December 16, 2014

Florida Trip - 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote that I was planning a spur of the moment trip down to Florida to spend some time with some friends who live on the Gulf of Mexico. I really didn’t have any time restraints other than the fact that I didn’t want to hit any snow on the return trip, mainly because I was towing a trailer with my bike on it and that could be tricky. Other than some semi-minor car problems, I made it down safely in a couple of days.

My buddy also rides a Harley, and is officially retired, so I knew we’d be out on our bikes quite often and I was looking forward to that.  Also, getting out on the bikes also gave me a chance to scout out some potential photo sites because I really wanted to get out and do some shooting on this trip. I have a special set-up so I can carry my DSLR while riding, but I also have a pocket sized camera, a Canon G15 which takes pretty good photos itself and is much easier to carry on the bike. The camera also has a hotshoe (which is useful for off camera flash) and the fact that it shoots in RAW makes this my camera of choice when I’m out on my bike. I shoot totally RAW so the G15 works great for me. 

For quite a few years I had lived on the Gulf myself and I had always loved the sunsets. I really wanted to try to get some nice sunset photos on this trip, preferably the type with palm trees or dunes in the shots, and my friends even lived close to really nice beach.   
Also, my buddy is a spitting image of St. Nicholas and has had a side business for many years dressing up as Santa and delivering toys over the Christmas season. He hinted that he would really like some new photos of him and his main Elf in costume while I was down there, which he knew would be no problem. His main Elf is also his girlfriend and I told him I’d gladly shoot them in costume. What I really wanted to shoot was a nice beach shot of the two of them, maybe at sunset or something, but neither of them were really interested in that idea. 

The first evening I went out to shoot some sunset shots it was a pretty breezy evening. Usually I like to bracket my sunset shots to create HDR’s, so my first series of shots had quite a bit of ghosting in them. There just happened to be a couple of newlyweds on the beach that night and I offered to send them a photo if they’d pose for me while I clicked off a few frames. I asked them to look toward the ocean and hold hands, which they gladly did for me. When I get a chance to get people in my shots I usually introduce myself and hand them one of my business cards and tell them what I’m trying to do and then offer to email them a couple shots for their help. Most of the time people are happy with that and will pose for me.  

Over the course of my vacation I found quite a few of those typical touristy type places to shoot and I actually got quite a few shots I liked. If you’ve been into photography for as long as I have you know that sometimes some of your best shots are when you just happen to be in the right place at the right time with a camera. One afternoon while out riding with my friends I caught a glimpse of a nice little waterway that I thought would make a nice photo. Fortunately, I had my G15 with me (but no tripod) and I knew I couldn’t capture all the shadows and highlights in a single shot. Normally I would have bracketed and created an HDR, so I knew I’d have to improvise. After I download the shot, I make two extra copies of the main shot and name them shot_1, shot_2 and shot_3 to simplify things.  Then I open all three in Camera RAW and I adjust each separately to make my own series of bracketed shots.

I usually take shot_1 and over expose one stop and take shot_3 and under expose one stop. Shot_2 is the one correctly exposed and I only tweak that a little (usually). Sometimes I might need to adjust them a little more, but most of the time this works fine. After I do this, I bring them into Photoshop, Nik or Photomatix to create an HDR, and then bring them into Photoshop to finish them off. After playing around with them for a while, I can usually get a photo that I’m happy with. Check out my home-made HDR shot.

One weekend, we took a ride to a Harley dealership that had “Bad Santa” and his elves there for the day taking photos with customers and their kids. Like I usually do, I went up to a couple elves and handed them a card and offered to email them a few photos if they would help me get a few photos of me with one of the elves.  One of the elves offered to take the photos and after a quick lesson on how to operate my camera, she took a few shots of me with another one of the other elves. The Bad Santa that the dealership had there couldn’t hold a candle compared to my buddy so I had him pose with the elves also. That’s me and Bad Santa's Elf in the shot above.

As luck would have it, I was able to have my Thanksgiving dinner with my friends this year which was really nice. My buddy is also a very good cook so that made it even better. The weather was very nice that day and we were all able to go out for a nice ride on the bikes after dinner. You’ve got to love Florida huh?

