Grandfather Mountain Photos: Critiques And Criticisms

Purple hills
Click on the North Carolina foothills to see the critique results.

At Bill’s latest His Light workshop we spent a lot of time on critiques, suggestions designed to possibly improve the selected images. That is a different process from criticism, the tendency we have sometimes to just say, “I don’t like that” or “That’s not a good photo.” Critiques are offered in the spirit of improving one’s images, knowledge and skills. Criticism too often is offered to build up the criticizer while tearing down the photo (or photographer). Critiques can be invaluable in improving our photos and our abilities, in the present and over the long haul. Unwarranted or mean-spirited criticism can retard a photographer’s growth and self-confidence. So how do we tell the two apart? And when should we take suggestions to heart, and when should we let it roll off our backs?

I have a dear friend in Richard Small, a friend who also happens to be an amazingly talented photographer. He has a real talent for finding the picture-in-a-picture, making an image as good as it can be by focusing on the subject and its attributes. He is a very good instructor, having a knack for teaching in a clear and gentle way. He is a treat to spend time with and shoot with. And he has been kind enough on several occasions to offer me advice on images I have posted. His are clear and thoughtful critiques; when Richard speaks, I listen. Yesterday we spoke on the phone and he offered me suggestions on some of the Grandfather Mountain photos I posted Sunday night. Thank you, Richard!

What I did was to think carefully about what he suggested and then try them out on my photos. I gave a lot of thought to critiques and criticisms today and decided to draw some distinctions between the two. All of us should be fortunate enough to be the recipient of thoughtful and well-meaning critiques. All of us need to develop some resistance to unwarranted criticism. A few suggestions are in order.

1. Critiques are designed to build up your skills and make your images better. Criticism often is designed to tear down what you have done. When you hear a comment (or comments) don’t react with what most of us have a tendency to do … reacting immediately and become defensive. Stop for a moment (or two) and consider what was said and try to determine the intent of those comments. Is that person attempting to help you or hurt you? The motive behind the comments usually can be ascertained rather readily.

2. Criticism can hurt. Accept that fact and understand that you are human if you are bothered. But let that be the end of it. Is the commenter an unknown name or number on the internet? Do you even know that person … anything about their experience, talents, abilities to judge images, motive for commenting? There are people out there who spend hours tearing down others on the web. They seem to take pride in being mean, or they derive some sense of power in their comments. If you don’t know anything about the person making comments, don’t pay attention to what they are saying. Place your trust in those people who have your welfare in mind and who have the ability to effectively judge your work.

3. Critiques are designed to improve your skills and your photos. If you spend your resources on instruction instead of chasing new camera equipment (something I strongly recommend), find a workshop that offers critiques as part of the training. If you are learning from an instructor who has the skills you admire and want to master you know that person has the ability to teach you through the comments he or she makes in looking at your photos. That is the time to take those comments to heart, the time to accept even that advice that tells you an image isn’t so great. Find a mentor in your community or in your local camera club that has skills and abilities that you admire. Ask them to review your images periodically. Most photographers are happy to pass on what they know. Find those who you trust and admire and learn from what they say.

4. When you receive advice on improving an image, take it. Re-do the photo; incorporate the suggested changes (if possible); evaluate the results. Do the changes make the photo better, either technically or aesthetically? Do the suggestions fit with your vision of the image? Did it make it something you never intended or something foreign to your style? Listening to the advice and trying it out doesn’t mean giving up your artistic control over the photo. But if the image is improved don’t hesitate to say thanks and incorporate the changes.

5. Learn from critiques, whether the images are yours or those of someone else. Pay attention to all the comments and all the photos in a session; learning isn’t confined to your photos alone. Study all the photos yourself with your own eye. After a while can you see some of the common mistakes we all fall prey to so often? Are there rules and techniques that weave a common thread through many (or most) of the photos? Are there commonalities to the images you find most pleasing or that you are attracted to? Critiques are designed to teach in general as well as be specific to particular images. Take advantage of that.

