Sunday, November 11, 2012

Not Your Typical Fall Color

Wanted to share a couple pictures taken this past month close to our home.  I was targeting the stereotypical fall foliage that we all love, but didn't have much luck in that department.  Instead, these two scenes grabbed my attention and I'm quite pleased with how they turned out.


Fall Leaves on Reflecting Water

Monday, October 29, 2012

Behind the Lens

Self Portrait in Native Surroundings

I spend a lot of time with a camera shielding my face, staring at the world through the lens (TTL for you non-photography junkies).  A consequence of my love affair with this medium is that I rarely show up in any "real" photos documenting my family's daily happenings or vacations.  Sure, I could always approach a stranger and ask them to snap a photo of me and my family, but I'm not too trusting of other people with my equipment.

However, there are times when I like to document that I *still* exist.  When this occurs, I typically find a light source (usually our nearest star), place it directly behind me, and then attempt to frame an interesting composition that includes my indispensable sidekick.  Most of the time, the resulting photos are never shared since I don't view them as serious photos, it's simply me messing around.  But, the photo here actually turned out really cool and so, I wanted to share it.

This photo was taken during our annual family trek back to Wyoming.  We were wrapping up a nice evening walk along the beautiful Green River.  I had actually turned to photograph something else and noticed my shadow staring back at me...and *Click*.  I like to think of these photos as my own little self portraits.

If you happen to follow me on Instagram (travisgraham44), you may have noticed a couple of my other self portraits in my photo stream.  Speaking of Instagram, I really enjoy that little application and feel like it's another easy avenue for creativity.  I only post photos taken with my iPhone because I feel like importing photos from my other cameras would be cheating.  My most recent Instagram photos appear in my blog sidebar.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

What Happened to the Print?

I recall one of my earliest computers which housed what I then considered a "large capacity" hard drive.  I'm pretty sure it was 6.2 Gb and I remember thinking to myself, "How could anyone EVER fill up 6 gigs of disk space?"  Now, 6 gigs isn't even enough to run a modern, feature laden operating system.  Even worse, 6 gigs is barely large enough to hold 2.79% of my current photo library - Seriously!

In today's world of digital photography photo libraries and the storage to hold them have exploded in size.  I recently read a quick fact that stated 70 billion photos will be uploaded to Facebook this year and that Facebook's photo collection currently has over 140 billion photos.  140 BILLION!!!!  But, what do people really have to show for all those photos?  If we're taking and sharing photos so quickly, are we really stopping long enough to enjoy looking at them and the memories they hold?

You may be asking, "But, Travis, you post a lot of pictures, so aren't you just as guilty?"  Maybe I am.  Over the course of the last 6 years I have snapped A LOT of photos.  However, I bet 98% of them are never viewed by anyone but me, which in itself is a shame.  They sit on my hard drive collecting digital dust.  Even worse, of the 2% that I do share, probably 1 in 100 will get printed for proper display.  Ok then, why don't I share more photos?  And why don't I print more of the photos I do share?  My primary excuse is that I'm very picky on deciding what photos get shared, which is where I feel I differ from the average person.  If I don't think it's worth sharing, I don't share it.  My second excuse is that I'm too busy to sit and go through them, which is a "mostly" true statement.  Am I busy?  Absolutely.  Can I make time to sit and edit photos?  Sure, but it's tough.  Most of my photo editing sessions occur late at night after everyone else is asleep.  The past 3-4 months, I've been so consumed with work that I haven't really felt like editing photos because sleep sounds so much better.  Yes, yes...just excuses and excuses are like a**holes, right? :)

Not that long ago, I remember hanging out with friends and, most of the time, someone had a 35mm film camera with them.  At a time when saving money for beer was on of the highest priorities, the cost of film seemed really expensive and you only got around 30 exposures per roll.  Blindly snapping photo after photo could really be looked at as a waste.  Even without blindly snapping it seemed like 1/2 the photos came back looking like crap anyway.  Yet we snapped away and it never failed that when someone came home with several envelopes of newly developed photos, everyone in the apartment immediately stopped what they were doing, huddled together, and jockeyed for the best position to see what surprises the envelopes held.  Laughter ensued, surprises were found, events were remembered!  The "good" photos typically made their way onto pin boards or the refrigerator for permanent display.  Does anyone do that anymore?

