Yes, It’s Okay To Play!


When I was in school, the great sage advice was to find a job/career where you can do what you love.  That way you’re not working but having fun.  It sounds good, but jobs like that are very hard to find.  I did try.  The mattress companies told me that they weren’t looking for testers!

I have worked at jobs that I really enjoyed.  Somehow, those are the jobs that were transitory.  If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I am currently working at being a photographer.  Yes, I love photography, and have since I was a kid.  I don’t have delusions that I will be the next great photographer.  I do think that I can bring some joy to others with my images and would like to make that self supporting.

I recently started working freelance doing real estate photography.  You know those shots that are now standard whenever a home is for sale.  I’ll be honest, this is not they type of photography I aspire to.  It is photography, I do get paid for taking pictures and learn some new tricks and techniques.

One of the requirements for doing the real estate work is that I need to shoot with a 10mm lens.  If you’re not seriously into photography, 10mm is an extreme wide angle lens and can be prone to distortions.  I ordered the new lens (Tamron 10-24) and it came very quickly.  I’ve been shooting through the same camera long enough that it didn’t take any time to put everything together and have the lens ready to go.

I decided that before doing any real estate work I should take the new lens out for a spin.  To put it another way, go out and play for the afternoon.  I didn’t have any specifics in mind.  I just packed up the camera, etc. and went to one of our local towns where I haven’t done much shooting.  This was to be a walking adventure so I left the tripod at home.

When I go out shooting, I’m not constantly checking my images in the camera.  Yes I do check the built in histogram periodically to be sure I’m getting good exposure.  On this little outing, I spent more time checking images to see how the lens worked.  The widest lens that I had used was 28mm, so I figured how much of a difference can 18mm make?  An amazing difference.  I’m used to the idea that if I’m shooting and there is a pole or some other “truly meaningful” thing to the left or right, no problem.  The Tamron has a 109 degree angle of view.  That’s pretty close to anything in front of the camera, so I had to adjust how i position myself relative to the subject.  The other thing I noticed immediately is the distortion.   I’m used to my Nikon lenses that are very accurate in terms of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).

image looking down a street with converging buildings
Tunnel view

I’ve always wondered how to achieve this effect.  After taking some shots elsewhere, I came to this pedestrian plaza and took a few shots from one knee.  I really like how the pavement and buildings all seem to converge to the back/center of the image.  I do so love the law of unintended consequences!

As kids, the reason that we play is because we have fun.  Of course, while doing that we learn all kinds of things.  Clearly I was getting the maximum benefit of my play.

I continued walking.  I soon came on the county courthouse.  The original building is one of those great classic court buildings.  Again, I was amazed at how close I had to get to the building to only get what I wanted into the image.

Courthouse straight on view
Courthouse straight on view

On this image, I did use Photoshop to take out the distortion.  I’m totally amazed at how much is in the image.  In another few weeks the trees will be in full bloom making a shot like this impossible.  I was fortunate that it was a fairly sunny day so I got the nice blue sky and some interesting clouds.  I suspect that the lens had something to do with the clouds appearing to be focused around the top of the courthouse.  With my Nikon 28-300 lens a shot like this would have needed two or three exposures stitched together as a pano.

There is the obligatory artillery piece outside the courthouse, just off to the right of this image.  Feeling emboldened by the early results, I decided to go to the corner to take a three quarters shot.

Courthouse three quarters view
Courthouse three quarters view

Okay, I admit it, I need some more practice straightening some of the distortion.  I still like the result.  There is so much captured in this image, I’m amazed at what this lens can do.

I’ll spare you the step by step descriptions.  Eventually I found myself at the railroad station.  I took some shots as I went up to the platform.  What I really wanted to play with was the long view down the tracks.  My earlier shots had me thinking that I could get some really interesting shots.

color image on the railroad platform
Looking west on the railroad platform

Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.  The building rooflines, the tracks and yellow warning strips provide some great leading lines.  I didn’t do much with the distortion on these images.  Having taken the shots under the station roof facing west, I went to the other end of the platform to take some shots looking east.

Black and white on the railroad platform
Looking east on the railroad platform

Once again I got some really “neat” effects.  The light poles start to create that leading line into the station.  If you look carefully, you can see a very full parking lot off to the right and of course the tacks going off into infinity.

