Yes, but What Then?

By , February 11, 2016 12:29 am
Few uses of my photographs move people more than big, powerful prints. In addition to this wall of prints in my immediate workspace at my office, the walls downstairs are covered with prints, and I seldom go more than a day or two without seeing a customer or visitor slowly strolling along looking at them.

Few uses of my photographs move people more than big, powerful prints. In addition to this wall of prints in my immediate workspace at my office, the walls downstairs are covered with prints, and I seldom go more than a day or two without seeing a customer or visitor slowly strolling along looking at them.

The third night of my Intro to Digital Photography class built around what we can do with what we have learned on the first two nights: the basic theory of how cameras work, and how to use some of our tools to create images.

Although I teach in a very Socratic fashion, I make sure that the last point I hit in the beginner class is that we can do all kinds of great things with our images, including printing them for display or publishing them in books.

Although I teach in a very Socratic fashion, I make sure that the last point I hit in the beginner class is that we can do all kinds of great things with our images, including printing them for display or publishing them in books.

In the digital age, we make a lot of images, and often that’s the end of it, because no one, absolutely no one, has time to look at 500 or 1000 of our images. I’ll go even farther and say that if you do with your images the same thing as everyone else in the 21st century, post them to social media, very few people will see them, and even if they do, they have little chance to make an impact.

Call me old school, but it is my opinion that top quality printing is the best way to create an impressive, expressive photographic product that has the potential to last for decades. The printed work not only looks great, it feels great in the hands, and when it’s new, it even smells great. It has a sense of permanence, importance, significance.

For prints, particularly display prints up to 13×19 inches, Abby and I have owned several photo-quality inkjet printers over the years, our current one being the Epson Stylus Photo 1400. It’s not at the top of the line, but we buy the best paper and ink for it, and the results are spectacular.

Creating items like books and calendars, we use Apple’s Photos app, the latest iteration of what was long-known as iPhoto. Abby’s daughter had the wedding photos we shot for her made into a book at mypublisher.com, and we were all pleased with the result, and there are many other options.

A photo book could be about anything: weddings (here or here or here, all made into books), memorials, holidays, vacations, family reunions, family and community history, anything.

I show some of our prints and books to my students not to brag on our accomplishment, but to say to them. “You can do this with your photography.”

I know so many people with collections of great images of great moments that are hiding inside a smart phone or computer, waiting to be made into something genuinely beautiful.

My wife Abby and I have books of our images made for various purposes, from travel images to individual weddings, and the look and feel of a real, printed book is much more powerful than any web gallery can ever be.

My wife Abby and I have books of our images made for various purposes, from travel images to individual weddings, and the look and feel of a real, printed book is much more powerful than any web gallery can ever be.

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2015: The Year in Pictures

By , January 20, 2016 12:07 pm

What does a year of my images at The Ada News look like? Here are some samples of my work from 2015. Assembling this entry took a lot of work, but I absolutely love it. As I worked on it, I kept thinking, “This is what I do.”

