Niagara!

DSC_3288-Edit-2

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

DSC_0492-Edit

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

DSC_0602

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

DSC_1424

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!!!!

DSC_5084

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

DSC_1086

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!!

 

Niagara Falls

DSC_3184

Hi everyone!  I’m back with another travel posting today.  This is from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, where my family and I spent a few days last summer.  We had a great time walking around the falls, and taking in the Canadian side of things.  It was also a sort of homecoming for my wife and I, as this was the sight of our first date back in 1988.  It was neat to walk around again, and see what had changed, what hadn’t, and been able now to share it with the Kiddos, who thought the whole notion of their parents dating was just too gross.  On this particular evening, we were up on a huge observation deck called the Skylon Tower.  I’m not sure how tall it is, but it offered spectacular views in every direction.  This particular view is facing south, back toward the US, and the city of Niagara Falls, NY.  It was blue hour while we were up there, and light was fading fast.  They were super cool about my camera at the tower, but the tripod did not make the trip up, so this was hand held.  I braced the camera against the grid work of fencing that encloses the deck to keep it from shaking, but the image is a bit soft if you zoom in.  Beyond the American falls are the lights of the downtown, and as with every blue hour, the lights had come on to accent the landscape itself.  That’s why its’s one of my favorite times to shoot. In the evenings, the falls are illuminated with some incredibly strong lights which change color.  Personally, I would have preferred all white brilliance to the disco theme multicolor, but that’s just me.

Oh by the way!  Happy Winter everyone.  Today is the first day of winter, and the longest night of the year.  Too bad it’s going to be 65 degrees (18C) here on Christmas, and the snow forecasted for this past weekend was a no show.  Things are still looking a bit green around here, but I figured I would go with the season and change my header image anyway.  I’ll talk more about them (current and previous)  in a future post.  Until then, keep warm if you have to, and have a great week.

You Can Learn A Lot from A Simple Daisy

DSC_2480-Edit

I hope everyone is having a great week.  It’s been a crazy one for me, and I’m just counting the days until the weekend.  I decided to share a simple picture today.  Just a single daisy from the summer.  Actually, this picture is a well cropped version of the original, but I still had enough info in the original to get a decent picture for my efforts. I don’t think it would print too big, but it looks good for the screen.  Hopefully, by next summer, I’ll have a macro lens to avoid that problem.

This picture is the unplanned result of a brief rain shower that left a few water drops on the flower petals.  It was strange because as soon as I noticed them, I realized it was something I wanted to photograph, but I wasn’t all to sure I wanted to put the effort in to the process.  I knew that to do it right, I would need my tripod, and possibly some reflectors, and at the time it seemed like an awful lot of effort that I wasn’t entirely committed to.  However, on the other side of the coin was the possibility of some really nice pictures, and gaining a little experience with a new subject.  I kept going back and forth, and as time went by, those drops on the petals kept calling out to me.  In the end, it was sort of like that guy in Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Tell-Tale Heart, it just got to be too much, and I eventually ran inside for my camera.  I simply couldn’t stand the thought of potentially missing the opportunity for a picture.  Actually, I had a great time trying all kinds of compositions with a few different lenses, and was glad I decided to make the effort.   I just goes to show you that sometimes the biggest problem isn’t what you think it is, but it’s actually just thinking too much instead of doing.  Anyway, I hope you like the shot.  Have a great day, and I’ll see ya all soon!

Lazy Day

DSC_2436

The summer is great for so many reasons.  It’s laid back attitude and weather are perfect for outdoor fun, and make it one of my favorite times of the year.  On this particular day, my son and I were doing a little fishin’.  We’re not really hard core fisherman, actually, we’re mostly worm drowners, but we go out from time to time anyway and have a lot of fun.  We practice catch and release because neither of us want to eat anything we catch.  We’re more of the burger and fries variety, but it’s still a lot of fun, and very relaxing, to stare at a bobber for a few hours and be occasionally interrupted by a bite.  Every so often we even catch a fish.  Not a bad way to spend a hot summer day.

Our luck this day however, was running thin, and since we couldn’t manage to catch anything larger than my index finger, I decided to just sit in my chair under this very nice pine tree, and take in the sites.  While my son kept fishing, I started making some photographic compositions in my mind of our surroundings.  Have you ever done that?  Some people even make a relative square with their hands like movie directors in Hollywood do, and evaluate the results.  I’ve read that it’s actually really good practice to do this sort of thing, and if done consistently, can help you compose your real photos better.  My favorite composition came from looking straight up, through the trees where we sat, to the perfectly blue sky above. In fact, I liked it so much, I grabbed my camera, and took this picture.  You know it was a great day of fishing when you come home with pictures…of trees!

Times Square Skyline

DSC_5275-Edit

Hello everyone!!  I hope you are all having a great week, and getting ready for the weekend which is fast approaching.  I had to work last weekend, so I am looking forward to getting this one off.  I’m hoping to get out there and take some pictures in my free time.  I thought I would mix things up a bit and put a monochrome image up today.  I love black and white, when it’s done right.  The truth is, I try to convert a lot of images to monochrome, and I am seldom happy with my results.  Color is a seductive force in photography.  It can cause us to miss the basic structure of an image as our eyes drink in all that flavorful color.  Monochrome gives us no such pleasure.  It calls on us to compose wisely, and pay attention to the tonality of the image, that is, not the color, but the brightness values.  It forces us to seek out contrast and geometric form, and capture it in a way that brings relevance to the image.  It is no small feat.  Most of my monochromes that are successful, are so because these things found themselves in the picture through good fortune, and not planning.  In other words…sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut.  I’ve been working on it though, and hopefully I’m beginning to “see” in black and white.   What’s your biggest challenge with black and white?  Do you like black and white?  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea as they say, but I love it.

My inspiration for achieving good monochrome is owed to my fascination with Ansel Adams, the Master.  He had a vision that was second to none.  Not only was he an exceptional photographer, but he was a gifted processor of his images, and used these skills to achieve his final vision for every picture he took. In fact, his teachings on vision and pre-visualization are part of why this blog is known as Vision and Pixel.

This shot is from my family’s recent trip to New York.  I posted the pano I shot in Times Square already.  This shot was taken after spending the day running around Midtown Manhattan shopping and taking in the sights.  We stopped by the hotel room the get ready for the evening’s activities, and as luck would have it, it also happened to be golden hour.  The sky was awesome, and the buildings had their sunward facing sides lit up with a golden hue.  It was awesome.  You can actually see “The Ball” that drops on New Years eve just above the Toshiba sign at the top of it’s pole.  It was an amazing view out of our 38th floor room.  I shot pictures like a crazy person whenever we were there.