Iowa Eagles and a few Geese.

 

It is that time of year.  Cold.  Well, next week is supposed to be cold as we slide closer to January.  The promise of snow somewhere north of the middle earth that I live in.  The scenery currently looks brown from the grass to the trees and it doesn’t do much to stimulate the eyes.  A hope still exists and it is the return of the eagles along the river.  As the temperatures drop the eagles come up north to stay for the winter.  Which, brings something to photograph in the slow time of the year.

Last year, I invested in a Tamron 100-600 mm lens and a used Canon 7d mark 2 to take pictures of the eagles.  I have always wanted to and the lens came up and the website and called to me.  (Kind of by name.)  The lens arrived in a massive box, the size I have never seen before and the excitement began to build.  Now waiting for the eagles and waiting, so I decide to try the lens out on some geese that show up by the river every year.untitled-2-26

Now, photography isn’t all roses, especially when it comes to new equipment and moving objects.  I normally take landscape shots on a tripod with filters.  Nothing moves really, except for water sometimes and grass.  Wildlife tends to have a mind of its own and doesn’t like to be approached, no matter how quiet you are being.  And panning a lens and camera set up that feels like it weighs 10 pounds can be frustrating.  So I thought I would show a not so great first attempt into the cold winter wild.

Moving on.

Sharon, a friend on mine can spot animals from the car like no one I have ever met.  She goes out to take pictures of dear, eagles, hawks and what ever else she can find.  I think once you look for something long enough it eventually shows up.  Well, we decided to go take photos up by Iowa City and the lake.  From my first attempt I decide that I could do better and should do better.  You may ask what is the best place to go to get advice.  That is easy…..Google.  Someone, somewhere out in cyber space knows exactly how to run your equipment and is willing to give you advice.  So, don’t pester your friends just Google it so you look a little smarter the second time you go to take photos. untitled-0218

And try to get the geese not moving this time.  Just kidding.  They were resting across the river.  But, I was impressed by the distance the lens could reach.  The Canon 7d Mark 2 never missed a beat and fired away in rapid speed.  After working through some issues, Sharon suggested using aperture preferred and letting the camera go.  It worked.  We didn’t use tripods because following the eagles in flight and just finding them sometimes in the view finder takes practice.  And if your lucky and your arm doesn’t fall off from he strain you will get a few good shots.  After you freeze for a couple of hours in the bitter Iowa winter.  untitled-0104

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Now, I realize that the lens didn’t cost me thousands of dollars and some of the shots could have been clearer, but I don’t work for National Geographic.  The point was and still is to enjoy being outside and capturing nature.  Plus, since I don’t get to go out all the time spending money on high priced equipment doesn’t make sense.  I am happy with what I did get that day and can’t wait to see what I can do this year.  After I Google again to figure out what I did last year.

Simply stated. Ireland

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I have settled into that time of the year when I sit back and reflect.  I look over my photos and sigh wondering if I really appreciated what was before me while I was there.  In most cases, I think no, I didn’t due to jet lag and time at locations and the list goes on.  I wonder why I keep doing it, traveling for hours in a plane next to some stranger.   Eating food that I am not quite sure of and hoping to get some sleep the upcoming night.  The hotels are always an adventure and the bathrooms run in many sizes and luxury scales.  Yet, every year I search again for another location to drag my equipment along.

The above frame is from Ireland and the view of a road just between land and sea seems fitting to me.  As a traveler, I always feel just between two worlds.  The world I am from and the world I am traveling to.  I escape my midwestern life for long enough to catch a glimpse of beauty.  A land far away from everything I know and a people with an accent worse than mine. (Of course I really don’t have an accent.)  My favorite all time comment is a Scot commenting on the Irish accent. My mind is thinking they can’t hear themselves can they.  Forever, that comment is planted in my mind and I will smile every time it replays. Ireland 2016-1736

Or maybe it is the people who enjoy being creative and sharing a sunset together after a long day.  Along with a ride in a cramped van with a lunch of something stuffed into a sack.  Rain pouring down overhead and steam clouding up the windows.  Unraveling a ball of yarn that is tangled to pass the time, while your new friend sits knitting next to you in the van.  Worlds and countries colliding with languages trying to communicate only one thing, that moment the sky and the earth lines up to end the glorious day hopefully with some color.  I have stared across the water in hope many times only to have the color disappear.  But when the glory is full on you can’t help but keep trying to get that shot till the light fades.  The sunset above on the same road in Ireland.

