The photographic explorations of a former film student.

Holiday

Archive Fireworks

I photographed more than one subject on July 4th, 2019. That was a normal 4th of July: festivals, parades, car shows, and fireworks. No worries about COVID-19. I had no idea where we would be today when I chose to save these photos and post them in July 2020. Since some cities are cancelling fireworks shows this year, I’m glad I saved these photos for today.

Photographing fireworks is not seen as serious photography, but it comes with its own set of challenges. To begin with, you are working in the blind. You can’t really see what you are capturing. The subject is there one moment and gone the next. It’s a long exposure, requiring a tripod. Usually, I focus on the first blasts. I’ve read to focus at infinity, but that doesn’t seem to work. I also ignore the recommendation to include a building or other landmark for sense of place. This is mostly because the best fireworks show in my area for good looking buildings is in a part of town I don’t feel safe in, particularly after dark. I forsake the city and trudge along the cornfields to the athletic field of a small town high school. The roads are lined with trucks full of families, and the ditches are thick with mosquitoes. But I can get close and get a clear view. Sometimes, I decide I need to back up a bit after the first bursts go off. I stand with my camera on my tripod and work as the blasts light up the sky and the sound waves resonate around me and through me. For me, a fireworks show is an active event, not a passive one. I am caught up in it, seeing it, feeling it, and capturing it.

Digital is a big help with fireworks. I can see if I’m on the right track with exposure. I used to always start my exposure when I heard the launch. I’d read to do that somewhere. The problem is, a long exposure captures the event much differently than we see it live. The fireworks end up looking like flowers with long stems.

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It’s a cool effect sometimes, but it doesn’t really look like fireworks the way we see them in real time. So I started waiting longer and trying to time them closer to the actual explosion. There’s also the problem of the light trails. To they eye, fireworks are little specks and dashes of light. But again, the exposure to capture the whole thing unfolding makes them look like continuous lines. So I started trying to time it so I didn’t have the full duration of some of the fireworks to get a little more sparkle. The loud little gold ones could be helpful with this, but they also make a lot of smoke. The smoke illuminated by the blasts does not look pretty.

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Practice, luck, and some editing for contrast and saturation. And I crop. As you can see, I chose to abandon normal aspect ratios for many of these. Fireworks photos are pretty abstract sometimes. Find the flowers, the trees, the space jellyfish, etc. Imagine. Have fun. In the two below, I see a flowering cactus (I admit I rotated it) and an ornamental tree. What’s a celebration for if you can’t have fun with it?

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I know things are different this year, but I hope you are able to have a safe and happy holiday anyway. You made it a little more than halfway through 2020, and that itself is worth celebrating, even if you aren’t an American observing our Independence Day.

 

 


Love, Again

I post about love around just about every Valentine’s day. It’s kind of a broad concept. Again, I encourage Valentine’s Day as a day to share love with friends and family, not just significant others. (Write, call, visit, or e-mail your mom, dad, grandma, sibling, friend, etc.) Lately, I’ve been thinking of another sort of bond we as humans often enjoy: bonds with our pets. (Maybe this is because my cat’s approximate birthday is February 15th?) Those of you who have pets, whatever species they may be, please take time to let them know they are loved this Valentine’s day, even if you have a date with a human.

This was my quick still life practice for the month.

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I know llamas are not common pets, but it was a cute decoration, and I was looking for more stuff for my mantle. This is my love-love, Maggie:

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(Cell phone pic of her cuddling with me.)


Christmas Wish

It’s a bit late (an unfortunate theme for me this year), but I still wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I wish you warmth, light, and comfort in this often dark and cold season. May you find hope and good things in this time, and in the year to come.

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Merry Christmas!

It’s officially almost too late for a Christmas post. Nevertheless, I did take a few shots of my upgraded mantel decorations, and I wanted to share a couple.

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Wishing you all light, beauty, and time with those you love most over the next few days. Merry Christmas!


Love Status Report

Valentine’s Day is Wednesday. That means many of us are thinking of romance this week and evaluating the love in our lives: presence, absence, and quality. As in years past, I’m celebrating the non-romantic love in my life and encouraging others who find themselves without that someone to share the evening with to do the same.

To me, looking for someone just for the sake of being in a romantic relationship seems like a game. Perhaps I wouldn’t know. I’ll admit I’ve never really gone looking.

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I have my family for now, and my cat as well. Like previous years, I’ve sent cards and letters to some family members to let them know they are loved, and I am thinking of them. But my cup does not run over with love. I could be more loving in so many ways, even without looking for a romantic relationship. This year, I find myself wanting to strengthen the ties I have with my family and befriend new people – wanting to learn greater kindness and empathy for others. That is my love goal for 2018.

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Next Month: Archive Nature

You can probably tell I haven’t shot any still life/table top in over a year. I’m so out of practice. What I did shoot last year was nature. Since I didn’t blog much, I have a good sized backlog of unedited photos to work on.

 


Top Ten From 2015

Here are my ten favorite shots from 2015. I had some good trips last year, but other life events cut into my photography time, so it was not my best year. I’m looking forward to devoting more time to photography in 2016. Happy New Year everyone! May 2016 be a year of growth and understand.

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Merry Christmas! (With Decorations)

This year, I did things differently for Christmas Decorations. For one, I decided to hang my little beaded whatever it is off my living room lamp. I like it so much I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner.

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Then, my mother thought I should change up my mantle decorations a bit, so she gave me a tall round glass vase to put ornaments in. After looking online for ideas, I decided I wanted pine cones too. I thought I’d have some fun with the reflections and surface curvature while photographing the end result.

