Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shore Birds in Rain Squalls

I enjoyed spending a brief overnight in New Bern, NC, with brisk but enjoyable winter weather.  However, during the two daylight hours that were available to me for photography, it was dark, raining constantly, and there were heavy, gusty winds.  So of course I went out into it with a weather-resistant camera and telephoto lens, because the shore birds have to eat, so I was sure I'd see some.

I started by shooting gulls that were sitting in the water, bobbing in the waves.  Once, I saw one dive to hunt for something, but I saw no sign of a catch.

I did get to practice follow-focusing on birds in flight, in tricky conditions, between the rain and mist, resulting dim light, and backgrounds that sometimes were more contrasty than my subjects.

This is what the lens looked like when I was done.  I had already dried off the camera body when I thought to get an iPhone snap of the drenched telephoto.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

I try to let this sleeping dog lie, because she's so cute and it's a pleasure to watch her.  There's no risk following an accidental awakening, though.  Ziva can snap to alertness in a second, and is well tempered even then.

Even more impressive to me is how dogs and cats can fall asleep in a few seconds when the opportunity is given them.  I sometimes wish I could do that in the middle of the day, then return immediately to wakefulness and be refreshed and fully functional.  There's no app for that!

[Canon 5D Mk III, 35mm f/2 IS]


Bridge To Nowhere

From today's dog walk/photo hunt:

Fallen trees over Crabtree Creek.

[iPhone 5s]


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Either/Or...or Both?

Today I was able to maneuver myself to a vantage point that gave me a view of the underbelly of my favorite bridge along the Crabtree Creek trail.  I show you two versions of the resulting iPhone photo.  The first is essentially an accurate representation of how it looked to my (biased) eye.

The second is  how I react to this decaying structure and the encroaching vegetation.  It is simply a black and white conversion of the same photo.  I minimized the luminance of blue and tweaked the influence of other colors, much as if I had shot through a very dense red filter.  This is why the sky appears black.  There are similarities to the look of infrared capture, but IR film or IR digital capture would have rendered some things differently.  I adjusted the color response to yield the structural emphasis that I wanted.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Emotions evoked by art, and the emotions of the artist

Today was a beautiful day, moderate temperatures, and a Saturday (so that many people with "normal" jobs - unlike mine - were free).  Our window of opportunity for a hike was noon to 1:30, and as you might expect, there were quite a few people, and their dogs, sharing the Crabtree Creek Trail with Ziva and me.  In spite of this contrast with our trip yesterday, when we were almost alone, I made two photos that I felt showed solitude, and even a sense of loneliness.

Revisiting the site of one of yesterday's images, I was intrigued by the strong shadow of the bridge, and allowed myself to become a part of it.

Does that look like a lonely person?  Maybe it just looks like a photographer with a phone camera in hand.  I can't really judge the effectiveness of my own works, but I will observe this: many great composers have created music which elicits powerful emotional responses from listeners.  Sometimes the feelings correlate with things we've all experienced in our lives - sadness, elation, longing, tenderness.  However, the composer is no more likely than not to have been feeling those things while crafting the music.  Having been there at some previous time is sufficient.  I'm sure the same thing applies to great visual artists.  Could Picasso have painted Guernica without being intensely personally moved by the horror of what happened?  Undoubtedly not.  Yet I think that in a lot of cases, a very moving painting results from an artist's memory, or wishes, or pure imagination.

I make no lofty claims about the rudimentary photos that I do to document my frequent walks, but I do think of some of them as art, simply because they are a way for me to explore my thoughts and share things that can be difficult to articulate.  Today has been a very happy day for me, so far, yet I felt like creating some images that I would not describe as happy.  Because I could!


Friday, February 6, 2015


Sometimes I get so swamped with work as a violinist that I feel I have all I can do to keep up with basic chores, and there isn't time to work at photography (otherwise, I would do some photos virtually every day).  I thought today might be pretty much like that, but one of my responsibilities was to exercise our dog Ziva.  No, it wasn't going to be some brief little stroll, Ziva had designs.  We had about two miles of the Greenway trail almost entirely to ourselves on the outbound journey. We hiked for two hours and forty minutes.  When I'm wandering outside for that length of time, the only thing that could keep me from trying some shots would be the total absence of any kind of camera.  I guess that makes me addicted, right?  Anyway...

After crossing over Crabtree Creek, we passed a swamp that I wanted to elevate to the status, or at least appearance, of an exotic landscape.

We recrossed the creek at a second bridge, and found a peaceful view that lent itself to a quasi-vintage approach to image processing.