Anyway, I've pretty much babbled along here without making much of a point, but I promise you there is one, so hang with me...

A couple months ago, a friend and former coworker took a new position with a new company.  After a couple weeks at his new job, he approached me with a question - if he selected a couple of my photos, would I get them printed for him so he could frame them to hang in his new office?  "Are you kidding?  I'd love to," was my response.  Heck, it's not every day someone wants to hang one of your pictures for display in their office!  With that, he selected his photos and I assured him I'd try to get him the best prints possible.

For the next week I went back and forth several times trying to decide where I wanted to submit my photos for printing.  I finally decided to try Mpix, which was a bit of a gamble because I'd never used them before.  I submitted both photos for printing on their metallic finished paper in size 12"x18", which I've found to be my favorite print size (at least for framing) because it does not require any cropping for 3:2 aspect ratio photos.  Plus, I consider it my "Goldilocks" size, not too big and not too small - just right!  Two days after placing my order, the prints arrived.

Now, if you've hung with me this far, here's where I'll try to make one of my points (yes, there may be multiple "points" by the end of this thing).  As I began opening the box for the prints an old familiar feeling began to wash over me.  A feeling of excitement and curiosity, just like the past with those film envelopes.  Oddly enough, I had some nervousness mixed in, too, because I wanted these prints to turn out really good.  I finished getting everything unwrapped and upon seeing the prints for the first time my jaw dropped.  They looked magnificent and better than I ever imagined!  And, I once again realized that there is no better way to view a photo than in print.  Yes, computers, laptops, tablets and cellphones are nice and very convenient, but photos were made to be printed.

To add icing to the cake, when my friend saw his new prints for the first time, his reaction was exactly like mine.  He couldn't believe how good they looked and his reaction was 110% worth the time I spent getting the prints ready.

So, thinking back, this whole process made me realize several things (ready for more points??):

1. We allow life to overwhelm us far too often and we all need to slllllooooowww down and enjoy the experiences in front of us because they don't last forever.  It's more important to care about capturing the moment than it is to care about how many people are going to "like" your photos.

2. Share/display your photos!  What's the point in taking them if they're never going to be viewed...and enjoyed...and talked about?

3. Print your photos!  Photos help us remember, good or bad, and are worth printing for permanent display.  They don't belong on hard drives.  Hard drives are dark, magnetic, and spin really fast.  On your hard drive a photo is just a bunch of 1's and 0's.  Printed, a photo can be a work of art, a conversation piece, a memory.

4. Technology is rotting our brains. :)

Now, if I can only follow my own advice.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Color in a Dry Summer

Thought I'd share a little bit of color in protest of the hot and dry summer we've had.  These were all taken within 10 ft. of our house.  My wife managed to work some magic in keeping some greenery and color going through the worst of the heat.  Kudos to her!  I'm quite partial to the photo of my Japanese Maple (yes, mine), since it was a Father's Day gift from my wife and kids when we first moved to our current house.  It's actually had new growth on it most of the summer, which is surprising.

Anyway, here's to hoping the sweltering heat is behind us as only 16 days remain until the Autumnal Equinox and, quite possibly, my favorite season of the year!  It's only supposed to be a high of 77 tomorrow. Word.


Japanese Maple

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kansas Sunflowers

Kansas Sunflowers

My new job has been occupying a ton of my time and it doesn't appear to be slowing down when looking toward the horizon.  I'm enjoying it immensely, but an obvious downside is the time it takes away from other things I enjoy.  Catching up with Jodi and the kids when I get home takes priority over  everything else, so I have to get my "free" time in whenever I can.  Proof of point, it's currently 12:28 AM as I write this and even though I know I have to get up for work I'm in no hurry to get to sleep.  

