Friday, December 16, 2011

Oldie, But a Goodie

It's amazing what you find when you're not really looking for anything.  Well,  I was looking for something - pictures of my youngest daughter - but, ended up finding this gem of a photo.  I remember taking it and I remember when I off loaded it from my memory card.  Then things got busy and it obviously got lost in the shuffle.  Considering I haven't been out shooting since Thanksgiving, I don't have much else to report or post.  If the weather holds up I'm going to try and get out sometime this weekend - my first days off from any type of work since Thanksgiving Day.



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last 30 Minutes of the Day

The days are definitely shorter, almost too short.  Frustratingly short, especially when the weather is decent and the early-evening light is good and it seems like you're just a few minutes too late to get the picture you want.  I can't tell you how many times in the last couple weeks I've missed opportunities at some great shots, but I keep reminding myself that more opportunities will pop up.

Such was the case Thanksgiving evening.  We spent the early afternoon with my wife's family, stuffing ourselves with amazing holiday treats.  I planned on relaxing and catching some of the football games that were being contested, but that never really took form.  After getting back to our house and getting the kids settled down (Ainslee was melting down!) I noticed that some good late-afternoon light was beginning to take shape outside.  Whatever I was doing at that moment, I remember looking at my watch and telling myself, "Ok, finish this and get out for the last 30 minutes," and that's exactly what I did.

I grabbed my camera and headed out through the back pasture toward the creek.  This is a route I've taken several times and it never gets boring.  I like the challenge of seeing the same scenery, but trying to find different angles for pictures to represent everything in a different way.  As it turned out, the setting sun's light was extraordinary and, although there wasn't a lot of cloud cover, what was there offered great contrast.  This contrast really came to light when in these black and white images.  As the final light disappeared on the western horizon, I couldn't help grinning and thinking, "what a great 30 minutes!"


Fiery Sunset

Old Stump

One More from the River

This is a photo that I spent a great deal of time on in the field trying to get it exactly how I pictured it in my head.  Unfortunately, I never got it to least not in color.  I knew it still had potential, so I started messing around with it in Aperture and finally ended with this black and white version, which I really like.

Kansas River

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Banks of the Kaw

Taking advantage of the incredible weather we've enjoyed, I made a late-afternoon trip to the Kansas River (aka The Kaw) last Sunday.  Growing up in Wyoming, I'm not accustomed to such warm and calm weather this late in the year, so taking advantage of it is a must.

Although one of the most polluted rivers in America (sad, but true), the river and it's surrounding ecosystem are quite beautiful.  This time of year the scenery is complimented by abundant waterfowl, extremely active deer, and wintering bald eagles.  I've heard comments from several people that the color of fall foliage was not as spectacular this year due to below average rainfall and, for the most part, I agree with them.  However, the colors displayed on the banks of the river are stunning, especially in good light.

Having arrived a bit later than I wanted, I was in a hurry to get right on the bank to see what would catch my eye.  To my luck, the light was gorgeous and the water was like glass.  I was hoping to catch some geese or ducks on the water, so I began the night with my 70-300mm lens.  However, the only disturbance on  the water were leaves and the occasional rising fish (most likely carp).  Still, I managed to get a few landscape shots with this lens that turned out nice, which is rewarding since telephoto lenses are not typically known for landscape use.

I eventually switched to a more normal zoom lens and found a trail that paralleled the river through trees and brush.  My goal was finding another route back to the water to provide a different perspective of the river.  Unfortunately, the light was fading faster than I wanted and I found myself trying to create my own trail back to the river, which was unsuccessful.  I managed to grab one good shot of the setting light popping through the shadows and falling nicely onto the trees.

With very little light left to help me, I started the return trek to my truck.  It was an enjoyable walk back as I simply listened to the sounds of the approaching night.  As I emerged from the edge of the trees I kicked up  four deer, all does, who were probably more surprised to see me than I was to see them.  I couldn't help but think that, earlier, I probably walked right past them in my rush to get to the water.  Oh well, you can't get every picture!

