Focus isn’t great, but I like the look of this lone nandina berry with the bokeh in the background.
Of course it’s hummers again. I had a few precious minutes to photograph the hummers this morning until I had to abandon my project and go to the dentist for a disintegrating porcelain crown. I took these shots as this little guy hovered trying to get used to me and my flash. I just used the on-camera flash again, not the best choice, and because there was still deep shadow shortly after 7 this morning, I upped the flash to plus 1. The gorget is a bit too bright as a result but I like these shots because the hummer is on the wing although I have to admit my hummingbird shots in recent weeks are becoming pretty redundant.
This morning I revisited a shot I took about a year ago, a clear glass bottle and a wine glass both on black backgrounds with light reflected from the sides. I loved the effect and we’re going to use the wine glass on the Famous Mo’s website. My assignment today was to take a similar shot of an empty beer glass so that we can use that on the website as well. I had a much easier time with it today and decided to take a shot of the beer glass and of a stemless wine glass. I had help, as you can see in the third shot. Bobo was so curious about what I was doing on “her” window seat that she couldn’t resist intruding into the shot. I’m glad she did because it was only after I looked at the shot with Bobo that I realized that I was reflected prominently in the glass so I set the camera to take shots by itself and walked away, distracting Bobo so she’d stay out of the shot, too.
Despite the clear glass on the black background with reflected light, I changed the shots to black and white because the reflections contained a significant amount of color, including a red flower pot outside the window. I wanted the shot to be monochrome.
This is not the first time I have blatantly ripped off my friend Melinda’s photo idea. It’s been a year since I have actually admitted it although I’m sure I’ve done it without consciously making the effort. You can see my last ripoff admission here and you can see Melinda’s intriguing idea for today’s photo here. Her idea for “book spine poetry” so caught my attention that after reading her blog early this morning, I rounded up the books I thought might make an interesting poem and stacked them in a pile. When I got home this evening, photo-less, I decided to go ahead with my copy cat effort. The books were already stacked in the correct order. I just needed to get some lighting. After reading the poem over a few times, it sounded very Haiku-like to me. Sadly, there are 18 syllables, not 17, hence the title of my blog post.
“Life, medium raw
Cook like a rockstar, fabulous
Feasts, gone with the wind.”
There’s an extra syllable in the middle line; I suppose one could slur the word “fabulous” and change it to “fab’lous” making it sort of 17 syllables total. Regardless, I like the poem and I like the photo. I didn’t have to look hard for my book spine poetry inspiration, rather surprising since most of my reading of late is in the form of audiobooks, listened to while treading away at the gym. Not surprising is how many cooking related books were close at hand. But Keith Richard’s non-cooking themed tome, unless you consider frying one’s brain as cooking related, took me months to slog through. The two oldest books in the shot are “Fabulous Feasts” and “Gone With the Wind.” “Fabulous Feasts” was given to me by a friend more than 30 years ago, who thought I might enjoy reading about medieval cookery and ceremony. He was right. It is a fascinating read. And, this copy of “Gone With the Wind” is my mother’s original copy from 1939 with her name and the date inscribed in her beautiful hand inside the front cover.
When I went outside in the backyard this morning to see if there was anything interesting to photograph, the yellow morning light got my attention. My 28-300 mm zoom was already on the camera so I took some shots of budding leaves on the neighbor’s pear tree, a squirrel perched eating something in the pear tree, and the fountain. The hummingbirds were not in evidence. None of the shots I took was in crisp focus so I was disappointed in the result. Never one to be discouraged, however, I attached the tripod and tried again. By now the sun was shining directly on the lavender and the empty seed pods looked to be the most promising subject since the squirrel had long since left the area.
Even with the tripod, I was not completely happy with the lavender shots so I changed lenses. With the 24-70mm attached, I took several more shots. And, for one of the shots, the auto focus went completely out of focus for some reason. I actually liked that shot so I switched to manual focus and took a few deliberately unfocused. Trying for unfocused shots is definitely outside of my comfort zone but I think the resulting abstract is interesting and kind of fun and of course, it has lots of bokeh.
