Stretch Your Wings: Enter A Photo Contest

ViewBug
Check out ViewBug for a wide variety of free photo contests.

I purchased the photo bundle that good friend Richard Small put me on to last week (and that I posted about afterward). One of the fun-type products included was premium access to ViewBug, home to a great number (and variety) of photo contests. You can join for free, which is nice because you have a chance to see if this site is for you without encumbering strings of any kind. Even with a free membership you can upload photos and enter contests from day one. Your images are seen by all kinds of photographers, and it is nice to receive some feedback now and then from others. it’s a bit of fun, a bit different.

The number of contests going on at any given time is quite impressive. The variety of subjects is equally so. And this isn’t just a vanity exercise; some of the prizes awarded to contest winners certainly are ones worth vying for. And there are peer awards and likes and all kinds of nice little awards that you can receive from those reviewing your photos. Like I said, it’s nice to get a bit of positive feedback now and then. ViewBug can provide that feedback.

Use this link to check out the website and the contests that are current. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to sign up and to participate on the site. I have added a few images to my page; I have received some welcome feedback. See what you think and if ViewBug is right for you. For a site I had not heard of until a few days ago I was impressed. You may find you are, also.

Read More

His Light Brown County Part Of National Ad

Haverstock_Jim-1
An idea of what is waiting for you in Story during a His Light workshop.

I received some exciting news yesterday from my good friend and mentor Bill Fortney. One of his photos taken during last fall’s His Light workshop in Indiana’s beautiful Brown County has been selected as part of an upcoming national ad campaign. We all know Bill as an amazing photographer, a true national treasure. So it is always a pleasure to see that ability rewarded with something like this. It is even more rewarding to having been present while the image selected for the campaign was shot during our workshop together last year. Brown County is a most beautiful part of southern Indiana, and the locations we visit are chosen to reflect that beauty and the charm of this area. To know that others see and recognize what we believe is just pretty darned nice (as Midwesterners would say) is most gratifying. Congratulations, Bill!

One of the locations we visit during the workshop is rustic Story. Not only is there plenty to shoot, but the people there are most warm and welcoming (and the food is delicious). One of my friends, Chris Easton, brought his 1931 Ford Model A (a beautiful car!) over to lend even more ambiance to the old inn and general store. It made for a memorable shoot, one now capped off with Bill’s photo featured in this upcoming national ad. To say we are excited and happy for Bill and for Chris and his outstanding car is an understatement. When I talked to Chris today he was thrilled. And ready to do it all over again.

Next October His Light is putting on another workshop in Brown County (for details and to sign up contact Jim Begley at wowphotoshdr@yahoo.com). We visit spots that provide the opportunity for some great shots of a wooded and rustic county. Chris is already at work arranging for some absolutely beautiful cars to shoot while to visit Story. Next year we hope to populate Story with several cars of that age, recreating a typical morning gathering at the old store from years ago. I promise you an exceptional opportunity for great shooting. We also will be shooting old log cabins and buildings in a wooded site filled with artifacts that will catch the eye and your camera. It’s a time of year for fall foliage and beautiful landscapes. The news of Bill’s image used for a national advertising campaign is more evidence that Brown County could be just the place you are looking for next October.

Join us next year for this His Light workshop. I promise you … the shooting is great. The fellowship and friendship you will experience is even greater.

Read More

That Fuji Firmware Update? It Works.

X-T1

Fuji warning for non-Fuji shooters (and those not interested in things Fuji). Today’s post concerns yesterday’s Fuji firmware upgrade from version 3.0 to 4.0. It works. I’m not sure it rises to the level of making the X-T1 a brand new camera, but it is a substantial upgrade that makes the camera more responsive and more effective. It works.

There are all kinds of reviews and technical pages and explanations out there regarding the upgrade. I won’t go into all the minutia. My test was a field test, a hands-on-by-an-ordinary-user test. I upgraded the X-T1 and put Fuji’s macro 60mm lens on (90mm equivalent). This is a very sharp lens, but one that almost every reviewer complained that was rather slow to focus. They all admitted that once it locked on, it truly was locked on. It was just kind of slow. Not so much now, Fuji shooters. There is a noticeable improvement in how quickly the lens locks on to its target; I don’t know what would cause that other than yesterday’s upgrade. I’m not a pixel peeper nor a technical writer or professional photographer. I could see the difference. I didn’t try the 35mm, but other Fuji users who had the beta copy of version 4.0 had used it with the X-T1 and that lens. They reported results similar to what I saw with the 60 … the 35 didn’t hunt for focus; it just locked on and hung on. Thank you, Fuji.

