I’m not good at posting regularly

The title says it all. I’m terrible at it. I am at a crossroads in my internal motivation, trying to dedicate more energy to what I enjoy doing and it is a constant struggle to find a balance. That being said, I was able to get this post started, and it should lead to a finish.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 300mm f/4 HS APO G@ f/4.5, ISO 500, 1/320s

My last post was a good part of three months ago. I posted about the anniversary of my first dive into serious photography. It was right before a trip to Colorado in January 2011. My first return with equipment I want to have with me is going to be later this week.

Playing with an A7

Where to get started? I was in the Pacific Northwest for a few days earlier this month and I was fortunate enough to meet with Ron Martinsen and he let me borrow an A7 for a few days and I allowed him to borrow my 50mm f/1.4 SSM ZA lens to test out the LA-EA4 adapter for his blog. I was flabbergasted at the opportunity. Here is the guest post I made on his blog.  The weather was dumpy and my schedule was dumpier, I even resorted to some testing on random objects, like a marker on the hotel bed spread in low light.

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ILCE-7, 35mm f/2.8 ZE @ f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/50s

The A7 is definitely a cool little camera. I’m still trying to figure out where the future of the A-mount is going and where I will fit into that equation. If I were to go to the E-mount, I’d have to go all-in and I just don’t see that happening any time soon.

Spring is Here!

It is well-documented, I am a Spring junkie. I have peach, pear, and apple trees, daffodils, tulips, azaleas, holly bushes, and a bunch of random other junk growing in my yard. I have a couple families of cardinals, a new family of blue jays, as well as a nest of owls and hawks close by. I planted some roses, primrose, and a few other things which should make for some good subjects. The first sign of Spring this year was these Columbine flowers which grow in a random spot in my front yard.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] @ T4.5, ISO 400, 1/160s

The daffodils came out in full force a week later.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/60s

And I spent the bulk of a later weekend putting in roses. I can’t wait to see how those turn out.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4.5, ISO 125, 1/250s

Random Final Thought

I have plenty more to talk about, yet more work and reality to deal with, so I hope to find some more time. I will leave you with this thought. I’m usually the person taking the photographs and rarely am I in them. I revisited my collection of photos from Austria which included Christian’s photos and found a few taken of me, by Christian, which I particularly like. At time I was a bit weirded out by the thought of my photo being taken, but now I truly appreciate it, especially those I didn’t know he was taking.

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SLT-A57, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 @ f/7.1, ISO 100, 1/800s – Photo by Christian of optiphot.com

I still haven’t figured out how to express the Austria trip in words. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do so.

A lot going on…

I constantly feel like I am falling further and further behind… Really, I am about where I need to be when it comes to my work stuff, which means I am actually behind in everything else.

I have a ton to write about and I am going to try to catch up, yet again to make sure none of this is lost. I plan on making some posts in the coming days, but probably not today, but I figure I would make a list. So in no particular order here goes:

1. Holiday Cards. The annual adventure which is the family holiday card.

2. The ACC Championship Game. A last-minute ticket purchase allowing me to see the number one team in the land and eventual Heisman trophy winner. And I snuck some equipment in as well.

3. 35mm Film Adventures. My latest addiction. Experimenting with 35mm film.

4. Wedding Lessons Learned. Post-processing lessons and other lessons learned in finishing the job.

5. Austria. I still haven’t finished writing about Austria. I’ve written about it in my head several times but I just can’t do it justice. I also want to revisit the photos with a clear head.

6. Adobe Creative Cloud. I purchased the Lightroom/Photoshop membership yesterday. Lightroom I already had. Photoshop, I am completely lost right now.

7. Picture Frames. I have a hard time purchasing frames for my photographs. I decided to attempt making one… And it turned into three.

Since this is a photo blog, I am obligated to post a photo. Here is one of the “throwaways” from our family holiday card.

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SLT-A99V,85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.5, ISO 100, 1/125s, +2EV

One year later…

Today, WordPress let me know I have been doing this for a year. A year and a week, actually by my count. I hadn’t logged in for a while as I am absolutely slammed with work right now. Now I feel bad. I really want to be able to post a little more frequently than I do. I’m still two months behind on posting about my Austria trip. I’ve had 16,000 unique page views. Hopefully some of those people got some value from my posts.

