A July Visit To Nashville, Indiana: Some Photos

Nashville Sue

Click on the photo of my lovely wife to see more Nashville images.

I hope your Independence Day weekend was as pleasant and enjoyable as ours. The weather was spectacular; the company most perfect. In the past few days we celebrated Sue’s birthday, our country’s Independence Day, and our anniversary (our 39th). It was a week we looked forward to, and it did not disappoint. We have an anniversary tradition … for more than 25 years we have spent the day in nearby (and most picturesque) Nashville. We have lunch, wander about, and generally just enjoy being together. It has been a very good 39 years.

Saturday was a bustling day in Nashville. The weather was perfect for July in Indiana; Independence Day brought out a friendly and lively crowd of visitors. Carrying a camera was a must with many of the town’s flowers in bloom, and the Fuji X-T1 is made for a walk-about. I didn’t make the trip into a photo expedition; I just snapped a few shots here and there when my eye was caught by colors or form or texture. But that sort of shooting with the right companion and the right camera makes for a great day – and that is what our anniversary turned out to be.

I put up a few of the photos in a Nashville 4th gallery. Use this link to view them, or just click on the image at the top of the post. And if you get a chance to visit Nashville, don’t pass it up. It’s a welcoming place. It’s Indiana in the summer.

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Young Ladies And 500px: Beware!

Ladies who exhibit the utmost in modesty and decorum (part of my family).

500px posts a great many fine photos each day. There are some very talented photographers out there who are kind enough to share their work with us free of charge. It is easy to come away from a visit inspired and renewed creatively. But I see some patterns on the site that alarm me. Today’s post is a warning of things for the young ladies of this world to beware of.

Cameras are everywhere these days. When you get out of bed in the morning and are perhaps still in your revealing nightwear there might be a photographer hiding somewhere in your room. Look around carefully before you sit up on the bed and stretch and curl while in your intimate clothing. And look again before you go over to the window and look pensively outside while bending over to greet the day (something most of you apparently do as part of your morning routine). Someone out there is hiding and taking your picture while you do all these things so often; then they run out and post them on 500px. I thought you would want to know.

Realize that out on the prairie in the tall grasses the wind can blow pretty hard. You should know that it all too frequently will blow your blouse completely open, causing you to barely clutch it to your chest with one hand. I know you are trying to be modest, but the wind must be so strong that it keeps you from covering your bare chest completely. Next time wear something with a zipper and keep it zipped up. The wind will have a tougher time blowing your top open.

When you go swimming this summer in lightweight clothing, especially white clingy fabrics, the wet clothes will stick to your body when you stand up. You don’t know this because you are looking out into the distance, admiring the landscape. But any photographers who wander by will snap rather revealing photos of you and then post them over on 500px. And be careful even when just wading in shallow water. Apparently it is easy to fall and get wet all over in even ankle-deep surf. Then when you stand up again – there are those pesky photographers!

Be especially careful when heading out into the woods and forest this time of year to enjoy the summer weather. Time and time again you can snag your skirt on a branch and it will be pulled up to expose your undergarments. Branches can catch your top, also, and pull it down to expose most of your chest area. Even when you find a clearing in the woods there apparently can be one or two small branches that most of us cannot even see that will do this to your clothes. It would be safer to wear jeans with a sturdy belt. Tuck your pants into your high heel shoe tops to keep the ticks out. And do give some consideration to wearing a foundation garment under your top. If you do have an accident you still will be protected from the sun’s harmful rays.

Shorts are popular summertime wear, given all the hot weather we are having. But good advice is to measure twice – cut once. Too many of you apparently have not measured correctly the first time when making cut-off jeans; by the time you realize they are too short, part of your anatomy is exposed to those sneaky photographers. Then you try to cover those parts with one dainty hand, but it doesn’t work too well. It would be better to just buy a store-bought pair of Bermuda shorts and not have to cut yours off to begin with.

Oh, and when you buy shorts or jeans to cut off for shorts? Please … check the top button and the zipper! Lately manufacturers have been cutting costs by using inferior buttons that won’t stay buttoned … and cheap zippers that keep coming part-way down. So there you are, posing lady-like in the sun and before you know it your shorts are partly open and the photographer is pressing the shutter button. Check before you go out that your clothes still fasten properly; it will save you what surely must be an embarrassing situation.

Related to that: ask the helpful clerk at the store to check the straps on bras and undergarments when you buy them. When they stuff just any old garment in the bag and hustle you out of the store, those straps are bound to come off your shoulders and all the way down when you get outside and ready for a photo shoot. Then you have to reach around and hold up your bra or your garment with one hand, and what usually happens is that you can’t hold it all the way up for too long cause it’s too heavy and it starts to droop and come down ….. Well, you know what happens next when you are standing there sort of exposed. As sure as day turns to night along comes a photographer who sends all his photos to 500px. Voila!

And some advice that I’m sure you got from your mother … stand up straight! You are such a pretty girl when you watch your posture! When you get all hunched over and bending down will be the exact time someone with a camera will snap a picture. And of course that will just happen to be the day you wore that very low cut top that your mother never wanted you to buy in the first place and that your father just had a fit over. And that is probably the one with the top button that keeps coming undone … darn it! Stand up straight. Mother always knows best.

Oh, and something else so many of you apparently haven’t been told. If you don’t have any pants on, if you are just in your underwear? When you stand with your back to the man with the camera and look away from him, he still can take your picture. And it still will show that you don’t have any pants on. It’s sort of like when ostriches stick their heads in the sand and think no one can see them and that they are safe. We can still see them. And photographers can still capture you in your underwear. Before you go out walking like that be sure to look behind you, also.

And one last warning … photos posted on 500px (and everywhere else) last a long, long time. They tend not to go away. As in, like nev-er. Fashions change. Lifestyles change. People change. You probably will change. But those images? They stay the same.

I like 500px. There are some amazingly talented photographers posting there. I see some great stuff, day in and day out. But there are some patterns that we all should be aware of. And maybe give some thought to. Especially as we do so with camera in hand.

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Free Mpix Photos For One Year: If You Are A Winner

Mpix photos

Mpix is a reliable, quality, easy-to-use printing site that I have used extensively in the past. They are very well-known and quite highly thought of by thousands of photographers. And they are being quite generous of late, also … generous to the point of giving away free photos for an entire year to a few lucky shooters. That’s right – five lucky photographers will win up to 3,000 4×6 photos FREE of charge from Mpix as part of their ongoing giveaway. All you have to do is enter your email address using the link I am providing by July 17th. Then sit back and wait for the congratulatory email to arrive from the staff at Mpix. What could be easier?

The quality of prints I have received in the past was first-class. The service was fast. There are tons of options to choose from for whatever you want to do with your images, and the prices are most reasonable. I use Mpix; I recommend Mpix. And now I am tickled to forward the opportunity for you to be a winner on a large scale. C’mon … what do you have to lose? Join me in entering today.

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Sheer Meanness: Dark Side Of The Web And An Attack On Scott Kelby

Bill-tripod

Bill Fortney is one of the kindest, most generous, most thoughtful men I ever have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with. He is a man of deep and abiding faith, a faith that he lives completely each day. So, it takes more than a bit of doing to arouse his anger to the extent that he speaks out publicly to rebuke another. One way to do it is to be intentionally mean, especially when it is directed toward one of Bill’s friends. And a recent commenter on one of Bill’s posts has managed to (meanly and without reason) to do just exactly that. Good for Bill for calling him out on his comments over on a public Facebook posting.

I’ll give you the background. Bill recently posted a quite informative article over on his website regarding some of the advantages of shooting with an ASP-C sensor (DX to most of us). It was complete with photos, and it was intended to inform and explain (what Bill is an expert at). In the comments to that post a person responded with a critical attack on Scott Kelby (and by implication on Bill’s relationship with Scott). Now, Scott never was mentioned by Bill in the article, and he had nothing to do with the information Bill was passing on. It is difficult to imagine anything other sheer meanness on the part of the commenter for the remarks he made. But you be the judge: Click here for the post, complete with comments.

Bill is so easy-going, so considerate that it takes a lot for him to respond with literally any kind of reproof to any of us. And Scott Kelby is generous, considerate and about as inoffensive as any photographer I have had the pleasure to meet and spend some time with. Why pick on him? Why drag him into the conversation? Why the derogatory comments and mean names? We’ve all seen this sort of thing waaaaay too many times in way too many places on the web for far too long. There is an anonymity to the web that unleashes the worst in some people; they build themselves up apparently by tearing down others (most times people they don’t even know anything about). It becomes a sport to be nasty or unkind. I see it in the comments attached to articles online in our local newspaper. There often is an absolute viciousness, a hatred that oozes from the comments of those who hide behind made-up names (those without fear of having to face those they are insulting). Many in our community have asked that the comments be eliminated, or at the very least that commenters must use their real names. But, the meanness continues ………

Bill was right and ever-so-justified to defend Scott. He would, in fact, have been justified in using even harsher language (but he is far too fine a man to do so). But the comments obviously have upset Bill, and with good reason. As much as anything I imagine that the meanness on the web, the unwarranted meanness we experience so often in this world, saddened Bill. Good people find it difficult to accept that the world has to be this way. It is maddeningly puzzling to see this type of behavior exhibited in so many forums so often. Especially to a man as gentle and kind and upright as Bill Fortney.

I don’t know that my comments could ever make any difference to those who take delight in this kind of behavior. But the personalities and kindnesses of men like Bill and Scott should serve to at least embarrass and shame those who attack them in this manner. Let’s all do our best to emulate Bill and Scott, and not those who choose the dark side of the web.

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Back Home Again In Indiana. Again.

Cattle

Click on the curious cattle to see more images of my Indiana.

Many thanks to all of you who commented on the photos of rural Indiana. They seemed to have touched a chord in a lot of us, bringing back some memories of a simpler lifestyle and perhaps even a happier time for many. We have a heritage that (going back far enough for so many of us) reminds us of where we came from and what much of our country was for so long. Bill Fortney speaks of his love for Americana, the old parts of our country’s life that are hidden away in so very many small places. Indiana has a lot of landscape of that kind.

I added some additional photos to complement the ones of last week. I hope they bring back a memory or two for some of you and that they might remind all of us how beautiful are the things God has created.

Click on this link to see the added images or just click on the photo at the top of this post. And … Happy Monday!

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Back Home Again In Indiana

Hoosier

Click on the Hoosier barn to see more Indiana photos.

It’s been a busy few days here. Summer in Indiana means vacation bible school in most of our communities, and ours is no exception. We were busy each night with suppers and lessons; a tradition I hope I never see the end of. And my very good friend Kendall Reeves afforded me the opportunity to put together some images for a potential client. The photos are of rural Indiana, designed to showcase some of our heritage. I spent a lot of time searching for appropriate images and narrowing down candidates. And what I found is that I really enjoyed seeing again some of what our farm heritage has afforded us with, some of the beauty we enjoy today. So I put some of them in a new gallery to view whenever I need to be reminded that I am fortunate enough to live in a pretty good place – Indiana.

I think I have posted nearly all these photos elsewhere at different times. But I tweaked a few of them from past processing days (and Photoshop versions) to bring them up-to-date. You can view them by clicking here or on the image at the op of this post. And welcome back to Indiana. Again.

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Bloomington Photo Club Orchid Trip: Some Photos

Covered bridge falls

Click on the photo of the covered bridge to see more images.

Saturday we headed off again for Cataract Falls on the way to Hilltop Orchids, a wholesale/retail purveyor of fine orchids. The trip was an outing for the Bloomington Photography Club’s macro focus group. We get together periodically to visit selected locations for friendship and shooting opportunities. I have to admit, this one featured some tough shooting. But it was great practice on close-up photography, and shooting with other members of the club always is fun. We stopped for lunch afterwards at the Upper Cataract Falls area, and the fellowship reminded me of why I so often urge you to seek out a group or club in your area. Other photographers make great companions, and there is a fun factor to what we do that never should be underestimated.

Sue and I left home early that morning and stopped by the falls again. I wanted to shoot the covered bridge on the property, something we missed last week because of the lousy light (our fault; we got there way too late for photos that day). I knew we didn’t have to be in place exactly at sunrise; the sun would be hidden for some time by tall trees to the east. When we got there our timing was pretty good. We were able to catch the sun as it cleared the trees, lighting up the bridge and the falls as it made its way higher and higher. We shot about all we wanted to before it cleared all the trees and became pretty harsh. It’s a pretty location; I liked some of the shots of the water we got. Then it was on to the orchids.

You know, I sort of thought there would be an orchid here and an orchid there (kind of like Old MacDonald’s farm, I guess). There would be orchids of all sizes and descriptions, all standing patiently still for me to photograph them. What we found was table after table filled with orchids that looked pretty much alike. And orchids like their air to circulate freely around them … and seemingly the faster the better. Nothing was standing still; we might as well have been outside in the breeze the way the multiple fans kept the air moving. And the tables only had a few aisles here and there to walk through (the watering was done with tall, long overhead sprinkling wands). So, I tried to learn something more about shooting in difficult conditions – with limited success, I fear. I have posted a few flower pictures to let you know where we were and what we have been up to. None of these flower pics are going to grace the cover of Orchid Weekly anytime soon, however.

Once we finished shooting we headed back to the falls area for a picnic lunch. The day was pleasantly warm and the company was superb. It was a fun outing, the reason I belong to the Bloomington Photography Club. If you don’t have such a group to join in with, give some thought to starting your own, no matter how small to begin with. You’ll be glad you did.

For some of the images I came home with, click here. Or just click on the photo at the top of this post. And thanks for visiting today.

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Photoshop CC 2014: One Cure For Installation Problems (No Automatic Update)

Photoshop 2014 is a new version, not just a regular update.

Adobe rolled out a new version of Creative Cloud yesterday. I’m not sure yet if it is a big deal in terms of processing for me or not. I suspect not, but any improvements will be welcomed since I am paying them a subscription fee each month (improvements or not). But my advice for all of us is to upgrade whenever new software comes out whether you think you will need it or not. That applies to all your programs and all firmware updates for your camera or whatever else you own. The updates are there for a reason; take advantage of them. Now, whether or not the updates are easy to install is a separate question. And it is a question plenty of people gained experience with yesterday, compliments of Adobe.

I opened Photoshop CC today and checked for updates. One was available, so I installed it with no problem or delay. It turns out that was a little, normal one (ACR and support for additional cameras). Then I checked Lightroom, and I updated that one per usual. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting the new features in the Photoshop update. It turns out this is a whole new version that you have to download from scratch (version 2014 as it is being called). And I couldn’t get it by just checking Photoshop and looking for updates there. So, I opened my Creative Cloud icon (the one that controls the apps you have in whatever you pay for with your Adobe subscription). And I found it blank, a white screen with no list of my Photoshop or my Bridge or my Lightroom. Great.

I went over to the Adobe site, and it kept leading me to the same page (the one where you downloaded Photoshop). And that led me back to the Creative Cloud screen each time – the white, blank one that I got before. So I looked for advice on the net. The first advice I found was to quit my current Creative Cloud, log out from Adobe, and then start all over. And I did – with the same result. Then I tried deleting my Creative Cloud and re-installing. That got me Error 50 … some esoteric message that seems to be some kiss of death thing. Adobe had some advice on solutions to this problem, but they seemed pretty involved and complicated. I looked on.

Here’s what worked. If you have had the experience I did, try this (it comes from an Adobe help manager). You have to remove a certain file from your Photoshop program and then re-install Creative Cloud). I have a link for you at Adobe (click here for that page); the solution you want is Solution 2. It’s easy to do (in case you are jittery about removing files), and getting rid of this one just clears the way for a new install (which you need). After you remove the file go back to Adobe and sign in with your Adobe ID. Download Creative Cloud; the new one you get will be up-to-date with the new Photoshop CC 2014 available. After you get the Creative Cloud app installed you just update whatever is indicated as in need. Voila! You are up and running with the complete new version of Photoshop.

Then … this is a new version; you are going to be able to migrate any presets you have, but not 3rd party plugins. Darn! But, one of my favorite Englishmen to the rescue! He advised to do something that Adobe says not to do – copy your plugins from the old PS CC to the new PS CC 2014. I know, I know – Adobe is the big dog in town. But Glyn knows his way around Photoshop, and if he advises we can take the easy route – we can take the easy route. I went into PS CC and found Program Files, Adobe, Adobe PS CC, Plugins. Copy them. Then go to the corresponding folder in PS CC 2014 and paste your plugins into the new program. Remember … Adobe says not to do this. But Glyn did and it worked for him. And I did and it worked for me. And it sure is easier and faster than re-installing all your plugins from scratch. If for some reason it doesn’t work for you, what have you lost? And if it works, you really have gained a great deal. Thank you, Glyn!

One final note for the new version – if you make any changes in your preferences in Photoshop you do have to go into the 2014 version and make them all over again. That I can’t help you with (for example, I don’t use point sample with the color picker. I sample with a 5×5 average, so I have to go in and make that change to the new version). Don’t forget those little tasks. The sit back and enjoy your new program!

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A Closeup Look At My Friend RC Concepcion

I have had the privilege of shooting with and spending some time with Kelby Media Guy RC Concepcion. He is a fine photographer and a fine instructor. And he is warm and personable and generous and a great deal of fun to be around. RC is joyful; he truly delights in whatever activity you come up with to shoot or try. His attitude can be infectious, and before you know it the entire group is charged up and excited to be doing whatever it is that is front of you. RC is a pretty good sized guy, but he also is as gentle a person as I have met in a long time. You would enjoy spending time with him.

When we were shooting together it was hard not to get excited about whatever he was excited about. In fact, I asked him if the rest of his family was like he is. And when he replied that they are, my comment was I would love to be there with him and his family on Christmas morning! It must be quite a sight to see them all as excited as he would be! Okay, so my point for the post today ….

I ran across this short little video featuring RC over on the Fuji Rumors site. He began shooting with the X-T1 a while ago, and he is pretty happy with it (as are the rest of us). Fuji announced a new weather-sealed 18-135 lens recently, and RC somehow got his hands on one. So, as is not unusual in Florida, it started raining the other day. And the fun-loving RC that I know was as happy and excited as could be to get out in the rain with the new lens and his X-T1. This video demonstrates better than I can describe RC’s great personality and his love of life. You gotta watch it to see what I mean, but after you do you will appreciate that it just is fun to be around him. Take a look:

See what I mean? I’m not selling Fuji lenses today; I just wanted to showcase what I had seen as RC’s award-winning personality.

If you ever get a chance to shoot with him or take a workshop with him, don’t hesitate. He knows his stuff, and I am sure you will learn a lot. And what I can guarantee you is that you will have a great, fun time. Just check out that smile in the wet and rain of Florida for proof!

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Have You Purchased Your Last Camera? Perfection Versus ‘Good Enough’

X-T1

Is this camera good enough for your needs?

Like probably most serious and pretty serious photographers, I enjoy cameras and related gear. I enjoy looking at them and reading about them and talking about them in addition, of course, to using them in the field. But I noticed well more than a year ago that each time I read about or heard about a new camera or lens that I kept coming back to the same thought: “What I have now suits my needs. It’s good enough for what I do.” And I don’t own all the latest gear, let alone all the stuff that’s been made down through the years. It’s just that what I have (and what my wife owns and uses) is good enough for us; there is no need to continually chase whatever is newest on the market because it promises perfection. What has been echoing in my mind for quite awhile now is that what I have is good enough.

Camera and equipment manufacturers do come up with breakthroughs in technology. We live in a true golden age of photography. But even with the advances you read about in new cameras and new lenses so very frequently, do you find yourself drawn to the new stuff anymore? Or do you regard it with interest, but then compare it to what you currently shoot with and decide what you have is good enough for what you do? For example, I own a Nikon D800. It’s 36 megapixels are more than enough for anything I ever will shoot or try to print (no matter how large). It is a marvel in what it can do (more camera than I still am a photographer). Now Nikon is coming out with what appears to be called the D810 … still 36 megapixels, minor increase in frame rate (and I do mean minor), tiny changes in a few other things. The camera will be the latest and greatest, and it will cost more than the D800 or D800E. And I read about it and consider my D800 and realize what I have is good enough for me. Yes, the new camera may be considered better or more advanced than mine; I just don’t need it because mine is good enough. So, Nikon – if you are trying to entice me into an upgrade, no such luck. I realize the new camera possibly could get me closer to technological perfection. The point they are missing is that I don’t need technological perfection for what I do. What I am getting now is good enough.

Fuji is supposed to be coming out pretty soon with an update to the extremely popular X-T1 (called the X-T1p, we hear). It will have a few new features or a few improvements on the old ones. And the reviewers I follow already are advising current owners not to get excited – the X-T1 is good enough. Fuji just unveiled a new lens, the 18-135. For $900 you get weather sealing and a different focal range in a relatively slow lens. Owners of the 18-55/55-200 combination are, I predict, going to compare what they own with the new offering and conclude that what they already shoot with is good enough. And you can cite example after example of more of the same.

The majority of photos taken and published in the world today are taken with smart phones (publishing includes Facebook and blogs and websites and all the other social media uses). Those phones don’t make museum quality captures like the D800 is capable of. But the point to be made is that those phone owners don’t care – for what they are doing the smart phone is good enough. They don’t want to carry a separate camera and download files and upload files and all that goes with what we do. The camera built into their smart phone is good enough. They aren’t going to go out and buy a new camera anymore … heck, it may take a great deal in the future to get them to buy a new phone because the one they own now can do so much. It’s good enough, even if it isn’t perfect.

I’ve been thinking and feeling this way for some time now. And then yesterday I was reminded of those thoughts by an article by the ever-articulate Thom Hogan over on byThom. He was writing about how people use their iPhones and wondering if that was good enough to really hurt all the camera makers? My thesis is that it already has – the market for little compact and sub-compact cameras has been in trouble for sometime now. You don’t need a separate camera when your phone is good enough (click here for a link to Thom’s article).

The camera manufacturers are in a sense victims of their own competence. I keep advising that until your old camera can’t get you the shot you want to take that you don’t need new equipment. And we have such great gear anymore that there hardly is a shot out there that you can’t get with what you currently own. Now, I’m not great at peering into the future. There always is the chance that there will be an advance so great, so advanced, so thrilling that it will make everything we own obsolete. And at that point we all can consider if it makes what we currently shoot with not good enough. Or cameras can break, be lost, or even stolen. If that happens by all means shop around for the latest and greatest; take advantage of a new opportunity. But in the meantime carefully consider all the new claims and advances and marketing lingo that come our way daily. And ask yourself: “Isn’t my stuff good enough for what I do?” I’m betting the answer most always will be – “Yes.”

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Wednesday Adobe Upgrades: Focus Mask Sneak Peek

There were a whole bunch of us who were upset with Adobe’s move to a subscription-based sales model for Photoshop (and I am willing to bet there still are a lot of us not very happy with the new way of doing business). But, Adobe isn’t going back to the old model on account of us, so we may find it healthier to get on with making images without looking backward (too awful much). And the rumor is that tomorrow will see a bunch of upgrades for Adobe products released all at once, Photoshop included. I haven’t used a lot of new features in my Photoshop CC subscription since I reluctantly signed up, but I have watched a short video of a new feature for tomorrow. And this one looks as if it might be most welcome. It’s called Focus Mask.

The idea is that you will be able to do cutout masks in Photoshop using areas that either are in focus or out of focus. Yes, every product manager chooses images to demo that are perfect for what they want to showcase. And real life use has a way of giving you photos that don’t quite fit the perfect mold – I get that. But even if a new feature works most of the time instead of all the time, or if it gets you almost to where you want to be in a hurry, that can be quite useful and very appreciated. Anyway – to the point …. Watch this short video to see how this new feature can work. And imagine how useful it actually might end up being.

Not bad, eh? There are a lot of third-party programs out there that do a good job of making cutouts. It would be nice to have another one right in Photoshop, one easily and quickly accessed as part of a regular workflow. Come back tomorrow and we will see together whether this rumor is true. And how we like the finished product.

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Indiana’s Upper Cataract Falls: Photos And A Trip

Cataract

Click on the Upper Falls to see some more photos from Cataract State Recreational Area.

Our visit to North Carolina for Bill Fortney’s His Light Grandfather Mountain workshop left us inspired, as well as filled with friendship and fellowship. Shooting waterfalls was a pretty new experience, and it left me looking for water here at home. Last week I shot a smaller waterfall in nearby McCormick’s Creek State Park (click here for that link), and this past Saturday Sue and I took a short trip to Cataract Falls (a state-managed recreational area). Cataract Falls has a lower and an upper waterfall, the upper being Indiana’s largest waterfall and the lower coming in as the runner-up. Neither is gigantic; each has its charms.

We never had visited the area before, so Saturday was sort of a scouting trip. We had other things to do in the morning, so it was near noon when we arrived (catching some lousy light, naturally). But we spent the time exploring how to find our way down the steep (make that ‘sheer’) cliffs surrounding most of the falls area. We took our rubber boots with us, so we were looking for ways to get out into what looked to be a fairly shallow stream downstream from the Upper Falls (forget the lower ones; that is an area for boats and fishermen). It took some effort, but we found our way down to the stream and out into it. We were rewarded with the opportunity for shots that no one ever is going to get from up top. We practiced with lens choices and combinations of f/ stops and graduated neutral density filter settings. And it truly was fun doing the experimenting.

What we did Saturday was of great value, I think, even though the light didn’t give us much of a chance for really good images (full sun, quite harsh). But we are planning another trip back to the falls soon, one calculated to get us there and in place for sunrise. Now, I’m not completely sure what the light will do at that time to the falls themselves. But I figure it just has to be softer than what we had to work with Saturday. The wild card always is Mother Nature and the conditions on any given day (for a great story and lesson about that click here for a post by my good friend and talented photographer Richard Siggins). But by scouting the area and shooting locations Saturday we are putting ourselves in position on any other trip to get the shot we hope for. And putting yourself in a position to get the shot is a big step toward actually getting the shot. Saturday was a worthwhile trip.

And I know you have experienced this for yourself: we had a really fun time Saturday being outdoors with each other. It was a beautiful setting with the roar of the water and the woods we trekked through to get downstream. By the time we toured both of the falls and spent some time just sitting and enjoying the settings, we were quite hungry. The afternoon was topped off with a visit to a local restaurant we never had tried (The Hilltop in Spencer). The food was delicious, my dinner companion marvelous, and the day special. What a blessing we have in God’s creations and our abilities to enjoy it with a camera in hand!

I only have three photos from Saturday that had any promise. I added them to the Grandfather Mountain gallery, thinking of water and waterfalls. Click here to see those three images. But hang on – we are planning a trip back to the falls very shortly … complete with better light and more chances to capture the beauty around us.

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McCormick’s Creek Waterfall: Photos

MC waterfall

Click on the waterfall to see more photos from McCormick’s Creek.

I had forgotten how beautiful Indiana can be. We found North Carolina to be amazingly photographic; it inspired me to look for similar chances to shoot water and waterfalls closer to home. We don’t have too many waterfalls, but nearby McCormick’s Creek State Park has one that is fairly accessible. The main problem is that it is fed by a quite small stream, resulting in a rather tepid water flow over the drop of fifteen feet or so. But recent heavy rains over the past three days solved that problem, and yesterday afternoon I had the chance to hit the park when it wasn’t too crowded. And I was most glad to do so. Indiana has charms of its own.

I shot with the Fuji X-T1 and a Singh Ray variable ND filter. I liked some of the results, and I enjoyed experimenting with f/ stops and grad filter combinations just as much. What’s that old saying? A bad day shooting is better than a good day doing just about anything else? Yesterday was in fact a good day.

Click on this link or the photo at the top of this post to see a few images I was happy with. Now all I need is even more rain and a new pair of waders.

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Learning Lightroom 5: The How’s And The Why’s

If you are a Lightroom user, at any level, today features an hour-long video that will teach you skills or refine the ones you already have. And if you are not a Lightroom user and have been curious about what the program can do, this video will inspire and excite you. I promise.

This video was originally recorded for B&H, part of their education series. They brought in a fine photographer who has a complete and easy-to-understand workflow in Lightroom for processing the photos he captures. And in today’s world you absolutely have to be able to post-process your images competently and efficiently. Lightroom was developed from the ground up years ago by Adobe for photographers (Photoshop actually was first envisioned for graphic designers). It is a program that really works. And this is a video that really works, also.

Set aside some time or some blocks of time to watch the video in its entirety. It is worthwhile (and entertaining).

Now, you know what Lightroom can do. And you know how good your photos are. Get busy and make them even better.

Oh, and an added bonus. My good friend Miles Smith (amazing photographer) advised last night that he found an informative video on using Lightroom to process room interiors. If Miles thinks it is worthwhile, I am quick to take a look. And he was right … pretty good. The producer has a quick commercial for his own products at the beginning, but it doesn’t last vey long. This video complements our first one quite well actually. So, take a look and add to your processing skills. Thanks, Miles.

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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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