Favorites for 2014

It is the end of another year!  Although it seems that I did not do as much photography as the previous year, when I reviewed our libraries, it was difficult to narrow down to a reasonable number of favorites.  But with no further to-do, here are my dozen choices for the past year, in chronological order.  Note:  click on the image if you want to view a larger version…

During the winter, it seemed we had an unusually high number of goldfinches at our backyard feeders.  They are fun to watch!  In February, while snow was falling, a number of them would pause on the same branch, and wait – impatiently – for their turn at the seeds…

Goldfinch in falling snow

Goldfinch in falling snow

1/750 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 200-500mm, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

A bit later in February, my friend Mike Leonard and I hiked down to the Glory Hole.  There was ice and snow, and frozen waterfalls all around.  I took this photo to illustrate the conditions, and the environment.

The Opening to the Glory Hole, Ozark National Forest

The Entrance to the Glory Hole, Ozark National Forest

1/15 sec. at f/22, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In April, as the redbuds and dogwoods began to bloom, and temperatures were rising, I visited the Jack Creek Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest.  As the sun rose over the ridge, light danced across the cascade.

Sunlight on Jack Creek at sunrise

Sunlight on Jack Creek at sunrise

 1/2 sec. at f/22, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Wildflowers begin to bloom in April, also; Indian Paintbrush is one of the first.  Here are two photos I made at Cherokee Prairie State Natural Area, near Charleston, Arkansas…

Paintbrush Trio Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Paintbrush Trio
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/20 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.
Paintbrush Family Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Paintbrush Family
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/60 sec, f/8, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Who has not ever blown dandelion seeds for fun?  Here are some seed pods that were caught up in a spider web.

Dandelion Seeds, caught in a spider web

Dandelion Seeds, caught in a spider web

1/45 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ball head.

One photograph I continue to try to perfect is of dew drops with a background image refracted in it.  Here is one I photographed in June, at Cherokee Prairie State Natural Area

Dew Drops reflecting Black-eyed Susans Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Dew Drops reflecting Black-eyed Susans
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/125 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Mid-year, Gayle gave me a new camera:  the Sony Alpha 7R.  A “mirrorless” camera, it carries a full-frame sensor, and has great dynamic range.  I had always wanted to photograph the Milky Way, and after researching for “dark sky” locations, I visited Lake Hinkle near Waldron, Arkansas, for my first attempt.

The Milky Way above Lake Hinkle, near Waldron, Arkansas

The Milky Way above Lake Hinkle, near Waldron, Arkansas

20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 6400  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In October, we took part in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk.  It rained.  In Van Buren, the city still hosted the “Fall Festival and Craft Show, and I found this umbrella on the street.

Colorful umbrella on the street, Van Buren, Arkansas

Colorful umbrella on the street,
Van Buren, Arkansas

1/250 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8 lens handheld.

October signals the start of fall foliage, although we did not have exceptional color this year.  In Devil’s Den State Park, the canoes were ready for visitors.

Canoes at the ready,  Devil's Den State Park

Canoes at the ready,
Devil’s Den State Park

 1/30 sec at f/11, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In October, near Waldron, Arkansas, this spider web was sagging under the weight of the dew drops, creating a pearl necklace…

Necklace of spider-web and dew drops Near Waldron, Arkansas

Necklace of spider-web and dew drops
Near Waldron, Arkansas

1/30 sec at f/11, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

On Christmas morning, I visited the Fort Smith National Cemetery, at sunrise.

Fort Smith (AR) National Cemetery at sunrise Christmas Morning

Fort Smith (AR) National Cemetery at sunrise
Christmas Morning

1/3 sec at f/16, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto, tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

A look back, but now we look ahead to 2015.  As always, we hope and expect to make new photographs to enjoy.  Have a Happy New Year!

 

Advertisements

My Christmas Wish List

  My Christmas Wish List 

     Ever get asked: “What do you want for Christmas this year?” Supposedly, photographers should be easy to buy for – but, we are not. Many things are personal. We have specific preferences, and to a non-photographer – even one who means well – it is not always obvious what works for us. We have favorite brands, or we need (want!) an accessory that works differently, or maybe we already have that piece!

As you may know, I have worked at Bedford Camera for more than 15 years, and Bedford’s stocks most of the products listed here. But there are a few items you can find, or will need to find, elsewhere.

So, here is – in no particular order – my personal wish list. If you have a photographer to buy for, or if you need to give someone some ideas, you should find this helpful.

