I am not an environmental photographer although I am concerned about our environment and the direction it seems to be going. I'm somewhat of a realist, though, and I don't believe that the world I live in today will exist forever. I base this on looking at the past and the many worlds before me that have existed and perished. In general, I don't even think to take any environmental images. However, on a recent trip along Hwy. 395 in Northern California, only a few hours away from where I live, I decided to take some images that show what the current landscape in California all too often now looks like. We have been ravaged by fires here in California year after year, many started by our utility companies. It astounds me that our utility companies continue to allow this to happen, in spite of the fact that we now can go days without power as the company shuts it off to avoid their equipment starting a fire. The situation with the utility companies is very dire and a recent southern California fire was started by Southern California Edison (they recently admitted this), in spite of the fact that the power to the transformers was off. The utility companies have failed to maintain, upgrade and improve their equipment over the years and now all of the people in California are paying the price. The first image is just east of Mono Lake and the site was closed. Many of our public lands have been off limits to users due to the high fire danger and the actual fires in the nearby areas. Living in California used to be a wonderful experience but that experience has now dimmed considerably. The other two images are from Monitor Pass which is further north of Mono Lake.
Taking photographs at night can be difficult and the difficulties increase with the number of other photographers present! I recently shot with a small group of photographers in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. We were all stumbling around in the dark with headlamps trying to figure out focus and composition (and keep our footing), without really being able to see anything! Not only was it night but we were on rock hillsides and uneven terrain with tripods and multiple cameras. I, and others, would forget that we could not turn on the headlamp when we needed it, even in red light mode, when other people were shooting. This meant if I lost focus for some reason I had to fumble around with the camera settings and try to find something with light on it to focus, and then reset the composition. I got more than one shot that had someone's headlamp red light in it and I was even almost yelled at once for forgetting and turning on my light. Night shooting is tough!
In spite of it all, I got a few decent shots and I learned a lot in the process. I have shot at night before but not in awhile and this was my first time attempting to shoot images to create a star trail. I found, when I got home and looked at my shots, that I apparently cannot keep the camera still for long as I kept moving the composition when I really shouldn't have. I used the Starry Landscape Stacker software program to combine scenes for Milky Way images as the combining of scenes decreased the noise in the images. I used Photoshop for the 25 4-minute each images to create the star trail shot posted here.
Creating a star trail shot was labor intensive, both in setting up to shoot it and in putting it together in Photoshop. The trip was a good experience and I learned a lot and it was nice to finally get out on a trip in this era of Covid-fear.
For me photography is more than simply taking a snapshot of a subject. I see far too many images where someone obviously sees something, let's say a pretty flower, and they walk up and snap away. I recently heard the term "happy snapper" and I think this term would apply to the photographer who takes this kind of image. I'm much more interested in the art of photography, no matter what genre I'm shooting in on any given day. I think the term "art" applies to any photography genre, from photojournalism to fine art. The intent of an image does differ, why we take that shot, but no matter why we take the shot we can apply artistic concepts to it to make it the very best shot we can. These artistic concepts can occur in camera or in post. Creating a more defined piece of artwork with a photograph is not new, this has been happening since the inception of photography. The only difference in 2020 is that we now have the ability to create endless varieties of artwork with our shots via the computer, not the dark room. I have worked in a photography darkroom as I took three semesters of Black and White film photography at a college. I loved film processing and it was always exciting to see the image develop right before my eyes as the developer did its work. Now, however, I have so much more leeway to make the image all my own, with my unique touch (for better or worse) and working on a computer is so much easier for me than working in a darkroom. Since my career included computers and graphic arts I was able to use those skills when I started in digital photography and I realized at some point that I had a degree of inherent skill as far as being able to learn and master software. I know this is difficult for some people even today, although we've now been digital for many years.
The image below was shot with a mirrorless camera, a Nikon Z7. A mirrorless camera makes it somewhat easier to shoot an image while hand-holding, versus a tripod, because the camera is able to capture sharp images even at lower shutter speeds. I shot this image as I did because I knew I could play around with it in Photoshop to create something more than the image that I originally shot. I love how this whole series of flower shots turned out. This image is very painterly but completely a photograph.
One of my all-time favorite shots is the image below, that of a dog lying quietly under a table in a restaurant while the owner sat and ate breakfast. I was with a photo tour group staying at, of all places, a Motel 6! I actually spent my New Year's Eve that year in that Motel 6 all by myself. We had gathered for breakfast at the diner nearby and as we were leaving I saw this scene. I did not have my camera gear with me so I whipped out the only camera I had on me, my cell phone! I love this shot and I do wish I had been able to take it with my normal camera gear as the quality would have been better but at least I got the shot.
