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.

It’s that time of year again

Sunrise reflection on Pete’s Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, near Munising, Alger County, Michigan

Fall.  Or, autumn.  Time for vivid colors.  Crisp air.  Changes of season.  Everybody, it seems, loves this time of year for photography.  I certainly do.  I get more excited for fall than I do for any other time of year.

Here’s yet another shot that I took about 9 years ago, and didn’t do anything with until just recently.  Again, in looking through old photos I saw a new potential in this one and decided to go with it.  I think it came out pretty well.  I’m especially pleased with the reflections on the lake.

On a side note, I have started a new blog.  See, I am something of a curmudgeon, so I started “The Grump”.  I had to spell it with a ‘k’, though… http://kurmudgeon.net/ … as the proper spelling was already taken.  That’s ok, I can say I did it on purpose because I’m Ken with a ‘k’, also.  Actually, I was surprised that this one was available.  Anyway, check it out when you get a chance.  It’s intended to be fun.

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.

Something new from something old

Old windmill silhouette at sunset, Ely, Linn County, Iowa

In my continuing quest to go through old photos and update my website and selection, I took this never-before-published photo and worked it out as a panorama.  I took this nine years ago… on 8/8/08… and another shot has always been one of my favorites.  I love the reflection of the sunset on the clouds, and the old windmill in silhouette.  As I was set up taking shots I still remember a car driving by, slowing to look at what I was looking at, and giving me a smile and a ‘thumbs up’.

Is it obvious that this scene was the inspiration for my logo?

Anyway, as I was reprocessing the other photo I looked through the others and this one intrigued me.  The upper sky was open and plain and boring so I didn’t know what to do with it.  It had never occurred to me to make this one a panorama… until last night.

The other photo I processed to have the silhouette and foreground areas to be more of a stark black, but I allowed a bit of color… the foreground greens… to come out in this one.  I like the effect.  It’s still dark in those areas, but is also a bit more natural.

This photo is almost like “photo nirvana” to me.  It has all the elements that appeal to me… panorama, silhouette, sunset, low-light.  What could be better?

Upside down

Boathouse and autumn reflections at Backbone State Park, near Dundee, Delaware County, Iowa

Is it strange to showcase a fall color photo when spring is just around the corner?  Meh, maybe, but not necessarily.  This is a good time of year to catch up on undone photo processing, so that makes this a previously unpublished photo.  As I said in a post recently sometimes you come across a photo that you hadn’t really noticed before but it sticks out at you this time.  This is another one of those photos.  I liked it, but wasn’t really sure what to do with it, and tonight I had the inspiration.

This is from a road trip that Missy and Wesley and I did about a year and a half ago.  It was a fantastic day.  I have photos of Missy and Wesley taken just after this one that always make me smile when I see them.

The upside-down reflection… without the actual building… is what grabs me here.  It draws you in and makes you think just a bit, but at the same time there are enough elements right-side-up that you know it’s not upside-down.  (Boy, that was long-winded.)

Anyway, Backbone State Park is Iowa’s oldest state park and is only about an hour away.  We need to go more often.  There are also trails and so on to be explored and shot, as well.  It’s almost spring.  It’s almost spring.  It’s almost spring.

 

Doesn’t that look good?

Boat reflections on river, Manistee, Manistee County, Michigan

For those of us who spend winters in cold and snowy climates, the mere thought of a spring and summertime activity such as boating is most certainly inviting.

It can be pretty much anything done outdoors, actually, possibly even photography.  As I have mentioned before, this time of year is the worst… in my own opinion… for outdoor photography.  It’s cold AND dreary.  You don’t even get the coolness (no pun intended) of a good snow scene.  You just get… blah!

But spring!  Yes, spring.  A time of renewal.  Everything becomes fresh again.  And the best part?  It’s now warm enough to enjoy!

