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Bored Photographer Problems

Mon Jan 18, 2016, 3:33 PM
Woe is me.

The leaves are gone.
Sunsets are all gray.
The galactic center is on the wrong side of the globe at night.
I live too far south for Northern Lights. 
Bugs are all dead for the winter.
Flowers are all dead for the winter.
Nobody gets married in February.
I'm too poor to travel to alpine places.
That's an excuse
I'm really too fat and lazy to go climbing alpine places.

Not really "con" season.
And I don't really have a connection here who is into that sort of thing.
And I'm shy.

Deer don't like having things pointed at them this time of year.
That's fair.

Old war buddy is living in my "studio" until he finds work.
Not that that matters because:

Kids are tired of my shit.
Wife is tired of my shit.
Dog is tired of my shit.
Nobody wants to see pictures of my cat.

Paying some girl to get naked in my basement seems skeevy as fuck.
Would also make the wife super tired of my shit.

None of my friends are attractive young nudists who live in large well-lit places.
Way to drop the ball friends. 

Woe is me.

Brace yourself.
Macro tree blossoms are coming. 

Photography

Tue Nov 24, 2015, 8:13 PM

This is a photo I took almost ten years ago in Afghanistan. Hindu Kush by swiftmoonphoto  I was a bomb disposal technician in the Air Force largely working outside my training and skill-set. My team had been called to a little firebase in the back-hills of Zabul Province to dispose of some unexploded munitions, but the morning before I took this photo, a patrol was ambushed a couple miles from the base and was taking heavy casualties. There weren't really enough guys on the base to respond, so my EOD team went along to help as we could.  

Long story short, it was a pretty wild firefight. They gave us all medals and such.

But that's not really a photography thing, what is relevant to photography is this:

I always carried a crappy little point and shoot camera to help with the various reports that are required anytime you do anything over there. As I walked back onto the FOB I turned around to look at the valley where we had made our stand. Despite my understandably shell-shocked demeanor at the time, it looked pretty, so I took this picture.

A few days later, in the safety of a larger base I downloaded my photos to my laptop. When this photo came up I fell in love with photography.

Since then, photography has been a way for me to find beauty in a pretty violent life. It has kept me sane.

So my question for you in this discussion is:

What is the image that led you to photography?
And, what is the story behind it?
And, what does photography mean to you?



On Feminism

Sat Aug 29, 2015, 6:08 PM

Here's a thought I had in the shower a few mornings ago and ruminated on for a couple of days:

I don't think that a man can ever understand the crap that women deal with, but I think the closest we can get is to be an NCO in the military.

You're mostly judged on irrelevancies, job performance is an afterthought.

You can never really be in charge. Sometimes the establishment will pretend to give you power, but if you ever disagree with those who really have power, the establishment will turn on you in a heart-beat.

Your ideas are dismissed because of what you are and not judged objectively because "you just don't understand the big picture."

An absurd amount of attention is given to what you look like.

No matter how you've already contributed, when something unpleasant needs cleaned up, that's your job because "you're so good at that kind of thing."

No matter how tired you are it's on you to teach, discipline, and guide the next generation. You don't really get to have off days.

Your successes are because of who you are, but your failures were to be expected because of what you are, so you can't really win any victories for "your kind".

To that end your successes in the big game, in things that matter, are treated as abnormal events when you rose above your station, and failures aren't held against you personally because it's not like you had what you needed to succeed.

You make about 70% of what someone else does for doing the exact same job plus janitorial nonsense.

When stupid shit is done over your objections you're expected to fix it and you get immediate thank yous when you pull it off but nobody remembers that you saved the day two weeks later.

You don't get to break under pressure or you're seen as weak.

All of this is excused because for the most part the people in charge are "pretty decent guys". And they really are, so you don't want to speak out because you're afraid the good ones will be hurt by your words.

And for all that, don't get me wrong. I chose this life, and I take pride in being successful despite these roadblocks (and others). But that's the crux of it, you don't choose your gender.

So I guess, to those of my friends who are both NCOs and female...mad props, you're friggin rock stars.



