A Ray of Light

Wow, it’s been along time. I can’t believe I haven’t posted in over a year. It’s amazing how so many things creep in and steal your attention. This time of year always brings me back to the blog however, because it is nearing the anniversary of when I started this endeavor. I’m a bit sentimental, plus I’m reminded of this because of the bill WordPress sends me for my automatic renewal, which arrived a few days ago. Not only that, but this is easily my favorite time of year to get out there and photograph the world. The trees are turning, and an early morning hike through the woods takes on a magical tone. I was out the other day and managed to grab this shot of a singular light shaft as it made its way through the trees. This time of year, the trees not only change color, but the sun is at nice low angles in the sky as well. With the leaves falling, the sun makes its way deep into the woods, under the canopy. It’s an amazing time to be a photographer. Make sure you find a moment to take it all in; you won’t regret it.

DSLR vs Mirrorless Part II: My Experience

When mirrorless cameras came out there were some photographers who jumped right on board and sang it’s praises incessantly.  To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled.  I don’t know why exactly.  I guess it was because I didn’t like people dissing my beloved DSLR, and the thought of “upgrading” was not one I was very fond of.  I’m not stubborn, but change was not in my wheel house this time around; especially with some of the notable short comings with the early models that I mentioned in part one of this blog.

Then something happened.  I had committed to a two week hike with my son as part of a Boy Scout experience at a place called Philmont.  It promised a two week trek through the back woods of New Mexico, waking with the rising sun, hiking several miles over mountains and through canyons to the next camp site; day after day for two weeks.  A total of 89 miles, 2 summits, and a host of other cool stuff (like a fossilized T-Rex track).  All stuff photographers drool to be a part of.  The only problem is you take everything you need for those two weeks and carry it on your back.  While tents, rain gear, and sleeping bags are part of the necessary equipment, 10 pounds worth of camera gear is highly discouraged. It was time to shop for another camera.

I poured over the potential alternatives and mirrorless kept coming up as the natural answer. I wanted the ability to shoot RAW, a fully manual camera so I could choose, ISO, shutter speed and f stop, and interchangeable lenses in a small, lightweight form.  That eliminated DSLRs and most point and shoots.  Either too heavy or not functional enough.  I scoured reviews of all the usual suspects and settled on a Nikon J5.  In short, it had all the functionality of a DSLR, and the whole thing including camera, lens and battery weighed less than the walk around lens I attach to my D810.  I wasn’t cheap but I got one.

Overall, I had a great experience with the camera.  It was super convenient to keep out at all times, held in place by a carabineer that I could undo in less than 2 seconds to grab a shot when I wanted.  I took close to 1000 pictures and went through  2 and 1/2 batteries in the process.  Not bad.  My pictures looked great, and I can honestly say there is no way I would have taken so many pictures with my DSLR because it would have been stowed most of the time.   Many of the advantages of mirrorless besides weight and size were also appreciated.  Such as super fast focus, high frame rate, and an articulating screen, something more DSLRs are starting to have, but not at the time of this hike.  My biggest complaint was the low light performance which left me hoping for more.  At the end of the day however, I was pleased with my choice and still use the camera today when I’m doing stuff with the family, and don’t want to be weighed down by my big D810.

I have one more post to do on this and I promise to get it out soon.  I just want to talk about the current state of mirrorless and where I think this is all going.  I’ll also discuss why mirrorless isn’t necessarily lightweight or compact anymore.  In the mean time, I’ve included another shot with my mirrorless  J5 that I took while on my Philmont hike.  This is the Maxwell trail camp at Sunset.  I hope you enjoy it.  Until then…All the Best.

Is it Good?

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We’ve all been there.  The moment we complete our work, and we take a step back to take it in.  Then comes the question.

Is it Good?

I think as artists we all try to determine if our labors have earned our approval.  But I submit that all too often we are determining the answer to this question from the wrong point of view, and the question we are asking ourselves is a lie.  That is, that all too often we are really asking, “Will anyone else think it’s good?”  And in that we have the true rub.  We are judging our own work through the eyes of others, and trying to determine if we will win their approval.  Let me just start by saying, that while I am guilty of this, as we all are to some degree, I have begun to realize the answer to whether or not I have obtained everyone’s artistic approval of my work, is becoming less important to me.

As artists, we all seek approval from others, but I submit to you, that we must each have an inner satisfaction to our efforts as a fundamental necessity of our pursuits.  This applies across the artistic spectrum, from writing, to painting, to sculpture and yes, photography.  Art needs to be free, and an expression of what we each choose to express, not what we think others want expressed.  This is a step that requires great courage and vulnerability, but in the end, having the approval of others without feeling fulfilled ourselves, leads to empty success.  There are countless expressions for compromised art, from adverse influence to just plain selling out.  Sometimes you need to pay the bills, but when we pursue art on our own terms we find it’s purest expression.

Satisfaction in our own work, on our own terms, does not come easily at first.  We long for acceptance, but as we grow more confident of our abilities, that sense of fulfillment in our achievement comes more easily.  I have begun to find this happy place with my photography, and it has elevated my pursuit of this hobby.  It comes with practice, successes, and many failures, but the road is fun to look back on, if only for a moment, until I cast my gaze forward again.  Because as anyone can tell you, there is no room for comfort in art either.  Comfort leads to stagnation, and a lack of growth…but that’s a story for another day.  Enjoy my shot of a walk in the woods, on a sunny day.  I am pleased with the picture, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say, I hope you like it!!

Until next time…all the best…John

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!