Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye to 2010

As another year winds down, I hope your holidays, whichever holiday you celebrate was most excellent, and you have a safe and happy New Years Eve.

I'm personally glad 2010 is done. It was a challenging year for me personally. Because of that, I did far less photography than I planned. I'm looking forward to 2011 and hopefully a better year, and more time spent out with the camera.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

St. Joseph Lighthouse

I ran down to the St. Joseph lighthouse Sunday evening since I had heard the walkway around the outer light had fallen. It had, and there was a nice coating of ice on it as well.

I tried to walk out to the outer light, but since there hasn't been much snow this year on the west side of Michigan, the pier was just glare ice. That and the water being kicked up over the pier made me decide that I didn't want the photograph that much.

I grabbed a long lens, and just shot from the beach. The sun was playing hide and seek behind the clouds, but the light was still good. I wanted to stay later, even thought there wasn't going to be a nice sunset, but I had left my tripod at home. I was going back later this week, but the weather report is rain and forty degree temperatures. That will pretty much ruin the coating of ice for a while. Since there is plenty of winter left, I'm sure I'll make it back down there again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Swans, Beaver, and a new Puppy. What more do you want?

Kelly was gracious enough this past Sunday to show me some of her photo spots in the Jenison area. I had mentioned an overheard talk about a pair of Bald Eagles flying around the area, and she knew where they spent a lot of time. We met mid-afternoon and drove to the site. An old gravel pit surrounded by trees and rusting machinery. A couple of signs prohibiting hunting and off-road vehicles, but that was it. We wandered around the area a bit, and did get a far off glimpse of an immature eagle, but it wasn't really close enough to get a photo.

We hopped back in the car and drove down the road. It dead ended and while I was turning around, we noticed a sign proclaiming it a county park/recreation area. Kelly had never been there, so we got out and walked around.

The first think we noticed was what looked like evidence of beaver in the area. We found a lot of trees like the above, one or two with the bark just girdled and one gnawed halfway through. We talked to a fisherman who mentioned they had heard what sounded like a tail slap of the animal, so we walked around a bit to get acquainted with the area. We never did find the animal, but we did find a lot more photographic possibilities.

We did see a set of swans, some of them still had brown on the wings which means they are immature birds.

Generally a beautiful area to photograph and not too far from home. I've been looking for a place to do a project on, with some water and woodlands close to me, and I think this will work.

I did promise a photo of our new puppy. Here it is. Meet Annie. A 12 week old Golden Retriever pup, you will probably see some more of her here and there. Not a lot, but she will turn up now and again. She came with us for the walk, and seemed to really enjoy it. Kelly was walking her, while I was photographing, and the dog slipped the leash once. Rather than run away, she headed straight for me. A good thing to know, I can worry a bit less when I take her out with me in the future.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ionia Fairgrounds

Another film scan I just got finished. An arch for the "Entertainment Park" at the Ionia Fair Grounds. Taken in the spring of 2010, I just got around to scanning it.

More coming.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holland Lighthouse

I've spent part of the weekend developing and scanning film. Once again, I'm behind.

A photo of the lighthouse at Holland Michigan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Portrait Project?

The annual zombie walk was held the Saturday before Halloween. I dragged the lights downtown a little bit before it was scheduled to start and started taking photographs. I was primarily after portraits for my project, and I ended up with about 55 or so photos I could use.

Looking at them though, I'm conflicted. I did get some really good photos, but the are all "zombiefied". I really want to use them, and I probably will end up doing so. But I'm not sure where photos such as these fit into a "formal" project.

I'm probably just overthinking this again. I do like the way they turned out.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winter is coming....

At least in the Northern Hemisphere it will soon be here. Just a random photo to remind you what summer was like....

Darn it, they (the ubiquitous they) are still messing with the time again. I wish they would stop it. The twice yearly time change really frosts me, if you know what I mean. No scientific reason has been found that we really need it. We can get rid of it, especially this time of year. I like getting out of work while it's still light.

We became the proud owners of a new Golden Retriever puppy this past week. Eight and a half weeks old, and she's already wearing me out. I promise the gratuitous puppy picture soon. While I'm not a big fan of pet photos on the web, since I plan on taking this dog out on photo excursions, I'm sure she will pop up now and then.

