“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

So, there I was, reading the March/April 2017 issue of Popular Photography magazine (specifically an article by Glen Van Slooten on ‘seeing the trees for the forest’) which included this quote from Henry David Thoreau.  The words resonated deep inside me.  A few days later, I was reading about the cover shot for the March 2017 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine.  In his own words to describe the picture and his process for making it, the photographer, Robert Glenn Ketchum, said this, “…As you look at this image, I want to call your attention to an “old school” idea about taking pictures: The camera doesn’t matter; it’s what you see that’s important…”  My technically oriented engineer’s brain almost exploded.  I called one of my photo mentors to discuss this interesting concept.  He laughed and said something like, ‘why yes, and that’s the subject of a presentation I’m making next week.’  (Though I didn’t hear it specifically, I’m sure that he covered the telephone and said something like ‘he FINALLY gets it!!’)

As I thought about the quotes and my mentor and his presentation, I realized that I have been subconsciously wrestling with the concept for some time.  When I look at something, what am I actually seeing?  I had always wondered why people making images from the same place and time that I was were making better images.  In many instances, they could see an image that I didn’t.

What does it mean?  Simply, there’s one more item on my list of things to learn about photography.  This one, however, is not a setting on the camera – it’s consciously looking at an item, animal, or scene and visualizing the image it could be, or taking an idea and making it into a reality.  We’ll all see if I can actually do it – the challenge is there.

I had the opportunity to go inside the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City before it re-opened last weekend.  The Museum suffered damage from flooding last January and has been closed for repairs and cleanup.  I’m happy to report that the Museum staff and volunteers did an excellent job and the displays and exhibits are in excellent shape.  Here are some images from my visit.

This is the Glenbrook. I made this image from three exposures processed in Photomatix, a High Dynamic Range (HDR) software, and finished as a monochrome image.  HDR utilizes multiple images made at different exposures to bring out the best highlights and details in the shadows.  (I discuss HDR in more detail in this post, https://photorogr.com/2016/03/29/an-amazing-week-for-me/ – go take a look!)

Same image as above, but rendered in color.

The drive wheels on the Inyo. Note the reflection in the floors – Museum staff thinks the floors look better than ever and I agree!

If you think the names on cars are obtrusive, take a look at this! We can clearly see that the Inyo was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. This decoration/advertisement is displayed between the drive wheels and can be seen in the previous image.

I’ve got to learn the names of the things that make these beautiful machines run.  This is an HDR image.

The firebox and surrounding area of the Glenbrook, processed as an HDR image.

As you can see, I worked on my HDR skills.  I also tried a new technique that I’ve been exploring – focus stacking.  In focus stacking, images are made at different focal planes and then blended together to achieve deep focus in subjects.  The Museum was probably not the best place to work this technique as many of the subjects have curved surfaces, making focus stacking a challenge.  I did it, however, and learned lots about the technique and its challenges.

One of the drive wheels on an engine. I focused on the face of the bolt (at left center), the washer, the face of the drive shaft, the bolt heads on top of the drive shaft, the wheel spokes, and the machinery behind the wheel. The light was at the top of the drive shaft, so everything below was in shadow. I liked the composition.

Inside the cab of one of the engines, a focus stacked image (8 focal planes).

Same image as above, rendered in monochrome.

I was intrigued by this control lever, and made a focus stack using 8 focal planes along the length of the lever. This wouldn’t be possible in a single image, even at a small aperture maximizing depth of field.

The spherical object on the right presented the greatest focus stack challenge, as the gauges were all on the same focal plane.

This is the entire apparatus, 7 focal planes. I worked the image to bring out the patina of the brass as well as the deep focus.

This is a shot from inside the passenger car. I loved how the old glass caused the somewhat rippled appearance of the Inyo cab, against the straight and in focus wood paneling. This was made from two exposures and focal planes, one for the interior and one for the Inyo.

This is the ceiling of the passenger car. The artwork is amazing and the lamps are just gorgeous. I used 8 focal planes to make the image in focus from the front lamp to the wooden header behind the far lamp. As I refine my focus stacking technique, I will use more focal planes for better quality images.

I love focus stacking, and am happy to add it to my photography toolbox.  Just like everything else in my toolbox, its best use is a work in progress.  I hope you enjoyed my revelation and my trip to the Railroad Museum.  A big thanks to the staff for allowing me to visit.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Shooting the West…and a little reflection…

I had the most wonderful experience this week – I attended ‘Shooting the West: The Nevada Photography Experience’ (www.shootingthewest.org).  Mere words can not adequately describe this event, and I don’t have the photographic skill to do it justice, either.  I attended a couple classes, met several people that I ‘knew’ through Facebook, made many new friends, and saw some amazing pictures.

