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.)

One of my favorite things

India Waterfall

One of my favorite things to photograph is waterfalls. There are so many ways to take a photo and make it your own. From the power of the water rumbling down the drop. Or getting closer and using a longer shutter speed to make the water turn milky.

Ana Ruby Falls 1Amicalola falls

It doesn’t really matter where I am, I will search out the closest falls to take photos. From the first image that I took in India, to the second one that I shot in North Georgia. There is just something about falling water that moves me. Each fall is different. Each photo can capture a very different feeling. I can spend hours just listening to the water and enjoying the spray.

Hemlock Falls

Yep, I just love waterfalls. There is just something about them. They can be mesmerizing and make you forget the world around you (and sometimes, common sense!) Hemlock falls above was one such place where I had an absolute loss of common sense.  I wanted a better photo so I walked onto some rocks in the middle of the stream to get the angle I wanted (above). Just after I pressed the shutter I had a pedial-cranial inversion (I.E. my feet went where my head was supposed to be and vice-versa).  The image was only saved because I was using a film camera and not a digital one. Oh the things I do for my art!

Smile

Cane Creek Falls

So, if you are ever looking for me some weekend and I just don’t seem to be around… Listen for the sound of falling water and I will be somewhere close.

The power of silence

Well, here it is day 5 of my wife being gone to visit her parents and I am sitting in a quiet house. No TV’s on, no laundry machines running. Not even any sounds of anything moving. The silence stretches into hours with only the occasional sound of the refrigerator or the A/C kicking on to interrupt. It is amazing how much I have gotten used to the ‘noise of the day’. For most of the work day, you can hear me on my phone chatting with people all over the world, or the rapid fire sounds of my keyboard as I furiously respond to or create emails. But in between…………….

SILENCE!

Not that this is a bad thing, it is just something I am totally unused to. It has amazed me how much the quite around the house has impacted me and how much it has made me miss my bride. I know that some of you are asking “Well, what about the dogs??”  At their age, they both sleep most of the day now, so no help there.

So, what does one do when left alone? I could turn on the TV or the radio, but that is just masking the problem. I could also distract myself by getting up and moving myself or even (*gasp*) clean the house. But, what about just embracing the silence and just thinking? Can I spend the time pondering my life, relationships, work and the rest? I think this is a healthy thing.

So, for the next few days while Ruth continues to spend time with her parents and taking care of the issues down south, I will spend my time looking at my life and see where I am taking things for granted or where there are places within myself that needs to be addressed. I do not expect this to be an easy or a comfortable process, but one I have not done since I was in India in 2007.

I wonder where this is going to take me this time. Last time I realized I was not spending enough time with those I called my friends… Who knows where it will lead this time?

The tale of the run-a-way dog

hardy1My little buddy (on the left) decided that he was going to go walk-about today. Someone left the gate to our back yard open and this little fellow decided to make a run for it. The sad part is that I did not realize he was gone.

Hardy loves being out doors and it is not uncommon for him to spend an hour or two at a time in the back yard. So, after about 30 minutes or so I went to bring him in, just to find the back gate open.

Several things ran through my mind quicky…. 1) who left the gate open 2) how long has he been gone 3) I hope he has not been hurt 4) how am I going to tell Ruth??!!

Fortunately, after 10 minutes or so, I found him just up the street playing in a stream. And he was one muddy mess,  I am glad he is back and I hope he enjoyed his time off… (he has been back for about 2 hours and has not moved from his bed since… I think he wore himself out!)

Synergy

Jewelry

synergy: [noun] a mutually advantageous conjunction of distinct elements

One of the cool things that has happened since I started to move my photography exploits from landscape shots to the small indoor studio is how it interfaced with one of my wife’s hobbies, beading.

Ruth will spend hours sitting at a small table staring at hundreds of different beads around her and then create jewelry. So, how does my hobby and hers interact? A couple of months ago when I was just starting to understand my studio lights, Ruth approached me about taking some pictures of the necklaces, bracelets and earrings she had made. Instant Panic! I realized that I had a lot yet to learn about setting up the lights, figuring out what light modifiers to use, were gels needed, (and what in the heck is a GOBO anyway??)

However, having such a ready supply of subjects, allowed me to practice, practice, practice!

This is where the synergy comes in. As Ruth continued to grown in her hobby, she stretched me into growing in mine. The more complex her creations become, the more intricate my lighting schemes had to become.  Each of us was driving the other to get better and better at our craft!

Lastly, Ruth is going to kill me for putting this here, If you’re interested in the necklace above (or any of the myriad of others that she has available), please contact us!

Here comes the sun!

Sun Rays

Photography is one of the great joys in life. It is the way that I am able to express myself to others. It is the gift that I have been given.

I have not been gifted with the traditional art forms of creation. Alas, mine is more subtle. It is the ability to see how light and shadow interacts on the world around me and then capture that on a recording media.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not an expert or a professional. I just take photos of the things I like and those that capture my attention or imagination. Sometimes I get lucky and capture an image that others find joy in as well.

One of the downsides of being knows as a photographer is those who believe it is the equipment that allows the photograph. They see people with the big cameras and big lenses and believe that they are a great photographer. To which I say “BUNK”!! Just like the adage, “it’s not the arrow, it’s the archer!”  For example, I took the image above with my iPhone 3GS, not with my dSLR.

Lastly, as this blog continues, you will see more and more of my images. I will attempt to describe what I was seeing and feeling as I took the shot (I might even squeeze in some technical details for those interested). However, I will share in this blog a lot more of my thoughts along with illustrations from photos I have taken.

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!