Don't Stop When Time is Short

Mark and I have been very busy at our real jobs lately. This has affected our blogging, making us late or missing. More importantly, it has prevented us from getting out and making new photos. This is a common problem for all photographers who work to afford their photography. Occasionally, you just don't have the time to pursue photography the way you want. There are things you can do, however, that will let you keep your hand in it, until things open up.

Reprocess a Photo. If you're a frequent photographer, you have thousands of older photos you made. When was the last time you reviewed them? Have your processing skills improved? Probably. I like to re-visit some of my favorite photos from, at least, five years ago and decide if I would process them differently today. Undoubtedly, your processing software has improved in the last five years, and you might be surprised at the results.

Seward, Alaska

You can go through one or two photos in a short amount of time, and you get to spend a little time with your favorite images. I work on a virtual copy of the image, so I can compare the before and after. This photo was improved over the original by improvements in image stitching and shadow enhancements. Keep in mind, you may decide that no changes are necessary, after all. That is always an acceptable answer.

Scan some old photos. While we're talking about old photographs, how many old photos have you scanned? I have a pile of them to get through. Scanning can be pretty boring, so I try to do it in small bunches any way. I can do about 20 photos in an hour. If you're all caught up, you can begin fixing the scratches and fading that has occurred over the years. Now that it's digitized and repaired, everyone in the family can have a copy of that treasured, old family photo.

staples074

Use your phone. Don't forget you have a perfectly good camera on your phone. You can sneak in a photo when you're stuck in traffic. It may not be your favorite subject, but you can still appreciate the light as you're watching the sunrise through the windshield. I travel through the Manassas Battlefield, every morning. Someone let my “secret” backroad route out to everyone else, so I'm still stuck in traffic. The scenery, however, is always tranquil and enjoyable. During one of my commuting traffic halts, I saw the beautiful light in a field of hay wheels. It won't make my portfolio, but I got to shoot a photo and remind myself of a place I need to get to when I get a break.

Great light on the way to work

Read a book. For an analog solution to your time crunch problem, try the radical solution of reading a book. I like the old photo books found in used bookstores. You can learn much about basic photo exposure and composition from these inexpensive books. Photographers of old were much more careful of these basics because every photo they shot cost them money in film and processing chemicals. The techniques in those old books are still quite valid.

I carry several book apps on my phone and Ipad, so I don't need to carry around bound paper for all my reading material or worry if my downtime occurs when I'm away from home. Most new books are also available as ebooks. The quality of these ebooks has progressed, along with every other technology. The color in these photobooks never fades, and I never lose my bookmark. These apps also hold my camera and flash manuals, which I use to look for capabilities I seldom use and need to try when I get my next camera time.

Online tutorials can help. Are you afraid reading a book will put you to sleep because you've been working such long hours? Well, we've talked, previously, about the tutorials you can access on your computer, Ipad, and smart phones. As a member of Kelbyone and Lynda.com, I can access tutorials and photo inspiration, 24 hours a day, for a few minutes or until I need to get back to work. Their tutorials feature the best photographers alive and the quality is top notch. They have helped advance my photography and post-processing skills. I think they are worth the small investment they cost, but you don't have to spend any money for the free podcasts or Youtube videos. I subscribe to both.

So, when work is interfering with your free time, you don't have to go cold turkey. Take advantage of every minute you can to advance your photography until things open up a bit. As for me, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel – my next opportunity is already booked. I'm looking forward to the fun of getting back behind the camera very soon. It's about time....

Newport, Rhode Island

Sign In, Please

By Roger (2 November 2015)

When I'm traveling with my camera, I like to grab some photos of the more unique parts of wherever I am: street scenes; local events, like parades and festivals; tourist sites; and, of course, signs. Signs? Yes, signs.

I've been doing this for a long time. They have been used in my personal slideshows and, sometimes, for work, as the sign below. Most of these photos won't end up in your portfolio, but, hopefully, that isn't your prime motivation when you take the camera out to play. There are still many reasons to snap photos of signs.

Gone, but not forgotten

Since signs are everywhere, you won't have any problem finding them. You won't be able to miss them once you start paying attention. I rarely return from a photowalk without one. Make it one of your challenge photos.