I wish I could spend more time playing and getting these results.  To be honest, there were also a lot of images that did not come out nearly as well as the ones above.  That’s the thing about playing, sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t.  The real fun is in the trying and learning.  My advice to you, go out and play, it’s fun and can be very rewarding!

Are You Growing Your Craft?


I need to start out by apologizing for not having posted for several weeks.  Sometimes “stuff” gets in the way of what’s important.  One very relevant thing was that I did a guest post for Leanne Cole’s excellent site.  The topic was winter photography  The responses were numerous and positive so I am very grateful to Leanne for allowing me to guest.  In case you missed that posting, you can see it here.

I’ve enjoyed photography since I was a kid.  When I started out, I also learned some of the basics of processing, printing, etc.  Yes that was back in the film days.  Back then, there were not nearly as many opportunities to learn.  There were books and magazines, a limited number of classes, some clubs and if you were lucky mentoring and good old trial and error.  At that time, trial and error were expensive because film, chemicals, paper, etc. all added cost.

Some time back I wrote about the many types of photography.  Now the question is how well do you embrace them.  As a combination of artist and technician we photographers can only get better at our craft by practicing it. One thing that I have learned in doing just that is that each type of photography has its own unique characteristics and techniques.  Another fun thing I have learned is, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, the more you know, the more you know!

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My serious learning path started several years ago.  At that time, I was using my camera in auto or presets mode and capturing jpegs. (okay enough laughter)  I was also taking the pictures off the camera and that was that.  Then I started learning.  At first, it was about some post processing via books and websites.  Then I met some more skilled, experienced photographers who got me shooting in RAW either in aperture or full manual mode (I’m not going to get into a debate on Raw vs jpeg here).  They also got me to start processing via Lightroom and Photoshop.  That’s when my images started getting much better.  Let’s face it, mastering Photoshop is not a small task and while I’m nowhere near a “master”, I manage.

I started looking at pictures differently.  I would look at an image I liked and ask why I like it, what did the photographer do to make this image interesting, etc.  All of that led me to start looking at the different types of photography.  I must also include that in that time frame I joined our local photo club which also introduced me to new techniques and methods.  Truth be told, none of us will ever master all types of photography.  Much as I might like to, I doubt that I’ll ever be a high fashion photographer or that I’ll be creating images of the inside of living organisms among other things.

That doesn’t mean that many other types of photography are closed to me, or that I can’t benefit from learning techniques that work especially well in those areas.  Most of my early pictures were nature, family gatherings and “how I spent my summer vacation”.  I know that I have improved the images I take in these areas through a combination of practice and learnings.  I have also gotten into some new types of photography.

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The first of these was serious black and white.  A few years ago had you told me that I’d be loving B&W I’d have simply told you no way.  It has taken some time and practice as well as some excellent software (Silver Efex and BW Effects).  Some of the early results were nothing great.  Therein lies a big lesson, keep at it, be self critical and get constructive criticism.  I can’t overstate how important all three are.

Another area that I’ve gotten much more interested in is urban/street photography.  I had always admired good street photography.  Probably my first exposure to it was the iconic VJ Day Kiss.  What I love about street photography is that it gives me the opportunity to show people and life as they really are.  Showing them in black and white makes it easier to show the “essence” of the image.  Again what got me interested in trying my hand was a presentation on some key aspects of this specialty.  Ironically, many of my best “street” shots show in black and white.  That’s another benefit of growing in all directions._DSC0766BWCOu

One amusing side from the everything old is new again department is that lately I’m also experimenting some with square images.  Some cameras will shoot that way.  Mine doesn’t.  In the right circumstances, it creates some great results.

I’m not going to rant on about the other aspects beyond saying that I’ve gotten much better at portrait type shots as well as candids.  I’ve also learned a number of tricks and techniques in post processing that can help to turn a good image into something special.DSC_3801COu

I’ll finish up with perhaps the most important lesson of all.  Let the camera do as much of the work as possible.  I know this sounds really simple, but to most people it is anything but.  Today’s cameras are very sophisticated computers.  There’s a lot that they can do to improve on the images they capture.  Take the time to go through the manual, learn and understand how and when to use those features.  It’s a lot easier to get all those elements right in the camera than it is to get them in via post processing.

Please feel free to offer comments, provide constructive criticism or ask questions.  I love hearing from you.