Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Electric Tether

It used to be that when you traveled with a camera, you didn't need much more than a supply of film. Batteries for light meters and such used to last 6 months to a year and if you remembered the Sunny 16 rule, you could get by without that. If you ran out of film, everyone used to carry it, even the local drugstore on the corner. If you needed something special, there was usually a camera store someplace around that carried it.

Now when you travel, especially for more than a day or two, you need an outlet nearby. The camera batteries need to be recharged, the laptop needs to be plugged in and batteries for other electronic devices need to get topped off also. Plus, since each device uses a different way to charge, you need to carry a lot of different chargers also.

I'm not sure this is really a great advance at times....

Monday, September 28, 2009


I'm on the road again, this time in the Upper Peninsula. I had some vacation I needed to use, so I grabbed my cameras and went.

I've seen some wildlife, Bald Eagles, the deer running across the road for me to dodge and the pointy end of a Porcupine. The Porcupine startled me as I was walking down a path, he was in the bushes to the side and all I saw was the pointy end. I waited around a bit to see if he would come out, but no such luck. I also saw a Bald Eagle flying over the river in downtown Houghton, so I have hope that one day we may see that in Grand Rapids.

I've visited plenty of waterfalls, the names are starting to run together. All beautiful, and I still can't get a photo of one I really like.

Of course I had to visit lighthouses, I've seen a few and got some good photos.

I've also tried long exposure photos with light painting. That is where you use a light, usually a flashlight to bring out detail in dark objects. The photo above is one such shot. Taken about a hour and some time after sunset, it has an exposure time of about 6 minutes. During the time I was using a flashlight on the foreground rock and also the one in the back. The rock in the back had a small bush on the top and I wanted to bring it out. I only used the flashlight on the foreground rock for about 15 seconds, the rest of the time I'm trying to light up the other rock. No such luck, the flashlight I had was too small.

More later.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The WTD Book is Out!

If you're a photographer and never read What the Duck, go look at it now. Don't read any more, just go.

An irreverent look at photography and artists in general, this comic hits the mark more than it misses.

Wandering through my local bookstore yesterday, I noticed the new What the Duck book is out. So I made sure I picked it up. It's going to be the photography book I read this week.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fortuitous Photography

I was out with a group at the Grand Haven pier last night. While I was out on the pier taking a long exposure shot, a gentleman walked by and commented on the "fortuitous photo" I had just taken. Since a kid had just ridden by on a bike with a blinking light, I agreed and kept on taking photographs.

The bicycle photo didn't turn out, but later on in the evening I was taking a long exposure photo of a motorbike and a couple pickups backed up behind it. This left some light trails that help separate the bike from the background. While the jury is still out on the photograph itself, the happenstance helps illustrate this post.

Fortuitous has a couple meanings, somewhat related. One is occurring by chance. The other, which I think is somewhat more related to photography is lucky or fortunate.

Thinking about the comment the rest of the evening, I realize that while I try to plan what I'm going to do with the camera, a lot of photography is dependent on fortuitous circumstances. Is the light right, how about the weather, or is someone doing something interesting? While a portrait photographer can set up the scene and take a photo, do they make a connection with the subject or is the subject even in the right mood? Did I recognize that a good scene was unfolding and was I ready to capture it?

I used to have a boss that said he would rather be lucky than good. While he was mostly joking and people tend to make their own luck, I realized early on that circumstances and happenstance happen all the time. You just have to try to recognize what is happening and be quick enough, or lucky enough to photograph it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I've been collecting links for a bit, so it's time to publish them.

A Lightroom 2 workflow that is a good overview of how one person does it.

Bruce Percy, who still uses film and a medium format camera is running his own version of how he made 40 photographs.

A Lifehacker article about Swingvine. A web site that tracks trending topics. If you were doing micro stock photography and wanted to try to figure out what's hot, it might be a good site to keep on top of.

The start of an Open Source camera from Stanford University.

I've had trouble getting filters off the front of the camera lens before. I'm wondering if these watch case balls would work better than the wimpy filter removers they sell.

Glamour Magazine run a photo of a normal person rather than the normal model body type they usually do. The photo and a blog post about the positive response of readers that surprised them.