You Never Know

Trees in silhouette on Goose Pond at sunrise, near Center Point, Linn County, Iowa

I’ve been going through and reprocessing some of my older photos.  Just a couple at a time.  It’ll be a journey, that’s for sure.  Anyway, I’m looking through a couple photos that I have never published and came across this one.  It’s similar to another that I have published, but that one is more “bright”, while this one was more subdued.  I played around with some settings in Lightroom to tone down the overall shot even more and boost the saturation which brought out the oranges while keeping the subdued areas.

I kept looking at it and it really strikes me.  The more I look at it the more I like it.  This one just might end up on the wall… and I’m thinking metallic paper.

This shot was taken 10 years ago this month.  I did an overnight sleep study and they woke me up at 4:30 and kicked me out (standard procedure).  I then went and sought a place for some winter sunrise shots and found this place.  I have not been back since, but maybe I should.

Something new

Leaf on fence with fall colors reflecting in background
Leaf on fence with fall colors reflecting in background

Another visit to Thumb Lake, from our Michigan trip last month.   Tried something new with this shot, and wasn’t sure if it’d work out or not.  Fortunately, I think it did.  I had to look at it off-and-on for awhile, and it kept growing on me.  Plus, I had to ponder how I was going to process it, and finally decided on a somewhat minimal approach.  I did do some HDR and tonemapping, but used a preset and didn’t put a lot of thought into it.

I shot this with an 800 ISO, which leaves it a tad grainy when looking close.  The background is purposely out-of-focus.  I like how your eye is drawn to the fence rail and solitary leaf, then your eye gets drawn back into the photo to the blurry yet still distinguishable lake and autumn colors in the trees in the background.

Another aspect that appeals to me more and more is the “layered” look of the far shore(s).  The lake actually does veer off the the left behind the closest trees in the left of the frame.

Be ready for anything

Misty sunrise through trees, Ruth Lake, Three Lakes, Baraga County, Michigan
Misty sunrise through trees, Ruth Lake, Three Lakes, Baraga County, Michigan

So, Missy and I are tooling down US 41 heading away from Marquette, looking for a place to eat, and eventually Bond Falls and home, when we spot Ruth Lake and a “moonset” and a lot of mist on the lake.  It was really quite pretty, so we stopped.  It was one of those scenes where it looks pretty to the eye, but it just doesn’t come across in the camera.  There was a Japanese family already there taking pictures, a young couple, an older gentleman, and a kid in the car looking bored out of his skull.  After I get my tripod set-up, the two younger people took off down the lake shore, and the older gentleman was left, and he kept giving me dirty looks, as if I was going to rob them, or something.

As I’m getting ready to leave the older gentleman comes up and mentions my Iowa license plate, says he went to college at the University of Iowa (about 40 miles away from me), and is basically all chatty all of a sudden.  It was like he’d found a long lost friend.

But I digress.

Anyway, we leave and head just a short bit down the road, and pull into a closed motel to turn around and see the scene in this photo here.  All that time spent on a scene that I don’t think has much potential, and we literally stumble on this one.  With the sun rising I had to work fast, but it was worth it.  This scene has the silhouette, reflections, rays through the trees, mist, a boat dock… just a really cool vibe to it.  And in just a few minutes it was gone.

…and it’s done!

Thumb Lake, Charlevoix County, Michigan
Thumb Lake, Charlevoix County, Michigan

The trip, that is.  Some things were planned, some things we stumbled across, some things were done on a whim.  When I attended a photo workshop back in 2008 some of the things were easy.  For example, the leaders of the workshop knew the better places, had connections to private property owners, and so on.  When doing a trip yourself some places are obvious… lighthouses and waterfalls, for example… but many are not.  You’re on your own.  Lakes for tree reflections are not quite so obvious.  You take your chances.

In this case I needed something to do for a morning shoot, so I looked on a map and found a lake.  My hunches said it had possibilities, and some online photos looked promising.  So, we got up before sunrise and headed out, about 30 miles from our hotel.

We weren’t disappointed.  We kept to a relatively small area at a public boat ramp and worked it pretty good.  The sunrise itself wasn’t anything to speak of, but the reflections and other aspects were indeed worthy.  The fence was an added bonus.

More stories and images to come.  Stay tuned.  🙂