A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
For several years, I have avoided learning more than the basics of Adobe Photoshop CS6 and now Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud). Since Adobe has moved away from selling new boxed versions of their software every few years to a subscription system with continual updates, I took advantage of their subscription benefits and downloaded Lightroom 5. Without yet bothering to read the manual, I fiddled with it a bit by going back through a couple of photo collections from several years ago and seeing what happened. I was, and am amazed, at what can happen with Lightroom 5. I've read that some professional photographers stay with Lightroom 5 rather than use the full-blown Photoshop. I do use the full set of wonderful Topaz filters with Photoshop CC, which I have enjoyed playing with. Now I am fearful of how much time it is going to take me to go back through many zillions of photo files to bring them up to Lightroom speed. I may never take another new photo. So you may see some re-posts of old photos re-edited in Lightroom 5 just because they look so much better. I'll keep you posted. Comments on Lightroom versus Photoshop CC are welcome.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about why we should take photos. The problem with taking photos for some people is that everything we see around us today is so familiar that we hardly think that the things we see today are worth converting to photographs. Yet tomorrow, and still yet, decades later, the sights and people we see today are precisely what we will wish we had committed to photos. As we get older, we get more nostalgic, we think more about our past and the families and people and homes and streets and schools and towns where we lived. And we often fervently wish we had put forth the effort either to take pictures of these sights and people ourselves, or that we would have had someone else do it. With today's cheap and versatile digital technology, no reason exists why we should avoid recording our environments today for future perusal and to enhance our memories.
When I was very young, my mother had a Kodak camera which she had at college and for a short time after she was married. Then she lost the camera, or had it stolen at the Cody WY Stampede grounds. She had taken some photos with this camera of us kids when we were just a few years old, but then she could not afford to replace the camera. Imagine even being able to pay for the film and the developing of such photos when a quarter was a fortune. We did not have any other photos in our family until I bought a $1.98 Baby Brownie, and two or three years later a $3.98, or thereabouts, box Brownie when I was about 14. I took dozens of photos with these cameras of my siblings, parents, the farm and the place where we lived. But I made a big mistake in not having others take photos with me in them, and so I ended up with a scant half dozen or so photos of myself taken between the ages of about five and sixteen or seventeen.
Here is a list of some things I wish I had taken photos of in the years before I left home at age 17:
The houses where we lived, especially the interior of the houses. Of course, flash was rare and flash was expensive, but even a few photos of the interiors of the homes would brighten our days today. We do not have a single photo of the home we lived in at Ralston WY during WW II for three years.
The inside of the schools and classrooms where we went to school, with all the memories of those hallowed halls.
My friends in school and at church.
The interior of the shop where Dad made all of his inlaid veneer pictures.
The high school trips we took for FFA, band, and other school activities.
The homes and people in our neighborhood at Penrose and Ralston. These homes are all long gone.
The interior of the old Penrose church before Dad tore it down.
Our long and torturous school bus route 12 miles back and forth to school each day.
The main streets and other scenes of the three towns familiar to us at the time: Cody, Powell, and Lovell, plus some photos of Cowley and Byron, two smaller communities important in our growing up.
More photos of the farming work we did in raising sugar beets and alfalfa hay.
These examples are only a few of the images I would give anything to have now, to share with my family, my siblings, and others who are interested. People seem to have a general interest in old photos, no matter who or what is in them, as we transplant ourselves into their lives and locales in reconstructing our own. Of course, one of the problems was cost. I had very little money in high school, and the cost of film and developing, though miniscule by today's sstandards, was nonetheless a barrier. Plus some photos were not possible without more sophisticated equipment than my cheap drug-store cameras. But, in retrospect, if I had not bought so many bottles of grape Nehi, and PayDay and Baby Ruth candy bars while spending my noon hours shooting pool in that vile den of iniquity, Funk's Pool Hall, I could have had many of the photos I so ardently wish now that I could have. I'll write more later about people and places after I was married that I should have thought more about in terms of what I would want in the future and then taken many more photos of them.
