The kindness of strangers


Yesterday was election day in the United States.  Many millions of Americans went to the polls to vote on the direction of the country for the next 2 years. While I also went, I had other items on my agenda for the day. You see, my wife does more than just go vote on that day, she is also a polling manager at one of the local precincts. So on election days, she is up and out of the house by 5 a.m. and does not return until well after 10 p.m.    I am very proud of her for doing this and it is something that she seems to enjoy.

I, on the other hand, have the entire day to myself. So guess what I go do?  First is take out local fur-baby to the dog park to run some of the energy out of him. He loves to run and there is nothing quite like the joy he expresses when he does so.  As I get off of work at 5 and the sunset occurs about 5:45, we only got about 30 minutes at the park.

Gotta love a goofy dog!

As we were leaving the park, I noticed the sky was starting to turn some incredible colors. So Chance and I headed to another local park so I could shoot the sunset.

I have shot many a sunset at Briscoe Park so I was looking for something a little different this time and I decided what I needed was people in my photos. Well, it was just Chance and I so what to do. Well, that turned out to be frightening and enlightening at the same time. I had to ask strangers to pose for me!  Not only that, but because I was shooting long exposures of 15-30 seconds, I had to ask them to sit still during the exposure….  No one I asked turned me down. (I think it was the dog!!!)

I asked this person who was taking a walk to pose on the bench for me.  With no hesitation, she did so.

So, on this image I had set the tripod up and got all of the metering done and started looking for a person to sit on the bench.  This young lady was walking by enjoying the evening when I asked if she would pose for me. I explained that she would be in silhouette and that there would be no detail other  than her general shape.  I also explained that she would need to be perfectly still for about 15 seconds and I would let her know when I was done. Surprisingly, she agreed with no hesitation and we got a great image!


Emboldened by that success I wet to scout another spot.  This is  bench just to the left of the previous image (In fact, you can see the bench in that image). and I set up for the shot. Just as I was doing so, I saw this young couple walk to the gazebo and start to sit down to enjoy the sunset. When I approached them, I could tell they were a little curious as to whey I was stalking them.  As I let them know what I wanted to do they immediately agreed and we set up this shot.




While I like the shot, I should have had them switch sides so you could of seen them both in the image. As it is, the young lady is obscured by the young man and there is not real detail there. I would of also liked to have used a flash to bring out a little more detail in the tree to the left.  But I am happy with the image… I will just do better next time.


A long exposure experiment. Still have work to do.

For comparison, you can see a similar image without people in it and it just loses something… 


Lastly, as I was leaving the park, the sun had gone down and the moon had risen. As I glanced up, I saw this through the trees…

Moon in the trees. I missed set the ISO on this one... BOOO!


Another quick grab, but I had the camera set to ISO 6400 which introduced a lot of noise to the image.  I will be trying this one again.

So, If you happen to see a large, balding, man dragging a tripod and camera pack through Briscoe Park and he asks you to pose for him, you will now know why!



Wings Over North Georgia

Ruth and I had a great chance to attend the Wings over North Georgia airshow in Rome Georgia during the weekend October 17th.  Part of attending this air show is the photographic package that is available that grants you access to the media day on Friday and early access on the air show performance days. This was a rather large airshow with more than 75,000 people attending over the weekend.  Fortunately, the photographers have a special chalet that is reserved for them and special shooting areas around the field that the public does not get access to.  This made for a very intimate time and very easy to swing the big glass around.


So if you don’t mind, I am going to take a day by day account through the weekend and, of course, there will be photos!


Thursday, October 16th

The plan for today was to get a mid-day start and drive up to Rome.  I was really surprised at the amount of traffic we had to navigate during the middle of the day on a Thursday.  But, we arrived in Rome about dinner time so after checking into the hotel we went in search of dinner.  Downtown Rome is a very cool place and it reminds me of what small towns should be. A large boulevard runs down the center of town with 3 and 4 story building lining each side of the street. The lower level of these building are shops and restaurants that cater to a diverse crowd of tourists, locals and college students (Berry College is in Rome and is one of the larger universities in North Georgia).  We chose a small tavern for dinner and was quite pleased with the meal. On a side note, there was a massive Geo Caching event going on at the same time that drew hundreds of people from around the U.S. and with the air show the same weekend made Rome seem the place to be!

One of the features of Rome is a trail where they have converted an old rail line into a city park that runs along the river in town. On this trail is an old trestle bridge that the city lights up in the evening. This bridge has drawn me for some time as a photographer and, of course, tonight was no different. I took my trusty model (Ruth) and headed out there.  Ruth and I were sitting in the truck as it was getting dark and just as I said “Well, I guess they aren’t coming on tonight” and started the truck Ruth said “I think…….” and the lights came on!  I suspect Ruth was hiding the switch and waiting for me to give up.

So onto the bridge we went.


This first photograph was taken just as the sun has gone down and the lights came on. On the left hand side of the bridge is a set of lights shaped like the American flag. That is the primary light source in the image. There is a few mercury vapor lights in various parking lots and businesses as well that lends to the over all feel of the image. After taking the shot, I felt as if it was missing something and Ruth volunteered to model for me. Adding her to the second image and getting a little closer made a huge difference as you can see below.



Friday, October 17th

Today is media day and practice day at the air show. The local media is around with their video and still cameras and the performers are talking to everyone. Ruth and I got to the airport before sunrise hoping to take some static display photos as the sun rises. Unfortunately, nature has other plans. The day started with a very heavy fog over the airfield that made photography extremely difficult.  Many of the aircraft that were expected had not arrived due to weather conditions and so not many photos were taken this morning.


As you can see, lots and lots of fog..  Ruth and I decided to leave the airport for a while and find a place to grab a quick cup of coffee and breakfast and hopefully return as the fog lifted. Upon returning, tragedy struck as my primary lens used for walking about and taking photos broke. It just decided that having taken over 10,000 images in its life over 8 years it was done. Ruth said it was because of the subject matter of its last image;


(It has been sent to Canon for repair and should be back in service fairly quickly…. I hope!)

One other neat thing was the chance to meet Scott “Scooter” Yoak who pilots the P-51 Quicksilver and gift him with an aluminum print of his aircraft from last years show. Scott was very appreciative and gave Ruth and I each a Quicksilver patch. I was unexpected, but a wonderful meeting.



Another really interesting thing was the landing of the C-17 Globemaster III.  This beast landed in under 1,500 feet. How something that big can stop in so short a runway is amazing. Especially when you consider that the Air Force would not let the Thunderbirds base at this field because the runway was 1,000 feet too short!  Not only did this thing do a short field landing, it also has a reverse gear!  WOW!



Ruth and I stayed at the field until after the Thunderbirds finished their practice at 5 p.m. and then headed back to the hotel for a much needed nights rest.


Saturday, October 18th

Today is another early day to get to the airfield prior to sunrise and hopefully catch some of the shots I had missed from the day before. Unlike yesterday, today is a glorious day. Clear skies and wonderfully cool temperatures. While there is some morning fog, it is mostly near the hills and away from the flying field.



As the sun rose, this aircraft was getting ready for an early morning flight. I loved the colors and the near silhouette caused by the bright sun!



What a great way to start the day!

Again, I am not going to bore you with the dozens of aircraft shots from this day, but I do want to cover a couple of interesting things.  The first is this shot from one of the BBQ competitors;




The yellow sign reads “You can smell our butts from outer space”…. Um, yeah.

The second is this food tent. Ruth and I had dinner here, such as it was.  For two plates of chicken fingers and two lemonades the bill came to $36!!  It was pure and simple robbery disguised as a concession. Talk about captive audience pricing!





Two other cool things happened on Saturday that deserve a mention. One was the group of young men and women who took their military oath from an officer from the Thunderbirds. It was amazing that 35+ years on, I can still remember it word for word.



And also they had a parade of veterans!  This was a planned event to have all of the veterans in the crowd march down the flight line in front of the viewing stands and the crowd. It was amazing the hear the crowd whoop and holler for these men and women who have served their country. Although I could of participated, I chose not to as I wanted to capture the moment photographically. In this parade were also a number of wounded veterans as well as elderly veterans who wanted to participate and had to be driven in golf carts.  It was a touching sight.




The evening ended up with a night airshow and fireworks display. I have never seen this before and it was quite amazing.




