This is how it’s done!

This is one of my favorite photos. I titled it, ‘This is how it’s done!” I took it at a local bluegrass music festival I attended last year. Story is that in between performances, the musicians often gathered in small groups behind the outdoor stage to show off some “lick” they had, or to simply “jam” with anyone who wanted to participate. The guy on the left was a fantastic banjo player and I caught him showing one of the other performers some fine finger–work on his well–used banjo. I like the guys hat, sunglasses and cigarette hanging out of his mouth. When I look at it now I start to laugh, remembering the joking and chatter back and forth that went on. They were sure having a ball—obviously. D300, ISO 200, 170mm, f5.6, 1/640 sec. Developed in Lightroom 2.6 with slight Topaz Adjust alteration to give it more of a grungy look.

Native Pride

Visiting various native villages in the Bering Sea region of Alaska and Eastern Siberia was for me and my wife a joy, and an opportunity of a lifetime. This photo was taken in the village of Savoonga on  St. Lawrence Island, during a welcoming ceremony put on for the 100 or so visitors from our small cruise ship. We were in a relatively small school gymnasium, which was, to say the least, VERY crowded. Also, lighting conditions were not that good, so I had to crank up the ISO on my camera (800), and use a 300mm lens to get up close to subjects I wanted to photograph. This old man was singing at the top of his lungs, along with several others, and the sparkle in his eye and enthusiasm and pride in his Yupik native culture was inspirational. I had to hand–hold my camera, propping it up on my knees as I sat on the floor watching. It’s a bit fuzzy and grainy,(1/25 sec) but I still think it captures his mood quite well. I sure would like to go back and visit this village again some day; but alas, that will most likely never happen. Like I said, we’re very grateful that we had an opportunity to go where many like us have never been.

Photographers Choice

It is my belief that even with modern technology at play, taking a photograph with a camera today and then processing the result afterwards, is essentially the same as it was when the process was first invented. Back then, the process was “analog” and involved film negatives being developed usually by hand in a traditional photographer’s darkroom. Today, this is all done digitally in–camera, and then afterwards on a computer using some form of digital processing software. In each case, the photographer’s intent was to recreate as best they could, what the camera lens saw when the shutter was clicked. Additionally, many photographers sought to apply some form of artistic expression to the image produced, similar to how a painter on canvas might do, in order to achieve a desired level of artistic creativity. In our cynical world of today, many so–called photographic “purists”, decry the use of any digital alteration to an out–of–camera image, believing that such alters reality. Strangely, these same purists seem to find nothing wrong with creating a black & white photograph from a color original. How “real” is that? This “back and forth” concerning camera image post–processing will probably never end. Still, it is my belief that a photographer can do what they want with any image they create with a film or digital camera (proper journalistic ethics aside). It’s their choice, not the critics in the bleachers who only want it “their way”. The image above was taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX3 digital camera near Girdwood Alaska last July, and then later processed digitally using Topaz Simplify, in order to make it appear like an oil painting. It was my choice to do so because I thought it would look nice that way.

Setting Sun

Being able to properly “capture the light” when taking a photograph has been (is) one of my hardest things to learn. I always seem to be at the wrong place at the right time (like sunset for example, when I’m usually facing directly west). For example, I saw this wild horse roaming along a ridge-line in Northern Arizona last Fall, with the sun setting, and immediately started to shoot. Unfortunately, I was essentially shooting into the sunlight, with lots of dark shadows in the foreground. But, I was so excited what with a unique subject like the wild horse at hand, I didn’t pay that much attention to “the light”. But, when I later got all my images from that day’s shooting onto my computer, I immediately saw the problem. However, I shoot mostly in RAW (versus jpeg) and that allows me some leeway in developing an image afterwards without loss of detail in the light and dark areas. So, even though my subject was severely back–lit, I was able to come up with what I think is a nice photo. I used Photomatix Pro to process the original as a single–image HDR to open up the dark foreground, and then made some minor adjustments afterwards in Lightroom 2.6 (such as toning down the bright bushes in the foreground, which were absorbing the strong light from the setting sun. Nikon D300, f9, 1/200 sec. ISO 200.