From there, it was a pretty straightforward return journey for me, though Ziva had the fun of seeing a few walkers, joggers and bikers.


Thursday, February 5, 2015


This is how it sometimes feels in the backstage bowels of a concert hall that presents an upbeat, sophisticated view to the audience.  The colors are not true to life, nor does this represent how I was feeling.  I love the life of a concert musician!  It's just an attempt to (figuratively) contrast the work performers do with the experience the listeners/viewers have.  A metaphor for fill in the blank!  Perhaps a concert transporting the listener to a location within the mind.  I think I'll coin another word - metaphoresis.

[iPhone 5s]


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Finally Putting It Out There

Some of the flowers that showed signs of blooming a month ago are now actually opening for business.  I wonder what insects are the usual pollinators of these Lenten roses.  I'm sure there's sufficient insect activity in this winter season, although it's not nearly so obvious to us as it is in spring and summer.

I shot these hand-held, lying on the ground, with a 100-400 mm zoom at its longest focal length and minimum focusing distance.

The second shot is cropped just a bit.

One more of the flower in the first shot, with a slightly different vantage getting some sky through the trees in the background.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Fifty Million Shades of Grey

Today was sort of a black and white day.  I would say a gray day, but that sounds disappointing, and there are actually infinite shades (forget fifty) of gray (or grey if you live in the UK).  The overnight rain diminished, then stopped, and mid-morning seemed like a perfect time to cover a few miles on foot.  The sun was out for awhile.  Then, when about two miles from home, I noticed that the cloud cover was again pretty dense.

Sometimes I have an almost "corvidian" propensity for being riveted by something "shiny", by which I mean not literally a shiny object, but anything visually unusual, alluring, or transitory.  Thus, I can become fascinated by changing cloud formations, yet not reflect on the probability that they indicate a need to seek shelter soon if I wish to avoid a soaking!

If you've randomly looked at a few of my blog posts over the past three months or so, there's a good chance that you've seen narratives that revolve around exercising our dog Ziva (and myself) while looking for photo opportunities with no heavier equipment than my iPhone.  Between the rain-soaked terrain and dappled sky, I saw texture and tonal possibilities that I would love to have captured with a larger format camera.  So in a way these are sketches that I hope to bring to more complete form at a later date, but everything is always changing, which means my little iPhone shots will remain unique.

Here is where I probably should have been thinking "ok, time to turn around and head home, pronto!"  Instead, it was "Wow!  Cool clouds!  I can frame some nice shapes here!  Give me a moment, Ziva!"

Vertical or horizontal?  It only takes a few seconds to try both.

We kept going.  At the mid-point of our trip (a boulder with a view of the lovely Crabtree Valley Mall parking deck), Ziva played queen of the hill.  Photographically, I had to leave this image full color, because color is the only thing that clearly separates her from the background.

We did start for home then, and made it about two miles before the reprise of rain began.  We didn't get soaked enough to spoil the experience.  Ziva just had to put up with having her muddy feet toweled off.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Birds Before Sunset

I was able to get to Shelley Lake today about an hour and twenty minutes before sunset.  The light was pretty good, and I hoped to practice shooting common birds in flight.  Unfortunately, even the gulls and Canada geese were pretty scarce, and almost none were in the sky.  The larger birds which often perch on piers were taking off when I arrived.  I did manage, with my very first shot of the day, to catch one in an interesting position.

This colorful duck got close enough that I could get a tight headshot (with 600 mm on the camera).

From a particular angle, the water strongly reflects the color of the foliage behind it, which turns it into an incredible golden hue.

Three geese approached from the west, flying in formation, and circled over the east side of the lake and toward the north.

The trio flew by the impressive waxing gibbous moon, but they were "lower" in the sky.

Exposing for the very bright moon made the sky appear darker than it actually was, but enabled me to show all of the detail that is actually more apparent when the moon is at an intermediate phase than when it is full.  This is because the sunlight is striking it "from the side".  The effect is much like a side-lit landscape, where textures are emphasized.  The craters are almost three dimensional.

Here are the same three birds coming in for a landing:

 With a lull - or more like a total cessation - of flight activity, I did a little playing with an abstraction of shapes in a stairway.

After awhile, I moved to another area, where I saw some more possibilities beginning to develop.

Three runners, to go with the three geese, entered my field, so I used them in my composition.

My main interest at this point was in the amazing tiers of color that developed in shallow channels of the lake.  I got a few shots of ducks playing in the area, then called it a day.