6. Be tough on yourself. Try to put into practice at home (alone) what you have heard and seen in outside critique sessions. And make no mistake, that can be most difficult. We all have emotional attachments to what we create. The easiest person I have found in life that I can convince of almost anything turns out to be me. Be thoughtful and kind when examining the work of others; be really hard on yourself. Don’t settle when you don’t have to. Don’t beat yourself up for no reason … but do be honest about what is your best work and what isn’t. You owe that to yourself and to those viewing your photos.

Okay, time to show you what I mean. Richard offered a critique yesterday of several of my images. I had an emotional attachment to many of them; I had posted them because I thought I was finished with them. Richard has a great eye, however, and I have learned to trust what he says. So I went back to Photoshop and made some changes based on his suggestions. Click here to see the results. I am not sure I would incorporate each and every suggestion; I can tell, however, that the photos are stronger for taking his advice. And that is the purpose of a critique – improving my work while making me a better photographer. Thank you, Richard!

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His Light Workshop On Grandfather Mountain: Photos

Bill GF

Click on the photo of Bill Fortney to see more images.

We’ve been home for a week now from our His Light Workshop on beautiful Grandfather Mountain in equally beautiful North Carolina. There have been lots of summer chores to catch up with or to get started on, plus I still am recovering from a fall on our third day out. I was slipping (literally!) down a small stream to get a different angle on the waterfall we were shooting when my feet went out from under me where a thin stream of water flowed over the rocks. The good news was that the D800 I was shooting with never hit the rocks; the bad news was that the ribs on my right side did. Ouch! Nothing affected me until a couple of days later when we were preparing to head home. For some reason the soreness and pain kicked in then. Extreme ouch! But we are home and back in the groove, already looking forward to our next His Light get-together.

If you never have visited the Grandfather Mountain area of western North Carolina, give some serous thought to a trip there. You will find water in the form of creeks and streams and waterfalls. There are mountains and hills, winding roads and beautiful scenery. The people are friendly and hospitable to an extreme. And if you go with a group of fellow photographers as friendly and gracious and helpful and talented as our bunch was – well, there is no downside to any such trip. We had a wonderful, rewarding experience with Bill Fortney and Miles Smith and all the other guests. His Light Workshops are a combination of shooting and classroom work and sharing and fellowship that I have yet to find matched anywhere else. Call it the Bill Fortney Experience if you will. And Grandfather Mountain was no exception … any fault you find with some of the images I am posting is strictly and completely due to the skill (or lack thereof) of the photographer.

The mountain itself is about 6,000 feet at its peak. The colors of sunrise and sunset varied according to the weather, of course. We saw brilliant orange colors and delicate blues, with violet tones softening the entire valley below at different times. The wind blows so hard at times that many of the trees only have branches and leaves on the down wind side – windy indeed! We were able to find different weather conditions and subsequent looks as we drove to various levels of the mountain; it was quite a shooting experience. It reminded me a bit at times of the Palouse region of Washington State, standing up on Steptoe Butte and looking down at the valleys below. The waterfalls don’t compare to the Columbia River Valley (where Bill and Jack Graham are at present), but there was water and plenty of opportunities to practice our slow water techniques. And God truly smiled down on us our last evening out when the heavy overcast parted in time to provide us with a fine sunset. We all left with fond memories of North Carolina and of each other. It was a memorable time of meeting new people and making new friends.

I hope you enjoy the photos I selected for the Grandfather Mountain gallery (click here for a link). And I urge you to consider a trip there for yourselves. You won’t be disappointed.

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Depth Of Field To Go: Fujinon OptCal … And A Great Mirrorless Shootout


If you are a Fuji shooter, grab this free app.

I am unfailingly amazed at what the internet offers, especially in the world of apps for the iPhone and iPad. In the past couple of days one of those apps that has amazed me is for the Fuji X-T1 (or any of the Fuji cameras). It is simple to input data and simple to read and use the results, the depth of field for any given set of criteria. And it is free! Thank you, BizApps LLC (the developers and sharers of this fine, fine program).

