This Photo #4

This Photo #4

Some years back, we suffered a computer hard disk crash.  There were some photos on it, but I did not consider them a great loss, and thought they were backed up… somewhere.  I said “some years back” meaning before I had learned about serious back up and better organization.  (Today, we use three duplicate external hard drives, with more drives for images prior to 2015.)

As time went by, I did not find that back up.  Until recently.

Since I retired as store manager, I have gradually been re-organizing my office.  And, some old CD’s have appeared.  On one of them is this photo, my first good water drop with refraction.  For me, it is important, as it marks a turning point in that part of my photography.  My first success!  Although it is not a perfect photo, I learned much about searching for the right combination of water drop, refracted flower, and light… Continue reading

This Photo #3

This Photo #3

Canoes with Morning Reflection

Image 5105     Date:  April, 2016

A couple of years before this, I had begun photographing the canoes at Devil’s Den State Park.  Probably, I had seen similar photographs of canoes elsewhere (I know – who hasn’t?), and was inspired to make my own version.  Each time I revisited these canoes, I would make new photographs, and with each visit, it seemed my photographs improved.

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On this day, we were holding our spring macro photography workshop in the park.  I arrived early, and while waiting, I walked to the canoe docks.
From early spring to late fall, the park rents the canoes and paddle boats for use on the Park’s little lake, formed from Lee Creek.  It’s a very small lake.  Besides the lake, the Park has miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, and plenty of the rugged beauty Arkansas is known for.  It is my favorite Arkansas State Park. Continue reading

This Photo, #2

This Photo, #2

Paintbrush Reflections
Image 00842, date 2007

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Years ago, I saw my first image of water drops refracting a background flower, probably in Outdoor Photographer magazine.  I was fascinated, and began the  pursuit of my own water drop reflection photos…

Occasionally, I am asked if the photos are real or if I created them in the computer.  Signs of the times, I guess.  These are 100% “real.”  The water drops are from dew, occasionally rain, and the reflected image (“refracted”, actually) is just as I saw it.

This morning was bright, sunny, and humid at Cherokee Prairie Natural Area, but with a slight breeze, so I needed to keep the shutter speed up and still shoot at f/16. However, the photo was dark – very underexposed.  I either misread the meter’s suggestion or ignored it, or the camera erred, and underexposed the image.  The problem probably was not the camera.  So, I adjusted exposure and made another photo, then moved on to another composition.

Later, in post-processing, when I looked on the computer, that second photo was blurred – that pesky breeze.  My first thought was that I had blown the shot; one was blurry, and the other was underexposed.  And, I had only made 2 photos…

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original image, unedited

I opened the first image, the dark one, in PaintShop Pro and increased overall exposure of the RAW file by two stops.  It was amazing – the Sony .ARW image was beautiful!  It held up really well to being lightened.  (For comparison, I tried the same adjustment on the camera’s jpeg version, and it was not pretty…)  I have always shot RAW ever since.

Over the years, I have made a good number of water drop photos like this, but “Paintbrush Reflections” is still one of my favorites.  Just the same, I look forward to wildflower season, and more attempts to make the perfect image.

May we all continue to look for great light!

The Annual Ten

The Annual Ten

Each year, we review our photos from the past 12 months, and select ten (or 12, on occasion) as our favorite images for that year.  Never easy, and does not appear to serve much purpose, but it is a fun exercise, and we enjoy sharing.  So, here you go, my 10 for ’16, in chronological order.

  1.  Going Back to Mexico

Going Back To MexicoIn February, I was photographing the sunset over the Arkansas River, near the Garrison Avenue bridge in Fort Smith.  The Arkansas River originates in the mountains of Colorado, then travels through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas before merging with the Mississippi River on the Arkansas-Mississippi border.

In front of my camera, the river was flowing without waves, and reflecting the sunset-colored sky and clouds.  I made several images as the sun dropped lower in the sky, then this canoe floated into my composition.  The first thought was, “oh, no!”  However, I then thought how this would add perspective and a human element, and I managed to get two frames, before he left the scene.  As I stood there behind my camera, the canoeist called to me, “I’m going back to Mexico, buddy!”  At least, that’s what I think he said…   🙂

 

2. The Pot o’ Gold

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On St. Patrick’s Day, I visited Natural Dam, a favorite site to me – and many other photographers.  The challenge is to see a different image of this small waterfall, as I and all those other photographers have taken a million photographs here.