If you are doing a lot of flash photography work and want to diagram the setup, here is an interesting piece of software that will help you do it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

London - More Photos

Walking around Sunday, I came across 3 white Rolls Royce cars decorated for a wedding. I took a few photos, and waited around a bit for the bride to appear. I overheard one of the drivers say that the ceremony was over and that the reception had started and didn't stay any longer.

I ran into a BBC film crew working on a science documentary and this couple were two of the actors. Though I had to admit, they really didn't let each other go, even when filming was on break. The women in the background on the bench was also part of the show.

The host of the show walking backward and talking to the camera.

The film crew and onlookers. The couple, the scooter were part of the show, along with the camera crew.

Yes, another door.

This is the end of my photos from London. I want to go back and spend some more time though, there was much more of the city to photograph.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sky Flowers

The annual Celebration on the Grand festival is happening this weekend. The Friday evening fireworks are always a treat and for some reason are usually better than the ones put on during the Fourth.

Of course, I had to go down and do photos of the sky show. We got downtown an hour early to stake out a place on one of the bridges. It was already starting to fill up and by the time the show actually started, you could barely move. After the fireworks were over, we wandered over to Rosa Parks Circle to see the Jimmy Stagger band. A local blues band, I always enjoy them. We were only able to stay about 20 minutes though, Dorothy was tired and not feeling well so we pulled up stakes.

We both did enjoy the fireworks though, and I like the photos I got.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Camera Choices

I tend to do a lot of what I would consider street photography. Some other people might not, but the definition works for me. I normally use my DSLR. Since I tend to like big cameras, since they fit my hands better, it's pretty obvious when I take a photo. Especially since I tend to be obvious about it. There are times when I want the eye contact, though other times I prefer to be more voyeuristic and just record the scene as it unfolds.

Usually people do not object to having their photo taken in a public place, though there have been a couple. When I was in London, out on my own to just take photos, I dragged along my DSLR. I would take it in a bag, since I didn't want to advertise that I had it as I rode the subway. But this had it's downside. Every time I wanted to use it, I would have to open the bag, get it out and turn it on. While not a long amount of time, it takes away from the spontaneity if street photography. Plus some areas of London were very crowded this time of year. It was holiday time in Europe and a lot of different nationalities were wandering the same streets I was.

While I was taking a photo of the area I was in, just to document the crowds, the young couple in the photo above announced very loudly that they did not want their photo taken. By the time what they said registered, they had walked past. Since the UK/EU privacy laws are different than the US, I've blurred their faces.

I'm somewhat sure that if I would have been using a smaller camera or a point & shoot, that they would not have even noticed. But a big DSLR tends to be equated with professional photographers nowadays and it got their attention.

That, in a roundabout way gets me to the point of this rambling. Traveling with a big DSLR nowadays is no fun. Airport security sometimes insists that I take it out of the bag, so it can be x-rayed separately, it's too obvious to use and it's too heavy to carry around a big city for a day.

With the advent of the micro 4/3rds cameras and the new digital rangefinders being released, sooner or later a smaller camera will come along that will be more comfortable to use, but gives me the responsiveness of the DSLR. I may have to either switch camera makers or add another camera to my bag.

The reason I'm thinking about this, besides my trip, is the new Leica is supposed to be released today. While it's reported to be a nice camera, I'm sure it's out of my price range, especially when you factor in the shorter life span of digital gear. I may have to switch full time back to film, but that has it's own problems traveling....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


A break from the London photos, though there will be a few more coming. I was able to get out a bit on Monday and wandered around Saugatuck Dunes State Park. While I couldn't stay long, I did get some nice shots of some fungi. Lake Michigan was nice also, though there was a good bit of haze. The mosquitos were out and the acorns were falling from the trees.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

London - Random Photos

Some more photos from London.

The Millenium Bridge across the Thames. Built in 2000, it is the first new bridge in 100 years. It is a walking bridge only, this is the ramp from the ground. The church in the background across the river is St. Paul's.

Yet another evening shot of Big Ben.

The white coat caught my eye. It turns out he worked at a meat plant and was taking a smoking break.