What started out as a 2 or 3 week trip eventually lasted over 5 weeks.  It was really nice spending the time with my friends but I knew eventually it would be time to go home, back to New England and the cold weather again. I’d been watching the weather daily so I wouldn’t run into any winter storms or heavy snow in my travels, plus I like to plot out my trips on Mapquest so I don’t hit any major cities or rush hour traffic anywhere. The whole trip was 1650 miles door to door, which was over 25 hours driving time total. Fortunately I planned it out pretty good and I didn’t run into any bad weather or bad road conditions anywhere and I didn’t have any car problems on my trip home. Truth be told, it was a great little vacation but it was nice to get home and sleep in my own bed again.  But seriously, I can’t wait to do it again!

As always, remember to keep shooting and have some fun!

November 4, 2014

Going South........Florida here I come

Well November is here and for people like myself who live in New England, that means winter is just around the corner. My day job ended rather abruptly, so I'm taking advantage of the free time by loading up my Harley and taking a little road trip down to sunny Florida to spend some time with some friends who live on the Gulf of Mexico. I have no idea of how long I'll be gone, but you can bet I'll put together a post (or two) from this trip. I haven't been down to Florida for a couple years now so it will be good to put some miles on my bike and to chill out at the beach.  I've got a ton of stuff I'd like to shoot while I'm down there so it'll be nice to get out with the camera too! I'm looking forward to having some fun in the sun and to take advantage of this free time........See ya soon..........David

October 15, 2014

Columbus Day Trip - Bar Harbor, Maine

As I mentioned in my last post, I was in the process of making plans for a little get-away trip, to meet up with some of my camera club friends in beautiful Bar Harbor Maine for the Columbus Day weekend. 

As luck would have it, Scott Kelby’s 7th Annual Worldwide Photowalk was happening that same weekend and a local photographer was leading one in the area, so I was able to sign up for that weekend also.

If you enjoy photography, you know that one of the best ways to improve your photo skills is to get out there with your camera and practice, practice, practice. It also helps to shoot with other people who also enjoy photography. If you’ve ever read any of my posts you know that I belong to a fairly large camera club and for the last three or four years, a group of our club members have been making a trip up to Acadia National Park in Maine for the Columbus Day holiday weekend. Because of personal work obligations I’ve never been able to go with them but this year I was determined to go and I started making plans in early July. 

Acadia Park has miles and miles of carriage roads, perfect for walking or riding a bicycle, so I figured I’d put my bike rack on the car and take my mountain bike along with me on my trip. My bike is set up with a basket on the back perfect for carrying  my camera gear, so I could cruise around the lakes inside the park while I was up there if the weather was decent. 

Columbus Day weekend here in New England is great for photographers because it falls in the second week of October and that is usually the peak time for foliage and colors. Bar Harbor is located on Mount Desert Island which is well known for its beautiful scenery and rugged shoreline. In fact, over 2 ½ million people visit there every year. For photographers this place can be a real photo-paradise.  Fortunately, I live in New England, and I can get there by car in about 6 hours.

These trips were originally started by one of my camera club members, Denise. Now Denise is not only very familiar with the area, but also a very serious photographer herself.  She knew from personal experience the best places to photograph (with driving directions) the best times to shoot, and even the best places to eat and stay while up there. For several years, she has put together a PDF itinerary coordinating the weekend for anyone interested in going.  

I was pretty excited that I was finally going to go up with my group because I had wanted to visit (and photograph) Bar Harbor for many years. Just about anyone who’s ever opened a magazine or watched TV has seen some of the beautiful sights in that area, places like Cadillac Mountain, Acadia Park, Otter Cliffs, Bass Harbor Lighthouse and many other popular locations. 

I actually arrived in Bar Harbor on Friday morning and the rest of my group were arriving at various times the next day, and we planned a group meeting later in the afternoon. The Photowalk was scheduled for Saturday morning and because I wasn’t familiar with the area, I had to cruise around for a while until I found the place the Photowalk was starting from. It turned out to be only about 5 or 6 miles from my motel and like every other year, the Photowalk turned out to be a good time. I got a chance to meet some really nice people from that area and get out with my camera for a couple hours. After the walk, we all met up at a local restaurant for some food and drinks which usually proves to be a lot of fun.

