Going Forward Through Old Doors

A door at the Handley Library in Winchester, Virginia. Nikon D850, Nikon 50mm 1.4D, 1/60 @ f/2.8, ISO 800.

Way, way, WAAAAYYYYY back in middle/late 1990’s I was taking photography courses in a local community college. While I was attending those classes I was asked to photograph a wedding, and after I was done with that wedding I had such a wonderful feeling and knew that I wanted to be a full-time photographer one day.

I ended up photographing weddings (on the side) for about 10 years and always had people telling me that I should be doing this full time, and my response was always I am saving that for down the road, basically retirement from my day-job as I am one of those people who looked ahead and wanted the security that retirement would offer. Well, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as I am within 3 years of that magical date, and after going on a one month “photo-cation” with my wife while driving across the country with our camper I can tell you that the reality that I have been planning and practicing for is more real than ever!

I don’t know if I’ll ever be as famous as Ansel Adams, or as popular as some of those “Photographers” on YouTube, but I am feeling content with who I am as a photographer and I think it is showing in my work. I am branching out creatively with my artistic work, but I have also decided to keep the Tax-Man quite by doing some senior portraiture to bring in some extra income while I wait to get discovered and make some real money. I have also decided that I am going to seriously give some considerations to doing workshops (something else I had thought about doing about 10 years ago) after giving a couple of spontaneous lessons to people while in Glacier, and also watching a “photographer” give a workshop while I was at Many Glacier. That last one I literally said to myself I could help these people better than he is doing.

So here is to the future with all of yesterdays lessons guiding me.

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Finding Epic At Home

A scenic from Custer State Park in South Dakota. Nikon D850, Nikon 70-200 f/4, 1/1600 @ f/8, ISO 250.

I spent almost one month on the road and shot 2700 images of some the most amazing places within the lower 48 in the USA. Now that I am back to the daily grind of work and life in general and I am finding myself missing that cloud I was living on of having epic all around me and nothing pulling at me other than finding that next shot.

I went out this morning and there was a nice sunrise happening and I began to let my mind race to decide where I wanted run to so that I could capture the majesty I saw happening in the sky. I found myself cursing under my breath as looked around and felt trapped within the confines of where I live as the few traffic lights were “out to stop me”, and the buildings, the electric & telephone lines were in every shot that I could see. I pulled over and jumped out of the car to grab one shot when that little voice hit me upside the head and I asked “what am I doing”? I cannot compare where I live to life on the road, and as much as I would love to be in ALL of the majestic places at once when the light is “epic” I realize that I cannot, and even when I was “there” the light wasn’t always “epic”.

I wonder if what I am going through is normal for us photographers, and that is finding that spark to create amongst our daily lives after returning from such a trip. When I got out west I saw those gorgeous mountains up close for the first time I wondered to myself if I lived here would this ever get boring? I remember visiting NY many years ago and wanting to see the Statue of Liberty and no one could tell me how to get there and I thought how strange is that. I suppose though that is normal, people who live in areas take those areas for granted. My wife who grew up at Cape May NJ told me that when she was growing up she just thought it normal to have the beach so close and didn’t think much of it.

That was my weekend thought, Thank you for reading and if you have any of your own thoughts to share I’d love to read them.

Life On The Road

Our Honda Pilot with our Viking Travel Trailer.

My wife and I just got back from an INCREDIBLE 28 day road trip which covered 6655 miles and took up through 14 states. We went from our home in Virginia all the way up to the west side of Glacier National Park in Montana and we saw some amazing sights along the way!

Now I know this is a photography site, but I thought I’d take a moment to go over some of the things I learned while pulling a travel trailer with a V6 Honda Pilot since this basically was our maiden voyage into camping.

The first thing to know is I did my homework prior to purchasing both, the Pilot and the camper. The Pilot (properly equipped with a transmission cooler) can tow 5,000 lbs, and the dry weight of our camper is 3,200 lbs, so that left us enough wiggle room of 1,800 pounds for ourselves, our gear, clothes, and food to go into the Pilot and the camper. I also knew that because we were pulling with a smaller engine that we would have to watch our speeds and that going uphill would be slow going.

On the trip out I tried to keep the speed around 60 mph with us averaging 300-325 miles per day. That seemed fine for the first few days, but as we climbed in elevation and the temps warmed well into the upper 80’s bordering on low 90’s I had the warning light come on for “High Transmission Fluid Temp”. I immediately pulled over and opened the hood to release some of the built up heat. After about 15 minutes we were back on the road, and I tried my best to watch the temps and speed. In the end I found that by keeping the Pilot around 55 mph seemed to be the best, along with the “D4 Button” being used more.

The D4 button basically takes the vehicle out of overdrive and gives you a better gear for getting up hills. What got me on the trip out were the slow and long “slight” upgrades where the engine had the power but I didn’t notice that I was pushing a bit harder on the gas. After realizing that those hills were causing the transmission to work harder I did my best to utilize the D4 as much as possible.