The only negative for the night was arriving back at my truck only to discover a flat tire.  Nothing like changing a tire in the dark!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just a Quickie

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugI'll admit to being rather lazy in my outdoor photography the last few weeks.  Just one of those weird slumps that I think all people get into at some point.  Not that I haven't been photographing because I've taken tons of new pictures in the last month, but mostly covering the activities of my kids around the house.    So, with that, I want to make a quick little post with a couple pictures that caught my eye during the last month while going through my library.

For this first photo, I have to thank my Mother-in-law because it's her decor.  We were picking up the kids from her house and I happened to have my camera with me and this little scene jumped out and I loved it.  It reminds me of something out of an old mystery novel.  In fact, it reminds me of a book cover for a mystery novel.  Is someone waiting for a call?  And where did the flower come from and who's it for?  The way the light from the lamp falls on everything is perfect.

This second photo is an example of something very simple making a decent photograph.  According to my wife, this is an abandoned strawberry planter.  Now, my kids find several uses for it, but mostly as a sidewalk chalk holder.  I was sitting on our front porch watching the kids play when I captured this photo.  I think the primary reason I enjoy this photo is because this planter is used by my kids so much, so there's a big personal attachment.  I like seeing the touch of color (blue and pink/purple) from the chalk marks my kids placed on the wood bench.  Had I included more depth-of-field, those chalk marks would be more apparent.  But, limiting the depth-of-field makes one wonder what is that color and how did it get there?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mac woes, Google+, and a *New* crop

I've become very fond of Mac computers having owned at least some variation since 2005 when I purchased an iMac G5 (which I still have and use occasionally and it runs great).  Maybe I've been fortunate, but I've had very little trouble with any of the Apple products I've owned - and I/we are pretty Mac centric around here.  Yet, all good things must come to an end as my wife's Macbook appears to be having major hard disk drive issues.  So, I sit drafting this post waiting to see if my emergency HDD recovery is successful.  Luckily, I'm pretty handy with other operating systems, too, because I'm having to use an Ubuntu Live CD on the Macbook to access the failing drive and transfer as much data as possible to an external HDD.  Yes, Linux is quite fantastic!  Hopefully, I can recover the more important things my wife had saved but it's turning out to be a painfully slllllooooooow process.

To make better use of my time waiting I figured I'd get caught up with my photography 'circle' on Google+.  Now, if you're not familiar with Google+ then you really should be because it's turned out to be a refreshing take on social networking.  It definitely isn't as cluttered with useless BS as other social networks (although I'm sure that may change with growing popularity) and it's quickly become one of my biggest resources for photography information and learning.  How so?  Well, I'm constantly scouring the web for photo information and other photographers because, in my opinion, there's no better way to learn photography than to seek out and study other photographers.  I have a "Photography" bookmark folder in my web browser that houses the websites of other photographers, photography blogs, etc.  I typically check those sources regularly for new information.  Now, several of the photographers that I "follow" are using Google+ and I simply have added them to my Photography circle to immediately gain quick access to their posts in my news stream.  However, the best part are the discussions that spring up on these posts by other people following the same photographer as well as the photographer them self.  Nowhere else have I ever been able to read a post by someone like Moose Peterson, Thom Hogan, Steve Huff, or Chase Jarvis, comment on that post with a question or simple response , and then have the photographer comment back.  It's truly fantastic and I'm amazed that a simple social network can be a powerful learning tool.

On that note, I read a post by Scott Kelby that referenced a cropping technique that he often uses called "Cinematic Crop."  It piqued my interest so I ended up browsing to his website and found his original post with more in-depth info on this cropping technique.  After reading, I was eager to try it out on some of my photos, so I opened up Aperture on my Mac and starting browsing for the perfect candidate(s).  After a very long search I ended up finding three photos that worked well.  The first photo is very recent and one that I liked, but seemed to be missing *something* that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  After playing with it a bit more and applying the crop I ended up with something I really like.  The other two photos are from our visit to Maui, Hawaii back in 2008.  Enjoy!