All in all, it was quite an amazing weekend. If you are interested in the 200 or so photos that I took, you can see them all here

Eyelight Photography

When does overnight not mean overnight?

Apologies (again)

Well dear readers, it has been a few months since my last blog entry. I promise I am going to try and get better at it.  I have, however, let life get too much in the way.  I am going to try and post at least one entry a week and to hold me to that, I am going to post at least one photo a week along with what I learned from it.  This will kind of be a way for me to remember everything that I am learning from a photography point of view.

Tilting at windmills

For this story to make the least little sense, I have to provide a bit of background information. Last Christmas season, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph the dance troupe Praise in Motion during their dress rehearsal for their program “The Gift”.  While I had a wonderful time, the images I was able to capture were not quite up to my standards. This was partly caused by the lens I was using not being quite long enough or quite fast enough (who would of thought that a 24-105 F4L was not going to cover the need?). 

The images I shot were good enough however for me to be invited back for their spring performance “One Way” and this got me to thinking what lens would I really like to own to do this? Fortunately, I was able to find a Sigma 50-150 F2.8 on Amazon for a screaming deal and decided to place the order.

Here is where the tilting at windmills comes into play. I decided early Wednesday morning to place the order and while checking out I noticed that for an additional $3.99 Amazon said I could have it the next day.  Figuring that this was worth it, I added the item to my cart and went about my day.

Thursday morning comes and I sign onto Amazon to see where the lens is in their shipping process. Imagine my surprise when it was still listed as “Shipping Soon”.  “Hmm”, I think, “this is not the overnight I paid for, there must be a mistake here somewhere.” So I reach out to their customer service line to ask what happened. And the wonderfully helpful response I got was But as you have already chooses the fastest shipping method so there is no way to change its shipping speed. As the item is in limited quantity so it is taking so much time”.

So, an item that is listed as in stock and that is promised can be delivered the next day for an extra fee isn’t going to make it. And to make matters even more interesting, there is no real interest in doing anything to fix the problem by telling me it is MY FAULT!  Wow, what a great customer service experience.

So, pushing harder, I ask if this item can be placed on urgent shipping to get it here by 10am on Friday only to get this response It has entered the shipping process and so we cannot do any modification it has been loaded on truck”.  Now I know he is playing with me because it still says shipping soon on the order status (and by verification, UPS did not get the package until after 6pm on Thursday evening. And all of this conversation happened prior to 8am!)

Continuing to push, I finally got him to refund the $3.99 reluctantly with this comment At this point I can do one and only one favor that when item will be shipped we will refund you the shipping cost by making one time exception”

So, they can screw up and then do me a FAVOR with a on-time refund of the $3.99 I paid for something that they were not able to deliver.

Man, you gotta love customer service like this!

UPDATE: after emailing this to the customer service manager, they have offered a limited $20 credit on my next purchase. This is at least something, but not near enough to make me feel better about the entire transaction.

Photo of the week.

If you’ve stuck with me thus far, you deserve to see what the lens is capable of. I present “the Dog!”

The Dog

This is my buddy Dale that I shot Friday evening with the new lens. It is quite sharp and the background dropped out nicely shooting at F2.8.  I am a little bit off on the focus as it should have been focused on his left eye, but I seem to have caught just short of that.  Now I have to decide if it is my technique or if the lens is front-focusing a bit.  More tests to come, but I love this lens!

The Sound of “OH, &$%^&"!

As you may recall from this blog, I love to take photographs. I have thousands of them on various digital media around my study. I have hard drives sitting everywhere with images piling up on them waiting to be archived. So, I guess I should not be as surprised by this as I was. About two weeks ago I heard a great crash in my study. Looking over the corner of my desk, I realized that my portable 1TB hard drive had just dropped to the floor. Dang it, that is the one that has all of my recent images on it, including one of my all time favorite sunset photos.

Trying to reconnect the drive, I heard the worst thing imaginable, nothing. The drive wont spin up and it is not recognized by the machine at all. Dang, darn and other epitaphs…

Recalling a deal from the NAPP, I contacted a firm specializing in data recovery from crashed drives. Imagine my astonishment when I was quoted $800-$3000 to recover the data.

Despondent, I decided not to recover the drive and just lose the images to fate.

