New Year’s Pseudo-Resolutions

Fiery Sunrise, First Flatiron. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Fiery Sunrise, First Flatiron. Boulder, Colorado, 2014

While I am here at the computer monitoring the backup of the last of this year’s images onto two separate portable hard drives, I thought I’d make a list of goals for the coming year.

My photo organization is OK but, hells bells, I have Lightroom 5.7 on my computer and I am not yet using it, so my method has been basically manual up to this point (using Windows Explorer).

Utterly shameful, I know.

Even worse, if you were to look over my shoulder at my Camera Raw-to-Photoshop work flow, you would almost certainly roll your eyes into the rear of your cranium. I do know how to use Photoshop layers but, once I am done with an image, it has been my bad habit to leave it as a flattened TIFF–I figured my post-processing skills  were changing so quickly (not true, as this year they mostly plateaued) that I could and should just rework the original RAW file if I wanted a better version.

Yep. Yet another shameful admission.

So here is what I plan to put into practice in 2015:

1) Use Lightroom. And really use it as it was intended, with smart collections, keywords, sorting, labeling, flagging, and so on. Furthermore, it has basically the same “Develop” module motor as Adobe Camera Raw but with a couple of useful extra tools I really like (the brush, for instance).

2) Keep my worked images as PSD files, with all the relevant layers, and only convert to other formats when ready to print or put on the web.

3) Really use the layers in Photoshop–including, for example, more sophisticated ways of controlling local brightness and contrast using channel selections and the various blending modes.

4) Really be selective about what I consider to be images worth working and keeping (the “flagged” files in Lightroom). I am a lot more experienced now in judging what constitutes a decent image, so it’s time to get with the program and cut the wheat from the chaff much more aggressively.

5) Create images with more of an eye for how they might fit into a specific project or portfolio.

I think that is plenty to munch on for now. For #1 and #3, I am already working my way through some pretty good videos that are starting to torque my little gray cells uncomfortably–meaning the learning curve should start back uphill again after almost a year cruising along the Colorado “Plateau”.

Happy New Year, everyone!

P.S. As a farewell to 2014, check out these 29 images from NASA: the Best of 2014. They are absolutely spectacular and might very well provoke within your heart some philosophical meanderings as to the meaning of it all…ah, the eternal question.

The Tools: Music and Photography

Bathroom Self-Portrait. Barcelona, 2014
Bathroom Self-Portrait. Barcelona, 2014

Upon perusing some unique music videos recently, an interesting parallel jumped out at me. The musicians in the videos used a very wide array of instruments to bring their varying melodious visions to life, just as us photographers use a variety of Canon/Nikon/Sony/Fuji/Olympus/Brownie machines to bring our differing artistic visions to print.

Furthermore, a goodly number of those instruments used by these musicians were obviously not from the snooty 5th Avenue Stradivarius store–there were some pretty beat up old guitars and horns in the bunch, and some of the rhythm instruments you could probably have found in your kitchen.

Once again, the moral of the story: the vision (and the skill of the artist) is always more important than the tools.

The problem in photography is that the tools are so…well, cool…that we often get distracted by the technical aspects of our art and forget that it is the turn inward that will eventually lead to the most interesting outward results.

As to the music videos, if you haven’t checked out the Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR’s “All Songs Considered”, I highly recommend it. You’ll find an incredibly varied selection of musical genres–everything from classical, to blues and country, to punk-mariachi (yep!), to New Orleans street jazz, to Nigerian combos, to off-beat solo singers with odd and haunting voices.

In the videos, you’ll find a few of the very famous as well as a large number who fall in the as-yet-to-be-discovered category. All perform in the cramped and disheveled office space of the show’s offices. The result is a very, very, intimate view of some incredibly talented artists.

You’ll feel like they are performing informally, for you, in your very own living room.

Check it out for yourself. Just Google “Tiny Desk Concerts” on YouTube and have fun!

As an appetizer, I’ll pass on two such videos that really caught my ear.

The first, is a woman with an incredibly unique voice. Some might even think she sings badly. But, perhaps like some blurry photographs, there is art and heart there–or at least, I think so:

This second example is–allegedly–a mariachi band. I’d call it five parts Bronx punk and one part urban mariachi. A photo montage equivalent? Whatever…it is a very strange combination:

No, wait…I need to add a third. Dang. There are so many intriguing musicians on this Tiny Desk list it’s very hard to stop at three–or even twenty. Anyway, have a listen to Pokey and his gang, then head off yourself to the various videos:

Zero Degree Dawn at Sawhill Ponds

This is a popular place for photogs at dawn and dusk, and bird watchers at all hours: Sawhill and Walden Ponds. Even yesterday morning, before dawn, when my temperature gauge shimmered and shivered at zero degrees, there was already one other brave, bundled-up soul in the parking lot when I arrived. Go figure.

The blue pre-dawn light:

Cold Morning Blue, #1. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Cold Morning Blue, #1. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Cold Morning Blue, #2. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Cold Morning Blue, #2. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Then the subtle pink of the alpenglow:

Cold Morning Blue, #5. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Cold Morning Blue, #5. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Followed by the sun lighting up the Flatirons with a red-pink glow:

Flatirons Sunrise, #2. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Flatirons Sunrise, #2. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

The distant warmth of a winter sun:

Winter Sunburst, #2. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Winter Sunburst, #2. Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Yes, even in the restaurant bathroom…

…you can make interesting images.

Just whip out the trusty mobile phone and play away! (Looks like the making of yet another series, methinks.)

This particular “circular universe” truly is a portal to an alternative world. You see, it is the ring light around the bathroom mirror in the women’s restroom.

I converted the image to B&W and adjusted the contrast a bit.

Circular Universe. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Circular Universe. Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Sugarloaf Whiteout

Summit Trees. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
Summit Trees (in the milk bowl). Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014

Late this morning, the sun in Boulder was trying hard to break through the layers of cloud that had dropped some eight inches of snow throughout the night. My hope was that the clouds would finally dissipate whilst I was sitting atop the nearly bald pate of my favorite perch, Sugarloaf Mountain…so off I went.

It was a winter wonderland…with first tracks through fluffy, light, powder snow…snowflakes fluttering through the air like diamond chaff…

At first, a few glimpses of the sun’s disc and of the lower valleys made the little photo expedition look quite promising. But, once on top, the clouds moved back in, the snow began to fall with enthusiasm, and I found myself inside a chilly milk bowl that didn’t look like it wanted to depart any time soon.

Ah, well. Keep coming back…it will eventually work out and you’ll get your reward. That’s my mantra.

Sugarloaf Trail, First Tracks. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
Sugarloaf Trail, First Tracks. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
Sugarloaf Trail,The Ramp. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
Sugarloaf Trail,The Ramp. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
The Snag Forest. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
The Snag Forest. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
Thin Whiteout. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
Thin Whiteout. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014