Monthly Archives: November 2009

Nature Photography, Falling In a Creek, and the Nikon D700

First let me say, having an opportunity to help the Alabama’s Forever Wild Program through my photography is a privilege and an honor.  My personal situation in that regard took a bit of an unfortunate turn yesterday  afternoon (11/28/2009).  My intentions were to capture more of the beauty of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve with my camera.  The water was beautiful and I was working at the edge of Turkey Creek in an area of rocks and rapids.  It was very early in the process and I had only taken a few shots.  As I moved to look at a different view of the scene, my Nikon D700 camera with my Nikkor 70-300mm VR Zoom lens attached, mounted on my tripod leaned just enough to tumble into the creek.  My instinct was to get the camera as quickly as possible, to try and save it, to avoid losing it completely.  Into the creek I went, flailing as I slipped on the slick rocks.  Luckily I managed to get a hand on the tripod, pull the camera out of the water, and after falling a few more times, I made it to the shore.

My clothing, my hiking boots, my jacket, and of course my camera were completely soaked.  Slowly I gathered my camera bag and trudged back to my car.  Fortunately I had a large beach towel, a pair of jeans, a shirt, and a pair of running shoes in the trunk.  Fortunately I did not get seriously injured in the several falls in the creek on the slick rocks.  It did require me to change clothes in my car, all the time hoping nobody would come by at just the wrong moment and have me arrested for indecent exposure.

Once in dry clothing, the first thing I did was call Beth Young.  My thoughts were that Beth was an experienced veteran of almost every possible situation and could give me an idea of the chance of salvaging my camera.  It turns out I was right, she understood the situation and basically told me that the camera was a total loss.  Less than a year ago, I purchased the D700 at the Wolf Camera store in Homewood.  It occurred to me that I had bought the extended protection plan when I purchased the camera.  From the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, I drove directly to the Wolf Camera store in Homewood, AL where one of the employees (Chris) confirmed Beth’s diagnosis and my worst fears, the camera and the lens were a total loss.  The protection plan will help ease the expense, the camera will be sent to Nikon USA where it will either be repaired (doubtful because of the degree of water damage) or replaced.  The lens was not so lucky because I had not purchased an extended protection plan for it.

The best estimate they could give me was that maybe I would hear something from Nikon in 12 weeks or so.  Until that is resolved, I will have to focus on photos I have already taken and work on learning some new skills on processing and work flow.  In normal circumstances, I would probably look at purchasing another camera body to use now and have as a back-up later, and I would also probably simply replace the lens.  Unfortunately, I was downsized back in March from my job as IT Director that I had held the past nine years for a company in Birmingham.  So, money is very tight, the job market is very tough, and I don’t have the flexibility I would have had when I was working.

The camera now becomes part of the waiting game I have been playing since I was downsized.  Nikon will decide what will happen and when I will have a camera again.  The zoom lens is a casualty.

If I had to offer any advice from my experience, it would be a few things.  Buy your camera equipment from a reputable camera store, purchase the extended protection plan, always have an emergency kit in your car (clothes, etc.), try not to shoot alone in remote areas,  If anyone has any influence with Nikon, I would appreciate any effort to expedite Nikon’s efforts for my camera.  Photography is my creative outlet.  Photography natural areas for environmental and conservation efforts is something that I believe is important.

 At this point, I am hoping for some breaks to go my way.  The road has been a bit rocky since March 2009.


Upside Down?

Reflection photographs interest me for many reasons.  Recently I have been doing some work with manually manipulating all of the settings and focus on the camera to explore some new areas.  One of these areas involves a number of photographs of scenes reflected in water (e.g. lakes).

Before anybody gets overly excited, we are not likely to be solving any mysteries of the universe here.  The truth is that I have a lot of questions about a lot of things.  The blog give me a way to think out loud, although “out loud” seems like the wrong words for something that is being read.  No, I’m not going to Google to find out if there’s a better way to refer to thinking out loud in written form, you know what I’m saying.