Overall, it's been a pretty slow outdoor photography year.  On top of the busy work schedule, most of the summer was absolutely miserable due to the excessive heat.  The area landscape is in very poor shape right now from the sun baking it each day with very, very little moisture.  It's really hard to get too excited about outdoor photography when it's 105 degrees - every day - and all the greenery isn't very green!

Kansas Sunflowers

Kansas Sunflowers

But, even under the worst circumstances something sensational can occur.  Driving home from Lawrence one evening I passed a farmer's field full of sunflowers and was awe struck with its beauty.  It's a familiar field right off the highway in which the farmer alternates his crop each year (last year was corn).  Since I no longer drive that highway each day, I wasn't aware that this year was a Sunflower year.  Even so, it was difficult to imagine anything thriving in the weather this summer presented, but this field proved otherwise.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera.  I briefly considered stopping anyway to use my iPhone to snap some pictures, but figured there was no way an iPhone could do this field any justice.  At that moment I made it a point to somehow make some "free" time that would allow me to return in the next couple days avec camera.  Two days later, on a superbly gorgeous evening, I returned and spent a little over an hour admiring the beauty through my camera's viewfinder.


Kansas Sunflower

Sunflowers and Starburst

Late Bloomer

Kansas Sunflower

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Simple Window

Screened Window

A simple click that probably made me stop and think more than most.  Why?  Because I had a really hard time explaining to myself why I like this image so much.  It seems so simple, yet I kept coming back to it over and over.

So, each time I came back to it I tried to determine a new reason for liking it.  Below is my list of reasons, in no particular order:

1. Simplicity - Let's face it, there's really not much going on here.  Yet, it's been shown before that some of the most striking images are very simple in structure.  For the most part, I think people tend to capture too much "info" within a single image.  Have you ever come across a scene that you felt was absolutely amazing - we're talking the bee's knees - snapped a photo and then been disappointed with the image upon later review?  Why didn't the image convey the awesome feeling you had at the time of capture?  The likely culprit is probably that the image contains too much information.  Yeah, it happens to me all the time!

2. Detail - The photo really brings a rustic feel to my mind.  You can tell that the window and the siding are a bit weathered and the overall structure definitely wasn't built yesterday.  The weathered look provides a lot of details in all the wood siding and I managed to nail the exposure to bring out detail in the white frame of the window and the screen.

3. That screen covering the glass window - This is probably the hardest to explain, but it's also what made me stop and take the picture in the first place.  Even now, each time I open the image my eyes immediately focus on the screen.  It does help that it's the brightest part of the image, which means our eyes and brains will tend to focus on it first.  But, the screen itself lends a lot in trying to "see" the building as a whole and what the building is for.  Right away I think of a building that's not meant to be occupied for long periods of time.  The screen is too restricting to let in a lot of light and nobody is going to peer through that window to gaze at beautiful scenery.  If someone had been standing there, looking out the window as I took the photo, you'd hardly be able to see them!  It's also quite thick and an obvious conclusion is that the screen's sole purpose is in protecting the glass from being broken.  If I had no other knowledge of this building, I'd conclude that it's located in a very public place and has been on the receiving end of vandalism in the past.

4. Contrast - I love the contrasting shades of black, white, and gray.  The shadows help draw attention to the details of the wood.  I think the actual building is red and white, but I took the actual picture in black and white (not color and then converted to b&w).  The shadow along the left and bottom edges of the window frame help in making it pop out of the scene.

5. The bird shit - After the screened window, it's the next thing my eye is drawn too.  Just a weird little detail that really seems to fit in just right.

6. It's different - By this, I mean it's different than my preferred captures of wildlife and natural landscapes.  I love capturing nature in photos and it's my first choice when I venture out with my camera.  But, I don't want to be caught up in a label, either.  It's fun to venture outside my comfort zone to try capturing a compelling image.  I mean, technically I'm not really a photographer, since I don't make any money doing this.  In that sense, I'm just an engineer.  But I like to keep myself on my toes!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Stroll Along The Green

Rising Above The Green River

It's been severely hot and dry this summer, not just here in Kansas, but all over the mid and western US.  The lack of water has taken its toll: lawns are yellow, trees are already losing their leaves, and crops are quickly going to waste.  It's times like these when you realize our immense dependence on water and how much we take that dependence for granted.

