Cormorants Everywhere!!

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Howdy everyone!  I hope you all had a nice start to the work week.  Mondays can be so blah after the weekend.  Especially after a busy one. Sometimes you need a day off from the weekend!!  That was sort of where I was at when my alarm went off this morning.

Anyway,  I thought I would post a picture of some cormorants today.  These guys were enjoying a sunny rock a little downstream from the base of Niagara Falls.  They seemed to be just hanging out, and had no special concerns for the time being. Cormorants are the best fishers on the planet, and they really seemed to like this rock.  If I were fishing in this area, I’d probably take a lesson from these birds and throw my line in right by this rock.  You can see the power of the current as it flows past the rock.  At different times, one or more of them would spread their wings to dry out a bit.  I must have taken half a dozen pictures trying to get one doing this in a way that looked dramatic.  This is the best result of that effort.  This was one of those times that I wished I had my 300mm lens available to me, but it was in the hotel room.  I know…that was a great place for it now wasn’t it?  I hate when I get lazy with my gear and try to travel light instead.  The result is usually a frustrating situation like this.  Sometimes I’ll wish it was like Star Trek, and I could just “beam” back to my gear, and get the stuff I needed.  Of course, this type of thinking does me no good.  It’s at times like this that I’m glad I have 36 megapixels to work with.  I probably cropped 30 of them away to get this composition.  That means that aside from a 5 by 7, this image is at it’s fullest size.

Next time, and yes, there will be a next time, I will take all my gear.  These are majestic birds, and they deserve the full potential of what my 300mm lens can do. You live and you learn.  A good lesson not only for photography, but for just about anything else too.  It’s better to have it, and not need it, than need it, and not have it.  Take care and have a great week.

Times Square and a Little….Luck?

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Hi everyone.  I really have to apologize for my extended absence.  Things have been a little crazy with work, and on the home front.  I’ve been to fencing matches, dance studios, and nearly the ER, for a possible broken toe with my daughter.  It’s been a couple of wild days for sure.  I decided to go for another Times Square post today.  Times Square is one of those places that no matter how you point your camera, something amazing is in your field of view.  On this particular night, we had finished eating a little further uptown at Ellen DeGeneres’s restaurant where all the waiters and waitresses are Broadway musical hopefuls, hoping to be discovered.  Trust me, this place takes the singing waiter to an entirely new level as the wait staff perform songs from all the big shows on Broadway, while serving your food.  It is a super fun time, and the food is awesome as well.  Anyway,  we had eaten a late dinner, and were walking around Times Square checking out all the shopping venues.  Naturally, my daughter had some strong opinions there.  At one point, as we crossed the street going between these stores, I literally stopped, pointed the camera up the street, and grabbed this picture.  I can only imagine what the cabbie was thinking as I stood in front of his car to grab this shot while the “Don’t Walk” sign began to blink.   No prior planning was involved, and it turned out to be one of my favorite pictures of the whole weekend.

Photography, is funny like that.  Sometimes you spend 10 minutes standing with your camera trying to compose a picture, and never quite get the look you’re trying to achieve.  Then, other times, you stumble bass-ackwards into something that really stirs you and strikes a nerve. When it happens, you don’t know how to feel about it.  You’d like to take credit for a great photo, but you know it was the result of unseen variables that miraculously aligned for you.  Call it luck if you will.  I once had mentor who didn’t believe in luck.  He always said that you make your own luck, but I’m not so sure.  A point to ponder; I guess.  All the best.  See you soon and be well.

Dreamy Waterfall

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Well, it’s time for a little experimentation.  I have been fooling around with photoshop a little bit trying to create a “dreamscape” type of shot.  You might notice that some areas of this picture are kind of blurry, and some are in relatively crisp focus.  It’s an effect I’ve seen out there and I really like it.  Some would call it a painterly effect, but I don’t really think that’s what I’m going for.  I’m sure that if you asked 10 photographers how they achieve their unique effect, you’d get 11 different answers.  Mine involves Gaussian blur in one layer and a high pass filter effect for ultra crispness in another layer.  Then I used a layer mask to paint blurriness in.  I used a reduced flow brush to put more blur in some areas than others and believe me, lots and lots of use of the history tool to erase all kinds of mistakes.  Overall, I’m pretty ok with the end result, but I reserve the right to work a little more on the technique.  I’ve heard of photographers taking two different pictures to create this same effect.  Each picture set at a different aperture for a different depth of field, or two completely differently focused images.  This might be a great idea, however, I had no idea I was going to try that with this image when I took it; so I only had the one image to work with.  I’ve also heard of people using textures to achieve this effect.  Like I said, 10 photographers, 11 answers.  If you’ve ever tried this sort of thing let me know.  That is if you don’t mind sharing your secret sauce.

