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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Toot Toot!

Here it is, Labor Day already. The year is 2/3 gone, but only 114 days (or something like that) until Christmas.

I spent a couple hours at the Nevada State Railroad Museum for their Labor Day Steam Up yesterday with my Canon EOS 6D Mark II equipped with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. This lens is tiny compared to my other lenses with similar focal length because it does not have an image stabilization or vibration control system. Because of that, I shot primarily on a tripod but did make a few handheld shots (holding the camera to my eye with the tripod hanging down in front of me, if you can imagine).

Shooting with a prime lens (fixed focal length) instead of a zoom lens was challenging. I’m used to setting up my tripod and zooming the focal length to adjust the composition. With a prime lens, one must compose ‘with your feet.’ To zoom in or out means moving the tripod, not twisting a ring. At one point, I was standing on the median island in the middle of Carson Street to get a shot. Because of passing cars and a cyclist, I missed a couple that I wanted. Oh well!

Here’s a sample of my shots from the day. If you missed the Steam Up, keep an eye on their calendar because they steam up on a regular basis.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

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

The Texas Adventure…Texas State Aquarium!

In my post last week, I showed pictures from the two weeks I spent in Maryland training for my assignment with FEMA. I was assigned to the Corpus Christi Branch Field Office. Corpus Christi suffered wind damage, but nothing like Padre and Mustang Islands and the coastal areas to the north and inland areas to the northwest.

On my first weekend (and day off) in Corpus Christi, I visited the Texas State Aquarium. This is a beautiful facility and well worth the entry fee.

The walk from the parking lot. The former engineer in me loves that bridge on the right!

As is my habit, I started my tour on high ground. This atrium houses the tropical birds and other fun stuff!

Lots of Flamingos. You’d think they would be easy to photograph because they move so slow, but they move enough to screw up any bracketed exposures.

This guy was coy, but enjoyed having his picture taken.

And then there was this guy. I caught him still sleeping, but shooting up and into the light was a bit challenging. I’m told that Sloths have a green tint because they move so slowly that algae can grow in their fur. I haven’t confirmed it, however.

The displays are great, but pictures of fish in tanks have always been a stretch for me.

I tried anyway and made this image.

I enjoyed the Dolphin Show! They were very entertaining, but it was a very hot day and it got a little uncomfortable sitting in the stands.

When I made the decision to take the PowerShot camera, I knew I would be limited in my compositions. With that in mind, I wanted to work on my ‘eye’ to see landscapes. This is a view of the Gulf of Mexico from one of the observation platforms.

The USS Lexington is on display as a floating museum. Here she is, as seen from the Aquarium.

I also enjoyed the 4D Shark Show and picked up a nice t-shirt while I was there. All in all, the Texas State Aquarium gets a big thumbs up as a place to visit!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

It’s been too long…

…since my last post. I’m very aware of it. In my defense, I took a job supporting FEMA’s hurricane recovery operations and I’ve been away from home for a while. While on the road, I limited myself to my Canon PowerShot point and shoot camera. I challenged myself to push its limitations and make good images.

On October 1, I boarded a plane and headed to the National Emergency Training Center in Emmittsburg MD. The NETC is home to the Emergency Management Institute and the National Fire Academy. The campus was a girl’s school before it assumed its present duties. Many of the buildings are historical and they are all beautiful. The campus is also home to the National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial.

This is one of my interpretations of the Firefighter’s Memorial. The view is from the right side and includes one of the stunning sunrises we experienced during the 2 weeks there.

I made this image of the Memorial with my mobile phone the first evening I was there. I had to check in and get my credentials late in the evening and was crossing campus when I saw this. I loved the light on the Memorial.

This is one of the administration buildings, typical of the architectural style on campus. I posted pictures of other buildings on campus in my ‘view from the office’ series on Facebook.

Some of my friends and I took a drive to Hershey PA and the Gettysburg National Battlefield on our one free weekend. Hershey was busy with the Antique Auto Club of America show, but we were able to tour the chocolate factory and take a bus tour around the town. I visited Gettysburg in 1982 when my father was on a tour of duty at the Pentagon. This visit was more rewarding after reading several books on the Civil War in recent years.

If you haven’t been to Gettysburg, you really should go. The locals started preserving the battlefield immediately after the battle, so unit locations and gun emplacements are accurately documented.

The Robert E. Lee Memorial. I pray that all these beautiful memorials and the history they represent are preserved forever.

This is my only fall color picture for this year. The trees in MD and PA had just started turning, but this scene, near the Wheat Field, gave me a little color for the year.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

PS Challenge – September 7, 2017

Round Top, above Winnemmucca Lake as seen from near Frog Lake, on the trail from Carson Pass.

I shot this image using bracketed exposure, merged in Adobe Camera Raw, processed further in PhotoShop with a filter from On1 Photo RAW.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR