Refinement

Here is an example that illustrates two concepts in composition. First concept is picture within the picture. Sometimes a perfectly good image includes another good image within it.
Second is refinement; studying what you are looking at and understanding what exactly is igniting your creative fuse. In this case it was the light on the hull. Through a series of images that gradually excluded non-essential elements, I arrived at the second photo shown below, which is entirely about (1) light and (2) texture.

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Tall Ships

After some financial wrangling, the tall ships did come to Boston, though there were a few oddities. If I understand correctly, there was no formal parade of sail. And a few of the tallest ships were berthed at piers that were frequently closed to the public.

With weather forecast for sunny skies, Tom S and I arrived at South Station shortly after 7am to catch some good morning light. However, our plans were soon foiled as we discovered that the Fish Pier and World Trade Center pier were entirely closed to the public until 5pm. After conversations with several police and pedestrians, we opted to take the water taxi to Charlestown Navy Yard and so achieved some nice images from out on the water. The attached image shows the Kruzenshtern as the water taxi came around the World Trade Center pier.

In Charlsetown, we were among the first group of people to board the Picton Castle and Bluenose II, before the crowds and long lines formed. USS Constitution, permanent resident in Charlestown, was undergoing major renovations, but still earned a very long line of eager spectators. We skipped it, thinking it is here year round and there is no need to wait in line today.

By 11am, the light was harsh and we called it a day. Shooting film that morning, Tom dropped off his film at a local lab where it was processed within a couple hours. Though I was shooting digital, Tom beat me to the punch, posting a couple of scanned images in email before I could complete my digital workflow.
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Kodachrome is dead; long live Kodachrome

With the increasing dominance of digital photography, the demand for film has been ever decreasing (but not dead). It is amazing that Kodachrome endured to 2009. While most color transparency films are developed via E6 process, venerable Kodachrome films are not. So, Kodachrome is both a film and a developing process.

Having experimented with a variety of films during the late 1980s and early 90s, I preferred Ektachrome over Kodachrome. But more importantly, for the outdoor images I typically shoot, my favorite film was not Kodak at all but rather Fuji Provia.

“In 20 stunning photos, the glory of Kodachrome comes through in the work of Fortune’s distinguished photographers.”

http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2009/fortune/0906/gallery.kodak_kodachrome.fortune

In 1973, Paul Simon wrote:
Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
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Windows vs Mac -and- Nikon vs Canon

Windows 7 will be available later this year and most reports agree that it is the operating system that Windows Vista should have been.

Considering Mac OS X and Windows 7, some people dare to say that the culture war between Mac and PC has now become somewhat moot. Feature-for-feature, Mac and PC are now entirely comparable. It’s akin to the culture war between Nikon and Canon cameras. Those people who maintain extreme brand loyalty usually do so because of experiences 10 years ago and not because of objective comparison.

If you’re looking to buy a new SLR camera, and you already have some Nikon lenses, you will likely buy a Nikon. Same goes for Canon.

f you’re looking to buy a new computer, and you already have a software and accessories for Mac, you will likely buy a Mac. Same goes for PC.

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Social media – reality vs hype

Personally, I know friends and family who tenatively signed up for social media, such as Facebook, at the urging of someone else, but ultimately do not find it compelling. Worse yet, for some people, social media is simply more noise in their already busy lives. Yet, many many writers online continue to promote social media as absolutely essential for modern living. So … what is the disconnect here? Is it reality or hype?

The primary disconnect lies in how different people use social media differently. There are millions of people who use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc just for fun, posting videos of their family vacation, or exchanging thoughts on matters that endure for mere minutes to maybe a week (then forgotten). Then there are tens of thousands of small buisiness owners who are trying to maintain their professional identity or “brand” on the internet. In truth, there is a broad spectrum of users. Most people do not have a critical interest in promoting themselves online. Most of the talking and writing is being done by people whose buisiness involves internet services and/or media, particularly independant contractors, consultants, and small buisiness owners who rely upon clients or simply fans. But if you sell tires at a local auto mart, “social media” is mostly hype.

In a recent blog post, photographer Jim Goldstein made some very good clarifying points regarding social media, particularly for visual artists. He contrasts different types of online networking. Static web sites are oriented around posting content, to which viewers might possibly leave comments or ask questions. Blogs are a part of that, perhaps encouraging more reader feedback. Podcasts are similar, though there seems less of an option for leaving comments/feedback. Discussion forums provide more of multi-person conversation, where participants can periodically pop in and see if anything interesting is being discussed. Although Jim does not mention it, there is another style here, the digest; a forum may optionally send to you a digest topics that interest you. Ultimately, down the far end of the spectrum, you end up at Twitter, a gumbo of communication streams that never stop.

“The interesting thing about Social Media and how to get the most out of it is to change ones mindset from merely posting content, but to talking to your target audience about your content.” – JG

My own perspective is that all these tools are just that, tools. Not everyone needs every tool, though some writers seem to suggest it is so. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, Twitter is probably not for you. And if you’re looking for work, Facebook may not be the most effective tool.

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Trillium

Here is a very different type of image from Katahdin / Baxter State Park.
 
 
Both painted trillium and purple trillium are common in the northeast forests and both have a very small window of time during which they bloom, maybe three weeks. Purple trillium are more difficult to photograph because the flowers have a nodding presentation (the flowers droop over and face the ground).
 
