Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Perspective on perspective

Over the years, I've had people ask me if I could give some tips on how to take better photos and for me, that's always been a very hard request to fill.  There really are as many tips you could give, as there are types of photography.  Each tip you might give someone can also change from photo to photo, situation to situation because as with any art form, there is no single answer or right way to do something.  Sure there are some "rules" that many photographers try to stick to but some of those are hard to explain without having examples on hand to show someone.  I never have those handy when the question comes up because.... well, I don't carry a computer around with every photo I've ever taken, and even if I did, I surely wouldn't want to pull all those photos up and show someone how many horrible pictures I take for every decent shot I get, while I go looking for something to use as an example.

While I was looking for some old scanned images on my computer, I ran across a few photos that actually can be used for one of those tips and figured maybe I would write about that on here, in case anyone asks me again and I can just tell them to come and look here.  Fair warning, these aren't examples of "good" photos by any stretch of the imagination, but they do show one of the principals you can keep in mind while out taking photos, and that is one of perspective and leading lines.

Maybe you've already heard about the tip about trying to use leading lines to lead the viewer's eye into the photo and you've put that tip to good use in many of your photos, but you still feel like you're missing something in those shots.   Part of the problem with just being told to use leading lines is that many people forget to mention to also try changing your perspective and see how that affects those leading lines.  Most people tend to stand upright and shoot their images from eye level and that's all well and good, but you might be missing out on a great opportunity to really put those leading lines to much better use in your photo.  Go ahead and take that shot as you first saw it because it never hurts to have a few options to choose from when you get back home, but after you shoot that image, try getting a little lower.  Maybe just bend down a bit, or drop to a knee, or even get the camera all the way down to ground level......  see how that perspective shift changes your image and see whether it makes those leading lines work even better for you and that image.

Here is a quick example of shooting from three different heights, using a very popular subject as leading lines in a photo.  Look at each one and just see how the photos at different heights really change how powerful those leading lines are, and how your eye travels into the image differently in each shot.  Which do you like better?  Which shot pulls in you in the most?  What is it about that shot you picked that grabs your attention more than the other two?  Everyone will have different reactions to your photos but if you keep this tip in mind, you might find you get a shot that was pretty good from eye level, to one that is compelling if you just shoot from a lower angle.  Play around with this next time you're out shooting and see if you feel it helps your photos or not.

Standing Up

Kneeling Down
Camera just above the Ground

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Dreaming In Pieces - Revisited

It has been just over two years now since I tracked down a puzzle that was released using an image of mine. When that image first sold, all I knew was that it was going to be used on a puzzle, but was given no other information about it.  It took close to 6 months for me to find that puzzle out there in the world, but by the time I'd finally found it, it was totally sold out in the only country I could find it being sold.  I remember being very disappointed at first because (for many reasons I wrote about in that previous blog), I really wanted a copy of that puzzle for myself.

I was telling a fellow photographer and friend all about it,  and about how disappointed I was that I couldn't seem to find it in stock anywhere, when they suddenly sent me a link to another company that still had the puzzle for sale.  Well.... in the excitement that followed I wrote that long and somewhat rambling post all about the puzzle, and my photo, and the memories and emotions it drudged up in me and many of you surprised me by rushing out and buying a copy for as well.  I think that blog post was probably one of the most personal things I've really ever shared with friends much less anything I have ever posted on the Internet for strangers to stumble across and read.  I was worried at first that maybe it was too much and I should take it down, but so many of you sent me really sweet and kind messages about that story, and about how much you enjoyed it.  So even though I felt a little silly, I do have to say think you for all the kind words. I'm not really sure if I ever did that as it was all kind of this weird blur to me at the time.

It's been almost exactly 5 years now since my dad passed, and I find myself thinking about him more than ever this time of year. Those memories always bring me back around to thinking about those times we worked on puzzles together and then I think about that post about the silly puzzle two years ago, and now for some reason, I've received at least a dozen different emails in the last month from people asking me if I have any more puzzles for sale.  I've had to tell everyone no,  as the last three submissions I made to that puzzle company weren't chosen as finalists.  Not a surprise to me since they would receive hundreds of submissions and would only purchase 5 photos each time.

