Wednesday, August 19, 2015

21,016 Gifts

Recently spent a couple days with some great friends in the Smoky Mountains taking photos and enjoying each other's company.  The day before I got there they were treated to a spectacular sunrise from the Foothills Parkway.  

Sunrise by Miles Smith
You can see they were blessed by spectacular colors, light, and God Beams shooting through the clouds.  I wasn't able to be there because I couldn't take the time off from work.

The next day Mike Roberts and I went to the same spot at the same time hoping to see something just as spectacular.

As you can see, the conditions were not the same for Mike and I.  I could gripe and complain that we deserved to have conditions just as beautiful as the others.  All that griping would do is make me unhappy.

I may not have been blessed with God Beams but I have realized I was blessed to be able to open my eyes and see the new day.  That I was able to be there that weekend, have good eyesight, have a car to drive myself to the parkway, and a nice camera to take photos were blessings that I didn't even think about.  To date, I have been blessed with 21,016 sunrises that started 21,016 days, every one a gift.  

We are not promised blessings such as sunrises, We're not even promised tomorrow.   Nothing we have done or can do can earn the gift of seeing another sunrise or living another day.   Through Jesus we have been given the gift of eternal life.   None of us deserve that gift.   Jesus sacrificed to give us the gift of life.

Jim Bales Place
I've only lived long enough for 21,016 sunrises and sunsets.  The Jim Bales cabin was built in the Smokies in the late 1800's and has seen many more sunrises.  Life was hard there.  I wonder what blessings the Bales family had.  

As old as that cabin is, it's only been there a small fraction of the time since Jesus died for me.  There have been over 724,000 sunrises since Jesus sacrifice for us.

I'm thankful for each day that I can wake up, open my eyes and see.   I don't know how many more I'll have, but I'm going to enjoy every one, even the cloudy ones.

Thanks to Miles Smith for letting me use one of his beautiful photos.  I'm blessed to have such great Christian friends.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Packing for a Big Photo Trip

I've started the process of going through my collection of camera gear and trying to deciding what to take on our trip to Alaska and what to leave behind.  It's not always possible to take everything when traveling by airline.  

First step is to get everything out.  This is important because in the past I've packed at the last minute and  forgotten things that I wished I had.   I've laid out almost all my gear.   Add one more lens, a compact waterproof camera, a tablet computer and a laptop computer to this.

In the past I have carried everything except the tripod, including the computer, in the big bag on the right.  It is designed to fit under an airline seat and has always worked great.   Once at our destination I move essentials to the middle bag, which is what I take when hiking.

Realistically I know I will not be able to bring everything on this trip.  With the addition of one more lens and the waterproof camera I'll be out of compartments in the bag.  I'm going to have to decide what to leave at home.   How do I decide what takes the trip and what is left behind?

Packing camera gear is a simple prioritization process.  I'll figure out what I need and what I can live without.
17-40 mm

The photos on this trip are going to be pretty much all outdoors.   I'll be shooting my favorite subjects - mountains, lakes, waterfalls, wildlife, flowers, and other subjects God has created for us to enjoy. Scratch the flash.

300 mm

300 mm + 1.4X Tele-Converter
I hope to see some of Alaska's wildlife on this trip.  The National Park rules say we must stay 300 yards from bears and 100 yards from most other wildlife.  That's a long way to shoot!  I will have my longest lens (300mm), plus a 1.4x Teleconverter, plus my cropped sensor Canon 7D body.   That combination is going to give me an effective focal length of 672mm.  I just hope that's enough.

If the weather cooperates we'll have great views of some of Alaska's majestic mountains.   That means a 17-40 mm wide angle zoon lens and my Canon 5D body.  I don't go anywhere without my favorite 24-105 mm zoom lens so it's on the list.   I'll need something between 105 and 300 mm so I'll bring my 70-200 mm zoom.   I love taking macro photos so I must bring my 100 mm macro lens.

70 - 200 mm

This year I'm renting a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens for taking photos of the night sky.   I'm hoping the Milky Way will be clear and spectacular while we are there.

That's five lens and two cameras.  My back is starting to hurt just thinking about it.

This trip has also thrown a special challenge my way.   We will be flying into Denali National Park on a small plane.  The plane is small enough that I'm limited to 25 pounds of luggage, including camera gear.   I guess June is going to have some of my clothes in her bag for those 4 days.  

Just going through this planning exercise has gotten me thinking about the trip and I'm getting excited!   I made some of our reservations in January.  Being 9 months away, it didn't seem that real at the time.  Now sure it does!

Now that I have figured out the important stuff, it's time to figure out what clothes I'll need on this trip.
24 - 105 mm

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Wait For It

Saturday night I was at South Holston Dam with the Eastman Camera Club.   We were out there to practice our light painting skills.  For most of us, those skills were pretty close to zero and we had a lot to learn.  It was a great time to spend with other photographers, learn from each other, and enjoy a beautiful evening.

After watching the sunset from the top of the dam, we headed downstream to the weir dam to see what we could come up with.

Big Sunset From Top of The Dam
Timing is everything.   About the time the sun was setting, TVA stopped letting water through the big dam and the cool water that was flowing over this weir dam stopped.   It would have made a more interesting photo if it was still flowing, but we were there to experiment and learn.  I didn't expect to get a great photo this first time out.

The water below the big dam is very cold and around sunset a dense fog forms on the surface of this cold water.   Shining a flashlight straight into this fog had the same effect as your car high beams.  The light reflected right back and became a solid white blob.   To overcome this, June stood off to the left and shined the flashlights back on the weir dam at an angle, eliminating much of the glare.  Yes, she had two flashlights and at one time she was waving them around like Mickey Mouse directing the stars in The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  All that waving payed off with the dam being evenly lit by the flashlights.

Light Painting the Weir Dam
This was a 30 second exposure, which allowed the stars to be seen in the sky.

By 10:20 the full moon was up, washing out the stars and most everyone had packed up and left thinking the show was over.   We started walking toward the car and I decided to try one more shot looking up river right into the moon.   I wanted to get the curving walkway defined by the posts along the river bank.  During the 30 second exposure, someone drove through the parking lot doing some impromptu headlight painting right into my shot.   Their headlights give the posts a nice halo effect, defined the curve of the walkway and balanced out the strong light from the moon.   I really like the effect.

Accidental Light Painting

Sometimes we think the show's over, there's nothing else left to shoot and we leave.  I've seen people leave when they think a sunset is done, only to miss the most spectacular scene after the sun has gone down below the horizon.  Leaving early may get you home sooner, but you may miss some of the best photography of the day.  Sometimes you just have to "wait for it".