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…?

Years and Years

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Hi everyone.  It’s great to see you again.  I thought I would post something in line with the New Year starting today, and I came across this picture which I took on a hike a few months ago.  It was just before sunset, and even though we were underneath some heavy tree cover, the golden light of the sun managed to sneak through and illuminate this felled tree edge on.  It was perfect for seeing all the rings representing the many years it had been growing.  Obviously, the limb was deliberately cut.  I see this often when hiking a few days after a big storm.  This guy probably came out on the loosing end of a heavy wind gust, and came down across the trail.  The park ranger must have cut it up, and left it to the elements.  I’m sure there will be mushrooms all over it next spring.  I tried to count the rings, but found I will need an upgrade on my eyeglass prescription before that happens.  It’s somewhere around 20 or so, I think.  Not exactly a General Sherman Redwood, but no less important in my book.  It had seen a few New Years come and go, sort of like all of us.

For 2016, I want to concentrate on making the work I do count for something.  I want to balance my time properly so work, and leisure activity, each get their fair, and necessary share, of my efforts.  If you like, you can join me in one of my “First 100 Day Plans”.  This year, that is April 9th, because of leap year.  I’ve formulated a few tasks I would like to complete by the 100th day of the year.  Here we go:

  1. Stop drinking Soda…Forever this time
  2. Lose 20 pounds…that’s less than 2 pounds a week
  3. Establish a routine where I hike/photoexplore (my own word) a least 3 times every 2 weeks.
  4. Take this blog to the next level, with more posts and tutorials
  5. Finish reading the Harry Potter series…I’m stuck on Goblet of Fire, and I refuse to watch the movies until I’m done!!

To be fair, I make a separate list for work, but I’m sure you could care less about that, so I’ll leave it out.  What do you say?  April 9th?  Make you own list, and get cracking.  Whatever you choose to do, or not do, have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year, and I’ll see you back here soon!

2016!!!!

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Happy New Year to all!!  I thought I would post a picture of one of the most popular places to ring in the New Year.  This is a shot from the Marriot in Times Square, where my family and I were fortunate enough to stay earlier this year.  As we were checking in, the extremely cheerful worker at the front desk asked us if we wanted to upgrade our view.  An interesting proposition, and one I was not prepared for, but I had my camera with me, and cameras go nicely with upgraded views.  She noticed that we were in the city to celebrate a birthday, and saw we were intrigued by the whole notion of the upgrade, even if it was an extra $150 a night.  She quickly volunteered that there was no better way to celebrate a special event, and that she could probably get us a “Ball Drop Room”.  ‘Nuff said…we went for it.  So we rode the elevator up to the 38th floor, found our room, and as we entered, we were greeted with the view you see here.  We all stood in front of the floor to cieling windows like stupid fools with mouths agape for 10 minutes.  Instantly, we knew we had made the correct decision.  We actually considered skipping our dinner reservations just because we wanted to stay here and watch the scene below.  Take my advice on this, if you’re ever offered a Ball Drop Room at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square, take it.  Unless of course, it’s actually New Years Eve, because this same room goes for $6000 on that night.  That was the other selling point the desk clerk used while we were making up our mind about the upgrade.  She simply stated we were getting one of the best views in the hotel for over a 90% discount!!  Now that’s salesmanship at it’s finest.

Anyway, have a happy and safe New Years celebration, no matter where you choose to ring in 2016.  I will be home with my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I will be making plans for 2016 over the next few days.  We’ll see where that goes.  I resolved for 5  years to start this blog, and it finally happened at the tail end of this year.  Progress to be sure, but a little slow.  Maybe I can do better going forward.  As for the holiday, I wish you each a happy 2016, filled with many blessings and good fortune.  All the best!!!  We’ll see you soon!!

Winter is here…sort of

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I suppose this post could have been named, “Header Image Fail”.  I tried to use this as my header image, but based on the layout of the elements in this picture, there was no way my theme would crop it without covering up the main subject.  Namely, the barn!!  I tried several ways to accomplish what I wanted, some cursing was involved, but ultimately, I changed the picture.  Technology!!!!

Upon raising the white flag to CSS, I decided to use this image for a post instead.  I would love to say that this is a scene from this year, but it is not.  It’s currently raining, and very green outside my window.  This is a shot from last winter.  It was late in the season, and a fairly warm morning, with a heavy fog on the winter’s blanket of snow.  Believe it or not, there is a nice little pond just beyond the barn, and some rolling hills, but none of that was visible on this particular morning.  I will shoot anything in fog.  It renders your subject in a most sublime setting, and I love the minimalistic profiles it creates of your subjects.  I especially love bare trees in the fog.  As I’ve said before, bare trees are probably my most favorite subject to shoot.  Put them in a foggy setting, and you’ve got a double whami.  It’s always fun to play around with your camera settings to get all different interpretations of the light.  Exposure value and white balance changes, even subtle ones, give your pictures a wide variation of looks that are ready either for the gallery wall, or the trash bin.  Remember though, don’t delete in the field!!  Take them home, and look at them on the computer screen, and learn what different settings did to the overall look of the image.   Long story made short, its fun to experiment, and since this is the digital age, there’s no worry about how much film you’re wasting.  Technology!!

Last, but by no means least, this is such a blessed and important time of year for so many faiths and beliefs, however you choose to celebrate the season, I wish you and those you love, all the best.  See you soon!!