  • Sony Cybershot RX100 camera: Really??!! Yes, I already have a camera, and I love it!   However, none are perfect for every occasion. This is a pocket-sized camera that can be fully automatic or I can use as many pro-type features as I want, including shooting in RAW image format. There are 3 models, ingeniously named RX100, RX100 II, and RX100 III; prices range from $499 to $799 – but watch for sales!
  • Sony Alpha 6000: This camera is only slightly larger than the RX100’s, but uses interchangeable lenses, making it more versatile, and is one of the fastest focusing cameras around. With lens, its price is $799 – but is on sale right now for $699. (Alternatively, the similar A5100 kit is on sale for $599.)
  • Tamron 16-300 Lens: An all-around lens good for nearly any type of shooting we need to do. Its price is $629, but right now there is an available rebate-by-mail. An alternative is the nearly as all-around 18-270 lens, priced at $449.
  • Tamron 150-600 Lens: Given very high ratings for quality, this lens is great for wildlife, including birds. You can have this for a remarkably low price of $1,069. (Sigma has announced a similar lens that should be available soon.)
  • Xume Magnetic Filter Adapters: (Pronounced “zoom”) With these devices, I could avoid fumbling with filters, while trying to screw them to the front of lenses. A fairly new product, kit prices range from about $50 to $100, depending on the filter diameter. www.xumeadapters.com
  • Speaking of filters, I could use another circular polarizing filter, in the 77mm diameter size. And, if I am blessed with any of the lenses previously mentioned, some of them may come in a size I do not already have.
  • Batteries: Can we have too many? If your photographer only has one or two, this could make a great stocking stuffer.
  • Memory cards: Another stocking stuffer. It is always good to have several on hand. And, as we add video or time lapse to our shooting, higher capacity cards will be needed. The good news is the price continues to drop! FYI – I am looking for a high-speed 32- or 64-gb size.
  • Workshops or classes: I plan to attend one with Derrick Story (www.thedigitalstory.com/workshops) next summer, but there are also others nearby. (Bedford Camera sells a coupon good toward any class/workshop. The lead instructor there is very good!) www.bedfords.com
  • Adobe Creative Cloud for Photographers:  OK, I do already have this, but it really needs to be included.  For $9.99 per month, you can own the full version of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, and they will be constantly updated.  https://creative.adobe.com/plans/photography
  • Coffee-table Picture Book or Trail Guidebook by Tim Ernst. Cannot go wrong with one of these. (But check the library first!) http://www.timernst.com/
  • For other photography books, Books-A-Million has the best (largest) collection in my area, or you can search online. Again, check your photographer’s library first.

There are more accessories, much more, than listed here. Point-of-view cameras (Go-Pro, Sony Action Cams), tripods (Manfrotto, Really Right Stuff), camera bags and backpacks (LowePro), remote control devices, and light sources, just to mention a few. Your local camera store really is the best place to start looking. The sales staff is there to answer your questions, show you the choices, and help you find just the right gift for your photographer. Meanwhile, if you see my lovely bride, Gayle, please make sure she has a copy of this list!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Lights, Honor Heights Park, Muskogee, Oklahoma

Christmas Lights, Honor Heights Park, Muskogee, Oklahoma

Favorites for 2013

Favorites for 2013

This past June, I stepped down as store manager at Bedford Camera in Fort Smith.  Called it “retirement,” but I knew I would return on a part-time basis, and I did.  Let’s call it “semi-retirement.”

One result of semi-retiring is having more time to make photographs – and I have tried to do that.  Enough that when I tried to select my favorite images for the year, it was difficult to narrow it down to just 10.  But here are the ten images I most enjoyed creating this year.  I hope you enjoy them, too!

(Click the image for a larger version.)

  1. In early June, the purple coneflowers at Cherokee Prairie were in full bloom.  I used the Tamron 180mm macro lens for its telephoto effect, blurring the background.  The early morning light was soft and warm.

    Field of Purple Coneflowers, Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas

    Field of Purple Coneflowers, Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas

  2. Also in June, an Eastern-tailed Blue butterfly showed up at Cherokee Prairie, just as I was setting up my camera.  A first of the species for me.
    Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido [Everes] omyntas) at Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas

    Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido [Everes] omyntas) at Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas

  3. In August, two friends and I were exploring in the Ozarks, and found this small stream.  I admit one of the reasons I like this photograph is because I made it without following Mike up the side of the hill to where he was!  (Yes, Mike did have some great images.)

    A small waterfall in Arkansas' Ozarks

    A small waterfall in Arkansas’ Ozarks

  4. This image was made in our front yard.  We have a number of feeders, and a good number of birds visit year-round.  Using a macro lens, and then cropping tighter in post resulted in this close-up, which reveals detail of the structure of the feather.

    Feather, left behind

    Feather, left behind

  5. The Grand Canyon image almost did not happen.  Originally, my travel plans for the trip home from the California Photo Festival included my first visit ever to the National Park. However, our governmental leaders had chosen that time to close all federal facilities.  The day before I got there, the State of Arizona, as several other states had done, took it upon themselves to open the Park.  Yay for them!  – and me!

    Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

    Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

  6. Two days after visiting the Grand Canyon, I stopped at the famous Cadillac Ranch in Texas.  What I did not know until then, was that graffiti artists are encouraged to use the old cars for their art – so much so that you can hardly tell these once were luxury automobiles.

    The Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

    The Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

  7. My friend Mike and I went looking to make fall foliage photos and we found some of the best I have ever seen.  This image is in the Arkansas Ozarks, on Haw Creek.

    Autumn colors on Haw Creek in Arkansas

    Autumn colors on Haw Creek in Arkansas

  8. Muskogee, Oklahoma is home to Honor Heights Park, known in our area for its annual “Azalea Festival” in April.  In addition, the park also puts on a dazzling Christmas lights display.  This photo is of an animated LED light tree, and so required a long exposure so that all the light were lighted at some point during the exposure.  Then, during the open shutter time, I rotated the zoom ring, creating the “burst” effect.

    Christmas Lights, Honor Heights Park, Muskogee, Oklahoma

    Christmas Lights, Honor Heights Park, Muskogee, Oklahoma

  9. We have had some snow already this year – unusual for us – and I made this photo one evening of the Crawford County Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which sits on the County Courthouse grounds.

    Crawford County Vietnam Veterans Memorial, County Courthouse, Van Buren, Arkansas

    Crawford County Vietnam Veterans Memorial, County Courthouse, Van Buren, Arkansas

  10. This last photo is one of the most recent, and I caught this Mallard blasting off from a pond in Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, in Oklahoma.

    Mallard drake taking flight at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, near Vian, Oklahoma

    Mallard drake taking flight at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, near Vian, Oklahoma

So, there you have them:  my favorites from 2013.  They may not be great photos, but each one of them holds special memories for me.  I hope the next year brings as many.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year 2014!

California Photo Festival

California Photo Festival

In October, I traveled to San Luis Obispo, California, to attend the California Photo Festival, aka “Click 4”, the fourth annual event.  The week-long event is organized by Hal and Victoria Schmitt, who own and operate Light Photographic Workshops in Los Osos, California.  There was a wide selection of subject matter in the classes, and photo shoots in vineyards, on the California beach in several locations, and on the city streets.  We took photos of horses and riders, small critters, sunsets and sunrises, birds and other animals, and portraits of various models in a multitude of locales.

Instructors included Marc Muench, Rob Sheppard, Ben Willmore, Lee Varis, and Rick Sammon, as well as a dozen more.  In addition, a number of vendors and equipment companies were on hand to show their equipment; not a huge trade show, but plenty of goodies to see and touch.  🙂

The cost for the Festival  is reasonable, given the huge amount of information presented.  Interested?  Next year’s event is scheduled, but not yet accepting registration.  Click the link above, or here, for more information.

Here are a few photos from my library.  Hope you enjoy them!

“Horses on the Beach”

The intention was to photograph members of Cal Poly Tech’s Polo Team riding their horses in the surf at Morro Bay with a marvelous sunset in the background.  The riders were there with their horses, but alas! we had no sun, just clouds, fog, and mist.  We still made photographs!  🙂

Horses on the Beach

Polo player in the surf at Morro Bay

Horses on the Beach

Polo players riding in the surf at Morro Bay

One of the Cal Poly Polo team takes a break from the action.  I really liked the reflection the wet sand gave us...

One of the Cal Poly Polo team takes a break from the action. I really liked the reflection the wet sand gave us…

“Macro Critters!”

Another photo shoot set up for us was captive small animals – lizards, chameleon, snakes, spiders and insects – in “stations” that we could move to and from, making photographs of the small animals.  Great fun, although somewhat cramped space.  I carried my tripod, but left the legs together, using it like a monopod.

The Chameleon was perhaps the most photographed

The Chameleon was perhaps the most photographed

Colorful, exotic lubber grasshopper

Colorful, exotic lubber grasshopper

Gila Monster.  I grew up hearing terrible stories about this animal...

Gila Monster. I grew up hearing terrible stories about this animal…

“The Elfin Forest”

The morning after photographing the horses on the beach, I was in a group that went out for sunrise.  Again, fog, drizzle, and clouds hid the sun.  So, we turned out attention to details.  We were in an area called the “Elfin Forest” which was populated with a dwarf oak tree, and more…

Small shrub with dried flowers and seed pods.

Small shrub with dried flowers and seed pods.

Bracken Fern closeup

Bracken Fern closeup

“Photo Walk With Rick Sammon”

Another sunset opportunity, and finally, we saw the sun.  Not to complain, but that is all there was to see – not a cloud in the sky, leaving the sun without a complement.  We walked along the street at the Morro Bay Harbor, and still made photographs.

I photographed one of the other participants, with the sun backlighting him, creating the sun-star.

I photographed one of the other participants, backlit by the sun.

