It’s contest time again!

Bay Bridge and San Francisco at Night

I really don’t like contests. Any kind of contest, not just photo contests, but I will focus… get the pun?… on photo contests since this is a photo blog. Contests are too random. At least the ones I enter. The state fair has different judges each year. Which is good… and bad. The good is you don’t know their biases and preferences. The bad is that you don’t know their biases and preferences. If you do know the judge(s) you can tailor your submissions to (hopefully) match their preferences. That can work out well, as I did just that several years ago at my photo club’s annual contest. I won several prizes, including Best of Show.

So why do I enter contests? I enter because they push me to continually improve and shoot better photos. There are a lot of good photographers in the world, and at least keeping up with them is a challenge. Unfortunately, there are also some mediocre photographers who are gurus with Photoshop and Lightroom, and they can produce some stunning images that grab people’s attention… and judges are people, too.

I’m not a purist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do feel that the primary skill of a good photographer should be… wait for it… photography. Call me old fashioned, I guess.

The photo above is the one that won “Best of Show” at my photo club’s contest.  That was in 2010 or 2011.  It’s a bit small here because it’s so long.  This is 17 images stitched together to form the panorama.  Hopefully you can see it well enough.  And, yes, I have this one hanging on the wall in my living room.  It’s 7 feet long and printed on canvas and is gorgeous.

More Bridges

Rio Vista Bridge at cold sunrise, Rio Vista, Solano County, California

Today we’re taking a small trip back in time.  The year was 2005, January… hence no snow… when I still lived in California.  I lived about a 50 minute drive from work and every day, twice a day, I would drive this bridge.   I’ve always had an affinity for this particular bridge.  It’s distinctive and stands out in the local area.  This part of the Sacramento River is a dredged deep-channel route for ocean freighters going to and from the Port of Sacramento, and it’s always cool when the bridge opens for one of these large ships.

On this cold and dreary morning I noticed the scene you see here and it struck me.  Another one of those cases where you need to have your camera with you at all times, because you just never know.  I was on my way to work, but decided to stop and take a handful of shots.  If I remember correctly, there had been a wildfire nearby the previous day so there was something of a haze in the air, and this haze is distinguishable in the photo and helped give it its unique atmosphere.  It’s really quite striking, I think.  It has a feeling of foreboding and yet also a sense of peacefulness and calm.

Yesterday I posted a photo from this past weekend, today I post a photo from twelve years ago.  At the time I took this I was formulating my move out of California, so now I look back and am in awe at how things have changed for me.  My move to Iowa is one of the best things I ever did, but I also cannot deny that there are some things I miss about California, too.

Road Trip: The Covered Bridge

Fisher Covered Bridge, Deerfield Nature Park, near Mt Pleasant, Isabella County, Michigan

This past weekend brought Missy and I to Michigan again.  Just a few months ago I had found a photo by another photographer of the Fisher’s Covered Bridge in Deerfield Nature Park, near Mt. Pleasant in Isabella County in Michigan.

It was about an hour drive from our base, and we enjoyed a fantastic sunrise that morning.  Just enough cloud cover to catch some orange hues as the sun rose.  We didn’t stop for any sunrise shots, though, as nothing jumped out at us.

According to the link above the original bridge was constructed in 1968.  I say ‘original’, because it burned in 1995 and was reconstructed in 1996.  It is on a steel and concrete structure, so I seriously doubt it has any “legitimate” old-time original purpose, and was maybe constructed simply for the park for aesthetic reasons.  That’s my guess, anyway, and it IS just a guess.

I will also add that Deerfield Nature Park is a very nice facility.  Hiking trails, a river, and other amenities are available.  I would highly recommend it.

Speaking of recommendations, afterward Missy and I went into town and found a local mom-and-pop restaurant for breakfast.  Stan’s (aka Stanley’s Famous Restaurant) is located downtown, and we cannot rave enough about it.  The place is busy, and for good reason.  Even while busy, we never felt neglected nor did we detect anything less than positive attitudes from the staff.  This was probably the best place either of us have experienced.  It’s basic breakfast fare… eggs, pancakes, hash browns, and so on… and it is simply fantastic.  I cannot say if we’ll ever be back to town, but if we are we know where to eat.

All of this is what makes a good road trip… good photos, interesting locations, and yes, even experiencing new places to eat.  It’s all good.

Reflections – 2016

Mackinac Bridge at night
Mackinac Bridge at night

I look back at 2016 and, for me, photography-wise, I feel it was a very good year.  There were a lot of good things that happened for me and Missy and our photo adventures.  Some of our accomplishments included…

  • We found a tree in the middle of an intersection.
  • We did a handful of road trips and discovered even more places.
  • We expanded our portfolio so that we can offer even more assortment of choice for our customers.
  • We had a huge road trip of over a week into the north of Michigan and the Upper Peninsula which was both fun and invigorating.
  • On the business side, we finally abandoned a popular template-based photo sharing site… which turned out to be a travesty for us… and resurrected our traditional website.  The results have been positive and encouraging.
  • We started this new bog on a new platform.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the other platform, per se, but this one gives us better options.

Yes, 2016 was a good year, photography-wise.

The photo included here is from our huge road trip in October.  Neither Missy nor I had ever seen the Mackinac Bridge before, so this was a new treat for both of us.  We got there the day before, and really there was nothing worth shooting.  The day was overcast and dull.  The evening was rainy.  So, we got up early the next morning and went by about 5 am to get these shots on our way out of town.  This shot is from the north and east of the bridge, looking south and west.  There is a gravel road hugging the shore of Lake Michigan and we were able to find a wide spot that has a good perspective, but this one was closer to the bridge at a state park overlook.