My photo
... is a freelance photographer working in Middle Georgia

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Found Pictures

We all see those totally out of place things by the roadside, often a photo begging to be taken. Too often I just pass them by. I find myself stopping and shooting a photo more often now. Guess I am getting old, and not sure how many exposures I have left.

I have a rubber duckie on my desk at work that was a found photo. It escaped from some kind of game. Looks a lot like the old river racing rubber ducks, or a carnival game. Has a number on the bottom, and is quite the worse for wear. I saw it one day on Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins. It was by the curb, near a puddle of water. Yeah, back when it rained. I was in a hurry so I didn't stop. On the way back from my assignment, I stopped but it had been moved away from the puddle. My photo not there any longer. Over the next couple of days I would check the duck, finally got my photo, he was where I wanted him for my image. After I shot my photo I rescued him.

The photo above is a picture I found while out walking in Fort Valley one night. Perfectly good bicycle laying on the side walk. Had to shoot it, the night adding to the mystery. The umbrella was on the curb was one Sunday morning after a pretty sereve storm. Wondered where it blew in from. Was late for church, but had to turn around and go back for the photo.
Add a little mystery to your life, stop and push the shutter button.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

McDonalds and Palm Trees

The McDonalds in Fort Valley has been torn down, no more Big Macs for three months. I had been watching the old building, wanted to shoot the demolition. Knocking down the Golden Arches. That would be a classic photo. Went by Tuesday morning and no activity. Went by Wednesday morning and the building was gone, tractors piling rubble and loading into waiting trucks. Where do you take chunks of McDonalds and where is the grease?

Fort Valley has a lot of palm trees. All along the railroad by the old depot building. Always thought that was cool. Made my adopted home town kinda special. Story I heard was that the railroad planted them back in the early 1900's so all the folks passing through on the way to Florida would think they were getting close.

Anyway, back to McDonalds. I was sorry I had missed the demolition of the building. Started on the back side of the lot, trying to get the rubble and the Golden Arches, which were still standing. Didn't work too well. Had a photo that was usable, with a sign saying they were closed for reconstruction. I went to the other side and there was my photo. Golden Arches, palm tree, and Drive Thru painted on the pavement. Toss in the rise in the land, wonderful sky, and I love this photo. So sweet when I stumble onto the right place.

Charlie Kelly, an AP photographer and one of my mentors always said the true secret of being a photographer was knowing where to stand. So true.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


One of the characteristics of single lens reflex cameras is the mirror moves when you shoot, blocking out the viewfinder while the shutter is open recording your image. Just a fact of life. Another fact of life is that while the mirror is up, things are happening that you can't see. Usually bad things, people move, change expressions, the ball goes out of the frame. That kind of stuff.
Sometimes it is something good, thought. Last week I was shooting koi, those huge goldfish. The owner had fed them and they were coming to the surface to eat. I was banging away with my 70-200, shooting tight. What I was seeing looked good. Had one fish really big in the frame, with its face and mouth out of the water, others behind and underneath, enough out of focus to be a nice color element.(Sometimes I sound like I know what I am doing)
I came back to the office and started editing my images. I found quite a few with these huge bubbles. Do koi burp?

Several years ago I was out at Houston Lake photographing the alligators. Got a quick shot of one as he surfaced, then went back down. When I edited I found the shot with the turtle in his mouth.
Sometimes you get these neat surprises.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Macro Work

Want to give your macro work a little zap? Make those flowers or bugs just really pop? Try using two lights. The back or side light gives depth to your subject and separates subject and background. And flash just makes the colors more vibrant. Getting the main light off the camera helps as well. I use an off-camera cord so I can move my main light where I want it. The cord gives about a 3 foot reach, so it is pretty mobile. Anytime I shoot flash, I use that cord.

The spider was shot at night using a macro lens and two Nikon SB28 flashes, one with the off-camera cord, the other one set up as a back/side light on a lightstand.
It was fired with an optical slave trigger. The second flash and optical slave are great investments. You can buy a Vivitar flash and a optical trigger really cheap. You will probably have to shoot manually.

This works great with anything you want to shoot with your macro lens, but also will work for still lifes and portraits.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Gladys Lasky

I came across some really old photographs. These were shot at Gladys Lasky's ballet studio on Mulberry Street. Her studio was upstairs, hardwood floors, huge windows at one end of the room, a wall of mirrors.
So much character. I fell in love when I walked in the downstairs door and headed up those long narrow stairs the first time. Such a great place to shoot.

Then I fell in love with Gladys. She came to Macon in the 1950's from London after falling in love with Pulitzer Prize winner George Weller. Gladys was a strict task master for her students, and for any photographer who came her way. I knew nothing about ballet, just wanted to make some neat photos. I learned from Gladys how cool it is to learn from your subjects. Something I still love about this job.