Now you see it:
Focal Length 70mm
Now you don’t:
Focal Length 66mm
I was hoping for more inspiring news headlines this morning when I decided to photograph today’s paper. After scanning the pages and thinking about composition, I found the two pages that worked best covered the street uprisings in Egypt and disgruntled storm victims on the east coast, both rather depressing headlines. But, as Mick Jagger croons, “you can’t always get what you want” and I have discovered that is so very true. I do like the shot in general, however. And I used one of my Lightroom presets called “Newsprint” that gives the shot a moody and freshly pressed look.
In its tune “Clouds,” the Manhatten Transfer sings “See the white and fluffy clouds adore the sun….” You can actually see the sun, presumably adored by the clouds, in the upper left of this shot. Late this morning, as I was taking photos of the fluffy clouds in Newcastle, my lens pointed directly into the sun, I heard a voice ask how I could get a photo with the lens facing the sun. I found myself telling this stranger about the exposure triangle and demonstrating the differences that changing the aperture and shutter speed made in the shot. When he asked if I was a professional photographer, I told him “no, but I’m good enough to be one.” Is that chutzpah, or what? I was actually quite proud of my self for telling him that.
I took this shot with my 24-70mm lens at maximum zoom, set at ISO 100, f/22, 1/400. But, I enhanced this shot using new software that just arrived in my inbox from onOne Software, a photo editing program I received as a freebee for attending an Adobe Lightroom class in December. I haven’t taken the time to read anything about it. I just selected one of the preset adjustments I liked (I have already forgotten what it was), reduced the effect a bit, and saved. I like the dark, broodiness of this shot, although the actual sky was not as dark looking in reality.
I set up this shot today to use on Famous Mo’s website. The site is still under construction but is not hidden from view so if you want to check out our progress, click here. This shot doesn’t appear as of this posting, though. I also designed the logo that appears in the background on my laptop screen. Of course I had to use my Mac for this shot; all the other computers at Mo’s are PC’s, just not my cup of tea (of coffee). My business partner, Jesse, cooperated by being a hand model for the shot. After I posted this to the blog, though, I realized that what I really wanted to post to the website was a black and white shot with only the logo in color. After a few false starts, I came up with this second version, so I had to edit the post and add it.
I think I much prefer the black and white version and it’s more in keeping with the overall theme of the Famous Mo’s website.
I have always loved this caption from a cartoon by Carl Rose, published in 1928 in The New Yorker. And, I only recently discovered that although the drawing was by Carl Rose, the caption, which is what caught my interest in the first place, was penned by none other than E.B. White. I, too, say, “it’s spinach and I say the Hell with it!” My shot today is of a head of broccoli that will soon be steamed and served on my dinner table, but not tonight. And, I found a link to a copy of the original cartoon. I don’t know why it has always amused me so much but I used to have a copy of this pinned to the wall in my cubicle at work.
I heard the helicopter flying over my house about 7:30 this evening and decided to try to photograph it. I heard no sirens or other activity that might point to any nefarious activity but I’ll never know what brought it out tonight. When the copters fly at night, they use their powerful searchlight to seek out their subject and I tried to capture that. It was a challenge to anticipate when the copter would reappear over my rooftop and then to focus the lens in time to get a shot before it disappeared behind the trees. All I could see in the darkness was the searchlight and a few other lights on the copter. Only when I downloaded the shots did I find one shot that revealved both the searchlight and some of the body, and that, only after I increased the exposure. I had already increased the ISO to 3200, so there is lots of noise, but in this case, I think it adds a bit of interest to the shot. And, besides, it’s the only shot I have to post today.
I haven’t yet come to terms with separating myself from the daily part of “In Focus Daily.” I’ve toyed with the idea of modifying the name of the blog but until I come up with something else, it somehow remains a required “daily” commitment in my psyche. The weird thing is that instead of reducing the number of posts, which was my intention, I seem to be increasing my daily posts.
A few minutes ago, smug with the knowledge that my Day 20 post automatically published at 5AM and that I didn’t need to take a photo, my adorable hummers were cavorting in the fountain. Photo op! I cannot resist those hummers. My long lens was already attached to the camera so I went out, sat down, and flipped on the flash. But as cooperative as the hummers were, my camera and its flash weren’t. The shutter release was delayed and the flash wasn’t recycling fast enough. I took a couple of shots, only one of them in decent focus, and when they retreated to the tree to preen, I went inside and attached my Speed Light to try for something better. Of course they disappeared completely when I went back outside.
But here they are, again. My hummers.