For all of us who are active photographers we are heavily impacted by the lack of freedom of movement these days. I normally travel about once a month around the state or the U.S. to photograph nature and wildlife. Once or twice a year I might go out of the country to do the same. Now, I cannot go anywhere except for a few places within my county in Northern California. I’m trying not to get depressed about this and some days are better than others of course. I do have home projects going on and that helps to mitigate my lack of mobility. I was also able to get out to photograph some spring wildflowers and a nearby apple orchard and I’m continuing to work with those images to create and experiment.
I’m thinking about how to photograph inside my home using available flowers and other objects. I have a friend who does beautiful work in her home using all kinds of interesting objects, spoons, spices, bowls, etc. She is a master at it. I might end up doing something similar but I’m not yet sure just what. I am using the time to continue to learn photoshop and recently gave a few Zoom lessons on LR which turned out to be fun. I also try not to think that the entire year will be this way!
I live near a rail town museum, a place that is all about trains and, in particular, steam trains from "back in the day." I photograph there on occasion as a volunteer photographer so I have open access to the buildings and events. On June 1 there was a steam train event for Engine 28, an engine that has been restored over the last couple of years. "She" came out for her christening and the public got to ride behind her throughout the day. People seem to love these old trains but I have yet to come to that. I am not a train buff, but I do see it as an opportunity to take photographs. Oddly, each time I actually do get there and take the photos I love the resulting images. Trains are a nice subject to photograph. Of course, I call this "The Christening."
Photographing spring flowers is a challenge I love. Trying to isolate a flower in the middle of a field can be next to impossible and figuring how how to do that is always a challenge. The colors of spring are so inviting and happy and I am finding that I love to photograph wildflowers.
I am a serious and dedicated non-professional photographer. Most of what I do is based on photography. Recently I entered a local competition, called " In Focus. " I was fortunate to get four (above) of my six entries accepted into the show. About 400 people submitted images and only 180 or so were hung. I consider it winning each time I get an image into any show. Actually winning an award is "icing on the cake." In this case, I was happy to hear that I had won two awards for a leaf image and a frog image. A second place award in two different categories. I like to win awards because it is a verification that I am continuing to learn and grow in photography and it shows in my work. Being acknowledged for my photography work is what counts for me. I was curious, however, about why the young girl was not considered for an award as I thought the image was very well done. I asked the judge at the reception why the image was "not compelling enough for an award." His response was a bit of a surprise to me; he asked me if I had "more images like this" and said it reminded him of Grant Wood's American Gothic couple (although he could not remember the artist who created the image). I was confused and not sure how to answer him as the shot was taken from a plaza in Cuba and was not set up. I gathered that he thought I had set up the shot and perhaps I had more from that shoot. This young girl really was dressed this way and really did open a door and stand in it with her broom. Within a few minutes of photographing her a police officer shooed us away and told her to go inside. This conversation confirmed for me that judges "judge" blindly in more than one way. I think they often look at a photograph during judging and make assumptions that are not correct and then judge on the incorrect assumption. I guess I should be flattered in a way as the image he was referring to is considered famous and has risen to the statue of a "cultural icon." For me, the image is a once-in-a-lifetime image and it is now saved for eternity (or as long as I live anyway!).
Cuba. We might all think of something different when we think of Cuba. If you had asked me to say something about what I thought Cuba might be before I went there I would have said, “not modern, stifled, downtrodden, communist and closed,” and other similar adjectives to that. In truth, however, Cuba is many things, some of which may be described by the adjectives I mentioned but other descriptions would be very different. It is also modern, wealthy, and filled with people who are warm-spirted and enterprising. I saw high-rise 5-star+ hotels being built and stayed in a beautiful 5-star hotel located in Old Havana. There were many automobiles of all varieties and the homes ranged from poor to upscale. Yes, poverty was all around me, as is seen in many countries, but the people seemed happy and were industrious and most were very welcoming and gracious. I was often asked by people on the streets to take their photograph and a couple of times I was invited into their home to view it and talk.
I am a sucker for animals, I freely admit it. One of the reasons that I love to go to Carmel Beach is because I can let my dog, Gracie, run free there. No leashes are required! That is rare in California, where I pay my state taxes but cannot even take my dog to a state park!! It is so much fun to see all of the dogs running freely and having a good time together. Gracie loves it and takes off to visit with every dog she sees. So far, all of the dogs and people we have run across have acted responsibly. I always take photos of the dogs having a great time, it just makes me feel good. So, enjoy my photos of the Dogs of Carmel Beach. P.S. My Gracie is the black funny-looking pup.
I am a photographer, it is my passion, my avocation, and almost everything I do revolves around it.