04. February 2016 · Comments Off on Travel and Compromise · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, Travel · Tags: , ,

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”   Mark Twain

What I have found, is that as a photographer, there are compromises that need to be made when travelling. The number of compromises increases with the number of people you travel with.  The featured image above is an example; shot from the bus window as we were driving by. The photo required large depth of field, high shutter speed, which meant high ISO…Compromise.  If I had been by myself, I could have stopped, set up the tripod and had a better image. 

Sunset, a set of compromises.

Sunset, a set of compromises.

The compromise is often around time, as a photographer, I need time to take photos, the others don’t want to wait, or can’t wait.  Sometimes the compromises are with yourself; in the sunset picture the rest of the group was enjoying a cold one, or in the pool, I make the choice for the photo rather than cooling off.  There were other compromises as well, no polarizer  because of time and condensation.  Not having enough time to deal with the condensation that makes the left part of the image soft. 

I knew going in that travel would be a set of compromises, not enough time in return for having the experience.  Compromise was forced on me in that my primary body was in the shop and I was using the backup body.  And so, the list of compromises continues.  There will always be compromises. Given that there will always be compromises, then the question becomes what choices do we make in the face of competing desires or goals, how do we choose between more than one goal with limited time and resources?

Rice paddies and mountains

Rice paddies and mountains

With ‘Rice paddies and Mountains’ a different comprise; I was riding a bike with my camera in my knapsack, limited amounts of time to stop, no deviation from the route.  Exceedingly well worth the the bike ride, and even the pack spill that I went down in.   Lot’s of possible ‘IFs’, but if I was focused on what was not available I would not have been present for what was available.

Tanah Lot is incredibly popular as a world heritage site. In this photo there were folks on both sides of me and behind me all jostling for an opportunity to take this photo.  How do we deal with others that may have goals that are different than mine?  

Photography, like life is learning to choose and live with compromises.

For more pictures of Bali, visit my Bali Album

Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot

26. January 2016 · Comments Off on Too Perfect? · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, Travel · Tags: , ,

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali

I was sharing with a friend photos from Bali. He surprised me and said the pictures were too perfect ! LoL

Are these photos too perfect?

Everyday beauty, Common offering of flowers in Bali.  Too Perfect?

Everyday beauty, Common offering of flowers in Bali

Sunrise and fishing. Too Perfect?

Sunrise and fishing

Sunset

Sunset


Water Park / Temple

Rice paddies and mountains

Rice paddies and mountains

I would argue that they are not too perfect, but rather their imperfections are not as glaring as the typical travel point and shoot pics. No, not too perfect.

Let’s look at each of these photos and see what might have been done better.

The bowl of flower petals, gorgeous bowls made every morning. In the photo the upper rim of the bowl is slightly out of focus.  The red was more vivid than the photo. And there is a glare reflection in the center of the bowl.  If I had been using a polarizer, the the colors would be better.  A tripod and greater depth of field would have helped the upper rim. No not too perfect

Looking at the sunrise photo, a nice photo, one of the best from the trip. My timing was slightly off, the boat needs to be slightly more to the left. But worse, is that the horizon is not level.  I should have caught that imperfection in post processing.  Again, if I had had a polarize on the colors would have been more vivid. No, not too perfect.

The sunset photo although eye catching has many goofs that the trained eye will notice. First are the awful spots, worse than zits on a face, on a face you don’t get a lot of choice, in a photo you do. Also the horizon isn’t level. But there is another problem with this photo over on the left edge, notice the softness in the water?  Our rooms were thankfully air conditioned to about 70 with much of the humidity remove.  Outside at 90 to 100 and 75% humidity was a different story.  The issue was, taking the camera from the cold room outside promptly caused LOTS of condensation on the lens.  This needed to be carefully wiped away to take a shot until the camera warmed up and it was good for about 10 seconds.  Again, a polarizer would have made the colors more vivid still. No not too perfect.

The water temple is nice, but notice the lens flare above the fountain?  Taking time, with extra shading from a hat would have prevented the lens flare.

The rice paddy with mountains; see the glare in the water?  That would have disappeared with a polarizer, and the polarizer would have made the sky darker more contrasty.

Conclusion, no not too perfect.  However, there are several vastly more important lessons to be gleamed here. There isn’t really perfection, it is a journey as we become more perceptive to nuances.   There is a prayer that I love that speaks to learning to live with imperfections. “God, I humbly ask you to remove all of my shortcomings that get in the way of me being of service to you”  notice not all the shortcomings, some of the ‘shortcoming’ might just be needed even though we may not like them. Photos like life are not too perfect, they are perfect they way they are.