I love this shot! And before I decided to rethink my blog posts, I never would have posted it to my blog because I had already taken other shots that I posted for Friday, and I didn’t download the shots from Foxtrot Mary’s Friday night gig at The Club Car in Auburn until Saturday. Under my old, self-imposed 365 rules, I had to take and post the shot the same day so it would not have qualified. Under my New Rules (I feel I need to give a nod to Bill Maher if I use that phrase), less restrictive and somehow freeing, I now understand how my friend Melinda feels with the changes to her blog in 2013. While I still haven’t decided how to restructure it, I’m starting to feel my way and experiment with changes. So, shot taken Friday, downloaded Saturday, Blog post prepared Saturday for publication on Sunday. I won’t always be giving all the gory, uninteresting details but it helps me think it through if I write it down.
Now about this shot. Air guitar isn’t exactly what this shot depicts. It is, in fact, a real guitar played by an exceptional guitar player, James Papastathis III, currently with the band Mr. December. He and his wife, Dana Moret, who’s smiling face is in the background, sat in with Foxtrot Mary Friday night. Wow! Wow! Wow!
I had to use an uncomfortably high (for me) ISO (2500) and despite my shutter speed being set at 1/125, the focus isn’t crisp because the guitar was moving. But I love the point of view and Dana’s face, clearly enjoying the sounds from that guitar.
OK. I couldn’t do it. After smugly posting a shot from yesterday to be published today, I thought I might be able to successfully wean myself away from a daily photo. Not true. I had to take a photo today. And I had to post it today. I thought I could do it but I can’t. At least not yet. I had been thinking about the moon because it’s a half moon and I can’t recall if I’ve posted any half moon shots yet. And after I texted Melinda that I thought I might be able to go without taking a photo today but I wasn’t sure, she suggested a moon shot and so, that was it. I switched lenses, got my new tripod, and traipsed outside to the sidewalk. A neighbor asked if a comet was coming. “No,” I replied. “Just trying to take a shot of the moon.” He quickly retreated into his house.
I used the sunny 16 rule (f/16, ISO 100, 1/100 shutter speed) but had to make a few adjustments to brighten because it wasn’t totally dark outside and there were street lights on, as well. I like the look of the moon’s craters so I cropped this shot a bit more than I usually crop my moon shots and I changed it to black and white to give a slightly different feel. I chose an old standby to keep me from going into withdrawal. Goodnight, Moon.
I never know when I’ll find something fascinating to photograph. Late this afternoon, I was at Mo’s (after playing hooky most of the day) because I had to retrieve my laptop. Rich was posting job announcements on the computer and when I looked up, he was silhouetted against the late afternoon sun shining through the window. I grabbed my camera and announced that he might make my blog. I didn’t take time to focus as well as I should. If you look closely, I think only a few hairs are in focus. But interestingly, there is lots of bokeh around the edges.
This is my second “auto” post, written on one day about a photograph taken that same day but scheduled for publication at a later date (i.e., photographed and written on Friday and posted on Saturday). I don’t know if I’ll find something spectacular to photograph today (Saturday—weird to project yourself into the next day) but if I do, I’ll schedule it for another day. I thought this shot was every bit as compelling as the hawk shot and deserved to make my blog.
As I drove to the gym this morning, I thought about my “In Focus Daily” blog and how I want to modify it. I have yet to come up with a concrete plan, so for now, I’ll post every day and take photos every day. And, I will continue to carry my camera with me everywhere…at least for now. It has become such a part of me that I can’t imagine being somewhere without the means to photograph something interesting or compelling that I see around me.
Today’s photo is a case in point. As I was about to walk into the gym, a large bird flew low over the rooftop and over my head toward a tree in the parking lot. I recognized the bird as a juvenile Cooper’s hawk, probably the same one I’ve observed many times perched in a tree on the gym patio at this time of the morning. Instead of going into the gym, I set my gear down, opened my bag and extracted my camera. I had my 24-70mm lens on the camera so I took a few seconds to make some exposure adjustments and started to walk slowly toward the tree where the bird sat, awaiting some sort of prey. He was my prey, as I stalked gradually closer. I knew he would leave the tree before I could get close enough for a crisp clear shot, but I kept inching closer. I got within about 25 feet of him before he flew out of the tree. I wasn’t able to capture any decent shots of his escape flight but I’m happy with what I got. This is cropped significantly. And, if I hadn’t had my camera with me, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to capture this. So, for now, anyway, the camera will still be a part of me.
