Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Birds

It's been a while since I added anything here. Part of it is laziness, but more of it is the fact that I just plain haven't gotten out to do much shooting lately. Life always seems to get in the way.

This past weekend we took a trip up to Salt Lake City to pick up a dog. (Thats a whole 'nuther story) It was just supposed to be a quick up and back trip, so there wasn't a lot of time set aside for sightseeing. But we did arrive a little earlier than expected on Saturday, so we thought we'd drive up to "The Lake" to see what it looked like. Turned out to be a lot further than we thought, and before long we decided we'd all had enough driving for one day and there wouldn't be enough time to get there and back anyway. So we stopped at a small nature preserve at the south end of the lake.

It was a pleasant afternoon, a bit overcast with a light breeze, but not terribly cold. There were lots of families with their kids fishing around the lake, and many people just strolling around enjoying the fresh air. Lots of ducks paddling quietly around, some coming right up to us looking for handouts.

Then apparently somebody across the pond started to throw bread in to the water for the ducks.

Remember the Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Birds"?

Within seconds we were surrounded by hundreds of gulls - all screeching and diving in to the water to steal whatever they could from the duck population. They must have been calling all their friends to the feast as well, because they just kept coming and coming.

I snapped off a few photos to record the novelty of it all...looking at them after the fact though, they almost look fake - like the gulls were photoshopped in. But they aren't. We were indeed surrounded.

And yes, that is smoke you see in the background. There were fires burning off in the distance. We couldn't really tell what they were though. It almost looked like an intentional burn of some sort.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I finally got around to developing the first roll of film from the Yashica today. It's been...umm...a lot of years since the last time I did any film developing, so I was a bit nervous. After watching several YouTube videos to refresh my memory and reading the directions over and over, I finally bit the bullet and loaded up the film. About 20 minutes later, I pulled the lid off and unwound a few inches for a peek...much to my delight, there were images! In fact, all 12 images appear to be at least somewhat usable!

The film is still drying, and I don't have a film scanner yet, but I did take a snapshot of the negatives hanging in the window to dry, just for fun. The backlighting is uneven with the open window behind and the resolution is horrible, so don't judge that quality. But at least there is something to look at until I figure out how I am going to scan them...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Slow syncin'

Sometimes its hard to get enough light to do what you want when its late in the evening or the skies are a bit overcast. But that lack of light can make for some interesting effects as well.

"Slow sync flash" is a term used to describe when you have a slow shutter speed and trigger a flash at some point during that long exposure. This can be handy when you want your subject well lit, and get some detail in the background at night. Or, as in the case here, get an sense of motion to your subject...even if they end up looking a bit ghostly...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pinholes from the past

When I was in high school, I took a class in photography. It was one of my favorite classes, and I had a lot of fun with it. One of the projects we had to do was of course, the classic pinhole camera. Masking tape, tin foil, and an empty Quaker Oats carton make up the camera, then you expose directly on to a sheet of photo paper. This results in a negative, which you then use to do a contact exposure to another sheet of paper. The end result looks something like this:

This was my best shot at a pinhole exposure, and the one I turned in for a grade. The distorted perspective is an artifact of the paper being curled in to a cylindrical tube. With an effective aperture of somewhere in the neighborhood of f/200, exposure times on these cameras are on the order of minutes, so hand held is obviously out of the question. No need to focus though, as depth of field is practically infinite.

Pinholes are still popular. You can even buy pinhole "lenses" for modern digital cameras, which consist of essentially a body cap with a tiny hole in the center. You can of course make your own too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Old stuff

This isn't a particularly remarkable photo. The composition isn't all that great. The truck is really neat and very well restored/customized, but it was really just a "walk by" shooting without much thought given to it.

The thing I find impressive though is the fact that it was taken with a cheap Casio point & shoot camera. It just goes to show that you can get good results out of just about anything these days when the conditions are right.

As mentioned in a previous post, I did get a chance to take the Yashica out this weekend for its innaugural (post repair) roll of film.

The first thing I noticed is that this camera is an attention grabber. We stopped for breakfast Sunday morning, and while waiting for a table, a man walked up to me and said he used to have that exact same camera, and wondered aloud that had happened to his.

