Motivated by Sand in my Shoes

When I was a teenager my grandmother told me I had sand in my shoes. As I got older I began to understand her idiom describing my enjoyment of travel & discovery.01a copy
During my career, I was fortunate to travel many places locally, nationally & internationally. I experienced different environments, saw a wide diversity of lifestyles & discovered a lot about the world. As a perk to that travel, I earned a lot of frequent flyer miles enabling my family to experience some wonderful vacations.01ab
One place that left me in awe of the natural world was Yosemite National Park. Our experiences with Park Rangers & other National Parks motivates us to add these places to any itinerary we plan. Ken Burns described them as “America’s Best Idea”. I can’t disagree. Preserving these amazing places for all to enjoy is a testament to our respect for the planet we live on. As a photographer, it was overwhelming & almost too easy. Everywhere I pointed my camera I framed a dramatic image.

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I discovered that before traveling learning some history of the place & you will add to your enjoyment. London can be overwhelming with history & with iconic visuals. Having read the 1000 plus page “condensed biography” of Sir Winston Churchill I admired the man for his leadership, writing & persistence. In this picture of his statue, you don’t see his face but his form is easily recognizable as he keeps a vigil on Parliament.

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Eastern Europe was never on my radar as a place to visit. However, my daughter was doing a Fulbright in Zagreb Croatia & we decided to visit & share her experience. It had been 20 years since Communist Yugoslavia broke up however much of the culture had not changed. In many ways, it was like stepping back in time & reminded me of photos of Pittsburgh in the 1950’s. The trolleys were a big influence in this perception as were the clothes worn by older people. I noticed a tremendous difference in the appearance of those under 30 & those over 40.

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I try not to limit my curiosity to places I’ve never been. I’ve experienced new views without going far from home. As I’ve become more involved in photography I enjoy looking at something I’ve seen many times & discover a new context. The rivers, valleys & hills of Pittsburgh provide spectacular vistas. Now, when I wander in my hometown I look more for details or perspectives I haven’t seen before like this image of Alcoa Headquarters.. Also, it’s inspiring to see work of photographers from the Pittsburgh, New Kensington & Chautauqua Camera Clubs I belong to. If you have more than just a passing interest in photography I highly recommend joining a camera club near you.

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If you travel enough you encounter problems. Hurricane Sandy did that while I was in the UK for work. Fortunately, I had my camera & took advantage of an unplanned opportunity to wander around Birmingham. It reinforced the idea that having no plans can lead to serendipitous experiences. Not only did I discover a system of canals but also I went to Symphony Hall & enjoyed the afternoon performance of works by Dvorak.06 copy
I enjoy meeting friendly & interesting people. A camera over my shoulder has provided a conversation starter many times. Since the human condition is one of my favorite subjects I usually ask if I can take casual portraits. On a “Honey Trail,” my daughter discovered in her research of Montenegro we got lost. We ended up in the backyard of this very friendly wine maker. Fortunately, Jessica spoke some of the language & we elevated our conversation above pantomime. Another thing I enjoy about meeting people is that local knowledge is valuable.008
For some reason, Sedona AZ was basically unknown to me. So when we went there on a 1500 mile tour of the Southwest I experienced the beauty with fresh eyes. At the time I only had a point & shoot camera. However, the basics of a good photograph don’t really depend on the gear. That being said, I will be going back at some time with my DSLR.09
Later in that same trip out west, we rode the narrow gage RR from Durango to Silverton CO. Built in 1882 we climbed up into the Rockies along the Animas River where around every turn we saw a more spectacular view that the previous one. I highly recommend this relaxing scenic trip. However, I suggest buying a package where you go up by train and return by bus. The same views in reverse on a 3.5 hr trip can lose its appeal.

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I like to say you’ve never really visited a place unless you’ve been in or on the water. Not only does this perspective provide a chance for a better view, it is also an excuse to be on a sailboat. One thing I noticed immediately about the skyline of Seattle is that there are almost zero signs/names/logos on buildings. Photographer’s eyes notice what is missing.

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One night while wandering in New Orleans I cranked up the ISO on the camera & was searching for some unique Street Photography. The ambient light from buildings, signs & the streetlights created pools of light where amusing stories can be captured. On this shot, I masked the digital noise with an oil paint effect, which I think adds to the narrative.

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I am torn by a short trip where all the clothes I need can fit into 1 bag vs traveling for longer periods & face the universal dilemma all travelers’ experience. A road trip is on my agenda & a few other international adventures are in the planning stages. Since my last major trip to Cuba, I think I have stepped up my photo abilities. We shall see!

Natural Available Light

The variety of natural/available light motivates me to look at a scene in different ways. The diversity of lighting characteristics provides many interesting perspectives on subjects I may otherwise not have noticed. Technically I have no problem with high ISO further expanding scenes I see & try to capture.

 

The variety of natural/available light motivates me to look at a scene in different ways. The diversity of lighting characteristics provides interesting perspectives on subjects I may otherwise not have noticed. Technically I have no problem with high ISO further expanding scenes I see & try to capture.

