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!

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…)

Of sunsets and police officers

Sometimes in life, things happen that just make you smile! Last evening was just such a time. You see, my wife has been in Florida for a little over two weeks spending time with her parents and doing the daughter thing. This has left Mike alone in the house with way too much time on his hands.

Yesterday, Ruth called and said she was coming home today (WooHoo!), so to celebrate this last evening alone, I decided to head out with the camera again.

I have photographed sunsets all over this area, but there is one park that I had not used before. So grabbing my iPad and looking at “the Photographers Ephemeris”, I found the place in the park that offered the best chance for a sunset photo. Unfortunately, this did not show the tree line was going to block most of the event and that my ideas of catching the sun in the water just was not going to happen!  Oh well, But the images I did get, more than made up for it!

Lenora Park Sunset

I will say that I received a number of very odd looks from folks as they went about their play time in the park. I suspect they were wondering what the large guy with the camera on the tripod was doing and was he taking pictures of them!

Finally, one of the young mothers approached me and asked what I was doing. I had a great time showing her the back of the camera and the photos that were there.  She had concerns that I was taking photos of her kids.  Oh the days we live in.

Once the sun settled and the darkness started to arrive, I headed over to our towns center to take photos of a few buildings that are lit at night.

The first on my agenda, was the new town hall..

Snellville Courthouse

One of the great things about long shutter times is the ability to capture fun things. In this one there are two items of interest… The red streaks are cars that drove by during the 30 seconds the shutter was open. And the second is the blue sky.  Remember, it was DARK when I shot this!

30 minutes or so later, I had taken all the photos one can take of this building and I wandered into the parking lot to go home. Off in the distance I saw the steeple of the First Baptist Church in Snellville lighting up the sky. Well, I thought to myself, I’m here, let’s give it a try.

Baptist Church

And here is where the fun started. I guess that people driving down the street seeing a large bearded man in the parking lot of the local courthouse, wearing a black back pack and carrying a very odd-looking piece of equipment (my tripod) caused someone to call the local police department.

As I set up near the local cemetery for this shot and leaned over the lens the entire night lit up with blue flashing lights and a very bright spot light on yours truly.

The officer was friendly enough and just wanted to know what I was doing. So for the second time this night, I got to share the photos on the back of my camera. When I offered to take his portrait with the church in the back ground, he demurred rather quickly and likewise, when I asked him to use his light on the cemetery he also declined. Oh well, it never hurts to ask!

All of this proves is that I cannot be left alone two weeks without getting into trouble.

Oh, wait a minute, did I just mention that Ruth will be home in less than three hours???  I had better get the dishes done and the house clean before she gets home!

What the eye sees.

One of the super secret code phrases you will hear photographers use with one another is “He/She has the ‘eye’ for photography!”  So, just what in the heck does this mean anyway??  I mean, come on, I have eyes! (or I wouldn’t be reading this, you fool!)

Well, I am going to let you in on the secret. Good photographers can see the ‘interest’ in the things that most people find mundane or useless. A couple of years ago, Ruth and I were in the North NGa Mountains Fall 2Georgia mountains. With the splendor of the fall color around, and with the color reflecting off the lake, she was hunched over a parking railing taking a photo. I wandered over to see what had captured her interest, and lo and behold, she had seen this on the rail. With the grandeur around, she had ‘seen’ the simplistic and captured it.

This is all that is meant by “They have the ‘eye’”.  It is the ability to look at a scene and pull something out of it that most people do not recognize. ‘Seeing’ is also the ability to capture the viewers imagination. For example, every time I see Ruth’s image I think of fall in the mountains.  Those two leaves could be anywhere, but the mind wants them to be on rolling hills!

What about Photoshop?

One of the questions I am often asked is “Has this been Photoshopped?”  This is a very difficult question to answer because there is a lot more to the question that what is really being asked. I can categorically state that ALL of my images have been Photoshopped!  You see, I shoot in a raw format and then I use the program to convert it to a JPEG so it can be published to places like this blog or Facebook. During the conversion process, I can do a number of things to ‘improve’ the shot. From white balance, sharpening and a few other items. But, this is not what people mean when they ask the question. What they are really asking is “did you substantially change the image and does this scene really exist?”

Heart Sky

With that being the question, I am going to use the above image as part of the conversation. The image on the left is presented here with no adjustments. The one on the right is what I did during the conversion process. I adjusted the contrast, saturation and white balance. Nothing else was added to the image, I just adjusted what the sensor had captured.

You see, this is where the artistry of photography comes into play. When I stepped out my front door last evening, I “saw” the cloud formation in the sky. I immediately ran and got my camera and snapped a few  frames. Now that I have it, it is my decision how I am going to present it. This is no different than the painter who sets up the easel and starts to paint the landscape around them. It is their interpretation of what they are seeing that is important. Photography should be seen in that same light. Photography is the artistic impression of the photographer and the eventual audience will be the judge!

(One exception I want to mention is Photo-Journalism. When a photograph is being used as part of a news story it should be presented unedited in any fashion.)

What we leave behind

Waves

A few years ago, Ruth and I went to Michigan to visit my aunt and uncle and to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. It was a great time to catch up with cousins and other family that I had not seen in more than 30 years and after the end of the week, it was as if the time gap disappeared.

I bring this up because just a few short years later we had to travel to Michigan again to attend my aunts funeral. Time spent with them allowed us to celebrate my aunts life and learn things about her that we did not know before. She had a great  impact on her family and many of those in her small community.

As my life continues, I begin to understand that, like a boat, I leave a wake behind me. And like that boat, the wake can be great and crashing, or it can be a gentle lapping.