15. August 2015 · Comments Off on Pretty Pictures · Categories: Philosophy, Photography · Tags: ,

This week, I am not writing very much.  I have spent much of my photo time the last two weeks looking at photos and improving them in the digit dark room with the goal of making pretty pictures.  I have found that over time, my criteria for what is an okay picture has evolved, that I get pickier about what I like.  The pictures today generally have to have better composition, and be better technically (straight horizons, no spots, etc) than what they use to be be.  The net of all of this, is for me prettier pictures.

I saw the opening image in the rear view mirror and stopped.  At the time, and now it is a golden crown.  We were in the right place at the right time; there are many right places and right times if your eyes are open.  Paying attention leads to pretty pictures.

One of the Windows Arches.  Seeing the possibility

One of the Windows Arches. Seeing the possibility

The image below is about what the camera produced, but in my mind’s eye there was more than this. The result a pretty picture after a bit of work.

One of the windows arches in Arches National park

One of the windows arches in Arches National park

Here is another variation of the same scene.  Both can be nice pictures.

Another pretty picture

One of the windows arches in Arches National park

When I got married a few years back, I gave away framed photos.  It took a while to frame them, and I had help from a friend.  But what was interesting was that there were lots of different pictures, and pictures that I found pretty were not the same ones others did, so pretty pictures, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The picture below has a very different feel to it compared to the arches above. Each of us is drawn by the feeling that a photo evokes within us.  The massiveness and strong lines can be accentuated with a crop as seen below.

Escalante slot canyon

Slot Canyon

You choose which one do you like best; there is no right answer only what each of us calls a pretty picture.

Cropped version to emphasize the massiveness

Cropped version to emphasize the massiveness

Come on over to Patrick Lynch Photography and see more.

25. July 2015 · Comments Off on What Makes a Powerful Photo? · Categories: Philosophy, Photography · Tags: , ,

I was pondering what makes a powerful photo? I was reflection on my photos from over the years some of which are here, others on my site (PLP), and found that the memorable, powerful photos were those that evoke strong emotions, even after years.

The cover image with the beam of light is a classic, almost cliche image, none the less it still has that strong sense of ‘let there be light’ of bringing light into our dark interiors.  When I took the photo, I was not thinking of what feelings the scene evoked in me.  Just that there was something (unknown at the time to me) that made that image the one to get.

The image below I found disturbing, and still do after all these years. It evokes my reaction to slavery, which in this case has a double meaning of a black man posing with number tag for bidding, and a person who is a slave to their body image. I would not hang this picture any place for a long time because I found it so disturbing, now it sits above my desk at work. What is your reaction to the photo?  When I took the photo, again, I did not know what it was in that instant that called to me, rather just something that said ‘I want this image’.  It wasn’t until I saw it in the digital darkroom that the impact of the image hit me.

A powerful photo of slavery

Slavery

 

The picture below is from the opposite extreme. It is a powerful photo because of the sense that I have a stairway to heaven.  I have always had a fascination with reflections and so when I saw this initially I had to have the photo and knew that it was a powerful photo.  Just how powerful I did not grasp until I saw the final result.

A powerful photo appealing to our spiritual nature

Stairway to heaven

 

The Camp Wolverton sign, based off to the camp patch brings up strong feelings in me, and so is a powerful image for me, but unless you were a camp staff or camper you find it a very ho hum photo.  I include this photo to illustrate that a powerful photo may depend on the context of the viewer.   Some contexts may be more universal than others; how many Instagram photos are there of a meal? Those meal images are captured because of the feelings associated at the time, but 5 years or 10 years from now, what feelings will be associated with that Instagram pic?

Camp Wolverton, BSA

A powerful photo for me, but not a universally powerful photo

Along these same lines are baby pictures.  How many times has an excited person wanted to show you baby pics that you find ho hum at best?  Well I now find myself on the other side of that conversation as a very proud grand pa ! I have lots of pic that show my wonderful baby grand daughter, would you like to see them?  The point again is that they are powerful photos for me, but other than the family I would be surprised if anyone else is particularly moved by them.

 

It is probably too much to ask that we know what the feeling is of an image before we capture it, however, it is certainly a question we should ask ourselves as we review our images.  What is it that makes a powerful photo?

