More intimate landscapes

I am less and less satisfied when I make what I consider a “standard” landscape, even if said landscape is well-composed, sharp, and done with good light.

I feel much more satisfied when I am able to come up with a more intimate landscape–intimate meaning that it is more personal…it comes from deeper within me. It feels more original and truer to my personal way of seeing the world.

This image might be an example of what I mean. It doesn’t resemble anything another photographer might typically have captured if presented with the same scene I was…which is good.

The Burn in Winter. Near Sugarloaf Mnt., Colorado, 2014
The Burn in Winter. Near Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014

Not responding…

Do Not Block. Tucson, Arizona, 2014
Do Not Block. Tucson, Arizona, 2014

Geez, how I hate these messages…

–“Not Responding.”

–“Internet Explorer has stopped working.”

–“A problem caused the program to stop working correctly. Windows will close the program and notify you if a solution is available.”

–“A problem with this web page caused Internet Explorer to close and reopen this tab.”

–“Adobe Flash Player has stopped a potentially unsafe operation.

–[Whatever web page] is not responding. Recover web page.”

–“Windows is checking for a solution to this problem.”

I’ll tell you what the solution is, Microsoft. It’s called Mac.

I almost did it this with the most recent change out of our main desktop computer. Sorry I didn’t. The next generation we will definitely go Mac. I’m tired of this crap.

Thom Hogan Hits the Hail on the Ned (yet again)

Sailor On Watch. Barcelona, 2014
Sailor On Watch, Barcelona, 2014

Or whatever.

Point being, his recent article (“What’s your biggest problem?”) really nails it when it comes to what is necessary to make excellent, inspiring, unique images.

He starts out by noting that most folks, when they complain about not getting what they want out of their camera, talk a lot about dynamic range, focus performance, lens quality, etc. His point is that there is an even BIGGER problem out there preventing many photogs from getting good images and that problem is: THEMSELVES (as much as this might be hard to admit).

That would be you and me, dontcha know!

This all goes back to the same recurring theme…it’s all about “seeing” and developing your vision. The tools we have today to do the job are the least of our worries–they are not our “biggest problem” by a long snapshot. We ought to be spending at least ten times as many hours working on our vision as we do peering intently at lens tests of brick walls and reading the latest hot, hot, hot camera review.

I highly recommend you use the link above (or this one) to go to Thom’s article and read it in its entirety. If you are honest with yourself, you’ll see how penetrating his analysis really is.

As to the ten questions he poses at the beginning of his column, here is a cheat sheet:

1) To check for chromatic aberration…look for weird color bands at high contrast borders in your images. For a full explanation of what it is and how to fix it (in Lightroom…much the same in Adobe Camera RAW), try this Gizmag article.

2) Saggital coma is…when points of light on the edges of the frame look like birdies with their wings spread. See this Forum conversation for further clarification.

3) To calculate dynamic range…see this article by Don Smith.

4) Printer dynamic range… and 5) To get the camera’s dynamic range to match printer dynamic range…See this article on the excellent Cambridge in Colour website for an in-depth discussion of dynamic range–how our eyes, the camera, the printer, scanners are all different and how we align our photography tools to make the best of the situation (follow all of their links in the article for a more complete picture).

Now, the next series of questions are WAY MORE IMPORTANT than the previous five:

6) Do you always take photos of compelling subjects?

My answer: “Uh…gee…well…uh…maybe…sometimes…sorta…”

7) Do your photos stand out so much that people gravitate to them even when they are displayed with the work of other photographers?

My answer: “Uh…gee…well…uh…maybe…sometimes…sorta…”

8) What’s the subject of your latest photo…shouldn’t be a noun.

I think he is saying that you shouldn’t be able to simply say, “That’s a picture of the Flatirons.” The picture should be about more than that…emotion, mood, story, etc. I try…I try…

9) Did you frame your image correctly at capture, or did you have to mess with it (“Fix it”) at home on the computer?