Made it to The East Coast

Mon Aug 17, 2015, 2:45 PM
Well, we made it.  The trip from Central California to the Virginia Coast with three toddlers, a cat, and a dog in the minivan was less than fun, but you have to expect that sort of thing.  We found a house with an extra room in the basement that will work perfectly as a studio.  And I'm looking forward to doing some IR work with all this foliage.  And fall will be awesome for landscapes.  

I Need Strobe Advice

Tue May 12, 2015, 9:50 PM
I want to get into real strobe work, but it's kind of inscrutable.  Is this one of the things where I'm going to be fine with 250 Watt Neewers or am I going to eventually end up buying 600 Watt Alien Bees eventually anyway so I shouldn't waste money on the cheap stuff initially.

Also, how many do I need,  Main, Fill, and Hair, or do I need a fourth, or a fifth??

My current plan is to get two 300 Watt AC/DC lights for fill and hair and then a 600 Watt AC/DC to use as a main and as a fill light for sunlight.  Am I headed in the wrong direction?

Also, would be thankful for brand or feature recommendations, as well as accessories.  I have beauty dishes  and a couple home-made snoots (cardboard whisky bottle sleeves work great) that I use with speedlights, but am looking at a big softbox with a honeycomb and a couple umbrellas.

If you've read this far you probably know more than I do, any help would be appreciated.

Study May Cause Learning

Fri May 1, 2015, 12:38 PM
I tend to think of myself as an amateur photographer, mostly because there is so much that I don't know, or have not proven that I can do well.  But figuring conservatively, I've spent almost 6,000 hours studying the science/art (scart?) of recording light since I picked up "Digital SLR Cameras, and Photography for Dummies" and a first generation Canon Rebel back in 2010.

Probably time to start thinking of myself as a Journeyman and stop hedging with the "New at This" card.

It Just Occurred to Me...

Tue Apr 28, 2015, 10:40 PM
...that posting bad photography on the internet is the same thing as walking into a crowded room and playing a violin badly.  Jerks.

FOBricated Bar Light

Sat Apr 18, 2015, 9:24 AM

I needed a bar light for a sports/fitness photoshoot I'm doing for a couple folks in the shop who want to highlight their "gains" from this deployment.

However, youtube tells me that in order to really highlight muscle definition you need really directional light. Ideally a bar light because you also need your directional light to be diffuse. (Oxymoron, but there it is.)

Obviously I don't have a bar light over here, so I made one out of some cardboard, some tinfoil, and a couple AAFES bags.

The second photo is taken with it in ambient daytime light with a very small aperture.

I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out.


Bar Light by swiftmoonphoto     Gates2 by swiftmoonphoto

Things I Wish I Knew Years Ago

Thu Apr 2, 2015, 10:44 AM

One of the things about being completely self taught with the photography thing is that you end up with a lot of blind spots. When you don't know what you don't know. As an example, I mucked around with Photoshop for years before realizing that layers were a thing (which is like driving for years before you realize that the clutch is a thing).

For a while I've had a vague idea that radio light controls were a thing that pro types did and I've been fiddling around with IR slaves instead.

Today I watched a tutorial about Pocket Wizards.

Oh yes, this is going to be glorious.




Camera Quandary

Wed Feb 4, 2015, 12:17 AM
When this deployment is over I'm going to upgrade my camera.  I'll keep the D3 for sports/SCA battles/kids running around; it will be more than enough "utility camera" for years to come.  And I'm happy enough with the D700 IR convert for now, (lets face it, that's pretty much a luxury as it stands.)  But I want to upgrade to an 800 series for fine art, portraits, and backpacking/starscapes.  The thing is, I'm not sure if I should go with the 800E and upgrade my 85mm prime or get the new 810.

The biggest question is for low light portraits/events would I be better off with an 800E and an 85mm 1.4D or an 810 with my current 85mm 1.8D (picking that stop back up with the expanded ISO of the 810)?


Bear in mind, low light portraits/events only accounts for about a 1/3rd of what I would shoot with it and about half of that would be with other lenses, but that's the part that I'm trying to improve on right now as well the biggest part of how I bring in donations for the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation.

My rule of thumb has always been going with the better glass when I'm in a spending quandary; but the upgrade in lens I'm looking at has a pretty specific and limited benefit, while the 810 has enough real ISO improvement (on both ends) and autofocus improvements to make me reconsider that policy.

Thoughts?

