My Favorite Images of 2015: People
A second installment of my favorite images of 2015 has to do with people. I love to photograph people in their natural settings or as a portrait shoot environment. People can be very expressive and interesting.
A couple of my favorite photographs came from my 98 year-old uncle’s life-long companion, Lela’s 100th birthday! Lela and Thelma were being interviewed by a local television station on their “secrets to a long life.” They were wonderful to listen to.A friend of mine has a daughter who is a ballerina and I had been wanting to try out a few new flash techniques. This image was taken using stroboscopic flash technique. The flash strobes while the individual continues movement. The result is a sequence captured in one singular image. During a trip to Washington DC we dined at Filomena’s Italian Restaurant. I stood in the entry way and watched as this lady kneaded dough making gnocchi for the customers. She looked up and smiled just as I touched the shutter on my iPhone. I did add texturing with On1 Photo and converted the image to sepia for a competition. It won first place in that competition. While taking photographs at a friend’s wedding reception, I saw this group leave the reception hall with the dogs. Since it was early, I decided to follow them to see what the layout of the property was. The husky was pulling the groom, and almost went into the water. After taking this photograph I studied the dynamics of it. The main photographer is trying to set the scene while one of the groomsman directs. The groomsman is trying to take a shot with his phone. The second shooter is “chimping”. You have one of the bridesmaids coming in to check things out. Meanwhile the bulldog is trying to eat the bouquet! Such a fun image!
Two of my favorite wedding photographs of the year were from Ben and Elisha’s reception and Stephanie and Andy’s wedding. Ben and Elisha got married in Australia where they live and came to Cincinnati for their reception. I went outside to check on the sunset and asked them to come out for a few photographs. I took this using a flash so I could retain the colors in the sunset, also so I could have them visible in the image.
Andy is my cousin. He and Stephanie were married in March behind the Smithsonian Castle. While we were taking a few photographs we were asked to leave by security agents. We were told the reason we had to leave was because we could not have an “organized photoshoot” on federal property. Because I was using professional equipment (my flash was on a monopod and I was using it for fill) I guess they thought we were having an “organized photoshoot.” We got what we needed plus a great story to tell! I do like this photograph; the cherry blossoms were added in post processing.
A couple of fun photographs from 2015 were on my trip to Ossabaw Island in Georgia. The domesticated donkeys were a first for me.One of my fun photoshoots this year was with RJ Haddy and his assistant Edward Warren. I used a flash with a green filter then added the special effects to the orb using Photoshop. I became aware of the Fire and Ice Festival in 2014; when it was already over. I put it on my calendar for 2015; what a fun event it was…COLD! They light wood in a tower made of ice and allow it to burn until the ice melts and the fire goes out. Another fun photoshoot I had this year was a good friend of mine’s grandson, Nelson Craycraft’s senior photographs. I had an idea in my mind for this but due to equipment not cooperating with me at the time, I had to switch gears. A compound bow is very heavy and his arms were getting fatigued. I definitely wanted to get the eye in the site.
I hope you have enjoyed my people pictures for 2o15!
Fisheye Lens: Pros and Cons
The 8mm Rokinon fisheye lens is a great lens to capture landscapes and to create surreal images. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to using a fisheye lens. The photographer has to decide what adds to or takes away from the image.
Pros of using a fisheye:
Using the fisheye to creatively “bend” the subject is a pro of this fine lens. The clarity throughout remains intact. It creates a snow globe effect when used close-up.
When shooting with a fisheye lens it is possible to capture sweeping landscapes with a greater depth of field. The image quality and sharpness throughout the image is a definite pro. The photographer can also create surreal images with a fisheye lens.
Getting low to the ground will provide for interesting foreground in the image.
Cons of using a fisheye:
While the pros listed above are very positive uses, they can turn into cons if you do not want your subject to bend or curve. Even in the best case scenario you may end up with a slight curve on the edges. When looking through the viewfinder, move the camera up and down and watch for the bend. The image can be exaggerated or will look fairly normal as the camera is moved.
Photoshop and Lightroom have excellent lens correction features; with practice, lens distortion can be corrected or enhanced depending on the final vision of the photographer.
In the sunrise photos above you can see how the clouds curve, but the horizon is fairly level. It does make for a nice effect with the arching clouds. In the photograph of the boat, the horizon is curved and the foreground is bubbled toward the viewer. While this may not be a desirable outcome, the photographer has to decide if that is what the end result should be.
