Archive for category Opinion

Everything looks better in Black-and-White

Digital photography brings a wide range of advantages over film photography. (It took me a long time to accept that, but now I’m firmly in the digital camp, even with the apparent increase in interest in film that’s flickering in the world today.)

With film photography, depending on the camera system you were using, you could find yourself ‘locked out’ of a good photograph. With a 35mm camera, the film that was loaded was pretty much what you had to use. Sure, there were ways of rewinding film, taking it out and replacing it, then reinserting it and hoping you advanced the film far enough to avoid double exposures on already-photographed spaces on the film. It became more convenient to carry two bodies, each loaded with a different kind of film (usually color and Black-and-White), just to be able to capture the image in the way your vision dictated.

Cameras larger than 35mm usually offered the opportunity for the photographer to change film backs or film holders loaded with the ‘right’ kind of film for the image. That’s why I carried a 5×7 Deardorff view camera into the field: The camera used film holders, and a large assortment of color transparency and B&W negative film could be carried. At a cost. The view camera, a sufficient tripod to mount it on, 20 or so film holders and a wide assortment of lenses and filters made for a heavy backpack. Being a landscape photographer required a lot of labor, but it was a labor of love.

Then came digital. With increasingly capable processing programs, digital imaging has become a photographer’s dream.

We don’t have to send our color film off for processing and wait for its return. We don’t have to carefully mix batches of potentially toxic chemicals to process black-and-white film in order to make negatives we can print. We don’t have to make prints (color or black-and-white), which also require a batches of potentially toxic chemicals to develop.

No, we just upload the digital images to the computer, open the processing program of our choice and process the image to match our visualization. And we have a significant advantage over the film days when we do that. Would an image look better in Black-and-White? (They all do.) No problem we convert them to monochrome using a plug-in or any of a number of different methods and we have a beautiful black-and-white image. Is the color a little drab? No problem, we simply bump the saturation or ‘fiddle’ with the color balance and there you have it: a finished image that represents our vision with no processing delays, no wrinkled fingers from soaking them in developer, no toxic chemicals. Digital photography is a great move forward.

Of course, there’s one thing we really can’t do and that’s take infrared photographs with our standard digital cameras. Manufacturers place filters over camera sensors to block infrared light because allowing IR to come through onto the sensors would make images difficult to process.

The problem is that it was fun to occasionally load a roll of IR film into a 35mm camera and see what we could come up with. Some of us like to do that to this day.

Luckily there are a couple of companies that will take your camera apart, remove the IR blocking filter and add filters that pass certain bandwidths of light in the IR spectrum. I got an old camera converted to IR a couple years back and I really like the results I get from it.

Here are a couple of examples: We were at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for sunrise. The colors didn’t seem to be what I expect for sunrise images, so I took out my IR camera and fired away. IR gives a nice, strong contrast to an image and catches sunlight reflecting off rocks and things very nicely.

Here are a few views of a sunrise with IR. See what you think.

 

Wotans Throne is the most commanding geologic formation at Cape Royal, so it becomes the most-photographed scene:

 

 

Sunris, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunris, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

Sunrise #2, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunrise #2, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

But we’re always told to look around and sure enough we find other images that work, too.

 

Sunrise Shadows, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunrise Shadows, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

Sunrise, Cape Royal #1

Sunrise, Cape Royal #1

 

 

Yes, indeed, sunrise in Black-and-White certainly works.

 

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Work, work, work(shop)

I’ve attended two workshops in the last month. Both were wonderful, but for different reasons.

The first was called “Lens and Pens” conducted by Colleen Miniuk-Sperry and Guy Tal. The idea behind the workshop was to help photographers who want to hone their writing skills. There was photography involved, too, so we got to chase both of our muses during the five days.

The second was the 30th Annual Grand Canyon Workshop led by my dear old friend Rodger Newbold and a newer friend, Matt Rich. We stayed at Jacob Lake Inn and traveled from there to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Paria Plateau and the Kaibab National Forest. This was all photography all the time, so my writing muse got to rest for awhile.

Both workshops were great. Lens and Pens because I got to meet a lot of fine writers and learn from experts at publishing their words. The Grand Canyon gig rocked because I got to spend time with old friends and to see a lot of the desert (and forest) that I love.

I even got a chance to be contemplative once or twice during these busy, busy events. Guy assigned a couple of contemplation experiments that helped me to see, really see, what was around me. At the Grand, there were chances to step off a few meters and feel totally alone and just think about what was out there.

The Grand Canyon is hard to photograph. It’s a big hole in the ground. A hole with rugged edges and distances that boggle the mind. The light is challenging, with highlighted high ground and black shadows in the depths. Add to that the constant haze that comes from Los Angeles or a nearby power plant (one that the developers promised would not put out visible pollutants) and you have some major challenges with photography.

I discovered that my infrared camera would cut through that haze, however, and went nuts capturing images without the hard-to-breathe fog of civilization evident. Add to that that I process my IR images in black-and-white, my favorite medium, and I got some photographs that I was happy with.