I've been having trouble with running tone-mapping on infrared images. It makes for really good colors, but I'm losing too much detail in the highlights.

Then it hit me: do a 40%(ish) tonal-range selection on the original image, feather it by a couple pixels, copy it, and overlay it on the tone-mapped image.

Badda bing badda boom ... details are back.

I should probably be using frequency separation to create a selection, but for the life of me I can't figure out how.  

The internet is so bad here that I can't watch any tutorials and I'm forced to make up my own Photoshop techniques.




This "trip" I elected not to bring any photography equipment.  

I was correct in my assumption that there wouldn't be anything here that would merit taking a picture of.

Not sure it was a good call though.  Sometimes it's nice just to hold a camera.  Not sure why, but just having one in my hands makes me happier, more calm, more complete.

But much like anything else, I imagine it will feel so much better after so much time away.

On that note, be on the lookout for photos of hamburgers taken by a very drunk me here in a few months.
I just watched a guy with an obviously new dSLR trying to take a picture of a guy smoking with the sunset behind him.  He was obviously having trouble so I suggested that he, "Shoot from a shadow into a dark background and time his shot for when his subject blew smoke through a sunbeam.  Also, go with aperture priority set wide and spot meter off of his subject's cheek.  Maybe exposure bracket a couple stops either side just to be sure you get it."

He looked at me like I had a dick growing out of my forehead and stalked off.

Thing is, I'm pretty congenial and would have been more than happy to help him out.  I get the whole unsolicited advice thing, but it wouldn't take but a few minutes for me to explain the basics and get him started in the right direction.  I guess some folk are born knowing everything.

Sorry Buddy, but there's more to it than buying a fancy camera.  Best of luck to you.
...somebody talk me out of it.

UV Portraits

Fri Aug 22, 2014, 6:41 PM
I finally figured out what the filter I need to do UV portraits is called.  One would naturally google "UV Filter", which of course only leads to the most ubiquitous photography accessory in the world which just so happens to do exactly the opposite of what I'm looking for.

Turns out it's called a UV Black Filter.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Tue May 6, 2014, 7:55 PM
"I look at it this way: I never took lessons to play the drums. I never took lessons to play the guitar. I just sort of figured it out. I think that if you’re passionate about something and you’re driven and you’re focused, you can do anything you want to do in life." --- Dave Grohl.

This is true, and the best advice you'll ever hear. I've never taken a photography lesson but I love it. What you need to understand is that I've literally taken several hundred thousand shitty photos. And somewhere along the way I got good at it. The coolest thing is that in a year I'll be better. Ten years from now I can only imagine the quality of work I'll put out. If you're lucky enough to stumble upon the thing you love you'd have to be six kinds of an idiot not to pursue it. Even if you never get good you'll have "wasted" your life being happy, not such a bad fate.


Luminosity Masks

Sun Apr 20, 2014, 3:18 PM
Every now and then I stumble onto something that I should have know all along and a simple thing takes my photography to another level.  Today it was luminosity masks.  So very simple and so very AWESOME!

If you're not using them a quick googling Cheech And Chong will...like...blow your mind...manCheech And Chong .

Yup, I'm a dumbass...

Tue Jan 28, 2014, 7:26 PM
So I'm thinking you should all go ahead a strike me from your zombie survival team rosters. The boy is pretty sick so I picked him up some 7up on the way home. He had problems drinking out of his sippy cup because of carbonation pressure so I poured some out and then drank a sip from it to make sure that it was working. I immediately realized what I had done and downed several swallows of good clean Irish whiskey as a disinfectant, but still...not a bright move.

Watermarks on Bad Art

Mon Jan 6, 2014, 9:53 PM
Trust me, nobody wants to steal your grainy, jpeg artifacted, point and shoot photo of a colorless, overexposed riverbank that just happens to have a bald eagle on a limb in the center.  And yes, I'm grumpy.

On the one hand they tell me the Air Force hasn't gone completely sissified, but on the other hand we delay PT until the afternoon because it will be cold and windy tomorrow morning. I have one word to say to that: Bastogne.  

Are we afraid we're going to get air on us?  Seriously, when I of all people, find myself filling the role of the "Salty Old Curmudgeon" we've got some very serious toughness issues.