So, I selected this viewpoint that revealed the sunrise reflected along the edges of the waterfall – like seeing the legendary Irish “pot o’ gold”.  Exposure was set for the highlights, and I made sure the shadows remained dark, resulting in a near-abstract of light and shadow…

 

3. Devil’s Den Redbuds

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April 1 was not a Fool’s Day, at least not entirely, as I found this wonderful juxtaposition of a blooming redbud tree and the spillway cascade in Arkansas’ Devil’s Den State Park.  The Park is another favorite photography destination, and you will see three more photos made there among these 10.

 

4. Waiting Canoes in Spring

Morning Reflections

In April, we held a Macro Photography Workshop, which included a trip to Devil’s Den State Park.  While I was waiting for the students to arrive, I visited the rental canoes.  I always visit them, and make photos.  Usually, I use a wide angle and get fairly close, but this time, I backed up and used the 70-300 zoom.  The telephoto really provided a narrow angle of view, and brought the background much closer and larger.  This background was the reflection of the mostly bare trees across the small lake, lighted by the rising sun, and reflected in the lake water…

 

5. Spring Afternoon at Falling Water Falls

Afternoon at Falling Waters

Later in April – one of my favorite months, it appears – I spent the day driving the Ozarks, visiting some popular locations, including Falling Waters Creek and its falls.  It was spring, and in Arkansas in the spring, the sky is never clear for long, and I was treated to some great clouds in a blue sky above the waterfall.  The clouds’ reflection creates a line from the foreground rocks to the falls to the clouds.

 

6. Flanagan Prairie

Flanagan Prairie Morning

Flanagan Prairie is an Arkansas State Heritage Site, and allows no vehicular traffic.  The result is a natural area that abounds with wildflowers throughout the spring and summer.  On this June day, I was trying out a new Sony lens, the 90 mm macro.  I often visit here, looking for water drops, which are refracting an image of the background  But there were none.  That is, until about an hour after sunrise, and suddenly everything was wet.

Later, someone asked about only including half of the sunflower.  That was intentional, as the image is not about the flower, but the setting.  It was about the morning, the water drops and the Prairie.

 

7.  The Milky Way

Milky Way at the Fire Tower

Along the Talimena Drive, near Queen Wilhelmina State Park just east of the Oklahoma State Line, is a picnic area around the Rich Mountain Fire Tower, with picnic tables and restrooms.  Gayle and I spent an August evening there, photographing the Milky Way.  My favorite of the night was this one.  It is also my favorite of the Milky Way photos I have made thus far – but there will be more in 2017!

 

8.  Brigadoon (Petit Jean Morning Light)

Summer Morning, Petit Jean Mountain

Also in August, on the way home from the Bedford Camera Photo Expo in Little Rock, I drove to Petit Jean State Park.  I missed the sunrise, but the morning light was amazing on the flats below the mountain.  This photo was made from Stout’s Point on the eastern end of the mountain, overlooking the Arkansas River.  (The river is just out of the frame behind the tree.)  Looking at this scene, the light, the green grass and trees, the fog on the horizon, I am reminded of the 1954 Gene Kelly movie, Brigadoon.  Look it up.  🙂

 

9.  Autumn Starburst

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On an October morning in Devil’s Den State Park, there was not much color found for a photograph, except for these leaves against the blue sky.  I moved until the sun was backlighting the leaves and shining through a small hole caused by a hungry caterpillar or beetle.  With an aperture of f/16, the sun peeking through presented a lovely burst of light, a sunburst.

 

10.  Autumn Canoes

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In late October, I once again visited Devil’s Den State Park.  And, once again, photographed the canoes.  This time, there was a bit of color in the reflection, and complemented the red of the canoes.  The canoes are floating at dock, waiting for some park visitors to take them out for a ride on the small lake.


So, that’s my 10 for ’16.  Not necessarily the best photos you will see, but my favorites.  The photographs I enjoyed making this year, and the ones I still enjoy viewing.  Hope you enjoy seeing them, too.

If you follow me on Facebook (Larry Millican), Twitter (@LDMillican) or Instagram (@LDMillican), you may have seen them before.  Would enjoy hearing from you; comments are certainly welcome and appreciated.  In any case, thank you for looking.

And, keep looking for the light.

 

Milky Way Photography Adventures

Milky Way Photography Adventures

Despite the fact that Arkansas’ River Valley has had a dry year, it seemed that every time I planned a star photography outing – there were clouds.

 

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On this night, the clouds parted over Shores Lake just for a few minutes, and just enough to see the Milky Way.