January

Wildfire, Union Valley

Wildfire, Union Valley

Teacher, Ada

Teacher, Ada

Basketball Action, Vanoss

Basketball Action, Vanoss

Sunrise, Byng

Sunrise, Byng

Basketball, Byng

Basketball, Byng

Youth Rodeo, Ada

Youth Rodeo, Ada

Wildfire, Ahloso

Wildfire, Ahloso

February

Coach, Stonewall

Coach, Stonewall

Basketball, Ada

Basketball, Ada

Basketball, Konawa

Basketball, Konawa

Cheerleaders, Ada

Cheerleaders, Ada

Record Breaker, Ada

Record Breaker, Ada

Selfie, Latta

Selfie, Latta

Basketball, Byng

Basketball, Byng

Manners Party, Vanoss

Manners Party, Vanoss

Basketball, Allen

Basketball, Allen

Basketball, Ada

Basketball, Ada

Face Paint, Vanoss

Face Paint, Vanoss

Basketball, Byng

Basketball, Byng

March

Basketball, Stonewall

Basketball, Stonewall

Thunderstorms, Ada

Thunderstorms, Ada

Basketball, Latta

Basketball, Latta

Basketball, Latta

Basketball, Latta

Blue Heron, Ada

Blue Heron, Ada

Basketball, Stonewall

Basketball, Stonewall

Basketball Fans, Henrietta

Basketball Fans, Henrietta

Crime Scene, Ada

Crime Scene, Ada

Bulldog, Stonewall

Bulldog, Stonewall

Peach Blossom, Byng

Peach Blossom, Byng

April

Baseball, Ada

Baseball, Ada

Dog, Ada

Dog, Ada

Baseball, Vanoss

Baseball, Vanoss

Little Red Schoolhouse, Ada

Little Red Schoolhouse, Ada

Baseball, Roff

Baseball, Roff

Class, Ada

Class, Ada

May

Baseball, Byng

Baseball, Byng

Graduation Prep, Ada

Graduation Prep, Ada

Softball, Shawnee

Softball, Shawnee

Fire, Byng

Fire, Byng

Baseball, Shawnee

Baseball, Shawnee

Softball, Shawnee

Softball, Shawnee

Graduation, Ada

Graduation, Ada

Graduation, Ada

Graduation, Ada

Bees, Ada

Bees, Ada

Graduation, Ada

Graduation, Ada

Softball, Shawnee

Softball, Shawnee

June

Baseball Camp, Byng

Baseball Camp, Byng

New Football Coach, Ada

New Football Coach, Ada

Camp Out Day, Ada

Camp Out Day, Ada

Night of Worship, Ada

Night of Worship, Ada

Flooding, Union Valley

Flooding, Union Valley

Baseball, Ada

Baseball, Ada

Splash Park, Ada

Splash Park, Ada

July

Baseball, Ada

Baseball, Ada

Band Practice, Ada

Band Practice, Ada

Back-to-School, Ada

Back-to-School, Ada

Wildfire, Byng

Wildfire, Byng

Splash Park, Ada

Splash Park, Ada

Independence Day, Ada

Independence Day, Ada

Independence Day, Ada

Independence Day, Ada

Independence Day, Ada

Independence Day, Ada

Peach Festival, Stratford

Peach Festival, Stratford

Peach Festival, Stratford

Peach Festival, Stratford

August

Softball, Tupelo

Softball, Tupelo

Baseball, Roff

Baseball, Roff

AdaFest, Ada

AdaFest, Ada

AdaFest, Ada

AdaFest, Ada

AdaFest, Ada

AdaFest, Ada

Picture Day, Allen

Picture Day, Allen

Camel Rides, Ada

Camel Rides, Ada

Camel Rides, Ada

Camel Rides, Ada

Picture Day, Ada

Picture Day, Ada

Thunderstorms, Ada

Thunderstorms, Ada

Fire, Ada

Fire, Ada

Sunset, Konawa

Sunset, Konawa

Family Fun Night, Ada

Family Fun Night, Ada

Wildfire, Galey

Wildfire, Galey

September

Football, Ada

Football, Ada

Football, Ada

Football, Ada

Football, Stratford

Football, Stratford

1901 Fest, Ada

1901 Fest, Ada

CPR Class, Ada

CPR Class, Ada

Softball, Latta

Softball, Latta

Softball, Stonewall

Softball, Stonewall

Baseball, Latta

Baseball, Latta

Football, Ada

Football, Ada

Fall Festival, Tishomingo

Fall Festival, Tishomingo

Bulldog Mascot, Sulphur

Bulldog Mascot, Sulphur

Sunrise, Ada

Sunrise, Ada

Football, Allen

Football, Allen

Wildfire, Union Valley

Wildfire, Union Valley

Pasture, Byng

Pasture, Byng

Sunset, Stratford

Sunset, Stratford

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, Byng

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, Byng

October

Softball, Sulphur

Softball, Sulphur

Softball, Sulphur

Softball, Sulphur

Football, Tecumseh

Football, Tecumseh

Candlelight Vigil, Ada

Candlelight Vigil, Ada

Softball, Oklahoma City

Softball, Oklahoma City

Football, Tecumseh

Football, Tecumseh

Football, Ada

Football, Ada

Blue Heron, Ada

Blue Heron, Ada

Softball Fans, Oklahoma City

Softball Fans, Oklahoma City

Zombies for Piece March, Ada

Zombies for Piece March, Ada

Crepuscular Rays, Ada

Crepuscular Rays, Ada

November

Football, Ada

Football, Ada

Veterans Day, Ada

Veterans Day, Ada

Football, Ada

Football, Ada

Basketball, Roff

Basketball, Roff

Football, Stratford

Football, Stratford

Autumn Sunshine, Ada

Autumn Sunshine, Ada

December

Stratford Football, Choctaw

Stratford Football, Choctaw

Stratford Football, Choctaw

Stratford Football, Choctaw

Stratford Football, Choctaw

Stratford Football, Choctaw

Stratford Football, Choctaw

Stratford Football, Choctaw

Basketball, Ada

Basketball, Ada

Basketball, Ada

Basketball, Ada

Basketball, Ada

Basketball, Ada

Bonfire, Byng

Bonfire, Byng

Carolers, Ada

Carolers, Ada

Foggy Morning, Byng

Foggy Morning, Byng

Parade of Lights, Ada

Parade of Lights, Ada

Parade of Lights, Ada

Parade of Lights, Ada

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Down the Infraroad

By , January 13, 2016 1:16 pm
My Sony F828 camera makes an exposure through a 720nm infrared filter yesterday.

My Sony F828 camera makes an exposure through a 720nm infrared filter yesterday.

Four years ago I posted a piece about experimenting with infrared imaging, making photographs with visible light filtered out to some degree. The camera I used at the time was the bulky, heavy, cumbersome Kodak DCS720x, which I selected because it has a removable infrared filter, which, when removed, allowed infrared energy through to the sensor.

That camera, though, is a dinosaur, and while I was getting to know its infrared abilities, I simply never brought it anywhere.