Now, I don’t think Fuji users will see this sort of improvement with all lenses. I also put the 18-135 on the X-T1 and did some quick focus tests. I couldn’t see any difference from what it did with version 3.0. And I don’t know about any of the other Fuji lenses in their rather extensive inventory. But if these two were improved, I can only guess that others were, also. This was a much-anticipated and much-appreciated upgrade.

There are other improvements to the X-T1 that are going to be very popular, especially the improved focus tracking. I am watching closely the experiences of others until I can do my own (which I will pass on at that time). Until then, thank you, Fuji. Your commitment to customer satisfaction is appreciated. Your efforts to improve existing products is appreciated even more.

Onward and upward, fellow Fuji shooters. To the moon and beyond!

Read More

Find Your Special Birthday Song. Buying Name Brands.

Air-rocket
The Giotto Rocket Blaster, an industry standard.

I don’t know how he finds them, but my good friend Richard Small often sends me internet items that amuse, inform and astound. They are not life-and-death articles; many times they simply add a bit of fun to an otherwise ordinary day. The end of last week was one of those times. Richard sent me a link to a website that doesn’t do much but entertain (but entertain it did – and does). You enter your birth date and the site tells you the #1 song for that particular day. Then it will play it for you. Yes, I am not sure of the need for such a site, but, face it, it’s kind of fun. What I found most interesting for my birthday (and those of family members I looked up) was the number of performers I had never heard of (let alone the songs they were doing). I mean, how many of you are familiar with Vaughn Monroe? And his hit song, Ballerina? Sure wasn’t me!

It’s a fun start to a rainy (here) Monday. Use this link to see your own birthday song, your own personal song. And, Happy belated Birthday!

Then a more useful bit of information (or advice), I hope. Based on Bill Fortney’s love of the Fuji 18-135 zoom lens and his magnificent use of it, I picked one up. Fuji’s lens lineup is first-class; they are producing lenses that are sharp, sharp, sharp. This particular lens is more than a good convenience, walking around lens; it is capable of producing consistently outstanding images. I am most impressed and most pleased with Bill’s recommendation and with the lens. And when I received the lens I was sent a nice little bundle of extras from Adorama (at no additional charge). There was a lens cleaning pen, a small blower brush, a set of three filters to fit the new lens, and some lens cleaning supplies (including a small lipstick brush). It was thoughtful of Adorama to send these items to me; they are a very good company with which to do business. But, what’s that old saying? Many times you get what you pay for.

I have an original LensPen, given to me by dear friend Richard Small. It is quality throughout – a solid, well-put-together, quality item. The free one? No markings, lightweight, cheap. The business end of it feels so rough that I would be afraid to use it on my sensor or my lens. The filters are the right size for the lens – a UV, a circular polarizer, and an ND filter. They are manufactured by Vivitar, a name not unknown in the photo world. They also are very lightweight, flimsy almost when compared to the Singh-Ray filters I own. That’s not to be snobbish … the Singh Ray filters are substantial, solid, without any discernible color cast. The Vivitars look on close examination to have a cast to them (one probably correctable in Photoshop, but a cast, nonetheless). And the little blower? OMG, as the kids would write! I can puff out more air than this thing can! The Giotto Rocket Blaster is still the industry standard to me. For a reason. Oh, and that lipstick brush? The bristles are so rough that I would hesitate to use it on the lens. The design is good; the execution left a lot to be desired. Thank you, Adorama …but you really shouldn’t have.

We should be wary of becoming equipment snobs; there has to be something behind that brand name for it to mean something. But so often, there is! The companies that are considered industry standards got that way by producing a product that worked, one that worked better than the rest. Those companies that compete strictly on price have to cut corners somewhere. Now, every so often we find one that does so successfully; they have discovered a new method or technique or something that gives them an advantage over everyone else. That way they can compete both on quality and on price. When they do it is possible to become the new industry leader, in fact. That news travels fast among photographers; when something works we all want to share the news. But way too often the cut-rate product suffers in function or quality when corners are cut – it simply is the nature of business.

Remember my earlier posts on dealing with really Right Stuff and Singh Ray after my unintended bath during the Grandfather Mountain workshop? I couldn’t be happier with the way I was treated; it was way above what I expected (or probably deserved). That’s the brand name thing at work. I bought quality, top-of-the-line products from great companies; when I needed their assistance, they were there without hesitation. I can’t say the same thing would have been true if I had been dealing with companies who were cutting corners or selling less worthy items. I do know that I have in my possession items from industry leaders and some from much lesser quality companies. And there is no comparison.