After my rant about George Lepp, let me introduce you to a couple of photographers I regularly follow.

David duChemin - Pixelated Images - With a blog slogan that reads "Gear is good, vision is better", how could I not like him. Best selling author of 3 photography books, one about vision, one about running a photography business, and the latest about using Lightroom to make sure your photographs match your vision, he is one of my favorite authors. He doesn't post on his blog very often, but what he does post is usually a good read. He also releases wallpaper once a month for you computer. I have one of his images as the background on my iPad.

John Paul Caponigro - Son of famous large format photographer Paul Caponigro, he has established himself as an artist and a teacher in his own right. He has a monthy newsletter, free and paid content on his web site and regular blog posts. He is also a good speaker, I had the pleasure of sitting through a one day seminar of his a year ago.

Brooks Jenson - The publisher and editor of Lenswork magazine. I'm a big fan of his magazine and his no nonsense approach to art and vision. He has several blogs, my favorite at the moment is his Dakota Creek Project blog. He is writing about a photo project and his thoughts behind it. Very low posting rate, my only complaint is I would like more content. However it shows me that projects can be very long term, and commitment and dedication count.

Paul Lester - A photographer who I became aware of during the first SoFoBoMo project. I regularly read his blog. While I don't believe he is published, I like his work. I also think, or would like to think, that our photography styles are somewhat similar. He also writes a lot about his vision and how he creates photographs. A good writer as well, and one of the first blog posts I read when they become available.

There are a lot of others I follow, some total gearheads, but mostly the artsy type. While I believe gear matters, I think the eye and the brain behind the gear matters more.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photographer George Lepp

Well known photographer, author and Canon Explorer of Light George Lepp was in town yesterday. One of the local camera stores was having its annual Canon Days, and he came to speak. I've attended a couple of speakers they've brought in for this, and in the past they have been really good.

While Mr. Lepp is a good speaker and has good work, I really didn't care for his talk. The entire two hours was about the various kinds of way to create panoramic photos from digital photos. He touched a bit about High Dynamic Range photography and video toward the end, but it seemed to me to be all about gear and process. Nothing about what has been called vision, how to become more creative or even what he was thinking about behind the photographs he did show.

He heavily pushed gear. He mentioned specific different vendors, with models and prices at least 6 times during the presentation. This was the most disappointing part of the seminar. It seemed he was just selling equipment. I'm not sure if they all sponsor him or not, but I would at least liked to have had some disclosure.

He did have some good points, but I wish he would have geared them toward his audience rather than the way he works. I really doubt many people have to create 5 ft. by 20 ft. photos.

I did manage to get his new book signed. I had brought my own copy with me, and I was glad I did. Other photographer have boxes of books shipped in and do a book signing after a talk. He only had a small stack of books the local camera store secured and they managed to run out early. He is a very engaging speaker and quite willing to answer questions.

I just wish he would have talked less about gear.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not So Happy.

I've been going through the photographs I've taken so far this year, and I haven't been very happy.

I pigeonhole my photography, rightly or wrongly, into two types, people/event photography and quiet/contemplative photography. While I like the people photography a lot, and I'm planning on doing more, I don't really consider printing it and hanging it on the wall. That role falls on the quiet photography.

I've found myself this year not having the time to go out and study a scene or area, and coming up with photographs that I would consider more artsy. I know that this is my definition, and I saw plenty of other definitions at ArtPrize this year. However it's the definition I've pretty much stuck with for a while.

I look at my people photography from fairs and festivals around town and aside from a very few exceptions, would not print them and hang them individually. I don't feel they are strong enough to stand on their own. If I did a show, I might consider doing them as a theme for the hanging or whole show.

Hopefully the things that have kept me preoccupied over the past half year have quieted down, and I can find some time to get out with the camera and find some more quiet photographs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sleeping Bear

I spent a Saturday at the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore earlier in the month. This is a national park, that for some reason seems to be off a lot of people radar.

I was hoping for some fall color. Unfortunately the park has a lot of oaks, which seem to just turn brown rather than the brillant crimson and yellows of the maple family. There was a lot of patches of color, but not the vistas I was hoping for.