I had spent a lot of time one and off, contacting puzzle manufacturers to see if I could maybe just self- publish puzzles through them and most of them told me they would love work with me and do that, but the downside each time was that they required minimum purchases before they would sing on to do the production work. For most of them, I would need to purchase at least 1000 copies of any puzzle I wanted to sell just to get the price point low enough that I think anyone would want to buy one.  But there was no way I'd ever sell 1000 puzzles on my own and I certainly don't want to fill my garage with hundreds of unsold puzzles....  I mean even with that first puzzle which turned out to be hugely popular, I think I only know about 15 people that bought one.

Then in the last week, I discovered a company that would allow me to create puzzles from my images, with no minimum orders needed, and then to sell those puzzles through their online market place, where they would then create and ship puzzles as they are ordered.  The biggest downside to it though... is that they aren't nearly as cheap as the ones that were mass-produced and sold around the world, BUT I can actually now offer up any photo of mine as a puzzle in any size someone might want, if they want one.

I started off with my two favorite photos from my trip to Vermont this fall.  Offering each as 500 or 1000 piece puzzles, and then I also picked two photos I've wanted to do myself as puzzles for a very long time and created 1000 piece puzzles out of them.  I really don't expect anyone will buy them at this companies price.... unless I get lucky and a big distributor takes a chance and buys one of them in bulk, but if you happen to be interested enough to take a look, or even purchase one, you can see them at my Online Puzzle Store.  If you would like to buy a puzzle from there, I wanted to point out that if you buy 2 or more, you do get a 20% discount which takes some of the sting out of the price.  They don't have to be 2 of the same puzzle, so you could buy two different puzzles and still get the discount.

One big advantage of a company like this though, is that if you don't like what you see there or if you happen to like another image of mine that you'd love to have as a puzzle, you can just email me and let me know what image it is, and what size you'd like the puzzle to be, and I can custom create them by requested.  If you think the 1000 piece puzzles cost too much or are bigger than you like, I can make a 500 piece version or even smaller for you if you like.  The process takes about a day for me to size the image, upload it, configure all the information they need and then have them approve everything and make it available for purchase,  and I'd be happy to do that for you.  Just shoot me an email and let me know.

If you think the prices are crazy and you wouldn't spend that much on a puzzle, or if you just don't like building puzzles, that's totally cool too. I think I only make about $2 per sale so I will never get rich off this and I'm not doing it for the money.  I just wanted to offer it up as I do get asked about puzzles from time to time now.   If you've actually read this far... thanks for sticking it out.  I know I started to ramble again. LOL

I am going to buy a couple of these for myself now just because ...  to be honest....  they are a few photos I've always wanted to see as a puzzle and wanted to put together myself.  Maybe I'm just weird.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2019 - New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year!  I know when the new year rolls in, many people make a long list of resolutions for the new year, and if you're like most of us, that list is usually abandoned by the end of January.  I guess that's why I quit making New Year's Resolutions years ago.  This year though, I decided in it's place, I was going to set one or two goals based around my photography and would be easier to stick to, and hopefully will also help keep me motivated this year.  Those two things are to get out and shoot a lot more often this year than I did last year, and to finally start posting a lot more often to this blog.  Earlier today I was just making a few changes to my website, and got side-tracked going back and reading through some of my old posts on here,  and realized if it wasn't for a few of those short little stories, I'd have forgotten things about trips I've taken in the past and a little light bulb went on in my head.  I really need to write more, and if for no other reason, but to leave myself a diary of sorts to help me remember things about places I've been, shots I've taken, shots I want to take, ideas for future trips or anything else that comes to mind.