If you ever wonder about what is going to be in focus at any given distance (and aperture), flip open this tiny little program and input the data asked for (in an easy numerical manner). Hit ‘Done’ and the magic happens. There are a lot of times when depth of field is absolutely crucial for that special shot. If you are a Fuji shooter, click here to check out this neat little app … and download it for free. There haven’t been enough reviews gathered yet for it to get a star rating, but I for one am giving it high marks indeed. And, did I mention that it was free?

And speaking of Fuji cameras … I first saw this YouTube video over on Fuji Rumors. It was a quite reputable test of four mirrorless cameras versus the current king of the autofocus world, the $7,000 Nikon D4s. Now, none of these mirrorless cameras comes even sort of close to that price tag. So, unfair test? Quite the contrary! It is going to come as no surprise that the Nikon comes out on tip; what may surprise you is that all the others hold their own. In fact, the reviewer flatout states that these current mirrorless models autofocus as faster or faster than any of their respective price point DLSRs. Wow! And we still are having doubts on whether or not these systems have arrived?

Take a look at this video. Honestly, it is eye-opening.

We have been shooting a lot lately with the Fuji X-T1. And it is deserving of all the praise that has been thrown at it since its introduction. I’m not among those counting down the days for DLSrs … but I no longer count them as automatic Kings of the Hill.

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Indianapolis Zoo International Orangutan Center: Grand, But Not So Much For Photographers

The new center: great for orangutans, not photographers.

Thursday we took the day off to visit the Indianapolis Zoo, invited to a members-only opening of the new international orangutan center (click here for information about the new exhibit). There is an inherent tension between the zoo (make that, most zoos) and us photographers. We want the best possible viewing points, locations with lots of close-up access to the animals. We want uncluttered backgrounds, sites with decent light. We want a spot pretty much free from constant crowds of other visitors. The zoo wants to provide the best possible environment for the animals; the people are necessary evils in a way. Modern zoos (rightfully) are concerned with protecting rapidly dwindling populations of certain species in the wild; entertaining visitors is a means to that end, not an end in and of itself. Zoos need the support of the public to fund their main mission; the public wants to get up close and personal with what often are viewed as exotic oddities. And then we photographers want it all, including accommodations for us and all our gear. Tough to satisfy everyone.

The Indianapolis Zoo already is earning (deserved) praise for its new efforts to support orangutans, increasingly endangered throughout the world because of loss of habitat. There are six of them being expertly cared for in a new, incredibly modern and ape-centric facility. The zoo’s commitment is the continued safety and care of the entire species. It is easy to understand that my desires as a photographer are pretty far down the list of concerns. And to their credit, zoo directors spent a lot of time and resources designing an exhibit that the general public will find most attractive and entertaining. I just wish that zoo personnel around the country would consult with an established photographic group or club when beginning the initial designing process for new exhibits. We probably could make a few suggestions that might make shooting a much more productive endeavor in the end. And not just to cater to our group.

Sue and I recently shot a couple of days at the (now closed) Ohio State Reformatory. That fascinating place is being run by a foundation these days, one dedicated to the prison’s long-term survival. We shot in the past out in California’s premier ghost town, Bodie. On both occasions we paid for the privilege to shoot with some special access. It was worth it to us and all the other people we were with. Both institutions have figured out that photo tours are a new and lucrative source of precious income. Bodie in particular is going out of its way to encourage and accommodate photographers. I know that most zoos (if not all) are constantly in need of funds. Tapping a new source of income (photographers) would seem to be worth a bit of effort.

But, sadly, that is not the case (thus far) in Indianapolis. The new orang exhibit is filled with reflective tinted glass. By the second day of its opening the glass was covered with smears and fingerprints that were a problem to any shooter. The crowds scoot right up to the windows to see the apes, who often sit right at the glass themselves (on the other side, of course). It is dark inside the exhibit, great for the orangs and the eyes of the visitors, but not so good for shooters. You really need a tripod to capture decent shots (certainly if you are going to wait and wait with camera ready for a decent action shot). Good luck doing that without photographing a crowd of people, all of who have just as much a right to be there in your way as you do to be there at all. And the outside plaza has a huge swath of towering glass, all reflective and all tinted. And as soon as any of the orangs head to that lower level, so do all the crowds. The glass area fills with people, preventing any shot any of us would really like to go home with. The exhibit is a great one, no doubt. Just not for photographic purposes.

