Frozen Motion

Frozen Motion

I didn’t think a whole lot of this photo when I originally took it, but over time I’ve come to like it quite a bit. It was almost an afterthought really, and not planned in any way, but I think it’s one of the better motion-capture images (is that a real thing?) I have taken. Not necessarily because of the technique or composition or anything like that, but because of the colors and the way the image implies a movement that’s not really present at all.

One rainy Friday morning in May I brought my camera to work to see if I could get some shots in the drippy overcast weather and made a deliberate choice to bring my X100F instead of my Nikon for a couple reasons. First, it has a built-in 3-stop ND filter that is perfect for situations like this, as it cuts down the existing light even more which allows for really slow shutter speeds in broad daylight. Or, in this case, broad overcastlight :) Also, the sheer size and weight (or lack thereof) combined with my little Gorillapod (aka small flexible tripod) meant that I knew I would be able to get up close and personal with a particular channel of water near Theta Pond. I thought this particular gear setup would help me get some fun pictures that I don’t normally get to take, and things ended up working out pretty well to that end.

After the rain let up I took a quick jaunt over to the pond and found the spot I was looking for, and took a couple pictures with my lens stopped down to f/11, shutter set to 1 second, ISO set to 200, and ND filter activated which resulted in some pictures where the water was silky-smooth as it rushed over the rocks. Then I saw this particular yellow magnolia leaf and thought it would look good as the focal point of one of these types of pictures, and I really like how it turned out. It was a fun little experiment to try and it makes me want to do more shots like this in the future.

Antelope Springs

Antelope Springs

One reason I like my X100F so much is that it’s basically the ideal everyday camera as well as a professional workhorse, and a lot of this is due to its size and featureset. When my family took a trip to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in May the X100F is the only camera we brought and it was so nice to know we had a full-fledged professional camera that was so small and light I barely even knew I had it with me. We spent the afternoon hiking and wading in the streams and at one point came upon a spot called Antelope Springs which, as it turns out, is the source of a lot of the water through which were just walking.

The boys spent a little while climbing on rocks near the springs and then we made our way west down a path where we came across this scene here. I didn’t have a tripod (I brought one but left it in the car…oops) so I set my camera down on some rocks, held it steady with my hands, activated its built-in 3-stop ND filter, put it in burst mode, and took several shots with about a 0.5 second shutter speed.

Most were horribly blurry due to camera shake but this one came out pretty nice, even though if you zoom in on the rocks in the background you’ll see that there still is a bit of wobble visible. It’s the kind of thing most people won’t ever notice but I know it’s there, and it’s a good reminder that the next time I set out to take a picture like this I’ll make sure to come prepared!

Butterfly Morning

Butterfly Morning

This was one of those photos where everything just worked.

I took this on a Friday morning. Two days prior my wife and I were out biking around the neighborhood with our kids and we went past a pretty large field full of yellow and red flowers, and at the time I told her that I’d like to return the next morning to take a picture. We talked about how the red flowers might really stand out against the yellow ones, and in the right light it might look pretty cool. Sunrise was about 6:20am and I knew if I left for work at 6:45 I would have time to drive past this field, hop out, snap a few pictures before the sun was too high in the sky, and then get to work right on time.

Things didn’t work out for a photo opportunity the next morning but when Friday rolled around I was able to get out the door with a few minutes to spare–enough to drive past this field and stop to take some pictures. I brought my D750, 50mm lens, and +4 close-up filter just in case I wanted to get a few macro images. The flip-out screen on my D750 made compositing much easier since I was able to put my camera in Live View, hold it close to the ground, and see precisely what the scene would look like as I took some pictures. (Even though I normally prefer the optical viewfinder when using DSLRs, Live View does have its advantages.)

A few minutes later and I just wasn’t having much luck. I had plenty of shots of flowers but nothing that really stood out to me though perhaps I might share one here in the coming weeks anyway. I liked the lighting, I liked the colors, and the dew drops covering the grass were a really nice added touch that helped lend some unexpected sparkles to the pictures. The problem wasn’t necessarily finding a good scene, it was finding a good composition. How could I use the various elements to create a solid photograph? And that’s when I saw this butterfly.

I now had a clear subject and focal point for a photographic composition, and I carefully made my way over to the place it was resting in order to take a couple of pictures before it flew away. Once again Live View and the articulating screen helped immensely, and I took several shots at various apertures in order to play around with background blur and overall subject sharpness. No matter what I wanted the butterfly to be as sharp as possible so I shot some at f/1.8, others at f/2.8, and a couple more at f/4 just for good measure.

