Buy This 2015 Richard Siggins Calendar And Benefit Hope Haven … Or Else

Everyone needs a calendar. Or two. Each year. Yesterday was the first day of fall; it won’t be all that long before each of us needs a 2015 calendar. Or two. So, do I have a deal for you (and for myself).

My friend Richard Siggins is a dear Christian brother, a fine man. He also happens to be a very, very, very fine photographer. And each year he puts together a calendar featuring some of his best images from the previous year. The photos cover a wide gamut of subjects and styles, each one chosen to represent the month or season it portrays. Now, I know that each of us enjoys beautiful photos. And I know we like to hang those beautiful photos on our walls. The problem is that we really want the beautiful images to be our own – not those of another photographer. So you may be thinking, “I’ll just make my own 2015 calendar of my own best photos.” I have that covered, also.

Make yourself a calendar of your best images from 2014. Put it where you will see it daily. But also buy a Richard Siggins 2015 calendar and use it in another location where you find yourself routinely needing to check dates (like near your computer). I promise you 365 days of enjoyment, days spent admiring Richard’s take on this incredible world of ours. And here’s the really good part – buying this calendar will benefit a wonderful faith-based cause at the same time.

Richard is indeed a fine man. He donates 100% of the profits from the calendars to Hope Haven Ministries in his hometown of Kingsport, TN. Here’s how Richard describes the effort: “Hope Haven is a Christian, interdenominational, non-profit ministry that reaches out to homeless men, women and children who may be impoverished economically, educationally, emotionally and/or spiritually. Hope Haven doesn’t receive any government funding or support from United Way. Like all non-profit organizations they are in constant need of financial support to keep providing the services they provide in our community.” And Richard and his lovely wife June are dedicated to helping those in need through the calling we all receive from Our Savior. If he says this is a good cause, this definitely is a good cause.

But, wait! There’s more. I have seen the images that make up Richard’s 2015 calendar. And they are special. I promise you that you will think so, also. In fact, Richard is offering all of us the chance to see the calendar in advance. Today. Right now. All you have to do is click on the video below (be sure to watch it in 1080p and full screen).

Beautiful, right? I have a calendar on order, and I know I will enjoy looking at Richard’s work each day next year. And helping out a wonderful cause at the same time. You know you need a calendar. Why not order one today? Use this link to read more about Richard’s calendar work and how to contact him with your order (calendars are only $15 each). Hope Haven will benefit from your generosity. And you will, also.

Read More

Following Bill Fortney: The Photos I Didn’t Get

Sun rays
The shot I saw. Click to see it and the shot Bill directed me to.

What a wonderful weekend we had! Sue and I met Bill and Sherelene Fortney in nearby (for us) Nashville, IN. They are friends that epitomize what friendship is: people you love and love to be with. They both are kind and warm and generous and giving, delightful to be with anywhere doing anything. The weather was perfect, warm during the day with a hint of fall in the night air. There is a touch of color beginning to be seen in Brown County State Park and the surrounding area, harbinger of what promises to be an early fall and a colorful fall. And Nashville was bustling, filled with visitors and shoppers (certainly including us). It was a weekend we will remember most fondly for a very long time to come.

Bill and I toured the locations that are on the short list for our His Light workshop next month. His eye and experience enabled him to almost immediately determine the best time of day to visit and photograph that particular spot. His artistic and photographic sense had him plotting out a near-schedule for the workshop as soon as we had hit the last place on the list. It was a lesson in light and photography and planning all rolled into one for me. Some of the possible locations didn’t make the cut; some were relegated to a backup role. The ones that stood out in Bill’s eyes really are going to delight those signed up for Brown County. I was excited before; I am even more excited today. Bill is a marvel to observe in action.

And I didn’t come home with anything in the way of photos. Now, I learned a great deal from Bill, a very great deal. I did what I urge all of you who get to spend time with him to do: follow Bill; watch what he is shooting; look closely at how he is composing his shot; ask questions. I wasn’t trying to copy what he was doing; heck, I didn’t even set my camera up (even though I had it with me). I was learning too much by being so close to him and spending so much time talking with him about what he was seeing and what was going through his mind. It was an entire day of one huge private lesson, a day I enjoyed so much and am so grateful for. I saw Bill find some beautiful images in the simplest of subjects, subjects sometimes completely lost to me in the crowd of objects around them. I didn’t want to just set up and copy what Bill was shooting – I wanted to understand why he was shooting the way he was, to try to see the way he was seeing. Now, that is a tall order, but I am so grateful for the opportunity.