The fisheye lens definitely has its place in the photographer’s bag and there are many creative uses for it. Adding a slight curve to a photograph can enhance the image or provide an unwanted distraction to the viewer. It is up to the photographer to decide how to use the lens. If given the opportunity to try one; see what kind of images can be made!
Photography is a skill with infinite learning opportunities!
Veterans Day 2015
Veterans Day stirs many emotions for me. My father’s funeral was on November 11, 2011…yes, 11/11/11 (dad would have enjoyed the numbers). This fall I took a trip to our Nation’s Capital and have written a previous blog about visiting Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington is the ultimate homage to our veterans. Many towns have veteran memorials to honor their fallen soldiers.
My family has had strong representation in the military; US Army, US Navy, and US Air Force. I have had friends in all branches of the military. I have a great admiration for those who chose to serve in the armed forces. I seriously considered joining the Air Force in 1982; I had graduated college and was having difficulty finding employment as a photographer and had decided to pursue nursing as a career. My friend Cathy had enlisted in the US Army and asked me to join with her. I told her if I was going to go into the armed forces it would be the Air Force. I ended up going back to nursing school and made the choice to stay in Cincinnati. Over the years, I thought about the Reserves, but my biggest hesitation was basic training. I hate running! I never could run; I would try and that reported runner’s “high” never happened for me. Basic training scared me, I dislike confrontation, I dislike yelling…so I decided I had better stick with the things I was good at.
My father always attended the High School Veterans Day assembly. The final year I attended with him (2010) was very memorable for me and it was always emotional for him. The playing of taps always brought tears to his eyes, that day was no different, I was glad I was with him.
While en route to Washington DC, there was structure in the distance at the Quantico exit. On the sign it said National Marine Corps Museum. I was in the center lane and made my way to the exit.
The roof of the building is a striking image against the landscape. I was excited to walk through the doors to see what was inside.
Many times I found myself in tears while reading the information in the displays. There were 2 instances I took serious pause. The first was when I was reading about a dog who had been trained to detect IED’s and how he died while riding in a vehicle that struck an IED in the road. His handler donated all of the dog’s belongings to the museum. It was very touching. The dog had saved many lives during his service detecting the same device that took his life in an accident.
The second time I took pause was when I was reading about Afghanistan. In 2011, there was heavy combat, I had to read it more closely. My cousin Andy was stationed to a unit in Afghanistan during that time. It was a very emotional moment for me. I realized, then, how people are changed in combat. I have great respect for individuals who choose this life.
I marveled at the exhibits. What fascinated me was listening to people tell their “stories”. One young man talked about a fellow soldier who had been injured in Afghanistan and how he was “somehow different” than what he was before the experience. One exhibit was a boat with the drop down at the end. I heard older gentlemen talking about his experience in WWII. He stood on the boat and recounted how an entire squadron was lost when the boat they were on landed on a sandbar and when when they stepped off in full gear they drowned.
My impression of the museum was if you are a soldier suffering from PTSD it would be a difficult journey though the museum. The sound effects were realistic; the exhibits were graphic. The voices, the shells exploding, the visual stimulation of the exhibits put the visitor in the middle of the action.
I enjoyed walking through the museum. It transports you through time. My favorite part was the firing range simulator. For $5 you can fire a stripped down AK-47, that fires a laser simulated bullet at 300 yards. I had to give it a try! The high score that day was 95%; the big difference was no recoil; no kick. I held steady, I had one shot go outside of the center of the target…my score…85%. I was thrilled! I need to spend a little time on the firing range!
The museum was a stop worth taking. In the almost 2 hours of time spent at the museum, I did not leave the first floor. There was so much to see; all of the exhibits were a transport back in time. Over the years our country has been protected by young men and women who have barely adulthood. They are given weapons and are trained to kill. We do not always understand the physical battles. The emotional battles these young men and women face and carry with them for the rest of their lives are at times terrifying. When I see someone in uniform, I take a moment to thank them for their service. Thank someone you know who has served our country.
Arlington National Cemetery: October 30, 2015
Whenever I am in the Washington DC area I always pay a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. For me, Arlington is a humbling experience. Each marker represents an individual…son, daughter, father, brother, sister…who has fought for our country. On the day I was there they were cleaning the headstones, no wonder it always looks pristine! I watch people look and observe, it is a place of reverence. There is a sense of respect and honor. If you ever visit Washington DC put Arlington into your plans.