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Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wishing you peace on earth today and throughout the coming year.


Christmas: Some Things Haven’t Changed

As I was decorating my home for Christmas on Monday, it occurred to me that a lot has changed this year. Still, many things remain the same as they have for years. I listen to the same music for Christmas, and I still hang this lovely angel on the tree every year. She’s been mine since my first Christmas.

Brass Angel Ornament

Brass Angel Ornament


Belated Happy 4th of July

I just barely squished a trip to the fireworks into my 4th of July weekend. Since it was quite possible that my schedule for the next month or more would be tighter than usual, I decided to wait and post them as a regular post rather than a special 4th of July edition that weekend.

When it comes to photographing fireworks, just like many things in life, there is more than one school of thought. The way I originally learned involves very long shutter speeds where the light is entirely in trails. This allows me to have all the colors produced and include several bursts in one shot at the small town show I attend. The other method is to use a much shorter shutter speed and capture a lot of the sparkle we know fireworks for. This makes timing trickier. It also makes it more difficult to get multiple blasts in frame at smaller shows that are more likely to send one up at a time. Personally, I also tend to capture more smoke when I have shorter shots with a higher ISO. But sparkle is part of the fireworks, so this year, I experimented with getting a few of the blasts cut short a bit so I’d have some more.

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Next Time: Change and Archive

Well, it’s happening. I’m going to be rather occupied with other matters for the next month. A necessary pain to accomplish a much desired end. I will probably post some archive material that I’ve shot in the past few years and never posted. Who knows, I may even go back to college stuff. Anyway, squirrels will most likely figure in the mix somewhere. Maybe I’ll post my college photo contest finalist shot too.


Valentine Flowers

A bit of a late Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. This is the time of year I really start wanting it to be Spring. It is also the time of year you can easily purchase a floral bouquet. Last week, I purchased a single rose and some “pompoms” at a local supermarket. I’m pretty sure “pompom” is just florist for big showy mum. Anyway, I set up the light and some backgrounds and pulled out the macro lens.

This was my pinkish rose. Lovely while she lasted.

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Twirly in the center and a beautiful hue.

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I stuck one of my old rings in it in honor of Valentine’s Day. There is nothing like a macro lens to show you how cheep your costume jewelry is. I spent some time retouching this one, and I’m about to swear I will never shoot it again. Nonetheless, it does look kind of romantic.

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A little less seasonal, here is the “pompom”. This was more fun with the macro lens than the rose. I loved the long, spiky petals in the center.

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Kind of off topic, but I wanted to say I know this can be a tough day for single people. Personally, I think our culture is a little overboard when it comes to celebrating romantic love. There are other kinds of love and relationships in most people’s lives that are worth remembering and celebrating on this day. So if you can this weekend, take a few minutes to call or message a friend or relative and let them know you love them. And remember, the chocolate goes on sale tomorrow.

 

 


Kitty Under the Christmas Tree

Yes, that’s right under, not in. Being owners of an artificial Christmas tree, my family is fortunate enough to have a tree whose branches bend to the floor under the weight of a typical household feline. The cats are both resigned to this, but they do enjoy sitting beneath the branches and admiring the beauty. It’s quiet back there too.

This year, I thought I’d try to get a photo. Flash simply would not do, and dear Jen is a dark cat, so I turned on the brighter lights in the room and pulled out my tripod. Jen was a little bothered by the autofocus in the first shot. I also thought it wasn’t close enough.

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I moved in, switched to horizontal, and used live view to focus. Fortunately, Jen was pretty still. It was brighter than I wanted the final shot to be, but I decided to take it down in post rather than risk getting Jen noisy or loosing detail in her fur.

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Merry Christmas!


The End of Fall: Leaves in the Water

It’s been cold lately. Cold enough that I wanted to go check out the ice formation in a nearby park. I remembered that the ice on the stream winding through this park formed in all sorts of interesting patterns several years ago. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really formed yet this year. Instead, an array of fallen leaves and semi-frozen water presented me with other photographic possibilities. With nature and other things in life, there are times I have to find the best in what is there, even when it’s not what I was hoping for. What there is can be just as good.

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This applies more to US readers because we celebrate Thanksgiving here on Thursday, but I wanted to take a moment to remind us all to be thankful. I worry that we are losing a valuable holiday to consumerism. Thankfulness and reflecting on the good we have in life is healthy. Right now, I am thankful for nature, creativity, the ability to express myself through photography and language, the internet, the ability to easily communicate with people from all over the country and the world, and a holiday to spend with family.
What are you thankful for this week? Please share in the comments.


Fireworks!

A bit late for a 4th of July post, and a bit early for my schedule, but I wanted to share them. I didn’t get to a fireworks show the last two years, so I was eager to head off with my new camera and shoot them. Problem: new camera. I choose the long exposure noise reduction option when I was going through the menus. Bad idea for fireworks. I couldn’t figure out why the camera wasn’t ready to shoot again or if my exposures were even over. I had no idea what I was shooting for the first few minutes of the show. It ended up looking something like this at best:

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Fortunately, I figured it all out in time to get some good shots of the show:

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It’s a good thing I’d started to read the manual! So the moral is test the camera with as long of a shutter speed as you’ll actually be using. And don’t use long exposure NR unless you have time to wait for it.

 

 


Christmas Decorations and Experimental Lighting

All the decorations went up the first of December, so its high time for some Christmas photos. I selected a diverse group of Christmas decorations and decided to light all of them with the string of LED Christmas lights I purchased this year, just to see how it would work out. I was going for more of a warm, soft look in all the photos, but I still wanted some light/dark contrast.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Next Time: New Year’s / Year in Review