I actually am going to ask for a meeting one day this summer from the zoo’s marketing department. I am going to suggest that charging for special-access photo tours might be a new and welcome source of income for them. If they are interested at all, perhaps I can get a look at what they could offer. Getting behind the scenes still might not be very productive if there are no good vantage points for uncluttered shots. But, it’s worth a try and it could be mutually beneficial. We’ll see.

In any event, we support the zoo with our membership. I would urge you to consider doing the same in your city. These institutions are some of the last, best chances many animals on our planet have for their very survival. Sort of puts my complaints about taking photos in perspective, doesn’t it?

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Nikon Support And Repairs: Another Trip For Me

I posted recently that my Nikon D800 experienced a 10-pin connector failure. It was inconvenient, but those things happen from time to time. I was pleasantly surprised to find Nikon’s support and repair section acted quickly to address my concerns, sending me an estimate for the repairs the same day they received my camera. The rep I spoke with on the phone (to approve that estimate) was quite sympathetic, and she promised to put a ‘rush’ designation on my repair so that I would have the camera for an upcoming workshop. Three days later my camera was repaired and shipped back to me … with only one worry that surfaced later (maybe it is just me. Maybe I am a bad luck charm).

I was sent a tracking number when my D800 was shipped out from New York. I checked that number and discovered my camera was on its way to an address in California. Frankly, I wasn’t too concerned. I knew my camera had been sent to and serviced on the East Coast, not California. There must have been an incorrect tracking number assigned to me, I figured. There would be plenty of time to sort that out come (this past) Monday. When that day came I was a bit more alarmed. My tracking number indicated the camera was delivered to that California address … left at the front desk and signed for by Chen. Uh-oh; that didn’t sound good. So early Tuesday I spoke with another Nikon rep, explaining my concern. I still figured it was just an incorrect tracking number – until my rep asked me to wait for a phone call later in the day. She was sending my case on to the service department, since she could not locate my camera during that extended phone call. Double uh-oh; now I wasn’t so sure everything was indeed in order.

All’s well that end’s well, however. I never did receive a phone call from Nikon. But about five in the afternoon the UPS truck pulled up. “Would that plain brown box be from Nikon?” I tentatively asked. “Yes, sir!” came the very welcome reply. My camera was home, safe and sound … even sooner than I had expected it, frankly. The repair was made, the sensor cleaned, the camera given a good once over and general cleaning – and the charge was for less than the original estimate! Thank you, Nikon!

Hiccups aside, Nikon performed well for me. I am quite satisfied with their concern and their timely response to my camera failure. The company has taken some serious flak over its response to quality control problems recently (think the D600-D610 debacle). But individually each person who dealt with me and my case took me most seriously and were of great help. I’ll call them tomorrow and let them know the D800 made it home safely. And add my thanks.

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Zimmerman Wetlands At Stonehead: A Few Photos

Stonehead 2
Click on Stonehead to see more images from the Zimmerman Wetlands.

Saturday Sue and I had a great morning. We were guests of Mike Kelley, owner of the house and grounds at Stonehead in beautiful Brown County, Indiana. Mike is a conservationist and photographer and birding expert and a most wonderful host each year to visitors to his unique and historic landmark property (click here for a link to Mike’s story). Stonehead is a Brown County treasure, a signpost to visitors for decades, and Mike is a most gracious owner and caretaker (click here for a link to the Stonehead story). Mike has added to the property by dedicating the wetlands portion of it to noted local artist, Bill Zimmerman. It is a gorgeous property, and it was a most fun morning.