A good photographer is a sponge. He listens before he shoots, learning about his subject. How else do you know what to do with them. Lets you put them more at ease, and capture their true essence. You store that knowledge, and become a bit more rounded. A good thing in this life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Mirror Lens

I have rediscovered an old friend. An old Nikkor 500mm f8 mirror lens. Back in the old days(the 70's) I shot lots of sports with this lens. It is a fixed f8, so you need a lot of light to shoot it. It is also manual focus. Ouch.
A mirror lens is much shorter and lighter than its typical lens counterpart. A regular 500mm lens has bunch of glass elements stacked together to produce an image. The mirror lens uses mirrors to bounce the light to cover the same distance for the same magnification. They also focus really close. Compared to today's more modern lenses they are quite dark.
The images you get are very distinct. There is very little depth of field, and out of focus points of light in the background appear as circles. I have been shooting some feature stuff with the lens, but got it out for a soccer game. I have not shot any sports with a manual focus lens in a long time. Did much better than I thought I would.
This was always a lens that folks either loved or hated. Most people hate them. They do make you work harder. I still love it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Parking Garage

I have wanted to shoot in a parking garage for a while. Just one of the those things that come into my head, no real reason. Yesterday I was shooting in downtown Macon with Marissa Scott and had the chance. This is one of my images. The light was pretty hard to work with. Difficult getting my white balance, and really strong backlighting. Had some nice images, really like this one.

Don't be afraid to shoot in odd places. You can find some interesting lines and backgrounds, and light that gives you a chance to be challenged and to learn. Get permission if you need to access private property.

Scout around, find some cool places, and go make it happen.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Picking Peaches

I love shooting agricultural assignments. Its outdoors, and you work with some great folks. I have spent a lot of time with the Lanes and with Al Pearson at Big 6 Farms. I feel for them this year. The weather has hit them hard.

I have been shooting early peach picking for probably too many years. I try each year to do something a little different. Don't want the exact picture every year. Another challenge is how fast the pickers move through the orchards. I usually shoot most of my stuff fairly tight with a wide angle, trying to keep faces, hands and peaches in the photo. I shoot a lot from inside the tree, so the light gets really funky, constantly changing.

This year I shot more from a low angle, and also used the 70-200 trying to get a closeup of hands and peaches. I was able to get a shot showing a guy picking with both hands. Doesn't sound so difficult, but it really is. Also wanted a photo showing the unmarketable peaches left on the trees.

Every year I realize how I need to improve my Spanish. I can ask for names and usually make myself understood, and that is all. Also kinda like to know what they are saying about the short guy inside the tree with the camera. Seems to provoke a great deal of laughter. Or maybe I don't want to know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Capturing the Soul

"I try to photograph people's spirits and thoughts. As to the soul-taking by the photographer, I don't feel I take away, but rather that the sitter and I give to each other. It becomes an act of mutual participation." Yousuf Karsh

I have encountered two people who would not let me photograph them because they did not want me to capture their soul in "that little box." Both were quite serious. Maybe others who would not be photographed felt the same way, but would not say the reason. Who knows?

I do take from people I photograph. I do try to capture something of their essence. That is what I do, hope so anyway. Without that essence, that touch of them, the photo is so lifeless. But it is an exchange. If I am not open and giving of myself there is no opening, no connection. Sometimes it is almost painful, a draining
of the soul. Othertimes, its like flying.
I have met people that I just have to photograph, not due to to their physical apearance, but there is something there, a glimpse into their soul, a spark, a connection. Maybe it comes with the art. Maybe it is just a part of the cosmos, a link between us all that we sometimes recognize. Maybe it is my imagination. I gave up trying to figure this out long ago.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Memorial

Randolph Murray, the editor of the Houston Peach stopped by my desk Monday and told me that someone had emailed about an area near Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins where someone had set up some army figures

You never know what you will find when you get these type tips, most are a bust. I went by to take a look, and was really touched by what I found. A good sized sandy area covered with military figures and gear. tanks, trucks, humvee's, jeeps, missles, and even choppers overhead. The figures and equipment was a mix, some World War II era stuff, others from more modern times, looking like todays footage from Iraq. Quite surreal.

I got out of the car and walked over, shot a couple of frames and it hit me. Like being in a memorial. Felt like I was intruding.

I had planned on visiting a nearby business to try and find who set it up. Probably kids playing, but such a large scale. Guess I really don't care who did it, or why now. Few more weeks it will be Memorial Day. I started my observance early

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Four Hour Print

This picture made at Darian, Georgia was my first four hour print. It is from the mid 1970's. News photographers of the day prided themselves on their ability to rush in on deadline and process a roll of black and white film, crank out a really good quality print and deliver it to the copy desk in a very short time.

There were some excellent print makers around with lots of little darkroom secrets and time savers.
I learned from some of the best. Ralph Jones was head of the Photo Department when I came to the paper.
He was an old school artist in the darkroom. Taught me patience, the art of burning and dodging. For you young folks, that is selective exposure of your paper while making a print.

