the window, backlit by the room lights. Next time, I’ll use a smaller aperture to extend the depth of field and make the bottles a little sharper. Of course, shooting at an angle through vintage glass may not allow full focus on the bottles.

One of the store fronts. I tried to mask the interior light using the item nearest the glass, with limited success (in my mind). I worked this image in both color and black and white, and decided I like the b/w version best.

Another of the store fronts. I had better success using the ambient light in this image. I combined 4 of the bracketed exposures and then applied a filter from the Nik Collection for the final image. I liked the color version of this image. Another challenge was the condition of the glass in the store windows – this glass wasn’t too bad.

My favorite image from the evening! This restaurant on the south end of town was wonderful. When I first saw this scene, there was a pickup on the right encroaching into the building. When I walked by again a couple hours later, the truck was gone and I was able to get this. Again, I compared the color version to the black and white version, and chose the b/w. I cropped in a little to reduce clutter on the sides, and had to decide if the fluttering bunting in the center of the image was worth worrying about. (You can’t take your eyes off it now, can you?)

Low light photography is challenging but fun – I experiment with is occasionally. The smoke around Virginia City wasn’t horrible, but did limit my shooting. The moon came up and was a beautiful reddish orange from the smoke, but I didn’t even try for moon shots mostly because of the smoke. Take a chance and go out in the late evening, and just experiment. You will learn a lot and might surprise yourself. Be careful where you go. Take a friend to watch your back. Yes, I’ve found myself in places where I shouldn’t have been without backup so I speak from experience.

On a positive note, the music from one of the bars made the evening pleasant! Enjoy – PHOTOROGR