Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas

I haven't been very diligent in posting to this blog lately.  It's due to procrastination, which is my best thing, and also due to not having any new photographs worth showing to anyone.  I hope the latter will change in the new year.  I'll work on the procrastination when I get around to it.

 Merry Christmas Everybody!

© 2013 Buck Ward                           The Photographist                    

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Announcing an Exhibition

Art Walk is the first Friday evening of each month in downtown Fort Myers (now promoted as The River District).  The streets and sidewalks are filled with winers and diners and art oglers.   Arts for ACT is one the the best galleries in The River District.  Beginning January 3, 2014, the first Friday in January, and continuing until February 3, Arts for ACT will be featuring an exhibition of my photographs.  

Thomas A Edison Church

The exhibition will consist of 23 black and white photographs, mostly of downtown Fort Myers.  Some of these photographs have been seen here in the postings of this blog over the past couple of years.  Rather than repost them here, I'll just post links:

November 12, 2013 - First Street, Model A
If you live near Fort Myers, I hope to see you at Art Walk in January.  

© 2013 Buck Ward                           The Photographist                    

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Change of Mind

I blogged about the morning I made this photograph a year ago.   I expressed the opinion that I usually preferred fog pictures to be in color rather than black and white.  Well, I changed my mind in regard to this one, at least.  Historic downtown Fort Myers is marketed by city fathers and their pitchmen as The River District.  I will have an exhibition there in January of black and white photographs featuring The River District.  (I'll announce the exhibition in a later blog.)

So, in rummaging through my archives for black and white River District pictures, I came across this one.  Although I initially said I like the way the warm glow of the streetlights gave this the look of a monochrome sepia-toned image, I have since seen it on various monitors and it usually looks too yellow, or too orange, or, ugh, too green.  I came not to like it very much and so decided to convert it.  My custom printer and my framer both commented favorably on it, and it has grown on me, too.  So I take it all back.  I renege.  Well, not really.  I did originally say that fog pictures in color were my usual preference.  So, this is the exception.  Who knows, maybe I should change my mind about my usual preference.  

© 2013 Buck Ward                            The Photographist                 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Proof of Concept

Something I've learned about photographing is that when you see a picture, you should get it then. If you put it off, it may not be there when you go to get it later. Other people change things without consulting you. So, when I saw this picture, I stopped and photographed it. Conditions weren't ideal, but I wanted to get it then, while I was there, just in case. There is a bridge behind me that casts its big shadow across most of my foreground. I also had a problem with casting my own shadow and the shadow of the camera on the tripod into the lower corner of the frame. I could have stayed and waited for the shadows to shift out of the way as the sun rose higher in the sky, but I had other places to be. The hazy sky and wan clouds weren't particularly to my liking either, but maybe it would look alright, I had hoped.   On the whole, the picture isn't satisfactory to me.

A week later, we had a great storm in the night. I knew that puddle would be there in the morning to give me a reflection and I could wait an hour or two later for the shadows to move out of the way. When I got there, I was glad to see that there was no public activity going on that would have added people and clutter to my scene.  Workers had just mowed the grass and were cleaning up with those obnoxious blowers with the motors on the workers' backs. My sidewalk was covered with grass clippings. They were all in my puddle, too. One of the workers came and blew most of the grass clippings away from the walk, except for a few and a cigarette butt and a bottle cap, which I picked up. He didn't blow the clippings out of the puddle.

The picture of the second attempt is better than the first, although still not good enough. I prefer the higher positioning of the camera that better defines the curve of the railing and shows the water of the river and the horizon and the mooring piles.  In the first picture the piles look like something plopped on top of the hand rail.  Also with the shifted camera position, the lamp near the left edge of the frame is separated from the palm - a small detail, but I prefer it.  But then, they had trimmed the palms. I like the look of the untrimmed palms in the first picture better, the way the fronds kind of frame the roof of the building.  Maybe it was the palm fronds that had made me choose the lower camera position in the first picture, to keep the fronds from overlapping the building.  I can't remember for sure.   My wish for a better sky was granted, but now maybe it was too much. I would have liked more well defined billowy clouds with more distinct patches of clear sky. The grass clippings in the puddle aren't as deleterious as I had thought they would be, but there was a fresh breeze blowing and that is what mussed my nice reflection.

