These days I mostly photograph wildlife and always look for some action in the shot. That's not to say I don't photograph sitting birds or mammals because I do that, but I still try to look for something that might create interest, putting the emphasis on something about the creature and what it is doing perhaps or even the color of the animal. I still photograph a lot of other nature shots and a lot of spring wildflower shots and love doing that, too. But, action does seem to be my "first love" to photograph.
On May 1 I took a new camera, to figure out how to use it, that had recently been delivered to an event called a dachshund race to see if I could get some action shots of the little guys running the race and crossing the line. The races were really fun to watch as the dogs had not read the rules nor did they obey a lot of what their "dog parents" said! Chaos pretty much ensued throughout the several races that took place but it was all for fun and it looked like the crowd and the dogs had a good time.
Yellowstone National Park - wildlife
In March I visited Yellowstone NP with several other photographers. There was still snow on the ground but it was not miserably cold - no lower than 7 degrees one morning - so we got some nice shots of wild animals against the backdrop of snow. One red fox was so perfect it looked like we were shooting in a studio: perfect backdrop, perfect subject, perfect light! I was able to finally get a shot of a wolf fairly close up, after six times in YNP and no wolf shot. I also got a nice shot of a Ram, an otter family, and some good coyotes shots, one coyote mousing. It was a good trip for everyone. I'm on my way back in late May/early June.
Photos During Covid Times
I realize that I have not written anything in my photo blog for a long time. We are all well aware of how Covid has impacted our ability to travel and be with family and friends. As a photographer I feel stifled with its impact and figuring out how to take photos without setting myself up for a potential illness has been difficult. On top of that my house is in the foothills and right now I hesitate to leave it as just recently there was a fire only a mile away and I have two indoor cats. I really wish the world would go back to the way it was a few years ago but I know that wishing that is futile.
I have been taking shots outdoors of birds in my yard and I did visit Yellowstone in early summer and I’m planning a trip next June, too. I’ve done a few shots with flowers inside and outside, too. I’ve experimented a lot with software, which is always fun for me as I like photo processing software. But, like everyone else, I really wish I could get back to traveling around the world to take photos, I do miss that, but I’m not willing at this point to take the risk. Here are several collage pages of some of the photos I have been able to take this year. I hope you enjoy them.
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 photographer, it is my passion, my avocation, and almost everything I do revolves around it.