Kansas Soybeans

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Evening Walk with Ainslee

CamperThe other night, I hadn't been home from work very long before my wife took our two oldest kids and headed to the grocery store leaving me and our youngest daughter, Ainslee, home to entertain each other.  It was a gorgeous evening and I felt it needed to be enjoyed, so I grabbed Ainslee and my camera and headed out for a quick walk to the creek.

Barbed WireI hadn't really planned on taking many pictures primarily because Ainslee can be a handful, literally.  She's at an age where she rarely likes to be put down, instead choosing to be carried by whoever will give in to her whimpering.  She can be quite dramatic and eventually you just have to give in.  It's nothing new, as both of my other children went through the same phase.  You'd think Jodi and I would have gorilla arms by now!  So, I figured we'd simply stroll along as I pointed out the horses, birds, bugs, and anything else she might find interesting (which is a lot at her age!).

Fence PostsTo my surprise, Ainslee actually didn't want to be carried as we started out.  Instead, she began pointing things out to me, starting with our chickens...and their poop.  Yes, she's suddenly fascinated with chicken poop.  Anyway, we carried on and I was able to snap a picture here and there as Ainslee's curiosity took us across the yard, past the horse barn, and then toward the creek.  It was extremely entertaining watching her eyes bounce from one thing to the next.  At one point I stopped to take a picture of a small flower amid the grass.  I squatted very low to the ground and Ainslee came over and squatted next to me with a puzzled look on her face as if wanting to say, "you're really taking a picture of that?"  It was pretty cute and she must've known something because, in the end, I didn't really care for that photo.  Anyway, a few minutes later she decided that she'd done enough walking and wanted me to carry her, so I obliged.

Rust & White-Wall


We eventually made it to the creek and wondered around for quite a while before heading back to the house.  A lovely walk with my lovely daughter!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Change in the Weather

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugThe last few weeks have seen the temperatures drop considerably here in NE Kansas.  It's been fantastic having all the windows in the house open throughout the day (and night!) and I'm looking forward to having a very welcome drop in our electricity bill.  But, the change in weather seems to have occurred much earlier than I'm used to since moving here.  If you ask anyone that's lived here long, August is typically the most miserable month with extreme heat amplified by high humidity.  This year, I think August missed the memo and July recieved it instead.  July was horribly hot and dry, yet August was quite pleasant and September has seemed much cooler than years past.  Yes, Autumn is quickly approaching (officially, 1 more week) and I'm loving it.

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Autumn has a way of triggering my memories more than any other season.  I'm not completely certain why that is, but I think some of it is because Autumn seems Autumn Colorto bring about the year's highest amount of activity.  There just always seems to be more going on this time of year - school, harvesting, sports, hunting, holidays approaching.  We grow up learning that Summer = Vacation and it's no different now, even for those of us who no longer get those 3 Summer months off.  Working during the Summer often has a more relaxed feel to it because it's easy to get fixated on actually taking time off from work.  Haven't we all heard the line, "I'm already in 'vacation' mode," from someone days before their actual vacation begins?  But, once the Dog Days of Summer have come and gone, it's time to hunker down, tighten up the belts, ramp up the activity, and begin the push to get things completed by the end of the year and prepare for Winter.

The action doesn't stop with us as nature also takes a cue from the changing weather - ducks and geese are beginning to move, deer are hitting the rut, turkeys are gathering in large rafters, leaves are beginning to turn, wild sunflowers are popping up everywhere!  It's these events that get me excited as a photographer and make me anxious to get out in the field.  Unfortunately, I haven't spent much time photographing the Fall season the last couple years.  Maybe it has something to do with grad school, children, and a full-time job?  But, although I know this season is gearing up to be a hectic one, I'm going to take every possible chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors with my camera.  With that in mind, I sat last night and found these photos from the past couple of years that fit my mood.