My experience started Wednesday evening, with a class called ‘Winnemucca @ Night.’  Instructor Craig Moore led our group into the chilly Winnemucca evening and gave us great information and ideas for taking pictures in low light conditions.  Here are a few of my ‘experiments.’

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We started with ‘flash techniques’ for taking pictures of bright lights (such as casino lights) with a person in the foreground. Craig taught us a technique that allows the lights to shine but the person to be seen in the image. I have an image in mind – stay tuned. Then we played with long exposures, capturing lights from cars and nearby signage. I only took a few shots, but I enjoyed the technique. Visit my Shooting the West page and look at the image with the Winners Casino sign and the traffic signal – I got all the lights in the traffic signal.

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We stopped by a local night spot. The patrons were very accommodating and allowed us to take lots of pictures. I saw this great image in the mirror.

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Experimenting with long exposures again, we learned how to make ‘ghost images’ on the court house steps. Can you see the mere shadow of myself? This was very fun.

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The local Catholic Church has this beautiful display outside. I made several images using different settings. This was the best image out of the camera, but still took a little work to bring out the colors on the walls.

It took most of the night to warm up from the ‘chilly’ evening, but my camera and I were ready for the Composition class on Thursday.  M.D. Welch taught us the basic elements of composition, and then cut us loose to practice.  I traveled to Winnemucca often when I worked for the Nevada Department of Transportation, but I looked at the community with different eyes on this trip.  Here are a few of my images from Thursday.

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This is an image that I made for my weekly photo challenge – mirrored images. Winnemucca has these beautiful light poles, but they only have the light, flag, and Chief Winnemucca gusset on one side. I copied and flipped the original image to create this interpretation of their street lights.

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The Martin Hotel is one of the best Basque restaurants in which I’ve had a meal. We were near the end of the class when Michelle, one of my new friends, pointed out this beautiful reflection. Thanks Michelle for sharing. I have to start looking around more…

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I went back to my architectural roots with this building. This beautiful Art Deco style is home to Winnemucca’s Volunteer Fire Department. The blue tint to the picture was quite accidental, as I had the white balance on my camera set for the previous evening’s light. Sometimes those accidents work, but most of the time they don’t – at least for me. Take a look at the ‘not blue’ image on the Shooting the West page to appreciate the building in more natural light. I kind of like this one.

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As with many cities in the western U.S., the rail road is a big part of Winnemucca’s history. Amtrak still stops here, but the train station is more of a covered waiting area than a traditional train station. In my mind, the architect successfully integrated traditional elements of railroad stations into the design. In this image, two diesel engines on a siding are seen from inside the station. On the left, the sign identifies this stop as Winnemucca.

And then came two days of presentations by world class photographers, with subjects that included the California Missions, aerial photography, landscapes, time lapse, and trail camera photography.  Using images submitted by attendees, one presenter showed how to use Photoshop to edit and repair images.  As part of STW, participants can enter a picture in a competition titled ‘Give It Your Best Shot.’  The presenters and participants choose their favorite pictures and the images were breathtaking.  No matter your interest, experience, or skill in photography, Shooting the West is a ‘must do’ for anyone with an interest in photography.  I encourage you to go to http://www.shootingthewest.org to experience this great event for yourself, and consider attending next year, April 25 to May 1, 2016.

Oh yeah, during my R&R time, I bumped into a Hawk on a snowy morning.  I just can’t make a post without including a Raptor picture or two.

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Yes, it was a cold morning and, amazingly, we had snow on the ground and in the trees.

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Same Hawk, different tree. I’m not sure if he was making sure I saw the liftoff or if that was his way of telling me to leave him alone.

 

As you can see, I was blown away by my STW experience.  On the 3 hour drive home, I reflected on the things I’d seen, the information I received, the people I met and talked to.  I found myself thinking about the possibilities and direction I want to take my photography.  I haven’t yet decided what direction I will take as I continue this journey.  I guarantee that you will continue to see images from the Carson Valley and surrounding area – the raptors, wild horses, and beautiful scenery.  But you will also see me try new techniques and new subjects.  I have an image in my mind outside a local casino, and I have a starting point to begin the exploration of that image.

Hang on, because this ride is only going to get more interesting from here.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR