Deep in Thought

So the thing all photographers fear happened to me.  My hard drive crashed and I was racked with fear.  Luckily, I had recently implemented a backup solution (within a month ago) so the timing couldn’t have been better.  I saved all my RAWs, all my family photos, and the general edited versions of photos that I kept as a kind of screensaver (the ones I really liked).  Unfortunately, the many photos I had queued up to put on the blog when I found time to write, were all gone.  So, I’ve had to start over on that.

Instead of just picking the same photos I did before, I started to look through again, some of the photos that I wanted to experience and really decide what was worthwhile to post.  As it is now, my blog has been about learning.  Posting something that may or may not be my best work, but to get feedback and to share my learning experiences so others may be able to learn from them.  I’m in the process of deciding if I want to continue doing that, or if I want to just put up what I think are my “best shots”.

I love that people comment on my blog, but currently, most of my feedback is affirmation, “Love the bird, great shot, and keep it up” type comments, which I appreciate and they help me keep the desire to continue the blog.  However, my purpose was for people to see what I had done and suggest ways to improve, compositional changes, technical camera changes and editing changes.  While I got a bit of that in the beginning, I even went and would repost shots with changes in editing made to see how the feedback worked for me, it seems that has stopped happening.  So, I guess I need to decide what I want my blog to be, as I don’t feel it is fulfilling my current purpose, which is to get a group of minds together, to learn from one another, to constructively give feedback and to improve together.

Anyway, I’m taking my time right now, I’m living a busy life, and I’m seriously considering what I want to do with this site.  I’m deep in thought, staring off in the distance and trying to come to a decision.

Canon T3i, ISO 100, 210mm, f/6.3, 1/1000

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Her Eyes Glow Like My Love For Her

I spent way more time on this photo than I have any right to.  I had the idea and really liked it, so I forced my wife to model for me.  She’s not the most willing model, but I think this shot was worth her effort.  My wife has my favorite kind of eyes, they are what most people would describe as “almond shaped” which always seem just slightly exotic to me.  She has a natural mix of brown, green and some yellow in them, and I just love to look into her eyes.  She had been at a Christmas party for the place where she does her hair, and they had done a make-over and I really liked how her eyes looked, so I had her stand close to the Christmas Tree and using only its light, took close-up shots of her eyes.

My main mistake on this is I did it hand held.  What that means is my shutter speed was 1/5 a second and well… my hands aren’t super steady, so if you look at the lights, they make little upside-down v’s.  But that’s ok, because I still love this shot.

I took the time to clean up her eyes a little (it was late, she was tired and they were a little red) then I over-saturized her actual eye, then desaturized the photo as a whole.  After that, I increased the orange and yellow saturation for the whole photo, and did a slight highlight tone to the whole thing to add warmth.  I also lowered the clarity a bit and over did the noise reduction to give it a soft feel.  This is my end result.  This photo just makes me happy and glad I picked up this hobby.  Everyone else could hate it, but looking at it makes me just so happy with the work I did on this as well as the shot itself.  I do hope you all enjoy it.

Canon T3i, handheld: ISO 3200, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/5 sec

And I know my title is cheesy, and my wife does read my blog, but that doesn’t change my opinion of any of this.

Going down the road

On September 12th I started making photography posts on this blog, having just returned from Ireland.  I made the blog prior to that, but there was no visibility or anything past that.  Today, November the 8th I’ve hit my 1,000th visit.  There’s been some growing that has occurred, and some definite work to figure things out.  Anyway, yay for 1,000 visitors in my first 2 months, and here is a picture to symbolize me going down the road of my journey into photography.

New Watermark

So, when I started this out, I didn’t put a watermark on my photos because I didn’t feel it necessary and I didn’t know how.  But later a few people mentioned that it might be nice to put them on my photos so that if they show up elsewhere, it might help people find their way back to me.

However, my watermark has been ugly and intrusive, partially due to me being lazy and partially due to me not really knowing what I was doing.  However, I also was just using the name of my blog and as I spoke with my good friend, he had an idea create something a little nicer for me (as well as suggestions on how to and not to use the one I have and the new one)

You may have seen comments between he and I in the past, we have been best friends for as long as I’ve been a teenager and we argue like an old married couple, but that’s part of the familiarity we have for each other.  His name is Zachary.  Regardless, we worked on this probably for about 2 weeks going through different ideas of what I wanted, what was a good idea and a bad idea and all kinds of other design pieces.  He’s a graphic designer and a great one at that, so after taking his advice into account, and giving suggestions based on my gut, here is what we ended with.

I have included it with the photo of a tree in Ireland that inspired the new watermark.

Rise Again

Every few years, our church has a sermon series that focuses on baptism and nothing else.  The main focus it to educate those in the congregation of both where you should be before you are baptized and what the purpose of baptism is.  The series finished up this weekend and as usual, there were more baptisms than a normal weekend service usually elicits.  While it’s an understatement to say that the service was moving, the part that will probably put things into perspectives is: 686.