The moral to the story is: Don't let the world pass you by with scenes and pictures that you think are so common place today that you don't want to bother with them. Today's humdrum scenes and places are tomorrows priceless artifacts and memories, so save them whether you want to or not. You and your families will be forever grateful.
I've learned that it's a huge mistake to assume that, just because I have already taken dozens of photos of a particular rose bush or flower yesterday and the day before, that it will be a waste of time to take more photos of it today. Big mistake. Flowers, including rose bushes, change hour by hour. The colors shift, the light changes, new flowers and roses are in different stages of budding, blooming, and fading. You find a different angle to shoot from. You take photos at a different time of day, finding the sweet spot of light at dawn or at dusk or going out on a totally overcast day. But then you find the sun can be your friend also, as you shoot against the sun and watch the translucent petals shine. You can never take enough photos of the same rose! You can delete instantly, but what you are looking for are those few photos that will knock your socks off after you download them on your computer and you sit in wonder at the beauties of nature and the incredible gift of digital photography.
Too many people ignore the wonderful benefits and long-term legacy of taking photographs. They think they are too busy, the usual weak excuse for everything, don't have a camera, that grandpa takes the pictures, and that no one likes to have his or her picture taken. Bad, bad, erroneous thinking. Here are five reasons you should reconsider, repent, and start taking photos if you are among the backsliders and are letting life go by without a photographic chronicle:
Photography is cheap. I paid $1.98 for my first Baby Brownie in 1946. I had to pay for film and developing. I wouldn't take a million dollars for the photos of my family that are preserved with the photos from that Baby Brownie. Today's digital cameras are miniature miracles. You may spend $100, more or less, for something that will take decent pictures. But then the marginal cost of taking pictures is zero. Just don't rely on your cell phone photos. They may be ok for Facebook or for emailing, but they won't work for printing and enlarging. Get at least 6 mp or higher.
Photography is easy. Unless you want to be a professional photographer, just turn your camera to automatic, move your thumb off the lens, start shooting, then instantly correct for exposure and blur.
You will rue the day years down the line if you don't have a photo record of your kids, your dogs, your house, your street where you live, yourselves, your families. Few complaints are more sad than the complaint "I have no photos of the kids when they were little."
You will see the world and everyone and everything in it, every flower, every cloud, every person, every landscape through new and richer eyes, gaining a greater appreciation for the incomparable creations of nature and for the people you love.
Sharing photos will bring a new dimension to your life. Words can be inspiring, but nothing can describe home sweet home or your two year old learning to walk like a photograph.
True, you need a computer to get the most benefit out of a camera. I hear so many excuses about why people don't have or won't use a computer. Find a ten year old kid to teach you. Computers are cheap, cheap, cheap today compared to 15 or 20 years ago. You can do so many things with your photos on a computer. You can share your photos right out of the camera, but a photo editing program will work wonders on your photos and, besides, these programs are fun to use. Such software can be virtually free, very cheap, or more expensive and sophisticated. PhotoShop Elements and ACDSee Pro are $100 or less, or you can ask your friends what they use or ask Google for a free photo editing download. With a computer, you can email photos, put them on Facebook, put them on a blog, download them on one of dozens of photo sharing galleries you can make available to whomever you want to see them. Since many families live far apart, photos bring families and children closer together and strengthen family bonds and ties. Or, if you are a geezer like the Curmudgeonly Professor, you don't have much else to do anyway and you might as well take photos. Taking photos will open a new multi-dimensioned life for you and you will never regret your decision to begin.
So there are some reasons why you should take photos. Readers are invited to submit their own new or additional reasons or comments. We need to get a movement moving here. Love, the Curmudgeonly Professor (and enthusiastic and converted photographer).
