An Observation: Sunset Photos, Selfie Filters, and…That’s More Than One Observation

I’ve seen some absolutely incredible sunsets lately from my front door. As most people know, though, capturing a good photo of a sunset presents its own challenges. The most common complaint I hear after the shutter clicks is, “Well, it was a beautiful sunset, but it looked better in person!”

Sometimes, it can come down to adjusting a few settings in your camera. If you’re using a DSLR, you have a wider range of options than you would on your smartphone. One of my recent sunset photos is a good example of how this can work to your advantage. Mesmerized by the colors, I stepped outside and took a few shots with my Nikon. When I looked at the results, the colors looked nothing like what was staring back at me in plain sight. After I adjusted the white balance, I finally found the shot that matched my ocular reality.

Yes, it really was that breathtaking.

Lens filters are also helpful for a variety of reasons. I own very few lens filters. These filters help to enhance what is already there, and you have to make other adjustments to your shots based on the filters you are using. Also, unless I’m specifically trying to make a photo look like an oil or watercolor painting for a reason, I try not to make a ton of adjustments when processing the prints.

Is it possible to overdo it with the settings and filters and other gizmos?

ABSOLUTELY.

And I’ve found that the perfect example to illustrate my point is the infamous selfie filter.

I don’t even really know where to find some of these filters…I’m not exactly one of the cool kids. I don’t even have the Snapchats. I’ll admit, I used to ask school photographers on faculty picture day to check for a “ten years younger” button on their camera before taking the photo of me that would haunt the yearbook for eternity, but I didn’t realize that there were filters out there that could essentially take your face back to infancy.

(Side Note: Has anyone else noticed that some facial features all but disappear through these overly-filtered filters? I’m not just talking about wrinkles and blemishes. I’ve seen an awful lot of nostrils running around without noses. It’s weird.)

However, curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to do a selfie filter experiment. Someone can let me know later if I did it right.

Here’s the “before” with no filter:

This is what I really look like. Sorry.

And…the after, with some kind of filter (I think):

Umm…yeah.

Okay, something tells me I need to practice a little bit more on my use of filters. Or not. Perhaps I should put the selfies on the back burner and take a hike. Literally. There’s lots of nice stuff outside to photograph.

A Not-So-(NEO)WISE Decision: Mosquito Swarm

Let me preface this entry with an announcement: I broke the internet yesterday. I didn’t mean to, but WordPress gave me the dreaded “white screen of death” while I was running updates, and I had to use my resourcefulness to navigate through tutorials and whatnot to figure out how to un-break the internet. Long story short, if you’re reading this, I guess I fixed it.

anchorman celebrating GIF

So…if you really are reading this, let’s talk NEOWISE. The photographer in me was desperate to get out and take some photos of this once-in-6,800-years comet that was just discovered back in March when the rest of the planet was justifiably concerned with things happening on the ground. It’s July now, and the comet came into view this month. I thought it was time for a field trip.

I decided to try to get my photos during the evening twilight. Earlier in the month, it was visible in the pre-dawn hours, but morning isn’t my finest hour. Evening was a better choice if I wanted to get a good shot. I knew it was likely that I wouldn’t be able to see it from my house due to the city lights, which prompted me to drive towards the farm fields away from town.

I’m from the Delta, but I still managed to underestimate the most formidable summertime force that descends upon the flatlands as the evening darkness falls–the mosquito swarm.

I pulled off the road and tried to adjust my camera settings for some (hopefully) good shots so that I could just hop out of the car, put the camera on the tripod, and use the remote shutter release to snap away once NEOWISE was in view, thus limiting my mosquito exposure.

Good plan, right?

Home Alone Idea GIF

WRONG. I was out of the car for two whole seconds before the swarm found me. My grand plan went out the window as the mosquitoes invaded my car, my ears, my arms, my legs…everything. I scrambled and danced as I secured the camera on the tripod.