So, this is my method and my madness. I am an iterative photographer, trying again and again until I get what I want, or settle for what I've got, or give up. The next time we have a storm in the night or in the morning, the puddle will cover the walk (unless they fix the drainage) and I will try again.  Will conditions be more favorable?  Maybe not.  Will I ever get the photograph I see in my mind's eye?  Unlikely, but I do have proof of concept.

© 2013 Buck Ward                           The Photographist                    

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Like a Box of Chocolates

On my way to the beach I saw lightning in the predawn darkness. It gave me ambitious photographic thoughts. But by the time I arrived, the lightning excitement was over, with only a few distant flashes in the clouds out over the Gulf. 

The thunder had quieted, but the clouds promised me they would be magnificent. When the sun lights them up, I mused, there will be great drama.  But as the morning grew lighter, the thunderheads drifted away and began to dissipate, without a glance over their shoulders to me and my expectations.

When the sun cleared the horizon behind me, it painted the sky with golden light for a few brief moments. And then, as the glorious glow faded, a rainbow gradually arched across the sky.

Forrest Gump reminded us that you never know what you're going to get.

© 2013 Buck Ward                        The Photographist                    

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Supermoon is Made of Rain

Last Saturday, the supermoon would rise about 10 minutes before the sun went down. Lately folks have been calling the full moon at perigee the supermoon, because it is at its closest approach to Earth.  But really, it looks just like any other full moon.  My ephemeris (TPE) told me that from the causeway, the moon would rise near the lighthouse, so out I went.  I chose a location I’ve chosen before.  When I arrived, well before moonrise, there were great clouds on the horizon, thunderstorms out over the Gulf.  I expected not to be able to see the moon through the clouds, but one never knows; and clouds and storms often make for dramatic photographs.  I went ahead undaunted.  As I walked along the low-tide beach at the base of the seawall, I had to duck under the lines of folks who were fishing from up on the seawall. I set up my tripod on the little sandbar under the bridge. I could see the pillars of rain under the distant clouds. The sun over my shoulder still brightly lit the buildings on Fort Myers Beach, three or four miles across San Carlos Bay. There was a big storm out there, moving our way. The rain slowly marched across the land and the water. Distant lightning was followed a few seconds later by the rumble of thunder. Fishermen began collecting their gear and migrating back to where their cars and trucks were parked, back on the causeway. Now the buildings on the beach didn't shine in sunlight and they became indistinct as they were shrouded by rain. The breeze freshened and Fort Myers Beach could no longer be seen. The rain moved across the water and approached the lighthouse headland from the Gulf. Small boats scurried for shelter, leaving their bright sunlit wakes in front of the advancing dark wall of rain. 

The wind picked up. The edge of the rain was coming close. “Looks like it’s about time to run for the car,” I said to the guy fishing from the bridge support, as I lifted my tripod and closed its legs. "We’re staying put,” he shrugged. Just then, rain spattered my face. “Looks like I am, too,” I said. I clambered up onto the concrete base of bridge support number 27. The wind was really blowing now. A couple who had been fishing from the seawall moved their folding chairs way back to the far side under the bridge. Even under the bridge, I was getting wet from the blowing rain. I took off my photo vest and tucked it under the little cubby in the center of the bridge support and collapsed the tripod and put it there too. The lighthouse had vanished in the downpour. The sun, still visible above the horizon as a dull fuzzy yellow ball, was extinguished as the mass of falling water moved toward it. The two guys fishing from the support scrambled to get their paraphernalia. They planted it in the cubby with my camera gear. The wind was becoming a gale. I sought shelter in the lee of the bridge support and sat on the concrete base with my back against the support. The two fishermen joined me, squatting. The stinging needles of rain were moving horizontally. We heard a shriek and turned to see the couple on the seawall trying to keep their chairs and stuff from blowing away. They were drenched and losing the battle of the flying chairs. We hunkered in our tiny sheltered space, still getting wet from the spray flying around the concrete corners. The wind screamed. Thoughts of tornado twisted through my head

The peak of the storm passed and the wind eased a bit down from it's heart-thumping chaos. I tried to check the radar image on my iPhone to see if I could figure out how much longer we'd be trapped. The younger of the two anglers pulled out his phone too. He showed me a picture he had taken of the storm as it approached. “What a great picture!” I exclaimed, “Better than anything I got.” We got to talking. There's camaraderie among refugees. The younger, Jake, showed me on his phone some of his drawings and paintings. He's really good. His older brother, Chris, is visiting from Kansas and plays in a band called Slow Burn. We passed the time as the storm calmed. The crazy wind regained its sanity and the rain began falling downwards again instead of sideways and eventually it stopped. It had just been a scattered thunder shower, as the TV weathermen call them. “Oh no!”, Jake cried. "Everything's wet.” Our gear was soaked, sitting in half an inch of water. My vest is water resistant, so most everything was okay, and the cigarettes Jake had stowed in his shoe were dry, so no harm done. We could still see rainstorms off in the distance in the deepening dusk. I gathered up my stuff to go to the car. Jake and Chris stayed. Chris hoped to catch a shark, a bucket list thing. I wished them luck.
I never did see the supermoon. When I got home, the streets were dry. It hadn't rained at all.

