Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tearing Down the Saint

As my family sleeps I find myself combing my archives. In a January 6th, 2004 gallery I find an old image that strikes me. It was a cold day. I was a lot younger and skinnier, though not by choice. There where times where food just wasn't a priority. I went for a photo hunt that day, and let my intuition guide me. I ended up in a demolition site near my apartment I used to live in. This iconic landmark was soon to disappear forever.Now when I see this photo it takes me back to that apartment, and I remember how I used to enjoy looking up the hill to its silhouette.

St. Francis Being Demolished.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cold Days Indeed!

January 21, 2013

Somewhere, somehow, my daughter, who used to be an adventurous eater, has decided that eating her dinner is something she'd rather not do. I know all parents go through this, and keeping calm is tough. Almost every night it seems there's a small power struggle to get her to eat. We don't yell, we don't negotiate, or make separate meals. She just has to eat a certain portion before she's excused. Sometimes she's there a while after we've actually finished the meal. Even food she likes can be a cause for tears, like her ravioli tonight... I hope this passes soon.

"But I don't like it!!" (She does like it sometimes!)

I took this shot by sitting a Canon 580ex II, mounted on a FlexTT5™ Transceiver, on the end of the table. It was aimed at the ceiling, with the bounce card extended. I set it down on one of my many passes by the table, dealing with my truculent diner. I used the plastic flash stand that came with the 580ex II to stand it up. As I was explaining for the millionth time she had to SOME of her ravioli, I aimed my camera from my midsection. About 7 years ago I did an experiment for that year where I never used the viewfinder to aim my camera. It took some getting used to, and I'm a bit rusty, but it's something I'm glad I did. The flash was triggered by a MiniTT1® Transmitter. I've not used these radio triggers since updating the firmware, and reprogramming them. I think I'll play around with them a little more.

January 20, 2013

It was a busy, yet fun, day. We're expecting a severe cold snap in the next few days. With that in mind I spent today basically getting some things done. Firewood moved in, meals prepared, and I event did the grocery shopping. I hardly ever do it on the weekends, preferring to shop on Mondays when the stores are quiet. Also, it was a NFL playoffs day! By the start of the first game I had everything done, dinner simmering in the oven, and the wife & kid were at a birthday party. By half time I was very relaxed, and decided to go for a walk.

The loop trail in Stewart Park, near our home.

We really need to start spending more time in the park that's so close to our home.

January 19, 2013

After months of being quietly lobbied for a new pet, Teri & I decided to allow it. Both of us grew up with pets, and my last cat was with me for 21 years. He died right before the move to Wisconsin at the end of 2011. Dog or cat, the debate went round & round. In the end, see some cute, orange tabbies up for adoption settled it.

We made plans to go pick out a kitten, but only told Freja we were going to visit someone. It was a surprise. As we entered the shelter, she became excited to see so many animals to play with. That is nothing unusual, she LOVES animals! We then showed her the kittens nursing, and she thought that was great.

Then we told her, "Guess what? You get to KEEP one of these kittens!" I was able to just snap a photo of her face as she was told this news.

Freja reacts to being told she's getting a kitten.

It's still too young to separate from it's mother yet. So we've about two weeks to go before she comes home with us. Freja talked about it the whole way home. The best was when she said, "I'm just so bored without my kitty!" While the shelter had already named it, we told Freja she could change it. At first she was scaring me with wanting to call it "Fuzzy Balls." I kept picturing me, out in the yard, yelling "Fuzzy Balls! Fuzzy Balls! It's time to come in!!" Thankfully, just as we arrived home, she settled on Mérida. WEW!!

January 18, 2013

We spent most of the day not doing much. Teri wasn't feeling all that great for most of it. She spent a lot of time working on her job, from home, which was nice. I did my usual Friday chores, and the kid did whatever she wanted basically. After dinner we all felt like doing something, so headed to Fisher King Winery. It's right at the end of our street, which we count as an amenity! We don't go as often as we'd like, but tonight they had Celtic folk musicians playing. Freja was excited to dance to songs we play around the house! She kept asking them to get out the bagpipes, but it was mainly Irish tunes.

Freja whirls in her 13th Century "Princess Dress."

January 17, 2013

It was a typical day at home. I did chores, the kid played, the kid go in trouble, and then the kid played some more. She'd decided she was "on vacation" so dressed in light summer clothes. I let her create a "beach," where she put out a blanket, and her stuffed animal friends, in the den. After a few hours though, I thought it was time to put winter clothing on. She didn't want to... I was able to get a shot of her from my abdomen as I explained to her she'd be in a time out until she was ready to stop throwing fits.