Of course, since I was only able to spend a single Saturday in the park, it's entirely possible I missed it. A beautiful area anyway, and one I keep telling myself I need to spend more time at.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


We took our yearly trip to Chicago for Dorothy's birthday earlier this month. While I tend to go to the city several times a year, this trip is pretty much a celebration of the past year. There is usually a space of several hours during the weekend when she is clothes shopping and I'm on my own. I take the time to wander around and visit camera shops and doing some street shots. I usually also try to get out during a evening. The rest of the time is museums, shops and restaurants.

While I always have a good time, and also get some great photos, the weekend is essentially for her. It helps to have a very understanding wife.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

ArtPrize 2010

I haven't written anything about ArtPrize yet this year, so I figured it was about time. They are supposed to announce the winner later today. That also means it will be wrapping up this week.

If you don't know what ArtPrize is, a quick synopsis. An art competition judged by the public with a top prize of $249,000. While the public judges, there are rules and procedures in place to prevent someone from rigging the vote. In response to complaints from last year, there is also a set of juried awards, where the work is judged by professional artists. This year, over 1,700 artists displayed work in a 3 square mile area downtown.

I attended a talk given by the director of ArtPrize just before it opened. He had some interesting things to say about it.

1. Simple = Complex. Sometimes the simplest things say the most complex things, and have the greatest meaning.

2. Art = Community. In an effort to differentiate cities and communities, city leaders all over the country are supporting the arts. Areas of the city are being turned into art specific neighborhoods. Surprisingly these areas are well attended and money makers as a whole. They also are a key part of "Cool Cities" initiative.

3. Idea = Action. A lot of people have ideas. They don't become reality until people take action on those ideas. A simple thought that a lot of people don't pay attention to.

4. Fun = Growth. One way for an organism to grow, whether it is a person or a region is to have fun. Whimsy, while it may be frowned on by some, is a way to get and keep a persons attention. Most people are more willing to participate in a fun activity than the opposite.

5. You = Creator. Anyone is a creator. Art is not for the professionals, nor should judging what is good art be left to them. Art is part of growing up, most kids start drawing early on in life. It's only later that society tells them that they need to be serious.

The ArtPrize organization only does high level planning. They register artists and venues, but it is up to the two to get together to display the work. They depend on volunteers to help run the event. They also try to find enough donors and funds to pay the prizes.

Most of all the event was about conversation. The founder and the director had travelled to a lot of art events around the country, and they got the most out of it when they just talked to the people around them. That was what they were trying to bring to the community.

While there are some problems with the event, I think they have accomplished the goal. The downtown area has been packed over the last 3 weeks, the merchants are open late and making money, and most of all, everyone is getting a better look at the city. A lot of people I know don't like downtown, because they still think of it as the abandoned, lonely hulk of two decades ago. It's not. Events like this help change that perception and is probably the biggest win of the event.

I may have not remembered the exact meaning of the bullet points above, but hopefully I didn't mangle them up too much. Kudos to the ArtPrize folks, and I can hardly wait until next year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Outdoor Discovery Center

I had a chance to go the the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland last week and photograph a couple of owls. A small group of photographers was meeting there Thursday evening, and I was invited to come along.

The Center has several rescued raptors, including a Kestral and Eagles, along with the owls. We were able to photograph two of the owls, a Great Horned Owl, pictured above, and I believe a Short Eared Owl. Both birds had been hit by cars and brought to the center. The Great Horned Owl, while able to fly, had nerve damage to a wing and was not able to fly long enough, or far enough to hunt. The Short Eared Owl had a damaged wing and was unable to fly at all.

In the lower photo above, the owl has its beak open because it was panting. It hadn't been around people lately, and it was stressed. Like a dog, they will pant to get rid of excess heat.

This was the first time I had been this close to these birds without bars or glass between us. The small group of us spent about a half hour with each bird, along with the handler.

Both gorgeous birds, it's sad they are unable to live in the wild, but at least they survived the encounter with the cars.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Portrait Project




I know I haven't been paying much attention to this lately, but hopefully that will change. The "real job" is finally slowing down a bit after an overly busy summer.

I've also been preparing for what I hope will turn out to be a long term project that will end up as an entry in next years Art Prize. A street portrait project. A project that lets me go out on the street and try to photograph people just walking by.

I had my first session last night and I got a few good photographs. I also had a lot of great conversations with people that let me take their photos and shook a lot of hands. A few people wouldn't even listen to me, I think they were expecting me to ask for money.