(Bass Harbor Light)
Personally, one of my main interests in the area was the lighthouses. The state of Maine has over 50 active lighthouses and because of the rugged shoreline around Mount Desert Island, there are quite a few lighthouses right in that general area. What I wanted to do while I was up there was to get some photos of the lighthouses from the air and some from the water if I could.  Before I had even checked into my motel, I had stopped by the local airport to speak with the owner. The owner and I had spoken on the phone and exchanged emails previously and he had told me that if I couldn’t find someone else to go up with me I could go solo, but I’d have to pay for two seats because it wasn’t cost-effective for him. 

That got me kind of bummed out, but the next day when my group arrived, I asked if anyone might be interested in going up and luckily a member from my club said he’d like to go, so I called and booked a plane ride for Monday morning. The weather was perfect that day but the images I ended up taking from the plane weren’t the greatest because we were shooting through foggy plexiglass windows. It was a good time anyhow because the views of the area and all the colors were fantastic.

I had also arranged a 3 hour narrated Lighthouse Cruise aboard a jet-powered catamaran for Sunday morning, but it ended up being standing room only. Being October in Maine, it was pretty cold out on the ocean on the top deck of the boat, especially when it got up to cruising speed, (about 35 knots ) Also, because it was so crowded it was very difficult to get any really decent shots. There were people trying to take photos with point and shoot cameras, cell phones and even iPads. But all-in-all I thought the lighthouse trip was still very enjoyable, although I would definitely have enjoyed it more in warmer weather.  

The only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island is Bass Harbor light (see aerial photo above) and I thought it would be nice to shoot it at sunset. Unfortunately when I got there I found out that a lot of other people had the same idea because the parking lot was packed. The place was flooded with tourists and other photographers carrying cameras and tripods. I knew that even if I could have found a parking spot, I wouldn’t have gotten any decent shots of the lighthouse by itself anyhow. So I went cruising around rather quickly trying to find another place to shoot before I lost my light. I was hoping I might find a nice little marina with some boats or something but I ended up photographing a secluded little bay.   (see image below)

All the while I was up in the plane and out on the boat cruise, the rest of my group members were out shooting places on Denise’s itinerary and having a good time themselves. I really didn’t get a chance to hang out with my group members too often that weekend, but I did get to shoot a sunset from the top of Cadillac Mountain on Saturday with them and the sunrise at Otter Cliffs the following morning before I went on my boat cruise.

After a very busy weekend, my friends and I decided to meet up for breakfast before the trip home. We were all sitting in the restaurant after placing our orders and talking about our weekend, and Denise asked me if I had had a chance to get out on my bike that weekend.  I told her that I hadn’t and she told me the paths around Eagle Lake were really nice.  I knew I wasn’t in a hurry to head home yet and I still had time on my park pass, so after breakfast I decided to take my bike out for a few hours around Eagle Lake.  I was very glad I did because I got some shots I was happy with and got a chance to check out some more awesome scenery. 

(Pemaquid  Light)
While out riding my bike around Eagle Lake, I decided I was going to take the long way home and cruise Route 1 along the coastline down to Portland. The drive from Bar Harbor to Portland was about 165 miles total and about a third of the way down the coast there was one particular lighthouse that I wanted to see, Pemaquid Light. I knew it was about an hour out of the way, but I was able to stop there and get some shots that I was happy with. 

The trip down the coastline ended up taking about 7½ hours but the views made it worth it.  I had left Bar Harbor about 11:30 that morning and I finally made it home at 10pm that evening. The whole trip was 6 days long and I drove around 1200 miles total, but I can’t wait to do it again!

Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

September 28, 2014

7th Annual Worldwide Photowalk

Well the clock is ticking down now because it’s almost time for the 7th Annual Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk, which is a great photo event held all around the world. This years event is coming up on Saturday October 11th 2014. 

Although it’s completely free to participate on a walk, this year we’re “Walking with a Purpose” by encouraging all participants to make a small donation (as little as $1) to the Springs of Hope orphanage in Kenya.  Not only are the Photowalks free, but by signing up for one you can enter a contest to win some really fantastic prizes! Last year there were over 1300 walks with over 28,000 walkers worldwide!