Once she changed, she then set up a "TV" made from a cardboard box. After about 30 minutes of "rehearsing" she then called me into the den. I had to pretend to "turn on" her "TV." She'd prepared a detailed news report about a Tigers' family home that'd burned. All the animals were rescued, and only the daddy tiger had a slight scratch! It was a very detailed story, and she even signed off with a, "This is Freja Elizabeth Lutz reporting."

January 16, 2013

Teri texted me early in the morning, commenting on the beautiful sunrise. I stepped out onto the porch that is just off our bedroom. I spotted some sleeping crows in our walnut tree. I've been feeding them every morning. They get the crust from Freja's toast, and any other tidbits I happen to have. Now I see they sleep in the walnut. I guess I won't be cutting it down, as planned.

01-16-2013American CrowLearn More About This Photo

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nothing Exciting Really...

January 15, 2013

I picked a small town on the map that I thought I'd be able to drive to, and make it back in time to pick up the kid from school. I was just curious to see what lies in that direction. I planned on shooting some feature that defined the town. As I approached I noted the tall steeple. So, while it's not an amazing shot, it'll do for today. Now I know what Highland, WI looks like.

St. Philip's Catholic Church - Est. 1846

January 14, 2013

Today I didn't do a lot of shooting. I did drive around the town a bit. There are still a lot of roads I've not gone down. Just south of town I found an interesting little cemetery. I'm not sure the significance of the little bell-house.

East Blue Mounds Lutheran Cemetery

January 13, 2013

We had a quiet day at home. Not a lot to tell, other than it's always nice to just relax, and not do a whole lot. I even got to take a nap! We'll be back to our normal "work on the house" schedule soon. As you can see in the background, there is still a lot to do.

Teri & Freja play games.

January 12, 2013

Our "big event" for today was going out for a little coffee and pie. When we first moved to Wisconsin we tried a coffee shop in a nearby town. At that time, we found it charming. It turns out we may have romanticized our experience a bit. This time, though the kid had a great time, we found it cramped, dirty and the service to be very poor. Live and learn.

Freja sure loves pie!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hibernating to the Duke

January 11, 2013

Some days it's easy to know when you've shot your photo of the day. Freja was pretending she was a squirrel getting ready to hibernate. She lined a cardboard box with her stuffed animal friends, and requested a snack. After a quick meal of pecans, raisins and dried fruit, all washed down with a little milk, she closed herself in.

My squirrel-girl peeking out at me.

As peaceful music by Duke Ellington plays in my house I can hear her quiet breathing as she naps.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nothing Unusual

January 10, 2013

After spending time doing chores, which consisted mainly of chopping, stacking and sorting firewood, I thought it'd be great to go for a walk with the kid. We strolled into town, stopping at Schubert's for a treat. She was excited when I let her order a pastry, as big as her head, covered with sprinkles!

January 9, 2013

Alex came over today for a portrait session. He's a new novel coming out soon, and needed some images for the cover. We also just had fun playing around with an old skull I happen to have. It was fun to set up lighting again after not doing so for over a year.

Alex Bledsoe
Alex Bledsoe converses with an ancestor.

The set up was simple as I wanted to skip using my radio triggers for a change. Two 580exII flashheads were mounted on light stands. One was connected to my camera's hotshoe using a 30' ETTL cord I'd bought ages ago, but rarely use. I set it as the "master," and placed it at 4 o'clock to the subject. I also added a Harbor Digital Design lightbox, with a 1/2 cut CTO gel. The second unit was stationed at roughly 10 o'clock to the subject, and set to "slave mode." It too had light modifiers, and was gelled. Once I was finished with getting things set to where I liked the look, we then just had fun.

January 8, 2013

I felt a little under the weather, as did Teri. Usually on Tuesdays we have a short, mini-date while Freja is at dance class. Sometimes we just relax at home, or we go for a walk, or even go for a glass of wine in town. Today though, we just went for a drive in order for me to get a shot of "something." We didn't go far, just around the outside of town. As the sun set I noticed how the light fell on the fields.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Roadside Adventures

January 7, 2013

After dropping off Freja at school I went for a short drive to see what I could find. Aside from a lot of snow, farms, and stands of trees, I noticed a lot of turkeys out in the open. With all the snow on the ground flocks of them can seen in foraging in farm fields. I kept an eye out for any closer to the road, eventually spotting some.

Wild Turkey
Turkeys run for cover as I pull over to snap a shot.