Early Morning Web


Friday, August 26, 2011

15 seconds

My last 3 weeks have been absolutely insane.  So insane that I now know what it's like to completely lose touch with almost every aspect of my life except work.  If someone were to ask me about notable news headlines since August 8th, I might know of 1 or 2.  Worst of all is the time spent away from my wife and kids as I labored to finish the first phase of a very big project at work.  I think I went 3-4 days without seeing my youngest daughter because I was gone before she woke up and came home long after she was in bed.  But, I managed to complete this first phase and am finally decompressing.

Yellow, Blue, and White
Yellow, Blue, and White
Obviously, I had very little time to think about photography, although I do believe it's continuously shuffling in and out of my subconscious even during my busiest moments.  So, during one of my many long, long days, I was rushing from one area of the plant to another and a quick glance to the sky stopped me in my tracks.  For the next 15 seconds I managed to think about nothing else except that one moment.  The sky was amazing and if there were some way I could've taken a picture of the entire expanse of its beauty, I would have.  I didn't have my trusty Nikon, but I did have the next best thing, my iPhone.  I snapped a picture and back to work I went.  Yep, 15 seconds.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

1,000 Blog Views

Earlier today I happened to notice that my blog had surpassed 1,000 total pageviews, which is a cool milestone.  Somehow I've managed to hoodwink enough people into thinking I really have something important to say.  :)

In all honesty, I really appreciate anyone that visits this site and takes some time viewing my photography.  I remember writing my first couple posts thinking, "Nobody is ever going to read this stuff," mainly because I wasn't sure what I wanted to say.  Those first posts took quite some time to complete and post because I kept starting over from scratch.  In the end I had to remind myself on the reason I wanted to write a blog and why I got passionate about photography in the first place - it's my creative outlet to please myself.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugA few years ago I realized that life continues to hand you more responsibilities in the form of marriage, children, work, mortgage and a hundred other things.  While all those things can be tremendously rewarding, I found that I wasn't a very creative person anymore and it bothered me.  I struggled with trying to figure out why I didn't really enjoy drawing, or painting, or making music like I used to when I was younger.  But, along came photography and I suddenly found my creativity again.  Most importantly, I didn't feel like I needed to please anyone with my photographs except me.  Why was this important?  Well, we all know how much time we spend in our daily lives trying to please other people and sometimes it gets overwhelming.

Bottom line is this:  I love taking pictures.  It's one of maybe 3-4 activities that I've found where I completely lose all sense of time - I'm simply off in my own little world.  The idea that other people (you!) might actually enjoy my photography and my thoughts is an added bonus of which I'm deeply grateful!

So, if you're not feeling creative go pick up a pencil or a paintbrush or, better yet, a camera and get busy creating something.  You never know what you might discover.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Feeling a bit Black and White

I love color photography and it's hard not to.  We're surrounded by color and we're used to associating specific colors with different emotions.  In fact, take any art class and I guarantee you'll receive an art instructor sermon at some point that discusses several color-to-emotion relationships.  But, a lot of the emotion that certain colors evoke just seem to come naturally, as if our brains are wired that way.  That's why color photography can be so powerful.

An Adventure Awaits
So, one would think that if all colors, except black and white, are removed from a photograph that we would end up having an emotionless photo, right?  Well, it depends.  Some of the time, that color-less photo IS going have no emotion and look like nothing more than a gray slab.  But, other times the transition to black and white arouses emotions just as powerful as those brought on with colors.  How can this be?

For me, black and white photography is about simplicity.  You take away all the distractions and get right down to the raw data - the nitty-gritty.  If that raw data is captured effectively, then the final output can be pure bliss.  But, instead of colors, black and white photos must rely more heavily on compositional factors - shapes, leading lines, framing, balance - and the use of lighting, contrast, and textures to awaken our emotions.  And, although there is no color, I'm fascinated how the many shades of gray can affect me as if the colors were there.