 

And, this trend included our Night Photography Workshop in August.  We tried 3 times, before we finally had a marvelously clear night to see and photograph the Milky Way.

 

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Same location – Shores Lake – but no significant clouds!  🙂  To add a little foreground interest, I set up my film camera to photograph the stars streaking across the sky, aka “star trails.”

 

If you live in an area with little light pollution, you may wonder what’s the big deal.  However, for those of us who live in an urban area, it is a rare treat!  Some of the photographers in our workshop had not seen the Milky Way since childhood.  Seeing it and making photographs was very exciting!

Would you like to photograph the Milky Way?  Here are 5 things I think you need:

  • A DSLR camera, because shooting in manual exposure mode and manual focus mode, and at a high ISO is necessary.  Very few compact cameras have all those functions.
  • A wide angle lens.  How wide?  My preference is a 24mm for a “full-frame” sensor, but up to a 35mm will work.  If you have an APS-C sensor, sometimes called a “crop-sensor,” 18mm to 24mm is the equivalent.  That does not mean that we cannot use even wider!  Many photographers use a 14mm, 16mm or an 18mm, and sometimes a fish-eye.
  • A Good tripod.  Shutter speeds will be measured in seconds, and no one I know can hold a camera steady for that long.  Your tripod will need to be solid, and easy to adjust in the dark.  I recommend a carbon fiber or aluminum tripod, with a ball head.
  • A remote control for firing your camera.  Pressing the shutter button will cause your camera to move, so use a remote cable or wireless remote.
  • A headlamp or flashlight with a red lens.  Without the red lens, your night vision will be compromised each time you turn on the light.

Also helpful:  an app on your phone.  “Photo Pills” and “The Photographers’ Ephemeris” will provide photographers where and when information – I like and use both.  I also like “Star Guide” which does just what it says – displays on screen where and when the stars are.

Once you have the equipment, the techniques we use are different from most other types of photography:

  • Locate an area with a probable good view of the Milky Way.  Helpful web sites:  www.cleardarksky.com, www.darksitefinder.com, and Google Maps www.google.com/maps.
  • Check the moon phases – a full moon is so bright you cannot see the Milky Way.  A crescent moon is also bright enough to interfere, although if it sets early, the light – coming from the opposite direction of the Milky Way – can be helpful by lighting up the foreground.

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    Nearly a full moon means no visible Milky Way.  When the moon went behind the clouds, there was still enough light to photograph Shores Lake with a 10-second exposure.

  • Camera settings:  Start at ISO 3200, a shutter speed of 15 seconds, and your aperture at its widest.  Make a test shot, check your image exposure, and adjust as necessary.  It is not uncommon to set ISO at 4000 or higher.  (Note:  to calculate the longest usable shutter speed, divide 500 by your lens focal length.  Example:  with a 24mm lens, 500 divided by 24 = 20.83, so you would keep your shutter open no longer than 20 seconds.)  A too-long shutter speed results in trailing stars, not points of light.
  • Focusing can be difficult.  We tried to use autofocus before dark, then switched to manual focus.  We also applied gaffer tape to the focus ring to avoid accidentally bumping and moving it.  If you need to focus after dark, try using “live view” and magnify the display.  (Practice this before dark!)  The good thing about digital photography, of course, is we can see what we shot, then adjust and reshoot if necessary.

The end result can be very rewarding photos.  And, watching the Milky Way – and other stars and constellations – begin to appear after the sun goes down is exciting and breathtaking!  Especially the first time…

 

Milky Way at the Fire Tower

This photo is from a shoot with just Gayle and myself, when preparing for the workshop.  Rich Mountain Fire Tower, Talimena Scenic Drive, near Arkansas’ Queen Wilhelmena State Park.  Sony A7R, 24mm lens, f/2.8-15 seconds-ISO 5000

 

The “season” is about done for this year; during the winter months, the Milky Way is not visible.  When it is most visible is late spring to late summer.  (I can hardly wait!)  The apps I referenced earlier are great for helping us plan.  Feel free to contact me if you have questions – or search the internet for more information.

Wishing you good light!