So, here I sit in the comfort of my own home, with only the reflection of memories stored on a hard drive.  I can’t explain to you what they mean to me.  It is even harder to explain why all the hassle of packing, loading, standing in line and boarding countless planes is worth it.  I have made friends- good friends of people from these trips.  I would not be the same person without them.  My world has expanded not just because of a photograph but the experience behind the photograph.

The best decision I ever made is to travel.  To pick up a camera and try to do something new, see something new and grow into someone I never expected.  I know I am not the most talented photographer out there.  I have met people who just blow me away.   I wonder where does it come from? However, the more I see and do the better my eye becomes for the wold around me.  But, I don’t mind not being there yet.  I will get there and plan on enjoying every step of the journey until I do.

Northumberland

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I will admit to be a little slow on the blogs.  However, I did just go to Northumberland in September and at least the follow up is still in this year.  That being said.  The guide book “The Photographers Guide to Northumberland”  is well worth the purchase price.  We had a Garmin and could put in the postal codes listed on the pages which helped tremendously.  Plus, on a photography trip adventure is always the key to the exploration.

The Duddo Stone Circle has a fantastic view of the country side.  One of those big, wide open views that makes you just want to stand and look for awhile.  Normally, I have flown a long way to get to this spot and stand and see a world thousands of years older than me.  I just like to soak in the views and place them in my memory.  That is what Duddo did for me.  Maybe not a world shattering shot but a step back in time and slowing down of my world._DSF6258

Next, a memory maker was the the Edlingham over look.  This spot is right on the road and quite a view indeed.  Luckily, we caught just enough light to add some drama to the moody day.  The weather was changeable as always and the view better than you see a lot of places in the world.  Plus, that streak of Heather with the remaining color pops in the sea of green.  I just feel my heart expand as it looks over the field.  I feel the freedom can you?_DSF6350

The list goes on and on.  Church Hill is harder for us to find at first but when we find the right road it made sense.  We had a 4 wheel drive vehicle so driving to it isn’t to bad.  If you don’t I wouldn’t recommend it because the road is pretty bumpy.  The view again spectacular with the town across the bay, boats in the harbor, sand and grass dunes.  It doesn’t disappoint.  Was the sky perfect-no but on trips like this you only get one day to go somewhere and maybe less than an hour in one place.  Just take the shot._DSF6618-2

Lindisfarne Castle is an imposing figure along the water and we stayed in Seacastles so we could take advantage of a central location.  Dogs were everywhere with their owners- I mean everywhere, there wasn’t a day we didn’t see at least a dozen happily taking their owners out for a walk.  I think for an easy, rambling kind of vacation Northumberland suits me just fine.  So much to do for photography it is more of a matter of what do I want to do today.

I used my Fuji Xt2 on this trip because I wanted something easy to carry.  Overall the camera didn’t disappoint and I am happy with the photos I took.  I packed light so I could get in and get out of each location without a fuss.  I even brought the Manfroto be free tripod with me to save weight.  All the equipment worked well.

So, yes the guide book for me was a success.  The drives in the countryside and the views of life an 8 hour flight away from mine were priceless.

Northumbria Coast

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So,  I have landed safely in Scotland and am ready for the photography adventure to come.  I have my handy travel guide and am ready to set off for the week with my friend Julie a fellow photographer.  We are heading down to the coast from Edinburgh but will stop by Jedburgh and Kelso Abbie’s.  The above guide will be priceless for finding spots that I didn’t know about.  Some I have been to and others I have not.  Low Newton rocks look interesting and of coast Bambugh castle always looks so imposing from the water.

What am I looking for?  Relaxing water and the beautiful green of the hills and countryside.  A good artistic detail or abstract would be nice, whatever draws my eye and seems interesting.  On the coast and with these buildings the possibilities are limitless.  The weather will change the mood and I will roll with it and be prepared.

