Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Practice

Busy weekend. Lots of chores. Too many things to do.

Sound familiar?

I saw an amazing scene in the backyard, and I took a 15 break with my camera today.

That's all I needed. I let my creativity loose and found a satisfying outlet. And I enjoyed it.

I just have to remember to keep doing that. Stop and smell the... photos :-)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Editing Day

Today is editing day. I have some free time, finally, and I'm plowing thru Big Bend photos.

Editing, or "post work", is a chore, but I actually enjoy it. Having your face glued to a computer monitor all day is a requirement. But at least the view is scenic :-)

Look for new photos in the coming weeks!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Your state of mind, while photographing (or as I like to describe it: engaging in a serious photographic process), is important. I've talked about this before many times. I've described my process and how I photograph in previous posts here.

This has been in my thoughts lately as I often think back about my recent trip to Big Bend. In the few weeks prior to leaving Houston, I was engergized and excited. I had ideas flowing through my head. I felt inspired.

But I feel that it all ended on my first day out there. One major component of that was getting sick. I remember driving south on Hwy 118 to Study Butte/Terlingua and feeling a horrible amount of sinus drainage turn on in the back of my throat.

I've always had bad sinus and allergy issues. When I get sinus drainage, it's usually the first sign that bad times are coming. Congestion, headaches, fever, and fatigue all show up and make my life just miserable enough to keep functioning but operating on a minimal basis. And it always lasts for a couple of weeks.

So I had that going on in Big Bend. When it came time to shoot, my head was filled with thoughts of whether or not to break it off and go see a doctor, what meds could I take to help the situation, and wanting more sleep. Being creative and letting the inspiration come through and engaging in a serious photographic process just seemed to not happen.

The other issue, as I mentioned in the last post, was that I was detached from my usual photographic mindset due to lack of practice. I stayed terribly busy through most of this year on various projects (non-photographic) and had my head in other places for so long that picking up a camera seemed almost foreign.

Then there were the mishaps. Two flat tires, lost camera batteries, and a very close rattlesnake encounter that put a huge dent in my ability to walk about the desert while feeling somewhat safe.

I have a hard time dealing with stress-inducing events. It's difficult for me to engage in an activity with total focus if other parts of my life are out of sort. To use a phrase by Robert Jackson , if my mind is full of barking dogs, I have a very tough time getting them to quiet down or at least tuning them out for a short period of time.

So what does all this mean at the end of the day when it comes down to my photography?

After looking through all my photos from my recent trip to Big Bend, I'm not all that impressed or satisfied. Sure, I enjoyed my time out there. I'm happy with some of my work.

But I do not feel that I've progressed in my art nor have I explored or employed my full creative ability. In fact, when I sit down and really think about it, I've let my photography go stale over the last couple of years.

I feel that when I go out and shoot (despite enjoying it) I'm just reacting to scenes somewhat passively and following through old, comfortable territory. I.e. I'm shooting the same type and level of work that I've been doing for the last several years. The scenes may change a bit, but my thoughts and processes of engaging those scenes photographically are pretty much the same.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. You could argue that if I enjoyed it, then mission accomplished.

But I have, or I feel that I have, a creative energy... maybe energy isn't quite the right word... my head sometimes seems full of ideas and inspiration that needs to be properly harnessed. I need an output that channels what's in my head and lets it flow into form by means of visual communication (photos).

I don't feel that I'm being too hard on myself. But I do feel that I'm somewhat cheating myself if I don't allow the creativity to come through.

On a practical note, I have been doing several things in the past month that I think will help.

1. Blog more. That's what you're currently reading :-) I initially envisioned a post-a-day, but I'm actually happy with activity every 2 or 3 days. And I have no goals for the content other than it shall be something related to photography. Photos, ideas, locations, gear, news, etc.

2. Practice. This is a very easy concept. All it takes is time. Just get out and shoot!

3. Slow down and smell the photos. I rarely look at photography (from others) these days. I need to start doing that again. For example, I let my subscription to Lenswork lapse last year. I always enjoyed that magazine. I'm thinking about re-subscribing.

4. Personal changes. I'll not go into that here. But I do know of something that I can change in my lifestyle that will make a huge impact on my mindset and creativity. And I'm working on it. Maybe someday I'll work up the courage to describe the details here.

So if you're asking yourself why am I writing about all this and going to all this trouble, then the answer is that I want to be happy. I want to enjoy my photography and be satisfied with the results. And I want to effectively express my creativity.

Whether or not anyone likes my photos is no longer important to me. Perhaps that's a subject for a whole other post :-)

Sunday, October 20, 2013


The benefit of regular practice is one, huge thing I missed on my recent trip to Big Bend. I just haven't shot enough this year to keep my skills in good shape, and I definitely felt rusty out in the field.

I realized this forthcoming situation in the weeks just prior to my trip, and that's when I made the decision to become more engaged with my blog here.

It's a positive cycle. If I practice more, then I'll have something to blog about. If I blog more, then I'll need something to blog about (e.g. the results of practice.

Of course 2 weeks isn't enough time. But I was hoping to turn it into a habit.

Glenwood Cemetery in Houston is an interesting place. I spent the morning there with my friend, Wes. We both went to practice.

I don't think either of us had high expectations, but there's enough subject matter there that we can find something good to shoot and engage in a meaningful photographic process.

The whole point, again, is to keep the photo skills up and going, I.e. seeing, identifying, shooting, operating the camera, and post work.

Although at this point I don't need anymore images to work on :-) I have a ton from Big Bend waiting on me!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Film Scans

The film that I recently sent to be developed is done and on its way back to me. The place I used (The Darkroom) did a quick scan and put them in an online gallery.

This shot is one of the scans. I did some minor processing in PS Touch on my phone.

