Christmas (Pt. 2)…

Now it’s Christmas Day and I figured that I’d put out another post, just wishing you all a Merry Christmas. We all know the reason for the season (pardon the rhyming) and it’s a manger, not some cheerful old chubby dude in a red & white suit. We all get caught up in the materialism of the season, thanks to all the sales, TV ads, and the need for the latest gear, myself included, but family & belief are more important than just buying thing after thing. It’s one of the hardest things to do because we’ve got such easy access to credit & loans for the latest gadgets; there’s nothing wrong with an upgrade, especially if you need it.

Winter’s got the snow for those in the north and warm tropical weather for those in the south (hopefully). What it’s also got is challenging issues when it comes to exposure settings for photography; what helps is exposing the snow (and white sand) at +1 to +2 stops and checking the greens (if any) at about -.3 to 0. It’s not a full-proof solution, but it helps and works for most scenes because the camera’s light meter wants to read it as medium (gray). Sometimes, bracketing exposures helps with the scene, especially if we decide to turn to an HDR (High Dynamic Range) solution afterwards.

- Winter Grass -
Winter Grass

Now the above photograph, taken recently, potentially had two issues with the scene: bright white snow & overcast skies. HDR wasn’t quite necessary because the snow served as a reflector for the underside of the large leaves/grass and the overcast skies had spots of clear blue skies spread the light around. The snow was exposed at +2 stops and the lighting was helped out by the reflectiveness of the snow itself; it was a matter of working with what there was in front of me and this time I actually got it to work. Part of me thinks that it was an early Christmas present, because this just doesn’t happen this way in my photography all that often, but I’m not going to dwell on that too much because it’s way too trivial when it comes to other issues that are facing the world at large.

So, go and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Christmas…

Now it’s almost that time of year again…Christmas time! So I thought I would, instead of talking on and on, give a list of favorites. So here’s a list of stuff that really works for me:

Books:
-The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography (Glen Randall)
-Landscape Photography: Art & Techniques (Neil Chrighton)
-A Beautiful Anarchy: When the Life Creative Becomes the Life Created (David duChemin)
-Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision (David duChemin)
-Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images (David duChemin)
-The New Art of Photographing Nature (Art Wolfe & Martha Hill)
-The Art of the Photograph (Art Wolfe & Rob Sheppard)

Musicians:
-Thrice
-Darius Rucker
-Twenty One Pilots
-Red
-Thousand Foot Krutch
-Flyleaf / Lacey Sturm
-The Fray

These lists aren’t exhaustive by any means, just stuff that comes to mind when I think of that inspires me to do better photographically. They aren’t all about photography, especially the musicians, but it’s the creativity in the music & the message in their songs. The key in all of this is creativity & meaning, something that’s been hammered into me over the years, even if I haven’t always followed it all that well. That’s what we should all be striving for in photography…Making images that count for something and say something. Christmas is about so much more than just meaning something, but that’s where it should start…meaning something to us more than just gifts & money.

It’s the holidays and for what it’s worth, it’s time spent with ones that care about you & the ones we care about. It’s not about chasing the latest gear or the latest shot that might just get us famous, even if that would be kind of cool. Sometimes, myself included, we lose sight of what matters: spending time with the ones who care about us and the ones we care about.

So, about that hangover…

When I really think about it, coming back from taking photographs and nothing turns out just the way I wanted it to, does that mean that I give up? Or if I come back with a headache/hangover and I don’t feel like doing it again, does that mean I give it up? In simple terms, nope. It’s basically like trying to recover from a hangover, or too much food (hence the term, food-baby); we don’t give up something altogether because it didn’t turn out good, we give it up if it physically & mentally hurts us too much (although drinking would be better to give it up completely if you’re prone to having too much).