2015 Favorite Photos

2015 Favorite Photos

Selecting favorite photos from the past 12 months is a fun exercise, and also an opportunity to see where my interests have taken me.  And, sometimes a way to measure one’s growth.  Mostly, however, these are the photographs that bring a smile to my face when I remember pressing the shutter release…

So, here we go, roughly in chronological order:

Trout Lily

This is one of my favorite flowers, as it is one of the first signs of spring in Arkansas.  This one reminds me of a sea creature…Trout Lily 1767


 

Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas

After a short hike on the Devil’s Den Trail, you will find yourself at Twin Falls – unless it is the dry season.  This is the west falls, with photographer for scale…

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Wild Rose, Cherokee Prairie

Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas, continues to be one of those locations I return to regularly.  This wild rose was past its prime, but I liked the patterns, color, symmetry, and its friend.  I hope you notice the antenna that mimics the flower petal lines…

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Colorado National Monument

In June, I traveled to the Eastern Sierras of California to attend Derrick Story’s photography workshop.  (You can read about it here.)  The road trip included a one-night stop at the Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction, Colorado.  I would definitely camp there again.

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Great Basin National Park

From Colorado, my next stop was Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada, home to 13,063-foot Mount Wheeler.  This mountain stream was near my campsite…

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Yosemite National Park

From Bridgeport, CA, where Derrick’s workshop was based, I drove into Yosemite National Park via the Tioga Pass, highway 120.  Road construction stopped me from driving to the Valley; while stopped for the roadwork, I made this photo…

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Mono Lake, California

This has got to be one of the most unique places in the U.S., and I made hundreds of photos there…

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Antique Airplane Fly-In, Oologah, Oklahoma

Closer to home, some friends and I visited Will Rogers’ Birthplace Ranch for the annual Antique Airplane Fly-In.  Dozens of planes and antique autos were on display, and their landings and departures were a sight to see.  The whole day was fun!

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Autumn, Arkansas

Our “fall colors” were not the best this year, but we always try to make the best of it.  😉

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Natural Dam, Arkansas

This rock shelf creates a natural “Dam” with an 8-foot tall waterfall.  I am not the only photographer to visit, and – like many others – I have made hundreds of images over the years.  Just a few days ago, this was the scene just before sunrise on a cold, frosty morning…

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“Frost Flowers”

Although I had heard of this for many years, it was only a few days ago I made my first photos of Frost Flowers.  Sometimes called “Frost Ribbons”, apparently they happen on cold, frosty mornings, when vegetation still has moisture in its stem.  The moisture freezes, and forces its way out forming these ribbon flowers…

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Best wishes for a Great 2016:  Sweet light, peace, and joy…

Photography Workshop in the Eastern Sierra

Photography Workshop in the Eastern Sierra

June, 2015Bodie-03155

Derrick Story (www.thedigitalstory.com) hosted a 4-day photography workshop in the California’s Eastern Sierra region. Initially, he called it the “Bodie Workshop,” and that was the first location we visited. But, since we also photographed at Mono Lake, Green Creek in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and within the town of Bridgeport, it became the “Eastern Sierra Workshop.”

From the beginning, one thing Derrick emphasized was to enjoy ourselves, relax, and keep from making our time there seem like work.

Bodie-03044My personal goals were to improve my photography, and to observe how someone else ran a workshop. Being a photography instructor, I wanted to compare my methods, and to learn different approaches. And, to teach photography, my own photography must be good.

It was difficult for me to follow his advice, but by the third day, I was much more relaxed.Bodie-03166

The workshop was terrific. (Does anyone say “terrific” these days?)

Bodie is a ghost town about 20 miles north of Mono Lake, and has a photographic opportunity around every corner, literally. There is an old school, a church, a hotel, numerous shops, abandoned homes, a fire station, and a stamp mill for the ore. It is now a California State Park, and attempts are being made to preserve as many of the historical buildings as possible. When we visited, the day was perfect: mild weather, blue skies and puffy white clouds.

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Have you heard about the light in the Sierras? For many years, I have read John Muir, Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell, Dewitt Jones, and others, speak of the light. It is, indeed, unlike anywhere else I have been.

Mono Lake, with its dwindling water level and tufa formations, is like a scene from a sci-fi movie. We stayed until after sunset, watching the sun light up the landscape, and filling our memory cards and our internal memory banks.Mono Lake-03302

Where ever we went, Derrick was there to encourage, suggest, and guide us in our photographic journey. Yes, just as other workshop leaders do; but Derrick has a calm and mild persona, that he passed on to us.

Next year, he will lead a similar workshop – but in the fall. It should make for great photography!Green Creek-04254

www.thedigitalstory.com

 

 

 

 


I have been absent from posting for some time.  This is the first attempt to catch up – I hope you will follow along…