What I didn’t expect when I loaded the image into Lightroom was how much I liked the bright spots of light thanks to the dew on the grass. They added so much to the image that I ended up choosing this as my favorite picture form the morning even though the butterfly is just a tad soft compared to the shots at smaller apertures. Even stopping down to f/2.8 had a hugely noticeable effect on the bokeh balls (is that what they’re called?) on the left side of the composition, and that was a compromise I just didn’t want to make.

This image also reminded me of one I shot nearly five years ago with the exact same lens, but on my old Nikon D200. It’s fun to revisit old photos as a way of seeing how much you can learn with a little time and experience :)

Secure

Secure

This picture is very similar to one I posted a few years ago, and while I guess you could say this is a remixed version of the original I don’t know which one I prefer. I kind of like them both :) There’s something cool about a length of thick twine tied to a post that makes for an interesting photograph, especially when you can get close. Maybe it’s because it creates a sense of nostalgia or conjures up thoughts of simpler times, or possibly it could be that pictures like this invite the viewer to create a larger story in their own minds. Whatever it is, I like photos such as this and fortunately they’re not too difficult to find either.

This was taken (where else?) right near Theta Pond on campus and even though it’s similar to its 2016 counterpart I like how this one offers more context, more life, and more of a story to tell. I had my Fuji X100F with me, partly because I really like shooting with it and partly because it’s so much smaller than a DSLR that I end up carrying it more places, and even though it’s not designed to take close-up shots it does offer some degree of macro capability such that I can often get decent results without using my 50mm lens and a close-up filter. It’s not the same as a true macro lens but the X100F does have a close focusing range of about 5 inches which is enough for what you might call macro-lite photos.

I think what attracted me to this particular scene was how the rope and post were somewhat hidden amidst the leaves of a gingko tree. It created a bit of a sense of mystery, even though the actual scene in real life wasn’t all that noteworthy. I shot this at f/4 partly to get a slightly wider depth of field but also because the X100F does get a little soft when using wider apertures to focus at close distances. I also shot this in JPEG using Classic Chrome and I don’t think I did much in post other than possibly add a bit of vignette. I really like the JPEG files straight out of the X100F and sometimes I think it’s fun to deliberately try to get things right in camera and not postprocess at all (or just a tiny little bit). This is a classic case of me forcing myself not to over-think things and just go with the results I get.

Fountainhead

Fountainhead

Ah, the classic Theta Pond Fountain shot. You can’t go wrong with pictures like this, and even though there have probably been thousands of images just like this one taken by thousands of photographers over the years here at OSU…this one is unique and this one is mine and I like it just the same. It’s something I’ve written about before here on Weekly Fifty and something I still struggle with–the idea that my photos have to be new and original or they won’t be of any inherent worth, and that’s simply not the case at all. Of course it’s good to try new things and experiment with new techniques, but there’s nothing wrong with going out and taking pictures of familiar subjects at familiar settings just because it’s what you like. And this is something I happen to like :)

I’ve had the Fuji X100F for about half a year now and I’m still kind of amazed at how useful this little camera really is. I went out for a walk on at work an overcast afternoon in the middle of May and the conditions were perfect for getting a shot like this–lighting was good, there was no wind, and campus was basically empty since graduation was the previous weekend. With the built-in ND filter on the X100F I was able to set the camera down on a rock, set a 2-second timer (to eliminate shake from pressing the shutter) and fire off a short burst of 1-second images that left the water silky smooth and the background tack sharp too. I shot this in RAW, unlike a lot of pictures I take with the X100F, so I could adjust the exposure and some other settings in Lightroom, and the result is the kind of picture I really like to have in my catalog.

And I guess I should say a disclaimer here too: I don’t mean to come across as someone shilling for one particular brand of camera, but good gravy I sure do like that X100F :)

Aermotor

Aermotor

I know I posted a windmill picture last week but I couldn’t resist sharing another one from the return trip on my visit to Nebraska. This was south of Junction City, Kansas, and I shot it at about 2pm on May 6. The weather was nice and I liked how the clouds streaking through the sky gave a bit of scale to the image while adding some dynamic elements too. On my return home I didn’t plan on stopping much since I wanted to get back to my wife and kids, but as I approached this windmill I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a picture. What really stood out to me was how perfectly it was positioned in the sky, with the vanes and nacelle clearly visible in the afternoon light. If it had been turned a bit to the left or to the right the image would not have had nearly the same appeal, but as it stands I was able to get what seems (to me, anyway) to be a pretty solid photo of a windmill on the prairie. Basically, when I think of the classic image of a midwestern windmill, this is what comes to mind and I’m glad I was able to get this particular shot.