When something puts us in a situation where we’re down, then seeking help from a sensible friend is always a good thing; and by sensible friend, I mean one that doesn’t cheer for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League (sorry, had to put that one in there as a joke). In all seriousness, working towards trying to find a solution often requires the help of a friend, or some kind of inspiration, to get over feeling down. It can be tough opening up, but sometimes, it just works better when you do because it let’s a close friend see what you’re going through and walk along with you so you don’t feel alone.

Christmas is a time to be with family & friends and it should be like that when you feeling down because it’s usually better to seek help instead of going it on your own (something I’m prone to do way to often). It can be an extremely lonely road and working it out all by yourself can lead to some conclusions that are either deceptive or completely wrong because you end up going down the path that is totally opposite of where you’re supposed to be. So have a good Christmas and remember to enjoy it with someone because it’s usually better that way!

It’s almost here…

Can you believe that it’s almost here? It’s the time of year that rampant materialism takes over and all we really think about is what we want to get for Christmas. It should really be about that baby in the manger and what He means to us personally; it’s about really thinking about how much we’ve come to think of ourselves when we should be thinking about that baby in a manger and what it really means for us. It’s the season of giving, not the season of getting, something I’ve forgotten way too many times.

When it comes to photography, we look for the latest gear for the cheapest prices, thinking that it alone will make us better photographers. I’m probably banging this gong way too much, but it’s about vision & intent in the shot, not so much about what model camera you’ve used. I’ve been the kind of person that’s focused too much on gear to the point that all it ever does is makes me depressed because I can’t afford to buy the latest $2000+ camera or lens; it’s not the gear that makes the shot, but the person behind it. It’s come down to the point that I’ve realized that I’ve got the gear that’s right for me, right at this time & place, and that I need to be focusing on vision, intent & impact in the shot itself. This time of year is getting all too crowded with all the talk of gear at lower/cheaper prices to the point that the whole point of vision/intent gets shoved aside in the quest for the latest & greatest; I say it’s time we take this idea of photography as all about the gear and throw it out the window because, while gear is okay, vision is key (“Gear is good, but vision is better,” as David duChemin often says).

It’s about time I learn to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not get carried away by all the ads for the latest gear at cheap prices because gear isn’t the end-all-be-all in photography that some make it out to be. Oh yeah, and it’s not about Word crashing because it has a hard time with big documents either…But that’s another story for perhaps another time. I’m not perfect…not anywhere close…but I better start trying to be humble and remember the real reason for the season.

On the holidays…(yet again)

It’s literally only two weeks away: Christmas Eve! It’s that time of year when we all get frustrated trying to find that one gift that we can never seem to find, get stuck getting in (or out of) the mall, honk the car horn because the person in front of us drives like a maniac, get drunk on egg nog, and get pulled over by the police for doing something really stupid. Wait a minute…That sounds more like a plot for some D-rated movie than the real Christmas. It’s the time of year your spend with friends & family, get out that really odd looking Christmas sweater that a relative bought you, and celebrate the holidays together!

Now it happened that in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the empire. (This first registration took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to be registered, each one to his own town. So Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered together with Mary, who was legally promised in marriage to him and was pregnant. And it happened that while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
-Luke 2:1-7 (LEB)

I’ve posted it before in a much shorter blog entry last month, but I figured that it’s always good to repost it closer to Christmas. In the last few centuries, it’s become more of a materialist holiday that caters to the stores selling goods; for a good laugh at this, watch Cledus T. Judd’s song Christmas. In recent years, however, there has been a push to get back to the less materialist version of Christmas among some groups; whatever your beliefs, it’s the time of year to be with friends and/or family to celebrate & look back on the year about to end.

On winter…

While it can be extremely cold outside during the winter months, taking gear out to get the shot can be tricky because it can seize up or not work at all due to the temperature. Keeping the camera warm is the best option; storing it under a jacket when not it use or even getting a good camera bag/sling that has decent insulation will definitely help. Not taking it constantly in & out from cold to warm keeps the lens from fogging up and mucking up the internals.

