Lessons in Silence

Lessons in Silence One of the things about being the Dad with a camera in Little League is you have to learn to be an observer...and nothing more.

See if you capture the critical play and know the umpire got it wrong..you'd better stay quiet.  It is the umpire's field, he called it the way he saw it, and he's the authority not you.  To kick, shout or throw a tantrum is to dishonor your team and status as a photographer.  It will also get you asked to leave and not come back!  Anyway the umpires called a good game, excellent strike zone and kept it all moving. Besides if you focus on your craft, you capture a moment and show how to be a good relaxed Dad.  

My son did well.  Pulled in a fly out in right, grounded into an infielders choice, and caught for an inning.  He got settled down and did well behind the plate.  He had a great play guarding the plate...but I will refer back to the lesson in silence and not tell you the call!  See whether he got credit for the out or not it did not matter for the purposes of me getting to stay on the field!  He hauled the ball in, got a tag on the runner, and improved during his second tour behind the plate this season.  I got to see all this without a fence in front of me, and with a 60-250mm (90-375mm with a 1.5 crop factor) telephoto lens!  HEHE!

So that takes me to today...first game I was able to shoot all season from start to finish.  I vowed today to make sure I did as little as I could in post production.  So I shot RAW + JPEG, set the camera to vibrant, worked the exposure settings between shots to get the best one, played with highlight and shadow controls in camera...and worked it as well as I could.  Big thing in post is cropping, and then some extra highlight controls (it was very bright!).  By working hard, and getting the JPEGs right I got the work done quickly today.  If something needed extra work it would only take a few seconds to switch to the RAW and try to recover a few more highlights of shadows to enhance the shot.  Today I did not have to do that at all.

So in a few minutes I'll share the photos with both teams (the other team's coach was my son's coach last fall)...and head off to bed...job all done!

Now all I need to to get paid for this sometime!


P.S. Mr Pentax K-5 with 60-250F4 all day long

Ground Ball!

Spot On

Basking in the light My little girl Kellie her was reading like her big sister bookworm, and I just had to capture the smile...so I did.

Now in this little photo I found myself able to teach myself the value of a feature, and to remember an RC (as in Raphael Conception) rule.

I knew the had a high contrast scene, and to use the zone metering would make everything 18% grey  (aka blah).  So for this photo I slipped into spot metering (my spot metering is aligned with my focus point).  This means my focus point will be exposed properly, and everything else will be exposed relative to that value.  As a result you get all the blown highlights above my daughter, but I accepted that since I wanted it to be light and airy.  Had I used zone metering the camera would attempt to meter different segments of the photo to have as much properly exposed as possible.  Normally that is great, but it would take the pop out of this photo and make it flat.  So my desired light and airy feel would be gone.

The other rule, RC's rule for kids, is in full force here.  I had to take three photos with Mr Fuji to get the combination of smile, head tilt and light I wanted in the final product.  RC is right that you can get good photos of kids...you just need to take lots of photos to get the one worth keeping.  I can say for sure this is not luck, it is perseverance.  (RC is often on the video blog Photography Tips and Ticks, Kelby One and his website www.aboutrc.com)

Just one point here about how lucky I've been so far in my short photography career.  Even though I'm just a little guy, sold only a few photos, have so much to learn...I've had the opportunity to meet some of the nicest people in the business.  I've met and briefly worked with big industry names like Skip Cohen, Michele Celentano, Bob Coates, Scott Bourne, RC, Bill Fortney, Jim Begley and they all gave me the time of day deep respect as a person.  I've also met great photographers I count as friends like Adrian Ciolacu, Fran Ruchalski, Bret Watkins and many others who inspire me and helped me with things like finding a good print shop.  I actually I hope I don't insult anyone who I run out of space to mention....

I think the thing that makes them so special is that they know how to approach a crowd with multi zone metering...and when given the chance to meet you one on one switch to spot metering.  As a result they speak to you, treat you well and make you want to take care of them as they do to you.