So, in short I took a photo of an autumn woodland scene reflected in a lake.  In the past, as a general rule, when I flipped the reflected images vertically, they would look strange, so displaying them as shot, even though that meant they were somewhat upside down, looked better.

Why?  I have no idea.  As a side note, by nature, these reflected images are shot in a way that makes them appear to be more like paintings than photographs.  I’m fully aware that I can take pretty much any photograph and use software to make it look like a painting with using effects.  The objective with these reflection photographs is to have the look of a painting and in many cases to be somewhat abstract by using the camera to achieve that look by using the various settings (aperture, shutter speed, focus, ISO, etc.) to record the image that way without the the need for effects.

After all, we are painting with light when we take photographs.  Our options are almost limitless.  Exploring new ways to create images is one of the things I love about photography.

As always, comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome.


Autumn, painted on the water by the sun

For lack of a better term, I will call this a mini-post.  I have been working on capturing reflections in the water in a way that fits a vision in my head.  It’s my attempt to record the beauty that I see with my camera.

Water, colors, and light fascinate me – this scene was created by nature and captured by my camera. Other than controlling the ISO, the aperture (manual), the focus (manual), and the shutter speed (manual), what you see in this photograph is the complete frame as it was shot – i used the Curves layer to find the black, white, and gray points to correct any color cast, a slight adjustment of Brightness/Contrast, and minor sharpening using the Unsharp Mask – that’s it, no cropping.

Despite my best efforts to capture a scene the way I want, it is rare that I succeed to the degree that I want. For me, this photograph is one of those rare occasions. Nobody is harder on my work than I am. This is a photograph that I truly like. It feels very weird to say that.

Hopefully, others will enjoy it too.  You can view the photograph shown above in a gallery on my photography site .


So Many Photographs

Over the past two years, I have spent a significant amount of time taking many photos and processing a portion of those images.  Early in the process I spent a lot of time with the camera, learning how to operate it, learning how to use the camera to capture the vision in my head in a photograph.

Nothing out of the ordinary in the previous paragraph and I am sure it has been repeated in one way or another countless times by photographers.  It would make it a lot easier if I just had one question but that’s not the case.  In the interest of maintaining some degree of focus, this entry is about one particular area that is one of my current challenges.

Some people only photograph a narrow range of subjects, that is a choice and is completely valid.  It’s my feeling that you should photograph what you love.  That’s going to vary a great deal from one photographer to another which is a good thing because if we all photographed the same thing, it would be fairly boring.

The interested reader is waiting for the question that I mentioned earlier.  The one I wanted to consider in this post.  The one I haven’t asked yet.  The less than interested reader has gotten bored and stopped reading by now.  It happens.

Earlier I said I had one question but it might be more like a few questions surrounding one area.  The question is about what to do with a fairly large library of images that cover a variety of styles and/or subjects.  I have been advised by successful photographers that you should never show weak work.  The thinking is that weak work will hurt the strong work.  That seems like solid advice.

What if you have a broad range of work?  How do you keep it focused?  What if you want to give each area a fair chance to stand on its own?  In the music industry, it is becoming common for artists to record with more than one band or work on multiple projects at the same time.  It allows them the freedom to express their creative energy in a number of directions.  If you wanted to apply a similar idea to photography, would you create separate areas that focus on certain bodies of work?  The Dream Hat Photography site is becoming very hard to manage as the library grows.

I don’t have the answers but I am trying to figure out what to do.  I want the freedom to follow a number of directions with my photography but I would like to give each segment a fair chance.  If all of the work is combined it is too broad to enable each area to receive the attention it deserves.

I didn’t go back and count the actual number of questions in the post.  They are all facets of a central question.  At this point, I don’t have the answer.  I am not sure there is a definitive answer.  It’s something I am trying to work through.

If you have some thoughts on ways to try and resolve this situation, I would love to hear your ideas.