I will test out the guide and see what I think but most likely appreciate all the time and effort it took to put it together.  The amount of time saved by having the work done for me means a lot of time saved on the computer.  When I fly in and not from the area I am never really sure about what I am going to see when I get there.

I brought the Fujifilm Xt2, a 14 mm prime, 60 mm macro, 10-24 wide angle and the 55-200 mm zoom.  This should cover most everything I want to shoot.  I have my Lee filters and rain covers.  I have the Manfrotto travel tripod and left the big Feisol at home.  I am really tired of lugging the equipment and would just like to enjoy the trip.  Yes, the trip is about photography but also about enjoying the photography while I am there.  I am excited to put the Fujifilm to the test and see what I think since I also shoot Canon 6 d.  I mainly want clear shots and good color.  I also hope for a couple of good sunrises or sets.

Let the adventures begin.

 

The Tractor Remembers.

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I know a lot of people have never heard of Old Threshers but if you are into tractors and showing them you might.  Ever year my towns’ big event if Old Threshers and people from all over the United States show up to? Well show tractors, drive tractors and old steam powered tractors and…. demonstrate with horses and tractors again.  Basically, if you love what life used to be like when times were more simple Old Threshers is where you want to go.

A place really where people like to remember together.  Many of the tractors have been in the family for years.  Well preserved pieces of history marking a time of life and experiences.  Rows and rows of life tied together in machinery and times gone by.  A lot of what it says if family, farm and life lived.

I go to take pictures.  I love the rows of tractors with the sun gleaming off the metal.  They have a barn with old cars, just as shiny, waiting for a picture to be taken.  What it reminds me of is life way back when I was a kid on the farm.  When life seemed simpler and time slower.  Where my dad wore boots that were sitting on the basement step ready to be laced up.  When you knew your neighbors and would wave at each other driving down the road.  A John Deere tractor means something to me in memories.

Now I know that pictures are meant to show place and time but they also bring back memories of a place and time.  When a family sat down together to eat a meal and no cell phones were involved.  Just a bunch of kids around a table eating before going outside to get chores done.  My job was to mow the lawn- I inherited that at age 12.  I couldn’t wait to run the mower, it was a John Deere.  I ran over the water line pipe with it.  We just sat it back on top of the pipe and I was told to go around.

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That pile of grain next to a wheel reminds me of bringing the harvest in at fall time.  The elevator hanging over the silage pit waiting to unload another wagon.  The smell of grain and corn stalks wafting through the air and the fall sun shining down.  A cool breeze reminding me that winter was coming and soon the world would turn white.  The cattle would eat up all the silage by the time we get to spring.  A pile of corn would stack high and dad would get mad when I used to slide down in the winter.

Yes, a lot memories in that old green tractor.  Memories stored up that come flooding back to the top standing in the middle of a field of machinery.  It is good to remember where you came from.  Maybe you just see a tractor but I see my life in green and yellow.  A life that may not make the news or set the world on fire,but a life well enough, that remembers.  Just like the tractor remembers- we are old friends.

 

Summer

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I feel like the time is passing me by this summer.  I started a project on my house that has consumed most of the summer.  I have so many plans for a new project room and can’t wait to see it come finished and the paint still has to dry on the walls.  There have been a millions things I would have liked to explored and done in this time but soon I will be back to my old routine.  I didn’t plant the zinnia’s this year.  The garden has been neglected and so have been the photo opportunities.  Isn’t that the way of photography?  It is truly about the opportunities and what we make of them.

I know many people who want to take great photos but never take the opportunity to go out and do it.  I see life now with a photo in mind and am constantly looking for pictures and new subjects.  Photography takes a singular personal drive to do it yourself.  No one can do it for you or help you get better unless you practice.  I think it takes a creative spirit, just like drawing or painting.  The need to see and feel life going on around you and capturing the moment.  Just like the zinnia in the picture that is alive for a brief amount of time showing the beauty of the present.

 

Feeling the blue of minimalist photography and the color of detail.