Okay, the BIG question that researched prior to taking this trip, and one I am sure you have too… GAS MILEAGE. On the way out we averaged around 11.8 mpg while keeping it between 60 – 60+ mph. On the return trip while maintaining 55 mph I averaged just over 14.5 mpg and going through some of the flatter states I averaged between 16 mpg & 18 mpg!! I figure two things helped on this better gas mileage, one obviously being the slower speed, but second is the wind drag. I had some severe head winds going west, and hardly any heavy winds coming back east.

How did the Pilot handle the camper? I had purchased a leveling/sway bar prior to going, but decided against putting it on for this trip. I was worried originally about brakes and winds, but Honda doesn’t recommend using a sway/leveling bar. I may break it out of the box and try it on our next trip to see if there is a difference or not. I will add that coming down through Montana into Wyoming we did hit some cross winds, and some of the bigger box vehicles and tractor trailers (when they got too close) would cause the trailer to pull a little, but with the slow speeds I was going I had no issues whatsoever.

It takes two.. The first couple of days on the road were a learning and adjusting experience for my wife and I. This was our first time really camping other than a weekend away last autumn which was only an hour from the house. This time we were going to be hopscotching for 7 days across the USA, and that meant hitching up, driving for at least 6-8 hours, unhooking, setting up, and preparing dinner. Oh, and we had our spaz elder Maltese dog traveling with us, and when we would stop he wanted his stomach needs met for dinner which added to some of the stress. After the third day, my wife and decided that if we were going to finish this trip we needed to come up with certain “responsibilities” that each of us needed to do to help each other. So we talked and worked out what we each felt we needed from each other and from then on out the trip was smooth. Heck, on the return hopscotching it was a cool breeze (other than the stupid ball hitch *grrrr* LOL!).

We only made 3 campsite reservations prior to leaving for the entire month we allotted for this trip, and they were at West Glacier, East Glacier, and the Black Hills area. Everything else we went online around 11am and decided how far we wanted to travel that day and were able to locate a nice campground without any issues. We stayed at private campgrounds, Good Sam’s, and KOA’s. What we learned is that the KOA’s are generally a bit more money, but usually they have clean showers and offer some better amenities if you’re traveling with kids (swimming pools, put put golf, etc..). We also learned that the KOA’s have 3 levels, Journeys, Holidays, and Resorts. We found we liked the Journeys the best because they are more like traditional camping with people like us who aren’t needing all the bells and whistles. We tried to stay at a Resort at Mt. Rushmore, but we were put in 3…THREE!! crappy sites and then to top it off when my wife was trying to help me back in to the second two of the ‘backend’ maintenance guys were laughing at us instead of directing people to give us some space. In our defense, the space was TIGHT with a tree to the left and a ditch to the right. This was basically a tent site that they turned into a trailer site. We ended up leaving after one night, and in the end it worked out great for us as we found a WONDERFUL campsite close to town.

So to sum it up, you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hit the road as we saw tent campers, RTT (roof top tents), camper vans, and people like us. Oh, we also saw those who spent upwards of over $100K on their RV’s, but in the end we had just as good an experience because for us, the camper was just a place to sleep and cook some meals. It was the experiences on the road and the sights we saw that made the difference!! One other thing, speaking of sleeping comfort.. we decided to replace the cruddy foam mattress with a “Froli Sleep System” and a “GhostBed”… we slept better than in our bed at home!! I am NOT getting ANY sponsorship from these companies (but if they’re reading I wouldn’t pass any $$ up ~LOL!).

Thanks for reading! I will post soon about the places we saw! I will leave you with one of the images I captured from this trip.

A image from Swiftcurrent Stream near Many Glacier. Nikon D850, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8g; 25 sec @ f/9.

Choices

After taking a break in traveling over the last several years I have an “EPIC” photography trip coming up which will span an entire month this summer. I have been planning this trip for over a year and a half now as it was supposed to have happened last summer.

I have found out that having an extra year of planning a trip such as this has its benefits, and a surprising disadvantage too. Some of the benefits include more time to do research for planning the itinerary, having more time to make upgrades on the trailer, and upgrades on gear and such. The one surprising disadvantage I discovered.. having too much time on my mind to second guess the photography gear I wanted to use while on the trip.

When I began to plan this trip I was in the mindset that I was going to leave my wide and mid range zooms either at home, or in a spare bag just for emergency and just shoot with just a few primes because I wanted to challenge myself. I felt having shot with zooms for so long had made a bit lazy and I wanted to try to photograph like so many great photographers from yesterday-year used to before zoom lenses became acceptable. There were also the reasoning that primes were sharper and such.