Do your homework. Research purchases. Ask for advice or recommendations from other photographers you trust and admire. Consider the long-range use of those purchases, not just the initial cost involved. Make sure the whatever you buy will actually do the job for which it is intended … and for the time in which you hope to use it. A great thinker once wrote that it is unwise to pay too little for an object because it often fails to accomplish the task for which it was intended. If you pay too much for the object all you lose is a bit of money; if the items fails at its job, then you have lost your entire investment. The brand names that we have come to depend on have earned their reputation. It doesn’t hurt to look for others; it doesn’t hurt to research others. It does hurt to buy products that won’t stand the test of time.

Adorama was most generous to send along those extra items. I’m sure I can find a good home for them. Just not this one.

Read More

His Light Workshops: The Really Great Things You Discover

Breyers
If we a cheeseburger pickle scale for ice cream, this one would be at the top!

A small and quick post for today – but one I am willing to bet will stick with a great many of you for a long time to come. It’s about the truly exciting things you discover and take home with you from photo workshops, especially His Light workshops.

Now, the one that comes to mind first (and the one we talk about often) is the wonderful friendships to be made, the fellowship of His Light. Sue and I have so many dear friends now that we never would have met if it wasn’t for His Light (and Bill Fortney and Jim Begley). We truly give thanks for that and for those friends.

We also have had some truly great cheeseburgers as we have traveled with Bill and the His Light gang. Bill is a connoisseur and true master when it comes to cheeseburgers, a cheeseburger expert and purist. He has taken us to some real holes-in-the-wall that we never would have found on our own, places with the very best cheeseburgers in America. That never was something we would have anticipated when we signed up for a photo workshop; call it an unexpected (and most appreciated) bonus. The search for the best best cheeseburger goes on with every new location and every new session … and we all are so very happy that it does.

And today I would like to add another serendipitous discovery that came about from a recent shooting event with Bill and Jim. We were in North Carolina, shooting in the Grandfather Mountain area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. During conversation with the great new friends we made there the talk turned to those cheeseburgers and food in general. And Kroger’s premium lineup of ice cream came up, specifically their Denali Moose Tracks (miniature peanut butter cups in vanilla ice cream , all swirled with Moose Tracks fudge). Bill turned us on to this treat, and he first discovered it from a workshop participant some time back. And, trust me … the stuff is tantalizingly delicious, even addictive. It has become a regular in our household (even though we try desperately to hold down the consumption). But, thanks to Tom Roper on our Grandfather Mountain outing, there is a new ice cream sheriff in town.

Tom advised us we had to try Breyers’ Waffle Cone and Chocolate Chip ice cream; he swore we never would go back. What? And abandon our Moose Tracks? Never! Well, yesterday Sue brought home a carton of the Breyers that Tom had raved about. Move over, Moose Tracks; there’s a new sheriff in town! Rich and creamy and way too easy to sit down with as a treat. This stuff could definitely be dangerous to one’s diet. Take from me today … you gotta try this one. Mark it down as stuff you learned from a photo workshop, stuff that makes the workshop doubly enjoyable.

So here’s the plan for this weekend. Check out Bill’s cheeseburger diary over on his website. Find the best burger available from that list that is close to wherever you are (or can reasonably drive to). Order up a cheeseburger and fries, just the way Bill likes them, then drive like crazy to get home for a bowl of the Breyers ice cream that you picked up at the local grocery beforehand. Oh, yeah … if you throw in a camera and some shots of whatever along the way, so much the better. But the cheeseburger and the ice cream? That’s the for-sure thing – about this weekend and about a good photo workshop.

Enjoy the weekend … ice cream in hand.

Read More

Short Notice: Buy This Bundle.

I received notice from several well-known persons I follow about a bundle of photography-related products. The senders included favorites Lindsay Adler and David Ziser, among others. There person I paid most attention to, however, was my good friend and master photographer, Richard Small. You have seen his work many times here, and I have urged you to examine his works repeatedly to see for yourself what makes a great photo. Richard purchased this bundle, and he assured me there are individual parts alone that are worth more than the combined asking price of $99.00. And when Richard speaks, i pay attention. And I am not going out on even a short limb to suggest that you should, also.

Here is a link to check out the bundle and place an order. i waited until now to make my purchase. But I did … and I am glad I did. Hurry to at least see what is available at this most reasonable price before it is too late.