Let me give you one example of what I mean. Yesterday morning we set out fairly early to check out one last location. On the way back to Nashville we cut through Brown County State Park. It had rained the night before and been chilly. As the sun warmed up the air around us, spots in the park showed us the most beautiful of God rays (those incredible beams of sunshine that we sometimes see streaming around us). The first spot filled the entire roadway. Bill didn’t have his camera with him (a lesson in itself), but I did. I jumped out, grabbed the Fuji and tripod from the backseat and tried to set up. Well, I fumbled with my f/ stop and the timer. By the time I was ready the light was gone … completely. Entirely. Now, I’m not talking a great amount of time, maybe 30 seconds or so. But there was a big lesson learned: know your gear so well that you are not spending time thinking and fumbling around. I did, and I lost the shot.

We drove on a ways and came across another similar shot. This time I was quicker, and I got a shot. But I still took a little bit too much time … I captured part of the God rays, not all of them. I was disappointed, but I still was learning a hard lesson. The rays appeared again and Bill advised me to quickly move away from the road to better frame the rays against the real background – the forest trees. It was a much better shot than the one I was trying to take (another lesson learned that morning). And, as an aside, Bill still moves really quickly when there is light and a shot to be had. I was hustling to keep up with him.

I’m going to post those two images as an example of what Bill knows and teaches (and what I don’t). And of some advice: when you believe you know your camera well, make sure you know it REALLY well. I thought I was up-to-speed with the Fuji. Truth is, I need to practice a lot more at doing all the usual stuff faster and without so much thinking. Bill advised me of that, also (in his usual gentle way). I would have had both a better shot yesterday and a different shot yesterday if I had been faster on the trigger.

And the other piece of advice is to take a workshop with Bill and to stay close to him when you do. If he stops he should be in danger of being run over by everyone else there. See what he is seeing, and then try to see it for yourself. Check his composition, his use of the available light. Don’t spend your time copying what Bill is shooting. Spend your time learning to see as he does – the really good shots will come to you when you do.

Our workshop next month promises fun, friendship and fellowship. It also promises some great images to be had in the already-developing fall foliage. And most of all it offers the opportunity to learn from one of our truly great photographers – Bill Fortney.

Read More

Welcome Bill And Sherelene!

Bill Shaker

Sue and I are excited to have Bill and Sherelene Fortney visiting us for a couple of days! All of you know how warm and kind and generous and gracious Bill is. Well, Sherelene is the truly warm and kind and generous and gracious one in the family! (Kidding. Kind of). They are wonderful friends, examples to so many of us for living a faithful and loving life. It will be a weekend we will cherish.

Bill and I are planning on nailing down some of the final details for our October Brown County His Light workshop. All of you who have signed up can be assured that Bill will use his trained eye and workshop experience to put the icing on the proverbial cake for our coming days together. And those of you on the waiting list can only hope that there is a last minute cancellation (we would love to see you). Nashville beckons, also, with ideal fall temperatures expected. Rest assured that Sue and Sherelene are making sure that any asked-for shopping questions can be answered fully. Nashville may never be the same.

One of the truly rewarding parts of His Light is the friendships that are made, lasting friendships that lift all of us up when we are together. The photography is great; the instruction top-flight. But the opportunity to share our faith and our fellowship and our love is what makes Bill and Jim Begley’s His Light experience so special. Those of you who have been part of a workshop know what I mean. Those who have yet to sign up for a session are just friends we have yet to meet and share with.

I will see what kind of shooting I can steal … copy … uh, learn from Bill this weekend. And I hope to let you know what new I found out and can pass on from one of the true masters when we all go back to work Monday. Until then, enjoy this beautiful fall weekend. Camera (and dear friends) in hand.

Read More

Driving Through Bean Blossom In Brown County

Click here to see what we shot in Bean Blossom.

Yesterday we drove over to Nashville and Brown County to put some finishing touches on October’s His Light workshop. We picked up some brochures and timed some routes; we met the owner of Cox Creek Mill (a place we will be shooting). It was a fun day.