Do I think everyone will want to read my ramblings?  No.... or course not.  But I do know there are a few of you that have told me you really enjoy reading about and following some of my adventures, so my goal this year, is to write at least a little something about any trip I take this year, big or small.  To keep me going I will probably sprinkle some of that other stuff in here too.

I guess if finally dawned on me that I actually do enjoy writing and that it's a little bit of an outlet for me when I can't get out there shooting photos.  If I can't be shooting them, maybe I can be going back and finding some of my favorite shots from the past and writing a little about what those shots remind me of, or mean to me.    I also think I'll post at least one photo from every outing, no matter if they are good or bad, and write about what I like and don't like about them, and maybe talk about what I would change if I get a chance to go back and shoot them again.

A lot of that will just be little notes to myself, but if you're curious to hear a little about how that little hamster on the wheel in my head works....  maybe you'll learn way more than you wanted to.  LOL

If you're following along or want to comment on anything I post here, please do! I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, or anything else you'd like to share along the way.  I changed the setting on here so that comments are moderated. So if you want to comment, but don't want to share it with anyone else, you can just let me know that in your message too and I'll be sure to leave it marked as private.

So that's it for my goals for the new year.  I have a few big trips coming up this year that I'm very excited about so hopefully I can make this entertaining, and leave myself a little diary to look back on later myself.  If you follow along, welcome.....  and here is to a very Happy New Year for all of us!

Monday, March 26, 2018

What are you missing when you travel?

Over the years, as I've traveled and visited so many iconic locations, I've often wondered how one place became so famous and popular while others are virtually unknown.

That question came to mind once again as I traveled though the southwest of the U.S. this past year.   I planned a stop at Horseshoe Bend because I'd seen so many photos of it and just knew it was a place I had to visit at least once in my life.

I do have to admit that it didn't disappoint... other than maybe getting there only to discover I had to work my way around a few hundred people taking selfies for my chance to take my own photo of this iconic location.  I could have stood there for hours watching the river and the clouds, waiting to see if the light would put on a great show at sunset that night, but a huge thunderstorm was moving in from the north and the more the wind kicked up, the more dangerous it got standing on the edge of a 1000 foot cliff, so I settled for the shots I'd gotten and made my way back to the car.

It was on that walk back to the car that the question came back to mind.  How did this spot become so popular with the masses while another cool location, less than 30 minutes away, was virtually unknown. Earlier that day I had made a stop at that spot while on my way to Horseshoe Bend, but I only stopped there because I had discovered it while planning my trip using Google Earth, not because I'd ever heard of it before or even seen photos from there.

If Horseshoe Bend became famous for the near 360 degree bend in the river and the fact that you could see that entire bend from one spot,  Goosenecks State Park should be three times more popular because from there, you can see the river make that same change in direction three times while standing in one spot.  The crazy part?  I was there for over an hour taking photos, and I was the only person there for all but maybe 10 minutes of that time.

It was a reminder to me that no matter where you travel, don't always assume that the best locations and views are going to be found on sign posts by the side of the freeway.  All those signs do is lead the crowds to a specific viewpoint and most people are happy to just follow those signs from place to place, jump out of their cars, snap a quick photo, and dive back into their cars and on to the next designated photo opp.  If you slow down, take some time to explore, you might just discover places that are as interesting and possibly even move beautiful than the tourist stop.  Another advantage of getting off the beaten path, is that you could possibly have one of those spots all to yourself for long periods of time, and you can just relax and soak it all in, and isn't that one of the best parts about traveling the world?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dreaming in Pieces

This post is going to be something a little more personal than I usually tend to share, but luckily I don't think more than a few people ever read my posts anyway so it's a good way to just put some thoughts and feelings down in writing for me.

