Friday, October 24, 2008

Gone Fishin'

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Not really, but scenes like this are almost enough to make me want to take up fishing. I make fun of Cub Lake—pointing out its size and calling it a pond, but it's a lovely place to spend time and I am grateful to have it so close by.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Our Bridge to Nowhere

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Sorry. How could I resist that title? I have some questions to ask about this structure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Look But Don't Touch

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(I hope you will bear with me on the publication of comments and replies. If I am slow to respond, I will be able to catch up Friday or Saturday.)

I don't want to get too friendly with these thistles, but they are nice for viewing from a safe distance. The trouble is that while thrashing about in the field, I invariably get to close to one of these. But, then that's what denim jeans are for, right?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Lost in the Tall Grass

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The Husband and I both love the grasses that grow in our fields. Including the period when we were looking for a place and before we moved here in August, we have now seen the fields in each of the seasons. I can’t decide which is my favorite time to admire them. We enjoy gazing at the meadow from the windows in the living room. (Yes, I know these rooms are now called “great rooms”. I don’t think I can ever get used to that phrase. Ours is destined to be down-graded to a good old-fashioned “living room”. Well, at least I am a little past calling it the parlor.) I love wading through the grass to head for the hiking trail, or the trees at the edge of our place, or just wandering about in it and getting down low to look into it, rather than over it. In some places, I don’t have to get down very low to accomplish that point of view.

While looking at the photo above, it struck me why I may be so captivated by the simple grasses. A memory flashed into my mind—a memory as sharp in intensity as if it were from yesterday, but made as deliciously hazy by time as some parts of the image.

When I was very young— probably about four years old, my father took a short-term job in northern Louisiana. We were new in the neighborhood and I was just beginning to develop a keen curiosity about my surroundings, a longing for independence, and a taste for adventure—a potentially dangerous cocktail of tastes for a four-year-old.

One day, while we were very new to the area, my mother and I walked a short distance to meet a neighbor. I remember I enjoyed immensely both the walk and the lady we met. I’m not certain why meeting the lady was so special, but I suspect she gave me a great deal of attention—possibly fed me cookies, who knows. I do recall that the walk was wonderful partly because it included a stretch down a narrow path through a field of grass so high that I, of course, could not see over it. The yellow grass swaying around me hid me from the rest of the world and made me feel that I was in a special, secret, and magical land made just for me and one where adventure waited around every curve.

It turns out that I enjoyed the visit and the journey so much, I decided the next day to repeat it—alone. I didn’t think it necessary to share my plans with anyone. I just struck out across our tiny yard and along the narrow path. Of course, my young mother was frightened within an inch of her life when she discovered that I had disappeared. But, up until the time she found me, I had a simply marvelous time (the getting caught part I don’t remember well—only that it was unpleasant) and I suppose I have never forgotten the enchantment of getting lost in the shimmering golden grasses, luminous in the afternoon light.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What a Difference a Print Makes

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I have just had the value of making prints brought home to me in a vivid fashion.

While I never completely lost interest in prints, I had become quite distracted by the web experience and had formed the habit of rushing from one photo outing to the next and skipping the printing step. There are, after all, only so many walls to fill; and paper, as well as ink, are expensive. In my situation—months of preparing to move, moving, and not being certain now whether we will be able to stay in this house—putting holes in walls to display prints and creating more things that may have to be packed and moved again didn’t seem like a smart plan.

Besides, there is plenty to be learned from viewing images only on a monitor. What I see on my screen is a harsh enough reminder that I continue to struggle mightily with all the technical elements of photography. Lately, I have been most frustrated over my weaknesses in composition. Furthermore, while I am getting far more consistent in the exposure department with fewer and fewer outright losers, I haven’t begun to master exposures that fully capture what I felt when I saw the image in my mind. Even though I am improving in my ability to control depth of field, I continue to come up short of my goals. I experiment more frequently now with point of view, but I haven’t come close to pushing boundaries.

On a regular basis, I ask myself how is it that I can feel so passionate about what I am doing, yet that passion is not fully translated into the images I make? How long will I face this the great chasm between my intent and the execution. When Paul Butzi wrote recently that he considers himself "
a Photographer of Very Little Ability", I was floored. “Holy cow,” I thought. "If Paul Butzi has ‘very little ability’, where the heck does that put me!?”

To complicate matters, I added a bright, shiny, new monitor. Next, I added the Eye One Display 2 to my list of technological challenges. Having calibrated my previous monitors using the by-eye method, and being of almost zero ability when it comes to learning new software, I was destined for trouble from the beginning. Sure the software offers an “Easy Method”, but that would have been admitting defeat, wouldn’t it? Yes, I know that the intelligent thing to have done would have been to live with my limitations and opt for the easy path. No, not my style.

I dug into the “Advanced Method”, whimpered for help from The Husband and
Paul Lester when I was completely stuck and plugged away at it. The Husband was there for me and helped even though he knows nothing about color management; Paul generously shared the benefit of his experience and both of them made a difference. To put my limitations with software into perspective, let’s just say that I could swear that divine intervention powered me through the experience of learning Photoshop. Since, I often compensate for lack of talent and smarts with determination—that’s old-fashioned stubbornness, if we are being blunt—my health and sanity were spared with a few key breakthroughs and I now enjoy using Adobe’s mind-bending program. So far, no such intervention with Eye One Display. I’m still not satisfied with my calibration. A couple of days ago, I was so discouraged that I began thinking I had probably never had anything vaguely resembling decent calibration and that meant that I couldn’t possibly ever have produced any decent photographs. Everything I had ever done was garbage and a person with so little intelligence should never, ever tackle color management. (A dental appointment and the beginnings of a cold didn’t help my frame of mind.) I was ready to raise the white flag.

But, that’s where prints come into the story. Before beginning one last ditch effort calibrating the new gorgeous, but virtually useless monitor, I searched for the calibration prints I had ordered from Smugmug—they had proven invaluable in my previous by-eye calibration. Early in the search, I ran across a few envelopes of prints made over the last couple of years. Some of those prints had hung on the walls and when I ran out of walls, some had been stuck on the insides of cabinet doors in our old house. The prints all around me inspired me, challenged me, and helped to keep me on track. Looking at my failures was just as important as viewing the successes. (The stinker were inside cabinets that no one else looked in—my ugly little secrets.) Next, I opened some of the framed prints that had hung on the walls in our old house, but have languished in boxes waiting for a certainty that these walls will be ours. Too many of the prints reminded me of how much I still have to learn, but there were a few that succeeded in capturing moments of consequence to me and some reminded me that others had been happy to purchase copies of those prints. Furthermore, the prints showed that, although it might once again have taken divine intervention, I had managed to get some of my impressions on paper.

Since that day of discovery, I have shot with enthusiasm and a confidence that eventually, I will get close to calibrating this monitor and once again making prints that please me. If only momentarily. I was reenergized. By the way, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I require reenergizing about two or three times per month. It’s a herky-jerky journey, but I can only move at my own pace.