On the way home we drove a tiny little town near Nashville. Bean Blossom is not much more than a stop on the road, except for the Bill Monroe campground (home of bluegrass for fans throughout the country). But it really is small. But when we went by one of the old buildings in the center of town, now vacant, we had to stop. It just called out, “Take my photo!” And Sue and I both have a fondness for (and weakness for) old buildings of all shapes and sizes. So we added it to the collection. And will show it to Bill this weekend to see if it is worth a stop during our workshop (it’s near a couple of other locations we will be shooting). Take a look and see what you think.

Click here for the shots from yesterday. Or click on the truly Rustic old building across the street. Hey, it’s Bean Blossom!

Read More

Home Again. And The Canon Empire Strikes Back.

Yes,, that is a Canon flash. It would go well with the new Canon 7D MkII.

It’s good to be home again. I spent a portion of last week with my mother in the northern part of Indiana. It was her 89th birthday, an event we celebrated several times over. Mom suffers from dementia, and each day we would re-discover her birthday (sometimes several times each day). It was a rather bittersweet visit … I love her dearly, but she increasingly is drifting farther and farther away from the rest of us. I hated to leave her, even though she is in wonderful hands in a terrific care facility. And I am glad to be home, even though I worry about her constantly. We are blessed to have a Lord that loves all of us enough to steer us through this trial.

And today I caught up a bit with some of the goings-on in the photo world. Photokina is underway over in Germany; check any of the major photography sites for all the latest info from all the big manufacturers. Especially, I think, from Canon. I’m a Nikon shooter and a Fuji (X-T1) shooter. But we Nikon fans have been waiting for what seems forever for a successor to the hugely popular D300 (the APS-C sensor camera of years ago that was Nikon’s top-of-the-line crop factor camera). Users have been bemoaning the lack of a replacement for a long, long time now. Canon wasn’t really putting a lot of pressure on Nikon to get off their dime, either. The Canon 7D is a heckuva camera, but it is rather long in the tooth itself. So you had Fuji and Olympus and Sony taking advantage of that fact and coming up with some great little APS-C mirrorless cameras that have people talking (and buying). Then today Canon decided to strike back.

The Canon 7D MKII is going to be a top seller right from the get-go (in my humble estimation). It boasts improvements in focus and speed and almost everything else from what was the very capable 7D (how does 10 fps strike you?). It is the little brother to the really top-of-the-line Canon 1DX, just as Nikon’s D300 used to be the little brother to the (then) king of the hill Nikon D3. Again, go to any of the major sites and you can read all the impressive specs on the 7D Mk II and what they might mean to anyone who shoots wildlife and sports especially. ‘Cause here’s the really good part: the 7D Mk II will retail for a most reasonable $1,800 as opposed to the nearly $7,000 you would pay for the 1DX. And you are going to get a whole lot of that big-boy camera for the lesser amount of money. I’m telling you – unless some unforeseen bit of information surfaces about the 7D Mk II that no one knows about right now, this camera is going to become a Nikon APS-C camera killer.

Nikon people have been roundly criticizing the company for years (no exaggeration – years!) now because they never updated the D300. And Nikon still hasn’t. But Canon just did the upgrade/refreshment that the Nikon fans have been clamoring for. Will this be reason enough for Nikon shooters to switch sides? I see brand loyalty as pretty much a thing of the past. Photographers are more and more willing to sell off their systems and go to another company when the product suits their needs (hence the growing number of DLSR shooters who have sold their systems and taken the mirrorless pledge). So Nikon better not be counting on Nikon brand lens owners being afraid to dump their inventory and start anew. All of society increasingly plays with new rules all the time. Photography isn’t going to be the exception.

I am shooting full frame with my Nikon and loving that sensor. I’m just not in the market for an APS-C camera these days (other than the Fuji, a great small camera that satisfies my needs). But if I was looking for an APS-C DLSR? I would be knocking on the Canon door. And I wouldn’t be alone.

Read my article on tips for selling your used camera gear. You may need a few pointers in that regard if you ever try out the Canon 7D Mk II. ‘Cause you just may decide that Canon should get into the baseball business next – they just hit another home run.

Read More

Tips On Selling That Used Camera Or Lens


Not for sale …. yet.

Look in the closet (or under the bed or inside those desk drawers) of any dedicated photographer and you will find a stash of used camera equipment. It just is a fact of our photo lives. It comes with the territory. Alright … it’s a sickness! But what a delightful illness it can be. Until that secret stash begins spilling out onto the carpet and into your living space. Or until you literally run out of money to feed the photographic monkey on your back. Then it hits you … I gotta get rid of some of this old stuff! So, what to do? What to do?