Focus? I didn’t care about that anymore. I could see the comet, so I could at least claim having seen it. However, I really wanted a good photo. Yeah…wasn’t happening this time. I snapped four pictures before I drove away with the windows down in an attempt to rid my vehicle of the bloodthirsty little beasts. The only shot that came close to looking okay-ish was this one:

At least I saw it. It wasn’t that blurry in real life. (I think. I’m not sure. I was moving around too much.)

The following night, owing to the fact that it was higher in the sky than I expected it to be, I thought I’d try to step outside my front door and see if I could see it. The mosquitoes in my neighborhood are not nearly as bad as they are near the rice fields. I couldn’t see it, but I thought that I might catch it by taking a few long-exposure shots with the camera. I was marginally more successful in that outing, even catching a passing airplane (or satellite, or possibly UFO) in one photo.

Let the conspiracy theories begin.

The mosquito bites I earned outside of my front door were limited, although I still have plenty of them to scratch from my field trip. Not the smartest move, but I suppose the bites will serve as a reminder not to try that again when NEOWISE returns sometime around the year 8820.

An Update: Reviewing a Camera Six Months After Purchase

Like many of you, I have largely been staying close to home for the last few months. Ordinarily, I would have been on the road most weekends in the springtime with my camera. But, the thoughts would start to creep in about how far I would want to drive to look for photo opportunities, how many non-socially-distant people would be around, and the eventual need to use a public restroom during a pandemic.

Duck Reaction GIF

So, most of the photos I’ve taken this year have been pretty close to home.

That’s not to say you can’t find interesting subjects in and around your own home. I was just hoping to take the camera I bought in late January for a longer test drive.

Still, I thought I would share a few thoughts and possibly gather yours regarding what I have discovered about my Nikon D7500.

Let’s start with the negatives (haha…see what I did there?) first to get them out of the way.

DISCLAIMER: I’m still practicing quite a bit just to get to know this camera, so I’m perfectly happy to take any advice you might have to offer.

I tend to use a circular polarizing filter a lot outdoors, particularly if I want to emphasize the sky on one of those crystal-clear days. Therefore, I know I will have to compensate to a degree. However, I’ve found that I’m having to do far more adjusting that I’ve had to do in the past just to get enough light into the camera to keep from having to radically alter the exposure in the computer later. In fact…

I have to do this without the filter, leaving me to wonder if I need to adjust other settings as well. Could it be the 542-focal-point system built into the camera that’s causing me headaches here? (I think it’s more like 689. Lots of squares. They might not even be related, but it was worth a thought. I think.)

This one eventually turned out well, but I had to do a lot of bracketing and later adjustments in Lightroom to get the results I wanted.

I’m still stuck in the old habits I used on my old camera for ten years when it comes to button-and-doohickey placement. Functions I once automatically reached for without looking are in different spots. Many frequently-used function settings can be saved in the camera menu, which I should probably do.

Now, for the pros:

Despite my complaints about the low-light problems when I’m shooting on a sunny day, I captured one remarkably good shot recently of a storm…at midnight.

I was using a remote shutter release to try to get a lightning strike from a distant storm. However, I ended up with something far better, in my opinion, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the camera handled this situation.

The clarity and sharpness are a huge improvement over my last camera. I have much wider range of ISO settings available, although I haven’t really encountered a situation yet where I’ve needed to bump it up to, like, a million.

Once I figure out how to make necessary adjustments, the quality is great.

Spring…

So, that breaks down my experiences with the Nikon D7500 to this point. Again, I’m still sifting through all the functions and working on finding opportunities to practice in different scenarios, but you get the picture (haha…see what I did there again?).

Thoughts?

An Observation: Coffee and a New Camera

I’ve seen “Sling Blade” at least 147 times. I can say that I wholeheartedly agree with one statement by Karl Childers.

“Coffee kindly makes me nervous when I drink it.”