Read More

Gotta Mac? Have Some Macphun

Macphun

My lovely wife has been touting Macphun’s lineup of software for some time now, almost since she began processing with her MacBook Pro. I was Windows, and I already had the Nik suite (plus onOne’s software and Perfectly Clear). I figured I had everything I needed to do the processing I wanted; another set of tools was just overkill. She was turning out some really nice images, and I became a bit more interested. But I still was a PC guy, and the Macphun products are Mac only. So I lived without it. Then I became so fed up with the whole Windows experience that I made the big switch. And there was Macphun.

Sue had the software already, and it was installed just on her laptop. Her license allowed it to be on two machines, and she kept urging me to add it to mine. I resisted, still thinking I had all the processing tools I needed. Then we took Adobe’s Creative Suite off the PC (it is out of commission now), and installed the new CC 2015 products on her machine. And while doing all the downloads and copying I thought I might as well take just a peek at the Macphun software. Friends, please remind me that when she tells me something I should pay it a lot of attention. This Macphun thing is pretty cool.

We have Snapheal Pro, the program that fixes imperfections and removes undated objects, along with Intensify Pro (the Nik Color Efex competitor). We also have Tonality Pro, the black and white convertor. I have been wringing out all three, and I like what I see. The programs are geared for Mac, and Mac only. I don’t know if that makes them more attuned to the nuances of Apple machines and therefore able to better take advantage of what they have to offer. But they are fast and smooth and give some most impressive results. The presets get you into the neighborhood every time; the finer adjustment sliders are many and varied. These are instinctive, easy-to-use programs … beginners should have no qualms about jumping right in. The results I am getting are most pleasing to me. I find myself opening the Macphun products rather than the others I own almost every time now. Macphun goes together with the Mac like a hand in a glove. It’s a great fit.

I won’t go into a technical review of Macphun; there are lots of them out there already. But I will offer these user thoughts: the programs aren’t cheap, but neither are they prohibitively expensive for the results you get. If you have an Apple system I strongly urge you to check out the website for yourself (use this link). And if you are interested, keep checking their site and their Facebook page for sales and discounts. If you are careful you can usually find a coupon good for something off; just keep your eyes peeled. Now, if I had a PC would I be interested in anything Macphun? Ha! Trick question; Macphun still is Apple products only. No PCs need apply. And what if I already have the Nik suite? And/or the onOne suite? Or the Topaz lineup of products? Tougher question. But … I would give some serious thought to adding this to my arsenal.

If you do a lot of processing (and we all do anymore), give some serious thought to these Mac products. Some really serious thoughts, as they are that good. If I did a lot of processing and had the spare cash I definitely would make a purchase. If I didn’t have the cash available? If I was happy with the results I was getting with my current tools? I wouldn’t rush out to buy the Macphun programs. Nik still is really good, as are the others I mentioned. Many times software at a high level can be like cameras at a high level: the skill and creativity of the user becomes more important than the tools used. It still makes sense to learn whatever you are using thoroughly and to exercise your artistic eye with it. But, that said, learning a couple of programs really well and going with the one you need at any given time for any given project makes a lot of sense, also. And that’s where Macphun can come in and really shine.

I am impressed with these programs. Sue was right (again). If you haven’t checked out the Macphun lineup I urge you to do so. They have free trials for everything, which always is a good idea (as long as you really use the product during that time period). Give Macphun a whirl and let me know what you think. I promise it’s worth your time.

Read More

Installing Photoshop CC 2015: Those Pesky Plugins

Today is an update to the post on installing your plugins on Photoshop CC 2015. I took the copy-and-paste route (moving the plugins from Photoshop CC 2014 into the corresponding folder in the new version) instead of installing everything from scratch (as Adobe counsels). I have been using and testing how this method is holding up, given the misgivings some have about using the copy method. No problems on my machine, I am happy to report. I saved a bunch of time; if you are on the fence give the easy way some serious consideration.

That said, the method didn’t work quite as well on Sue’s laptop (also a MacBook Pro). She never had switched over to the subscription versions of the Creative Cloud. I had a version on my Windows machine, and then I added them to the new laptop when I decided to go the Apple route. So we used up our two copies, and Sue stayed with the versions of Photoshop and Lightroom that we owned outright. Yesterday I decided that the Apple experiment is a success and that it was time to pull the plug on the old PC. As a side note, I went back to deactivate the Adobe products on the PC and was put off on how unwieldy it seemed. I can’t tell you exactly why; I just like the feel and operation of the MacBook Pro much more. It was just a short time ago that I feared getting the hang of the Mac; I wouldn’t go back now. The Mac has a fun feel to it (and the power to back it up) a bit like the Fuji has when compared to the Nikon DLSR. So once I deactivated the Creative Cloud on the PC I was free to install it on the other laptop. That was easy, and it went off with no hitches. Except for some of the plugins.