The temperatures were just cool enough to require a coat, but it meant we never were uncomfortable. The sun popped out after we had been there for a bit, but the mostly overcast conditions made for decent shooting. We photographed the tended garden near the house, and then we set out to explore the wetter trails alongside the several ponds. We have had a bit of a wet and cold spring this year; in part because of that we didn’t find anything extraordinary in the wetlands (yet). I came home with a few images I liked, and I have posted them for today. But mainly it was a morning outdoors, spent with friends and nature. That was the memory to come home with.

My real thought for today is how amazingly enjoyable photography is for so many of us. The best images we make are thrilling and rewarding – no doubt about that. But think of all else we are blessed with, even with we don’t come home with a portfolio photo. Friendship and fellowship come to mind first … some of my best friends in the world have come from this pursuit of ours. A new appreciation for the beauty all around us comes to mind next. Be it out in nature or in the studio with a model or simply out walking around for the day, beauty surrounds us. And the locations photography takes us to so often? We live in an amazing country, a diverse country that beckons in every season. That is what I enjoy more and more as time goes on, worrying less and less about what others think of my work or what even I sometimes think about my work. God has blessed us so greatly.

Click here to see a few images from the Zimmerman Wetlands at Stonehead, or you also may click on the photo at the top of the post. And give some thought to shooting Stonehead yourself. You always are welcome.

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The Ohio State Reformatory: Last Call For Photos


Click on the Long View of Home to see the last images.

Today I posted more images from the Ohio State Reformatory. It was a really, really good trip to that fine state. But I am about processed out right now, and it is time to turn attention to things closer to home. Click on the photo at the top of the post to see the final shots to be published here. And if you get a chance, plan your own trip to this photography bonanza.

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Ohio State Reformatory: Even More Photos

Welcome to the Ohio State Reformatory. Click here for more photos.

Today I was able to process a few more photos from our trip to the Ohio State Reformatory. These were taken with the Nikon D800 (prior to its 10 pin connector failure). These images really are different in size (of course), color gamut, and overall look than the Fuji X-T1. I had to process then quite differently from each other to reach the mood I had in mind from the prison. Not saying that one is better than the other; they just are really different in temperament, if you will. The Fuji look is quite pleasing, I must say. The D800 files are richer, with more processing room and leeway. I am not sure at this point if one camera ever will be able to put the other into retirement. But let’s just say that the Fuji has been a very, very pleasant surprise.

Click on the photo at the top of the post to see a few more images, or just click here. And enjoy the day ….

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Ohio State Reformatory: More Photos

Pink sink
Click on the pink sink to see more reformatory images.

Today I added a few more images to the Ohio State Reformatory gallery. I’ve been trying to reproduce what I saw as a photographer there, the artist’s eye that we strive to develop. The prison is a great location in which to practice skills of all kinds. It is a wonderful place in which to shoot, to free yourself up creatively as well as technically. I hope you enjoy these new images even a little bit as much as I did in taking them.

Click on the photo at the top of the post to see the images, or you can just click here.

Oh, and the problem with my D800? My remote shutter release just stopped working in the middle of our shoot the second day. We tried it on a second camera, and it worked just fine. Then we tried another remote that worked on the other camera on mine. Nothing. My good friend Bill Fortney, a former Nikon tech rep, told ma later that he has seen this particular problem more and more in about the past five years. The connection for the 10 pin connector becomes loose inside the camera, apparently. It’s not a big deal, but you have to get way inside the camera to repair the connection. Nikon has the camera now and promised to put a rush on the fix. I am happy with their response, and I should have the D800 home soon.

The weather here is more April-like than May (think lots of rain this week and some cooler temps). Time to see if the Fuji is as weather-sealed as they claim.

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Photo Advice: How To Shoot The Ohio State Reformatory


Click on the image of the reformatory to see a few more images.