A quick note about this picture.  It is, of course, of a waterfall.  As I’ve said before, waterfalls are one of my favorite subjects.  I took this image at Rickets Glen State Park, which is a short drive from my home.  I’ve posted waterfall shots from this place before, and I have plenty more to share. There are a few dozen of them in the park.  It was late afternoon, and a really hot day.  Some friends of ours from the UK were with us, and we happily obliged them in a quick nature hike along a cool stream.  Later that evening, we roasted marshmallows and made them speak with American accents!!  It was awesome and hysterical!!!  Almost as funny as our British accents, that is!!

Cat Tails in Monochrome

DSC_1426-EditToday, I thought I would post a picture of some beautiful cat tails that I stumbled upon in the early spring last year.  The late afternoon sun was hitting them just right with a beautiful golden light.  I’m not sure what made me try to convert the image to black and white, but when I did…Wow did it pop!!  All the areas where the sun was hitting the reeds was suddenly in sharp contrast to the underbrush and surrounding trees.  If you’ve never heard of the term “happy accident” here might be a great example of one that really made my day.

I’ve read several books on black and white, aka Monochrome, and almost every one of them talks about “seeing” in black and white.  It’s a painful admission to make, but I must admit, I do not see in black and white.  I’ve read all that stuff about studying form, and recognizing contrast within a scene, and I guess it’s just one of those gifts that some people have, and others, like me, read about.  I often take a picture with the desire to convert it later, only to find when I do, that it simply doesn’t work.  Some, like the picture above, really take me by surprise.  I have long admired the work of Ansel Adams, he is a hero to me.  His calendar adorns a wall in my office every year.  His ability to use previsualization of a scene, and then to capture it using the zone system as an exposure guide, is a talent that borders on clairvoyance.   It is a skill I have chased for more years than I am willing to admit to.  I have not gotten there yet, but I will not give up the chase.  Even if it takes the rest of my life.  Of course, for me, this is a hobby, so in some ways that is a wonderful prospect to consider.

All the best,  and Happy Valentines Day!!

The Fence

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I’ve not showed this picture to anyone yet, and I’m slightly concerned that you might think it is a black and white shot; but it isn’t.  Honestly, this particular morning was one of the densest (most dense? ugh grammar) fogs I can remember.  The light was super soft, and with all this white around, it’s hard to differentiate the snow on the ground from the sky.  Everything melts into one sublime space. Gotta love it!!  Interrupting it however, is this broken stone wall fence and a tree.  The sensor in my camera just couldn’t handle this very well, and so I sent the snow to white, and the rest got underexposed to near silhouette.  This is the result, a fake black and white.

I drive past this scene everyday on my way to work, and literally for years I said I would take this very picture.  I can’t tell you how many times I’d driven past it in some spectacular light, or a weather condition that would make for an amazing picture, and I just kept driving to work.  I would shake my head and say, “Some day I’ll take that picture.”  There’s a certain complacency with photography around your own home.  After all, the tree wasn’t going anywhere, and after over 20 years of looking at this fallen down rock fence, I knew no one was planning on fixing it anytime soon.  That doesn’t mean you should take it for granted either.  I call these kinds of pictures “Some day shots”.  The ones you have filed away in your subconscious. Then one day, it all came together.  I was off, and this fog had settled in over everything, and I knew the rock fence was calling to me through the fog.  Ironically, the very road I drive on as I pass this tree would have been in the picture if not for the thickness of the fog!!  Anyway,  get out there today and take one of your “Some Day” shots.  Or, if your not into photography and you’ve stumbled onto my sight and are reading this…   First, welcome!  Second remember that everyone has a “Some Day” something.  Make that Some Day today!!  Good Luck!!  All the best!!!