Growing up, there were many times things were tense in our house, and many where I was afraid of my dad to the point where I spent a lot of time locked away in my room to avoid any run-ins with him.  But even with that being said, my dad wasn't always a scary guy and I have some great memories of times spent with him doing things that were fun together.  One of my best and favorite memories over the years though, were those hours we would spend together around the dining room table, putting together one of the many puzzles we worked on over the years.  We didn't always talk a lot while working on them, but I really cherished those moments where we would sit there putting something fun and challenging together.  I never lost that love of working on puzzles and daydreamed so many times about taking photos for puzzle companies, hoping that I could maybe do something one day that would help bring another kid that kind of happiness in doing something with their parent(s) and / or family.  I would look at puzzles in the store and just know that I could take photos at least as good as I saw on many of the boxes.  I even went as far as writing to a number of puzzle companies about 20 years ago, trying to find out how someone would even go about submitting photos for them.   Most companies never bothered to reply, and a few that did.....  said they already had enough photos, thank you very much.   I was severely disappointed, but every year or so, would find myself searching the internet for ways to see one of my photos on a puzzle.

It was hard to even find a company that would make a one-off puzzle that I could just have personally, for any kind of reasonable fee.  The companies that did offer something reasonable, only made puzzles of 50 or 100 pieces.  Nothing even close to what I'd hoped for.  So.... the dream kind of faded into the background but never went away.  Every time I would break out a new puzzle to work on ... I would find myself daydreaming about that again, and searching the internet again.

Then early this year (2016), I found an ad on a stock photo site, from a company looking for photos submissions for puzzles.  There was a VERY short window of time to submit photos for consideration, maybe 48-72 hours if I remember right, and I rushed home to look through my current photo collection to see what if anything I might have that fit what they were looking for.  I submitted a couple of photos but only one really sounded like it might have a shot, and then I waited.  If I'm being honest, I never expected to hear anything back, but I was happy to just have given it a shot if nothing else.  About a month later, I received an email from that company, asking me for a higher resolution of one of those photos, and a few other questions about the details of it.  That alone was exciting for me because it meant they might actually be interested in it, but I still didn't want to get my hopes up.

Then maybe two weeks after that email, I got notification that they had purchased the photo for publication.  I was so excited that they picked a photo and began to watch all the puzzle sites I could find to see if it actually made it out into the stores.  Months went by though, and I could never find it out there and after about 4 or 5 months, I started to think maybe it didn't make the cut after they ran it by whoever had the final say on what gets made into a puzzle.  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.... and then about 10 days ago, just on a whim after a conversation with a good friend of mine about the status of the puzzle, I did another search.

I don't know if I can even put into words the feelings that rushed through me when suddenly, at the top of the search, there it was.  My puzzle, on the market, and real.  I think I was stunned at first, and then not sure I was seeing it right.... lol.   I pulled up the photo of the box, zoomed in, and sure enough... that was my shot!  Childhood memories, daydreams, thoughts of me dad, feelings from those nights working on puzzles with him.... all came flooding back through me.  They still do when I think about it if I'm being honest.  I know it's silly, and it's just a puzzle....  but for me it was so much more, even more than I thought it would be.

I do have to admit I got a little giddy, and posted the photo of the box on Facebook in all my excitement....  and it was amazing to see how many friends congratulated me.  I don't know how many actually understood what this puzzle meant to me....  maybe most didn't, but it was still nice that they forgave my excitement about it.  Heck, I was actually shocked how many wanted to buy one.  At that point in time, I had only found it for sale in one place in Australia, and they didn't ship to the United States.

A short while later though, another friend send me a message, excited to tell me that she'd found it for sale in England.  I ordered a few of them, some for friends asking me if I could get them one, and a couple for me. One to put together, and one to keep sealed and stored away.  

If anyone somehow actually read this, and you are still here reading... please pretend I'm not a total goof if we ever talk about this post ....   and if by chance, you actually enjoy putting puzzles together as much as I do, and you would like to do me the huge honor of putting together a puzzle that has one of my photos on it.....  you can order one from the link below.  It's cheap, and shipping is free.  In fact, I think if you order using the link here, instead of going directly to the website, you get it for a small discount.