If you are considering a trip to Mansfield, Ohio to shoot the Ohio State Reformatory, read on. If you are not yet considering such a trip, read on. Then start planning your trip; the place is not to be missed. I still am processing images from our shoot there last week, and there are enough keepers that I am going to be at this task for a while. It is that rich an environment for photographers. I am pretty satisfied with what I came home with, but if some of my friends make the trek over to Ohio and have room I definitely would go back. The place is that good.

So, allow me to give you a bit of advice if you are making plans. And if not Ohio, perhaps you have a large institution akin to the (now-closed) prison that will present you with similar circumstances. Perhaps what Sue and I discovered will apply to your location, also.

This place is big … really big. Plan on spending all the time they will give you each day (currently 11 AM until 5 PM) shooting. If you get there late or make plans to leave early I don’t see how you can shoot everything you will want to capture. Shoot and move; get good shots, but don’t dawdle at any given place. We scouted the prison the day before since we knew we had two days. That helped us have sort of a plan for what would be priority shots. You don’t have to do that, but it sure helped. And the prison is really an interesting place with an incredible history. Having a bit of time that first day to take in the whole atmosphere made the trip more enjoyable.

Don’t bother arriving prior to 11 AM. That is when the grounds open (it is gated), and it doesn’t open a minute earlier. Don’t bother with the interactive history-explaining device you can rent if you are there to take photos. You won’t have time to listen to all the information. Tours are self-guided other than on Sunday; the route is plainly marked and you will find your way around quite easily.

Most of the prison is fairly dark inside. Plan on using high ISOs and some wide-open apertures if you are hand-holding. I have some scouting shots from that first day that just aren’t sharp. I knew they wouldn’t be when I took them, given the long shutter speeds some of the spots demanded. You may be really good at hand-holding, but not much is more disappointing than arriving home only to discover that shot-of-a-lifetime isn’t tack sharp. The good news is that you can pay an extra fee and take along your tripod. And to me that is a must. The bad news is that the tripod fee is $150 a person ( a flat $1200 for groups up to 20 if you want to get together a large group). But ask yourself … how often am I going to get back to a place like this? And isn’t a large batch of great images worth that much when you already have invested your time and energy in getting there? Photographers are fond of asking, “Want to take to more interesting pictures?” with the answer, “Go to more interesting places.” This is such a place. It’s worth the tripod fee.

Bracket your exposures. If you shoot HDR sometimes you will have what you need for that kind of processing. If you just want to save time, bracket to make sure you have at least one correct exposure and keep moving. Lighting conditions can be tricky inside, and you don’t want to spend all your precious shooting time worrying about making sure you have the right exposure each time. I’m not advocating being sloppy in your habits, just economical with your time.

Bring two cameras instead of changing lenses constantly. The prison is old and it is dusty. And sometimes grimy. Just walking around stirs up a bit of fine dust (nothing to worry over, just know that changing lenses will expose you to that dust). Neither of us found any real need for a long telephoto. I shot comfortably most of the day with a (full-frame) 24-120 mm lens. Then my second camera had a wide angle on and ready for use (a 15-36 full frame equivalent). Every time I sat down or set my bag sown there was dust on it (and me). Take two cameras. I didn’t see a whole lot of macro shots, but if that is your specialty set up your second camera with a macro lens. But there are an awful lot of wide angle and medium zoom shots inside. Plan for those type lenses first.

Plan of getting some exercise. There are stairs everywhere, to get anywhere. There is a ground floor abbreviated tour area if you can’t do stairs. But the only elevator takes you up to a guard room that then leads to more stairs to shoot the cell blocks. It’s not like you are running to get from place to place; don’t think you have to be an athlete to shoot here. But you will cover a lot of ground, and you will know you have gotten your exercise for the day.

The place looks like a castle on the outside. It is very impressive, quite pretty. But there are cars in most areas and the shadows get pretty harsh when you are allowed to be there. Grab some outside setup shots right away or just before you leave, but the inside is where the shots take place. Don’t use up a lot of time trying to get arty shots of the exterior.