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I like minimalist shots.  The even tones and textures of color against the wide open power of nature.  I like the feel of knowing that calm exists out in nature just as turbulence and bright sunny day.  Life really summed up in the world with its ups and downs.  Maybe, I am aging and look for different structures to remind me that this world isn’t as crazy as it seems.  I don’t want to think like everyone else either, when it comes to photography.  I don’t want to be driven.  I just want to enjoy it.  I like beautiful, natural things and find peace there.

Maybe some people can’t see the detail in the tones and textures.  They don’t care for smooth lines or fading light.  Maybe they just can’t see calm.  Photography is about everything really, that you can think of, the mood of the place or the drama of the weather.  What it isn’t- a competition.  No two shots standing side by side will ever be the same.  Every person is different just like every photo of the same area will be different.

I like the detail of a rock with moss.  The small places that no one looks at because they have been caught by the wide open view.  The smell of the earth after a rain always brings me back to reality.  So much happens around us that we don’t pay attention to.  Our lives so focused not the big picture we can’t see the details revolving in them.  I wonder sometime if I am more of a philosophical photographer.  I wonder at who or what has been to a spot before me.  I create a story in my head when I look at the world through my lens.

Orange flower

The detail of a flower in its short lived glory.  Do you think it wonders if it will be noticed? Or that its petals my be a slightly different shade than another.  No.  I think it just enjoys the life it has and shines before all to see.  The details of its life of who planted it and how it came to be there doesn’t matter it just is.

So, I will take photos of moss, rock, flowers and shells lying on the beach.  I will look for feathers left behind in the sand and color where no one else will.  All life is not about the big shot but the little moments that create them.  The little moments that bring structure and support.  And so will your photography be a sum total of your moments that come through your vision.  Your filters will be set to see a certain image a certain way.  Most people won’t see the soul in a photograph but most people don’t think about the soul and photography.

I do.

What lens to use?

DSCF5196At my photo club the other day a member of mine was trying to decide what lens to buy.  Lenses are an investment and take some time to consider before a purchase.  The choice was between a long lens and a macro.  He was wanting to know if he could try both of mine to figure out which he wanted to purchase.  My first thought was which one did he think he would use more and that would be the lens he should buy.

I have owned a macro lens for a few years and purchased it before I bought the 600mm.  The choice was easy for me because I love to take picture of flowers, moss and any object really.  I even took a macro photography class with Canon, which was invaluable.  However, I knew what I liked to take photos of and I would do it regularly.  The 600mm lens took longer for me to invest in because I felt I wouldn’t use it as much.  The price of a lens from Canon was equal to a decent used car for one thing.  A lens to use now and then wasn’t worth that kind of price.

The tipping point in my purchase was the words “Sale”.  Tamron was upgrading their 100-600 mm lenses and therefore a decent price drop on the lens.  Which was perfect for me, I didn’t have to break the bank for a lens I would use occasionally.  However, I would still have the option in my bag and get to take pictures of the eagles.untitled-0068-2What to consider than when making the next purchase?  Is this the camera line I am going to stay with?  Lenses are an investment and when your inventory increases it will be hard to change to a different brand.  Plus, you will have to sell all that you have to change over to the new brand and you won’t get your original investment back.  How much do you want to spend and how often do you plan on using it?  What are the reviews on the lens itself?  Is it worth the investment?  Once you answer all those questions and are pretty clear of what you want to do, buy it.

I have Canon and Fuji.  I have a nice variety of lenses for both but more for the Canon because it was the brand I started with.  The Canon remains my core equipment because of the investment I have in it and the quality of the brand.  I won’t be trading it off any time soon but the Fuji has it’s uses which was why I invested in both.  When I want something lighter to carry and adaptable I take the Fuji.  The color and the sharpness of the XT2 doesn’t disappoint and so I switch my gear around.

If you just starting out and own one camera and a few lenses experiment with what you have.  Does it meet your needs for your interests?  What really makes you want to take a photo.  The difference between landscape photography and portraits will be the lens.  The camera body can change in a brand but the lens you will have for quite some time.  The lens also improves the enjoyment of taking the photo.  The right equipment for the job will make a huge difference.