In his famous psalm, king David said that “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”.  I wonder if I am leaving that behind me or is it pain and destruction? Regardless of what other might say, how I live my life matters!

 

(for any interested, I took this photo from a pontoon boat during our trip to Michigan. What a great day on the lake!)

 

Early in the morning

 

Balloon Morning

This photo has always meant a lot to me. I took this photo early one morning at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta a couple of years ago. This fiesta draws hundreds of balloons from around the world and 10s of thousands of spectators that are all wanting to take part in some small way in the festivities. Imagine the sky filled with hundreds of hot air balloons on a cold October morning!

Now, why does this picture speak to me? You see, it reminds me of my daily life.  How is that you ask? Well, the balloon in the background is in the process of being filled to stand erect in the morning sun. It awakens from a bag and is stretched on the ground and is filled with first cold air, and then hot air from the burners. This continues until the balloon is fully vertical and ready for launch.  All that is holding it back from leaping to the sky is a few volunteers on guide ropes and the pilots hand on the burners.

Once released and the gas applied, it literally jumps to meet the day! Soaring as the wind takes it with no destination in mind. Floating along in the breeze with a skilled hand of the pilot guiding it to the destination he has in mind. Once he decides to land, skillful hands can ensure a safe landing.

You see, I think this is how I should live my life. With eager anticipation of the days flight and trusting in the pilot to guide where I go and where I land. But enjoying the sunrise and the flights of the day. I should not be too worried about bad landings or strong winds, that is not my job. It is also not my job to stay cocooned in the bag and not living how I am supposed to.  I was born to fly and I should embrace each day with that in mind (even on Monday morning! )

Who is a family?

Over the course of many years I have pondered this question. Who is your family?  Is your family only those to whom you are related to by blood? Or is the idea of family much larger to include friends and others that you know?

The faith that I follow has a very definite answer to this question; In the gospel of Mark, Jesus says;

“Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”“

This is a startling revelation! Those who are related to me my blood will always hold a very special place in my heart. To my dad on this fathers day who taught me what it meant to be a man, and my mother who taught me what it was to love.  Even my brother and sister taught me things growing up such as how to get a long when you disagree.

But as I have gotten older and have walked in my faith more and more, I have come to realize that my family is much more than those related by blood. Those with whom I share an even closer relationship than my earthly family, I speak of course of the family of saints, my brothers and sisters in the family of Jesus Christ.

So today, as we remember our earthly father and all of the good things he has brought us, let us also remember our heavenly Father and the gifts he has graced us with!

So, on this day where we celebrate the man to whom brought us into this world, let also remember our heavenly Father to whom has also graced us with good things!


DadFunA final thought

For 50 years the man on the left has been one of the rocks of my life. He has always been there for me and any questions or struggles that I have been going through.

For the last several years, our relationship has changed from a father and son to one of friends. This does not mean that I have lost the respect for my dad or the job he did raising me, just that we can now related as equals.

With all of that being said, I just have one last thing to say…. I Love You Dad!

God in the marketplace

Ida Cason Memorial Chapel

In the past 50 years or so, the United States has moved away from religion in the public square to religion is a private matter and not to be discussed. Discourses on theological matters have been deemed in-polite for genteel conversation or presentation in our entertainment. Our government and our courts continue to tell us that there is a separation of church and state and that any endeavor that is funded or regulated by the government cannot be religiously based. Our moral choices are being mandated more and more from Washington DC and not from the deity that we believe in.

This is becoming so pronounced that it was with some shock this week that I found two examples that went against this conventional wisdom. The first was in the form of a photographic blog that I read on a daily basis. Every now and again, the owner of the blog invites other photographers to post their thoughts and their works. This particular one was written by Bill Fortney who specializes in macro photography.  During the course of the blog, he talks about his love of photography, his love of his family and lastly his love of his god. One of his quotes sums up the entire post;

“now know that I’m defined by how much I love others, after all that’s what my Heavenly Father does, and by what kind of partner I am to my wife, father to my children and grandfather to my six grandchildren”

After reading the blog, I realized that he was saying the things I had been thinking and that he was unafraid to share his faith with an audience that had very little clue as to he was. (see the rest of his blog entry here – http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2011/archives/19402 )

The second instance that surprised me happened last evening at the Georgia Dome.  Ruth and I had been invited by a close friend Mike Solomon to come down and see some of what he had been working on. Mike works from Primerica as a video editor and creator and last night was a huge gathering of the sales force of Primerica from around the world (some 40,000 strong!).  Mike’s video work was displayed on the screen and tied into the overall evenings presentations.

During the course of the evening, as first one of the CEO’s and then the founder of the organization spoke, it became clear that these two men were Christians and were unafraid to speak of their faith to the multitude that was there. During his keynote address, Arthur Williams (the founder) spoke of the importance of keeping your life in balance and you strive for your goals. He summed up with saying that the order of things should be 1) God 2) Family 3) yourself. He also stated that your goals in life should allow you to focus on those three things.

In closing, the more I walk my faith, the more I believe that regardless  of what society, the media and the government tell me, my faith needs to be apparent by how I interact with the people around me.  I am not to judge people based upon their god or gods or even if they believe in god. I am not to judge people based upon the lifestyle choices, their clothing or their background. I am simply to interact with them at the human level and deal with them as if they have great worth. Just as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well, I am to deal with all whom I come in contact with respect and love.  This is not an easy thing, but it is what my belief system tells me I must do.  I need to strive everyday to live up to what I say I believe and not how the world tells me I should live!