So look them up, and enjoy their work.  I'll try to get a link in to each over the next few weeks so you can see the wide range of talents that inspire me...and maybe you too!


Inspired work on the way!

The Slow Spring

The Slow Spring I don't know about you, but this almost feels like we're going to have a year without a summer!  The flowers and blooms though are trying to come out and enjoy the sun.  Just a quick shot from the yard in the fading spring light this weekend.  These flowers are very graceful for a day at most, then they get twisted, and lose a lot of their appeal.  So if I want a shot of them, I need to photograph them as soon as they open.  So the lesson of the day is to take the shot now, because you never know if it will be there tomorrow.

Good lesson for life as well.


P.S. Fuji X-E1 with 60mm close up lens.  (This is not a true macro as it will only do 2:1, not the full 1:1 a traditional macro will obtain)

Premium or Regular?

Premium or Regular? I received a blessing from God today...I went out to fellowship and take photos with the His Light Workshop Crew.

If you have a few minutes I suggest you take a look at the work of Bill Fortney ( http://billfortney.com/) and Jim Begley (http://www.wowphotoshdr.com/).

What you will find are stunning images of life.  You will not find subjects created for shock value or pure sex appeal.  You find written word and art which lifts you upwards...toward an appreciation for God and all his wonders. Bill is fond of saying he loves texture in his photos.  I also think he is very good at helping you appreciate the textures God adds to your life.  Jim makes High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos which knock your socks off in content, technical excellence and message.  When you talk to him, you can see feel his love of God coming out in the same manner of an HDR photograph where something we think is too dark for perception reveals itself and the composition makes sense so the message takes root in your heart and mind in equal parts.  How do these men do this?  By actively listening to you, and letting God work through them in a very humble manner.

See if you come to a His Light Workshop, you better be ready for God to speak through its many members.  You need to understand that when you join the crew, they will care about you more as a person than as a photographer.  The funny thing is when they do this, they offer more of themselves to you as teachers than most others ever will if they did the reverse.

I saw many examples today of agape love in HDR.  People freely giving of themselves to care for others,  offering a prayer for others in need, and providing an environment for people to engage in the sharing at a level their personalities and life texture permits.  It is not loud, it is not outlandish...it is quiet and subtle..it is the sound of the Holy Spirit working his way through people bringing Christ where needed for their sustainment.

So why the title?  Well we all have many choices in life for everything we do.  In choosing friends and services I think we also have a choice...we can chose Premium or Regular friends.  A regular friend will be with us as we travel through life, but when a challenge arrives they'll just walk on their own trying to help you with a man's knowledge.  A premium friend with walk with you, and when the time comes not be afraid to invoke God in the discussion of how you shall overcome life's challenges using his revealed laws of nature and scripture.

The men and women of His Light...they are Premium.


PS X-E1 with the 35mm Prime





A Lenten Lesson

And so it begins! Ash Wednesday!  The preparation for the most important day of the year started today.  I attended mass near my office at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary here in Atlanta.  The priest provided a great suggestion on a Lent tradition.  The usual tradition is that we give up something we really like for Lent.  Our celebrant put a twist on that tradition.  He reminded us Jesus does not mind us giving things up that we like as a method of preparing ourselves for a spiritual journey...but what what makes him happiest is when we give up the things he does NOT like before we meet him!

That matched up pretty well with my daily devotional in the Liturgy of the Hours.  So I'm working on giving up a vice everyday (lets say improving my language and vocabulary skills)....and a an extra vice (coffee) on Fridays.  Accomplishing #1 on a normal day will be interesting....without coffee on Fridays?  Oh maybe I'll find a way to stay in bed and hide!

I hope and pray that you too will grow in faith and wisdom on this Lenten journey.


P.S. Fuji X-E1 with 18-55

Spring's Flowers

First Flowers of Srping Well not to rub it in to those of you looking at more white stuff this evening, but look what was in my yard today!

Two weeks ago we had an ice storm.  This weekend we had springlike weather, flowers, and our first baseball practices with the boys.  