I made this far-infrared image at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa a few years ago, and was intrigued by the result, but not as happy with the camera, the heavy, cumbersome Kodak DCS720x.

I made this far-infrared image at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa a few years ago, and was intrigued by the result, but not as happy with the camera, the heavy, cumbersome Kodak DCS720x.

With my infrared experiments at a standstill, I was searching for something else not long ago and came across a YouTube video of a photographer who showed us how to make infrared images with the Sony Cybershop F828, using a magnet to move the IR-blocking filter out of the optical path. I was interested.

I grabbed my F828, which I bought on eBay for $50, a tripod, and my 720nm filter, and set out to see if this camera might be the one to deliver. I played around with it for a few minutes, making a few images from the front porch. Unlike the Kodak, the Sony is a live view camera, so I could actually see an image in the viewfinder.

I’ll let my readers decide if the result is interesting.

This is the result of yesterday's quick infrared experiment. It only required a few simple steps in Photoshop to make it visually interesting.

This is the result of yesterday’s quick infrared experiment. It only required a few simple steps in Photoshop to make it visually interesting.

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Eighty Five Test Drive

By , January 11, 2016 3:11 pm
This is the lens we are test driving today: our new AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G.

This is the lens we are test driving today: our new AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G.

This is classic spherochromatism, as you can see in this image of my old 85mm: the close numbers on the aperture ring have a red cast, and the far letters on the lens barrel are green. This aberration is common to large-aperture lenses.

This is classic spherochromatism, as you can see in this image of my old 85mm: the close numbers on the aperture ring have a red cast, and the far letters on the lens barrel are green. This aberration is common to large-aperture lenses.

Readers know that earlier this week my wife Abby and I took delivery of a new AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G, a lens that replaced my dead 1994-era 85mm. I’ve only had a short time to play with it, but I managed to take it outside this afternoon to make a few frames, both because I wanted to get a feel for what to expect from the lens, and because it was a beautiful day.

  • The selective focus capabilities of the large maximum aperture are everything I’ve come to expect from a lens in this class.
  • Even at f/1.8 (“wide open” in industry parlance), it is very sharp.
  • Bokeh, the character of the out-of-focus areas in the image, seems to be even better with this new lens that with its predecessor. I was, however, able to coax it into a giving me a few ratty bokeh spots.
  • Spherochromatism, an aberration that produces red color fringes on out-of-focus areas in front of the focal point and green color fringes on out-of-focus areas behind the focal point, is quite noticeable wide open and near the closest focus distance. This aberration is well-controlled by stopping down to about f/2.5.
  • Focus was quick and quiet, and the lens felt very at-home on my Nikon D7100.
This is a piece of rope I use to tie tomato plants in the summer, dangling from our fence. You can see that the selective focus potential of this lens is quite impressive.

This is a piece of rope I use to tie tomato plants in the summer, dangling from our fence. You can see that the selective focus potential of this lens is quite impressive.

I made this image last night of a metal lizard I brought home to my wife from a hiking trip to Utah. As you can see, the out-of-focus areas of the image melt away gracefully.

I made this image last night of a metal lizard I brought home to my wife from a hiking trip to Utah. As you can see, the out-of-focus areas of the image melt away gracefully.

On the other hand, if you challenge this lens with enough clutter, its bokeh can get pretty ratty, seen here on the left side of the image in particular.

On the other hand, if you challenge this lens with enough clutter, its bokeh can get pretty ratty, seen here on the left side of the image in particular.

In many circumstances, though, this lens delivers gorgeous results. This image of rusted chicken wire on our back fence is an example of exactly how I wanted this lens to perform.

In many circumstances, though, this lens delivers gorgeous results. This image of rusted chicken wire on our back fence is an example of exactly how I wanted this lens to perform.

 

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What About Angles?

By , January 11, 2016 2:46 pm
I shot tonight's example images with my AF 60mm Micro-Nikkor, a lens I own because it came with a camera I bought on Ebay. Despite its accidental service, I find that it is an extraordinarily capable macro lens.

I shot tonight’s example images with my AF 60mm Micro-Nikkor, a lens I own because it came with a camera I bought on Ebay. Despite its accidental service, I find that it is an extraordinarily capable macro lens.

There’s a lot of talk, usually to, rather than among, photographers, about angle. People on the street tell me they “loved the angle you got” in a photo on the sport page, or they’ll see me working and say, “trying to get just the right angle, huh?”

Honestly, the whole angle thing is made up by television. We photographers don’t ever use the word “angle” in our work, mostly because we don’t need to use it. Instead of thinking about an angle (15º, 37º, 55º, what?), real photographers decide where to be and move there much more organically, even instinctively. Instead of thinking “I need to shoot this from a high angle,” we just climb on something. Instead of thinking “I should move 30º to the left,” we just move and watch until the image comes together.

But with everything creative and artistic, there are exceptions, and the most important exception about angle in photography is in lighting. Sometimes the slightest change in the angle of the light, either by moving the light or moving the camera, can change the entire character of an image.

Consider then, the next two images, which I made after changing a small 12-volt light bulb and finding the burned out bulb visually interesting.

