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.)


The pedial-cranial inversion aversion

High Falls

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a thing for water falls. High Falls state park is about 1.5 hours south of Snellville and I thought with Ruth out of town, this would be a great time to head down there.

Because waterfalls are very difficult to shoot in the bright daylight, I wanted to shoot these fall just as the sun broke the horizon and illuminated them. With that in mind, a 4am wake up call was in order. This was to allow me a chance to feed the dogs and get breakfast myself and still be down there for the 6:30 sunrise.

Arriving at the park, I was surprised that I could not get in. All of the entrances were barricaded (as it turns out, the park does not open until 8am). Not to be deterred, I found a convenience store that was close and parked in their lot. Strapping my backpack on and carrying my tripod, I began the mile descent into the valley.

Arriving at the bottom, I was able to walk into the creek bed and avoid most of the moss strewn rock and ensure I had good footing.

High Falls 1

Unfortunately, I was not paying attention as I was heading for this shot and stepped on a wet spot causing my left foot to slide. Deciding this was not a good thing, I looked for solid footing for my right foot rather immediately and also stepped on a wet spot. It must have been quite the sight seeing a rather large man ice skating down the falls. Fortunately, I was able to keep my balance and recover enough for the shot. Unfortunately, I was in a difficult place to get out of. Setting my dignity aside, I crawled out hands over feet to get back to dry land!

Blue Heron

The Heron of Doom!

This fine fellow took a few years off of my life this morning. It was just at the time of pre-dawn and the entire world was still in black and white. I was bent over my tripod peering through the view finder when I hear a “WHAAP – WHAAP” behind me. Standing up and starting to turn around, this guy zooms about a foot over my head and then veered into this tree.

How I avoided messing my pants, I am not sure. After several minutes of staring at one another, he decided that I was not anything to worry about and then flew into a pool to do his morning fishing. Through out the morning, he would fly over me and then into this tree to watch what I was doing. It was quite a bit of fun and I feel privileged to have spent the morning with such a fine fellow.

 

 

Integrity when no one is watching.

Another side story on this morning. I have mentioned that I parked in a convenience stores lot this morning as I was taking my photos because the park was ‘closed’. As I was leaving, I stopped into the store to buy a diet coke and I offered the cashier $5 for parking in their lot. The owner of the store refused this, but told me that she greatly appreciated the fact that I had offered it. After spending a few minutes chatting with her and the other patrons of the store, I headed across the street to the park office. With this being the 4th of July, there were a number of people there renting camping spots for the weekend.  After about 20 minutes, my time finally came. I told the women behind the counter that I needed a day pass for the park. She panicked looking for this pass. When I told her not to worry that I was leaving and just wanted to pay for my time there, she gave me a really strange look. She then said that in the 8 years she had worked there that this had never happened. I explained that I had arrived at the park before it had opened, used it’s facilities and wanted to be sure that I had paid.

She accepted my money with dis-belief and as I was leaving I could over hear her talking with her coworkers and her boss about the incident.

All this tells me is that when a man lives up to his personal integrity, the world notices!

High Falls dam


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!


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!