My friend Julie went on this trip with me and she had never been to Washington DC. I promised to show her the highlights which included a stop at Arlington National Cemetery. We arrived at approximately noon and we walked through the visitors center then out into the cemetery. Our first stop was JFK’s place of rest. I do remember when he was shot and watching the coverage on our old black and white television. It was a sad feeling, although I was very young at the time it is a memory that has stayed with me for my entire life. Then shortly after was Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
My first impression when I visited Arlington several years ago has not changed. It is overwhelming to take it all in at once. The only sounds heard at JFK’s grave were the clicks of cameras and the mechanical sound from the cell phones that imitate the sound of a shutter opening and closing. We walked to Robert Kennedy’s grave. When looking at JFK’s grave then going to Robert’s there is a stark contrast. JFK’s resting place is more elaborate whereas Robert’s is very modest. They both have walls with engravings of their famous speeches. Robert’s site has a fountain, but it was not functioning while we were there.
As we continued our walk to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I noticed 3 canons at the foot of the staircase. I told Julie they must have something special going on because the canons are not a normal site at the cemetery.
I always go to see the changing of the guard. It is a solemn event. The young men who guard the tomb have dedicated their lives to this charge. It takes much discipline to be a guard. The honor that is bestowed and entrusted on those who serve their country in this capacity is more than what words can ever describe.
The precision in which the guard walks his 21 steps and the “click” you hear, often sends chills through my body. When the new guard comes into the hallowed ground he is inspected, head to toe, his rifle is checked, they walk in cadence with the guard who is watching the tomb.
Just as the changing of the guard ceremony ended I heard fighter jets in the distance. I raised my camera and started clicking away. I saw the 3 jets flying overhead and I told Julie, “This is not a normal occurrence, I wonder what is going on?” In just a few moments after the new guard took his post a canon was fired. I knew then there was something else going on at the cemetery that was of high importance. Moments later it was announced they were going to do a changing of the wreath ceremony. Only one other time have I witnessed this. I told Julie she was very fortunate that she was here to see this.
The canons continued to fire during the wreath ceremony. We started down the hill and we chose to go the less traveled path to make our way back to the visitors center. As we came around a turn I saw a hearse (we had seen one earlier in the day so we figured there was a funeral). I also noticed two Marines standing at the entrance to the road. There was a funeral. We made our approach, and I saw numerous troops, an honor guard, and a band gathered in the distance. My jaw dropped. As many times as I have been to Arlington I had never witnessed a funeral. However, this was not an ordinary funeral because of the shear numbers of military present. This explained the fly-over and the canons. I stood quietly while they gave the 21 gun salute and the playing of taps. The photojournalist in me was itching to take pictures and all the while kicking myself for not bringing my big lens that day. I started taking a few photographs here and there to commemorate this moment. The one thing that stood out for me was the red flag with 3 white stars. My guess was a 3 Star General. This was a big deal!
On the way out of Arlington I looked up the funeral schedule for the cemetery. Unbeknownst to me I had witnessed the funeral of a historical figure in our military. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. was the first African American Marine Aviator and the first African American Marine General to serve our country. General Petersen died on August 28, 2015 in his home. Petersen joined the military in 1952 and flew in over 350 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam. He received the Purple Heart after his plane was shot down over the DMZ in Vietnam. In 1979 he was promoted to brigadier general; he earned his 2nd star in 1983 and his 3rd in 1986. He fought many barriers in his life and he was quoted as saying, “When someone says you can’t or shouldn’t do something, I go ahead and try it to see why the person didn’t want me to do it.” The Marine Corps was the last branch to get a black general; Petersen said, “Just to be able to say you kicked down another door was a great sense of satisfaction.”
October 30, 2015 will always remain a special memory for me. My dad had great respect for those who served and fought for our country. He always was insistent that when I went to Washington DC I should go to Arlington and watch the changing of the guard. He would have enjoyed this visit so much if he could have been there. I thought of him often that day. He always became emotional during taps. I am so proud of our service men and women who dedicate their lives to serving our country. They give of themselves to fight in battles that many of us do not understand. God bless our troops and our country. Protect and watch over all of our soldiers.
A few extra photographs from Arlington National Cemetery.