Both images are made at the same exposure, with the same lens, and without moving the lights. The only change was movement slightly down as I searched for exactly what I wanted, but as you can see, it didn’t change the composition much, but it did change the light, both in the subject, and in what was illuminated in the background.

This was my first shot at the broken bulb, lit with three flash units, two behind and one into a reflector over my right shoulder. I was very pleased with the result.

This was my first shot at the broken bulb, lit with three flash units, two behind and one into a reflector over my right shoulder. I was very pleased with the result.

The next frame I made was shot with the same lights, lens, and exposure; the only thing that changed was that I moved down a few inches to get a better view of the filament. As you can see, it brought a brighter background into the frame, and the character of the image is quite different than my first try.

The next frame I made was shot with the same lights, lens, and exposure; the only thing that changed was that I moved down a few inches to get a better view of the filament. As you can see, it brought a brighter background into the frame, and the character of the image is quite different than my first try.

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Portrait of a Portrait Lens

By , January 8, 2016 12:56 pm
A welcome addition to my photographic tool kit is the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G. Fit and finish on this new lens, shown here mounted on my Nikon D7100, are excellent, from the wide, smooth focusing ring to the oversized barrel of the lens, which fits my hands just right.

A welcome addition to my photographic tool kit is the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G. Fit and finish on this new lens, shown here mounted on my Nikon D7100, are excellent, from the wide, smooth focusing ring to the oversized barrel of the lens, which fits my hands just right.

Last year one of my favorite lenses, the AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8, died. Its autofocus linkage was built with plastic bushings, and as they aged, the focus mechanism got increasingly stiff and rough. Both manual and auto focus were effected.

Then last week, Abby and I were talking about some after-Christmas shopping, and I mentioned that we had a large number of credit card rewards points, and that I wanted to replace my dead 85mm.

The 85mm to 135mm focal length range is classically thought of as “portrait length,” meaning that while these lenses do many things well, what they do best is help create portraits. You can read more of my talking points about portrait lenses here (link), and you can view some of my favorite portraits here (link).

The old 85mm sits next to the new, larger 85mm. I bought the old one in 1994.

The old 85mm sits next to the new, larger 85mm. I bought the old one in 1994.

The 85mm is a wonderful focal length, and f/1.8 is a wonderful maximum aperture. I wanted to a replacement with these qualifications, so I looked around and did a little research, and while there are some other great choices, I went with Nikon’s successor to my 85mm, the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G.

This is the first image I made with our new 85mm, of Sierra the Chihuahua in Abby's lap. As you can see, the image is sharp, and features nice selective focus, thanks to shooting at f/2.

This is the first image I made with our new 85mm, of Sierra the Chihuahua in Abby’s lap. As you can see, the image is sharp, and features nice selective focus, thanks to shooting at f/2.

Compared to my old 85mm, the new lens is larger but lighter, has a larger focus ring, and uses the AF-S autofocus system, meaning that the focus motor is built into the lens. It is supposedly optically different from the old 85mm, which I hope addresses some of the shortcomings of its ancestor.

I took the time yesterday to make a few images around the house, and initially I was very happy with the feel, handling and performance of the lens. The results were sharp as anticipated, and the selective focus power of f/1.8 was obvious. Bokeh, the character of the out-of-focus areas, seemed pleasing.

Abby and I have big plans for this lens. I expect it will become a favorite for weddings, Christmas lights and other nighttime events, particularly when combined with our excellent AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G. Of course, you can count on more in-depth reviews of this item as I expand my practical experience with it, but I can tell you that my initial impressions of it are very positive.

I definitely see the new 85mm f/1.8 partnered with, among others, the excellent 35mm f/1.8, for all kinds of low light and night imaging opportunities.

I definitely see the new 85mm f/1.8 partnered with, among others, the excellent 35mm f/1.8, for all kinds of low light and night imaging opportunities.

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Bokeh vs Bokeh

By , December 12, 2015 12:16 am
The tools of the holiday trade: a digital SLR, a lens with a nice, large maximum aperture, and my own elegantly decorated Christmas tree. The lens is one of my favorites, Nikkor's AS-S 35mm f/1.8.

The tools of the holiday trade: a digital SLR, a lens with a nice, large maximum aperture, and my own elegantly decorated Christmas tree. The lens is one of my favorites, Nikkor’s AS-S 35mm f/1.8.

As I have taught in the past, “bokeh” is an elusive and often misunderstood aspect of photography. Roughly translated as “blur” or “haze” from it Japanese language origins, it refers to the quality, not amount, of the out-of-focus portions of any photograph. It is an important sub-category of selective focus, using shallow depth of field to govern how the audience perceives the message of the image.

The other dog in today's fight is the 50mm f/1.8, noted as small, lightweight, inexpensive, and viceless.

The other dog in today’s fight is the 50mm f/1.8, noted as small, lightweight, inexpensive, and viceless.

Selective focus can be created using all kinds of techniques, from using lenses of long focal lengths, to shooting at large apertures, to working at very close distances from the subject. All can create an image with a narrow area of sharpness and a very blurred foregrounds and backgrounds. The degree to which we use these methods can control how deep the blurring is, but it is the lens and its optical design that controls the bokeh.