 

 

 

Iceland the Latest Adventure

The adventure of a trip always begins in where you want to go.  I try to check off the boxes of the places that I haven’t seen yet, this time my journey was off to Iceland and to see the northern lights.  I didn’t realize how much of an attraction it had become until I saw all the tourist like myself out and about.  The best place to get from the airport into town is by taking the bus.  If you need to go to a specific location they can transfer you to a smaller van and get you there.  You can schedule the bus to take you into town after your flight.  The Iceland airport is small and uncomplicated and easy to navigate.

I was on a photography tour and loaded in a van with 8 other people for an 8 day tour of the Island. Working with a group of strangers can have its challenges but we are all photographers with the same goal so normally works out well.  The first thing that came to mind as we motored down the road is that I thought it would be more green.  We concentrated on the south side of Iceland and the tree population is sparse.  The second thing that is apparent is the amount of tourism happening.  Large groups of people at every stop which made taking photos more difficult.  People will just walk in your shot and not even look.  Or the constant selfie obsession is apparent at each location.

The food was expensive considering I spent $15 on a grilled cheese and french fries but, everywhere I went the prices were high.  Especially, in the evening, I would spend $30 and up just for a regular meal.  Something to consider if you are on a budget.  Breakfast is included at most of the places you stay.  The offering is cold meat, some fruit, boiled eggs, cereal and coffee or tea.  I truly got tired of the same breakfast every morning.

The weather was cold in March but very bearable if you dressed in layers.  A good hat and gloves a must on this trip along with snow pants and long underwear.  Boots with good traction and some of the ice cleats  really helped to get around.

The photography, in between the barren spots, is good.  My main goal was the northern lights, which are hard to see with the naked eye.  My camera picked up the color better than I could see in the night sky.  I have pictures on my website.  Fortunately the dawn shoots aren’t too early here that you are exhausted by the end of the day.  However, we didn’t have two 12 hour days and one 15 hour day.  Northern lights need clear skies and a dark night without the lights of town.  The longer I was there the easier it became to see the lines in the sky but if you don’t know what to look for you could easily miss them.   Make sure you focus on something that you can see in the dark before you turn to focus on the lights.  Otherwise you will have a blur when you try to take your shot.

The waterfalls and Ice cave (pictured above) another great attraction to the area.  Oxarafoss, Bruarfoss, Gullfoss to name a couple.  The Glacier Lagoon with its large chunks of ice washed up on the black beach.  The contrast between water, ice and sand stunning in the evening light.  The black beach for me is such a contrast to what I am used to here in the states.  The Glaciers, with their blue colored ice contrasting against the white of the snow.  Many places to stop and see.

My best advice is to come prepared for a different atmosphere.  The architecture is very modern and the landscape rugged. I was expecting more green I guess but it was winter so it was a bit of a shock for me the barren parts.  I must admit I do prefer trees and water and beautiful beaches.  The people are friendly and the food is excellent.  The prices are high but remember you are on vacation to save for something special.

Looking beyond the emotion!

Unless you are there standing in the awe of the moment of a glorious sunrise you won’t get it.  The emotional contact to color, calm and nature as it comes up in the morning or puts itself to bed at night.  Which is why I like to let my photos sit awhile before I edit or even look at them.  I want to take the feelings away and see them as they are in the raw on the screen.  Otherwise my heart sees the picture with the emotion which blots out all the bad framing, exposure and composition.

 

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I will use my Ireland picture as an example.  I love big sky and color in my sunset but do I have the best exposure for the picture probably not.  I don’t like creamy water that much and go for more of the natural feel.  Some people will like this shot and others will not.  I can still feel the air and the evening temperature from standing in the tall grass on this spot.  I remember the people around me all trying to get their picture.  I remember wondering what it would be like to be able to see this view every day.  With every photo I remember.

So, no matter who you are and what level of photography you are at; just do it with heart and let your eyes guide you to what  makes you feel the moment.  Which is what photography is, beyond being an art,  but a way to express a single piece of time that in an instant will be gone.  Don’t try to compete with others because you can never see with there eyes or experiences.  Learn to trust who you are and what you love.  Then analyze your work to see where it can improve to best representative of what you see.

For today, inspire yourself with the beauty around you.  And share the pieces with the people who have yet thought of stepping into the world with a camera.  They love looking through your eyes.