Please click here if you would like to purchase the puzzle!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Iceland - Day 9

The wind returned with a vengeance today.  After having such a nice mild calm day yesterday, it was kind of a surprise to wake up to winds today that blew so hard they literally pushed you around and threatened to knock you off your feet if you weren't careful.  They might have been the strongest winds I've ever been in,  but it wasn't going to stop a fun day of exploring more of this section of Iceland.

The first stop of the day was a very cool waterfall called Hjalparfoss.  It is basically two rivers coming together as waterfalls, where they both dump into a punch bowl before the flowing out together as one river.   The area was surrounded by Basalt canyon walls and ground that seemed to be made out an old lava flow that was very giving when you walked across it.

The road to get here felt like you were in the middle of no where, but it kind of made for a cool photo.  As you're looking at this photo, the river that becomes the left hand side of the waterfall, is just to the right of this road.  This is just to kind of give you an idea of what much of this section of the country looks like.

Next there was a small medevil settlement called Stong which consisted of a small house and Viking long-house both with sod covered roofs.  The photos I'd seen made it look very cool so I really wanted to see it myself.  It was disappointing to learn that the building were only open from June 1 to August 31, but it was still possible to walk around them and kind of imagine how life might have been back in those days.  Here is a photo of the small home which had a semi-frozen waterfall on the cliff behind it.

The next stop of the day was another waterfall called Faxi Falls.  Did I happen to mention that Iceland has more waterfalls than people.  I was kind of kidding when I wrote that but the more I see of this country, the more I'm thinking that statement might be truer than I first thought.  This one was bigger than many of them, but not even close to being the biggest.  It was very cool none the less though.  Certainly was worth making a quick stop here for some photos and trying to keep from being blown off the edge and into the river below.

After leaving Faxi Falls, we headed over to Geyser which was something I had been looking forward to seeing.  From things I'd read online and photos I'd see, I had pictured it as Iceland's version of Yellowstone National Park.  It sounded like it was a huge geyser ridden area with lots of mud pots, boiling springs and a bigger and better version of Old Faithful.  Well, after seeing it with my own eyes, I have to say I was very disappointed as it didn't live up to any of those claims and in no way will it ever compete with the likes of Yellowstone.  I was actually very surprised ...  It was the first disappointment I'd had this entire trip so I really can't complain too much.  I just thought I'd mention this part to any of you thinking of visiting here.... just to let you know that you can totally skip this stop and you won't be missing a thing really.

The last big waterfall I had my eyes on visiting on this trip was Gullfoss.  It has been compared to Niagara falls and is one of the biggest attractions in Iceland.  I've seen pictures of the falls before but really couldn't appreciate just how big they were until I got to see them for myself.  They are big for sure, but bigger than Niagara Falls can probably be debated unless someone can show me photos of both falls under a really long measuring tape.

Anyway.... the falls were really cool to watch, well, with the small about of time you could actually look at them that is.  The powerful winds that had been blowing non-stop today really put on a show while at the falls.  The mist that was coming off the water was whipped into your face so hard it felt like you were being hit by hundreds of small needles or maybe stung by a really angry swarm of bees.  It was hard not to laugh and try to fight the urge to run away.   The only thing that might have kept us from running was the fact the wind was already doing it's best to knock us to the ground.  I was blown backward from the camera a few times where I really had to fight to take a few steps back to the tripod.  It was kind of insane, but I think I still managed to get a couple of decent shots of the falls somehow.

As we drove away from the falls, one thought that came to mind that left of laughing by the image the rest of the day.   That thought was that if we could figure out how to bolt a few really good sails to the ground here, we could have sailed Iceland to much warmer waters.  The winds would have easily moved the entire island today.  Heck, as I'm sitting here in bed typing this up, I can still hear them howling away outside.  It's crazy to think that's a semi-normal thing here.