It's also amazing how much difference a year can make.  About this time last year, we were visiting my hometown in Wyoming.  The winter of 2010-2011 had produced record snow packs in some areas and, although winters in Wyoming are already tough, the vast amount of snow was a welcome site to a state suffering about 10-12 years of drought conditions.  As we drove across the state creeks and rivers were flowing out of their banks.  We drove into the Snowy Mountain range west of Laramie (Highway 130 - a beautiful drive!) and there were still 6-8 foot walls of snow and ice lining the road in several areas.  In fact, I wanted to show my wife and kids the Sugarloaf area where my friends and I often hiked and fly-fished during college and we couldn't even turn off the road because it was drifted in with snow.

But that was last year.  We just returned a week ago from our annual trip for this year and the landscape was a 180 degree change.  Dry, hazy (fires in several regions including some of my old stomping grounds), and hardly anything was green.  So, it was a great surprise when we rolled into Green River and saw that the actual Green River was flowing quite nicely at a much higher water level than I expected.  It was probably the only flowing body of water we saw on the entire trip that didn't look like it was a couple months away from drying up completely.

One of our first nights back in town, we took the kids and drove down to the Scott's Bottom area of the river on the southeast edge of town.  The city has done an amazing job constructing a greenbelt system that spans a good deal of the river and now extends from the middle of town all the way to the Scott's Bottom (aka FMC Park) area.  We were all anxious to stretch our legs a bit after the 2-day drive from Kansas and there's  no better way than strolling along The Green.

It's an extremely beautiful river and I often forget how much I miss it.  I couldn't help staring at it, reading its ripples and pools thinking, "There's probably a fish there....and there...and there."  The area we walked is a thriving riparian habitat and my kids were quick to start pointing out the various birds and critters we saw.  These riparian zones along the river stick out like sore thumbs, considering this area of Wyoming is mostly desert with not much more than sagebrush and dirt.  I've always loved standing high on the hills surrounding the city and looking down on the contrast provided by the lush, green banks of the river.  It truly is an integral part of the community and environment.

This photo shows the river and the hills that rise above her east of town.  The light was just starting to come together and I stepped away from the family to frame the shot.  I chose black and white to try highlighting the contrast I was seeing.  The clouds were really starting to form nicely and I liked the shadow play they were causing upon the hills.  I also liked how the clouds and some of the hill "faces" that were in light were complementing each other.  Throw in the light that was lightly touching the grass in front of me and things came together well.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's Good to be Home

Sunset over Green River, Wyoming

It's hard to describe the feeling I get when returning to my hometown, but I look forward to it each visit. I don't get the opportunity to visit as much as I'd like, so I try to take advantage of it as much as possible. This year I've challenged myself with taking the time to get out and take some meaningful photos. It's tougher than it sounds because my primary reason for visiting is family and it's hard to sacrifice time with my grandparents, aunts, and uncles - who I only see once a year - to go out shooting photos.

Nonetheless, my wife, kids, and I spent most of the day exploring the wonderful landscape surrounding Green River, Wyoming scouting for good photo opportunities. This day, we concentrated on the area east of town where the Green River winds it's way south leaving the town behind it. My plan was to file away some spots that I would later return to during more ideal shooting hours. In fact, most of my shots early in the day were with my iPhone just trying to put together ideas.

It was pretty hot during our midday excursion, so we decided to give the kids a break, but agreed that we'd come back in the evening after it cooled off. Returning to the river around 7:00, we walked along the bank looking for wildlife. I wasn't fully in photographer mode, instead trying to help my kids enjoy being able to explore an area they're unfamiliar with. It turned out to be an absolute gorgeous night. I snapped a few pics here and there, but wasn't completely satisfied with most of them. After some time, we decided to call it a night, but at least I had a few more ideas to return to.