I thought of this as I learned that our friend Scott recently picked up an AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, a lens noted for it’s ability to created strong selective focus with its large maximum aperture of f/1.4. I look forward to seeing some of his stuff and evaluating its bokeh.

And this all comes at the holiday season, when it is inviting to try to photograph all that glitters using some aspect of selective focus, and that can be very fun.

Santa with Christmas tree behind him shot with my 35mm f/1.8 at f/1.8. Note the smooth, even out-of-focus highlights, though they tend to get football-shaped near the corners of the image.

Santa with Christmas tree behind him shot with my 35mm f/1.8 at f/1.8. Note the smooth, even out-of-focus highlights, though they tend to get football-shaped near the corners of the image.

Compare the highlights in the previous image to the ones made in this one from the same spot using the same aperture, but with the 50mm f/1.8 lens. Note the slightly crosseyed bokeh and the slight tendency for them to look like doughnuts.

Compare the highlights in the previous image to the ones made in this one from the same spot using the same aperture, but with the 50mm f/1.8 lens. Note the slightly crosseyed bokeh and the slight tendency for them to look like doughnuts.

As you can plainly see from these examples, bokeh is not imaginary, and it does play a significant role in the character of our images.

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Missing the Big Picture

By , December 3, 2015 9:03 pm
I found this image of a Canon 600mm online, and it looks exactly like the one I used that night. It focused using knobs, like a telescope.

I found this image of a Canon 600mm online, and it looks exactly like the one I used that night. It focused using knobs, like a telescope.

My last entry included my reminiscences about a very significant moment in sports history, the infamous Ice Bowl football game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in 1985. After I wrote that, I got to thinking about that night and how memorable it was, and searched YouTube for it. Thankfully, someone had a VCR going that night, and posted the entire game.

Watching it filled me with an odd sense of loss and regret, and here’s why: it seemed to us at the time that our goal was to photograph the game in spite of the weather, when, in fact, the weather itself was much more significant, particularly now when we look back on the moment. That moment wasn’t about a football game. We covered football games every week. That moment was about the coldest, meanest, messiest night out that 44,000 fans ever experienced.

When I get my time machine working (it’s really only missing a couple of hard-to-find vacuum tubes) and go back to that night, the game on the field would become very secondary. I think I would bring just a 28mm and a 180mm, leave the motor drives off the cameras (since the cold slowed them to a crawl), and concentrate on the icy experience of fans, coaches, and even us photographers. I would love to have an image of myself from that night better than this one…

The only lens I had with me was a 600mm, which is why I am not shooting at this moment. This is at the 1:10:36 on the YouTube video.

The only lens I had with me was a 600mm, which is why I am not shooting at this moment. This is at the 1:10:36 on the YouTube video.

That’s the rub, really: to see and understand what is meaningful and memorable when we photograph the moments of our lives. The game is what brought us to Stillwater, Oklahoma that night in November 1985, but the freezing rain, the cold, the wind — that was the memory.

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The Fragile

By , November 30, 2015 12:14 pm

“We’re all one trade away from humility, Buddy.” ~Wall Street

“We’re all one phone call from out knees.” ~Mat Kearny

“Be careful.” ~my wife Abby, every time I leave the house.

This is a web archive image of the November 30, 1985 "Ice Bowl" football game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

This is a web archive image of the November 30, 1985 “Ice Bowl” football game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Saturday night Abby and I were watching the annual Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State football game, which has been known for decades in our state as the “Bedlam Bowl” or just “Bedlam.” I think it’s a lame moniker at best. The game, on the other hand, is often a good one.

Rebecca Kennedy poses with her camera in the late 1990s.

Rebecca Kennedy poses with her camera in the late 1990s.

I shot my first OU vs OSU game on November 30, 1985, in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a game which earned legendary status as the “Ice Bowl.” You can read my short story about it here (link.)

Photographically, I was as green as I could get, having started my first full-time job as a news photographer for The Shawnee News-Star just a week earlier.

Working the game that night was unproductive, because of the ice, because of my inexperience, and because I was using a 1970s-era Canon 600mm f/4.5 with a Nikon adapter on it, lent to me by an Associated Press photographer. It was essentially junk, and at f/4.5, not nearly enough lens for the night game at Lewis Field. I have no memorable images from that memorable game.

It can be a bit perilous on the sidelines, particularly at the college and professional levels, where the athletes are bigger, faster, and more aggressive. In 1994, a friend and colleague from East Central University, Rebecca Kennedy, and I were on the sidelines in Durant for the annual ECU vs Southeastern end-of-season rivalry football game. I was shooting with my 300mm, and she had a 70-300mm zoom. When a play started coming toward us, I was overlensed right away, so I lowered my camera to see the runner and the defenders coming directly at us. I think I said something like, “Look out!” and backed up. Rebecca continued to follow the play by zooming out, and was at the center of 280 pounds of running back being tackled by 320 pounds of lineman. She was driven back six yards or so, and her camera and eyeglasses flew all the way to the fence.