Walking the yard today, I think the big tragedy may be my gardenia bush near our deck.  The frost just ravaged the leaves.  It is mostly brown now, and I don't know if it will recover.  We also took some damage to the shed, and it needs roof repair now.  Hopefully I can teach myself to fix it without too much trouble.

This all just reminds me life is so precious, and our journey in the world so tenuous.  

See we're still praying for a lady our age who after having her fourth child in December collapsed in the parking lot at our children's homeschooling music group.  Her husband, knowing she was not feeling well that day was with her and immediately started CPR.  The ambulance came and she went off intubated to the hospital.  All this while her four children sat in the van...again a little miracle since friends nearby swooped them up and took them home for safety.  70 minutes later .... yes 70 minutes later.. her heart started working again on its own.  At first there appeared to be no brain activity...and they they tested again the next day....and found some hope.

By the third day she moved her feet, hands and made sounds.  She even wanted to know if the baby was hungry.  A little over two weeks later she is teasing her husband, who still sits at her side.  She knows her children and family.  She thinks it is 1996...but she is alive (and with children who were not born yet in 1996) and moving towards recovery.   Three doctors already said this is a miracle, even compared her to Lazarus more than once.

I told told my wife I was satisfied a miracle occurred when her husband was at her side that day...and even though feeling queasy she went along to help him get the kids to music. (probably knew Dad would get the times messed up...I know the drill because  my wife writes down everything for me and tells the kids they are my alarm clock).

The cause?  An extremely rare injury to an artery resulting from childbirth in December.

When told about the cause...she said without hesitation the child was worth the cost.

This my friends is a miracle we should all take note of.  We are witnessing a husband and wife who gave all without question to each other, and a witnessing their faith journey with us out here on the outside of their family.

For my wife and I it reminded us to love every moment of our lives.  They could be us.  Our children could be theirs.  It reminded us we need to be living our lives the best we can, because in a flash we could be meeting Jesus.

If you can, add a Marrietta family to your prayers .  They have a long way to go before the healing is done.

If you envisioned the scene, and you shed a year of sorrow and joy just hearing this love story...let this miracle help you be better than you were before for the rest of your lives.  I think the Lord will be pleased, and help his family even more.


P.S. X-E1 with 60mm macro.


Cold Rabbit

Cold Rabbit This was a fun shot.  This darn rabbit watches over my yard day in and day out.  An I finally caught him in the camera.  He was so cold I could not miss him!

I initially did this in color, and got a pretty nice file from it all.  However I wanted to express how cold this rabbit had to be.  So I turned over to my B&W in Nik SilverEfx2.  This Nik (well now Google) application is simply awesome in rendering B&W.  Perfect Effects is getting closer all the time, I just know SilverEfx and can get the results I want very fast right now.  So I turn to it most often for B&W.

I hope this type of photo inspires a few of us to get out and look at our environments when seasons change.  Just the addition of snow, of new pine needles, leaves and green grass change our perspective significantly.  If we all take a few minutes to enjoy our environment, maybe we'd a little extra motivation to realize how lucky we are to have what we have.

I just mention this, because today a mother of four (the youngest being three months old) collapsed in front of her family just a few feet from my wife and kids.  We're waiting on word of her condition, and praying for everyone involved.  Luckily her husband was at her side and was the first responder, and friends and family were able take care of the children while Dad tended to his wife.

Life is precious.  Life is short.  If we do not recognize that, we'll miss moments like this when the whole world of Atlanta, Georgia turned an unusual white..or our children smiled at the sight of the sun coming out from behind the clouds...or the fleeting moment we get to hold the hand of a loved one for what could be the last time.

Wouldn't it be a shame to miss that moment?


PS Pentax K-5 with 16-50 F2.8.

Kids at Twilight Part 5

Kids at Twilight Part 5 By the time you read this it will be five days since I found out a friend of mine from West Point died last year, right up the road in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Deirdre Sisson Etheridge was like my big sister when I was a Plebe at West Point, and a tremendous lady.   We snag in the Catholic Folk Group every week.  Without her support and encouragement life would have been pretty dreary those first few years.  She left behind a husband and two children.  I hope they are going strong, and she is in the arms of the Lord.