As we started back toward my Grandma's house, my wife asked about an area I mentioned earlier in the day. I told her we were very close and asked if she wanted to cruise that way for a bit and she agreed. I knew we couldn't get to the exact spot I wanted before sunset and didn't really want to attempt it because it would've made for an interesting drive back to town in the dark. Had it just been me and my wife, then maybe. But with the 3 kids with us, I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks.

The dirt rode was horribly rutted from someone else's poor decision to tear up the road sometime earlier in the year when it must've been sloppy with mud. So, it was very slow going as I navigated to keep everyone from bouncing out of their seats (the kids were enjoying it!). I finally mentioned that we couldn't make it to where I wanted and that I'd turn around. But my wife told me to at least go down around a bend she could see explaining that we could possibly catch the last of the sunlight over the town. I continued on and have to give her credit because the view back toward the west was spectacular. Actually, the views in all directions were pretty impressive. I stepped out of the car, crouched down, and snapped the picture you see here. Not bad considering I was still in "scouting" mode and we'd taken an unplanned detour.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Freshly Baled

Freshly Baled

I couldn't resist photographing the hay field with fresh bales scattered about.  I've always loved hay fields and farm fields, in general.  There's something about them that I find nostalgic and a little romantic.  The fact that they can be quite beautiful helps, too.  Obviously, Kansas has plenty of farm fields, sometimes as far as the eye can see - and beyond!  It's known as The Wheat State for good reason and it's been a very early harvest so far this year in regards to the hay and wheat.

I hold a high amount of respect for anyone that earns their livelihood farming or ranching.  My Grandpa has ranched his entire life and shows no signs of stopping.  Some of my fondest memories are from the weekly visits to the ranch to visit him and my Grandma.  I loved when he or my uncle would call and invite me to help gather cows or stack hay and it's something I dearly miss.  Anymore, the smell of a freshly cut hay field or the raunchy smells of cow and horse manure immediately take me back and make me wish I could visit more often.

In that sense, this photo is very fitting since my family and I are leaving this weekend for our annual trek back to my hometown.  This work week can't end soon enough.  And, although my wife and I go through a little bit of hell on earth traveling with 3 young kids and over 2000 miles round trip, the first time I see my grandparents and then later stand on their porch as we watch deer come of the river into the alfalfa field, believe me when I say it's worth the price of admission!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Struggle to Survive

Robin Chick

I first ran into this little robin chick early in the week as I walked across the property toward my in-laws' house.  I'm surprised I saw it at all as it sat motionless just inside the edge of the grass.  I know better than to mess with mother nature, but I'll admit that my first reaction was to look up into a nearby tree for a nest.  My hope was that one was easily accessible so I could return the little guy (or gal?) to a safer environment.  I'm sure no one would argue that its chance of survival are far less on the ground as they would be in its nest, especially when there are no less than 5 cats roaming around - all accomplished bird hunters.

I slowly crouched and moved closer to see if it might be injured and it finally let me know I was close enough by giving out several loud chirps and hopping away.  With that "alarm" signal sent out I was suddenly bombarded by two adult robins trying to draw my attention away from the little bird.  I grinned and complied with their request and felt better knowing that the little bird's parents were at least close by and looking out for it.  But, as I walked away I couldn't help thinking that its chance of making it through the night were pretty slim.

Fast-forward a couple days and I happened to be walking by the same area where I'd originally noticed the bird.  Much to my astonishment I once again saw it sitting motionless in the grass.  It'd only been a couple days, but already I noticed that the bird had changed a bit and seemed to be doing pretty good.  I wasn't tied up with anything important, so I headed back to the house to grab my camera and figured I'd better hurry since it was getting close to sun down.