Still Goin’

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Wow.  What happened to last week?  Have you ever been so busy that you just bounce around like the silver ball in a pinball machine, just doing what is in front of you, and barely taking a moment to look up from your work?  Then, when it’s all over, you wake up and realize you’ve briefly lost touch of who you are.  Just about everything had taken a back seat to your work for the past week or so, and the non- work you had somehow been suppressed out of existence.  Well that’s the week I just had.  I woke up this morning and remembered the non-work me.  The Dad, husband, photographer guy, and I had to wonder where the past week had gone.  Actually, I had a great weekend last week.  I spent it in a 100 year old cabin in the woods with a bunch of friends watching the snow fall at a furious pace.  At the height of the storm, I laced ’em up as they say, and went for a long walk.  Unfortunately, because of the week I just had, I still haven’t gotten the shots off my camera but I’ll share them with you as soon as I can.

Today’s picture is from the summer obviously, the tail end of what appears to be a pretty good season for these guys in the flower bed.  I was drawn to their grizzled look.  The bees had long since had their ways with these flowers, and had moved on to better prospects, and now they were left to be scorched by the late afternoon sun.  Well past their prime, they all seemed to still be hanging in there, with an admirable never say die kind of attitude. I kind of liked that, and thought it was worthy of a picture.

 

A Fond Remembrance

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Ah, remember when we were all wondering where winter was?  At least those of us in the North Eastern US anyway.  Our warm, and mostly dry fall, gave us a beautiful show with the leaves, and many gorgeous days for long walks to enjoy them.  But alas, those days have left us behind, and we are now in the throws of winter.  Our first major snow storm is about 24 hours away, and the crazed dash to the supermarket for milk, bread, eggs and toilet paper has begun.  In that light, I thought I would post a fall shot of some Creeper Vine doing what it does best on the side of a Birch tree.  This vine is a photographer’s best friend in the fall as it turns yellow and then red early in the season, and stays that way until long past Halloween.  I found a superb specimen on a walk this past October, and spent a little time trying to capture it in all it’s creeping glory.  A wide aperture allowed for a nice blurry background of yellow leaves and blue sky to compliment the reds.  It was a great day to be alive, and an even better one to be outside.  I’ll remember this particular afternoon when I am shoveling the show we are predicted to receive in the coming days.  The weather men have fired everyone up pretty good, and called for between 1 and 24 inches of snow.  It’s a pretty good bet they’ll be right.  It must be great to talk to you boss in terms of probabilities.  Anyway, have a great weekend whether you are expecting snow or not in your part of the world.  If you do get some of the white stuff this weekend, remember to lift with your knees, not your back as you shovel.  And of course, take some pictures!!!  All the best.

Niagara!

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Today I thought I would offer you an odd angle of Niagara Falls.  So often we see them from above, but this shot is from below.  When my family and I went there this past summer, we shelled out a few bucks to partake in the “Journey Behind the Falls”.  That last bit should be said with a loud bellowing echo type of voice.  All kidding aside, this was an awesome experience and my kids especially loved it.  Even better, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction, so I took my camera out from under the supplied “spray coat”, a glorified piece of Saran Wrap, and got a few pictures.  This one is near the base of the falls looking up.  The right hand portion of the shot is actually looking “behind” the falls where sheets of water endlessly spray out.  It was a vantage point I had not seen before and felt kind of special seeing it this way.  It took a fast shutter to freeze the falls in this manner, so I was glad for the sunny day to make it happen.  Good times!!

As I write this, I’m warming up with a hot cup of tea after a short, but sweet hike through a local park.  The recent coating of snow, and some nice sunrise color were calling, and I couldn’t resist the urge.  Especially after my wife said, “It looks pretty nice out there, why aren’t you out taking pictures?”  She knows I disappear in the morning after the kids get off to school, so off I went.  It’s funny how when you start out on a snow covered trail, there are so many footprints you can’t make any sense of them, but as you hike further on in, the tracks diminish slowly until you’re the only one out there.  It was a welcome Zen moment shared with a few Chickadees and Blue Jays.  I could hear some Phoebes and Woodpeckers but couldn’t put my eyes on them.  All in all, a great morning before I head to work later.  Right now, I’m staring at my camera waiting for it to come back up to room temp so I can check out my results.  I hope to share them with you soon.  Have a great weekend.