While most people don't make slideshows as often as we used to – and millions of family members rejoice! – today's technology has made them much better to sit through. Lightroom can help you put together a nice slideshow, with transitions and accompanying music. You can also use a small sign photo, in a photobook, to give the reader the a location marker or name of a building of the photos they are viewing.

Virginia has many “Love” signs, from the old “Virginia is for Lovers” tourist campaign to draw tourists. They're all over the state. I've seen, at least, a dozen of them. I'm not sure how many they put out there, but three of them are within an hour of my house. They have all ended up in my camera.

The Luray, Va, sign is near a playground, so, obviously, it fits well with photos of the grandchildren standing on it. That reminds me, we'll need to go back there to update the photo with the two that weren't born when I took this photo.

The perfect sign for grandchildren

You can use a sign photo to remember facts about events or locations. As a history buff, I'm always interested in those historical markers along the road and have stopped at many. But when you don't have time to sit and ponder the world as it existed back then, take a quick snapshot. You can finish reading about the location in your office.

I don't want you to think I never put any thought into my sign photos. I'm always on the lookout for something more interesting than a simple snapshot. When the conditions are right, signs can be captivating subjects, especially advertising. They are usually colorful and designed to catch your eye. Throw in some reflections from a window and a freshly rained-on awning, and you get something nice.

Memphis, TN

How crazy can you get with this stuff? Well, Mark and I went to the neon sign graveyard while we in Las Vegas. They took our money and let us into an outside enclosure, with signs that had been discarded by the casinos. And we had to sign up for a designated time to get in because there were so many other crazy folks who wanted a chance to look around. Believe it or not, it was worth it. (You can see more of those photos here.)

So, give those signs some of your time the next time you're out there. Just the process of looking for the good ones will help you exercise your eyes and challenge you to make something of what you find. We can all use some of that to keep things fun.

Don't forget to move in close, sometimes

Rodeo Time

By Roger (19 July 2015)

It's been a busy couple of weeks, with very little chance to exercise my shutter fingers. I did get to spend a couple of hours, at the Fauquier County Fair, with our local camera group. We went on opening night for the rodeo.

As rodeos go, this one is small. You don't get to see many of the events found at the big rodeos. This one is limited to a couple dozen bull riders and the barrel racers. And, since it started late, the sun set before we got to the barrel racers. The good thing about small rodeos is you can get close to the action if you get there early enough. We did and were right on the fence, across from the chutes.

While we were waiting, we got to chat with the show's official photographer, Chris “Click” Thompson. (You can check out his site here.) He was setting up strobes around the arena, so he could keep working after sunset. He spent some time with our group, talking camera geek stuff. He travels with the show, as a free-lancer, so he's seen the action many times and passed out some shooting advice. He dropped by, again, mid-way through the bull riding to check in on us. It was a thoughtful gesture from a full-time professional.

Since our group had been to this rodeo, last year, we knew the best place to catch the bulls coming right out of the chutes.

 Let 'er rip

Let 'er rip

This is a good time for a zoom lens, with a quick autofocus, because the action moves quickly around the arena, and you can't move with it. I used the 70-200 and kept the autofocus on active. The sun was fading, so we were increasing our ISO to keep the shutter speeds above 1/640.

 Hanging on

Hanging on

My favorite shots have the bull's feet completely off the ground. You might not think a 1,600 pound bull could jump that high, but they seem to get real agitated at the riders. You can tell how low the sun is by looking at the bull's shadow on the chute.

 That bull has great hang time

That bull has great hang time

I noticed more riders wearing helmets, rather than hats, this year. I'm all for safety, but maybe you shouldn't be hanging onto the back of a bull to begin with. The disadvantage of those helmets becomes apparent when you hit the dirt. And many of the riders did just that.

 Bull Rider Faceplant

Bull Rider Faceplant

 That facemask scoops up lots of dirt.

That facemask scoops up lots of dirt.

When the bulls cooperate, you can get some great facial expressions from the riders. There comes a point on the ride where they realize the bull has the upper hand, and they are going down.

 End of the ride

End of the ride

 Uh-oh!