After we had been seated, a waitress was zooming by and it caught her eye sitting on the table. She stopped for a moment and asked if it was a Mamiya. Hmm. Not quite.

I guess the sight of a real camera amongst the onslaught of camera-phone toting teens taking self portraits at arms length is somewhat of a novelty these days.

We eventually ended up at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and I managed to raise the counter to 11 of the 12 exposures on the roll before the cold wind finally got to be too much. Since it was the only camera I had brought this time, I decided to save one in case something interesting caught my eye on the way home. Alas, nothing did, so I'll still need to find a use for that last frame before I can see the results.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Return to Film

Lately I have been taking a renewed interest in film photography. I haven't actually done any film shooting yet (at least not since getting my first digital camera), but I am collecting the bits and pieces to enable me to do so. Naturally I want to work with black and white and do my own developing. Its been one of those life long ambitions to have my own dark room, and now that the "digital revolution" has firmly taken hold, film equipment has become very reasonably priced indeed.

I found this little gem on ebay for a price too good to ignore. A Yashica A TLR. It had a sticky shutter when it arrived, but I spent a few hours with some solvent and dry lubricant and suddenly it snapped back to life! The shutter seems to be working perfectly now, and the rest of the camera is in remarkably good shape as well. I'm not sure exactly when it was built, but they started production in the mid-late 50's and ran till some time in the 60's I believe.

This picture shows it pretty much as I received it, before repairs. Its a bit cleaner now, but due to some confusion on my part about how to gain access to the shutter, I damaged the "leatherette" on the lens board while trying to uncover the screws. Stupid me, you don't have to take the lens board off on these to get to it! I was really annoyed when I figured out my mistake as it was in perfect condition before I mangled it. Oh well, at least replacement leather is fairly cheap and readily available, and it doesn't affect usability so I can make sure I'm happy with the results before spending the cash.

I ordered some film for it and it arrived today. Maybe this weekend I'll get a chance to try it out. Of course, then I have to pick up the chemicals to develop it too...and a decent scanner...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fun Stuff

There are lots of neat tricks you can play with a camera, and because of the ability to freeze moments in time, it can make for some interesting shots that make you stop and think...

The only Photoshop enhancement was the vignette effect around the edges to soften the white background a bit, and some exposure adjustment. It took a very patient model and a lot of pencil sharpening before we finally got it right.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hoo hooo hooo hooo...

Roller coaster...

For once the lines were really short. Of course, you probably would have to bring your own snow shovel...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Most Photographed Tree

Ok, I do have to admit. There are times when you just can't argue with color.

This is probably the most photographed tree in the neighborhood. I know it is most certainly the tree I have photographed the most. It sits near the end of a culdesac that hasn't yet been built on. High end lots for the rich, with a wonderful view of the front range.

Fortunately for us, the developer went bust with the housing crash, so they have yet to build anything on the block. I frequently visit it to survey the surroundings, often coming across breathtaking sunrises, sunsets, and interesting wildlife tracks in the new fallen snow. It makes me sad though to think that sooner or later, it will end up decorating someones front yard, never to be photographed again without the signs of human habitation all around it. (If it manages to survive construction)

But for now, it makes a lovely sight, silhouetted against the orange sky.

Friday, February 11, 2011


One of my favorite metals is copper. It can take on so many appearances, from a shiny polish, to a dull aged look, to the green weathered appearance. This is kind of a neat photo that I did for a challenge called "Pipes" on dpreview. I ended up liking it so much that I made it the wallpaper on my cell phone.

It took quite a few tries to get the lighting the way I wanted. I think it ended up with a nice depth to it though. It almost seems like you could walk in to the picture, and look up at all these huge pipes overhead.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is Color Better?

You may be starting to notice a trend here, and it's not a coincidence. I do tend to have a preference for black & white photography.

I read a posting on a photo forum the other day. Someone posted a message that essentially said "Why would anyone want to take black and white photos anymore? Every camera sold now has the ability to record true colors. Black and white is a waste of time."

Now it’s not clear if this person was just trying to stir up a flame war, or if they did indeed feel that way. But it did bring up an interesting point...why do many photographers still work in black and white?