Most people past the Captain Kangaroo stage have at least two major sets of photos:
Pre-digital photos, including black and white, Polaroid, Kodachrome--some printed but mostly in slides. Remember when we had our nice little slide projector (yes, son Jimmy, you managed to render that inoperable through your insatiable curiosity, along with my Retina IIIC, an original gem of a 35 mm. camera), and we had our slides all neatly organized in labeled boxes? Black and whites were some times organized into photo albums on black paper with white or black photo corners holding them on the pages, about half of which fell off over the years. Sadly, many of these albums were cannibalized as people robbed them of favored pictures. Polaroids were fun, but most of them look like microwaved Jello today. We printed some photos from slides, but mostly we just looked at the slides. Then, over time, we accumulated shoeboxes full of unorganized prints and negatives and slide boxes full of slides, which became increasingly disorganized and out of order over time. We keep acknowledging that we need to something with these photos some day. But, out of sight and out of mind, we often never get around to doing anything until, sadly and all too often, we have waited too long.
These collections of pre-digital era photos are the lifeblood of our heritage, and deserve careful preservation. We'll talk more about what to do with these treasured relics of our past in the next post in this series.
The second set of photos, which emanaged from the digital era, are digital photos. Most people I talk to, if they take photos at all, say that the photos are all sitting on their hard drives and they don't know what to do with them. More on this later.
In the year 2000, I donated most of my office book collection, including an impressive transportation economics collection, to the University Library, cleaned out my desk, hauled a few boxes home, and retired. The vultures who had been circling my prime office space on the 6th floor of the Marriott School of Business at BYU descended and apparently figured out who would be heir to the office. No trumpets blew, no tears were shed, but I did get a nice black BYU rocking chair, suitable for retired professors who no longer profess.
In recognition of my termination of 45 years of teaching, my five children generously went together and bought me a new camera. Until 2000, I, like everyone, used film cameras, and I had collected a batch of them over the years. My kids gave me a Kodak DC280 Zoom Digital Camera, costing somewhere around $600. I was thrilled to begin with, but then my spirits were dashed when I realized that this camera was a digital camera, and I had no idea how to use it, or that I would have to buy some other stuff to be able to take pictures and do anything with the photos I took. So I let the camera languish a bit while I gingerly set forth to see if I could figure out how to use it.
Imagine: this camera was a 2 megapixel camera. Two megapixels! "The Kodak DC280 offers . . . a high two megapixel resolution allows for fine detail even at large image sizes." Say what? The camera also included a generous 8 MB flash memory card. Wow! And a four-second shutter lag was featured, so you had to ask people to keep smiling forever while the camera got ready to shoot again. In the reviewers words, the DC280 had "some of the best color we've seen," is a "feel-good camera,"and suggests you can print a 4x6 photo without "trimming a pixel."
Thus this camera turned out to be an initial disappointment, though I was happy that my kids had recognized my need to to something after I retired. However, as the world turned, so to speak, the gift of this camera turned out to mark one of the turning points of my life. Kodak was late to the gate on digital, and nearly lost its shirt as a result. The debate between digital and film was raging in the year 2000 and for a few years afterward. But as I got the hang of my revolutionary 2MP Kodak, I could see that photography would never be the same for me, or for anyone else in the entire world. Thus, the Kodak gift was instrumental in leading me to a decade of learning and experimenting with digital photography, a hobby that now consumes much of my time (not to mention my money).
I graduated from 2 to 4 MP with a Nikon Coolpix for $400, to a 6 MP Canon Rebel XT for $800 which is an absolutely wonderful camera, to a Canon 850 8MP camera which I still carry around in my pocket everywhere I go and which I have used to take thousands of pictures and then to a Sony 10 MP camera that produced a slew of photos. Finally, I graduated to the Canon 7d with 18 MP, far more horsepower than I should ever need, but I figured, what the heck, who knows how long I will be around. The Canon 7d shoots HD video, and I use a 16G (as in gigabyte) memory card which holds over a thousand photos. I can cheerfully blow up photos as large as I can afford to get them printed.
The net result is that I have over 35,000 photos stored on my PC hard drive and another 17,000 on my Mac, even after brutal deletions and editing. This load of photos is both a blessing and a curse, as I now must actually face up to streamlining and organizing my collection. One disaster was a loss of 5,000 photos several years ago on my Mac, a loss I never could figure out. I'm a bit more careful now about external backups and DVDs. I was actually backing up my Mac when something weird happened and I lost the photos.