Fast forward 1 week…. I receive a message from an online retailer that I use to do prints reminding me that if I do not place an order from them, my images in my online album will be deleted. Quivering with excitement, I click on the link and BEHOLD!!!! The image I do not want to lose has been uploaded to their site!  With great rejoicing I click on the button to order a backup DVD!!!  YES, JOY, WOOHOO!  The image has been resurrected from cyberspace….

So, I present it below for you to jealously peek at!

18_Desert Skies 1 as Smart Object-1

Hunting the Wild Sunset

sunset 0918

Sunset 0918-1As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a big fan of taking photographs of sunrises and sunsets around the area where I live. There is just something about the expectation of waiting to see what the sky is going to do. Sometimes you can wait for days or weeks and not get any sort of drama in the sky.

Last night was just such a case. I carried my camera along as I was playing disc golf to have a chance to shoot the skies at the end of the round. The sky was promising with the wispiness of some clouds and the puffiness of others promising a sky on fire at the end of the day. Unfortunately, there was a low haze on the horizon that kept the color from exploding across the heavens.

While others might have been disappointed, I was not. You see, I think of taking this photographs as almost a spiritual thing. The joy is not in the clicking of the shutter, the joy is in the expectation of what might be. I also take the time while waiting to just ponder all that is around me and to have a chance just to sit back, be quiet, listen and enjoy.

I wonder if I approached my Christianity the same way if I would be changed? The joyous expectation of his return is not tempered by the disappointment of not today. For there is a certainty that the waiting will be fulfilled and that someday the sky will be filled with the exploding colors of His return!

I Love late Summer Skies

One of the great curses of being a photographer is nothing escapes your notice. Here I was last evening enjoying a round of disc golf with Paul and Gerrit and just having a grand-ole time.  As we were playing, I was noticing the play of the late evening light on the landscape around us, the deer in the distance at the tree line, the lone red tailed hawk flying overhead and even the Canada geese flying towards the pond (BTW, none of this did my golf game any good!).

As we completed our round, the skies lit up with their late evening color and I started to wince internally…… Because here I was without a camera. Well dang and other epitaphs..

Then comes the memory!  I always have a camera with me. It might not be the one I want, but it is a camera none the less.  Grabbing my trusty iPhone I was able to snap off a couple of shots…

Summer Skies 3

I love the cloud play in this one…  In fact, it made me sit in the parking lot for a while to see what else the sky was going to do.

Summer Skies 2Summer Skies 1

These two photos are from basically the same spot in the parking lot and show what as little as 10 minutes can do to the sky.  At this point the sun had dropped below the horizon and the great pinks and blues replaces the yellows and oranges… You can even see the moon peeking through on the right hand photo.

Life is good when you see what is going on around you. I feel blessed every day with the gift I have been given to share what God has created with those around me.

Random thoughts of a disturbed mind.

Dear diary, it has been more than a month……

Ummm, that’s night right….  Let’s try….

Father, please forgive me, it has been more than a month…..

Hmm, that’s night right either…

Well dang.   Let’s just say, it has been more than a month since I have had a chance to drop a thought or two here. (Where has the time gone?) Lots of things going on in the McKennon household.  A church merger that wasn’t. Trips. Dinners. Weather.  Lots of different things that I could of commented on, but no! Silence.  So now, dear reader, you get to pay the price.

First random thought.

Last week I decided it was time to get my semi-annual shearing. My hair was getting a little long and the beard and mustache were interfering with eating. So Ruth and I headed to the local great-clips to get the assigned task done.  So, as I sit in the chair, the stylist asks how I want it cut.  I state, “Military style, off the ears and the back of the neck and taper it please.”  So, as I am sitting there chatting with her and hearing the snip-snip of the scissors, I notice that most of the hair falling on the nice black cover I am wearing are more white than brown… Well, just dang.  I guess this is not unexpected as my 50th is rapidly approaching..

Now for the sad part. At the end of the hair cut, the stylists states. “Let me get these stray hairs for you!” and she proceeds to trim my eyebrows (EYEBROWS!), ear hairs and nose hairs. And to make matters worse, it takes her longer to do these than it does to cut my hair!

I guess that solidifies the deal, I am official getting to be an old man!  Jeez, when did this happen.  All that white hair and then the eyebrows standing up and enough hair in my ears to braid… WOW, who knew??!!