Rebecca was okay, but later felt the effects of the incident.

Abby photographs Canyonlands National Park, Utah, in 2010.

Abby photographs Canyonlands National Park, Utah, in 2010.

“You’ve got be aware of your surroundings when you’re shooting. You could back off a cliff. It’s easy to get lost in the viewfinder. You have to be careful,” Abby reminded me as I wrote this.

Sometimes even heightened awareness doesn’t keep you safe.

On Halloween night 2003, as I was leaving my apartment for an Ada vs Glenpool football game, Abby told me, “Don’t get run over.” It was the only time she ever told me that, and sure enough, I did get run over, despite efforts to get away from the play. I wasn’t hurt, but the Nikon D1H I was using was knocked out of my hands and crushed by the players, and had to be replaced.

I made this image of fellow photographer Sarah Phipps a couple of years ago at a playoff baseball game in Oklahoma City.

I made this image of fellow photographer Sarah Phipps a couple of years ago at a playoff baseball game in Oklahoma City.

Again a couple of years ago, I was photographing the “spirit line” at an Ada High game, hoping to get players bursting through the paper poster during the runout, during which the players take the field. I thought I was in a good spot, but I was just a few inches too close, and a player knocked one of my cameras out of my hand. Fortunately, no one landed on it, so it rolled harmlessly down the field, only damaging the plastic lens hood, which was easy to replace.

So anyway, back to watching the game Saturday night, which is what brought all this to mind. After the Oklahoma State players took the field, we saw a brief shot of a photographer on the ground in the end zone, surrounded by medical personnel. I turned to Abby and said, “I wonder if that’s anyone I know,” since we couldn’t see the photographer’s face. It turns out that it was, in fact, an acquaintance of mine, Daily Oklahoman photographer Sarah Phipps. Before halftime, her boss, our friend Doug Hoke, posted on Facebook that Sarah had a broken tibia and fibula, and would require surgery.

The good news in this story is that she has since had surgery, and it was successful, so she’ll be okay. We all wish her a speedy recovery.

We all know that we face a level of risk in any photographic endeavor, whether hiking in the depths of the desert, climbing a scaffolding to get a better angle, ducking fowl balls in a dugout, standing on Lightning Ridge waiting for a tornado, or on the sidelines covering football. We do what we can to stay safe, but in the end, we correctly believe that some risk is necessary for us to make great photographs.

Associated Press photographer Sue Ogrocki posted this image of Sarah Phipps Saturday night. The image was made just seconds before Phipps was injured.

Associated Press photographer Sue Ogrocki posted this image of Sarah Phipps Saturday night. The image was made just seconds before Phipps was injured.

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The Work We Do

By , November 28, 2015 1:27 pm
Photography students in last month's advanced class photograph each other at the fire training tower at the Pontotoc Technology Center.

Photography students in last month’s advanced class photograph each other at the fire training tower at the Pontotoc Technology Center.

This was my crew for October's advanced digital photography class.

This was my crew for October’s advanced digital photography class.

Here are a few images from the advanced class I taught in October. My students were attentive and engaged, and had many breakthrough moments.

Teaching photography is one of my favorite activities.

They photographed me photographing them through a practice welding hole.

They photographed me photographing them through a practice welding hole.

We climbed the fire training tower for sunset.

We climbed the fire training tower for sunset.

From high on the fire tower, we saw the last of the sunset reflecting on the main building of the Technology Center.

From high on the fire tower, we saw the last of the sunset reflecting on the main building of the Technology Center.

We spotted this tagged and peeling paint on a car used for rescue practice.

We spotted this tagged and peeling paint on a car used for rescue practice.

Sunset light cast these lines of shadow on a wall of the fire training tower.

Sunset light cast these lines of shadow on a wall of the fire training tower.

After sunset we were able to photograph excellent clouds.

After sunset we were able to photograph excellent clouds.

As darkness arrived, we worked by streetlight, as in the case of photographing this broken mirror on an old ambulance.

As darkness arrived, we worked by streetlight, as in the case of photographing this broken mirror on an old ambulance.

Finally, on our way back to the classroom, in almost total darkness, we made this image of our shadows.

Finally, on our way back to the classroom, in almost total darkness, we made this image of our shadows.

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The Raw and the Cooked

By , November 27, 2015 10:05 am
This is how my images looked straight out of the camera at a Roff Tigers basketball game recently. As you can see, they are contaminated with a ton of yellow-green light that is hard to dial out.

This is how my images looked straight out of the camera at a Roff Tigers basketball game recently. As you can see, they are contaminated with a ton of yellow-green light that is hard to dial out.

I am in the middle of teaching another Digital Photography for Beginners class at the Pontotoc Technology Center. It’s a good group.

As my readers and students know, I am an advocate of the RAW file format. I feel that while JPEG is a robust and easy to use format, it can, in many situations, cheat us out of the imaging potential of our expensive, sophisticated camera.

What's the Difference?