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Shadows have an important role across all genres. This window accent in late afternoon light provided a wonderful display of contoured shadows. I have worked with this as a B/W image but I prefer the subtle hues in the original.

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The back-light was coming in from the barn door & with assistance from the drops of moisture it provided another layer of texture to a simple subject. When I first walked into the space the light is what got my attention. I then searched for a subject. There are many ways back-light can impact an image. With the proper position it can separate, add strength, create a mood or accent the subject.

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A personal preference for floral images is a background that supports the primary composition without conflict. This can be frustratingly hard when I am trying to isolate the beauty of a single flower. In a situation where back-light is the dominant source, backgrounds usually have less light & I can easily reduce the depth of field letting the background become soft forms, diffused shadows & muted colors.

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Overcast & rainy can be a good time to get waterfalls if you crank up the ISO. This is 5K f29 at 1/60. The reflective falling water is the natural bright component but much of the atmosphere is in the shadows. This hike was one of the few times I regretted not having my tripod to use for a long exposure. Fortunately I had good foul weather gear.

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When doing street photography I listen for street musicians because they add layers to the scene. A septet of musicians on a corner is hard to miss. I think the trombone player recognized the need to lower himself for me to see the entire band. For just a moment I was in sync with their tune. The strong available light on the BG wall was over-blow but Photoshop, even with a jpg original, was helpful. The noise/grain isn’t a distraction in my eyes. ISO12800 may seem ridiculous but it was the setting I needed to capture this NOLA moment. In my mind, if I had had to set up fill flash the intimacy would have been gone.

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Landscape photography requires a commitment of getting on location for early am light that I don’t have. However flat light of mid-day, clouds & reflections can result in some nice captures. To integrate reflections in the frame I explore different perspectives & angles. At times examining the direction of light & reflections is a lot like walking around a pool table to find the best shot. This shot is just off of Rt 120 North Meadow of Yosemite.

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Sunset fits my lifestyle more than sunrise. Give me a Ferris wheel, a sunset, an American Flag & water to work with & I will find an image. If only their had been a gull in the upper right. The Puget Sound/Seattle area is a place I would enjoy exploring more.08
The soft diffused light on the only bright part of the frame pulls your attention to her somber face. While the color of her coat, her posture & the background hint of melancholy, the umbrella helps frame her face & also adds an element of structure into the scene. The unseen factor is that it was taken in Liverpool England, which has a reputation for dreary weather.

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This is where I say I Love Digital. When I walked into this tobacco-drying shed in Vinales Cuba I immediately was captivated by the harsh tropical sunlight reflecting off of the deep brown dirt floor. After 1 year of experimentation I understood the advantages of RAW & was comfortable with the low light capabilities of my camera. This is exactly what my eyes saw. Being able to almost immediately capture it was very rewarding. The entire environment offered numerous possibilities but I was drawn to the faces of people.

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I was still just getting used to the camera in 2014 & only shooting jpg. On a trip outside of Sarajevo I saw a fog-bow, which is a less common cousin to a rainbow. The very subtle color gradations can be seen with close examination. Working with this image motivated me to further explore the digital capabilities of my camera & Photoshop.

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I have indeed had moments when I wished I had equipment & experience with fill flash. I also have recognized missed opportunities because the tripod was in the trunk. However, I have learned that Natural Light is a challenging motivation in how I approach many of my subjects. Recognizing subjects & styles of photography I enjoy has been helpful to whatever improvement I’ve had in the past 8 years.

Head in the clouds

During the last 10 years of my career the amount of air travel was a big motivator for retirement. In the past 2 years I’ve only made 2 trips by plane. However, I do miss the occasional inspiring view from above. I see a few photogs doing nice work with drones but I have zero motivation to buy one.

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Shadows are always a part of the story in a photograph. Sometimes the shade of the subject is all that is needed in the frame. I like the context this image can add to a story as either a beginning an end or even a transition.

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Moments of solace when looking out the window were one of the few benefits of becoming A Million Miler. Not only is this a nice moment in time it is a nice moment in space. The winglet silhouette & the edge light on the wing define the perspective. The position of the Cheshire moon in relationship to all of the other components especially the town below provides depth. The glow of the sunset on the horizon of the entire atmosphere is almost impossible to see from the ground.

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A perk of all the travel was upgrades. The title of this is Coming Home in 4F! My brothers & sisters flying every week will understand. Some travelers may prefer the more visually dramatic approach into PIT that brings them over downtown. I preferred coming in from the West where the view allowed you to see the more a more rural environment. Seeing the waning of winter as spring is on the cusp, is always a wonderful sight.

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I never had any desire to pilot a plane. However, I thought it would be neat to drive one around on the tarmac.

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On the 54th Floor in DTW the fireworks from a barge on the river below me provided a very unique vantage point. Sparkling explosions displayed almost at eye level was something I never expected to see. Being able to add foreground building on the side of the frame & having Windsor Canada, as background provided a wonderful balance.