Changes to my blog are coming. And there are no strings attached.
Today I got to thinking about my blog and the challenges I’ve faced with photography and how far I’ve come in the past two and a half years since I bought my Nikon D90 and started to get serious about photography. I’ve advanced (in my own mind, at least) enough to justify moving from my D90 crop frame camera to my D800 full frame camera and I’ve added some professional lenses to my camera bag, with even more on my wish list. I haven’t missed posting at least a photo a day since I started this blog on January 1, 2011 (that’s 746 days with two posts on some days and multiple photos on many days). I love the challenge of this blog and I love the technical and artistic challenges that taking good photographs require of me. I’m comfortable calling myself a photographer. But lately I have found myself struggling to find the time to do it the way I want to do it and I sometimes compromise my standards.
My good friend and fellow photo-blogger Melinda and I started blogging on the same day and, after two years, we both found the last couple of months an extreme challenge to complete our daily commitment to our blogs. Melinda has wisely modified her blog commitment and no longer demands herself to post to her blog every day and she has suggested I consider doing something similar. She has given me some excellent advice and I think I will take it. Various sources suggest that posting 3-5 times a week is the most anyone should post (except when fulfilling a 365 commitment) because if you post more than 4 or 5 days a week, it becomes overwhelming to your readers/followers and they feel they can’t keep up with it; if you post only once a week, they forget to read it.
I haven’t completely decided how I want to change my blog but I am pretty certain I will not continue to post every day. However, when I stop posting every day is anybody’s guess. I will probably feel guilty when I miss a daily post for the first time and, God forbid, if I don’t take a photo, but I will try to wean myself away from the daily grind. I do know that I already have thousands of photos that are blog-worthy and that I want to post either on my blog, or I may set up a photo gallery. I often take photos that I love but that don’t fit whatever theme I’ve decided to post for the day so they never see the light of day. With a new philosophy for my blog, I can resurrect many of these photos. And, as I improve my facility with Lightroom and Photoshop, I may even repost old photos that I’ve been able to improve. I posted the majority of my shots in the first year and a half straight out of the camera without any adjustments because of my misguided notion that SOOC was the way a “real” photographer does it. I have found that could not be further from the truth and that even film photographers make adjustments in the dark room, dodging and burning and making other changes to the negatives to achieve the look and feel they seek.
I’m experimenting with this post. I actually wrote it late on January 16 and scheduled it to post on January 17, featuring a couple additional guitar shots that I took on January 16. I changed them to black and white with a vignette to add more interest.
I was thinking about Ron’s guitar today and so I brought it out and tried different lighting and camera positions. I am intrigued with shots looking down the neck of the guitar and I’ve tried it many times when I’ve photographed Foxtrot Mary’s instruments but I just can’t seem to get the right shot. Today was no different—I still didn’t get was I was hoping to get. But at least I had complete control over the lighting and the position of the instrument; I just didn’t have the time to get the ideal shot. I’m fairly happy with this shot, though. I’m not sure but if I turn it to black and white, it may find its way to a wall at Famous Mo’s.
Chaos theory states that, under certain conditions, ordered, regular patterns can be seen to arise out of seemingly random, erratic and turbulent processes in nature. Chaos theory is the kind of science that makes my brain seize up. I know very little about it, except that chaos theory and fractal geometry are somehow linked. Are fractals the regular patterns that arise from the chaos? If so, they certainly don’t seem to be in evidence on the bark of this birch tree I photographed today. It is so incredibly chaotic, yet I can see absolutely no regular pattern arising from this random, erratic, and turbulent peeling bark. Still, it is fascinating and irresistibly intriguing.
Focal Length 70mm
As I stood in the darkness, adjusting my camera to take a shot of my neighbor’s tree with the street light illuminating the bare branches, a crackling sound behind me made me freeze in place. Then I heard a voice apologizing for startling me. It was another neighbor inquiring about my photography as he walked by with his two dogs. Shortly after he passed by, I ended my session. Not because I was outside in the dark and I was afraid, but because I was outside in the dark and it was freezing, or at least moving in that direction. This is a different sort of moon shot for me. Yes, that odd shaped light in the background is the waxing crescent moon. Here are two versions of the same shot, the second in black and white. I have wanted to photograph that tree in the orangey streetlight for a long time, but I think I like the B&W version better than the color version.