So began my great experiment with making sure I was going to be able to take on such a feat and not regret having my wonderful zooms with me. I went out and did some street shooting and found that a couple of primes were perfect for that, but every time I was out in nature I found I missed the ability to be able to get the frame I wanted due to the restraints of nature. Nature was always the stumbling block because a lot of times I found myself VERY limited to where I could safely capture an image from. I found I didn’t have the luxury of “moving around to get different perspectives or moving to get closer or farther with a prime attached to the camera” most times and that was frustrating at best. Also I found myself fumbling to find the right step-up ring to attach a filter, and even forgetting the correct one when I had switched lens combinations.

Also in having an extra year to plan I found myself reflecting on what was really important about photographing while spending 30 days traveling, and that was I needed to be in the moments to really capture the moments and if I was spending too much time fiddling with gear I’d lose that. So I decided on K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) because most times having too many choices rattles the rocks in my head and in the end I decided that having just a basic two zoom lens set was going to be the best. Now that’s not to say I am not bringing along several other ‘specialty lenses’ for certain situations that I think might arise *wink*.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully I will have a few shots from the road that I will post here. 😉

When creativity strikes

Nikon D850 + Nikon 70-200mm f/4 G. 1/160 @ f/4 iso 200

It’s hard to know when the creative mood will strike, like this morning for instance. I had some dental work done yesterday (I am not a fan of the dentist or doctors in general) and the procedure required a bit more being done than I hoped for when I first walked in. So when all was said and done I was prescribed some pretty strong pain meds and told don’t drive or operate machinery while using said medication. So I ended up taking a second day off of work and after taking my every 4-6 hour dosage of meds I ended up sleeping for an hour. When I woke I decided that I was feeling pretty good (albeit I was feeling a bit guilty of not going into work because I felt so good), the sun was shining and my little voice of creativity said to me… “HEY! Get up from the couch you dope, there is some nice light outside and you’re feeling good, so go get your camera and get a few backyard shots”! Well, my first clue should have been when I slept for an hour, but NO, I grabbed the camera and went outside. Whew… I only lasted a few minutes as I was wobbly and decided that I needed to sit down. Then began the fun part of editing this shot. It was hard to focus on what I wanted to do and even now I am not sure how good it is because I still have brain fog.

So the lesson here is tell that stupid little voice of guilt to shut up the next time you decide to take a day off of work and enjoy sitting around turning your brain to mush watching videos on your tablet. 😉

Self Assignment

Nikon D850 + Nikon 35mm f/1.8 + circular polarizer

Years ago when I began to learn how to shoot landscapes all I ever heard was that “landscape photographers needed to photograph in the GOLDEN HOURS or else your images are trash”. So I would get up on the weekends at “0 stupid thirty” in the AM and head out to capture sunrise images, or I would spend the early afternoons on those weather/cloud tracking websites waiting to see IF there was a chance of a good sunset. The golden hours WERE the rule, and who was I to challenge THE RULE that so many other successful photographers adhered to. How many of you have done the same thing? But what happens when you travel and the trip revolves around photographing where you are traveling?

So you have planned out your “photo-cation” down to the last minute detail around being in certain spots for the golden light but Ol’ Mother Nature decides to give you boring skies with no clouds..what do you do? I know this has happened to me before and I felt totally deflated by not being able to capture those dreamy cloud filled sky images so many others had before me. But instead of letting those boring skies win out and send me home without any good images I realized that I didn’t really need clouds or to shoot in the golden hours to be a good outdoor/landscape photographer, and thus began my quest to refine my understanding of what it takes to shoot in harsh light. After a lot of trial and error I think I have a good grip on it now and with a huge photo-cation coming up this summer I decided that I needed to get some practice in before that trip happens and give myself a “self assignment” to sharpen my minds eye, and also pass along some of my knowledge to you.

To shoot in the harsh mid-day sunlight you need to learn to see your shots differently than you would in the golden hours. In the golden hours the light can be amazing and the compositions can just be right there with inspiration seemingly everywhere, but in harsh flat light it sometimes requires a bit more of studying what you are photographing to come up with a winning composition. For me when I shoot in the mid day (10am-2pm give or take depending on the time of year) I look for the details instead of shooting vast scenics. These images are more intimate as they require you to ‘be with nature’ instead of a voyeur from afar. I also at times will think think in monochrome, or B&W because you sometimes have more creative freedom to push the boundaries. So when I am thinking in monochrome I ignore the colors and focus on the shapes and shadows. I also really concentrate on composition because that IS the main thing that is going to make or break a monochrome image. With monochrome I find it easier to think “what could be” instead of what is.

Another thing I have found that helps me be more creative is I went back to my roots and began shooting with prime lenses. Shooting with prime lenses forces you to work the scenes instead of standing in one spot quickly shooting simply by zooming in or out. Having just one or two on you frees you up and makes you work hard to see compositions that normally you might miss. Usually I prefer a 50mm, along with a 20mm, but on this assignment I decided I needed to be thinking a little wider, so I only used a 35mm.