Camera in your Pocket

Many professional photographers advise to always keep a camera handy. That certainly proved to be good advice when we traveled in Arizona last Fall. I usually keep my Panasonic Lumix LX3 in my vest or jacket pocket while driving, and that made it easy for me to snap some shots out the car window (after stopping of course) while driving through the Navajo Reservation. There is so much to see out there, it often seemed like I spent more time stopping to take a picture than I did driving. I developed this 12.8mm, f8, 1/640 sec photo as a single image HDR in Lightroom 2.6. There was a big dust storm brewing at about 10AM (dark clouds upper right). Later that day, the blowing dust was so bad we could not get out of the car to take a photo even if we wanted to. Not a fun experience.


I really enjoy getting up close to objects when I’m using my cameras. Sometimes there are details that might otherwise be missed, if the entire object was the subject. In this case, I focused in on the mechanical parts of an old steam locomotive, and what I got tells a story of its own. When I look at this image, I can almost smell the oil and grease covering the moving parts. I used an external flash unit on my D300 to take this photo (f4, 1/60) but dialed down the flash output to eliminate harshness. How to do that depends on your camera and flash, so read your instruction manual. It’s all about what you want to convey to others who will see the final result, so you have lots of latitude in being as creative as you want. Nice thing about digital cameras, is that you can shoot and delete at will, on the spot until you get the effect you’re looking for. Processed in Adobe Lightroom 2.6.


I live near Martinsville, Virginia. Hard hit by the recession, but more so by the rapid decline in the US textile and furniture industries. Martinsville and Henry County are, for example, home to Bassett, Stanley and Hooker furniture. Once, this area was the economic engine for the Commonwealth of Virginia. So, when the decision was made to locate the Virginia Museum of Natural History here, we were elated. This is the main entrance to the beautiful facility, and it’s right in the heart of Martinsville. The photo is a five-shot HDR image, recently taken with my Nikon D300, and processed through Photomatix Pro. Brings out the “edges” and colors of the materials used in construction.

Patriotic Train

Back when trains were more a part of American life, they often displayed various color schemes to attract attention and promote their services. In this case, the Norfolk & Western EMD SD-45 Diesel-Electric Locomotive #1776 (1970) shows its patriotic “colors” well. The locomotive is on exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, VA. (Nikon D300, f14, 1/160 sec and developed in Lightroom 2.6)

Norfolk & Western RR

Yesterday I visited the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia. I’ve been wanting to go there for a long time to photograph the historic trains they have on display. I was not disappointed. This famous steam engine Norfolk & Western RR Class A #1218 Locomotive was my favorite. Unfortunately, in the rather cramped quarters of the outside display area at the museum, I could not convey the massive size of this locomotive in this photo. Suffice it to say it was BIG! The museum has done a nice job restoring this train engine, and in fact it took a “run” in 2003 on a local rail line, to the delight of many (sadly not me since I missed the event). I mentioned briefly before in this blog, my love for trains. They were a part of my youth while growing up listening to the far off cry of the train’s steam whistle—a sound that’s hard to reproduce today. You had to actually hear it late at night to fully understand the mood it sent. I was transformed back in time yesterday when I stood next to #1218, remembering the last time I was so close to such a locomotive. That was long ago as a five-year old, tightly grasping my mother’s hand as she quickly escorted me along the crowded and steam–filled station platform in Cincinnati, Ohio, where we were to climb aboard as passengers on our way to a new home in Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s strange in a way, that this is one of the few things I remember from when I was that age. I guess that’s why I was so moved yesterday. (This is a three–shot HDR image,1/10 sec, f14, tripod mounted, Nikon D300, and processed with Photomatix Pro and further developed in Lightroom 2.6).