I drove past them, eventually circling back. I'd rolled down the passenger window, and preset my camera to shoot. Pulling over to the berm quickly I began to shoot. In a manner of moments they were gone. Not so for me. You see, my passenger side tires began to slide DOWN a steep embankment that had been hidden by the snow! I jumped out, got out my entrenching tool and began to dig a set of tracks leading to the road. Just as I finished a really cool farmer pulled up in a big truck. He hitched a towing strap to me, and in seconds I was free! WEW!

On my way back home I stopped twice more, both to shoot things I'd noticed before. One was a landscape of a stream that I'd noticed earlier. The lighting was just not right earlier, but it seemed to look good the second time.

Gordon Creek
Gordon Creek just outside Blanchardville.

The last stop was to shoot a buck I'd spotted earlier, when he was too far back in the brush to photograph. Anticipating on where he may be foraging I was able to get a good angle on him. Thankfully, this time I didn't get stuck!

White-tailed Deer

Skiing with Goats

January 6, 2013

Sunday morning I had a chance to go snowshoeing with a friend we've made in town. Doug Norgord was our neighbor at the apartment we rented when we first came to Mount Horeb. He happens to also be a map maker, and anyone who knows me, knows how much I love maps!

We decided to check out the Black Hawk Unit of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. There we found some great trails to hike, and we met a few really interesting people. He was also able to make a cool map of our hike, including a little side track we took that deadened. (BTW: The photo of Doug checking his mapping gear was taken when I fell over backwards when I tried to sit on a downed tree.)

View Larger Map

As I mentioned, not only did we find great hiking terrain, we also met interesting people. The most interesting folks were the two pleasant sisters skiing with goats. When I first saw them at a distance I thought, "those are odd looking dogs." I only wish Freja had been with me! She'd have loved it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pocketwizard Experiment

January 5, 2013

The snow in our backyard had cured like some cheeses form a nice crust. It was solid and had a nice snap to it as I shoveled where I thought the side walk should be. As made way I noticed the birds where feeding in our trees. A chance to experiment with gear seemed to present itself.

Our backyard after a blizzard dropped about 20" on us.

For the past year, instead of shooting, I've been thinking about how I want to photograph a subject. One technical aspect I want to explore is how to use my radio flash controllers a lot better. I've been using Pocketwizard controllers for a while now, mostly at close range. I realized the birds in the trees might be a good chance to test the range limits of the gear.

Basically, I set my camera on a tripod aimed out the door of my three-season porch. In the hotshoe went a MiniTT1® Transmitter, with an AC3 ZoneController attached to it.

Lots of snow & clear sunny days at the house.

In a bush near the tree where the birds feed I mounted my flash unit. I used a Canon 580exII, attached to a FlexTT5™ Transceiver. Due to radio interference from the flash I also used a AC5 RF Soft Shield. The flash was powered by a battery pack, and everything attached to the bush using a Joby Gorillapod wrapped around a sturdy branch.

At first the camera was about 50' from the flash head. I set my TC-80N3 to fire the shutter every 15 seconds. I aimed at a spot on the tree I thought birds may appear, manually focused, and set my parameters for the exposure I wanted.

Initially the flash would only fire intermittently. I'd known that there were issues with radio frequency interference from the 580ex II flash. Most reviews seemed to all point to 50' as a max distance, and I was at 50'. I took the TT1 off the camera, walked up the flash unit, and began to manually fire the flash. As I walked back to the camera I kept firing the flash until it no longer fired. What I discovered is that I had a maximum of 46' from the TT5 for the flash to fire.

Dark-eyed Junco
Photo of the Day: A Black-eyed Junco using the described method. I need to do more experimenting to achieve the results I really desire. I'm not entirely pleased with this shot. It's way too harsh!

After rounds of letting it shoot in both manual mode, and aperture priority, I found more consistent results in the latter. I was also able to capture a few birds as the day passed. Mainly though, I realized I need to experiment a lot more using this gear in order to get the results I want. At the time of this writing I've already made sure to update the firmware, as well as reprogram all my units.

I am eager to do more experimenting. I can visualize a number of applications where I want to use flash in this manner. All I need do is perfect this technique. To that end I also posted about this on the Canon Digital Forum, hoping to eventually garner some input.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Norway Building

January 4, 2013

Not far from our home is the historic tourist site Little Norway. We've not gone, and I have to admit I forget it's there. In my quest for a photo I randomly drove past it. I noticed how the slanting sun was hitting the Norway Building. I slowed down, looking for a hole in the tree line along the road. I found ONE!