What’s a Photowalk you say?  A Photowalk is a worldwide photo event started in 2008 by Scott Kelby. If you’re into photography you’ll probably recognize that name. Scott is an author, teacher and photographer out of Tampa Bay Florida. He is also a co-founder of NAPP and president of the Kelby Media Group, a software training, education and publishing firm.

These Photowalks have turned out to be the largest social photography events of their kind anywhere on the planet.  Photowalks are a great way for photographers from all walks of life and skill levels to gather together on the same day to socialize, learn new tips from each other, and explore their corner of the world through photography. How it works is that local people organize a small gathering, usually in a major city or scenic place. Then the photo enthusiasts (groups of up to 50 people) from that area meet at the designated location and walk through the city socializing, having fun, and taking pictures. Usually a Photowalk is between 2-3 hours total and then afterward the walkers will gather at a local bar, pub, or restaurant to have a bite and share some photos and some laughs.

I’ve been able to go on four of these myself, and each time I’ve had a blast. One year I was all signed up but the event ended up getting rained out (in my area) and another year I couldn't get the day off from work. But each year I’ve met some great people, learned a few things, and made a few new friends along the way.

Personally, when I sign up for a Photowalk, I try to go to some new location that I wouldn’t normally shoot. The first year I went into the North End of Boston and I met some really great people. My second Photowalk was in Providence RI and it turned out kind of weird. I met a couple sisters who were signed up for the walk and we accidentally drifted off from the rest of the group a little, but as luck would have it we found an outside fair in a park with a group of Civil War actors and a Native American Indian festival. Plenty of stuff to photograph for sure. I've also gone on one in Marblehead MA led by Rick Ashley and last years Photowalk in Nashua NH. This year I’m signed up for one on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The walk is just outside of Bar Harbor which is about 6 hrs from my home in Massachusetts. Its being led by a local photograher named Howie Motenko. Howie runs a company specializing in workshops called Acadia Photo Safari.  I am definitely looking forward to this one because I’ve never been to Bar Harbor before. It's my plan to spend about 5 days in the area and two or three days of those will be with a small group of my photo club members. Its sure to be a very photogenic trip with the change of seasons and all the interesting sites in the area.

This year’s event is coming up fast, but it’s not too late to sign up for 7th Annual Scott Kelby Photowalk.  I’m sure you can find a Photowalk that still have openings. Photowalks are a great way to socialize, get out and take some photos and get together with other photographers. Not to mention take a chance at winning some great prizes too!  Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

September 1, 2014

The Digital Photography Book, Part 5: Photo Recipes

The Step-by-Step secrets to make your photos look like the pros !

A little over five years ago I wrote a couple posts on some photography books that I liked and thought were worth mentioning. (May 2009 / August 2009
What started out as a good photography book for people just getting into digital photography,  (The Digital Photography Book) has evolved into a 5 part series, the newest book being called "The Digital Photography Book Part 5 - The step by step secrets to make your photos look like the pros!"  

These books have proved to be very popular and are great for anyone either totally new to digital photography or even for people who might be looking for some fresh ideas or tips on how to improve their photo skills. Whichever book you choose, there is bound to be something here for just about everyone with a digital camera.   

Just for the record, the first book I mentioned ended up being the best selling book on Digital Photography ever published. It was originally released in 2006 and was called simply “The Digital Photography Book”. It was written by Scott Kelby who was already well known for his books on Digital Photography and Photoshop and people loved that book right from day one.

Because of its huge success, it was quickly followed up a year later (2007) by another book aptly called “The Digital Photography Book - Volume 2”.   

At the time of my first post I was waiting on Volume 3 but just like the previous two books, The Digital Photography Book - Volume 3 was also well received (2009) and everyone thought that might be the end to the series. But fortunately that wasn't the end of the series, it was followed up by The Digital Photography Book - Volume 4 (2012) which was also very successful. 

All of these books have become very popular with photographers of all types. Books 1 & 2 were so successful they were actually updated and re-released with updated content and new photos. 

In all of these books (Volumes 1 thru 4) the most popular chapter was the final chapter called: Photo Recipes to Help You Get “The Shot”.  Scott would show an image and then briefly describe how to get that type of shot. I still refer back to these books for new ideas, especially those final chapters.