Shooting with my X100F meant I could not change my perspective or alter the composition by zooming or fiddling with levers and dials, and instead I had to park my car on the west side of the highway, walk across to the grassy hillside, and move around until I got the shot I was looking for. Or, rather, until I got a couple dozen shots while not really being certain of what I was looking for. I knew that the overall scene would make for a good picture but I wasn’t quite sure of precisely what angle to use, where I should stand, what I wanted in the foreground, etc. Playing around with those elements turned out to be kind of fun and I ended up with a handful of images that were interesting and fairly compelling, but something about the way the sunlight bounced off the rudder in this particular shot made it stand out from the rest.

I did try moving around so I could see the fence receding into the horizon but that had the downside of creating a composition wherein the windmill was somewhat sideways and despite the fact that I tended to prefer the natural elements in that type of picture I kept coming back to the image you see above with its distinct windmill shape set against a bright blue sky. I shot that at f/5.6 since there was clearly no lack of daylight, and I wanted to get a picture that was nice and sharp where shallow depth of field is simply not needed.

Taking these two pictures (this one and last week’s) was a fun way to get out and see my surroundings a bit more than I’m used to, and even had the practical benefit of helping break up my drive a bit and allow me to get out and stretch my legs. And my advice for anyone reading this post is to do the same: the next time you find yourself traveling, consider the road less taken and see what sights you will discover along the way.

Edit: My dad found this windmill too, just like the one from last week. Thanks again, Dad!

Windmill Sunset

Windmill Sunset

In early May I drove up to Nebraska for the weekend to see some family and, as I often do when I’m traveling alone (as opposed to with my wife and kids) I took a slightly longer but vastly more scenic route compared to the interstates and freeways. I cut through Kansas on Highway 15 instead of I-35 and I-135 and in the process managed to see some interesting sights in the Flint Hills that make long drives like this a little more enjoyable. There’s a judgement call to make whenever passing something that might be worth a photo, though: is it worth my time to stop and try to get what might be a good picture, or should I press on towards my destination knowing that each stop along the way gets me there just a little bit later?

That was my dilemma on this particular drive and though I did park my car several times to get out and take pictures, I knew I also wanted to visit with my family before everyone went to bed and every photo I took along the way meant I would pull into even farther past my planned arrival time. Because of that I tried to be intentional in the photos I took, and kept my eyes open for two specific things: lone trees in the middle of a grassy field, and windmills. Both make for interesting picture opportunities and both are not exactly easy to come by, though one might think that on the open Kansas plains a lone tree wouldn’t be too difficult to spot. (They’re actually a lot more rare than you might think!)

I believe I got this shot near Abeline, Kansas, though I can’t remember if it was north or south of the town. The sun was setting and I knew I would be losing all daylight soon, and even though I had stopped to get a windmill photo about an hour before this one I thought I might as well give this a try just for kicks. I pulled over, grabbed my X100F, and sat down as close to a barbed-wire fence as was humanly possible in order to reach my hands through it and get a decent shot of the windmill. I dared not cross the fence on to private property, but I hope that just reaching across wouldn’t count as tresspassing!

I shot this from a low angle to give a sense of presence and authority to the windmill, and purposely put it on the left side to help the viewer see the wide expanse of grass and sky on the right. Highway 15, along with some overhead power lines, are just outside the frame on the left side and while I wish I could have mowed down some of the pesky grass sticking up from the bottom third of the image I figure it’s all part and parcel of living in the midwest so might as well just embrace it.

My wife likes windmills and shortly after I returned home from the trip I got this printed on canvas for her to hang in her office. She likes it a lot, and that’s probably the highest compliment I could hope to get on a picture like this :)

Edit:
My dad found the exact windmill after a lot of searching on Google Earth. Thanks Dad!

Microcosm

Microcosm

Ah, back to the classic setup of shooting with a 50mm lens and a set of close-up filters! I posted a ton of photos with this combination in recent years but since getting my X100F I haven’t thought about the good old close-up filters much, so when I awoke to a rainy morning in late April I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get them back out and take some pictures. And my oh my, was I ever reminded of how much I like doing macro-style shots.

One thing I’ve learned from working with close-up filters is that virtually any subject can make for a compelling picture, even bits of flotsam and jetsam you might have on your desk as you read this post. Look close enough at almost anything around you and you’ll start to see intricacies, patterns, and small details that transform the mundane into something magical. Combine that with a bit of precipitation and you’re good to go, which is exactly what happened for this week’s image.