Maybe I became a bit too complacent. I copied the plugins folder from my machine and transferred it over to the other laptop (the same method I used last week). The Nik software went off like a charm. Rad Lab copied just fine. Perfectly Clear had all the parts, but the first time I gave it a whirl it suspected I was using a trial version (it wanted activating). I had the serial number and was able to go dig it up (what I was seeking to bypass). But when I opened Perfectly Clear the second time it worked just fine; I didn’t need the number after all. The real hang up came with our noise reduction program, Imagenomic’s Noiseware. It didn’t show up at all in the filters list. I made sure it was there and looked right, but it just wouldn’t work. I deleted it and tried going the fresh install route. No luck (which really had me puzzled). I tried three times to download it and have it find the new version of Photoshop. It kept wanting to install it into CC 2014 (where it already was residing). Then I received an error message indicating some internal problem. I deleted all the efforts and re-boooted the Mac. I tried once more (after having gone through the trouble of digging out the serial number for our original purchase). This time it installed okay, but it still couldn’t find CC 2015 on its own. So, in a last ditch effort, I copied the plugin from the CC 2014 folder one more time into the 2015 one. No luck … or so I thought. Noiseware didn’t show up two separate times when I opened Photoshop; but, lo and behold, the third time was the charm! I opened PS and there it was! Don’t ask me how or why, but it worked.

I don’t think copying and pasting was the problem with Noiseware. It seems it hasn’t yet caught up with Adobe when it comes to installation (it can’t find 2015). So, actually, pasting appeared to be the only way to get it working. In any event, we are up and running. I recommend trying the cut-and-paste method first, before all that other work. You don’t have a lot to lose by trying, and you do have a lot of time to gain. And a final bit of advice – stick with the process. My good friend Richard Small advised me not to overthink the Mac, to just try putting things where they seem to belong on the face of it. And he is right! The Mac works more intuitively (to me now) than did the PC. The switch is complete; the PC is no more.

Read More

Photoshop CC 2015: Fresh Install Of Your Plugins … Or Just Copy ‘Em?

adobe1

It’s nice that Adobe gives us updates of their programs. We just received Photoshop CC 2015, and it is appreciated. But … boy do I ever dislike the task of setting it up from scratch, including reinstalling my plugins. Actions transfer over automatically; plugins require us to do the heavy (and manual) lifting. I put it off yesterday, figuring I had to get at it today to do some processing. Then I found myself wondering if I could take a most tempting shortcut … just copying my Photoshop CC 2014 plugin folder over to the new version. That would save a ton of time, including finding any necessary serial numbers. Adobe advises not to do it that way. Their recommendation is a fresh install for all plugins. What to do? What to do?

My good His Light friend Kent Ervin suggested over on Facebook that it is best to go the fresh install route (he quoted Adobe). Good friend Jim Begley replied with a post that said it was too late for him to take that advice – he already had copied his plugin folder from the 2014 version over to the new one. Jim said his Photoshop was working fine, that he would advise if he suffered a crash down the line. Both men are expert photographers with lots and lots of experience. Both produce beautiful work; both know processing inside and out. So, which route should I take?

Convenience won out over the safe and sure. I copied my plugins from one folder to another, fast and easy. I have done it the other way before; I just wanted to get the whole thing over this time. I had the Nik collection, onOne’s Perfect Photo Suite, some Topaz programs, and a few other odds and ends to move over. Then I opened the new version of Photoshop and tested all of them. Only one hiccup! The Perfectly Clear plugin wouldn’t open. I had that downloader still on the computer from the last time I did this, so I installed it from scratch. It worked perfectly that time. I have opened and closed Photoshop a bunch of times and played with a half dozen photos using all the plugins since moving them. No problems.

I’m willing to see if I have problems down the road with some esoteric part of one of the plugins. Odds are it’s not gonna happen, and I am loving how quick and easy doing it that way was. So, if you haven’t begun setting up your new version of Photoshop yet, my advice is to take the copy-and-paste route. You really have little to lose by trying. And a lot of time to gain.

Read More

Lightroom CC 2015: Testing The New Dehaze Filter

One of the new features being touted in the new Lightroom CC 2015 (released yesterday) is the dehaze filter. This isn’t a version that looks appreciably different from Lightroom CC (Lightroom 6 in the non-CC world). All improvements are appreciated, however, so I thought I would take a spin with that newest of features, the dehaze filter. It is designed to reduce or remove the hazy atmosphere that sometimes shows up in our images. It supposedly does not just boost the contrast to do so (the first thought that came to many minds). I had some ideal images to use for a test, photos taken recently on North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain. Now that was a location with some most visible haze.