Morro Bay Harbor with Morro Rock on the horizon, just after the sun has gone down.

Morro Bay Harbor with Morro Rock on the horizon, just after the sun has gone down.

Morro Bay Harbor at dusk.

Morro Bay Harbor at dusk.

There were other classes and photo shoots; these are just some of my favorite images…

The California Photo Fest makes for a good destination, and will present the participant with a lot of information.  Almost too much info!  🙂  But, if you pick and choose your classes and shoots, and don’t overdo yourself, you can learn much.

All photos were taken with the Sony Alpha 77; lenses were the Sony 16-50, Tamron 180 macro, Tamron 70-300.

California Coastal Highway

California Coastal Highway

In October, I attended the California Photo Festival in San Luis Obispo, California.  (I plan to discuss that event in a forthcoming blog post.)  Arriving a couple of days in advance of the event, I spent most of one day driving up the Pacific coast on California Highway 1, also known as Cabrillo Highway, toward Big Sur.  No destination, just exploring.  Although my family lived for a few years in California a long time ago, I had never visited this part of the state, and on this trip only a portion of the route.  Another time…  Anyway, here are a few photographs from that day…

In a sharp bend of the road – and there were many of those – is this small beach, gated and marked with a “private property” sign.  One of several enjoyable sights to be seen on the drive.

Small, private beach along Highway 1

Small, private beach along Highway 1

 

This is another photo, shot vertically, of the same beach from a slightly different viewpoint.

Private Beach along Highway 1

Private Beach along Highway 1

 

High on a bluff, with sea lions below – so far away they almost cannot be seen in the photo – is a private residence.

Home with an ocean view

Home with an ocean view

 

 

This photo is a crop of the previous one.

 

Home on the bluff

Home on the bluff

 

The Big Creek Bridge, not quite as photogenic as the Bixby Creek Bridge from what I have read, but I enjoyed photographing it.

Big Creek Bridge

Big Creek Bridge

 

Just a short visit to this beautiful part of our country, leaving me with a strong desire to return.  I only scratched the surface, and did not visit at the best (photographically speaking) time of day.  If you have been there, you know what I mean.

 

Sony Alpha 77, Sony SAL 16-50 and Tamron 70-300 lenses.

Frontier Rendezvous

Frontier Rendezvous

As a young man, I read many books of western exploration and adventures.  In school, the history books fascinated me with stories of Fremont, Bridger, and others.  In September, a small frontiersman rendezvous was held nearby at Dwight Mission, and I accompanied other members of the Fort Smith Photographic Alliance on a Saturday to the gathering.

Axes and woodpile

A wood pile and axes at the frontier rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013

 

Snoods

Snoods, 18th and 19th century hairnets, available for purchase, frontier rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013

 

Mirror Reflection

One of the tee-pee tents is reflected in a mirror hanging in another tent on the grounds at the Frontier Rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013

 

 

Fur Trap

Fur trap hanging outside a tee-pee tent at the Frontier Rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013

 

 

Throwing the Axe

A rendezvous frontiersman reenacts throwing an axe at a target during a competition, Frontier Rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013

 

 

 

The day was a lot of fun for all of us.  The rendezvous/reenactment was a relatively small one, and it was the first time held at Dwight Mission, but the spirit of the time was obvious in all the participants.  (I even tried my skill at the axe throw, but with little success.)

If anyone has the opportunity to be involved with a photography/camera club, I encourage you to do so.  Most groups will have outings such as this, as well as classes and workshops, competitions, and social gatherings.  If you are in the Fort Smith Arkansas region, the Alliance is a great place to visit!

The photos here were taken using the Sony Alpha 77, the Sony 16-50 lens, and the Tamron 70-300 lens.  In many cases, I also used a polarizing filter.

 

Another Visit to Cherokee Prairie

Most years, the vegetation at Cherokee Prairie is pretty much dry and dead by September, as is most flora in our region.  This year, though, was different.  On September 2, Labor Day, I drove by and saw late summer flowers and grasses.  Walking through the tall grass, I found flowers, spiders, butterflies and caterpillars.  It was a great, productive, and fun-filled couple of hours that morning…

Pearl Crescent butterfly; late summer

Pearl Crescent butterfly; late summer

Pearl_Crescent_Caterpillar

Pearl Crescent Caterpillar

In the background, you may have noticed a Purple Gerardia, aka Purple False Foxglove, (Agalinis purpurea).  There were a number of these flowers in bloom.

Purple Gerardia (aka Purple False Foxglove)  Agalinis purpurea

Purple Gerardia (aka Purple False Foxglove) Agalinis purpurea

An aster with a Crab spider in residence

An aster with a Crab spider in residence

Bicyclist passing by Cherokee Prairie on Highway 60

Bicyclist passing by Cherokee Prairie on Highway 60

Equipment included the Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod and Really Right Stuff ball head