A Norwegian 12th Century Stavkirke Church.

I was able to climb up onto the piles of snow along the road, steady myself on a tree trunk, and get this shot. I love random finds like this! Freja and I just ran out to go to the store, and decided to take a round about route home. I wonder what else I'm going to find...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Loosen Up, Relax

January 2, 2013

I sometimes have a tendency to worry too much about an image's sharpness. It's easy to get all tied up in "pixel peeping," which can lead to discarding an image because an eyelash is out of focus. It's a really silly thing.

Freja hurries to catch up to Teri as we walk home from the Grumpy Troll.

Sometimes it's nice to just loosen up a bit, shoot from the hip. Using perspective, light, and color to simply create an image. It doesn't always have to be a perfectly sharp, technically precise image. All it has to be is something that draws a viewer into it.

Whether I've done that with today's photo is to yet to be seen. I'll have to wait to see peoples' reaction to it.

January 3, 2013

Ten years ago, when I did my first Photo a Day project, I remember how stressed I'd initially become over worrying about what to shoot. For the first few months I'd obsessively try to plan out ahead of time places to go, subjects to photograph. As time passed I learned that the best shots came when I simply relaxed, and let my day unfold. An approach I plan on taking from the very beginning of this project.

Alex Bledsoe having a discussion with me as our kids played.

Today was a perfect example. Alex brought his son Charlie over for our usual Thursday play date with Freja. As the kids ran around, wrestling, building stuff, and doing what 5 year olds do, we sat in my office drinking coffee and talking. I have to admit it's really great to have made a lot of friends in this town. It's especially nice to have made a friend who works in the arts as well, and can relate to my own experiences. The fact that our kids seem to love each other, and play well together, is also a perk!

Freja and Charlie take a break from playing to eat apples & honey.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Photo a Day Project Begins!

At the end of the summer of 2011 I basically "hung up" my gear in order to move us from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. While I still took photos here and there, mainly of family, I didn't truly shoot much. I'd set 2013 to be when I'd break out the gear, and move forward with my craft, and business.

Freja playing in front of our old house as we load up the shipping container.

The most important aspect of all is that I'm going to focus on shooting again. It's finally time to begin playing with gear! It's time to get out of this house, which is nearly done (on the inside anyway)! I've a whole new state to explore, new friends to make, and an opportunity to flourish in a place I'm happy to call home.

Our new home, and office.

As I mentioned, it's the shooting part, more than the business, that is the most important. I have to admit I feel rusty. I only had ONE wedding in all of 2011! I've been feeling pent up, ready to roll, for a while now. I need to relax, hone my skills, and also learn more about where I live. I'm choosing to do an old project that was invaluable to me early in my photographic adventure.

My new office!

In 2003, a decade ago, I did a Photo A Day project. I took photos every single day for a year, posting the best one of each day. As time passed I learned how to wield my camera, how to write about my day, and also a lot about where I lived. I met many new people, found places I'd not seen. All in all it was the most important project I'd ever done.

What better way to loose the rust? I've a new venue to explore, new friends to make, and some new gear to shake down. So, the goal is the same as last time. Shoot every single day, only this time, instead of just posting one photo, I'm going to blog a little about it. I'll be able to then include additional photos from that day, and others, to illustrate whatever I write about. Obviously I'll not post every single day, but I'll try to at least once/week!

SO, here we go!

January 1, 2013

Teri had heard of the Great Wolf Lodge from some kid's daddy that Freja was playing with. He told her all about the huge indoor water parks, and how kid centric the place is. With that in mind, and saying the mantra, "it's for the kid, it's for the kid," we booked a room for the New Year's weekend.

The place was a riot of kids, all drenched in chlorinated water! I didn't even try to take photos in the water parks. People seemed to stake out every chair like old timey 49ers with a claim. Water, water everywhere, and no where safe for gear!

As midnight approached, and kids up past their bed time melted down around us, I broke out my gear. Freja and Teri donned the masks and hats they'd spent time in the kids' craft room decorating, and we headed to the "dance hall." Basically they emptied the lobby of chairs, placed a DJ on the balcony, set up a bar for the adults, and let her rip!

The BIG event my daughter was anticipating was the BALLOON DROP!! Concepts of years, time, and passing from old to new just doesn't matter when you're five. Balloons falling from the ceiling? Now that's something!

So my photo/s for today, this first day of my PAD 2013, are of my daughter catching her New Year's balloons! Runner's up are the two shots I took on the very cold drive home. Thankfully we live only an hour drive away!