The photo below is an image from Grandfather Mountain taken at sunrise with a Nikon D810. It is a raw image imported into Lightroom CC 2015 as is. If you click on the photo it can be seen larger over on Smugmug (it’s image number 11).

Dehaze-1

This next image is the same raw file, processed with some very standard Lightroom edits. In this case I used the dehaze filter at a fairly strong level. The contrast slider was left in neutral (it’s number 12).

Dehaze-2

And on this final image the same settings as the one above were used, with one exception. On this last one the dehaze filter was set back on neutral while the contrast slider was boosted quite a bit (it’s number 13).

Dehaze-3

Dehaze obviously is working in a different manner than contrast. Adobe did add something new instead of tinkering with the old. The hazy atmosphere was removed in the second photo, while contrast left it in place. Contrast did its thing, which also is quite obvious when the first and third images are compared. Is one preferable over the other? It depends, of course. What look are you going after? What tool do you need to achieve that look? What is your goal? The dehaze filter works; Adobe has come up with something new. It’s not earth-shaking; I’m not sure it makes this new Lightroom version something special. But, all those little improvements and new features combine to eventually make for a pretty darned good piece of software. Thank you, Adobe.

Read More

Things Bill Fortney Taught Me: Put Away Your Camera

Car show-2
An example of when to put up your camera and just enjoy the event.

My dear friend and mentor Bill Fortney is a master photographer (and an even more inspiring man). His Light workshops have brought me from rank newbie to at least somewhat knowing my way around in the field and in the classroom. One of the more important lessons he has taught me is just to put my camera away … when it truly is called for.

There simply are times when you are better off not shooting. That sounds like heresy to most photographers, beginners and old-timers alike. We should be ready for any and all conditions, we reason to ourselves; that is is entire reason for the expensive, do-it-all gear; the hours of study and practice; the time and money spent on workshops and travel. Well, we can reason all we want – it’s (unfortunately) not going to overcome some of the adverse conditions we find ourselves in on occasion. That’s were Bill’s expert instruction and advice comes in. There are times when you cannot make the picture you want to make. And rather than beating yourself up and coming home angry and frustrated, just put your camera back in the bag. You can’t win them all.

Bill teaches that to make a successful image you must have control over the elements of that photo. And one of those elements is the environment in which you find yourself. For example, let’s say you want to shoot wildflowers. You find lovely specimens in a beautiful location. You arrive during the golden sunset hours to take advantage of the light. You have the macro lens and the camera and tripod and all the various accessories you will need with you. And the wind at that time is blowing at 50 miles per hour! You are not going to take closeup photos of beautiful flowers that day, no matter how hard you try or how long you stay with it. In the photo at the top of this post I attended a pretty nice show of old cars here in Bloomington on Saturday. I wanted to show the classic beauty of those old vehicles, the graceful lines and the workmanship that went into them back in the day. And, as you can see from that same photo, it was a no-go.

The show didn’t begin until 9:30 am. I had no control over that starting time, and the vehicles weren’t there to shoot until then. it ended at four in the afternoon; all the waiting in the world for the golden sunset hours wasn’t going to do me any good. By sundown that day there wouldn’t be a car in sight. The show was held at a local car dealership … no shade, no lovely backdrops, no moving the vehicles around to where I wanted them. there was only so much space for the entries – they were parked back-to-back in tight rows with little space between individual cars. People were roaming around all over the place. The day was bright and sunny with the available clouds doing nothing to soften the shadow’s (as you can see plainly above). Each vehicle had reflections galore of all the other cars or surroundings, reflections I sure didn’t want in my individual car shots. In other words, all those elements I didn’t want in any of my photos were conditions over which I had absolutely no control. None!

Now, I could have wanted to just captured some snapshots to say there was a show that day and that I had attended. Or I might have had a friend with an entry who would be content with a snapshot that most of us would have rejected out of hand. Or I even could have been shooting for a publication like a newspaper who sent me there to come home with some photos … no matter what kind of photos they were (and that was the case here. I saw pictures of the car show in yesterday’s paper. They documented the show; you wouldn’t have shown them to anyone had they been your own). In that case, shoot away. Take what you can get and make the best of it. In fact, I realized at the time that i wanted to do this post for today; I took the photo above just to illustrate my point.