Well, there are some obvious things to do. And there are some maybe not-so-obvious things not to do. Let’s go over a few of them today … ’cause I know you’ve got a used camera or lens hiding somewhere in one of those secret places.

Tragically, be very careful how you advertise that used camera or lens. I live near Indianapolis, and in the past couple of years three people have lost their lives during robberies in which they had advertised their used gear for sale on e-bay or Craig’s list (or some similar publication). The seller arranged to meet the supposed buyer in what seemed to be a safe place … somewhere public like a store parking lot in the daytime. But the would-be buyer showed up with a gun and the intention to simply take the equipment by force. When the seller resisted, the worst happened … they died of gunshot wounds. I have no way of knowing how many other times the robbery simply ended with the seller losing the gear by giving up without a struggle (the smart thing to do). But this is an all-too-common routine now. You can’t be too careful when advertising that expensive camera or lens.

If you do decide to use some of the online methods to advertise your gear, don’t give your name or address. If you do arrange to meet a prospective buyer, try this tip. Ask them to meet you at your local police department (the lobby would be fine). The departments usually are easy to find and get to. There is plenty of built-in security. And a buyer who doesn’t show up or doesn’t want to meet there in the first place? Might be a hint in there for you. Pass on this one. And while we are at it – the same advice holds if you are the one wanting to make a purchase. Make your meeting, the one that has you carrying all that cash on your person, one for the local police department. Trust me … better safe than sorry. Or worse.

Know approximately what your camera or lens is worth. This is the time to utilize e-bay or Craig’s list to see if there are any similar items for sale (and for how much). Go online to KEH, a most reputable seller of used gear. Or Roberts in Indianapolis. Or especially Fred Miranda’s site (check the forum for selling equipment). Fred’s site will give you a good idea of what private sellers are asking for equipment in all kinds of conditions; it also lists recent sales with the sale price included). If you go the KEH or Roberts (or Adorama or B&H) route, that is retail on a large scale. You may want to offer your gear for just a bit less (you don’t have overhead to pay for, and you will give your buyer a reason to deal with you instead of their regular camera store). The idea here is to be fair to yourself and to the prospective buyer. Don’t give your camera away, but don’t lose a sale because of unrealistic expectations, either.

Let’s say you want to go the (more) easy route. Selling on e-bay or Fred Miranda’s or other online site means placing an ad, complete with detailed photos. Then you have to figure out how you will take payment (including a fee for the sale or for placing the ad). Then you have to deal with inquiries, sometimes exasperating ones. And you may have to wait a bit for a buyer to show up … and wait and wait. If you sell to a camera store you can make a deal the day you walk in. Just be aware that a trade will net you somewhere around 60% of what the used value actually is (figure 50% if you just want to sell the gear instead of making a trade). The store is a retail operation with overhead and the need to show a profit – they can’t give you as much for your lens as they are going to sell it for. The advantage is no hassles with ads or meeting buyers or wait times and all that. Don’t neglect to figure in the use you got for all those years from that used gear – call it a form of depreciation if you will. The camera stores aren’t out to rip you off; you just have to be realistic on what you can expect (and what you can live with).

And speaking of realistic …. bad news here for probably the majority of us. We look at our faithful old camera or lens and just can’t see that tiny scratch underneath the RRS L plate. But it’s there. And a prospective buyer, especially the used guy at the camera store, is going to see it. The little faded spots on the grip, those discolorations that don’t affect any part of the great photos the camera takes? They do affect the value of that gear. Grading the true condition of used equipment is a cold-hearted business. But you have to be just about ruthless when looking your gear over. What you see as Excellent just may be Very Good. And that does mean a few less dollars. And if you are not sure? Ask an experienced friend or acquaintance to assist you. Just be honest with yourself.

Now, if are torn in the first place about letting go of that gear, ask yourself a couple of questions. When was the last time I shot with this? How often do I ever shoot with it? Is it crucial to the type of shooting I do? Treat your gear like you should treat your clothes closet. Haven’t worn that item in the past year? Time for it to go. Two years? Don’t even think about keeping it. Get something out of it now, before it goes even further down in value. Is there a new model of that camera or lens on the way? Or just out? And you know you just gotta have it? Get rid of the old model right now, before the values begin to drop because everyone else also wants the new kid on the block. Timing is important. If you think you are ready to get rid of that gear do it when you can get the most possible for it.