There’s something about winter photography, especially scenes with all the streetlights & lit up houses, that makes it seem so warm even though it is so cold; maybe it’s the feeling of what’s waiting for us once we get back inside. It’s usually the anticipation of a shot or what’s waiting for us just around the proverbial ‘corner’ that can provide that warmth; that and it’s the time for Christmas carols like the classic Let It Snow & Deck the Halls, among others, sung by many a caroler as well as the classic TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Personally, my current favorite has got to be O Come All Ye Faithful…and belting it out as well; Twisted Sister, to which I don’t actually listen to apart from their Christmas CD, does a good job of belting it out (I’m more of a country & pop-punk kind of guy). But, getting back to winter, it provides us with many a challenge in the form of bright white snow (or brown snow if you’re near the roads in the city).

The snow may be soft, or hard, but it’s like a cool blanket of goodness that makes you glad that the scene can look so amazing if you just stop and think about it. Just dress warm, watch out for yellow snow (especially when there are dogs around), beware of flying snowballs (I’ve thrown more than my fair share of large ones), and get out an enjoy the snow. Oh yeah…Don’t forget to watch out for the icy roads; wiping out is not fun, especially on concrete and/or with gear in hand. Staying safe is probably the best option, especially if the neighborhood is in an all-out snowball fight.

Of vision & gear…

For all the tech talk & arguments over which is better, gear or vision, I’d have to say the later, but  only because of personal experience. When I tend to focus on gear, it gets me depressed because it becomes a never-ending quest for more stuff and, as a result, blinds me to focusing on what the scene says & means. It’s not always as simple as saying if you have X you can capture Y because that takes a whole lot out of photography and makes it nothing more than a mechanical impulse. I’ve banged that drum so many times that it’s starting to get me tired of the whole gear vs. vision conflict.

The two pieces of gear, outside of camera & lens you will most likely need though is a tripod (I try not to use one unless I have to shoot with an aperture of under 1/20 of a second) and a few filters (UV & circular polarizer to name a few). The tripod will make taking shots that take long exposures possible without camera shake (in-camera image stabilization isn’t something I fully trust yet) while the filters will cut down on light reflections & UV haze (circular polarizer & UV respectively). Neutral density filters make it possible to shoot in really bright scenes when the camera shutter can’t go fast or low enough…For the shot you want.

Now that I’ve banged the drum again…It’s the season to be glad that we at least have another breath in us, not the season to go out and buy enough stuff/crap to put us in debt for years to come. It’s the time of year that we spend time with family and remember the true reason for the season:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
-Luke 2:1-7 (ESV)

So try not to forget this…I sure am trying not to forget!

Winter (Part 3)

It’s amazing when you think that winter is so cold (up here in the north at least), yet it provides us with earth in the form of family gathered around the fireplace at times. Like Daniel 2:21 says, God knows & controls the seasons (as well as giving us wisdom & knowledge), and yet the coldest season of the year is when we celebrate Christmas. It’s also the time that some of the most heartwarming portraiture is done in photography with the family gathered round each other for that photograph everyone wants to get out of the way. There’s quite a bit to the seasons and this season brings the year to a close…Up north anyways.

The season’s ripe for hot chocolate and, photographically speaking, this is just ripe for photographs of steam rising from the cup of hot cocoa sitting outside in the cold weather; just thinking about it makes for a warm photograph! What it does as well is challenge the photographer to capture steam, something not easily done, especially for me. It makes for a good, if not perfect, seasonal photo to remind oneself of the warmth in the cold…A good example of contrast, and one that is seasonal/weather based.

It’s also time for the cheesy Christmas sweater and all the humorous photographs of us wearing them; it’s almost as if the season was meant for them. Those Christmas sweaters provide us with many a laugh and many an attempt to erase memories of them when we don’t like them, including the photographs people take of them. While they can be fun for the moment, it’s probably best leaving them for the moment alone (written with a smirk).