Thus, I thank my five kids once again for their thoughtfulness ten years ago in starting me on the digital photography route. I still need to learn much about photography, but have made a bit of progress by trial and error and reading bits and pieces here and there. I have uploaded thousands of photos to my various blogs, and have started a commercial portfolio at dmblood.zenfolio.com. I am now going to focus a bit more seriously on trying to sell photo cards and photo prints. Mine aren't the best in the world, but some of them are quite good, and as good or better than a lot of other prints I've seen for sale.
I just wonder where the next 10 years I will lead, a period of time I may not be around to realize. However, while I am here, I will continue to play with the newest and the best new digital innovations that we miraculously have been blessed with. Digital photography has changed our lives in ways we are just beginning to realize, and will continue to make inroads in our understanding and appreciation of the world, of our families, and of what is happening in our lives.
Taking photos is partly fun, partly hard work. Taking pictures of flowers can be a bit of a struggle for an old creaky Curmudgeonly Professor because if you just shoot them from the top looking down you get a bunch of flower pictures that look like you shot them from the top looking down. Ideally, one would take flower pictures on their knees or perched on their stomachs. So I compromise by stooping over the best I can. Days had been overcast for several days in a row before we went to Thanksgiving Point, the wonderful flower gardens located in Lehi UT, just south of the geographic location known in Utah as Point of the Mountain. We now call it the former Point of the Mountain since one of the most spectacular deposits of pure sand resides at that location and builders and contractors are busy buying up the mountain truckload by truckload. And on windy days, sand blankets the valley. But I digress, which is how I typically got through 50 minute class periods if bored. What I started to say is that the sun was brighter than I hoped for on Friday, so many of the photos had a washed out look from too much sun. Thanks to photo editing software, I was able to resurrect most of the ones I wanted to save after deleting the dogs.
I liken photo editing to putting lipstick on a girl to make her look more beautiful. True, you don't want to doctor up your photos overly much, because you do want them to be authentic. But photo editing is especially helpful to correct the big 4: focus, saturation, cropping out unwanted garbage, and light. It's nice when you can take a photo that comes out perfectly black and restore it to a useful photograph.
Saturday we went to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. Rain fell on the way there, and a few sprinkles promised to wreck the photo op when we got there. But miraculously, the rain stopped, the sky stayed mostly overcast, and the photo taking worked out wonderfully. The big problem was waiting for all of the brides to get out of the way so they wouldn't obstruct my photos.
Then I spent two days and a little more tweaking, cropping, fixing, deleting, and hoping I am not getting carpal tunnel syndrome. So now I have another vast store of photos to post on blogs, print beautiful prints, make photo notecards, burn DVDs, and whatever else there is to do with them. The great fun in taking a bunch of photos is to find the surprises: the precious few photos that just come out stunning and end up being the popular "keepers." When people ask me why I keep taking more photos when I already have thousands of unused ones on various hard drives, I reply, "It's just like buying a new book. The new book is more attractive and exciting than the thousands of books you already have, many of them unread. Similarly, the next new photo may be a gorgeous surprise that makes you reaffirm your faith in the eternal beauties of nature and the pleasure people derive by seeing them."
Be prepared to see a plethora of yellow ox-eye daisies. I have a bunch. Now I'm ready to start posting again.
One day recently I bothered to look at Albert Bierstadt's painting titled "Yosemite" hanging over the couch and turned to my wife and said, "I hadn't noticed it for ten years, but I really am deathly ill of looking at that painting." My wife and her sisters had paid $350 for the painting to give to my wife's late father, and my wife received it after his death. I gave it to my wife's sister, who, I think, plans to put it on eBay. Meanwhile, I thought, "Since I have over 3,000 frameable pictures, more or less worth framing, why don't we use more of my photos?" So here are a few we ended up with. These photos of the pictures aren't the best, and I will take some better ones, but these will do for now.
The above photo is of a rural scene with a split rail fence of the Joseph Smith farm in Palmyra NY, taken in October 2009.