Got some really old gear laying around that you know isn’t worth anything? Like those old film cameras? I know, they still work. They take beautiful pictures. They are in perfect condition. They also are yesterday’s newspaper. Perhaps they are just what someone needs for their collection of vintage cameras. The truth is that they aren’t … sorry. Consider donating them a friend or a camera club or a thrift shop or someone who may even be able to give you a tax deduction in return. Another reminder to be painfully honest – these items just aren’t worth anything any more. To believe otherwise is to fool yourself.

Finally, do some advance planning … for the next time you have to go through this (and we all know there will be a next time). Let’s all to take a vow to decide on a camera system … one camera system. We will study and learn and practice and know that camera inside and out. We will spend our time and money on workshops, not new gear. We will love what we have, not all that new stuff the camera companies push at us. We won’t have a lot of used gear sitting around in closets and under beds … we will be out shooting with that used equipment. And we will be proud of it.

And if you believe all of that last paragraph? I have some used gear to sell you ……..

Read More

Shaker Staircase On 1x

I have an attraction to Shaker Village staircases. Click on this one to see the 1x image.

1x is one of my go-to sites for photos. It is a great place to find photos that catch the eye and allow you to discover what works for you and what doesn’t. 500px is a very good site; 1x just has a bit more varied style. I had one image posted there a while back, the one of Percheron horses. And I was pleased to find out last night that my image of a Shaker staircase from Kentucky’s Pleasant Hill Shaker Village was selected for publication. It’s nice for all us photographers to get some positive feedback at times. Thank you, 1x.

If you want to see the photo, use this link. Or click on the small photo at the op of this post.

Read More

Raymond’s Story: Updated Photos

Click on the gas pump to see more photos from Raymond Jabola.

Our dear friend Raymond Jabola spent some time re-processing some of his images from Story, Indiana. The first time around he used Photomatix, the program that probably still is the HDR standard for most. This time he went with Nik’s HDR EfexPro 2, in use for quite a while now but not quite able to surpass Photomatix in popularity. Raymond used Efex Pro 2 pretty much all the time, then recently went back to Photomatix. And he may be feeling a bit torn this morning as we take a look at the results with the Nik program … awfully, awfully nice.

Now, we all know this: put great stuff in and you can take great stuff out. Conversely, put not-so-good stuff in and you can be assured of taking out the same. It all starts with your artist’s eye for composition (plus giving yourself the greatest chance of success by placing yourself in front of interesting subjects). Light, form, color and texture … learn what draws and holds the eye. Make sure you know your camera inside and out, so that when that great photo comes your way you are able to seize the moment. Then comes the vision thing; the processing magic; the artist’s palette of what-is-possible. Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro 2 are two of the programs that can make that magic happen.

Click here to see what Raymond did with his Story images using Nik’s program. Take some time to compare them with a few of the earlier ones. It may give you some ideas for your own photos. And if not? It still is simply enjoyable to watch Raymond at work. Or play.

Read More

Guest Photographer Raymond Jabola: His Take On Shaker Village And Story, Indiana

Stairs 1
Click on Raymond’s staircase to see more of his photos.

Sue and I (and all our His Light friends) have been so blessed to have Raymond Jabola as a friend and shooting companion. Raymond is warm and kind and generous … and a terrifically talented photographer. His images often have been compared to paintings, the result of his artist’s eye and his methods of processing. His images always draw the eye and the attention of the public … and all the other photographers on the scene. His is a special talent.

While we were in Shaker Village recently Raymond saw things the rest of us didn’t. He explained it to me as being inspired to shoot a subject, to feeling compelled to find just the right composition for what draws his eye. I came home with a lot of images that others also saw and shot; Raymond came home from Kentucky and our short side trip to Story, Indiana, with some different shots – shots with a different feel and a different look. And he has been kind enough to share some of them with the rest of us.

I have put Raymond’s photos in a new gallery – Raymond’s Story. Click here to see them. Or you may click on the photo at the top of this post. No matter which you choose, you will enjoy seeing Raymond at work. His is a very special ability that the rest of us work at. Thank you, Raymond, for sharing – your photos and your techniques and, most of all, your friendship.

