Happy New Year!

By Roger (1 January 2015)

Happy New Year!

Today is the beginning of a new year. The changing of the calendar always leads – at least in me – to random thoughts flying all over the place. Yeah, you may see some random thoughts flying through today's brief blog.

Do you remember days / Not so very long ago / When the world was run by / People twice your size? / And the days were full of laughter / And the nights were full of stars / And when you grew tired / You could close your eyes. (Mike Williams)

The kids and their kids are returning to homes to all over the map, again. This year, most of us were stricken with some random bug, causing additional mayhem in the chaos that already exists around big family gatherings. Everyone was recovering just as it was time to leave. Many of my ambitious plans were left in tatters. Sigh.

We managed to travel to North Carolina (before the plague struck) and Canada (where I was struck down), before we got everyone back together in northern Virginia. I barely got my mandatory kids-on-the-steps photo before I dissolved into a sniveling pile of goo for a couple of days.

Grandkids, this year.

Grandkids, this year.

Kids, back in 1997

Kids, back in 1997

This morning, as the final ones were leaving, I bounced across some very old stuff that I hadn't heard in many years, and it got me all motivated to get on with the new year.

My motivation most frequently comes from music. I have tons of it, and there is almost always some kind of music playing. And, I used that, today, to help me shake off the last coughs and get to planning my photo year. There are lots of plans for this year. My music will play some role in my projects and ideas.

What motivates you? That can be a pretty big, existential question. I mean we're talking photography here, but motivation comes from so many sources: your personal history; outside influences over your life; your current environment; and your dreams. It's really a hard thing to nail down, and, of course, your life motivations will intersect with, and affect, the photographic ones. Just to complicate things, motivation changes over time and fades and builds as that time passes. I need to constantly tap into it, so I keep on course.

While you may not need to go through the annual ritual of sketching out the year every January, it helps to sit back, every now and then, and make some goals for the near future.

Here are some helpful hints:

1. Think short term. What can you do, this month, to ensure you pick up the camera as often as possible? Review the basics until you can use the camera without thinking about it. Do you need to work on a certain skill set? Where can you get help if you need it? (Um, we're standing by to answer questions here or on Facebook.)

2. Think longer term. If you always bail on attending workshops, due to a lack of expendable cash, start setting a little aside throughout the year, so you'll be able to afford it. (Photoshop World is in August, and Mark and I already have our tickets). There are other great workshops, somewhere, every month; many are inexpensive; many of them are taking reservations already. Or plan your own trip for spring or summer. (I'll be in Appomattox, Va, for the end of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, in April.) Or join a local group that does photowalks. (The Worldwide Photowalk will probably be in early October.) See how easy this planning thing can be?

3. Just think and prioritize. Most of us can't do everything, so determine where your priorities lie, and sketch out a draft plan for them. Do you need to work on your photography organization? Post-processing? A new lens? If work or family requirements will prevent you from traveling anywhere, then, put travel at the bottom of your list and concentrate on what is possible. You just need to keep shooting and improving. Hey, that might be the best plan you can handle, this year.

We hope you stick with the blog; share it with your friends; ask questions; and keep shooting. Put some music on, so “while attempting your pursuit, you have a merry tune to toot....” ;-) Work on your balance. It's going to be another fun year.

Your priority is a good balance.

Your priority is a good balance.

Some More Planning Tips for Summer Travel

From our recent blogs you can tell that Efcubed has travel on the brain. Sarah and I are headed to the South West this summer and I am already planning the photographs I intend to shoot.  We are going to see some of the most scenic and iconic parts of the U.S, including the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.  We have sketched out a pretty leisurely route so we won’t have to spend all day in the car and should have plenty of time to sightsee.  I’m doing a lot of the planning for the trip on my iPad.   As a kid growing up, I can recall the excitement of getting the AAA TripTik before our multiple long cross-country moves.  As a AAA member, I was very pleased to see that they have converted the hard books into a very smart digital app set and that you can do quite detailed route planning along the way.  You can also download the area books onto your digital bookcase as well.  They have always provided good insights into the local places of interest that might not make it when you use other apps.  Additionally, the National Park Service has created specific .pdf documents and even cooperated on specialized applications for places like the Grand Canyon. For figuring out where to stay I have become a huge fan of Trip Advisor, they seem to provide a pretty objective set of reviews on places and provide links to compare the best possible rates.   Another travel app that I love is TripIT.  Once you set it up, it automatically puts all the reservations into one easy to manage location.  Airplanes, car rentals and all the hotel reservations in a easy to find calendar arrangement.  You can confirm your flights, download boarding passes and update/change reservations all without leaving the app.

This is not a travel app blog, it’s a photography blog… I know, I’m getting there.  There are some very useful apps to help you plan where, what and when to shoot.   Stuck on Earth shows you where other photographers have taken pictures in the places you are going.  There is a link to their blog and it is a gateway to ask questions and get recommendations.

Knowing where the light is going to be is critical for making photographs and not just snapping pictures.  I have a couple of apps I like that help me plan.  Magic hour shows you the great times before sunrise and just after sunset.  A newer app, called the Photographers Ephemeris provides an adjustable map with great visualization as well.  A weather app is also recommended. Lastly, hauling around all your manuals is a pain in the butt, but forgetting how to adjust or troubleshoot something is worse.  We talked about it a year ago, but Nikon has their Nikon Manual Viewer which allows you to take along .pdf versions of the manuals for all your equipment. 

We can’t wait to see all the photos you guys shoot this summer as well.   There might even be a contest….  Happy traveling.