Category Archives: family

My Photographic Niche

If you’ve followed any of my work you’ve probably noticed by now that I am hooked on a few subjects.  Landscapes have always been a passion of mine.  Military aircraft, especially WWII Warbirds on display in an air museum or an air show are something I really enjoy.  But lately I’d have to say that my niche is black and white photography.  It’s not that I’ve lost interest in my other photographic interests, black and white has just taken a front row seat.

One of the benefits of black and white is that I can still work on my landscapes and also the aircraft.  Since I shoot about 95% color (I do switch the camera over to black and white occasionally), I have the best of both worlds.  It’s after I’ve taken the shot and have it available for post production that I can begin to transform it.  Sometimes when I’m out and working a scene I can even picture it in black and white. Ansel Adams described this as previsualization where he defines it as “the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure”.  This may sound a little corny, but it works for me.  There are some scenes that just seem to cry out to me – “black and white”!

Here’s an example.  This shot is of the Imperial Beach Pier, just south of San Diego.  Whenever I’m down in the area I try to make a sunset photo side trip.  I was trying out my new Sony RX100 and got lucky to have a very pretty sunset.

Not bad, and I think most folks would probably just leave it as is.  But there was just something about it that made me wonder what it would look like in black and white.  I think the result gives this shot a completely different mood.  It’s been transformed from light, colorful and even cheery to dark, moody, and somber.

There’s one more aspect to my black and white obsession, and that’s adding a vintage look. I’ve been fortunate to have access a family travelogue from the early 1900’s. The book is called “Around Arizona” and chronicles my great-grandparents and very young grandfather’s 1000 mile journey around a very rough and wild Arizona. Being over 100 years old it’s not in the best shape and I’m in the process of scanning all of the pages and copying the photos. I’ve always admired vintage photos and like to study them to try and duplicate their unique look and feel. Having access to some that have a direct family connection is just icing on the cake.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

As you can see, this photo is far from perfect. It’s faded, scratched, blotched, etc… etc… And I think it’s absolutely perfect with all of it’s imperfections. Looking at it takes me back to simpler time, when there were no superhighways, no air conditioned cars, no fast food. Photography was very primitive compared to what we have today. The camera my great grandmother used for this shot was an Eastman-Kodak No.1 Pocket Camera. It used A-120 roll film and had an autographic feature that allowed the photographer to actually write a note on the back of each frame of film using a little stylus.

That’s enough history. My point in sharing all of that is to say that I use this as my inspiration to further transform some of my photos into something similar, something with that same vintage look and feel. I’m not always entirely successful, but I enjoy the challenge. Here’s one of my more recent images:

To sum it up, I’d say that black and white, including vintage images have more character than those technically perfect shots that are cranked out today. There’s nothing wrong with a perfect digital shot that is flawless down to the last pixel, but most of them lack character, or a soul. A photo doesn’t have to be perfect to convey a feeling, a mood, or tell a story. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with those that want to create that technically perfect image. I’m just going in a different direction, towards my niche.

If you like black and white photography and want to see more, check out my new Black and White Gallery!

That’s it for this post. I hope you find your photographic niche! Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Masterpiece or Snapshot?

As someone who sometimes struggles with photography, I often ask myself this question – does it always have to be a Masterpiece?

Little dog on the ocean

Above – Clancey looking out of the boat on Morro Bay.  Panasonic GX-1, Olympus 14-42mm lens, settings – Automatic!

Take the image above for example.  This was a very spontaneous moment of our little dog Clancey, looking out from our rental boat on Morro Bay.  Things happen very quickly when you have 3 little dogs, especially when you introduce them to something new, like a moving boat!  I didn’t have time to both drive the boat and fiddle with camera settings, so I set my Panasonic to Auto (gasp!) and grabbed the shot.  This may come as a shock to those purists out there, but sometimes it’s ok to use Auto.

Here’s another example:

Motorhome Dogs

Olympus E-P3, settings – the exif data says f/3.5 and 1/100th sec. and Manual.

The photo above is another of those moments that come quickly, and if you want to capture the moment, you just do it.  Having all 3 dogs sit patiently together doesn’t happen often and I wanted to grab this moment in time.  Playing with camera settings and trying to get 3 high energy dogs to sit still would have been impossible.