When I returned, the bird was gone - at least it appeared that way.  I knew it couldn't fly, so I began slowly scouring the grass and nearby bushes without luck.  Just about the time I was going to give up I heard a small chirp and looked in its direction.  There it was, perched upon the rusty wheel of an old farmer's push cart.  I smiled and thought about the struggle this little bird was facing for survival.  So far, it was beating the odds!  I dropped to my stomach and crawled as close as I felt comfortable without scaring it from its "safety" perch.  After snapping a few pictures, I thanked it for its cooperation and slowly backed away and left.

It's now been several days and I haven't seen the little bird again.  My hope is that it made it to a safer area and is doing fine, but reality makes me think this story has an unhappy ending.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Piggyback Bird

Western Kingbird Piggyback

Leaving work one day, I noticed some birds hanging around the perimeter fencing that I didn't immediately recognize.  Driving away, I phoned my wife and described the birds as she searched her bird identification app.  Back and forth we went, me trying to describe them and her asking questions as she narrowed her search.  Apparently I'm not too good at describing birds because we were unable to settle on an answer.

When I arrived home, I sat down with one of our bird books and began searching.  Not long into my search I found what I was looking for.  I called my wife over and showed her the picture on the page - Western Kingbird.

During lunch the next day, I moseyed out onto our nature walk with my camera hoping the birds I saw previously were still around.  I wanted a closeup photo to verify their identification.  I was pretty certain they were Western Kingbirds, but the Western Kingbird looks very similar to a couple other Kingbirds, specifically the Cassin's and Couch's Kingbirds.

As luck would have it, I managed to walk about 20 feet before seeing two of the birds sitting on some of the power lines coming into the plant.  I quickly snapped a few photos and then began waiting to see if they would provide me a closeup opportunity.  As I waited, I was able to identify six Kingbirds buzzing around, which I thought was pretty cool considering I'd never seen one until the day before.

I watched closely as one of the Kingbirds finally landed close to where I was standing.  I slowly brought my camera up and began snapping photos while walking very slowly toward it.  I was surprised to see the  Kingbird remain perched as I crept closer and closer.  Then I got another surprise as I noticed a spider (at least it looked like a spider) sitting on the bird's back.  Yes, you read that correctly, a spider getting a piggyback ride on the back of a Western Kingbird.  Nature never fails to amaze!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Birds at Home

House Sparrow

It's been quite a while since I was able to dedicate a full morning/evening to a local photo trek.  But, my camera is never too far from my side.  The weather has been fantastic and we've still been spoiling some of the local birds with black oil sunflower seeds.  We all enjoy sitting in the living room or on the front patio and watching the birds come and go and I often grab the camera to capture their activity.

On this particular day, I was growing tired of getting photos of birds perched directly on the feeders and patio railing.  I started thinking of ways to break things up a bit so that I could get pictures of birds in a more natural setting.  I finally walked down to our willow tree and picked out a good sized branch that was already lying on the ground.  Using some black zip ties, I was able to mount the branch between a couple shepherd's hooks that were positioned close to the main feeder.  I was counting on the branch becoming a staging area for the birds as they came and went.  Normally, the main staging area is within our ornamental plum tree that sits about 20 feet from our patio.  It provides good photos, if you can get a bird to land on an open branch unobstructed by leaves, but the new branch, if the birds would use it, would provide me a much closer view.

Little by little the birds began warming up to the additional branch, landing on it as they came to feed.  All I had to do was sit and wait for them to land in a position on the branch that offered a pleasing composition.  The two photos here of the House Sparrow and the Downy Woodpecker are a couple of my rewards.

Downy Woodpecker

Not to forget about the plum tree, I captured this photo of a Common Grackle as it came to harass some of  the other birds and grab some seeds.  I don't really care for the Grackle (as a bird they're pretty annoying), but I couldn't pass up the beauty of it's iridescent blue head and yellow eyes against the red leaves of the plum tree.



Friday, April 27, 2012

Blackbirds and Chicken Feet

Blackbirds on a Wire

The weather has been absolutely amazing we've spent a lot of time enjoying it outdoors.  We haven't been the only ones enjoying the weather.  The purple martins have returned from their winter migration and meadowlarks have been filling the pasture air with their songs.  Turkeys have even been spotted in the hay field.