I was kind of surprised to find a bit of beach on the Thames in the middle of London. I was really more surprised that people could get to it and use it. There was a stretch of sand sculptures with blankets set out for people to throw contributions down. The beach was about 15 feet below the walkway. There were a lot of street artists out, and this was just another one.

The remains of an old dock. I would have liked to get lower, but there was a somewhat modern looking ship anchored off the end of it. Part of me wondered how old it was and what history it had seen.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

London Skate Park

I tried to take in all of London that I could in a little over two days. Of course I failed magnificently. I did see some pretty cool stuff though. Sunday, while I was walking along the Thames, between the London Eye and the Tower Bridge, I came across a skate park. Converted from a overhang of a building, I believe it was the Science Museum, the area had been covered in graffiti and was an obvious hangout. The kids riding the bikes were pretty good, but I really didn't see much good skateboarding. It was such an amazing looking area, I ended up spending almost an hour there watching.

Friday, September 4, 2009

London Eye

The London Eye is a big ferris wheel built by BAA across the Thames from Big Ben and the Parliment building. Rides cost 17 pounds, about $30 US, and last for 30 minutes.

A early evening photo. Taken at high iso and hand held. Looking at the original, there is a lot of noise in the photo. I really need to come up with a solution so I can carry a tripod when I travel.

A few day shots. The sky was a dull solid gray, so I felt they looked better in black and white.

As usual, there are some more photos posted at

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I'm a sucker for an interesting doorway. I'm not sure why, but I like them anyway. I found a bunch the first day I was out in London. A few are below.

I ended up getting turned around and while I was walking, I came across the one above. It was down a little side street, and next to the ones below. The sun was out and while I was waiting for good light, I got a couple strange looks from people walking by.

While I was waiting, a lady asked me what I was waiting for. Once I told her, she explained that this building had been a childrens hospital that had been converted to flats. They kept the original decorations.

A close up of one of the doorway decorations.

The other.

There are a bunch of old churches in the city, all with interesting, to me at least, details.

Another doorway at St. James.

More later. I hope you are enjoying these.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hyde Park

Some photos from the trip. Just the very start. These are from the first day I went into London. They are all near the Hyde Park/Buckingham Palace area.

The ubiquitous phone booth.

The London Hard Rock Cafe.

People enjoying the day in Green Park, across the street from Buckingham Palace.

A guard at Buckingham Palace. The queen was not in town, spending the summer holiday at Windsor Castle about 45 miles from London.

More photos on my Flickr photostream. Many more to come yet also.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

London Calling

I've just spent 9 days in the UK. I went over for work, but stayed a few extra days to explore the city. I'm sure I only touched the surface, but here are a few thoughts.

We truly are countries separated by a common language. The accent at times was strange enough for me that if the person spoke fast enough, I had trouble understanding them. Of course I really don't have an ear for languages anyway, which didn't help. Some of the differences:

Lift for elevator.
Crisps for potato chips.
Toilet or loo instead of rest room.
The ground floor of a building is either ground or zero. What would be our second floor is 1. The basement is -1.
Chips for french fries.

The food was generally good. Peas, usually cold are served with a lot of meals. Pubs are everywhere, and they all serve fish and chips. Usually it's listed at the top of the menu and the all proclaim they have the best. The rooms are generally small, and they pack far more people in then would be allowed in the US. It's was common when the pub was packed to see people outside standing with their drinks.

August is crowded. It's vacation or "holiday" time in Europe and the city was packed. Everywhere I turned, I heard another language. It become somewhat of a game for me to guess where the person was from. Usually I failed.

Since they drive on the other side of the road from what the US does, being a pedestrian can be a challenge. Luckily in the city they have signs reminding people which way to look for traffic.

Interspersed throughout the city are older buildings. Primarily churches, but there are others as well. Some incredible older architecture that has been kept and reused over the years. Some of the buildings had a history going back to the 1600's or older. An amazing counterpoint to our penchant to tear down anything over 20 years old.

I took a lot of photos, though I think they will primarily be the typical tourist type shots. Being my first time in the city, I tried to take it all in. I failed miserably, but it was fun trying. I'll start posting photos when I've got them finished.