The scene is of Closed Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park from earlier this month. This spot is close to where I lost my camera batteries. This was taken with a Canon EOS 3 film body and shot on Kodak Ektar 100.

Anyway, when I get the negatives back, I'm sure I'll have a few posts on the photos and my method of scanning them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mobile Image Editing

Producing images on the go has been made very easy with apps like Facebook, Google+, and Instagram. But putting content online in specialized locations, such as my blog, takes a bit more work using a mobile platform.

The real work is preparing the images.

I was using the Photo Editor app. It's free and has a pretty good set of tools for basic editing. I recently bought the Adobe Photoshop Touch app. It has about the same tool set, but it does layers. This may not be terribly important for most photo editing (considering this is regarding relatively, down and dirty quick edits). But it is essential for what I've just done...

The example below takes you through a simple blend of two exposures. This was made possible by using the layers feature in the Adobe Photoshop Touch app.

Those two photos, one exposed for the sky and one exposed for the foreground, are a classic set up for a simple blend using layers and selections and opacity sliders.
The above pic shows you the app in action. It takes some getting used to. Instead of text descriptions, the tool sets are represented by little icons. If you are familiar with Photoshop, then this will make sense... well, some sense at least.

I found myself fumbling around quite a bit. But I'm confident that with some practice, I can efficiently use the app.
The final result is above. It's not perfect, but it's good enough for efforts on a mobile platform and will give me the opportunity to post more often, especially when I'm away from my home computer.

The other aspect of all this is learning how to do work like this from an app-based, touchscreen environment. Like it or not, computing technology is all heading that way (just like optical viewfinders disappearing from new camera models, but that's a rant for another day...).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Daily Photos

Just trying to engage in photography on a daily basis.
I have a new phone, and I'm getting it set up to post just as before.
And I'm still fiddling around with editing pics on a mobile device.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Film to Develop

My film is now off to be developed. I shot 4 rolls in Big Bend, 1 roll of the kids at home, and 1 roll is a few years old. I put it away and forgot about it, but I believe that there are Big Bend shots on it.

I'm really curious about the Ektar. It's supposed to have fine grain and warm colors. It's a color negative film, and has more dynamic range than color slide film.

Anyway, this is a bit of an experiment and completely for fun. I'll post info later on about how I "scan" the negatives.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Constant Companion

I've been meaning to post this for a long time now. About a year ago, I purchased a Sony RX100. I wanted a high quality camera that was truly pocketable. At the same time, I bought an EyeFi SD card.

This post isn't intended to be a review of this equipment. You can find tons of reviews online. My quick summary is that both devices work as indended, and I'm  very pleased with them. The image quality of the RX100 is superb for what it is.

I want to focus on purpose and result and also the effect on my photography.

I got this set up because I was dissatisfied with the camera in my cell phone. I wanted to be able to take better quality photos and have them transferred to my phone immediately. The camera in my HTC Inspire phone is pretty horrible. It's far worse than my first little point and shoot digital from 12 years ago.

Having the RX100 in my pocket (on most days) has allowed me to capture things when I feel the urge to and to produce a decent quality image file (especially in low light scenes).

It has also worked the other way around. Because I have it, I am more likely to shoot and engage in photography.

The other impact is that I share photos online (Instagram and Facebook) quite often.

I feel better connected to photography on a daily basis, and I feel that, simply because of the photographic "exercise", my photography has gotten better. (well, at the very least, it hasn't gotten much worse)

I'll keep this short. But I just wanted to highlight what an impact this little bit of equipment has had on my photography.

Note: The last three photos in this post were shot with the RX100.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Equipment Loss

A few days ago, when I was shooting in Closed Canyon, I lost the batteries from my camera.

The battery grip on my camera holds two Li-Ion battery packs on a removable tray. The tray is captured and held in place by a latch mechanism. It is a single point of connection, ie there is no secondary latch or catch to hold the tray in place.

The camera had been functioning fine. I had not dropped it or jarred it. I had been gently working my way down the canyon with the camera and tripod.

Without warning, the tray and both batteries slid out. They clattered down the slickrock and into a deep pool of stagnant water. It was too far down and too deep for me to attempt to recover. It just wasn't safe.

I cannot figure out how it happened. Fortunately I had the alternate battery tray (holds 6 AA's) back at the hotel. It uses the same latch mechanism. I played around with it and could not recreate the accident.

I've contacted Canon. Their response is for me to simply buy a new one. Since the battery grip is out of warranty and the tray that failed is gone (ie cannot be inspected), they won't take any responsibility.

I can see their side. But I think they should have at least offered to check out their design and look for latch failures in other circumstances.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big Bend - done!

I'm home now and very happy to be here. My last few days in the Big Bend area were spent in Big Bend Ranch State Park.

I had to deal with multiple flat tires, 100° heat, lost camera batteries, a cold, and a rattlesnake. It quite wasn't the "trip from hell", but it wasn't very easy either.

I'll have loads of photos and stories in the coming days.

Edit:  I'm sorry for the poor quality photos that I've been posting. I've been managing it all from my phone (reviewing, editing, posting) and I never realized how bad the pics looked until just now on my home computer monitor. I'll need to play around some with my mobile photo editor (on my phone) and see if I can get the output to look better.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Big Bend day 8

The days are blending together. This trip is passing by quickly. We are having fun. Since the national park is closed, we are focused on Terlingua and also Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Clouds have finally moved back in to break up the clear skies we've had for the last several days.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Big Bend day 7

Big Bend National Park is closed. Our group is shut out now.

The nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park lives in the shadow of the national park, but the state park is also very beautiful.

These are from Closed Canyon in the state park. It's a neat location to explore.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Big Bend days 4 & 5

We've been busy exploring the Big Bend. It's been fun, and I'll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Recognize what's in the last photo? :-)