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be. After all, in my “About Me” section on this very blog, I have described that I generally tend to take my coffee in the decaf flavor. I had a doctor once tell me that I should cut back on the caffeinated variety to control things like heartburn and…well, nervousness. Mmmhmm.

I LOVE coffee, though. I love the taste, the smell, and the warmth of a good cup o’ joe.

coffee winks GIF
Right back at ya.

So, I save the caffeinated type for things like weekends. You know, when I have time to be nervous and suffer from heartburn.

I’m going to need a BIG cup, though, if I’m going to figure out all the bells, whistles, and doohickeys on my new camera. I’ll also need to stay awake to read the entire manual.

I’m supposed to “read this manual thoroughly before using the camera.” Okay. Sure.

I tried to flip through the manual on a Friday evening when it wouldn’t have been a good idea to have a cup of coffee. Why? Because…sleep. Caffeinated coffee is generally a morning delicacy for obvious reasons. So, I spent a Friday evening lethargically pressing buttons and leafing through the instructions only to give up and decide that the task was better suited for a Saturday morning fueled by my good friends at Folgers…and Green Mountain…and Starbucks.

Even with their help, though, I think I’ll be better qualified to fly a mission to Mars than ever figuring out all of the buttons on the camera. I’m beginning to think that some of them are just there to create the illusion of superiority to other models.

Perhaps it’s premature to feel that way about it, seeing as how I had ten years with my previous camera in which to learn about all of its functions.

Of course, it could also be a sign that it’s time for me to learn how to paint. I’ve heard things about some guy who teaches by video…

bob ross inspiration GIF


An Observation: Fancy Inspirational Thoughts

I’ve finally found a way to balance my love of photography with my need to write sarcastic statements. The whole concept was looking at me every time I opened any of my social media accounts.

Inspirational humor.

Place any statement on a beautiful background and it becomes inspirational, right? Even if the grammar and spelling are suspect, the pretty picture makes it all better (but correct grammar and spelling matter, so I’ll be really careful, because that’s who I am and this sentence is a really bad example of grammatical correctness so I should probably move on with my other thoughts). Why not have a little fun with it?

Natural beauty is all around The Natural State–hence the motto, “The Natural State.” You’ll never run out of photography options. Take, for instance, these photos from Northwest Arkansas. You have choices–street scenes, forest scenes, water scenes–that you couldn’t possibly fit into just one day of your expedition.

Buffalo Point, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

Summer Street Scene, Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

War Eagle Bridge, War Eagle Mill, Arkansas.

Forest Scene Near Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Lovely, right?

I can’t be this serious for very long, though. So, I’ve added some “inspirational” messages to some of my photographs to satisfy the need for humor.

Very true.

One part peaceful, another part goofy. It’s the least I can do to contribute to humor while exploring different locales with a camera lens.

Don’t they all look so fancy? That’s a word I need to start using more often–fancy. It’s just so…fancy.

I will do my best from this day forward to contribute further to the advancement of fancy inspirational humor. Any thoughts?

A Thought: Sneezonal Allergies

A sneeze is a wish your nose makes.

lisa simpson sneezing GIF

Yeah, okay. Not really.

Sneezing is nature’s way of telling me that I should refrain from any and all outdoor excursions in the springtime. As an added bonus, I like to top my suffering off not only with sneezing, but with all of the available options on the seasonal allergy menu. If it’s between my forehead and my chin and it can sneeze, wheeze, or water, it will. At Firehouse Subs, they’d call it “Fully Involved.”

I call it March through May.

It’s a shame, too. Springtime is so pretty. It’s deceptive. I guess it’s comparable to the Sirens in Greek mythology, luring me outside so that my violent sneezing can…oh, I don’t know, transfer dandelion seeds to places where they can flourish miles away. (I’m not sure that’s how it works. I’m not a botanist or a Greek mythologist or an allergist. I just know that my sneezing creates its own jet stream this time of year.)

Beautiful? Yes. Or is it…?