During the week these photos will post we are also burying our pastor Father Austin at St. Thomas Aquinas in Alpharetta.  He too passed unexpectedly.  In just about a year he invigorated many efforts at our parish to reach out to many people and help them enhance their spiritual journeys though kindness, love, encouragement, and being a Father moving changes along.

This picture of my youngest is the type of moment I know I need to continue to enjoy, because in a flash we could all be history...and I may never get another opportunity to enjoy them.  Life is short, and it will be full of struggles.  I hope it is full of struggle, because nothing of excellence built for the Lord ever comes easy.  The Devil can't let us have too many free successes...it would ruin his reputation.

So here is to Deirdre, Father Austin and us...that we may all one day be able to enjoy such memories (and make new ones) together worshiping in heaven with the Lord.


Kids at Twilight Part 4

Kids at Twilight part 4- Kalen Kalen is always fun to photograph.  He is always trying so hard to be a good kid...and like his Dad can lose it a bit.  Sorry son for the bad trait I handed off!  He gets very serious or very silly at the tender age of 10, not much in between.  Age appropriate for sure.

In this photo I opened the lens way up to f2.  I can go up to F1.4, but I wanted both eyes in focus, just like on Julia.  So if you did blow this up, you would see those eyes are both tack sharp, but I start to get bokeh pretty quickly thereafter.  Nice lens from Fuji at 35mm for sure.  I still am drooling over the 23mm and now 57mm though to give me a 35mm and 85mm equivalent fast glass.  Only got to save up a ton of money for those two!  But dreams are what we need to have to drive us forward.


Kids at Twilight Part 3

Kids at Twilight-Kevin Oh my my funny guy was a handful! All is good though!  He and Dad got to go out to lunch at the doughnut shop!  Cool beans huh!  Subway was way too crowded.  Then we worked on the yard while the other kids did more schoolwork.  He showed me a lot more focus than ever before today...3/4 a yard bag worth of pinecones all by himself with one hand!  He is growing up in his own unique way, and I am happy to see it.  Yep dirt does make this guy cuter.


Kids at Twilight Part 2

Kids at Twilight Part 2-Julia Who's letting this kids grow up?  Just yesterday she was pushing her dollies around in the stroller!

Really, snapshots like this really make me think about how fast life flies by...guess that is why I need to enjoy every minute.


Kids at Twilight

Kids at Twilight Pt 1 A quick series of the Kids at Twilight.

I just needed a photo fix, so I went out and did something very hard.  Tried to get my own kids to pose for the darn camera!

These are a quick set of photos.  For a few I really pushed the fast side of the class to se what the depth of field would be like at F2 to F2.4. Some others I pushed to get larger depth of field so I could get a moving child in focus.  One on one I played with manual focus so I could get my moving child in focus...

It will be a busy week for me...so I'll post these ahead of time.

I hope you like them!  I know they gave me some smiles while I worked them up.


Strong and silent type

Chevy Power This car just looks plain powerful, like it would knock your socks off just turning it on.  It does not have some of the pretties of the other cars, but it does evoke thoughts of straight ahead speed.

At Old Car City one of the hardest things to do is to isolate your subject.  Just a foot off on either side there were cars.  I tried very hard to isolate my subject so I could focus my concentration on making just one object look good.  By isolating the cars I also tried to let each car be special, and a treasured find.  I often found myself not taking shots when I found no way to achieve my desired isolation of subjects.  Just personal preference, but I wanted one car at a time on this trip whenever possible.


PS Fujifilm, 14mm @ f/14 HDR seven shot jpeg bracket.  Emphasis texture in honor of my buddies Bill Fortney and Jim Begley.