In my first couple of posts I mentioned something about not being able to shoot my favorite subject, my wife. Now I get to photograph her more often. One problem solved.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/640s

A year ago I was shooting with my A77, and though I still have it, use it, and love it; I now shoot mostly with my A99. I’ve learned some new techniques and figured a couple of things out.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100, Various speeds (Processed in HDR Efex Pro 2 from 3 exposures)

I’ve made a couple of friends, and even hung out with one. Thousands of miles away from home, on a different continent.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 28-75 f/2.8@f/3.2 , ISO 50, 1/640s

Which I want to make sure and add as a side note, I have met people online from near my own town through this blog and not made it work to go shoot with them. I feel bad about that.

I’ve slowly started a business. And though it will be a while before I turn a profit (and I have to stop my little lens addiction), I have gotten to shoot some things I didn’t think I would get a chance to shoot before.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO 800, 1/125s

This little blog has done a ton for me. I’ll try to return the favor if I can. Hopefully a little more often.

Until then, I’ll do the best I can to post what I have learned. Even though I am living the dream, I really owe it to my few readers to be a little more diligent.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 2500, 1/60s

(Talk about living the dream Smile  )

Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 5, Part 2: My trip to Austria: Lessons)

OK, as promised a while back, almost two months ago, more Austria. Probably my biggest weakness as a human being (other than being months late with my posts) is my ability to accept help and criticism, and seek advice. In going to Austria, I faced this weakness in learning from Christian and every time I resisted I was taken to school. I learned a lot more than the lessons I will list below, these are probably the no-brainers.

I had two bodies (A77/A99) and one to four lenses (24/2, 50/2.8, 85/1.4, 135/2.8 STF) with me at most times and my Lumia 1020. One day I got sick of carrying all of the weight and against Christian’s advice I brought only the A99 and 135 STF one day and regretted the decision all day.

Lesson #1: Bring something wide. Just do it. Wide angle shots aren’t always about fitting everything in.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, ISO 100, 1/160s

This is a 100% off the body jpg from a lake at a magical place called Styria. I was using manual focus wide open and peaking on the tree growing on the stump.

Christian shoots with an A57 and an array of various lenses. I’d venture to say 50% of his shots were between 14mm and 28mm regardless of lens. He has a couple of wide angle techniques I hadn’t tried before. I have a feeling I’ll be including the techniques in my bag of tricks from now on. I’d also say he shoots ISO 200 about half the time or more. I normally use Auto ISO on my A99 at 100-800 or 100-1600 but I found 200 to a good place for consistent quality in following Christian’s advice one day.

Lesson #2: ISO 200 is a good place to be.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/5000s

This was shot in Vienna on my last full day. I felt like I needed a “redo” of some of the spots after not bringing the right equipment.

I have attempted Macro shots before but I typically tried to ensure the sunlight was present to raise my shutter speed. Christian would rush to give me some shade, which made no sense to me at the time. Now it makes perfect sense. He also showed me a technique for handheld macro in manual. Put the body in rapid fire mode and move outward.

Lessons #3 & 4: Sunlight doesn’t always make sense for Macro. Use a Continuous Shooting mode to shoot Macro handheld.

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SLT-A77V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/6.3, ISO 100, 1/250s

This is a flower in Christian’s front yard. He shaded the shot for me using a car windshield shade.

I’ve never used Macro tubes. Christian had a neat little set of tubes. Amazing results with my existing lenses. It was amazing to see how those worked. The 85mm f/1.4 ZA lens was really good to work with in that situation. The Minolta 200mm f/2.8 APO G was OK.

Lesson #5: Macro tubes are effective and not expensive.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/6.3 (with Kenko Macro tubes), ISO 500, 1/100s

Another flower in Christian’s front yard. I almost fell backward after this shot, the bee was huge in the viewfinder.

These are 5 of many lessons I learned in Austria. I will have one more Austria post to wrap these up but I have some other catching up to do…

Mark of Excellence

I know I still owe you all some Austria posts. I’ve been on the road without access to the files to post. I am back now so I should have something this week. I have other news…

I didn’t have a single entry win the I-Shot-It 200 competition. Lesson learned. I need to submit better work. A consolation prize appeared in my inbox today. I received the I-Shot-It Mark of Excellence for the Week 34 free competition.