Frozen Cat Tails

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The pond near my home, which has been a constant source of inspiration to me for over 20 years now, never ceases to amaze me.  Every season, and every weather condition, presents to me a photographic composition just begging to be immortalized on film.  Or, on an SD memory card anyway.   The ice on the pond can be pretty thick in winter, and I’ve seen a few hearty souls out there ice fishing in weather I would never consider venturing out in.  I guess this says something for the lure of fishing for some, and the lure of photography for me.  Never question the commitment of a fisherman.  These few cat tails, which withstood the harsh winter of last year, still held some semblance of their former summertime selves in early spring.  The shoreline of the pond is rife with them during the summer.  So much so they dictate where the fair weather fishermen, such as myself, can stand.  In the winter time however, they have all to do to remain upright.  I can assure you though, just a few short months after this picture was taken, they were back again, laughing at the fishermen who cursed them.

I apologize for the lack of posts lately, but I have a trick neck.  Medically, its called a herniated or bulging disk at C2 and C3.  I call it a painful waste of my time.  I  went through a few months of physical therapy last year, and it was nothing short of miraculous.  It reversed the numbness and tingling in my fingers, all my arm pain, and restored mobility to my neck.  Then last week, while getting into bed and pulling the covers up over me, I popped something, and its all back.  Fortunately, nowhere near the degree to where it once was, and my exercises from PT are making for a quick reversal of symptoms this time.  However, looking at a computer screen was just not in the cards for a few days.  It will be chin tucks and ibuprofen for me for a few more weeks I fear, but at least I know what to do this time.  I also haven’t taken a picture for almost a whole week.  Perish the thought!!  It’s good to be up and around again, so hopefully, I’ll get back on schedule.  All the best to you, and I’ll see ya soon!!

Finally…RIP, David Bowie!!  Thank you for the volume of music you have inspired me with over the last 40 plus years of my life.  This is a true story.  Once, back in the 90’s, a copy of ChangesBowie somehow got stuck in the single disk, CD player of my 1992 Honda Prelude.   I consider that such a great album, it was nearly a year before I finally decided to get it fixed.

Snow Pines and Winter

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What was that old cliché?  Be careful what you ask for?  Everyone around me has been complaining and asking, “Where’s winter?”  Well…we found it.  Or, it has found us.  I may have mentioned that where I live, Christmas eve was nearly the same temperature as it was on July 4th.  We had a high of 68F (20C) on December 24th and a high of 69F (20.5C) on July Forth, but that has all changed.  Last night’s low was 5F (-14C).  That’s quite a change, and it came with a little bit of snow too.  Now everyone is complaining that it’s too cold.  Oh well, such is life. It reminds me of another old cliché…you can’t please everyone.

This shot is actually from last winter while I was out walking near my home.  It was a fun walk as I recall, with a little bit of snow crunching under my feet as I went along.  A light snow had fallen, and the wind was absent, so the snow still lie where it had fallen.  There was just a little snow on the branches of this pine tree, and I thought it made a great picture.  So, I did my best to capture the moment.  For my efforts, this was one of my favorite shots of the day, and I actually used it as the wall paper on my desktop for a while.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Speaking of wall papers and computers.  My old PC is showing signs of heading off to the great silicon valley in the sky, and I’ve been toying with going to the dark side. Yes, I’m thinking of getting a Mac.  There I said it.  I was in one of those notorious big box retailers over the weekend looking at those  gorgeous 5K retina displays. I actually went to my own website to see what it would look like  That felt weird, but I have to say, I was impressed.  (With the monitor not the website, well maybe a little with the website but anyway…) I kept my site up on the screen as I left.  Was that a bad thing?  Some gratuitous self promotion?  If you have an opinion (on the computers), I’d love to hear from you.  Have a great day.  Is it only Tuesday…?