A couple weekends ago we were invaded by a very large flock of red winged blackbirds.  The first hint of their presence was from their non-stop racket as they grouped together in the trees around the property.  Now, I'm no  expert on red winged blackbirds, but it's fairly easy to distinguish the males from the females - and there were lots of them!  And, guessing by their noises, they are likely in the heat of their mating season.

We watched them throughout the day as they roosted in large groups and then, without notice, would take to the air.  I've always enjoyed watching large groups of small birds as they zig and zag through the sky, turning on a dime and these blackbirds put on quite a show.  Often, they landed in the hayfield, completely disappearing into the knee high grass.  You wouldn't even know they were there if you hadn't just seen them.  Then, they'd reappear as if the hayfield was spitting them out into the sky.  It was really cool to see.

I tried several times to capture an image of a large group as they flew together, but I never caught an image that really gave justice to what it was like in real time.  I finally saw a group land on the the fence, framed a shot, and snapped the shutter before they were back in the air.

Chicken Feet

This other picture is a simple click that I have to credit my wife for bringing to my attention.  She had let our chickens out to roam the yard and they made their way to the front flower bed.  They LOVE the flower beds and will spend as much time as possible digging dusting "bowls" and then laying in them throwing dirt on themselves.  I really wish I could have witnessed the scene leading to this photograph.  The sidewalk leading to our front door shares a boundary with the flower bed, so apparently one chicken was standing on the sidewalk while another tossed some dirt.  What was left were these perfect chicken tracks.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

More Spring

Still enjoying a wonderful Spring, although we have slipped back into some chillier temperatures.  Can't complain too much, especially when this weather makes carrying my camera extremely enjoyable!


Early Spring Bleeding Heart

Hen & Chicks

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring has Sprung

We've been enjoying an early spring here in Northeast Kansas.  We went through a couple weeks of some of the most beautiful springtime tree blooms that I've seen!


Red Bud Tree

Purple Plum Blooms

Oak Tree in front of Bradford Pear Trees

Crab Apple Tree


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lost...But Found!

Another example of how things can easily get lost in the shuffle.  When I download new photos from my camera, I have the fullest intent of going through them as quickly as possible to weed out those that don't make my initial cut.  Then I go through them again to determine my favorites.  Finally, I'll spend a bit more time editing as needed, although I really like to keep my editing to a minimum.  At last, I can share them with the world...or, at least the handful of people who might follow this blog every now and then.

I stumbled upon this photo of a Gerbera Daisy (one of my wife's favorite flowers) while skimming through old photos from way back in 2009.  Yes, it's been hiding for 3 years!  I really like this photo and am kicking myself for "misplacing" it for this long.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Old Barn

Old Barn

I've always been on the fence when it came to the argument of using RAW capture vs. in-camera JPEG for my images.  99% of my images have been JPEG straight from the camera with minor adjustments made using some flavor of photo editing software (first GIMP then iPhoto and more recently, Aperture) to arrive at my final images.  I've tried to adhere to the philosophy of capturing my images in camera as close as possible to my final visions for those pictures.  Basically, I'd rather be outdoors capturing images than sitting in front of my computer for hours on end editing pictures to get them looking good.

Up to now, my "in-camera JPEG" strategy has worked well for me.  But, lately I've ran into a couple situations where my attempt at an image using in-camera JPEG failed, mostly due to my cameras inability to capture the necessary dynamic range for some lighting situations.  I know I'm not alone in this arena, since all cameras have limited dynamic range.  Struggling with those images made me think that using RAW capture could help in being able to pull detail from both shadows and highlights better than I can using an in-camera JPEG. I know that HDR photography is an option, but I've yet to jump on that bandwagon, simply because too many HDR images I see are processed "over the top" and look fake.  Plus, I do not have the necessary software to pull off HDR the way I would like if I ever decided to try.  Another option is to use a graduated ND filter, but that's something that's still on my "wish list" to purchase.