Bighorn Sheep on the Lookout
Bighorn Sheep on the Lookout
With that in mind, I've been in a *mostly* black and white mood when working with several new photos that I captured on our recent vacation to visit some of my family.  We traveled back to my hometown (Green River, Wyoming) and continued to Grand Junction, Colorado and enjoyed every minute of it.  Compared to past vacations, I really didn't take that many photographs.  But, I'm quite happy with those I did capture.  New photos can be found in both the "Nature and Wildlife" and "Landscapes and Scenics" galleries.  However, I've also created a "Black & White" gallery as a quick-click way to showcase my color-less creations.

To wrap things up, there is one more new gallery titled, "iPhone," which, as you may have guessed, features photos captured and edited on my favorite mobile gadget.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Spent a great amount of time tonight completing some housekeeping on my main photography website.  I never really liked the way I organized my photos to begin with, so I renamed a few galleries, moved pictures here and there, and added a new gallery.  I probably should've spent more time on this task from the start, but I was in a hurry to get enough photos on the site to make it meaningful.  Not sure if I'll end up keeping things exactly as they are now, but I'm happier with what I changed.

I still had some photos from my pre-vacation 50mm outage that I wanted to post, so those are now in my new gallery, "Things," which can be found here.  They didn't really fit in any of my other galleries, so I simply created a new one.  As a preview, here are a couple of my favorites:

Old Sign

Rusty Eagle

I already mentioned that I recently returned from vacation.  Although I didn't take nothing close to the amount of photos that I normally would have, I did get some that I'm very happy with.  Hopefully, I'll get those posted sometime this week.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nifty Fifty

As promised, here are some more photos taken with the 50mm f/1.8D lens.  It's a very fantastic lens and extremely fun to shoot with.  I can't imagine a better lens for the price.

An interesting FYI, the sunflowers in two of the pictures were a surprise addition to our flower bed.  Apparently, the birds feeding throughout the winter on black oil sunflower seeds from our feeders aren't very efficient eaters.  We had several sunflowers sprout this spring and two of them are now about 4 1/2 feet tall.


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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Ok, two months since my last post is completely unacceptable.  But, it's been a busy couple of months (aren't they all?) and the summer is in full stride here in Northeast Kansas.  I've been doing a ton of shooting, but the majority has been around the house chasing kids.  In fact, I'm fairly close to eclipsing 10,000 pictures on my new camera, which is a cool little milestone.  I can only imagine how many images pro photographers take because I take a lot!

As much as I love shooting my children (they change so quickly!), I look forward to every opportunity to get outdoors to shoot the world around me.  It's even more exciting to see the world through a new lens, which is just what I've been doing the last couple days.  All praise be to Father's Day!

Nikon recently introduced it's newest 50mm lens, the AF-S Nikkor f/1.8G, but that's not the lens I got.  I am the happy new owner of the 50mm AF Nikkor f/1.8D, which is about $100 less than the new lens.  I jumped on the f/1.8D due to it's excellent price and outstanding optical performance.  My assumption is that the f/1.8D will be phased out with the introduction of the new AF-S version, so I wanted to get one while they were still available.

Paris Napping
So, over the last couple days I've put the new lens through it's paces.  Again, mostly pictures of my kids, but I managed to turn the lens to one of my cats and got the capture you see here.  Everything about this picture I absolutely love: the sharpness, the color, the contrast, the depth-of-field, the composition.  It just works.  And, here's the kicker, this was shot through our living room window while my cat, Paris, napped on the bench that sits on our front porch.  Pretty impressive lens!

I will be adding some more photos captured with this lens in the next couple of days.  I went out this evening for about an hour and got several more photos that I'm very happy with and eager to share.  This lens will definitely be getting a lot of playing time in the future!