My answer: I do pretty well here. Thank goodness I feel OK about at least one of Thom’s questions!

10) How often do you miss focus, exposure, timing, etc. with your photographs?

The first two items could simply be technical issues between you and your camera–things that can be fixed by reading the camera’s manual and using good technique. The third (timing) requires practice, practice, practice to improve your instincts–that is one of my weaknesses, especially with street photography. (I often “see” the image after the fact and it’s too late.)

Again, take some time to go to Thom’s site and read the whole enchilada!

Out and about with Brownie and Diana

…the cameras, that is. I took them both to the local St. Patrick’s Day Parade which is billed as the “shortest in the world”.

The Man on Pearl Street. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (Brownie Hawkeye)
The Man on Pearl Street. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (Brownie Hawkeye)

The above was captured with my old 1960s vintage Brownie Hawkeye loaded with Kodak T-MAX 400. Once I got the negatives and the disk with the scans, I ran it through Google/Nik Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop–mainly fixing the contrast with a bit of cropping thrown in.

I definitely need to try cleaning the lens one more time as I think I should be getting slightly sharper images from this ancient black box. Also, I need to work on how to aim it effectively as the viewfinder is so scratched up that it is hard to see through it, not to mention you are seeing the image reversed (which requires opposite movements to to move the the image around).

The picture below was made with the 1970s vintage Diana camera in my collection, loaded with Ilford Delta 100. Again, the scan was worked through the Nik plug-in and Photoshop for some minor tweaks–mainly contrast.

As with the Brownie, I need to learn to aim this a bit better. I think I’ll just kinda point it at the right spot rather than trying to use the little, dorky viewfinder–at least for street photography.

Now that I have given these tools a first try, it’s time to get a bit more bold and see if I can work on better street action within the images themselves.

Man on Bicycle. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (Diana camera)
Man on Bicycle. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (Diana camera)

NOTE: This “man on bicycle” (I like his pointy shoes!) is a regular on the Pearl Street Mall.  If you spend any time at all strolling the mall down on Pearl Street, you’ll likely recognize him:

Zoned Out. Boulder, Colorado, 2012
The “Man on the Bike”, in the sun. Boulder, Colorado, 2012

A Pre-Dawn Panorama of Denver-Boulder

Boulder-Denver, pre-dawn. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014
Boulder-Denver, pre-dawn. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2014

How many of these panoramas do I have now? A bunch, for sure.

Whenever I am up on Sugarloaf Mountain for sunrise, I can’t seem to resist making yet another image of the scene even though I don’t really know how it will fit into my slowly emerging portfolio.

It’s always interesting, to me, to note the difference between the many lights out on the flats (metro Boulder-Denver) and the few lights in the rural foothills below (Sugarloaf area). Even more curious is the short, thin line of white connecting Denver to Boulder (center of image)–that is the morning “train” of commuters coming in to Boulder for work.

I guess what I find interesting is that contrast between the crowded world of humans in the distance, and the more solitary world of Nature in my more immediate, quiet, surroundings.

Highway 36

Commuter Sunrise, Highway 36. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Commuter Sunrise, Highway 36. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2014

= constant construction…and a constant vomiting of morning traffic into Boulder from Denver and its suburbs, with everyone trooping back out in the afternoon. (Why? For many, there simply is no affordable housing in the bubble of the Boulder market. It’s cheaper to live in Denver, Broomfield, Superior, Louisville, et al, and commute in to Boulder.)

I call these long lines of traffic “American trains” as we don’t have many of the real ones for commuters.

Currently, they are adding a lane to Highway 36 so they can use the bus system more efficiently along this route. No train for the foreseeable future, unfortunately.

This highway, also known as the Boulder-Denver Turnpike will, at some point soon, be handed over to a private company for maintenance, expansion, and (of course) the collection of tolls. With tolls and privatization come controversy. This actually might be just what the doctor ordered, though. With tolls, perhaps you’ll see fewer cars on that road, more folks on the buses, and thus less environmental impact.