  • Composition helps, but all composition doesn’t cut it by itself
  • The subject matter is part of it
  • and the unknown rest of what goes into an image.
27. June 2015 · Comments Off on When I get to the pearly gates, St. Peter … · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, Practice, Preparation · Tags: ,
At the end of the chess match, the black pieces and white pieces go into the same box- Russian Proverb
Shooting the photographer

Lower Antelope Canyon. Slot canyons are a great opportunity to practice composition and see what you learn

Dragon in the town of Joseph

Dragon in the town of Joseph

St. Peter will not ask ‘Did I shoot with Nikon, or Canon?’   My friends were teasing me and said, no he will ask ‘if you shot with Hasselblad?’, or Leica.  Or will he ask, ‘Have you been the best photographer you could be?’

There have been times in my life when I have been badly infected with ‘lens lust’; that is the belief that the next lens, gadget, techno wizzy thing will help me have the perfect photo !  It will won’t it?

And on the flip side is;

No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.- Edward Steichen

I suspect that Steichen was correct, that at best we might get 80% out of our camera.  I remember my sister-in-law getting incredible shots with her instamatic camera.  And yet it is naïve to say that technology doesn’t enable us to take photos we couldn’t have taken otherwise.

As much as I love new toys and new gizzies, I know in my heart that quality, stunning photos come from the photographer, not from the camera.  There is a What the Duck cartoon with a person saying to the photographer, ‘Wow your camera really takes nice pictures’ and the Photographer responds with ‘and your lips make nice noises’. This Link is to a humorous article that covers this affliction in detail. And we learn from humor as well…

So, how do I continue my learning to become an ever better photographer?  I read, and I practice.  As I practice, I have to continually review and see what works and what does not work and figure out why that is so.  Here are some of the areas that I practice and learn  in:

  • Camera setup and manipulation; for each of the lens what is the ‘best’ way to change the lens, how do I set the camera up for a time delay shot, how do I choose focus points, how do I do things in the dark?   I was at Bryce Canyon standing on top of a soon to be hoodoo spire of rock that was barely big enough for the tripod legs and trying to change lens. The lens was attached to the tripod (third hand) and in one hand was the new lens, and the other the body when the tripod blew over, lens hits camera & cracks the back, and I nearly go over the edge… a learning opportunity…
  • How do I compose a shot? do I check my corners?  What exposure do I really want? did I get it?  The pic below is an early pic.  It could have been much stronger if the branch were on a diagonal and the pine cone in the bottom right. The white sky background doesn’t really do much for me either.  So, what can I learn? Pay more attention to diagonals, don’t use the sky as a background.  And the start of composition is built, as guidance rather than hard fast rules.

    Pine Cone

    Pine Cone

  • What works for work flow, what better ways could I do something
  • Do I like the feeling in the photograph?  If not, what don’t I like and why?  The pic below has both the rear and the head of the buck, it would have been a better photo head on without the rear.  Additionally the pic is too contrasty for my tastes.

    Butt Head

    Butt Head

  • As I learn new techniques, how would I use them, where would I use them?

There are always opportunities to continue to improve, and yes, some may involve a new toy or gizzy, but the real photographer is me.  Similarly, how do I approach my life, am I learning, or do I hope that the next something out there will magically strike me wonderful?

To see more of my photos visit .

 

20. June 2015 · Comments Off on Eagles · Categories: Photography · Tags:

Decades ago, I worked on Don Henley’s house, the founder of the Eagles.  This is not about that, but rather about the bird, the American icon, the trash scrounger, and pretty bird; the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), the white headed sea hawk see Wikipedia on eagles.  

Although eagles are found in all of the continental states, they are not always near where we might live unless you have to live in Seattle.  Eagles are fishers, needing open bodies of water with plentiful fish, they are also scavengers and thieves trying to steal fish and offal from others.

Eagles fighting over over food

Eagles fighting over over food

To photograph eagles it helps to have a long lens or be extremely lucky.  For the most part, eagles tend to be skittish of people getting to close. I use a 100-400, or if I have time the 500mm lens. If you you have a crop factor camera, so much the better for extending your reach. Usually even with a long lens there is quite a bit of cropping required (see original of the photo below).  This means that there have to be enough pixels to crop, and it means that the image quality needs to be pretty good; in focus, no motion blur (usually).  You can’t do it with a cell phone or a point and shoot, unless you have that over abundance of luck.

The other thing it takes is patience, something that I do not have an over abundance of.   Unlike the Lord of the Rings, the eagles do not appear on cue.   So,  it means carrying around the right equipment (which is heavy), having it ready for the possibility of an eagle.