JPEGJoint Photographic Experts Group, is a a lossy compression file format the almost every computer in the world can read. It is the default file format for nearly every new camera. It makes files with 8-bits of data per color per pixel, meaning each color is expressed by a number from 0 to 255. Additionally, too much JPEG compression can create JPEG artifacts, which can’t be easily fixed or removed.

RAW is a proprietary file type unique to each digital camera, that requires special software to access. It is a lossless, sometimes losslessly compressed, file format that creates up to 16-bits per color per pixel, meaning that each color is expressed by a number from 0 to 65535 or higher. Since RAW files don’t use the lossy compression that JPEGs use, it does not create compression artifacts.

One situation where shooting RAW is indispensable is sports in low light, particularly in weird low light. I was in that situation last week in Roff, Oklahoma, a small high school with a cozy gym that is always packed with fans. With lights that have a yellow-green spike, and yellow floor, chairs, uniforms and fan clothing, the yellow quickly overwhelms any effort to pick a correct in-camera white balance. The only solution I’ve found is to shoot RAW, then aggressively dial out the yellow-green in Adobe’s Camera RAW dialog. There’s just not enough color data in an 8-bit JPEG to accomplish this.

As you can see, between click-balancing with the eyedropper tool, and active correction and desaturation of the yellows, it is possible to convert a yellow mess into a very usable image…

Human at last: after using the eyedropper tool to set basic white balance, I then dug into the hue and saturation dialog and aggressively dialed down the yellow. RAW to the rescue.

Human at last: after using the eyedropper tool to set basic white balance, I then dug into the hue and saturation dialog and aggressively dialed down the yellow. RAW to the rescue.

 

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Game Night in the Small Town

By , November 24, 2015 12:21 pm
This is my iON action camera mounted on the hot shoe of one of the two cameras I used to shoot Latta at Vanoss basketball Saturday night.

This is my iON action camera mounted on the hot shoe of one of the two cameras I used to shoot Latta at Vanoss basketball Saturday night.

My readers know that as a small town news photographer, I cover a lot of, well, small town stuff. One thing I have always loved is small town sports, and how the whole town comes out to the games and has a great time. Saturday, I worked a basketball twin bill, girls and boys basketball at Vanoss High School, who was hosting nearby rival Latta.

I felt inspired for some reason to bring my iON action cam and mount it on the hot shoe of my cameras and made a short video of game night…

 

The girls on the Vanoss bench celebrate a fourth-quarter score Saturday night.

The girls on the Vanoss bench celebrate a fourth-quarter score Saturday night.

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Can I Get a Copy of That?

By , November 15, 2015 12:13 pm

As I go about my job as a photographer, I am often asked by the people I am photographing if they can “get a copy” of the photograph. When I tell them they can purchase anything I shoot for the newspaper at our SmugMug site, they sometimes seem a little disappointed, as though the images I make should be free for some reason. Others excitedly tell me they will purchase the image, but only a fraction of them follow through.

I dusted off my wonderful 1985-era 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor ED-IF supertelephoto lens yesterday cover a college football game in Durant. I wanted a picture of me using it, so I handed my phone to my friend Meredith and asked her to shoot this. It was the one way I could be certain I would have the image.

I dusted off my wonderful 1985-era 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor ED-IF supertelephoto lens yesterday cover a college football game in Durant. I wanted a picture of me using it, so I handed my phone to my friend Meredith and asked her to shoot this. It was the one way I could be certain I would have the image.

I have often noticed that the reverse is true: if someone makes an image of me and I asked them email it or bring it to me, even if I offer to pay for it, and even if I give them my card with my email address on it, I almost never see it. In fact, I make a point, if I want to possess a picture of myself, of having someone make it with one of my cameras. Even photographers with whom I have travelled …Robert, Jim, Greg… have been reluctant to share images they have of me.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this, except to say that if I tell someone I will email a photo, I will email that photo.

I expect social media has something to do with it. People think that if they put something on their Facebook wall, somehow between the conspiracy memes and the deep fried cheesecake recipes, we’ll be able to find the photos we want, even though they will be too small and subject to Facebook’s brutal compression algorithms. Or maybe it’s just that most people are so poorly organized that they can’t weed through their tens of thousands of redundant images to send you that one photo you requested.

Forgive me if I sound a bit cynical, but it’s true. “Sure, I’d be glad to sent it!” really means you will never hear from them again.

I made this image yesterday with my 30-year-old manual focus 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor ED-IF. Another photographer asked me about it and could hardly believe what I told him, that it remains one of the sharpest, most powerful tools in my photographic toolbox, as you can see. (Click it to view it bigger.) For you technophiles, this image was made in aperture priority mode at f/3.5 ("wide open"), at ISO 200 with the shutter speed falling at about 1/1500th of a second; the player is near midfield, and I shot it from the south end zone, and, of course, it was focused manually.

I made this image yesterday with my 30-year-old manual focus 400mm f/3.5 Nikkor ED-IF. Another photographer asked me about it and could hardly believe what I told him, that it remains one of the sharpest, most powerful tools in my photographic toolbox, as you can see. (Click it to view it bigger.) For you technophiles, this image was made in aperture priority mode at f/3.5 (“wide open”), at ISO 200 with the shutter speed falling at about 1/1500th of a second; the player is near midfield, and I shot it from the south end zone, and, of course, it was focused manually.