Freddie Bentley taught me to use hot water to darken a specific part of the print. We would use sodium sulfite, a bleaching agent, and a q-tip to lighten shadow areas that we could not hold up in the print.

The making of a print was an art in itself. Lots of skills involved. There is something about making a print and watching the image appear on the paper as you rock the developer tray. Alas, a thrill that has gone away. But also gone is the frustration of spending 20 minutes on a print to have it dumped because you overprinted a section, or held back too much on another. Photoshop is much more forgiving, but some of the magic is gone.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Black and White

It is amazing the difference black and white can make. Often I will see a photograph as black and white when I am looking through the viewfinder. Other times I will try an image in black and white to see how it looks. Some subjects just lend themselves to black and white. One of my favorite images was shot in color years ago. Last year I decided to convert it, and like it even better as black and white.
I shot almost exclusively black and white for so many years, guess it is just burned into my brain.
The images included here were all done digitally last year and in color. It is easy to make digital images into monochrome. You can go to Mode and just make them Grayscale, and you got black and white. I usually leave my images as RGB's and desaturate them. Desaturate is under Image and Adjust in Photoshop. If you want to print them later they do better saved as RGB.
Using Desaturate is the easiest way to make a black and white mage, with part still color.
If you are still shooting film, try some of the C-41 process black and white film. C-41 is the chemistry for doing color print film. You can shoot black and white and still have it processed anywhere. Sometimes the printing kinda lacks, so find a good printer. Even better, have your images put on CD, play with them in an image editing software, save them as RGB's and then have them printed.

Play with it. Give black and white a try. It is a really cool way to see the world.

Friday, May 4, 2007

New Glass

I have a new lens, just got it this past Monday. We staffers at the Telegraph provided the bulk of our photo equipment for years. With the coming of the digital age, the newspaper began providing our equipment.
I have been using a Nikkor 300f2.8 and a 70-200f2.8 provided by the paper, both sweet lenses. My wide of choice for my daily work has been a Sigma 15-30mmf3.5/4.5. My personal lens. The Sigma has been a good lens, no complaints on sharpness, and it was used 99.9 % of the time on 15mm. I love wide.

For years shooting film my "normal" lens was a Nikkor 20f4. I carried two cameras, one with the 20, and the other with a 180f2.8, later replaced by an 80-200f2.8. Then we went digital. My 20 became about a 30mm or so due to the 1.5 magnification factor with the DSLR's. So I went to the 15mm.

The lens was not bad, but when you looked at images shot with it compared to the 300 and the 70-200, you could see a difference. Now I am using this new one, a Nikkor 17-55f2.8. It is sweet. Sharp, oh so sharp. And the contrast is kicking. The color is really saturated, too. Just some uptown glass.

Nikon seldom makes bad glass. Back in the old days they came out with a 43-86 zoom that was a real dog. Flat and fuzzy ain't good for a lens. The 35-70 is not one of my favorites either. But this new one sings. The 17 to 55 focal length is pretty handy. I have not shot with anything close to 50mm in a long time, but after this track Tuesday, looks like that will change.

So, let me take a minute to say Thank You to our Photo Director Woody Marshall and our Editor Sherrie Marshall for putting this one in my hands. It is gonna get some heavy use.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Sorry Ansel...

I love my job. I have said that quite often, I know. Hey, I am old and I do repeat myself. Old age is an excuse for so many things. Like I said, I love my job. I love shooting pictures. But I also love people. One of the really neat things about my job is the people I meet, new folks every day. I enjoy telling their story, and putting them in the paper.

What I am about to say will seem almost blasphemous to some folks, so be warned. I have never been a big Ansel Adams fan. Sure he did some beautiful pictures, just incredible work. But I can't sit and go through a book of his pictures. Too boring for me. Much rather look at work by Eugene Smith, Avedon, Herb Ritts, or Hurrell. I want pictures with people in them. I want to see faces, and prominently. One of the old newspaper rules of thumb was if you can cover someone's face in your picture with a quarter, they are too small. Also heard from a bunch of the oldtime editors "if it ain't got people in it, don't bring it to me."

One of my all time heros is Eugene Smith. Google some the the above names and look at some wonderful pictures. All of them completely different in subject and approach, but all make me just go "WOW.' People pictures rock.

Some really neat people like Ms. Hazel Floyd who won Best Of Show at the Georgia National Fair with her
crocheting. Never entered a contest like this one, did it on the urging of family who loved her work. A sweet, super-modest lady. Or Brian Hampton and his Bam City Boxing Club. Hanging out with Shane Brooks and other members of the Fort Valley Police Department's SWAT team. People doing the things they do every day. Sorry Ansel, it beats shooting rocks and cacti.

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