photograph

People Watching

Some people make things happen,
some watch things happen,
while others wonder what has happened.

        – Gaelic Proverb

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/13 at 1/125 sec., 48 mm

[Click on the image to view larger size] Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/13 at 1/125 sec., 48 mm

Vacationing students look down on an event taking place in the bandshell on the Daytona Beach boardwalk.

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No Justice for Boston

As I watch and read the continuing coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, my thoughts turn to our condition. People keep talking about “bringing the perpetrators to justice” and I don’t believe we can.

My word processor has a “justify” option. Using justification enables me to impose margins, adjust, and balance my text. Can any justice we enact similarly adjust and balance the lives of the victims and their families? It seems the only justice the victims would recognize is giving them back what they have lost, be it their legs or their lives. We are not able to bring the dead back to life and we can’t regenerate or fully restore blown off limbs. How is it we can so readily promise justice? The murderous and diabolic acts of 9/11 happened almost 12 years ago. Despite on-going war and the death of Osama bin Laden, no one I have spoken to in conversation seems to feel justified or restored.

All we can do as a society is enact discipline. Our laws provide the means for trying and imposing punishment for those who threaten our safety. In some cases, the punishment we bestow can be as grievous as the crime committed. Punishment is a deterrent, a tool for discipline. It’s the same thing we do when a child misbehaves – it is not justice. After those responsible for the bombs are caught and punished, will the families of those who lost loved ones be restored? Will lost limbs be regenerated? Will true healing and restoration have occurred? Sadly, no.

What we call “justice” is the equivalent of a life preserver: it helps keep society and its members afloat. Without punishment and discipline, we would drift and drown in a quagmire of uncontrolled chaos and selfishness. But admit that the punishment we enact isn’t going to restore or heal. It isn’t ever going to bring justice.

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/9.5 at 1/60 sec., 18 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/9.5 at 1/60 sec., 18 mm

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In the Shadows of Speed

So you might be wondering about the curious title of this post, and why the images included don’t convey motion or speed. Here’s the short answer: the photos are of the International Speedway Corporation™ headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was late getting to the beach the day I drove over to photograph the sunrise because a building had caught my eye en route. This is that building. These are the shots I captured when the sun was just peeking over the horizon through the heavy cloud cover that day.

The two images were caught about 5 minutes apart at a slightly different angle. I bracketed the shots, varying each by one to two stops, and decided in the end to create two HDR composite images from the various exposures. I like the mood and tones doing so added to the result. You can see that I did not choose to exploit the opportunity to make these images excessively surrealistic, as is so often done with HDR. It is a bit more telling in the second image, due to the increased contrast between light and dark among the sky and clouds.

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/27 at varied times from 4 - 10 seconds, 29 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/27 at varied times from 4 – 10 seconds, 29 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/27 at varied times from 4 - 10 seconds, 29 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/27 at varied times from 4 – 10 seconds, 29 mm

I hope you like the images.

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Called to Rise

“We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.

The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a king.”
― Emily Dickinson

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/5.6 at 1/125 sec., 200 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/5.6 at 1/125 sec., 200 mm

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Stories on His Face

He had countless stories on his face. He was one of those people who I just knew I could probably sit down and listen to and learn from for hours. Something about him spoke to me of days past; time gone by; a history yellow and fading from memory. He was very friendly, walking along, like me, with a cup of coffee in his hand. When I asked to take his photo he was hesitant but eventually smiled and said, “Sure.” He wished me a good day and turned and went on his way before I could get his name.

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/9.5 at 1/60 sec, 22 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/9.5 at 1/60 sec, 22 mm

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Nancy

Yesterday, I got up pretty early in the morning and made the hour-or-so drive to Daytona Beach to see and photograph the sunrise. It turned out to be a pretty overcast morning once I got there. Because I had stopped to take a few photos of a building glowing in the darkness that caught my eye, I was late. I ended up getting there about 10 minutes after the initial peek of the sun over the crest of the ocean horizon. (I’ll share the photo of the building in a future post.)

Over the course of my beach walk, I came upon Nancy. Nancy is a local to the area. She has a smile that was as warm as the rising sun embracing the earth with the light of a new day. She was great fun to speak with and finally I asked if I could take a candid beach portrait. She was happy to oblige me.