We made one more quick stop before heading to dinner and that was at a very cool caldera that reminded me a lot of Crater Lake in Oregon.  This one wasn't quite as big, but you could easily walk all the way around it, right on the rim of the crater which was a very cool experience, even in the dark with all the ice and snow that was on the ground.  I was still able to capture a few good photos of the lake below even though there was very little light left in the day.

Last stop was dinner at a cool restaurant and ice cream parlor that Rene had read about on a blog before the trip.  We figured since that person claimed this place had the best ice cream in Iceland we just had to test it out ourselves, for scientific purposes of course.  Dinner there was actually really good as was the ice cream.  As for it being the best in Iceland?  I don't know.... we might have to hit another couple of ice cream places on the last two days to do our own comparisons.  I mean, we do have to be sure right? :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Iceland - Day 8

Woke up this morning wondering what the roads were going to be like today, especially after a pretty heavy snowfall last night.  I think there was close to 1/2 inch of snow on the ground in a matter of 30  minutes last night, but the good news was that it was already melting when we loaded up the car to head on to the next town.  In fact, the main road had been plowed sometime in the middle of the night and was in great shape.

Icebergs Inside the Lagoon
 With worries of bad roads out of the way, it was time to finally hit the Glacier Lagoon in good light and try to get some shots of those huge chunks of ice floating away from the main Glacier and out to sea, and then of the ice that washed back up on shore on the black sand beach across the street from there.  This was one of the areas that was tops on my lists of places I wanted to shoot photos while I was here, and it took three trips to the lagoon to finally catch it in some good light, and luckily, to catch it at a time where the water in the lagoon was very calm and still.

Smaller Chunks of Ice Washed Up On The Black Sand Beach
The night before, the water was rushing out of there and the icebergs were slamming together and filling the air with what sounded like huge bowling balls being slammed against each other....   only heavier sounding.  It's kind of hard to even describe.   It was kind of amazing today, to try to pick up what looked like smaller chunks of ice on the beach and feel how incredibly heavy they were....  and then to look over at icebergs 100 times their size and watch them being tossed around like they were nothing by the waves.  I could have spent the entire day just hanging out there watching all of that and waiting for new chunks of ice to come floating by.  But I had at least one more stop I wanted to make on the way to Selfoss, which was going to be home for the next two nights.

As has happened this entire trip though, I was easily distracted and sidetracked by one great sight after another and once again made a number of unscheduled stops to shoot photos.  Here is another of the seemingly endless array of waterfalls that dot the Icelandic Landscape.  This one appeared to come shooting out of a cave high up on the mountain side, and was just scenic enough to make me have to stop and take a quick photo.

Another stop along the way was at the base of another arm of the Vatnaj√∂kull Glacier.  We've been trying to find a route to actually get all the way to one of the Glaciers so we could at least climb up onto it or something but as close as they all seem, it's nearly impossible to actually find a road that will get you all the way up next to them.  Today was the closest we got so far, and the view from the hillside next to the Glacier was amazing.  It's hard to really tell the size of these things from this photos, but these chunks of ice floating out there where huge, most were bigger around than the footprint of a huge home, and with the height of them above and below the water line, I'd bet the smallest were about the size of 3 story buildings.  They were just massive.  Evey now and then the chunk of ice closest to the bottom of the photo would give off a loud cracking noise and I kept hoping to see it split in half or something, but I guess it would take more than a few huge cracks in that thing to break it up.

Daylight was ending fast and I still hadn't made it to what was going to be my second stop of the day.  I was determined to get there before it was fully dark out,  so it was a non-stop drive the rest of the way back to the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall where I didn't get the shot I wanted on the first stop there.  The sky didn't cooperate again tonight and there was no pretty sunset, but I went ahead and shot photos again, this time having to walk over some very frozen areas.  The spray coming off here was freezing on everything it touched and in some places the ice looked to be 2 inches thick.  The scariest part was that most of that ice was so clear you didn't even realize it was there until you went skating over some rocks and grabbing on to the ropes around here to keep your feet under you.  It was kind of an adventure all around. LOL