I also learned a lot. I need to have some backup equipment with me. My light stand tipped and while I didn't break the flash bulb, I bent the umbrella I was using. I also need a way to haul the equipment around. I also need to find a way to capture info while I'm talking to someone, probably a recorder or something. I've always had a problem with names, and I had one instance last night where I could remember the city she lived in, but not her name. Somewhat embarrassing. I'm also hoping I spelled the peoples name right.

Since I started somewhat late, I also had a problem getting a good focus on the peoples face. While a somewhat soft photo probably will not make much of a difference on the final project, I tend to be somewhat of a stickler for that.

I ended up with 19 portraits that I felt I could use. Converting them to square, black and white, and tagging them with the proper name and hometown, took a lot more time than I thought. Since I will need a lot more than that, I think I need to come up with a better way of doing it.

I'll continue to publish updates here as I go along, and hopefully I'll end up with a completed project by the middle of next year. At least completed enough to see a final product.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Wake Wars 2010

Last weekend, one of the downtown merchants held the 2nd Grand Rapids Wake Wars. A huge pool was set up in a parking lot, surrounded by seats, vendors and games.

Held both Saturday and Sunday, I wasn't really able to get down until Sunday evening. It had been a hot day, and the sun going down didn't help much. They didn't have a great crowd, but considering it was the last few hours of the event, it wasn't bad.

I wish I would have made it down earlier in the day, when some of the jumping events were held, but just too busy the first weekend back from San Jose.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wandering Again

I'm in San Jose for my real job. I got a chance late Saturday to go to Half Moon Bay on the coast for a bit. My main purpose was to look at a lighthouse I found a link to. An interesting light house, but I wasn't able to get a good photo of it. Wandering around the area, I came across a lot of parks, and beach access. I'm going to try to get back there one evening before I come home.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

At The Beach

The local camera clubs had a combined workshop Sunday. A modeling session at Hoffmaster State Park, just south of Muskegon. We started out about 4 pm with a picnic and then headed down to the beach. I didn't get an exact count, but there were more than 20 photographers and 6 or more models. Some of the models were friends and family of the photographers, a couple of the others were semi-professionals that came along. While all the models that came where female, we ran into a group of guy wave boarders who were more than willing to let us photograph them. They started doing some runs down the beach, but they were quickly co-opted into posing along with the others.

It was a hot, muggy day, but once we got down to the beach, it was great. The beach was crowded, but we were able to find room. The crowd also started to thin out later in the evening, but I was surprised how many people stayed until dark. The water was warm for Lake Michigan, up into the 70's. Which was good for the models, because they ended up in the water a lot. It was good for me also, since I was in the water a lot, especially when I was working with the guys.

I dragged my new light and battery down to the beach once it started getting later in the evening. This was the first time I had used it outside the house. Overall I was happy with it, but I still have more to learn on lighting people, especially with just one light.

One of the models brought her wedding dress. I got a couple good photos of her with it on standing on the beach. She then went in the water with it. Unfortunately it was dark by then, and I really didn't get any photos I liked after that. She's going to trash the dress later in the year, and I'm going to try to photograph that also.

A good way to spend an afternoon, with a lot of great people and pretty scenery.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Wandering around Wilderness State Park, I came across this family.
I wasn't really sure what kind of bird it is, though it has been suggested,
that they are Sawbills or Red-breasted Merganser. I tried to get a photo
without disturbing them, but it was not to be. They ended up in the water, even
though I started backing up when they stood up. The last I saw of them,
they were swimming around a small point.
I would have liked to get some more photos.

Since we were in Mackinac City, I had to get a photo of the bridge.
A 3 minute exposure from Wednesday evening at 10 pm.

The old Mackinac City Lighthouse. It's too bad
they don't light it up anymore, but the ground
lights make some nice shadows.

We spent a few days up north in Mackinac City. Even though it is a prime tourist trap, we still enjoy it. My back was giving me problems, so it was a quiet trip. I got out a little bit with the camera, but not near enough as I normally would.

I spent a couple hours driving around Wilderness State Park, scouting out locations for the next time I came up. I did find a few spots I want to go back to, when I can spend the time. On the way to the park, I stopped at the new lighthouse open to the public, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse. Recently bought by Emmet County from a private party, it's been opened to the public while it's being restored. A pretty building, but surrounded by trees. It will be difficult to photograph, and I didn't get a chance to go back and try.