But if you are a true photographer, if you are attending or out in the field to capture photos you are proud of, to contend for a spot in your portfolio? Forget about it! Bill’s expert advice is to put your camera away and spare yourself the frustration of trying to make a photo that just can’t be made under those conditions. That’s what I did Saturday. I put my gear up and wandered around at the show, taking time to admire some absolutely beautiful cars and trucks. I had quite a nice time once I decided to spare myself the futile exercise of trying to overcome those things that I could not control. But, you argue, I have come such a long way or invested so much money and time to get to this once-in-a-lifetime location! The hard fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter. Those conditions are what they are while you are there, not what they are at other times (even if you just are there on a really rare bad day). It sounds so trite … but you can’t change the things that you can’t change.

Let me give you another example. I spoke with Bill last week. He was out in the Palouse with Jack Graham and a group of great shooters, shooters dying to capture that unique part of our wonderful country. Bill said the light had been terrible … harsh, bald skies in all but the very first and last shooting hours. He said he and Jack spent a lot of time teaching – teaching why the conditions were bad for shooting and what makes up good conditions. What they couldn’t do was change the conditions themselves. Now, in this case no one put up their cameras because they weren’t getting back to the Palouse anytime soon. But they also didn’t fool themselves that they were shooting portfolio shots. There are times you just can’t get the shot you want. Either realize that and keep shooting (not complaining later about image quality), or you put your camera up and just enjoy being where you are for the sake of getting out and being there.

So, on Saturday I packed it in early at the car show and went back into Bloomington to wander around and look for shots. Same conditions; same results. I spent little time there; no sense in fighting what I couldn’t control. On the way home I went by a smallish reservoir that is surrounded by woods and trails. i hadn’t been there in a while, so I stopped to check it out. This second image of the bench was shot back in the woods. It’s not really a keeper, but I include it to drive home Bill’s teaching point. I found shade which got me out of the sun and harsh shadows. I had room to move around my subject and find a vantage point from which I wanted to shoot. I even was able to compose a shot by moving a nearby, colorful leaf onto the bench (and, yes, I replaced it when I finished shooting). I had control of the shooting conditions, instead of vice-versa. If I had a beautiful location or subject I could have possibly have made a great photo (I would have given myself the opportunity, at least). It was worth shooting, instead of just walking away.

Leaf bench

A photo made under conditions I could control that same day.

Beginning photographers hope to learn to be able to make portfolio photographs in any set of conditions. The truth of the matter is that we can’t. The wisdom that comes with experience and expert instruction such as Bill’s is to know the difference between possible and impossible when out in the field. And then to gracefully accept when things are beyond our control. Sort of like life in general.

Read More

Bloomington Photography Club Grunwald Gallery Show 2015

Chair

‘No Longer Waiting’ is one of my images selected for the show.

Last night was the jurying for the Bloomington Photography Club’s 2015 Grunwald Gallery show on the Indiana University campus. It was spirited; it was intense. I had a chance to see most of the images submitted to the three judges, browsing the assembled photos as we checked ours in. I say without hesitation that this is going to be one heckuva show.

Close to 200 photos were submitted for a show that only holds 90 at the museum-quality gallery. The judges had their work cut out for themselves. I saw an exhibit more varied in techniques, subjects and presentation styles than ever before. Frankly, this annual exhibit and sale had grown a bit stale a couple of years ago. Forget those years … 2015 is going to special. Image after image caught the eye and held my attention. This is going to be a show to study and spend time with. There are many, many outstanding photos.

I am quite proud to report that my lovely and most talented wife, Sue, had three of the four images she submitted accepted for the show. And on top of that one of them was selected for exhibition in a room set aside for the best-of-the-best images. There are only a maximum of six thus selected each year; it is quite an honor for her to have one judged so worthy. I had two of the three I submitted selected, for which I was grateful. But I am admitting today that I am the second-best photographer in the family (which doesn’t sound so bad until you realize there only are two of us to begin with). Congratulations. Sue!

The opening of the exhibit is Friday, July 17, in the Grunwald Gallery on the beautiful IU campus (the gallery in located inside the Fine Arts building). Refreshments will be provided by club members, and beverages of all types will be available. The reception runs from 6-8 p.m. and I would allot a good portion of those hours to being there. These images will be worth studying and learning from (and the food is always quite good, also). The show runs through July 30th this year; if you can’t make the opening reception, be sure to reserve some time at a later date to attend.

Congratulations to all BPC members who submitted photos this year. We all learn by having our work judged and compared to others in a friendly atmosphere of study and continuing effort. And to all of you anywhere close to the Bloomington area, make plans now to attend this special show. You will be most glad you did. That I promise.