Uh-oh!

Unfortunately, because of the late start, I didn't have the light I needed for the barrel racers. The speed and skill those horsewomen display is fun to photograph. Here's one of my favorites from last year.

 Gotta love the barrel racers

Gotta love the barrel racers

We all had a great time at the rodeo: eating only the finest cuisine; hanging with other photographers; and lots of challenging subjects to photograph. Don't miss your chance when the rodeo comes to town.

Why You Should Avoid the 'Family Photographer' Moniker

By Roger (28 June 2015)

Back in March, I extolled on the joys of family photography and how to simple it can be to make family shots (link). As I said then, family members are my favorite photo subjects. Family photography documents the passage of time and can create priceless heirlooms for the entire family. You should practice it at every opportunity.

 One of my favorites

One of my favorites

Then, there is the other side of the job. There are always, at least, two sides.

What could be wrong with being labeled the official family photographer? You might be surprised. Here are some things you need to be prepared to endure if they stick that moniker on you.

People expect you to bring a camera for every event. You're the photographer, after all. So, during the parties and get-togethers, you get to schlep your camera gear around, taking their photos. They will explain that, since you are the photographer, they don't need to bother with their cameras anymore. And they won't carry your gear, either. In Germany, we used to do 10 and 20 kilometer volksmarches, with my daughter on my back, and two cameras, lenses, and rolls of film around my neck. But, my wife wouldn't carry my gear.

 On the volksmarching trail, in Germany

On the volksmarching trail, in Germany

You don't get to play with them. You quickly realize that your new role is to photograph them having fun. You will discover a distinct lack of you in your photo database. If you were to join them, you couldn't make the photos they all want. Besides, who would watch your gear?

 Pony rides are for kids

Pony rides are for kids

 Looks like a fun slide

Looks like a fun slide

They don't cooperate during photo sessions they requested. Everybody wants to have group photos made for their desks and walls, but nobody wants to help make it happen. You have to think things out ahead of the session and be quick, or you'll lose your chance. This is especially true when the subjects are the “adults.”

 You two better behave!

You two better behave!

Their mother might make them behave, so you can complete the photo, but you will know the suffering it took to get the photo. They only cooperated because she threatened to put sticks and leaves in their stockings.

 Finally, cooperation

Finally, cooperation

They, even, taught the youngest family member to make goofy faces when I point the camera in his direction. It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

 The youngest scofflaw of the family

The youngest scofflaw of the family

They will tell you what and how to shoot. You might think you've got this photography thing figured out. I mean you've been doing it for decades now. If you're a serious portrait photographer, you'll find that your ideas are wrong. That 1970's retro-look is back in for school photos. (I talked about making this daylight flash photo, here.)

 Retro school photo

Retro school photo

Your back may be going from decades of heavy camera bags, but you need to get on your belly to capture that shot of the baby playing in the leaves. (Everybody knows babies and leaves are a killer photo combination.)

haley49604

Finally, they have no patience when you take too long to post-process. “Aren't those photos ready, yet? We need to give them away to everyone we know.” You will toil away at Lightroom and Photoshop to make the photos the best they can be. If you're doing well, they won't see any obvious traces of the work you've done. Therefore, it must be easy. They don't understand why it takes you so long to erase the aunt holding the kid on the dog or erase the vulgar graffiti on the background wall. “Didn't you pay attention at Photoshop World? Are you just hiding in your office, when we should all be out here together? Come on out here. Oh, and bring your camera!”

 Walking the dog

Walking the dog

piggyback46108

Ready to sign up for this job as family photographer? There is no money in the budget, but you can use the photos in your portfolio. Except that all your photography buddies will tell you family photos have no place in a serious portfolio.

Seriously, the bold points are true, and you should re-consider applying for this job if they would bother you. The rest of the blog is over the top because I don't believe the bold points matter a bit when I'm making photos of my family and friends. Nothing gives me more pleasure than my family, and I will make photos of them until they bury me. No doubt, with my camera gear – I'm telling you, none of them will carry my bags for me. ;-)

Go out and make some family photos. For extra fun, make sure to keep all the goofy shots, just to get back at them.

 Egg-cited

Egg-cited