Since I could sit on the beach, I did get out a couple evenings to photograph the bridge. While it is over photographed, even by me, I still like to try to get a different take on it. Plus sitting by the water, listening to the waves, while the stars come out, always relaxes me. One evening, I watched a thunderstorm across the water for a while after I was done with the bridge. The storm stayed north, across in the Upper Peninsula, but I could see the glow of the clouds and hear the thunder. For some reason, thunderstorms and the rain are soothing.

We made it over to Mackinac Island for a few hours. I took it slow and was able to enjoy the trip. I had my camera with me, but nothing really struck me, and I didn't take many photographs.

An enjoyable few days overall, even with me having to take it easy. Now it's back to the real job again tomorrow. Sigh...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Maker Faire - Detroit

The kit at the "Learn to Solder" station. For a buck, you got a small
set of parts, which when put together was a blinky led badge.
It was popular, especially with the kids, but a lot of grown ups
had them also.

Seen at the giant mousetrap art show, I assumed he was
taking stereo video. There were a lot of cameras around.

A swing set with a water bar at the top.
Very popular, even though it wasn't really hot.

Another performance art piece. Volunteers were pulled
out of the crowd to pedal or just ride. It played music that
sounded like an old record on a turntable. The music varied
in speed corresponding to the speed they were pedaling.
They then had to pedal backwards...
There were flames also.
Vehicles were popular. Pedal, electric, solar or gas.
They were all there.

Saturday I let my inner geek out. I attended the Maker Faire in Dearborn at the Henry Ford Museum. When I mentioned I was going, I was asked what the Faire was. It's hard to explain. Think technology meets art, meets learning, meets community. A celebration of the hackers ethic along with a big helping of do it yourself. Not I mean hacking in a good way, like taking apart something you own or repurposing it for a use the original manufacturer never intended.

There were not a lot of vendors selling things, probably ninety percent of the booths were just people and schools showing off projects they were working on. There were projects for kids, like pvc marshmallow guns, or the learn to solder station. There were demonstration for adults, like a laser etching station or cnc woodworking tools, some homebuilt. I saw my first 3d printer, a homemade device that prints small parts out of plastic.

Music was popular, there were a lot of homemade music devices, some acoustic, some computer controlled. There was a stage where bands played the whole day.

There was also a lot of geeky style performance art. From the ride pictured above, to a full sized Mousetrap game that dropped a two ton safe on a car to the Coke Zero - Mentos performance.

A lot of robots, from small table tops to a Nerf machine gun area protection robot.

The only photography display I saw was Bill Schwab from North Lights Photography. He was doing a brisk business selling wet plate collodion portraits. I didn't get a chance to say hi, he was pretty busy. It was interesting to see an old process be so popular.

As part of the admission, we had access to the Henry Ford Museum. I didn't see much of it, except to go in the building to see the displays inside. A full, tiring, but very fun day. I hope they do it again next year, I would be back.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Carnival Time!

I know this has been a bit quite lately, I have the usual excuses, not enough time and too much going on.

Mike had me up in Sparta a week ago for the local celebration. While I couldn't go to the events earlier in the day, I did make it up for the carnival on Saturday evening. A smaller carnival that I expected, it kind of snaked around town, between buildings and through parking lots. Not a whole lot of places to set up a tripod to get photos.

After thinking about it a bit, and trying a couple of things, I decided to just hand hold the camera with a wide angle lens instead. This changed the way I would normally photograph a carnival. Since the lens is so wide, you have to be really close to your subject, and the lens distortion will still give a sense of space that really isn't there. For example, the photo of the game where they are trying to win candy, I was almost leaning over the game board. It's kind of nice, since you can point the lens almost forty five degrees away from someone and still get a photo of them.

I like the way these turned out and I'm going to use this more often in the future.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


As a science geek who grew up with chemistry sets and microscopes, I've been watching the dumbing down of kids science toys with dismay. It follows the trend, especially since 9/11 of "protecting" us from ourselves. Anything with the perceived remote chance of hurting ourselves or others is way too dangerous for us to have.

This cartoon starts to sum it up.

Taken without permission (sorry), from todays Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, a geeky cartoon that it in my rss feed so I don't miss it. Go follow it also.