© 2013 Buck Ward                        The Photographist                    

Monday, May 27, 2013

Digital Filters for Black and White Conversion

and a rant on grayscale

Several years ago, I was in the Everglades with a photographer who was using a large format film camera, you know, the old boxy kind where the photographer puts his head under a dark cloth and views the scene on a piece of ground glass on the back of the camera. He stopped the car on the dirt road we were following and got out and set up, composing a scene of a cypress dome under a blue sky with some clouds. I did the same, but seeing the scene through the viewfinder of my digital SLR, it looked kind of ho-hum to me. “Can I see what you see on your ground glass?” I asked. Instead of inviting me under his dark cloth, he took the red filter from his lens and held it in front of the lens on my camera. “This is what I see,” he said. Through my viewfinder, everything was red, but I was amazed at the difference in contrast. Later he told me that he could see the light bulb go on over my head. It was indeed an epiphany. It was after that that I started doing black and white digital photography.

I've been meaning to write a blog on this subject ever since it came up in the comments of a blog post, Soft and Hard, some months ago. The digital filters that are available to us in editing software, such as Adobe PhotoShop, let us do the same thing my large-format friend did with that red filter in front of his lens, but without having to carry a set of filters around with us in the field and with infinitely greater variety. We can apply these filters to our color digital photographs after the fact. Then if we aren’t satisfied with the result, we can try a different filter, or with digital sliders, we can alter the effective color of the filter to bring out the subtle nuances of the image we see in our mind's eye. There are other ways in digital editors to create black and white photographs, such as working with the various channels. Creating and manipulating a black and white layer is the method I use, for now.

In his book, Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, the great master Ansel Adams often tells us of his use of filters. An orange filter was one of his most used. I usually try first the yellow filter and then the red filter, and sometimes adjust the sliders for something roughly between the two. (PhotoShop doesn’t give us a preset orange filter.) A filter will lighten its same color and darken it's complementary color. A blue filter lightens blue and darkens orange; a red filter darkens blue and lightens orange. See the illustration above.  (The purpose of the photos in the illustration is simply to show the versatile tonal editing options available to the digital photographer, and not to demonstrate artistic values.)

A Rant:

Back in the film days, I experimented with black and white film only occasionally. I was almost always disappointed by the prints I got back from the lab. They were bland gray instead of the striking black and white masterpieces I wanted. Since my epiphany I've fallen in love with black and white photography. When I see a scene, I can visualize how it will look as black and white with the effect of a digital filter before I release the shutter.  Usually when I see both a color version and a black and white version of the same image on some photographer’s website, the black and white is really just grayscale. The color has been sucked out if it leaving an anemic semblance. It has the same look as those old black and white prints from the automatic lab that so discouraged me. I know that this poor photographer doesn't know; He hasn't shared my epiphany. Aside from photographs that simply can't be printed in color, such as newspaper pictures, I think there is basically only one reason for a black and white photograph.  It is for the sake of artistic expression.  If the photographer can't make a statement with black and white, he shouldn't bother. Grayscale conversion just isn't the same thing as black and white photography.  I've never had a case of "Gee, I can't decide.  I guess I'll show both."  So please, experiment with black and white, Have fun; be creative.  But keep your grayscales to yourself. 

© 2013 Buck Ward                  The Photographist             

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Using a Polarizer

To Reduce Glare and Reflections

These photographs were made with a polarizing filter attached to the lens. For the photo on the left, the filter was set for minimum effect, and for the one on the right it was rotated 90 degrees for maximum effect. As you can see, the polarizer eliminated almost all the glare from the water. Not only did the polarizer remove the glare, but it also removed the reflections. In the photo on the left you can see the reflections of the trees and sky. The highlights in the water are not actually direct sunlight, but are reflections of the overcast sky. In the photo on the right, the water is clear and you can see the bottom. Dialing in the polarizer also eliminated the shiny highlights from the leaves and from the scales of our little reptilian friend.