Cooperative Eagle

Cooperative Eagle

Cooperative Eagle

Cooperative Eagle

This photo is one such.  We were driving along a river in Wallowa-Whitman when I spotted the bright white head across the river.  I hollered at my cousin to pull over, but startled him instead, and by the time I got the words out of my mouth we were past the eagle.  It was three miles before we could turn around and come back, and the eagle was still there.

The opening photo from Homer, Alaska I had to stand still for 20 minutes waiting for the eagle to take off to get that shot. Hunched over a tripod watching of the right second (is is less than a second) is an exercise for the back muscles and the patience.

Often you will see the eagles flying, and will have to pan to get a decent shot.

Soaring Eagle

Soaring Eagle

This shot highlights (bad pun) another problem when trying to get birds in flight; the high contrast between the bird and the sky.  If you have the opportunity, using a better beamer on a flash will help to bring out some of the shadow detail that is lost.  This is a non eagle….

Blue bird with Better Beamer flash fill

Blue bird with Better Beamer flash fill

Note the eyes, without the flash the eyes would not have shown up like this.

To see more eagle photos see my gallery.

13. May 2015 · Comments Off on Using a Point & Shoot -Traveling Lessons · Categories: How to, Locations, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized · Tags: , ,
Lake Traful, Argentina

Lake Traful, Argentina

“No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.”

Edward Steichen

I am in Patagonia (Argentina) for 10 days.  I debated taking the Canon 5Dii, but decided not to bring it because it would be a tempting target for thieves.  Instead I opted for taking a Point & Shoot (P&S).  Below are my pro and cons around using a Point & Shoot.

Reasons I don’t like a point and shoot

  • No tripod – a tripod would have helped, even in the wind I could hold it down

    It was windy

    It was windy

  • No polarizing filter; the sky has big beautiful puffy clouds that just are not coming out  IMG_2624
  • More resolution; to allow for cropping
  • Sharper lens.  There is a distinct curvature in the P&S images that is annoying.  Lightroom  lens correction helps, but it is not enough.  (see the  image of lake Traful, Argentina)IMG_2677  IMG_2530
  • Can’t hand hold something that light in the wind steady.  Yes, I could/should bring a tripod and put a plate on the Point and shoot, but the tripod ball head is practically as big as the P&S.  A tripod by itself would have done nothing given the high winds that were blowing us people around.   However, putting my weight on the tripod would have done better than me swaying in the 40 mph winds.
  • Lower dynamic range (see waterfall photo).  This is particularly an issue when traveling when it is harder to get the morning and evening hours of low light that decrease the contrast.  HDR helps, but it is not enough to compensate for the very high contrast environments.
  • Have to have higher ISO with more noise to account for the hand held aspect.

Reasons for using a P&S

  • Less likely to be mugged when travelling abroad because of big expensive camera.  This was the primary reason for bringing the P&S versus the Canon big glass.  If it is stolen, then less loss.
  • It is lighter and easier to use (not true) when traveling.  Yes it is lighter, and smaller which is a big plus.  But in the wind, and for the shots I want, it did not produce them.
  • Why take a tripod for a P&S (oh how foolish am I).
    • With a tripod it is easier to take exposure bracketed frames to increase dynamic range.
    • Not have as blurry a photo.
    • Use a lower ISO that has better noise characteristics.

 

So the conclusion is….

I need a new small, doesn’t look like big glass, lighter solution.  So, for the price of a single big glass lens I can get a body and lens. I got a Sony Nex 6,

06. May 2015 · Comments Off on Spring break · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, Travel · Tags: , ,

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ “

Robin Williams

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Terry_Pratchett

For college kids Spring break is PARTY TIME!  (sorry no pictures of cute gals in bikinis and buff guys), but for me it is an opportunity to travel and photograph new things, or try and get a better shot of something that is compelling that I am not satisfied with.

Campfire on the beach- Spring break

Campfire on the beach- Spring break

PL20070128-Capitola-0241

A destination during Spring break

What do you do with your Spring break?  Do you give yourself a break?  We travel during Spring break.

 

This year, we will travel to the San Juan Islands for our week.  Usually we go to the southwest, but this year,  Spring break comes late for us, and we are heading North instead.

What goes into travel?  So much has been written.  For me, I have to recognize my expectations; do I want to sunbathe all day? or ride a single track all day or something in between ?  I am looking forward to getting great photos of harbors, coasts country side, quaint shops, bald eagles,  and maybe some fishermen.  Hopes include Orcas up close, and a good kayak paddle.