That is the number of people who came forward to be baptized this weekend.  There were so many people after second service this Sunday, that an hour after service had ended there were still over 100 people waiting to be baptized.  It was well organized, and they were bring people into the baptismal 10+ at a time, and they even had soap in the water just to deal with the large numbers of people going in and out.  It was truly unbelievable to see.

While I was there, I was taping a video of a friend who was getting baptized, but I couldn’t resist the urge to snap a few photos of strangers as well.  I will share one with you.

I’m not going to describe the feelings and the symbolism that I see in this image, instead, I will let each person pull from it what they see, but here is a picture of a person emerging from the water as their baptism is completing.  Each person chose a shirt as they were in line to get baptized with a single word on it.  Some said “Alive” while others said “Forgiven”.  As you can see, both our senior minister and the woman watching her friend be baptized are wearing shirts that said “Free”.  You were supposed to choose the word that best symbolized how you felt your soul would be after baptism.

Without further chatter, here’s the image: ISO 1600, 42mm, f/5.6, 1/100sec

Fixing a Photograph with a High Dynamic Light Range

To start out with, apparently one of the major tricks of photography is figuring out how to balance light and dark areas to create an overall tapestry.  I love sunset and I love sunrise.  The sky is vivid, it’s alive, it has energy and it veritably glows with beauty.  It reminds me of a few special people in my life.  But the problem is, when you shoot at one of those moments, your camera doesn’t see the world your eye does.  My eye does crazy things with light, it comes in strong in some areas and it comes in weak in others, but my eye and my brain find a way to translate this all into an overall picture that is beautiful and observable to my mind, even if it isn’t exactly what is in front of me.

A camera captures light and reality.  There is no high powered (or in my case barely powered) brain in the back translating the light into what our eyes want to see, making changes on the fly to bring forth the best possible image.  The result is sometimes not what we intended if we are inexperienced, or in other cases, a lot of manipulation happens before the shot or after to get a closer approximation of our “mind’s eye” so to speak.  Here’s an example of a shot I’m talking about, to me, the foreground was clear as day, and the sky was even more vivid than what you see here.

Here is what my camera saw in front of it

As you can see, the foreground is almost impossible to see, and the sky is a bit blown out, no happy balance here.  Let’s see what we can do to fix this photograph.

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A Weekend at Mammoth Cave

So I happen to live somewhat near the world’s longest known cave system, Mammoth Cave (about 1 1/2 hours away) and they have a lot of different attractions that you can go enjoy while there.  I have never been horseback riding, and never been in a cave, two things I wanted to do, and my wife decided was very un-Kentuckian.  So off we went to indulge our Cave City sides and enjoy a few pieces of Mammoth Cave’s ecosystem and tourism market.

The first thing we were blessed enough to do was go horseback riding.  While I did take pictures while on horseback, it really wasn’t that great of a picture taking experience.  My horse was supposedly “spirited” as far as trail horses go, which is to say, just enough orneriness to make it hard to take a lens cap off a camera and take a picture while holding the reigns.  I did fine, I have pictures, but they just don’t fit in with what I want on the blog, so I’ll throw in the vacation photo of my wife and I on our horses at the end of the trail, and move on to photos I like.

Here are my Wife and I at the end of our trail on our respective horses, Maggie for her and Misty for me

From this point, we had access to walk around and see the sights.  It was a cute little establishment, but I did run across two horses eating and managed to snap some pictures that I was happy with.  The first one I will show is of the horse eating some sparse grass.

Horse eating some sparse grass

After that, I also caught this same horse not eating.  I wasn’t very patient, and I really wanted to get a picture that didn’t have the fence in it, and the horse’s head up without telephone poles and things of that nature.  Apparently horses aren’t mind readers (or actively didn’t want to give me what I wanted), and didn’t take my hints, so when I finally got 1 shot I just called it a day on that desire.

I then took that shot and did some major editing.  I like the result, I’m sure some won’t and some will, but this is my first attempt at isolating the subject matter post-photo, and I think it turned out pretty decent.  I’m sure there are areas that I missed to some extent, but I’ll stay happy with this one.

He Finally Lifted His Head for my Photograph

And zooming in on the photo, I see a few small spots I missed, but I’m not going to change it at this point. 😛

After our adventure riding horses, we went for a cave tour in Mammoth Cave itself.

The major downside of Mammoth Cave, they don’t allow you to use tripods (I found out after my first use) because they slow down the tour.  So I got one shot by tripod, and any other shots I got from bracing the camera on a railing to hold steady.

I don’t have a great lens for low light shooting, so I was taking multi-second exposures.  Tough by hand.  Here is the shot with the tripod.

The Ceiling in Mammoth Cave

I actually got all 5 of the exposures necessary for an HDR image, but honestly, I like the main one better than the results of an HDR image so here it is.  They had very faint lights spaced throughout the cave, so you would only get whatever the light was highlighting, and you couldn’t take pictures of things it didn’t highlight, because there wasn’t enough light for the camera to focus.

It was kind of rough.   Continue reading