Here’s your photo, Nancy. I hope you like it.

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/13 at 1/60 sec., 82 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/13 at 1/60 sec., 82 mm

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Bars and Stripes in Glass

“We may shine, we may shatter,
We may be picking up the pieces here on after,
We are fragile, we are human,
And we are shaped by the light we let through us,
We break fast, cause we are glass.
We are glass.”
― Thompson Square

Glass has got to be one of the most fascinating and flexible materials on earth. It’s a solid liquid that can be shaped and molded and blown and stretched and stamped and etched and leaded and colored and swirled and patterned and fragile and bullet-proof and …

I think you get the idea.

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/16 at 4.7 sec., 60 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/16 at 4.7 sec., 60 mm

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How to Photograph a Cat

“In a cat’s eye, all things belong to cats.”
– English proverb

Photographing cats can be very tricky. Snapshots are easy, but getting an image that speaks for itself takes intentional effort. My efforts — both professional and as a shelter volunteer — have taught me some fundamental practices. Put them in place, and they’ll go a long way toward ensuring you’ll get shots you’ll be happy with.

When it comes to photographing cats, the first rule of thumb is patience. If you can’t master the first rule, there is no sense whatsoever in proceeding to any subsequent rule. A lack of patience will only result in cat snapshots, not intentional pet portraits. The cat photographer has to be willing to gain the cat’s trust before ever putting the camera to the eye. Depending on the cat’s personality (and your ability to interpret and interact with it), gaining the animal’s trust might take only a moment. More often than not, it will take considerably longer. Be patient and purposeful and the time to put the camera to use will follow. You’re going to have to get very close to get great shots, so it pays to start the process from the start. While you’re practicing being patient, you can also practice watching the cat and learning to interpret its body language. Cats are very demonstrative; from the tail to the eyes, they are trying to tell you something.

The second rule of thumb is to be prepared; the opportunity for that magic shot may only come once and you want to be sure you’ve got the camera to your eye and ready to go when it does. Communicating with the cat’s caregiver and proactively learning something about the cat’s personality before arriving on site is highly beneficial to your preparedness. Experience has also taught me that cats are rarely afraid of diffused fill-flash, and it can be your friend in two different ways. First, it can do what you would expect it to do: fill in the shadows, reveal detail, evenly illuminate your subject, etc. Second, your fill flash will often capture the cat’s attention – however briefly. This may lead to a few seconds of straight-on, eye’s wide open, what-the-heck-is-that? curiosity you can leverage to your advantage. Make sure you use a diffused flash though, as cat’s eyes are highly reflective and you don’t want to blow out one of their most interesting features. I find the Gary Fong collapsible LightSphere to be a fantastic option.

The third rule of thumb is to expect the unexpected. Cats tend to refuse to take direction, so if you want it to look up you can pretty much count on it looking down. You have to get yourself down to the level of the animal and interact with it. Sit or lay on the floor, try to coax it onto a table; do whatever you have to do to gain an interesting perspective for your image. If your goal is to capture a pet portrait, you can’t expect to stand above the cat and shoot down at its back.

These first three rules should help you on your way to better cat photography. If you have a bit of advice on this topic you’d like to share, please leave your comments (or questions) below.

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/22 at 1/125 sec., 50 mm, flash at 1/4 power diffused with Gary Fong Lightsphere

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/22 at 1/125 sec., 50 mm, flash at 1/4 power diffused with Gary Fong LightSphere flash diffuser

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Fortified by Beams of Light

“I’m sorry, Gemma. But we can’t live in the light all of the time. You have to take whatever light you can hold into the dark with you.”
― Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty

Nikon D300, ISO 500, f/16 at 8 seconds, 35 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 500, f/16 at 8 seconds, 35 mm

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Waiting on the Post

This beautiful egret sits on a strategically positioned post waiting for breakfast to show itself in the water below.

Nikon D300, ISO 400, f/5.3 at 1/1000 sec, 95 mm

Nikon D300, ISO 400, f/5.3 at 1/1000 sec, 95 mm

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