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Being able to work with talented professionals was a big thrill of my career. Flying with Cherokee Helicopters for a Kenny Chesney Concert was fantastic!!! His craft was designed for stability & he had the eye of a photographer. The best shots were when I pointed the camera & he flew the helicopter. The client was happy with the shots we got.  However, the best shot didn’t fit the format of the show. On a test flight in the early afternoon Cherokee came down the Monongahela, over the Ft. Pitt Bridge & dropped down to approach Heinz field. The rivers around Point Park were filled with boats.

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Inspired by the work of David Burnett & Leni Riefenstahl I saw an opportunity at a track & field event to float a person in the air. It also happened to be a personal best pole vault for the athlete. I consider this an example of preparing to be lucky. OBTW I respect the art of her work but can’t condone her collaboration with The Third Reich. Your reputation is elevated or, in Leni’s case, destroyed by those you associate with.

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Miami sure has changed since I first saw it on the Jackie Gleason Show. Unfortunately this aerial image now creates a sense of significant concern when I look at it. With the seas rising & the potential of more powerful storms the risk & the downside to everything in this image is a nightmare. We must listen to the power of nature.09 copy
8 years after Katrina the Louisiana lowlands coast appears recovered from what the storm had done. On final to MSY from about 8K feet I couldn’t help but reflect on the big picture of how powerful nature can be. Seeing the world from the window of a silver tube provided me with a view that reinforced my perspective on the importance of doing my best to respect the environment. We have impacted the climate & we must take responsibility to do better. OBTW later on in that trip human error caused the lights to go out in the Super Bowl. We can’t control everything!

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This is one of my favorite pictures where the sky is a subject. The simplicity of a fragile bubble floating with the contrails of a plane miles above dissecting it is a perfect example of chance. The dual reflections are of the sun by the peak of the Washington Monument. Photo credit Jessica Kuntz. Her view of the world is one I respect.

Frozen Music

Music is a fluid & linear art for the ear. Live performances add emotion, theatrical visuals & a communal experience. Capturing a musical performance is better suited for moving pictures with sound. Stills only capture a glimpse of a musician or document memories. Maybe my ears override my eyes & this is why it is a genre I’m not very good at. I would appreciate tips from anybody that is both a photographer & a musician.

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While I enjoy a spectrum of music I never have been big on going to concerts. This performance of the “b Crew Butchers”, co-workers, enjoy making music as a diversion from traveling making live-TV. Poolside of SB 50 was indeed a good venue. It also shows what I consider most performance videos miss…the two-shot. Most films I see  use to many CU’s of hands & individual musicians. I enjoy a deeper visual story with interaction of the performers & occasionally with the audience.

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Street musicians are a wonderful part of the urban environment. At the 16th St Mall in DEN I could always count on interesting “relativity” shots. The constant flow of pedestrians is an interesting thing to watch. Here I was able to combine music, street photography & people on their phones. A three-fer! At first the coffee woman was not part of how the crop. After exploring options, I decided the face-less individual was indicative of the rhythm of the street. And, you gotta love pinky cup.

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This is another DEN “relativity” shot. I wonder if after making a withdrawal people feed the violin case? An element of street photography I look for are signs and their juxtaposition with the environment.

Ladies Night

One of my most recent explorations was to hear a group called Ladies Night featuring an all female horn section. The James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy has a name to long, and a performance venue in the basement to small. However the sound system was GREAT. The sightlines/lighting/clutter for photography were terrible but the musicians and the mix for the room were spot-on.  If the women couldn’t play the “All Female Horn Section” might just be a gimmick. They can play! The entire band is tight & balance songs with emotion that fills the room.  I would love to listen/see to them in a bigger venue where they could let loose.  I sensed that this horn section could really wail.  I would also love to get a 3 shot of all the ladies.  I did a little post on this shot.  Trying to balance that line of altering vs improving.

Geno Delafose

It was later in my life when I discovered Zydeco. As soon as I heard it I needed to experience it live. With roots in the bayou, it was easy to discover a home in MSY called Rock n Bowl. Unfortunately it took me 20 years after I found out about it to go there. The city of New Orleans is rich with music & Rock ‘n’ Bowl should be a part of any music lovers trip.   If there is any doubt about the happiness of Zydeco just look at the smile on Geno Delafose. There is much room for improvement in my photography but the smile is all I need to trigger the memory of this 2nd gen accordionist. You can find out more about Gino at http://www.genodelafosemusic.com/

NO shadow

NOLA SBXLVII The Musco lights creating this shadow of the violin player were on Jackson Square for one of the many “satellite remotes” CBS had for the game. I have always liked the qualities back-light has on a subject & it appears the musician is savvy enough to find the spotlight. Over the years I’ve learned when there is strong hard light look to include shadow as part of the image.

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Since this post is titled Frozen Music a snap of a statue somehow seemed appropriate.