Sunflowers near the Jordan River in autumn
Iceland Poppies from the Bellagio in Las Vegas
Tulips from Thanksgiving Point, poppies from Alpine meadows, red and yellow roses from my back yard in St. George UT. Note the mats for the red poppies and the tulips. I've decided to digitally mat all of the photos I print from now on. The top three photos are all metallic prints, which gives them a wonderful sheen and appearance on the wall. I'm in the process of resurrecting my Zenfolio galleries and price lists for prints. In the meantime, if you are sick of the old stuff hanging on your walls, check out the link to Peppermint Tulips on the right. If you find something you like and have some questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org So far, we've hung about 25 new photos on our living room and entry foyer walls and haven't even started on the downstairs. And if we get tired of these, there are several thousand more to take their places.
All of a sudden I'm getting a blue box with a double right arrow on the lower left of all my photos. The only thing I have done different is use Norton 360 for virus protection. This is a real nuisance because I can't see the photos very well. Any genius out there know where it comes from and how to get rid of it? I hope?
Lesson Number 1: When you set forth on your photographic journey and take 100 or more photos, check to see if your memory card is in your camera before you go, not after you get back. Your photos will be infinitely better and you will be in a much better humor.
My latest photography chapter, which began with a $1.98 Baby Brownie in about 1946, began when I opened the box containing my eagerly awaited Canon 7d. Of course UPS called and said it would be delivered yesterday between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Guess when it came? The UPS guy said, with a smile, "better late then never!"
The camera is big, it is heavy, and has 10 times more buttons and doodads than a TV remote. It shoots 18mp in both JPEG and RAW, and shoots HD video. Not being one to read the instructions unless I have to, I walked out the door to find the nearest flowers just to see what happened, and this is what I found. I'm not sure I can justify spending money on a new camera, but then it's about the only thing I do and it's cheaper than a boat and a ton of other things. It's also cheaper than a single dental implant, and I need two of those. And you can't take thousands of photos with a dental implant, you can merely chew. The camera has a steep learning curve and I'll seriously have to get busy and figure out stuff, some time before Matlock starts this afternoon. So watch what I come up with and we'll see if I can learn to use this. I'm anxious to move my photos on to another level if I can learn how to do it.
With today's propensity for lying, misrepresenting, and distorting reality in politics and in some media coverage, what can we say about the honesty of photos? Can we really believe photos we see in the media are actual images of what we would have seen had we been there? With today's Photoshop software and other photo editing software, even an amateur can turn a photo into something that is a gross misrepresentation of the original photo. Now, no one need have warts, acne, or scars, and unwanted people and distractions can be Photoshopped out of existence, so all we end up with is a photo of what we wish we were, what we think we should be, what we wish the world looked like and we ignore reality. How much photojournalism can we really believe? I would like to think most of it, since photojournalists often risk life and limb and use incredible skills to enable the rest of us to see the world as it is. We just hope that those who choose not only to lie with their distorted words, but also with photos that portray the world as they want it to appear, not as it actually is, are found out for what and who they are.
Yesterday I pulled the straggling petunia plants by the front door. Last year the petunias continued to bloom beautifully up until final frost some time in October, but for some reason this year they were blooming one day and then, overnight, they gave up the ghost and croaked. Some of our neighbors' petunias are still blooming, so we can't figure out why ours gave up so soon. I miss the sweet perfume of petunias going in the front door, and must now wait until spring before they will bloom again.
This summer has been a weird summer for plant growth. June was cold, then summer hit with a flourish with high heat in July, and the plants did not know how to behave after being treated so rudely. Tomatoes bloomed abundantly, then lots of green tomatoes set on, then the plants just stopped blooming. I harvested three puny cucumbers from my cucumber plant, while the zucchini plant just kept sprouting new joints like the monster plant in Little Shop of Horrors but very few zucchinis.
Frost has already come to the high country in Utah, with some showing up on the grass in the valleys. A major frost that will obliterate my monster zucchini plant and everything else is not far behind. But plant growth has seemed bewildered this year. The mums in my neighbor's gorgeous rock garden bloomed on until late frost last year, but most of them have already died.