Well Scott has just released another book in this series called “Digital Photography Book Part 5 - Photo Recipes” (photo at the beginning of this post) This book is totally different; it is an entire book of nothing but those easy to follow photo recipes. But he took it up a notch by adding behind-the-scenes details along with photos for each Photo Recipe. Now you can see exactly how it was done so you can get the same look every time yourself.

I’ve always enjoyed reading Scott’s books and would highly recommend all five in the series. The nicest part is that these books won’t break the bank and will only run you about $15 bucks each or in sets for even greater savings. 

His books have always had an easy to read style and have been translated into over a dozen languages and have made Scott the #1 author of books on photography worldwide since 2010.

Maybe you’re new to digital photography yourself or looking for some new ideas? If you’d like to purchase a copy of any of these books, click on the Amazon links on this site to direct you there.

Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

August 1, 2014

Buttonwood Farms Annual Sunflower festival

It seems like the older I get, the more I work for some reason?  A six day work week has become the “norm” for me, at least for the last couple years anyhow. These days I only get one day off every week and for the time being, that’s Sunday. Because of this, I have to try even more to make the most out of my free time and I like to try to get out shooting when I can. Like most photo shoots, this usually takes a little pre-planning. While I was online recently searching for some ideas I found out that this particular weekend coming up was the last two days of the annual Buttonwood Farms Sunflower Harvest. This annual 10 day event was held being this year from July 17 - 27th. 

You might ask, what is the Sunflower harvest?   Well, ever since 2004, Buttonwood Farms (located in Griswold CT ) has been the home to the Sunflowers for Wishes fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut. For those who don’t know, the Make-A-Wish foundation helps make wishes possible for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

As the story goes, at the suggestion of a friend the owners planted one acre of sunflowers in 2003 and almost immediately people started coming from miles away to check them out and photograph them. But at the end of the season, the plants were just chopped down and fed to their cows. After some thought, the owners decided that they could find a better use for the flowers and decided to start the Sunflowers for the Wishes fundraiser. 

For a $5.00 donation you’ll receive a bouquet of sunflowers and 100% of the proceeds go to Make-A-Wish.  The idea caught on immediately. Well it was clear that this was a good thing and the following year they planted 10 acres of sunflowers to see what would happen and the rest is history. Since 2004 they’ve been able to donate over $800,000. 2014 was their best year yet raising $113,232.....Nice huh? 

Well as luck would have it, I was watching the weather reports and it said it’d be overcast with heavy showers off and on all day. Overcast skies can be a good thing for photographers though, so I figured I’d take a chance and take a drive down.

Buttonwood Farms is located located on the Rhode Island / Conn. Border, which is about 55 miles from my home.  It takes me about 1½ hrs to get there, with about 20 miles of the trip driving through rural country back roads. But as it turns out, I was glad I went because I did get a few keepers, even though I eventually get caught it a downpour and got soaked.  

That day I only took one camera and a single lens, a Canon 5D MkII and my trusty Tamron 28-300mm Di VC lens. I did a post on the Tamron last fall and I have come too really like it. In fact, it's on my camera 75% of the time. It’s a ƒ3.5 - 6.3 lens and listed as a Macro / Ultra Zoom and I’m definitely impressed for the price. Its lightweight, quiet and it’s a good all-around lens when you don’t want to lug a bunch of equipment around with you. I wanted to try to get a few shots of all the bees on the plants and actually got a few I was happy with. The final image on this post was taken last year and converted to HDR, but all three shots of the bees were all taken with the Tamron and just cropped and sharpened a little. What do you think?

Buttonwood Farms is also a working dairy farm. They also offer hayrides daily through the cow pastures and through 4 acres of sunflowers with all the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish foundation.

In addtion to the hayrides they also have a little tractor pull for the kiddies to chug around the farm.  Since 1997, Buttonwood Farms has been known for its fantastic home-made ice cream. People had been coming from all around just for their ice cream. Because of the rain, I didn’t stand in line and wait for an ice cream, but that’ll give me a good reason to go back next year huh?  

I hope you enjoyed this little story and if you ever get a chance to check out the Sunflower Festival I'm sure you will enjoy it. 
Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

© D. Gould Photography