Another thing to look for is contrast between colors, and trying to use that bright sun to your advantage. This image here I used the sun to backlight the petals while using the rich blue sky as a backdrop to those white petals. Also having a little bit of lens flare I enjoy as it really shows how bright it was.

And lastly, keeping on the subject of details and prime lenses, I have found that primes allow you to capture images that you normally might not be able to with a zoom lens as primes can offer a shallower depth of field (DOF), and be sharper throughout the frame. So I am always looking for interesting subjects to photograph with lots of cool shapes and textures, which is what I found here…

This is a detail shot of a huge boulder. I found the colors and shapes very interesting, and if I had not been out in the mid day sun those colors would’ve not jumped out to me. Below is an example of how shooting at f/1.8 helps isolate the subject to make it the hero of the shot..

..even having an f/2.8 zoom lens might not give you a shallow enough DOF to make this shot happen.

To wrap this up, I am not saying that shooting in mid day harsh light is my choice, but if that is all you have to shoot in then learning how to make the best of it gives you another tool in your bag to make it work for you and not waste some opportunities to create.

Oh, one more thing..all these images were shot within a one hour period on my self-assignment just to prove my point. *smile*

Thanks for reading!

Where Does The Time Go?

Nikon D850 + Nikon 80-400mm G VR

Every January I set yearly goals for myself, one of which is to begin to regularly update this site. Then without fail life gets going and I fall on my efforts and the next thing I know it is autumn with another January right around the corner. Sigh.

I won’t make promises that I cannot keep anymore, but I can say I am going to try to make an effort to regularly post and create content for this site as I inch my way closer to retirement from my ‘Day Job’. You see, for 30+ years that has always been my goal, to set myself up for my retirement years which now are right around the corner.

So with that being said and me feeling refreshed in my creativity, buckle up because tris Old Man has a lot of miles left to travel, and a lot of wisdom to pass along.

Hello Old Friend

 I am welcoming back to my collection of lenses a lens that I had way back in 2010 when it came out, and that is the Nikon 24-120 f4. 

 I shot with this lens for almost 2 years and always loved the images that it produced. Unfortunately I always had an internal battle with this lens because it was viewed by “some lens

reviewers/photographers” as a “kit lens” when Nikon began packaging it with their full frame cameras. Back then I allowed those “lens reviewers” to influence me a bit too much because I thought “how can I be taken seriously as a photographer when I use a kit lens instead of my Nikon 24-70 f/2.8?”, so I ended up selling the 24-120 and sticking with the 24-70.

Fast forward to 2020… I, as I suspect most photographers do along their creative journey, began to demand more from myself and my images as a photographer. I got bored with looking at the “same old type of images” I was taking with my zooms, so I upgraded my prime lens collection and began to use them exclusively for a while on my photo treks. The issues I was having with my primes was that I was getting frustrated with changing lenses so often when I was locked in a tight spot and saw something that I wanted to go from wide to tele or vice versa. Add to that, I also had to be constantly changing filter ring adapters with each lens change. Don’t get me wrong, no zoom lens beats a prime for sharpness or clarity and I really love my primes, but I have realized that when I am out and about (especially someplace new) I love the freedom a zoom offers. 

So with all of that being said, my wife and I have begun planning a “little” photography trip for next year and I decided that I needed to add a lens with a little more versatility than the 24-70 and my primes offered, which is why I brought back the 24-120. I have realized that “a photographer should not be judged on what equipment they capture their images with, but rather it is the images that the photographer captures that they should be judged upon”.

I am still demanding of good image quality, and the 24-120 f4 is good enough for me and the way I shoot for most situations. I will be including a couple of primes in my bag on that trip which will allow me to stretch my creative wings for any situation that I may encounter. 

Next up, I will be doing a full write up with PLENTY of pics comparing the 24-70, 24-85, 24-120 and the 28-300 against each other. I will also compare the best of those lenses again primes in similar focal ranges. 

Photography Reset

Lindy Point

Welcome to my new page. After much consideration I have decided to delete all of my older content from this site and start fresh. I suppose this is version 2.0 of me, an older and hopefully wiser version.

My bright idea for this site here in 2020 is for this to be a place for me to share my photography thoughts and ideas because photography is my passion as I am a creative, and that need to create is a core part of who I am. I also have realized that the younger me who had energy for days to go hiking endlessly up mountains paths with 20 pounds of equipment hanging off of my back are done due to my arthritis. That is okay though because it makes me appreciate what I can get to a whole lot more. So this is version 2.0 of me is still going to be traveling and shooting a ton, but with more thought and focus behind the lens.

Thanks for taking the time to read this…now lets grab our bag and head out and shoot some shots! 😉