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Why Beautiful Moments Are Beautiful

By , October 16, 2015 1:01 pm
I've made various iterations of this image over the years, but it never gets old. This view looks north from the south end of the pond at the vo-tech, and while we were making it, showed us the value of moving, particularly up and down, to fine tune a composition.

I’ve made various iterations of this image over the years, but it never gets old. This view looks north from the south end of the pond at the vo-tech, and while we were making it, showed us the value of moving, particularly up and down, to fine tune a composition.

As photographers, we have a tendency to get a bit on the self-important side. For example, we often scoff at soccer moms with cell phones. We also tend to classify cameras as “amateur” or “professional” while losing sight of the fact that it is we who are amateurs or professionals.

We spotted this image early in our walk. It features on of my favorite tricks: locking my exposure with the sun hidden, then moving slightly to bring it into the image at the just the right brightness. It is very effective at expressing the brilliance of sunshine.

We spotted this image early in our walk. It features on of my favorite tricks: locking my exposure with the sun hidden, then moving slightly to bring it into the image at the just the right brightness. It is very effective at expressing the brilliance of sunshine.

I made these ripples by throwing a stick into the pond.

I made these ripples by throwing a stick into the pond.

One of the most significant aspects of professional photography is having our audience in mind at all times, whether the audience is readers in a publication, attendees at an art expo, visitors to our home, viewers of web sites, or just us trying to explore ourselves through imagery.

With our audience in mind, the purpose of our photography is almost always to illicit an emotional response. Maybe, as is sometimes the case in my work, our goal is to bring the feelings of triumph or tragedy to the reader. Maybe, as in the case of a wedding photographer, our goal is to bring joyful and intimate moments of the event to the viewer.

In either case, and many more, the central idea is use our cameras to translate moments into images, which then bring those moments to the audience.

I had four students in this most recent session, which is a good number. I feel like they got a lot out of it, and were excited to return for two more nights.

I had four students in this most recent session, which is a good number. I feel like they got a lot out of it, and were excited to return for two more nights.

What about beauty? Flowers. Sunsets. Canyons. Forests. Essentially, beautiful photographs work because they elicit an emotional response in the viewer. A snowboarder flying off a cliff edge elicits excitement. Sunlight filtering through a tree elicits memories of childhood. Grey-black clouds of a thunderstorm illicit feelings of foreboding.

I thought about these ideas recently as my intermediate/advanced class went on our walk to the pond at the Pontotoc Technology Center. Ostensibly intended to guide them from the nuts-and-bolts in the beginner classes to putting those tools to work, invariably we discover much more to photograph, often in the beauty of nature. When we do, it has a way of feeding itself, such that I can stand back and act as advisor, and let my students grow and explore their imaging potential.

Even after the light was mostly gone, the sky offered this silhouette. It shows the value of patience, and waiting for the light when other photographers might be long gone.

Even after the light was mostly gone, the sky offered this silhouette. It shows the value of patience, and waiting for the light when other photographers might be long gone.

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New Tools of the New Trade

By , October 13, 2015 2:58 pm
This is my new iPhone 6s. When we got them, one of our staff members bought a number of different cases for them. I opted for the bigger, more-padded Otterbox case since I expect to use it as a camera much of the time.

This is my new iPhone 6s. When we got them, one of our staff members bought a number of different cases for them. I opted for the bigger, more-padded Otterbox case since I expect to use it as a camera much of the time.

It’s not exactly news that newspapers are, like the rest of the world connected by the internet, changing. When I started my first internship at a newspaper in 1982, the internet didn’t even exist. But today, it is in the hands of everyone. In fact, I recently read that more people on the planet have access to smartphones than have access to clean water. It seems absurd and immoral, but it is economic and social reality.

My own newspaper recently hired a new publisher, one who is far more comfortable with technology than her predecessor, one who is aggressively pushing for our product to be part of the 21st century game plan.

In furtherance of this strategy, the newsroom staff and I all just received Apple’s iPhone 6s, the latest iteration of the iPhone product. It is a powerful tool that lets us keep in touch with each other and the wired world, and also contribute to our online product instantly, from almost any location in our coverage area.

Honestly, I am very excited about this development. In the past, we often didn’t have a reliable way to communicate from the field, and it was implied that we should use our own phones (and their service costs) to communicate and contribute. Our new publisher clearly recognizes how unfair this was, and the first remedy, these iPhones, are now in our hands.

The learning curve for using a sophisticated tool like this is variable depending on how one wishes to use it, but I intend to learn everything I can about it, and milk it for all its potential. I want to put it to work for us.

I made this image at the Stratford Bulldogs football game Friday night with my iPhone 6s. If you work within its limitations, this device can produce some pretty impressive images.

I made this image at the Stratford Bulldogs football game Friday night with my iPhone 6s. If you work within its limitations, this device can produce some pretty impressive images.

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