Read More

Doing Business With Great Companies: Really Right Stuff And Singh-Ray Filters

RRS-tripod

A really great product from a really great company.

I have posted recently about my unintended swimming session while shooting in North Carolina with Bill Fortney and Jim Begley. And how satisfied (and gratified) I was with the actions of Selective Insurance, the company that holds the Inland Marine policy for our photo gear. Let me add another couple of great companies that have combined to make what could have been a most unpleasant experience one to remember with gratitude.

I sent my Really Right Stuff tripod off for examination and repair last Monday (when we arrived home). They received it out in California on this past Monday. Tuesday night I received an email and tracking number saying my tripod was on its way back to Indiana, with an arrival time via UPS of this coming Monday. I called RRS yesterday to see what had been done to it and what the cost would be. The tripod had been cleaned and a part replaced to fix the jammed section of one leg. Now, keep in mind that they received it one day and the next day it was ready to go out the door, back to me. The charge? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. The most polite rep at RRS said they were glad to do it and assured me he would pass on my profuse thanks to everyone who had worked so quickly to do all they did. Wow! That is customer service that goes beyond anything expected! That is service that we all appreciate in any part of our respective lives. Thank you, Really Right Stuff!

On the same Monday I had sent my Singh-Ray Variable ND filter off for examination, hoping it could be repaired. So yesterday I called, knowing it had been received down in Florida last Friday. My rep, Howard, actually recognized my name when I gave it to him. He said he was planning to call me later yesterday afternoon. My filter had been disassembled and cleaned, put back together in working order, and it was on the way out the door to me. Later that night I received a tracking number from them. My filter will be delivered this Saturday via FedEx. The charge for this most appreciated news and service? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Howard advised they were pleased to have been able to assist me. Wow! Again! I was feeling most blessed and most appreciated right about then, feelings we seldom receive when dealing with far-off companies anymore. I knew Singh-Ray made great products. I knew Bob Singh has a wonderful reputation for service and caring (from friends who know him personally), but I never expected to be a recipient of that generosity. Thank you, Singh-Ray!

So yesterday I called the insurance rep from Selective. i left a message telling her about the great service I had received and how great Really Right Stuff and Singh-Ray are. I gently reminded her that I had told her I was sending these items off for repair during our first telephone conversation, and that she had in turn told me that my policy paid the full amount for damaged or lost equipment (not just any repair cost). I told her we possibly could save some money for her company if the repairs were possible, but their policy is to pay the agreed upon value for damage or loss. Period. And a check for the full amount is on its way to me. But I don’t feel right about this, so I asked again what I could do to reduce her cost (given that the items have been repaired). I’ll let you know what I find out – whether they will take part of the money they are sending me back … or whether they will want me to keep it in its entirety. Her word is going to be the final word on this subject this time around. Stay tuned.

My advice for today based on this experience? Do business with great companies. Really Right Stuff and Singh-Ray have sterling reputations. They deserve all the praise we can give them. And there are other such companies out there. Many times it pays not to cut corners – pay a bit more for the top-flight products these companies produce and for the caring service they provide. If you pay a bit more than is absolutely necessary, all you are out is a little bit of money. If you ever need their assistance, you will be paid back many times over for that expenditure. I was. I can’t tell you enough how appreciative I am to Really Right Stuff and to Bob Singh at Singh-Ray filters. I can tell you that I am a customer of theirs for life.

All’s well that ends well goes the old saying. In my case, life is so good should be the saying. Thank you, really Right Stuff! Thank you, Singh-Ray filters.

Read More

North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain: A Few More Images

Saw sign
Click on the old sign to see a few more North Carolina photos.

Just a few more images from our recent trip to North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain. There was beauty and color all around; it was easy to just sit back and enjoy it. Not every photo was a keeper (by any stretch of the imagination), but there were those that caught the eye and captured the imagination.,

Click here to view those other photos. Or you always can just click on the image at the top of this post.

Read More

Grandfather Mountain 2015: Photos

Matney

Shopping in rural North Carolina. Click on the Matney Mall to see more photos.

I have been catching up on all there is to do here in Bloomington since we arrived home from our North Carolina trip with Bill Fortney and so many of the His Light family. I have processed some of my photos, trying to select those that caught my eye both there and here at home. I can’t tell you how beautiful the Grandfather Mountain area is. I’ll try to show you with a few images from there.

Click here to see those photos I have finished thus far. Or you always can click on the image at the top of the post.

It’s Monday; welcome back.

Read More