The Sentinel

Silent Sentinel Up in Old Car City I enjoyed a trip down memory lane, and I found myself wanting to shoot photos of my grandfather's cars.  One grandfather (my DjaDja) had a Cadillac.  My other grandfather (my Pappap) like Plymouths.  After previously finding the Caddies, I went searching for a few Plymouths.

This hood ornament was on a Plymouth, and it is one I never remember seeing in the 1970's.  It was long gone before I could remember them.  I thought the ornament was stunning, and it gave the appearance of crystal inside the chrome still perfectly smooth to the naked eye.  This Puritan soldier from Plymouth still looks fierce and ready lead people to the new world!

When I took my class with Bill Fortney, Jim Begley and RC Conception both discussed ways to purify the HDR Chrome in Photoshop.  For whatever reason, HDR turns a lot of chrome blue.  So the way you deal with it is to brush away the blue and doing a mask operation.  Now first I don't own photoshop, and if I did I've never been able to understand the language of Photoshop.  So I turned to my OnOne Perfect Suite 8 and its filters.  I found with a quick application of Purify Highlights, either by brush in or whole photo, I got pretty much the same effect as six actions in Photoshop.

Cheating?  Yep. At least to the Photoshop experts out there.  Perfect?  Probably not.  Can I live with it?  You betcha!  In the end it just goes to show you there are a lot of good tools out there, just find the one  you can understand and exploit the best!


P.S. Fujifilm X-E1 with 60mm macro.

Return to Old Car City

Enter in to a world of photographers delight My son and I braved the cold to visit Old Car City yesterday.  The temperatures started at 24 F and moved up to 41 F over the course of the day.  The owner greeted us and said, he could not understand anyone coming up to shoot on such a cold day!  We started the day with great winter light, and then had clouds come in to add one more challenge to the self-assignment.  Despite these challenges, the two of us had a great day together talking and walking several miles through the 4100 cars on the 600 acre lot.  Having my son along was part of his education, and the only way I can show him how I work with others...my day job just does not allow that.  It was my first return visit since last March when I toured the grounds with Bill Fortney and the His Light Crew.

This scene shows you the entrance to Old Car City.  The owner and his crew made a number of changes to the front part of the City, and it was nice to see the growth of the yard to keep it fresh.  I like this photo a lot better than the bicycle shot I captured last year.  I think it has a little more charm, and tells a better story of the environment of Old Car City.

For this adventure I went in only with my Fujifilm X-E1, my shoulder bag, and my heavy tripod.  I also made the test decision to take everything in jpeg, since I was going to make HDR photos with my captures.  The data in an HDR is massive just because of how they get processed, and I think it ended up working for me.

Over the next few days I hope to show you some of the work I did...and yes I already have them ready to order and grace your walls!


P.S. X-E1 with the 18-55 Kit lens...the only shot in the series from the kit lens.  I switched over to primes for all but one other series for the rest of the day.


An Accidental Lesson

Study in under exposure Today I made an accidental study in under exposure.  See I was shooting away, in what I thought was aperture priority mode.  Well I accidentally also moved the shutter speed from Auto to 4000/sec.  As a result, the vast majority of the shot became way under exposed.   The most highly exposed parts of the photo, did expose properly and created some beautiful colors.  Obviously the contrast between dark and light came out fantastic, with a bit of a magical air to it.

The mistake I made reminded me of a basic need...to make sure I sometimes learn what creative possibilities exist by working around the metered perfect.  It can teach me why "right" is "right," and what happens when you push the boundaries to sometimes make some magical air.


P.S. X-E1 with 60mm obviously underexposed!

Getting Ready!

A simple street A few weeks ago I was able to walk around town and snap some images on a cold November morning.  Our town works hard to create an old city center worthy of visiting, and the business owners do their part to make it inviting.

In these final days of preparation for Christmas, don't forget the reason for the season of advent (and it has nothing to do with present lists or parties).  Do your best to ignore the last minute sale emails ,and focus on getting your heart ready for the arrival of our Lord!  Take a walk, dodge raindrops, and look at your fellow man for all the reasons he came to die for us!  Then ask yourself...have I made a home inside of me for him?  Have I risen to the challenge?  When I failed did I beg forgiveness and make amends?