With that, my last few outings into the field I've forced myself to switch from JPEG to RAW capture.  Fortunately, it hasn't been as big of a change as I thought it might be.  Also, it hasn't changed my workflow all that much and, so far, processing and editing RAW files in Aperture is pretty darn close to editing JPEG images.

The image above is an example where I don't think I could have arrived at the same final image if I used in-camera JPEG.  The dynamic range was quite large and editing the RAW image, I was easily able to pull some detail from the foreground shadows (corn field, trees, and barn).  I also played around with adjusting the highlights and am quite pleased with the results I came up with in the sky/cloud area.  I also noticed an advantage with RAW concerning the overall sharpness and detail of the image.  I was probably 200 feet or more from the barn and trees, yet the detail and sharpness in the tree branches is pretty good.  This barn is less than 1/2 mile from my house and I've taken many pictures of it.  But, this is the first image I've captured that I've been very pleased with.


Friday, February 17, 2012

My Birthday Treat

My birthday + Leaving Work Early + Baker Wetlands + One Camera + One Lens = A very enjoyable, low key birthday treat to myself!

Yes, gone are the days of tearing up the town with a huge birthday celebration - out all night drinking and headache in the morning. Well, maybe not completely gone as I'm sure I'll need a drink or ten when I hit 40 (yes, it's closer than I like to think). Anyway, this year, I managed to slip away from work a bit early and decided to explore the Baker Wetlands alone with my camera. It turned out to be a gorgeous evening and I had the entire area to myself as I didn't see another person for 3 hours. Yep, just me, my camera, and a single lens - my 70-300mm telephoto zoom. Obviously, with that lens my first line of thinking was figuring out how to get some wildlife photos.

This time of year Baker Wetlands is teeming with waterfowl, so my goal was to get near a pool and then wait to see if it became active.  But, geese and ducks obviously have better eyesight and hearing than I give them credit for because this plan never panned out.  I'm sure the fact that I wasn't wearing any camouflage probably didn't help my cause.  I managed a few pictures of some ducks that I spooked off one pool, but the results are nothing to write home about.  I did miss one really good opportunity when I quietly and meticulously duck walked (seems fitting) and crawled to within 15 feet of the edge of another pool that had a couple ducks in perfect position.  I made sure I stayed low behind the extremely thick cat tails and reeds with every move I made. Unfortunately, as I brought the camera to my eye, I had the stem of a cat tail right in line with the ducks. As I slowly reached forward to move it to the side the ducks busted me and that was the end of that.

After striking out with the ducks, I decided to slowly wander the area snapping photos of whatever caught my eye.  Having the 70-300 attached proved to be a nice challenge for getting interesting shots since it's not a lens I typically think of or use for landscapes.  It forced me to move a lot more with my feet to get the right positions for framing shots. Like anything else, photography takes practice and if you don't challenge yourself, then your shots become stale.  At least, that's how like to I think about it. As the evening's light quickly faded, I finally had to make the decision to head back to my truck.  It had been a truly enjoyable evening and during that walk back, I couldn't help thinking, "OK, 33 isn't that old!"

Bird Leaves (Red Winged Blackbirds)

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Wise One

It's amazing how something you know is there is so hard to find.  It's probably been 8 months or more since I last saw a Barred Owl.  Like I said, I know they're out there, but they're usually very good at blending in.  Maybe that's why they have the reputation of being "wise."  Yet, over the last 2 weeks I've seen a Barred Owl almost every day as I commute back and forth to work.  One morning, I saw three!  It's a welcome site to see one and it's something I never get tired of.

With this particular owl, I was on my way home after work and happened to be in the right place just as the light was getting good.  I quickly pulled to the side of the road, stepped out and starting shooting.  Immediately, I noticed a branch running right in front of the owl's face, so I ended up standing on my truck bed topper to frame a better shot.  I managed about 5 more frames and the owl quietly slipped deeper into the timber.