A night time visitor

FrogLast evening as Ruth and I returned from dinner with friends, I noticed that we had a visitor at our front door. This little guy was sitting there next to the porch light enjoying the buffet that we were offering..  Isn’t he cute?

He (I assume it is a he until proven otherwise!) is only about an inch long and was very interested in getting away from my camera.  As I shot him with the flash, he pulled all of his legs in under his body and tried to make himself as small as possible.  Upon seeing that, I let him alone to finish his feast.



More of Ruth’s wonderful jewelry and a lesson learned

I have mentioned many times that Ruth has taken up jewelry and I have taken on the task of documenting her pieces. As I was unhappy with the shots I was taking (and trying to learn it on my own) I decided to watch a few videos on Kelby Training to see how the pros did it.. Let me show you what I learned…


Necklace bronzeNecklace Paper

These are both the same necklace.  See any difference?  The one on the left looks very shiny, but the eye does not really look at the necklace because of the bright spot in the middle. Although an interesting photo, it does not do the necklace any favors. (Lighting on this one was a spot light under a piece of bronze Plexiglas with a flash overhead to light the rocks.)

The one on the right is a very different lighting pattern and better shows the necklace for what it is. The background on this one is a piece of 12×12 paper used for scrapbooking and the lights are behind and to the side.  It really adds to the photo.


Necklace no front flashNecklace front flash

These two photos are of the same necklace… I much prefer the one on the right as the pendant is much more pronounced and the necklace as a whole looks more pleasing.  Same light pattern and the necklace above with one small chance.  I used a handheld flash behind a diffuser to the front of this one. So it is lit with three lights.  Amazing what can be accomplished when you think it through!


As you can see, I am still experimenting as a photographer. I am not there yet, but I continue to get closer!

Life in black and white

New Mexico Pano small

As I have continued my life’s journey into photography, I have come to realize a couple of important things. One is that I will never be a great portrait photographer, and two is that I am heading towards being a really good landscape photographer. Other photography styles such as photo-journalism, still life, studio and etc. I have not really tried yet.

This realization led to some interesting experiments during the last week. I had just returned from New Mexico visiting my parents and travelling around the state in which I took about 1,600 photographs.  Some of these were for mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary (CONGRATS!) and others were family events.

However, some of the photos were just for me (like the one above). I shot most of these with a color image in mind. However, something amazing happened when I returned. This came in the form of a class taught by Moose Peterson.  During this class, he was in Monument Valley and was taking a series of images. He was talking about what he was looking at as he pressed the shutter and how he intended to present the final image.  This caused me to take a look at a few of the images I had captured during the last week.

I was simply stunned by the difference that made.  I guess black and white will be part of my bag in the future.


New Mexico SkiesNew Mexico Desert

As you can see from this example… There is nothing wrong with the color image at all. But it is rather boring. When converted to black and white, wow!  I love the image… It gives the sense of desolation that you feel when standing there.

Character Tre Character tree B&W1a

Another example of converting to black and white is seen above. I really like the image on the left as it was something I spent 20 minutes setting up. However, the one on the right gives me a better sense of the drama of the skies… WOW!  Who would of thought black and white can make such a difference.. Same shot, but very different feeling.


With all of this in mind, I expect I will be looking at the scene in my viewfinder with a very different set of thoughts in the future.

When Mike is Ruth-less

DCF 1.0

I have been teased over the last few days about being Ruth-less. Unfortunately, it was true. My lovely bride had travelled down to visit with her parents for a couple of weeks leaving me home all alone. It is amazing the traps that you fall into when you’re married this long. As I would watch a TV program or read something of interest I would call out and find that she was not there.

It is also quite bewildering that a few days of a business trip or a weekend away does not seem to have the same effect as an extended absence. It seems as if every day got longer and longer. Any one that does not believe relative-time time has not paid attention.

I am very glad she is back safe and that we have a weekend to spend together before the start of another hectic week…

(for those interested, the photo above is one of my very favorites of my wife. She was not aware that I had the camera out and was doing her quite time studying the bible as I snapped the shutter. This image says everything you need to know about her, from the bible in her lap to the coffee at her hand…)