Ok...time for me to get ready for church myself and get my own head in the right place!


PS-Fujifilm X-E1 with 18-55mm.  Cropped in camera using the square framing option.  It is fun to see the world in different framing formats than the standard 2x3.  It think it really allows you to do some extra mental calculus, and come closer to making the final product in your camera.  If you spend less time behind the computer the better off you are!

Joy in Keeing the Faith

Keeping the Faith  On Veteran's Day I took my family down to the Georgia Aquarium to enjoy some of the lovely things our country can do.  After participating in two incredible Veteran's Ceremonies the previous two days, this was the reward.

At the end of the day my wife asked me what was my favorite part of the aquarium.  I told my wife the joy in the eyes of the children.  I don't think she understood what I meant.  How could she?  These photos still were locked up in my memory card!  Me?  Well I knew what was there since I had seen it through the lens!


P.S.  Fujifilm X-E1.  Polarizer brush in Aperture on the glass.  The JPEG was pretty much straight out of the camera other than that.

A Veteran's Day Salute

The Chapel at Luxemburg American Cemetary Each year this Veteran's Day becomes more emotional for me.  This year I reunited with an Infantry colleague from 20 years ago on a project for our current employer, and  he had sad news to share.  He spent some time going back and looking for soldiers we worked with in our first few years in the Army, and found many of them on the casualty roles in the since 2001.  He shared a name, and I remembered the face and a story.  I myself often did the same thing, and had only found a few of my old soldiers or comrades in the casualty roles.  The number of names my friend found though, staggered me.

Over the weekend my family participated in a Knights of Columbus Patriotic Rosary filled with invocations by our founders on the need to follow the guidance of the Christian God (or as some called him Nature's God).  It was so powerful my ten year old son came home wanting to say that forty five minute rosary every week for our nation.

Yesterday we held a brief Remembrance Ceremony during mass, just seven minutes.  We Knights of Columbus provided an honor guard as the roll of Georgia veterans who lost their lives in the last year blended with taps.  We closed with bagpipes playing as the poem of why remember the fallen from World War I filled the hall.  I barely kept it together as I stood at attention rendering an honorable salute with my sabre.  I know I saw a lot of handkerchiefs out afterwards, so I know it was not just me being sentimental.

What made this even more stinging right now was the insanity I see around me, with national core beliefs being challenged with a fervor that can only be fueled by the great enemy of all mankind.

Sitting in our Supreme Court is a challenge to opening civic meetings with a prayer from New York brought forward by two atheists.  Every meeting of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, the U.S. Congress , Supreme Court and Presidential Inauguration stated with a prayer!  That is over 240 years of prayer invoking God to raise us above narcissistic selves to achieve a higher calling for all of mankind through faith, hope and charitas!  How this even has grounds in the court is a tribute to people not reading the Founding Fathers.  Time after time they found historical examples of leaders thinking they knew the answers, and trying to rewrite natural law to create failed nations.

Can you imagine priests being threatened if they serve their God by offering the sacrifice of mass?  That happened this year!  Practicing Catholics and religious people being forced to pay for abortion!  That happened this year!  these are not alarmist stories.  These happened, documented six ways to Saturday, and twice on Sunday.

So on this day taps meant a lot more to me than every before.  I've seen these evils coming for a long time, and today as they wrap themselves in the law of the land around me I have to question the implications they have on everything I do.

I know a soldier fights on the field of battle for his buddies on his right and left....but what are they enlisting for?  What are they keeping up?  Is it anything that resembles what those intrepid souls stood up for in the previous centuries?  Or I have to ask, was this taps being sounded for a lot more than a few men....but as a warning to the soul of our nation?  I fear the latter was why my tears were so plentiful this year.


PS The photo above was scanned from my analog files.  Taken in 1994 in Luxembourg American Cemetery with a Canon Rebel on that thing called film.