Yes, it’s a trap. Much like the heartbreaking discovery that I have a severe cat allergy but happen to love the little creatures, I’m also a landscape and nature photographer who is allergic to springtime. Sometimes, I’ll even feel a twinge of sympathetic itching in my eyes when I just look at a photo of a pretty flower newly dressed for the season.

Still, I’ll brave it for the perfect photo. The way I see it, if I can get two or three good pictures before I can no longer hold the camera steady due to a sneezing fit, I’ve had a successful outing. Bonus points if I can make it home before my eyes water and swell shut.

However, if a sneeze is a wish your nose makes, I wish it would decide not to sneeze anymore.

A Yearly Year-End Annual Review: Things I Did In 2018

Okay, let’s try to keep this short and sweet, because it’s about to be 2019 and I will have things to do in 2019.

This is a summary, so forgive me if I leave out a few details. Currently, a full transcript of Things I Did In 2018 is unavailable. (2018 isn’t completely over yet anyway. Duh.)

Things I Did In 2018:

  1. I stopped automatically writing 2017 on all paperwork, documents, and checks sometime around my birthday. In February.
  2. I moved east of the Mississippi River. I began to understand and appreciate the value of playing Tetris for hours at a time during my formative years once I had to downsize. (Come over sometime and take a look at my closets. I tried not to hum Russian music faster and faster as the piles of boxes climbed up the walls when I was unpacking.)

    This is the river. I live somewhere to the right of it. And, yes, I sell prints of this photo here.
  3. I took more photos. That’s what photographers do.
  4. I wrote more stuff. That’s what writers do.
  5. I wrote lists. That’s what really meticulous people do.
  6. I left grocery stores with a lot more than what was originally on those lists. That’s what hungry shoppers will do.
  7. I decided not to make any resolutions for 2019. That’s mainly for self-esteem purposes, because it’s a little bit demoralizing to find yourself cancelling a gym membership on January 3.
  8. I didn’t win the lottery, but I don’t know anyone who did, so that’s not really a big deal.
  9. I stopped watching as much television. I don’t really feel any smarter, but I don’t feel as though I’ve missed out on much, either.

I probably left out a few things, like what I had for breakfast on April 12 or how long I waited on my last oil change, but I’m working on brevity in my writing since we live in a 140-characters-or-less kind of world these days.

Happy New Year!

An Observation: Nature Walkin’

It’s easy to take natural beauty for granted. As a photographer, however, I am always looking for a unique angle. Most of my photography comes from Arkansas, and The Natural State truly lives up to its nickname. The choices in a single setting are just as varied as the state’s geography itself. What kind of story do I want to tell with the picture? How can I frame this differently? Am I missing something?

Speaking of “missing something”…we go nature walkin’ ’round these here parts. The “g” on the end of the traditional pronunciation of “walking” is unnecessary in Arkansas. I guess it’s in the spirit of the pronunciation of the state name itself. You know…you drop the last letter when you say “Arkansas.” However, don’t you DARE try to spell it without the “s.” When it happens, it’s not pretty.

As seen in New Mexic.

Batesville, Arkansas is a very picturesque community. The historic homes downtown are postcard-perfect in many ways. The churches are equally as fascinating.

Late afternoon in September. Ahh.

Oh, and I did mention nature, so I suppose I should show you some nature. Batesville is situated along the White River–an excellent photography location for all of you shutterbugs out there.

Nice September day along the White River at Batesville, Arkansas.

Looking towards the bridge along the White River at Batesville, Arkansas.

Guess what?!? It’s also possible to find natural beauty in an urban setting, and a quick trip across the state line to Tennessee can offer up some great opportunities. The clouds in these photographs created some great backdrops for photography along the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee.

Isolated storms, the bridge, a barge, and the Mississippi River. If you turn to your right from this vantage point, you’re looking directly into downtown Memphis.

Towering clouds over the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee.