There is a little concession stand open some of the time during the summer. It was closed when we were there. So if you need something to eat or drink during those hours, bring it in with you. And you can go in and out of the prison for those necessities. No food or drink allowed inside the building. Bathrooms are outside the building, with one set on the ground floor inside (pretty far inside the building). Go before you start your tour.

Think creative while inside. Unless you are shooting a documentary, you only want so many shots of cell doors and locks and things like that. Trust me … the temptation is to shoot everything in sight. But look inside just like you would outside. Where is the light falling? Where are your defining shadows? Look for color, line, form and texture. There is a mood inside the prison that sort of follows you around – somber, if you will. Resigned. Lonely, if not abandoned. Give some thought to how you will process your later photos, what you want to convey to the viewer. This is an environment made for the creative shooter; don’t be content with snapshots.

Enjoy the experience. There is history all around you at this location. Become part of what goes on there; bring some of it home with you.

I have begun a new gallery to show some of the images I came home with. More will be added as time permits, but click here to see that gallery. And good luck shooting this wonderful place yourself sometime.

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The Ohio State Reformatory: A Trip

The watchword for the past two days has been ‘stairs’. Lots of stairs; stairs everywhere; stairs almost to nowhere. We made a quick, yet jam-packed, trip over to Mansfield, Ohio Wednesday and Thursday. We arrived home late last night, pooped out after a five-hour drive home that got a late start. This morning has been recovery time of many sorts. But what a place the now-defunct Ohio State Reformatory is! We were kicked out at closing time or we might still be there, trying to cram in just one more shot. And then one more. And one more on top of that. It’s that kind of place.

The reformatory is the place where they filmed The Shawshank Redemption, one heckuva movie. It is old, but hauntingly beautiful. Decrepit, but living and breathing. It is horrifying in memories of conditions there when it still was a prison, yet it is strangely beautiful (especially to us photographers). There is almost too much to take in when shooting, yet alone trying to absorb some of the history and story of the place. We shot for two days (the first without tripods, which is pretty difficult in most venues, as a scouting trip), the second serious business with the tripods (for a fairly steep fee). And we shot from 11 AM until the prison closed at 5 PM, leaving a few more shots for another day. The place is that big and that conducive to photographers. Now, I can’t speak yet to what we came home with (it’s been that busy this morning), but if there are no great shots in the bunch it is the fault of the photographer, not the location.

I still have a bunch of things to get done, so I will leave you with a link to the reformatory (you can get all the great details there). I can’t show you any images yet, because I have yet to even get my cards downloaded. And one of the things I have to do is send my D800 off to Nikon for a repair (another post-to-come). But it was a great trip, and we are safely home.

If you live in the Midwest and are a photographer who delights in line, form, color and texture start planning a trip to Ohio now. The place is a feast for the eyes, even given the few drawbacks we encountered (which I will explain later). Photography is a joy; this place makes you glad to be a shooter.

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Ansel Adams At The Eiteljorg. And The Gay Rodeo Circuit.

Monday my good friend Dan Harrell and I made a trip to the Eiteljorg Museum up in Indianapolis. It was a great day, in part because of outstanding friendship and fellowship. Also, however, was the Ansel Adams exhibit currently on display. There are to be found 80 of his works, covering some of the all-time standards (Moon Over Hernandez, New Mexico), the national parks photos for which he may be most famous, and some portraits (he was a very fine portraitist as it turns out). Adams’ use of light (and his ability to see light) are amazing; the works on display call out to you in just the places he intended. If you are anywhere close to Indianapolis make time to see this show. I absolutely guarantee you that the day will be one you remember.

And then there was a surprise, a most pleasant one. On the second floor was a collection of cowboy images, taken in various rodeo settings. They are outstanding. Blake Little is the photographer, and he was a bull rider for a while on this particular rodeo circuit. And that allowed him some backstage access that led to some very intimate images. And I say ‘this particular rodeo circuit’ because it was the International (U.S. and Canada) Gay Cowboys Rodeo Circuit. I had no idea there ever was such a thing, and I am willing to bet most of you didn’t either. It lasted from 1988 to 1992, consisting of seven regular rodeo events and three special ones. The special ones do stand out for creativity, I must add. They included steer decorating, goat dressing, and a Wild Drag Race (in which two cowboys, one in drag, were joined by one lesbian. The three had to rope a free-running steer and someone had to ride it to the finish line). There must have been some real sights during those rodeos! In any event, the images were outstanding.. The collection was portraits and action intertwined, making for a most personal show. I recommend this exhibit highly; you are not likely to see it many other places.