Read More

The Last Of The Shaker Images

Lamp light
Click on the lamp to see the final Shaker images.

Done with the photos that I liked and thought were worth processing from our Faithful Friends visit to Shaker Village. I couldn’t pass up a few images from the Kickstand motorcycle shop in Burgin (sort of a bump in the road). The owners were warm and generous, moving a motorcycle that was parked out front to give us a better view of the store. And it was most appreciated, given that eye-catching front view.

It was a great trip, spent with wonderful friends. The images I came home with will serve as memories of those friends for a very long time to come. And I have a final thought for you … consider joining us at a His Light workshop. And become part of that circle of friends.

Click on the image at the top of the post to see these final few photos. Or use this link. And enjoy the trip all over again.

Read More

His Light’s Faithful Friends 2014: The Group Photos

FF grop 1
Click on this handsome group to see more photos of our Faithful Friends.

No matter where we go to shoot, no matter how beautiful the locations, what we remember the most about our His Light gatherings is our group of faithful friends. Beginning with Bill Fortney and Jim Begley, we love all the wonderful people we have met and shot with and shared great times with. Our gathering in Shaker Village this year was no exception. It was the best of times … with no worst of times (apologies to Charles Dickens).

Today we are privileged to share some photos of those great friends. And to enjoy their fellowship all over again in the memories the images bring to mind. And, trust me, they are as talented as they are good-looking (my photos just can’t do this group justice). And they are as reverent and faithful to our Lord as they are to the fellowship of His Light. We have been so very blessed to be part of their lives.

Click on the images of Faithful Friends at the top of the page to see all of us in Shaker Village. And see why at the end that it was definitely time to go home (lol). Or just click on this link to see us all up close and personal.

Read More

Shaker Village Photos: A Short Stroll

Click on the grazing sheep to see more photos from Shaker Village.

As we walked out of our building at Shaker Village one morning we were met by grazing sheep. That is, sheep grazing on the lawn right outside our window, a sight akin to the common areas of many old towns. It reminded me that Shaker Village is living history, a place of real buildings and real events. As we headed over to the Center Building to shoot inside there were other reminders of Shaker history, all just there for the capturing. It is a special place to visit.

I added a few photos today of buildings seen and light captured. They were all taken within a short period of time, walking a short distance to an arranged tour of one of the center buildings. It was a short stroll, but one that offered some images that give a decent impression of what it is like to spend time in this delightful place. I hope you enjoy them even a small bit as much as all of us did in seeing them in person.

Click on the grazing sheep to see the other photos. Or just use this link. And … Happy Labor Day!

Read More

Shaker Architecture …. Lines And Curves

Click on the Shaker staircase to see a few more images.

I have been able to rather randomly process a few more images from Shaker Village. The ones that drew my eye yesterday were the lines and curves of Shaker architecture, simple but graphic. There many times is a feeling of calmness and peace that comes from the form and style of the buildings and furnishings. It is a wonderful place to visit and in which to spend some time.

I will continue to process photos as time and energy permits. Themes sort of present themselves as I review what I shot. Much of it is designed to show you where we were and what Shaker Village looks like. And then there are a few more images, tucked in here and there, that are different – more stylish perhaps. And some are photos of our Faithful Friends themselves. Those I am working on; those are the ones I will look back on in the future with the most fondness. After all, our reunion is about those friendships.

Click on the staircase at the top of the post to see a few more photos from yesterday. Or you always can just click here. And enjoy the weekend, a holiday weekend at that. Camera in hand.

Read More

Bill Fortney … A Photographer’s Eye At 55 MPH

Bill sign
Click on Bill to see the shot he saw at 55 mph!

During our recent Faithful Friends gathering at beautiful Shaker Village down in Kentucky our host (mentor, guide, and best friend) Bill Fortney suggested we visit Penn’s Store over in Gravel Switch (no, I am not making up any names). Penn’s is described as the country’s oldest general store continuously run by the same family (click here for a link to their website). Their site gives you GPS coordinates to find the store, instead of an address, if that tells you anything about how far out in the country Gravel Switch is. We headed out, enjoying the fellowship of travelling together and looking forward to at least a few shots of the store. But that is not the focus of today’s post.