Of course, if you’re interested in really getting close to nature (in a controlled-ish sense), you should give a drive-thru safari a try. Yes, you can pay to let animals stick their tongues out at you as you cruise at a steady five miles-per-hour. But, the photography is fun…as long as the animals don’t try to eat your camera. I caught up with this rather tall giraffe in Alamo, Tennessee at the Tennessee Safari Park.

Oh, you makin’ fun of me? Well…you’re too tall. So haha. Enjoy getting rained on before anyone else does.

I suppose the drive-thru safari is more like nature drivin’, to be specific. Where are some of your favorite nature photography locations? Leave a comment!

A Photographic Memory: The Grand Canyon

I recently started going through some older computer files to see what I might have overlooked in my photography collection. I determined that a) there’s no real way to overlook photos of something as majestic as the Grand Canyon, b) I had a few of them that I had overlooked in a way, and c) technically, I was actually overlooking the Grand Canyon when I took the photos, so now I’m just confused by my own words.

In any event, I took them around the time I was just getting started with more serious photography, so they leave a lot to be desired. However, it’s nice to look back on what you’ve done to see how far you’ve progressed with time and practice…although now I just want to go back for a do-over.

grand canyon GIF

Another factor in my “I-Just-Want-A-Do-Over” thought is that this was on the return leg of a road trip to Las Vegas. By the time I was able to get to the Grand Canyon (for the second time in my life), the weather had taken a turn for the stormy. IN JULY. Yes, I managed to find a storm in the middle of the desert. IN JULY. (Did I mention that it was July?) So, I didn’t get to stay as long as I had hoped to stay.

Anyway, the Grand Canyon is one of those treasured locations that everyone should have the chance to see in person. I’m just lucky enough to have seen it TWICE in my lifetime because I was along for the ride. I was also lucky that I was old enough to truly appreciate it the second time around…and that I had a really good camera, even if I was in the VERY early stages of learning about photography.

The colors, the contours…it’s just a stunning view from any angle.

You can see the clouds building in the distance. I decided against being struck by lightning to get the perfect photo. I think it was a good choice.

For more information about Grand Canyon National Park, here’s the link to the National Park Service website. (If you plan to drive and have trouble finding it…umm, it’s a really big canyon. Just trust your instincts on this one.)

A Slump: The Never-Ending Winter

It seems that every time we think warmer weather is on its way this year, we have ourselves a few tornadoes and then go right back into the deep freeze.

Snowfall in April was a dead giveaway that winter likes it here and doesn’t really want to leave, despite the fact that most of us have made it quite clear that it has overstayed its welcome and it should just look for other places to hang out because we would like to move forward into the next season that will give us at least a brief period of time to enjoy outdoor activities between the “freezing-to-death” months and the “I’m-melting-melting” months. (Whew. I should try to punctuate more often.)

April 7, 2018 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Ugh.

To top it all off, I’m all about some nature photography. I really, really, REALLY like to capture each of the four seasons that Arkansas supposedly gets to experience annually. Every time I think I’ll have a spare Saturday to go forth and look for pretty spring trees, I end up at home…under a blanket…looking at the clouds outside and expecting the poor little flowers to wither any day now. Or, I’m huddled in a closet as the tornado sirens scream at the neighborhood. But, I’m still trying to find photography opportunities.

I’m too scared to chase the storms while they’re heading towards me, so I get in the car afterwards and follow them. Yep, I’m a chicken.

We have had some short windows of time when the conditions were good for springy, flowery photography, however.

Yes, black and white can work for spring photography. (This print is now for sale in my Etsy shop, MeticulousObserver.)

See?

These little guys are trying to make spring happen.

Okay, so…I cheated and went south and out of the state for this one. You do what you have to do to look for good spring photography opportunities.

Any suggestions on where I should go for upcoming photography excursions? (By the way, I don’t limit myself to Arkansas at all. However, if you suggest Hawaii, I suggest that you might need to help out with those expenses…)