A polarizing filter will reduce the light reaching your sensor by a stop or two. In that regard, it can perform as a neutral density filter, should you so desire. Some folks are so enthralled by the wonderful things their polarizing filter can do that they keep it mounted all the time, but in most cases I think one should remove the filter from the lens if it isn't needed. In this example, dialing in the polarizer reduced the light by another full stop. Both photos were made at ISO 400 and f8, using aperture priority with +1/3 stop of exposure compensation. The exposure time for the photo on the left was 4/10 of a second and 8/10 for the one on the right. It was an overcast day, deep in a cypress swamp – not enough light for hand-holding, especially so with the filter attached. (Even though the camera was tripod mounted, I'm ashamed to admit that I did not use proper slow-shutter-speed technique, e.g. mirror lock-up and cable release, for these photos and so their sharpness is wanting)

The handsome creature on the log is a cottonmouth water moccasin, a venomous snake. In my experience, the reputation of the cottonmouth for being aggressive is greatly exaggerated.

© 2013 Buck Ward                        The Photographist                       

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Exhibition

On Sanibel Island, at the Sanibel Steakhouse

I'm proud to announce my exhibition of thirteen black and white photographs in the Sanibel Steakhouse on Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.   Most of the scenes were photographed on Sanibel and several depict the Sanibel Lighthouse.   The presentations range in size from 16" x 20" to 30" x 40".

We are looking to update our art in the restaurant with black and white local photographs,” She wrote. “Would you be interested in this sort of thing?  I think that your local scenes would really appeal to our clientele.”  That's how it started.  It's been a lot of work and a little bit exciting.  In recent days I've come to appreciate the work of curators.

I hope everybody will dash on over and enjoy art with your steak dinner.

© 2013 Buck Ward                        The Photographist                       

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Underneath Another Bridge

The previous blog post put me in mind of thisI was under this bridge not because I wanted to photograph it's underneath, but because it afforded a good location from which to shoot a sunrise. (You can see that the angle of the light is nearly horizontal.) There were pelicans and other birds coming and going, stopping on the supports and then flying on, so I did photograph it's underneath, hoping the pelicans would give some interest or variety to the repeating patterns. Those photographs were unsatisfactory, so the next time I was there, a week or two later, I made a point of photographing the underneath of the bridge. This time there were no pelicans or egrets or any other type of bird. Nothing remarkable about this picture, but these numbers had mysteriously appeared.  

Just one of those odd little things that once photographed, the picture stays in the mind.  If I hadn't made this photo, I'm sure I wouldn't remember those numbers being there.

© 2013 Buck Ward                  The Photographist             

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Bridge Too Far

It wasn't foggy, but just kinda hazy.   As I came up on the causeway, I could see the bridge at the far end, a couple of miles away. It seemed almost to glow in the morning sun, in the haze. I didn't expect it to keep this hazy, glowy effect as I drove, as I drew nearer.  But sure enough, it did. I followed the turnaround lane that took me under the bridge and stopped the car. It looked good. I drove on and parked on the causeway and walked back under the bridge. This is what I saw.  It's almost churchy, isn't it?

© 2013 Buck Ward                  The Photographist              

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Nature Photographers Network

I've let my subscription lapse to NaturePhotographers.Net Online Magazine. My remorse is doubled because I just found out that I won First Honorable Mention in the Weekly Challenge category in the 2012 Editor's Picks Awards with this photograph. The Weekly Challenge theme that week was urban wildlife, if I recall.  
It was a complete surprise to me for this image to win anything.  I had posted it at  NPN, months ago, just for the fun of it.   Aside from a little shameless self-horn-tooting, my purpose here is to tout a great photography website –  NPN.
NaturePhotographers.Net is one of the best photography websites out there. It focuses on nature photography obviously, and it does have at least one gallery for non-nature photography. The people who hang out there, including a lot of world-class photographers, are helpful, good-natured, and knowledgeable. There are discussion forums, regional forums, and image critique galleries. Critiquing images and having your own critiqued is a great way to improve your photography. You can find out the answer to practically any question regarding nature photography and photography in general in the discussion forums.  You can hook up with photographers in your area through the regional forums. The editors publish informative articles every month. And there's a classified section for buying or selling gear. 

I highly recommend NPN as a good place to hang out on the web. You can even visit NPN's Facebook page   Try it - you'll 'like' it.

© 2013 Buck Ward                  The Photographist