OK, so what am I going to do, to help fulfill my expectations?  I have acquired (thanks Amazon) several guide books and maps.  Now I just need to read them.  Taking the time to read them helps me prepare so that I know places to go to get the shots that I want to get, otherwise, they just make the suitcase heavier.  And then there is the camera gear.  I will take the rain covers for camera and lens, as well as a poncho and rain jackets.  Not sure what else yet (hum, not prepared?).

 

And I am looking forward to returning, refreshed with LOTS of photos.

24. April 2015 · Comments Off on Mystery Meat? — JPEG vs RAW · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, processing photos · Tags: , ,

 

SPAM - Mystery Meat

SPAM – Mystery Meat

“Mystery Meat = Any type of processed meat whose source indistinguishable.”

No this post is not really about mystery meat… LOL

It is however, about something like mystery meat.  Imagine going into a diner and ordering stew.  It arrives you eat it, it is not bad, it filled your stomach even if not gourmet cooking, and you would go back and have it again.  A friend asks you what was in it, and all you can answer is ‘mystery meat’.   If on the other hand, you went to the market, selected the ingredients, and then took it home, you could make a gourmet dish.   This however would take more time, and maybe it is enough to just fill the stomach with unknown stew.

 

So what does stew have to do with Photography?  Well if you are shooting in JPEG rather than raw, your pictures are mystery meat stew.  It seems to do the job, but not superbly. JPEG drastically reduces the amount of detailed information in a photo (diner stew).  The Red, Green, and Blue Channels of a RAW photo are each 8 to 14 bits of information (i.e. each channel holds between 255 and ~16 000 color values).   Each of the however many mega (millions) of pixels has this information.  JPEG typically does 3 types of reductions.  One is that it examines the photo and takes the top 250 or so most common colors in the photo and maps the whole photo into this reduced  color space.  This leads to groups of pixels all having the same color value.  This then allows for an optimization of storing one pixel and then a count of near by cells that have the same value.  You can sometimes see this in low res photos as little square  spots of the same color.  Then JPEG typically will reduce the pixel count as well (why have 9 pixels of the same value when 1 would do?).  The result of all of this is mystery meat, it is usually good enough to satisfy the stomach of Facebook, but it is not good enough to print or make a 3 day soup.   If you want fast food with mystery meat that is fine for posting on the web, then choose mystery meat (aka JPEG), but if you want a gourmet meal  then shoot with Raw and take the time in the kitchen.

 

Below is a medium resolution version (all that makes sense on the web) of the whole image.

Medium Res JPG

Medium Res JPG

Here are  two blow ups of the above image, one as high res Jpeg, and the other as low res.  You choose.

Low Res JPEG

Low Res JPEG

 

Blowup of higher res image

Blowup of higher res image

22. April 2015 · Comments Off on Sad Demise, The King is Dead, Long Live the King · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, Practice · Tags: , , ,
Babies without a mom

Elephant Seals,Piedras Blancas

“One of my greatest fears is not being able to change, to be caught in a never-ending cycle sameness.  Growth is so important” Matt Dilon

 

I sad to report the demise of Photosig, a site that I have recommended for a decade.  I have watched numerous students’ photos improve dramatically as they developed a photographer’s eye.  The idea was simple;

  1. Someone post a photo of theirs.
  2. Others would write critiques of the photo.  And this is where the learning takes place.
  3. And if still others found the critiques to be useful they were rate with thumbs up.  The critique writes then earned points that allowed them to post photos.

Learning to give a useful critique is important in several ways.  First, you have to learn to articulate what works and doesn’t work with a photo.  This requires engaging the photo and finding words to your reactions and figuring out what caused it.  This is critical to becoming a good photographer. Second, because it was someone else’s photo, there is much more detachment than if it were your own photo.  We tend to be our own worst critic; either too harsh or too lenient.   Third, because the critique has to be useful.

Photosig provided the structure that led us to learning. I am sad with the demise of Photosig.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King.  A toast to the cycle of kings.  Can we do no less?  Who is the new king? 500px seems to be the new king.  If you haven’t already looked at 500px you should check it out.

 

In my opinion, the quality of the images is better at  500px than it was at photosig, both from a clarity perspective, and from composition.  Critiques though are less structured and don’t lead people to grow as much as photosig did.   If you can learn to figure out why you like an image, then 500px  has more good images to look at and learn from.