This picture didn’t require anything special in the way of gear, but it did necessitate a bit of planning in order to get it right. I waited until the rain had abated somewhat so as not to drench my D7100 (I know it’s got some weather sealing but I’m still probably a bit too careful with it) and then found a tree with some water drops hanging off at various spots. This particular one was interesting because the bud right above the drop added just the right touch of color, and also because the reflection in the drop was pretty cool to look at :) I believe I kept my lens at f/8 to get a wider depth of field and, if memory serves me correctly (which it often doesn’t!) I think I shot this with my +4 filter though a +10 would have been interesting too. I focused manually because relying on electronic focus with shots like this is so tricky and often unreliable, and bracketed my shots in the hope of getting at least one that turned out OK.

I know I’ve been talking about the X100F a lot recently but taking this photo reminded me how much I enjoy doing this type of photography and helped me realize, yet again, that there is no such thing as the perfect camera. It’s all about what works for you, and what helps you get the shots you want on any given occasion. Maybe it’s a big DSLR, maybe it’s a point-and-shoot, and maybe it’s your cell phone. If it works, then go for it.

Secret Garden

Secret Garden

Another example of how photography, as Forrest Gump might have said, is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. A few weeks ago I was walking past the School of Geology, as I’ve done many many times before, and happened to notice something strange about a little brick wall that I had seen before but never really thought much about. I paused and saw that there were openings on either side of it large enough for a person to pass through, so I stopped and took a short detour to check out what, if anything, was on the other side. What I saw wasn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things, but it was a nice little patio with kind of a mini arboretum, if you will, that I would imagine most people on campus (just like me) didn’t even know was there.

If you’re curious, click here and zoom in a bit on the School of Geology. The black rectangle where the sidewalk jutting out from the curved rode hits the other north/south sidewalk is right on the other side of this week’s picture. And ask yourself: would you ever think to look behind the wall? I sure didn’t!

When I first stumbled across this tiny oasis I had my X100F with me and took a few shots from about waist level, but they didn’t really look how I was hoping they would turn out. I returned the next day and took a couple more shots with my camera right on the ground and pointed upwards in order to capture the garden as well as a bit of sky, and got just the shot I was envisioning. And once again the 35mm focal length of that camera proves to be just about perfect for the type of shooting I like to do on a casual everyday basis.

I had to edit the sky just a bit to bring out some of the color (I used a gradient filter in Lightroom and then erased parts of it on the tree leaves using the filter brush with auto-masking enabled) and made a few other color adjustments, but the one thing I really wish I could get rid of is the…uhm…white markings on the wall. Let’s just say it’s not paint :) I suppose someone with a lot of time and Photoshop skills could remove those but I’m content to leave the image as-is and enjoy the story behind it of discovering a hidden gem right in front of me. And now that you know about it too, maybe you’ll check it out next time you’re at OSU :)

Open for Business

Open for Business

I spent my first few years at OSU working as kind of an all-in-one tech guy for the distance learning program at the Spears School of Business. I made videos, took photos, ran a/v equipment for conferences, and did tech support for our learning management system and made a lot of good friends in the process. Just as I was transitioning to another job on the other side of campus the Business School jump-started their plans to construct a new building and four years later, in the spring of 2018, it was finally completed. Classes were held in the new location starting in January of 2018 but it wasn’t until the middle of April that the building was officially declared “Open for Business” by Dean Eastman at a ceremony involving hundreds of alumni, staff, students, and donors.

Like most days I had my camera with me when I went to work that morning but didn’t really plan on getting a shot like this during the ceremony, and in fact through most of the speeches and video presentations I was standing on the north side under balcony trying to avoid getting rained on! Thankfully the storms just grazed Stillwater that afternoon and as the clouds were lifting and the events were starting to draw to a close I ran over to the middle of the second floor balcony, switched my Fuji X100F to RAW, and fired off a couple shots before heading back to join some of my friends where I had been standing. A few minutes later the program ended and everyone dispersed to see the new location.

Once I loaded this image up in Lightroom I was a little worried that I didn’t quite get what I was hoping for, mostly because the sky was kind of an overexposed horizontal patch of white. Thanks to the magic of RAW I was able to recover a huge amount of color information and, along with a couple other editing tweaks, ended up with the picture you see here. Sure a wider lens would have been nice like the 17-40mm that one of the Spears photographers used on these shots, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as portable and unobtrusive as my little X100F.

It was fun to get this shot and see the new home of my former workplace, and more importantly to spend time with so many good people who help make the OSU campus a great place to work :)