To finish, here are some photos I've captured with other lenses that I recently posted to my photo website.  Click on any picture and it will redirect you to the image on my photo website.  I hope you enjoy them.

Bike Basket Petunias

Windmill Sunset

Kansas Sunset

Hay Field

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who cooks for you? Who cooks for yooouuuu?

I left work today thinking to myself, "It's been a while since I captured a good outdoor picture."  But, considering the day's weather was absolutely terrible (overcast, windy, cold, miserable) I didn't figure on having any photo opportunities arise on my drive home.  But luck has a funny way of popping up every now and then.

Rewind a bit to the weekend where we had to make a trip into Lawrence on both Saturday and Sunday.  On each trip, I saw a beautiful Barred Owl perched on the same exact fencepost just off the side of the rode.  Unfortunately, I was without my camera and, even if I had it with me, the likelihood of actually stopping for a possible picture was pretty slim for a couple reasons.  First, anyone who has traveled with young children knows that the experience can be extremely entertaining and pleasant or like being dragged by your fingernails through the depths of hell.  Our youngest (13 months old) absolutely hates car rides.  So, any additional time spent in the car could be just the ticket to push your blood pressure through the stratosphere.  Second, each time I saw the owl it was out of the corner of my eye at 65 mph, so any chances at photos would have required a U-turn and parking close enough to get a good view.  However, my track record of rolling up on birds carefully enough to keep them from flying is pretty bad.  So, the most I could do was file the experience away in my mind and hope that I might get a similar experience again in the future.

So fast-forward to today, there I was, cruising along, listening to conservative talk radio and wondering what the evening would provide once I arrived home.  Should I go to the gym?  What are we going to eat for dinner?  Yada yada.  But, any time I'm driving there's a part of my subconscious that is scanning the surrounding scenery for...anything...birds, deer, a grand landscape.  This drive was no different and my senses proved to be working great and my luck suddenly changed.  As I passed by the same fencepost from the weekend, my eyes caught the site of the owl sitting atop it and this time I got a really good look at it.  Gorgeous.  But, I had a car following me closely, so any attempt to pull of the road immediately probably would have ended in a wreck.  I had to try my luck at finding a place to U-turn and then slowly rolling up on the bird to put myself in position to get a decent picture.  Turns out, I U-turned twice because I didn't like the idea of trying to pull onto the shoulder on the same side of the road as the owl for fear it would fly off.  Turned out to be a wise decision.

Barred Owl
I managed to pull off the road and began getting shots out of my truck window.  The owl was beautiful and didn't seem to care too much about my presence.  But, I also noticed something odd about this owl.  It's right eye appeared to be either missing or extremely clouded over, so it's fair to assume this owl only benefitted from one good eye.  To think, an animal that relies so heavily on having good eyesight, especially at night, in order to hunt to survive and here I find one with only one good eye.  Pretty tough bird.

I also couldn't help but notice that I seemed to be the only person on the road paying enough attention to even see this amazing bird sitting there.  Seriously, I was ecstatic to see it during the weekend and I was even more stoked that it allowed me another opportunity and this time I had my camera.  Even as I sat with my camera lens sticking far out of my window not a single car slowed down to see what I was taking pictures of.  Now, I know they're not rare or endangered, but you definitely don't see them every  day.  In fact, I know we have at least two flying around in the creek bottom behind my house because I hear them all the time when I let the dogs out at night.  But, I've never seen one when I take walks to the creek.  Here I find one in broad daylight and nobody else seemed to care that it was there to be admired.

Anyway, I captured several images and actually got within about 15 feet of it after getting out of my truck and walking to the opposite shoulder.  The owl made two final poses before finally deciding it had had enough of my company.  The picture you see here is my favorite and I think it shows just how beautiful these birds are.  The size, the eyes, the talons.  Amazing.

For those of you reading who are unfamiliar with Barred Owls, they are also commonly referred to as Hoot Owls.  Additional info, including a few sound bytes of their familiar calls can be found here.