Not that autumn is not a beautiful time of year, at least for a little while, replete with yellows and browns and reds and berries and rose hips and crystal clear translucent days. I just hate to give up the flowers for another year, since flowers are what I mostly photograph. Very few blossoms now appear on the Jordan River Trail, so when I take my camera out for my walk, I have to be creative in finding something to photograph. The rule is, stand still, look around you, and take photos of what you see. Thus, instead of taking so many photos of flowers, I take photos of ducks, plants gone to seed, leaves, and trees, while I scavenge along the sidewalks for anything still blooming this late by the sidewalk. One day I will find a single rose, another a beat-up daisy, a late-dying ox-eye, a photogenic gerber, a pine cone. Then, on a day when I think at the outset I may be lucky to take a half dozen photos, I end up at home with 75 to 100 images on my camera which means another two or three hours to sort, delete, polish up, and post. The delete button is so forgiving. Not so in days of yore when we paid to have our entire rolls of films developed before we sorted out the ones to throw away.
The concentration that it takes to find new things to photograph each day, or new perspectives and new photos on old things, brings us closer to nature than we ever thought possible. We become sharply aware each day of the nuances of nature as blossoms emerge and quickly fade and vanish, as plants go to seed, and as the colors of leaves begin to change, first with timid tinges of yellow and red, and then one day turn into blazing vistas of indescribable beauty. We enjoy autumn while we can, knowing that the beauty of autumn is fickle, just as the flower blooms of summer are transient, and await shortly the bony arms of leafless trees rattling in cold winds to usher us through the winter.
At least I will gain another two months or so of flowers when we go to St. George before long. The roses should be in full bloom in another blossom cycle, and then there will be another round of autumn color to brighten the landscape. And then in mid-February, the blooms will begin to come again. I suppose I may be a coward for not wanting to stay the winter here and take photos of snowy streets and landscapes, or maybe just give the cameras a few months' rest. But nothing is as exciting or as entertaining as downloading another hundred photos and seeing, just maybe, if a few gems might emerge that bring a light to your face and make you glad that you discovered photography late in life as something beyond taking family photos over the decades.
When I first started blogging, I also began posting photos, with no clear purpose in mind. I had no idea nearly two years ago how mutually important both blogging and photography would become to me. In comparison with a straight writing blog, there are some disadvantages and extra burdens to taking and editing numerous photos. First there is the time it takes to shoot photos, although most of the photos I take are on my morning walks, which get extended, some times for an hour, looking for stuff to photograph. Usually I take anywhere from 50-200 photos per day, averaging more than 1,000 per week, of which I typically delete one-third to one-half, depending on how many rotten shots I have. But film is cheap, so to speak. Then it takes anywhere from one to two or three hours just to do a basic sort, editing with crops, exposure and saturation adjustments, and other needed remedies or enhancements. Next I decide whether to put any new photos in digital mats, or convert any of them to digital art. So by the time I actually post a few photos, I've put in anywhere from two or three hours to as many as five or six just working with the daily photos.
One solution is to take fewer photos. However, having caught the photographer's bug, I'm always looking for the rare gem, the unexpected shot, the photo that started out as a worthless photo and turned into a stunning masterpiece. Since our mobility has been a bit restricted of late, I have to depend on the same routes, the same things to photograph. And yet, I have never run out of new things. Nature changes daily. Light changes daily. Weather changes daily. Flowers change daily. Or, I just simply take more photos of the same flower, of the same scene, and end up getting a surprising variety of new and different photos.
The cost of taking and editing so many photos, of course, is less time for writing on the blogs. I love writing as much as I love photography, but lately the writing has suffered. My wisdom about WalMart, Costco, and such important matters has taken a hit. I'll have to ration the amount of time I spend on photos and spend more time bloviating. Someone wrote the other day that people make a big mistake when they quit blogging, their last blog post reading something like "Nobody reads this worthless thing anyway, so why bother?" We still gain many personal benefits from blogging anyway. Besides, if you wrote a 250 page manuscript, and stuck it on the shelf, how many people would read it? So keep blogging, writing, and taking photos. If no one else reads it, you can always admire your own work.