For me, there is just something about a black and white photo that makes me stop and look at it more closely. With color, the photos look pretty much like real life, and that is what we are all used to seeing. But the absence of color perhaps causes our brains to shift gears a bit and look for secondary cues about what it's really seeing - light patterns, shapes, intricate detail. All those things seem to come to life in black and white.

Or maybe it's the nostalgia of it all...black and white automatically suggests by-gone era when life was less complicated...or at least many of us living now seem to romanticize that it was...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Alien Shadows?

I ran up to Longmont this weekend to pick up an enlarger (another story), and decided to stop off in the downtown area on the way home to do a little shooting. As I drove past Elitch Circle, I noticed that there was tons of empty parking, and being Sunday, it would all be free. Seemed like a good enough reason to me, so I went down, found a spot, and went for a walk.

I'm not that thrilled with most of the shots I came home with, but there was one in particular that, while not terribly exciting, had a rather unusual look to it. I brought it up in PSE and started tinkering a bit, and this suddenly popped out at me...

Maybe its just me, but I find it a little bit creepy...almost disturbing.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pearl Street Mall

My wife grew up in Boulder. She likes to head up to the Pearl Street Mall once in a while just to wander around and lament at having moved away. I don't mind, because its kind of a fun place to visit, and there are lots of photo ops.

Of course I still haven't gotten the confidence to just start shooting what I see, but I'm working on it. I feel a little nervous some times...not sure if people will be angry at having their picture taken.

This shot was taken around dusk, so the lighting was getting pretty low as you can see by the slow shutter speed. I think its interesting the way you are drawn to the two sharp faces though. Both have quite happy looks, just hanging out with friends and enjoying themselves.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Low Strung

There are interesting things all around us, if only we take the time to look. Well, ok, maybe dust isn't that interesting. But the intricate coils of guitar strings might be.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Train of Thought

I can't say I'm real fond of the way blogger does background images. Unless you have a huge monitor, its hard to even tell what the photo is supposed to be. I guess I could make it smaller, but then it would look funny on a big monitor. What would be ideal is if it could scale itself, but perhaps that is more of a browser issue than blogger.

Anyway, here is a smaller version of the background photo so you can see the...umm...big picture...

This was taken back in November at the Park Meadows light rail station. I had some time to kill one night, and wandered up to the platform to entertain myself. Never having been there before, I was surprised to see all the gates were open with "out of service" signs on them. Lucky me.

Though it wasn't terribly late, most of the time I was the only one around. There would be the occasional person or two getting on or off the train, but they were rather far between and didn't stick around long. It was quite cold, and my fingers soon started going numb. But I was having such fun trying different shots with all the interesting light patterns, I didn't really notice. (At least, not until getting back to the car!)

After I had been wandering around for 20 minutes or so, a security guard suddenly appeared out of nowhere and wanted to know why I was taking pictures. I explained it was just a hobby and assured him I did not intend to profit from them. That seemed to be the answer he was looking for, and when I turned my back for a minute, he quietly disappeared back to the mystery location where he had appeared from. Silly me, I thought the concern might be with public safety. I guess copyrights are more important these days.

The most interesting thing to me about this photo are the unusual curved streaks of light along the side of the train that seem out of place. They almost look like dust on the negative...except this was all digital. I'm still perplexed about how they were formed. Perhaps there were some small, reflective objects blowing around in the turbulence of the moving train. Neat.


Odd title for a first post. But it is a topic on my mind frequently these days. What I really wanted to do was post that popular definition of stress...you know, the one that involves choking somebody...but I decided that perhaps this might be a better outlet for something more positive.

At least I didn't succumb to the urge to just write a "welcome to my blog" message in its place...

Life is full of stress. It comes from a lot of places, but in general I have to agree that it is mostly caused by a feeling of being out of control of one's life. Therefore, it stands to reason that an effective means of combating stress might be to focus your attention on things that you can control. I guess that is what I'm trying to do here.

There are a couple of passions that I've managed to carry with me throughout my life. Though they have waned at times, I always seem to come back to them. Motorcycles are one. Photography is the other.

Lately I've been trying to rediscover the photography passion, and I figure this blog might work for a feeble attempt at documenting that rediscovery, and maybe a few other life observations along the way. Heck, maybe I'll even throw in a few things about motorcycles.