I know, two posts in two days.  What can I tell you…I have a lot of thoughts.


Stay Safe? Not Likely

Several times recently I have wanted to write a new blog entry, have started to write a new blog entry, and have just stopped.  The challenge hasn’t been that I struggle for a topic but more a case of too many different directions to follow.  So to some degree this entry is a bridge or a placeholder.

Where am I going with my photography?  The collective water cooler discussions are not pondering this question.  For the record, I think about it but I don’t think about it.  It’s one of those things that needs to have the freedom to move in any direction.  For some of my photographs, especially ones in recent months, what I am capturing with the camera requires me to understand how to take the photograph but it is more than just point the camera, compose the shot, focus, and press the shutter release.

At this point, some of you are thinking this is getting deep and you are wishing you had worn waders or at least had rolled up your jeans.  Some of you aren’t wearing jeans but you know what I mean.

Clearly I am not going to resolve the question about where I am going with my photography in this entry.  Honestly I don’t really know.  What I keep coming back to is a quote from Ernst Haas about photography.

I am not interested in shooting new things – I am interested to see things new.” ~ Ernst Haas

In many ways, that embodies what I hope to do with my photography.  It is one of those statements that is simply stated but difficult to accomplish.  I like a challenge anyway.  If you want safe, keep the training wheels on your bike.  I have a scar on my right arm near my elbow that used to go about halfway around my arm when I was young and skinny.  It was earned by jumping off a swing set with two roof shingles as wings as I tried to fly and caught my arm on a screw on my way to crashing into the ground.  I didn’t fly that day but I tried.

Don’t even ask about the Humpty Dumpty night light.  It was more painful than trying to fly.


Photographing Waterscapes

Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to take photographs at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.  It is an area consisting of 466 acres that is owned by the Alabama Forever Wild Program.  You can visit these sites to learn more about this beautiful area and the important work being done by dedicated people to preserve, protect, and conserve some important areas throughout the State of Alabama.

As a photographer, water fascinates me in many ways.  The vast majority of the photographs I took at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve involved water.  That isn’t to say that there wasn’t plenty of breathtaking woodlands to photograph, but I was focused more on the water.

The past week had included some heavy rain and the water levels are high from a fall that has been very wet.  The moving water plus the colors of the surrounding vegetation reflected in the water offered many beautiful options for photographs.

One of my standard methods when I shoot is to bracket each shot with three different exposures.  When shooting a subject like this, shooting the same scene with a variety of aperture settings and try to find the most interesting version when I am processing the shots.  For clarity, a tripod is a must as well as a cable release for the shutter.  It goes a long way to maintaining a steady camera to insure clarity.  The photographs that were taken on Sunday were almost all shot at ISO 100 to reduce noise.

As I write this post, I have a number of photographs from the two days of shooting that have yet to be processed.  What has emerged is a series of images that I am calling waterscapes.  Based on a quick Google search, it is a term that has already been used by others and seems to fit this group of photos.  In many of these shots, the images are almost abstract in appearance.  You should know that I have not altered the color in these photos other than to remove the color cast by setting my black, white, and gray points.  With the long exposures and the movement of the subject, the resulting image is not what we see looking at the scene in real time.

You can find many of these images on the Dream Hat Photography site in the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve gallery.  Depending on when you visit the gallery, you should know that it is sorted to have the most recent photos at the beginning.

It’s nice to have a song to go along with a post, something for the mood.  The music is part of the soundtrack that is my life.  My choice to match the peaceful mood of the location of the photographs is a song by one of my favorite artists, Greg Laswell.  The song is titled “And Then You” from the “Three Flights From Alto Nido” album.  If you are not familiar with his music, I encourage you to buy the album, every song is a pleasure.  A few months ago I had an opportunity to see Greg Laswell play a show at WorkPlay Theatre in Birmingham, AL.  The show was opened by Elizabeth and the Catapult who played a great set.