This is for a composition of five photos I took in Styria, Austria. My mentor, Christian graciously gave me a tour of Austria and took me to this lake and we parked alongside a side road and walked 200 meters (or so Winking smile ) in the rain to this spot.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA

This photo was post-processed using Lightroom 5 and HDR Efex Pro 2. 

Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 5, Part 1: My trip to Austria: en route)

And finally, almost a month later, I am posting about Austria. I don’t get a lot of page views. I have a relatively small audience. In the past few months I have gotten the most page views from Austria and the country with the second most views, USA, isn’t even close.

Anyone who has read my blog or who may know me knows I am relatively new to what I call “serious photography”. Sure, I have been taking photos for a while, but I have been paying attention to metrics like white balance, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and so on since early 2011. I have never taken a class, but I am a student of the game and I know I am not perfect. Through this blog I have been contacted by people on five continents, but my principal poster is also my biggest mentor, Christian in Austria. This trip gave me the opportunity to meet him and his family, try out some of his equipment, and learn. Boy, did I learn! Christian and his family were very accommodating during my visit and they ensured I got to experience as much of Austria as I could, and sites which were not typical tourist destinations.

I am going to break this post into a couple as I took nearly 4000 photos while I was in Europe. I actually flew in to Munich, Germany as my flight options were better and shorter, and it is relatively inexpensive to take a train to Vienna from Munich. I spent a few hours in Munich on my way in and had an overnight stay on my way back. Otherwise I got to see a ton of Austria.

Munich

I arrived in Munich about 4 hours before my train to Vienna was to depart, so I went to the central train station and found something I was absolutely thrilled about. Luggage lockers. For one euro I got to ditch my suitcase for a couple hours and walk around. I got a ton of shots.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/80s, EV+0.7

Needless to say, I took a right at this sign. Here is a building in Munich about a kilometer from the central train station.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640s, EV+0.7

As you can see, I was blessed with beautiful weather. In fact, it rained only during the night while I was in Europe. Here is another building in Munich.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/2, ISO 100, 1/2500s

I had received my Lumia 1020 a couple days prior so I made a point to put it through its paces during the trip as well.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~28mm f2.2), ISO 100, 1/1186s

The central train station in Munich was very lively, with many different shops, a couple grocery stores, at least a dozen restaurants and more. I can tell you one thing: I didn’t shop at this place.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/200s

Eventually I got to my train. This bad boy topped out at around 230 km/h and the Munich-Vienna trip took about four hours, with about a half dozen stops along the way.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 400, 1/200s

Along the way I used the Lumia 1020 to get a couple shots of the landscape.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~28mm f2.2), ISO 125, 1/500s

Not bad through a dirty train window, going 230 kph. More to come later in Part II (and likely more) of this one-month overdue “catch-up” post.

Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 2): The I-SHOT-IT 200 Contest

I have documented in the past about some of my submissions to i-shot-it.com. They started a new contest a few months ago when they reached 200,000 “Likes” on Facebook which was a free contest where the subject had to have something to do with the number 200. The submission time ended today and it appears there are 1114 submissions.

65 of them were mine.

Did I stuff the ballot box? Maybe. Am I playing the game? Maybe. I’ll call it research. I have 1 in 17 submissions. There are 20 prizes and a grand prize. While some of my shots were really just the number 200 showing up somewhere, I like my chances with some of the others.

I took photos in 4 US states, Germany and Austria with 200’s in them. This particular photo was taken in Hallstatt, Austria.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/500s, ISO 100, –.2 EV

This self-portrait was taken in Munich

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/640s, ISO 100

And this was taken on my way to Vienna from Munich. I would argue this submission should count as two. Both screens display the 200 km/h speed

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~28mm f/2.2), ISO 320, 1/100s

A few shots I had to fabricate, like this photo of page 200 of the only available option in my hotel room on a rainy day in Houston.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/200s, ISO 100

And others I had to just shoot because they were there.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, 1/1250s, ISO 100

But I shot a lot of them. And there is a 1-in-17 chance they’ll see one of mine in the list. And again, some I should get credit for two.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO3200, 1/20s

And I had a couple of natural thoughts when I hear the number 200 I had to act on at my house…

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/30s