Both workshops fed my need for the social aspect of photography. It’s always fun and rewarding to go out into the field with other photographers. The meretricious persiflage, banter and joshing, along with the philosophical discussions of photography are helpful. Just being with others of like mind, whether talking or not, makes the event worthwhile.

Generally, I’m a loner when it comes to pursuing photographs, and too many people can be annoying, at least too many non-photographers can be: I found a nice isolated spot at the Grand Canyon to sit and think. It was soon invaded by a family that couldn’t stop talking. It was as if they were afraid to be quiet, lest Sasquatch would stumble upon them. The parents were teaching their kids to scream in the cathedral where I was recharging my spirit, and it was most distracting. Apparently my not-so-welcoming glare convinced them that they could find another place to desecrate nature with noise and they took their nattering elsewhere fairly quickly, allowing me to get back to contemplating the beauty and making some notes.

I managed to slip away a few other times and enjoy getting intimate with a grove of aspens, doing macro photography, my favorite, and then return to the group for more fun and fellowship.

Yes, the workshops were fine experiences and I recommend either of them to you. Heck, I might even go back next year.

Oh, here are some images from the Grand Canyon. Click to see them full size and in the proper color rendition. All were taken at sunrise at Point Imperial on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Mount Hayden figures prominently in all of them.

 

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #2 Infrared Image

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #2 Infrared Image

 

 

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #4

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #4

 

 

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #3

Mount Hayden, Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP #3

 

 

Point Imperial Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP Infrared Image

Point Imperial Sunrise, Grand Canyon NP Infrared Image

 

 

More to follow

Bob

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You CAN go home, I guess

I’ve been pretty inactive with my blog and I guess I could claim that it was work that was getting in my way.

OK, so I’ll make that claim.

But now that I’ve retired from my ‘day job,’ I’ve got time on my hands and I can’t think of a better way to use that time than to revisit old images to see if I was right in hanging on to them ‘just in case’ I learned a little more in Photoshop or if Lightroom ever advanced to the point that I’d like to use it most of the time. And if my ability with the processing software has indeed improved, the resulting images would be no good if they’re not shared, so I’ll try to post at least weekly.

The best way to start is to go through old files and see what I can find. I’ll share the results with you and tell you a few stories along the way. (I’ve always thought I should put more into the blog posts, so here is my first attempt.)

The best way, I think, to go through a project like this is to go in a somewhat chronological order, so I’ve started with a file that’s appropriately labeled “Soul Search 2006.” That was really the first serious attempt I made to capture images with a digital camera and not knowing the medium and not being particularly familiar with the processing software left me with a lot of captures to finish today in ways I could not have a decade ago.

For the fotos included with this post, however, the images aren’t as important as the reason I went.

It had been at least 20years since I’d been in the desert. I missed it, but I didn’t realize quite how much. Knowing that I had to go, I made plans for a two-week trip, visiting Arches, Zion, Canyonlands, Bryce and Capitol Reef National Parks and in the interim, Hovenweep and Navajo National Monuments and a few state parks to boot.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but everything worked out just fine in the long run.

I finally realized how much I missed the desert when I dropped into my last stop, Capitol Reef National Park. As I entered from the west, I saw the cliffs and domes and burst into tears, saying to no one in particular, “I’m home.” It was that stop that made me realize that the desert, and especially Capitol Reef is my soul’s home. I had abandoned it for two decades, but it called me back and I answered that call. I’m glad I did, because that put me in a mind to move back to Utah in order to have more access to the desert and upon retirement I have done so.

What came out of that soul search? Quite a bit, actually. Most important is the knowledge that the desert is my home, of course. The images are of secondary importance to the self-knowledge  I gained, but I’ll share a couple fotos from that trip today and from subsequent visits home as I process them. For today’s post,  I’ve got a couple that rather frame the trip (first stop and last stop) and I’m ready to share, so take a look (As always, click on the images to see the whole thing):

 

First stop: Arches National Park

Delicate Arch and the Lasalle Mountains, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch and the Lasalle Mountains, Arches National Park

 

Final stop: Capitol Reef National Park (luckily in bad weather)

 

Storm, Capitol Reef National Park

Storm, Capitol Reef National Park

 

More to follow,

 

Bob

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Memorial Day

Last year I visited The Wall in Washington, DC. I go every year to visit old friends and lost shipmates. This is my usual Memorial Day post, in which I recognize that the day is to honor those who gave everything for our country, not to buy new furniture or celebrate spring. The sales are flying thick and fast, the misunderstanding of what Memorial Day really is runs rampant. So many people treat this day like Veterans Day, and that’s not quite right. Yes, I appreciate the well wishes for having served, but the right day for formal observance is November 11, not today.

 

Anyway, raving about some misunderstandings and crass commercialism isn’t what this day is about either. It’s about remembering and saying thank you to our lost comrades and their families.