We were following Bill along a highway at a bit more than 55 mph (we do try to follow the speed limits). At some point out in the middle of nowhere Bill slowed and pulled over to the side of the road. He told the rest of us that he just had to go back and shoot that sign. Now, I had been on the lookout for things to shoot ever since we left Shaker Village. I managed to spot a few old barns along the way, big old buildings covered in vines and in some disrepair (the kind of things I really like to shoot). But barns are pretty big and usually pretty easy to spot. I sure hadn’t seen any signs of any kind. But we backtracked a bit and pulled into a little dirt lane off the highway. And lo and behold! There was an Americana sign built by someone as part of the fence surrounding a large field. It was faded and not all that big; none of us knew how in the world Bill had spotted it from the highway (let alone at 55 miles per hour)! Let’s just say he has a photographer’s eye.

Bill never fails to amaze. Many of us have been out with him, whether driving or on foot, and asked him how he ever spotted some great shot that he stopped to get. We didn’t see it, and most of the time we were really trying hard to find anything. But Bill could be walking along teaching or telling a story, seemingly absorbed in our conversation, when he suddenly stops and up comes the camera. It really is just short of amazing.

The point of telling about our trip to Gravel Switch is to emphasize again the need to develop that artist’s eye that all photographers would be well-served by. Even standing still and surveying an area it is easy to miss the killer shot without honing a sense of what you are looking for. Bill sees the world in graphic terms: line, form, color and texture. It’s not just the scene in front of him; it’s the graphic lines that make up the scene. It’s the way color and texture stand out as elements in and of themselves. My friend Raymond Jabola has the same skill set; he sees the composition of a shot by the graphics presented, instead of just the subject matter. By contrast, I struggle to see past the subject. I end up with my mind thinking ‘barn’, and I miss the highlights and color that aren’t really the barn but still make up the shot viewers will be drawn to. It’s a real art, part experience, part skill, part natural ability.

Now, if you are like me, don’t despair. We can all practice and shoot, practice and shoot. We can look at the work of others, continuously. We can analyze what drew us to that image, what elements make the photo a killer shot. With enough effort and practice we all can get better and better at seeing. No, we may never be a Bill Fortney (few photographers are). But we can improve at seeing what is possible, what is there to spend time getting just right. And looking at photos isn’t some boring exercise that we have to force ourselves to do; it’s fun!

Bill saw the flag when the rest of us had no idea it was there. He showed us the shot-within-the-shot when we tried to capture it. And he taught us a great lesson in looking beyond the subject (fields and roadsides) to spot color, form, line and texture. It is possible to train your mind and your eye to see in those kinds of graphic terms. It just takes a bit of extra practice, and it doesn’t hurt to spend workshop time with Bill Fortney and His Light.

You can click on the image of Bill at the top of this post to see the photo at a larger size, along with the shot of the flag that I decided on. Or you always can just click here. And if you like the shot of the sign? Thank my good friend Bill.

Read More

Faithful Friends 2014: A Photo

Shaker bottles
Click on the vintage bottles to see a much larger photo.

You go shooting with friends in an area that offers all kinds of possibilities for great images. You take lots of shots because there was plenty to catch the eye and excite the imagination. Then you hurry home to download those photos and get right to work processing your favorites from that Faithful Friends gathering that was so memorable. Well, that is mostly the case, I guess. The first two parts certainly were true – it was a fun and memorable trip spent with great friends in a wonderful area in which to shoot. But the hurry home and start processing part? Not so much.

Yesterday was my day to see what I came home with. I wanted to spend as much time with friends as possible, so I didn’t even take a laptop to download or process when we were in Kentucky. But it turned out that what I came home with was lots of laundry to do and lots of lawn to mow. There always seem to be chores that pile up while we are away for even a short time; this trip was no exception. All I managed to get done last night was download my cards and process one photo before bedtime rolled around. Welcome home ….

The image I processed was one I saw taken by my good friend (and expert photographer) Jim Begley. His most artistic eye saw these vintage bottles set against the old glass in the window, all outlined by the late afternoon sun. The still life just reminded me of Shaker Village … and Shaker Village now reminds me of all our wonderful friends. So that was the first one I took aim at. Click on the image at the top of this post to see the photo in a much larger size. Or you always can just click here.

Keep visiting to see more photos from our Faithful Friends gathering as I find more time to share some of what we saw. And give thought to joining all of us at a His Light workshop in the near future. We would be glad to welcome you to the family.

Read More