My point to all of this is that there’s room for both Snapshot and Masterpiece.  When doing family things, like walking down the beach or going on a boat ride, I’m personally more interested in capturing the moments.  Making memories during family time is more important than creating a Masterpiece.

If you’re on a family vacation, it’s still possible to step away and try to create your Masterpiece if that’s what you want to do.  My time for “real” photography is either very early in the morning (I don’t call it “Up At Dawn Photography” for nothing), or late in the afternoon/evening.

I find this works best for me.  I’m not boring others with my fussing and fiddling with tripod, filters, and camera settings and don’t feel rushed.  It’s just me, the camera and the scene I’m trying to capture – looking at the scene from different points of view, adjusting settings, or just experimenting, it’s all good!

Here’s  a shot when I was out by myself:

Morro Strand

Morro Strand State Beach, Olympus E-P3 with Panasonic 45-200mm lens.  3 shot HDR image.

This is late afternoon/early evening on Morro Strand State Beach.  The sun was setting fast, and even though it was July, the temperature was quite cool.  It would have been uncomfortable for others, but I was so into capturing the scene, I really wasn’t aware of the weather.  I had time enough to shoot this scene with multiple exposures and slightly different points of view.  Is it a Masterpiece?  I’m sure that’s debatable, but I like it!  I’m sure that my results wouldn’t have been as good had I felt rushed.  As patient as my wonderful wife is, it would have been insensitive and selfish to subject her to these conditions.  That’s why it’s important to have the time alone, it allows me to try and be creative.

There are a few times where you can mix both Snapshots and Photography.  If you’re smart, you won’t take too much time away from the family by getting carried away with trying to create that Masterpiece.  Here’s an example:

On the beach, Montana De Oro

Above – Snapshot with my Panasonic GX-1

Montana De Oro State Park

Montana De Oro State Park.  Olympus E-P3 with Panasonic 45-200mm lens and Vari-ND filter.

The 2 images above are from our visit to Montana De Oro State Park.  This is a wonderful place full of very dramatic rocky shoreline.  You can see my audience in one of the photos.  Since I had 2 cameras with me, one of them was setup for this.  My Panasonic GX-1 had the 14-42mm lens and it worked perfectly to pull out of the bag and grab this shot.  My wife and 3 dogs were very patient while I made the image above.  I probably took longer to do this than I should have, and do feel a little guilty about it.  I really don’t like to have people waiting on me (or feel rushed).  But it turned out ok and I got 2 great shots (the 1st, a Snapshot, the 2nd a sort of Masterpiece).

While the image of the rocks and blurred water may or may not be a Masterpiece, it satisfies my creative side.  The shot of my wife and dogs has much more value to me.

To wrap this post up, I’d say to find the balance between grabbing those memories (Snapshots) and creating Masterpieces.  It’s ok to do both (even if you’re a serious photographer).  Satisfy your creative needs and make that Masterpiece but don’t forget to create some family memories too!

That’s it for now, until next time – Happy Shooting!

What this site is all about.

I’ve been thinking about this, what I’m doing with a blog and now a website?  Good questions, I think.  So, I thought I would try to summarize it since I sort of started fresh by moving from Google’s Blogger to my own website (with WordPress).

First things first, I love photography!  And I think I know enough to share a few things that might be useful to others.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do it in a way that makes sense.  Now that doesn’t mean I won’t completely stay away from technical terms, but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum, and explain it in a way that won’t have you wanting to leave.

If you’ve taken time to look through some of my previous posts, you’ll see that I like to take images that may have looked like they were destined for the trash can, and work them into something you’ll want to show off.  What that means is that I’ll show you my dirty laundry, and how to clean it up.  One of the things that you learn as a photographer (at least as a serious photographer) is to only show your best work.  I’m going to break that little unwritten rule to help you!

Another thing you’ll notice is that I love the outdoors and nature photography.  The great thing about photography is there are so many different things to take pictures of and so many ways to go about it.  While I love photographing nature, I also enjoy taking pictures of my family, and also things with motors that go fast and make a lot of noise!  All of these things will be included in an on-going basis, including the good and not so good.  Even if a photo can’t be tweaked into a usable snapshot, there may be something that can be learned from it.

I’m going to close this post with an image I made about 8 years ago using a Sony Cybershot DSC F707.  I wrote a little about this camera in my last post.  This shot is from an early morning photo session at one of my favorite places, Mono Lake’s South Tufa.

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