 
What always catches my eye is groups of these flowers. Typically they are solitary plants, so a cluster of them is a nice find. For this shot, I used a wide-angle zoom lens with an extension tube. Without the extension tube, focusing distance is perhaps 14 inches. With the extension tube, I can get much closer to the flower, reducing the distance about 50%.
Canon 5D mk II, ISO 400, f/14, 1/6 sec (on a tripod of course)
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Katahdin

While Mt. Washington (New Hampshire) is the highest peak east of the Mississippi, the terrain of Mt. Katahdin (Maine) is clearly the most challenging “hiking” that I have ever seen (excluding technical “rock climbing”). Before hiking up to the Knife Edge via the Dudley Trail, I thought perhaps carrying a tripod might be a hinderance, so I left it at camp. In retrospect, this was a prudent choice; the Dudley is more rock climbing than hiking. I am not typically afraid of heights, but this trail gave me the creeps!

Atop the Dudley Trail is the infamous Knife Edge between Pamola Peak and Baxter Peak. Having now personally traversed the Knife Edge, I must tell you that words cannot do it justice. It is the most dramatic landscape I have ever seen in the northeast USA; beyond that, I am at a loss for words.


It is widely reported that Mt. Washington is home of the world’s worst weather. Truthfully, many mountains have the same weather; they just don’t have an observatory at the summit to record the facts. At Katahdin, when the weather turned bad, I left and went home.
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Backpacking and Photography

Carrying a lot of heavy camera equipment on an overnight hiking trip … is a little crazy. It’s just too much weight. For a three-day backpack trip, you might need to carry 35 to 40 pounds of food, clothes, and camping equipment. Add to that 8 to 12 pounds of cameras and lenses, then another 8 pounds for a tripod, you are then carrying 60 pounds. I do not recommend it. That being said, I will do it on occaision to photograph remote locations.

But how to carry all this stuff? “Photo backpack” sounds perfect, but truthfully, these things are designed to carry camera equipment and not much else. Photo backpacks cannot carry all the food, clothing and camping equipment for overnight trips. A hiker’s backpack is necessary. I use a large backpack, stuff a camera bag inside of that, then make daytrips from camp, carrying only the smaller photo bag.

In the past, my camera bag on these trips has been a waist pack plus a small day pack. In fact, the LowePro Orion AW actually comes with both (at least mine did years ago). The waist pack allows fast access to camera equipment without removing a pack from my back.
For my upcoming trip, I will be using a Kata 3N1. This bag quickly converts from a two-shoulder backpack to a one-shoulder sling. On top of that, it has a small compartment at the top, just big enough for lunch and a jacket. Compared to the Orion AW waist bag, the small 3N1-10 is about the same capacity, while the larger 3N1-30 has twice the capacity and still provides fast access to equipment.

My large backpack is an old Kelty Super Tioga external frame pack. Because most hikers today use internal frame packs, most don’t realize that an external frame pack is still a good option in some cases. Some people seem to believe that external frame packs are relics from WWI and no longer manufactured today. Of course, this is false. Just as an example, the ancient and venerable Super Tioga lives on in 2009, though the name has changed. I recently ordered a replacement hip-belt for my Super Tioga, which simply is not possible with an internal frame pack.
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Custom Photo Book

Years ago, I collected a series of photographs into a photo book, just a few copies for family. I printed the images myself on double-sided photo paper using a photo-quality inkjet printer. The book covers I made by hand from heavy weight board and book cloth from a local arts supply house. It was a very personal gift and I would have made more if it were not so labor intensive.

Today, making a custom photo book is much easier. Several online photo services provide the ability to layout the book and upload it for printing. I chose MPIX, having compared their product to a competitors product. The resulting book looks terrific. But what really amazed me was how fast MPIX produced my book. It was in my hands just 24 hours after I uploaded it! They printed the book and bound it within a few hours and shipped it the same day.

Creating your own custom photo book is so simple anyone can do it. There are varying options such as size, choice of paper, hardcover vs softcover. My book project included 20 images, 10×10 inch pages and a black hard cover with soft suede-like feel, for just $30. Adding a couple lines text to the cover cost an additional $7, which seems like a lot of money when you consider that this is almost %25 the cost of the book it is printed on. Alternatively, a hard cover with photo on it is $50 total for the book. Soft cover with photograph on it is less expensive.
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Wedding shoot

Having been making photographs for many years, most of my work has relied upon available light. However, in photographing a wedding yesterday, I employed some artificial lighting techniques.

I rented a PocketWizard remote flash setup and also a better flash than what I own, both from LensProToGo. Unfortunately, testing the equipment the evening before the wedding, the PocketWizard transmitter failed. While this is certainly not as bad as discovering a failure an hour before a shoot, it was stressful none the less. Fortunately, I was able to make a long detour on my way to the wedding and pickup a replacement from LensProToGo. The moral of that story is: make sure to get rental equipment in your hands (and test it) a few days in advance of your shoot; if there is any problem, your supplier has time to ship you a replacement

During the actual wedding ceremony, I relied upon available light. After the ceremony, with more time and freedom of place, we staged some photographs with the bride, groom, wedding party and parents. For these staged shots, I primarily chose electronic flash bounced off a reflective panel. A small light source (e.g. flash pointed directly at your subject) can be harsh with specular highlights and hard-edged shadows; the reflective panel creates a larger light source, which creates for a more gentle light, reducing specular highlights and softening shadow edges. Having the flash on a remote stand allowed me to change my camera position without needing to move the reflector.

It was a very lonnng and tiring day. Late at night, reviewing the images on the camera LCD, there were definitey some issues, but I was most concerned with apparent bluriness. However, the images looked much better once I got them onto a desktop computer display.

For information on wedding photography, I recommend the training videos by David Ziser at KelbyTraining.com. KelbyTraining allows anyone to sample the first few video chapters for free; subscribe as a member to see all chapters.

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