The Eiteljorg is a very special place of western and Native American art at any time. The two exhibits on display right now make it even more interesting than usual. And as a bonus … the restaurant inside the Eiteljorg is first-class. It makes for a most enjoyable visit whenever you can make it. And if you are not from Indy, make a trip to visit us and include the museum as a must-see while you are here.

Click here for some additional information about the museum and the current exhibits. And come see us some time.

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Free onOne Software Perfect Effects 8! Act Now!


I have used versions 6, 7 and 8 now. This is a terrific offer.

You know how you see all those pushy ads on TV or hear them on the radio? The ones that say, “Call now! You must act within the next 20 minutes!”? Most of them are designed to stampede you into a not-so-good deal made to sound otherwise. It certainly is buyer beware. But onOne Software has such an offer going on, an offer you really should not pass up. Honestly!

Those good folks are offering you Perfect Effects 8, a really useful and valuable processing program, absolutely free. It retails for a cool hundred bucks … but if you act now you can have it for FREE! It works on MAC or PC; it works as a standalone or with Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture and Photoshop Elements. Folks, I have this program (I bought it a while back), and it is a keeper. It’s a valuable part of my workflow, and now you can have it for free. This is a real deal from an honest and upstanding software company. Act now! (I couldn’t resist adding that).

Now, I’m not sure how long the offer will last. There is no stampede going on here, but I wouldn’t wait around forever, either. I can’t tell you why onOne is making this offer, but I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Click here to visit the free download page from onOne, and start using this program right away. I don’t have to go out on much of a limb to say that I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

That’s a short post for today, but it is one of the best offers I have seen in a long time. Act now!

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More Stores: More Photos


Click on the Helmsburg General Store to see more photos.

Saturday was a warm and sunny day in our area, far too nice to stay inside. So we packed up the cameras and drove over to nearby Brown County, checking out the park and seeing what was in bloom. We also took a quick drive out to a couple of favorite barns on Maple Grove Road, seeing how they looked after our tough winter. I’m glad to report they survived just fine, and I added a couple of images to the barn collection. There are a couple of general stores in Brown County that do a pretty busy business, selling all kinds of items to those who live in the area and those like us who just are driving by. One is the general store in Helmsburg; the other is the Gatesville Country Store. I added photos of both to the Sanders General Store gallery, along with a couple of new shots from that store. And on the way back from Gatesville we stopped at an old, abandoned home near the Brown County State Park. It is becoming rather dilapidated, but it stands out for its unusual siding – a form of Indiana hick brick.

Now, for the uninitiated, hick brick is the term used around here for asphalt shingles used as siding. It usually was brown and in the form of fake bricks; this home has a green variation that is sort of scalloped. I never have seen it used anywhere else; it was worth shooting for that reason alone. It also has sort of a by-gone charm, a character all of its own. I added some shots from the house to the Sanders gallery, as well. It was a fun day … Brown County has a whole lot to offer visitors, and it rarely disappoints.

Click on the image at the top of the post for more photos, or you also can just click here. And, it’s Monday … enjoy the week.

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Sanders General Store: Photos


Click on the old gas pumps to see more images.

Yesterday we scouted out a few more old buildings in our area, one of them being the abandoned general store down in Sanders. It is a wealth of line, form, color and texture. Nature slowly is beginning to make a mark near the back of the store, adding more texture to the store’s structure. It was a fun day, a productive day.

I processed a few images from our trip; more to come in a few days. Click on the image at the top of the post to see more photos, or just click here.

And it is Friday. Enjoy the weekend, camera in hand.

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