 

My personal remembrance commemorates five individuals I knew who gave everything for the United States:

Corporal Irwin J. Harder, U. S. Army, Vietnam

Lt. Joseph G. Greenleaf, VF-114, Vietnam

Lt. Clemie McKinney, VF-114, Vietnam

LCDR. Orland J. Pender, Jr., VF-114, Vietnam

Capt. John R. Pitzen, VF-114, Vietnam

Irwin was a high school friend and football teammate. He was sent to Vietnam in February and died in April. Short tour of duty.

Mr. Greenleaf, Mr. McKinney and Mr. Pender were aircrew members in my squadron. Captain Pitzen was named as our squadron Skipper just as I was leaving to come home.

Mr. Greenleaf and Mr. McKinney were shot down over North Vietnam, and reports were that they weren’t able to escape the aircraft. Other reports, however, indicate that Mr. McKinney was held as a POW and died in captivity.

Captain Pitzen and Mr. Pender were reported missing in action because they never called out “Feet Wet,” that is, clear of North Vietnam and returning to the ship. They were presumed down, but listed as Missing in Action (MIA). Their remains were identified in the late 1990s. I wore an MIA bracelet to remind me of them for years.

 

Here are some images I took last time I was at the wall: Click on the images to see them full size and in proper color.

 

The Wall

The Wall

 

The Soldiers looking for them are below.

Three Soldiers at the Wall

Three Soldiers at the Wall

 

RIP, Gentlemen

 

 

More to follow.

Bob

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The Jewel is in the Lotus

When we were at the zoo a couple weeks ago, we came across a pond of water lilies. Lotus if you will. The lotus has a lot of meaning to Eastern religions. The Lord Buddha sits on a Lotus Throne. The flower is so complex that it requires a lot of contemplation. It’s very symbolic because its roots are in the mud, yet a beautiful flower is the end result. The Jewel is in the Lotus. That’s the basic meaning, as I’ve been told, of the Mani mantra: Om Mani Pedmé Hung. I’ve read that this is the favorite mantra of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet. When one chants that mantra, one is supposed to realize that no matter what his or her origins are, the potential for inner beauty is there. Our true nature is not in the mud but in the realization of beauty. Not a bad thought to carry around.

Here are the lotus I found in good old Billings. The backlighting was a challenge, but I think Lightroom helped me control it (click on the thumbnails):

 

 

The Jewel is in the Lotus

The Jewel is in the Lotus

 

And the true nature of the lotus may be as a Black & White image. Who knew?

Pink lotus

Pink lotus

 

I’d better go meditate for a while.

More to follow.

Bob

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Buy! Buy! Buy!

I dunno, I seem to have missed the boat somewhere along the line. That is, I guess I forgot what Memorial Day is all about. I thought it was supposed to be a day of remembrance, a day to quietly pay tribute to those who payed the highest price one can to protect our country.

But one look at the media and it’s obvious I was wrong.

Memorial Day is nothing more than a long weekend where we can go to the mountains, the beach, or, more importantly, to the mall.

BIG MEMORIAL DAY SALE!!! Go to the mall early and stay late. The more you spend the more you save!! Buy, buy, buy! We don’t need to do anything to remember the ones who made our trip to the mall possible and safe as long as we buy something with an American Flag on it. That way, we will be able to convince ourselves that throwing money at the big box stores is the right thing to do. (By the way, the marketers don’t want you to figure this out, but it is actually the case that the more you avoid spending the more you save. Just thought you might like to know.)

It seems that the marketers have decided we need to shift our priorities. Memorial day is no longer about quiet reflection and thanksgiving for fallen heroes, it’s now a party day. A day to shop until we drop! A day to enhance the bottom line for corporate America. A day to show our patriotism by waving the flag, chanting USA! USA! and spending money.

Don’t get me wrong: Waving the flag and chanting are good things to do. They should just be done in the right way at the right time. Flag Day, Independence Day, Armed Forces Day, those are days for celebrating and shouting out our patriotic chants, not a day set aside for reflection and remembrance: Not Memorial Day. Remember: the proper way to display the flag on Memorial Day is to fly it at half mast (raise it to the top of the flagpole, then drop it to half mast. At the end of the day, raise the flag to the top, then lower it and fold it for tomorrow’s use).

Not many of us would walk into a cathedral, a synagog or a cemetery, crack open a beer and start charring steaks while cheering for our favorite team or race car driver. Most people wouldn’t bring their laptop to a funeral and order a new pair of shoes or a new camera (not even me).

I’ve been taught that Memorial Day is an observance much like a funeral. A time to mourn the heroes who gave everything on behalf of the rest of us and a time to be thankful that they had the courage to stand between us and an enemy who was trying to change our country irrevocably and permanently. Yes, it’s even a time to celebrate the fact that they lived among us. But some celebrations are more solemn than the noisy car race, the endless ball games or the weekly sale of the century. Some actions are better saluted quietly.

More to follow

Bob

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