|Holding Back the Day|
With the cold weather of winter, I had reduced my cycling to shorter rides, and only on days that I could manage the cold. On other days, I was starting to get back into my photography again with the hopes of getting some new pictures that I wanted on the walls of my office. Funny how things go full circle, since I originally got into photography to dress up the walls at home. Well, I was getting out occasionally, but found myself going to the same old places over and over that I have for years. I was actually taking many of the same pictures as I had done over and over. There was not much excitement for me, until I made a trip to Hanging Rock and shot something completely different.
Fast forward to January 1st, when I was out riding my bike once again, putting photography on hold. I didn't mind, the plan was to be a photographer when cycling wasn't possible (cold, wet, nasty days). I got my 62 miles in on New Year's Day like every cyclist was supposed to do. I felt great for having done the ride, but somehow I felt like I had pedaled the day away.
When Toni and I went on our anniversary trip to West Jefferson, I took my camera as I usually do with the intention of getting out for some pictures in the mountains. We made several long trips around the area and I had fun with my camera, but I still didn't have that excitement that I was wanting to feel. My photographs felt forced for lack of a better word. My goal was still to find pictures for my walls in my office though. I didn't find that picture...Toni did.
|Rust and Splinters|
Unfortunately, the rest of January kind of piddled out photographically. I was getting out, but I wasn't seeing near the success I was wanting to see, and the excitement was dwindling once again. I was still doing a good deal of bike riding, but it was mainly on the trainer inside, since it was getting much too cold for me to ride outside. At this point though, I was more going through the motions on the bike, and my heart really wasn't in it any more.
In an odd twist, Toni and I decided to go out to the Outer Banks in late February since we both like the beach in small doses, and without much in the way of crowds. As you would expect, I took my camera with me, but found myself jealous of Toni who went out running in the mornings. I kept thinking that I should have just brought my bike with me since early on in the trip I was not really liking the pictures I was getting. Then the last morning happened...
|Outer Banks Reflections|
It was nearly another month before I got out with the camera again. If memory serves, I was suffering some artist block, and was just unable to think of what I wanted to photograph. Of course, that pushed me back to the bike again, and with the temperatures getting warmer, I wasn't really complaining. On the last weekend in March, it was raining and cold, and I was tired of being on the trainer, so I decided that I would take off and head to South Mountains to photograph the white water. It was largely a bust, and I didn't really get excited about the outcome. There were some decent pictures, but something just wasn't clicking between me and the camera.
I found myself thinking less and less about photography, but I wasn't wanting to give it up. I just ended up spending more and more time on my bike. I traveled some 5,000 miles over the course of 2016, stopping occasionally to go out with the camera every other month or so. I just wasn't really happy with what I was bringing back from these trips. To make matters worse, I was having a very hard time with my prints having some very strange color casts on a good many of my proof prints. It was less of a problem when I printed through Photoshop, but it was still discouraging to have a nicely balanced image on the screen which printed through rose tinted glasses.
Several things happened toward the end of summer which greatly changed my direction as a photographer. The first thing that happened was I decided that I would enter the Dixie Classic Fair as I had done in years past. I had no idea what I would enter, but for some reason, I really wanted to participate again. The second thing that happened was my computer crashed. Yeah, that sucked!
Since the computer was nearly 10 years old, I really didn't want to upgrade the hard drive. My only option was to buy a new one. Since I was still dabbling with photography, I decided to find a computer that would be able to handle photo editing a little easier than my previous one. With Toni's blessing, I shelled out a nice chunk of change to get a new computer with all new software since all of mine was designed to run on Vista. My biggest challenge was whether or not to upgrade my Photoshop to the Creative Cloud. Ultimately, I did. I also got Lightroom which I had heard about but never used.
I'll be honest, the Creative Cloud programs sat idle on the computer for a while before I went out and got some new pictures. Wanting to get familiar with Lightroom, I set out one afternoon to shoot a barn which I had done several times before. This was not so much about getting a great picture as it was about really trying out the new software from a capture to print workflow.
|Dairy Barn in the Summer in B&W|
I was excited about it when I got home and tried to edit it in Lightroom. That was a mess! I had no real idea how the different sliders worked, but I fiddled with it for a while and then gave up. I brought the picture into Photoshop and started to work it there, but found that I was liking what I had in Lightroom better...so, I went back and started over in Lightroom. I ended up with a photograph that I really liked in color, until I printed it. Again with the odd color casts. I removed those, and printed it again, and it was tolerable, but not quite what I was looking at on the screen. To get around this, I did a B&W conversion which looked great and it printed out decent too.
Overall, I was happy with the day, and had a couple of really good pictures which printed out marginally well. In fact, I was considering outsourcing the printing to see if maybe my color profiles were just jacked up. I wanted to see this print done as a large print, but wasn't really wanting to see it from my printer, LOL! I was feeling defeated in the middle of feeling happy.
I spent the next few days looking at different YouTube tutorials on Lightroom, and reading all I could about it. I was finally able to make sense out of most of the controls in Lightroom, and knew what they could do, and the limits that they could be pushed. As a slight bonus, I was also searching out the issues that I was having with the printer. I found my answer, and it was one that I had known all along, but had thought I had already addressed it...disabling the automatic color management. Well, I now knew how to properly do it, and I was looking for a test subject.
Since, I was mostly displeased with the print of the barn in color, I tried that with the new color management and found that it was spot on accurate with what I was seeing on the monitor. This was amazing...I had finally fixed a problem which had vexed me since getting into print making at home in 2008!!! I was on a roll, and now armed with a much higher quality of print. It was time to start deciding on what to enter for the Dixie Classic!
Well, I had my B&W entry already set with the picture of the barn. I just needed to find a color picture that I could enter. I was going through my recent catalog, but just couldn't find the right one I wanted to put in for a competition. I needed one that would appeal to a majority of viewers since I didn't really know who was going to be judging. I decided to try putting my new found understanding of Lightroom to the test and and go back for a rework of a previous image. I went through my old RAW negatives and found one that I really liked from a compositional standpoint, but had given me a terrible time with exposure latitude. I imported it, and started to do the edit. It looked awkward at first, but as I started to fine tune things, it all started to come together.
|Down to Earth|
It was this photograph that really changed me as a photographer. While I still don't care for massive post processing, I have learned to embrace what the camera is actually capable of doing. The exposure latitude of my 5D Mk3 is much more than I had given it credit for in the past. I was now able to look at scenes differently, and had a much better chance of presenting what I had seen. Between the post processing abilities and the print making, I was now fully realizing the process that I had been striving for. I felt like a photographer!
In October two things happened which went a long way in supporting my evolution as an artists. First off, my two entries in the Dixie Classic both won first place awards in their class. The second was after a trip to Virginia, I posted the new pictures online, and the very next day I went to work a dear friend of mine dropped by my office and made a surprising request that I wasn't expecting at all.
|Blue Ridge Autos|
While I hadn't been in the business of selling prints for several years now, this was a mixed blessing for me. On the one hand, it meant that my art was speaking to others once again, and that was great. On the other hand, it meant that people would be wanting my art to hang on their own walls. For an artist that is a scary proposition on many levels. I started to wrap my mind around that, and slowly started to gear photography back in the direction of sales without trying to be a salesman.
|Racing Towards the Sunrise|
|Mountain Red Head|
Things were going so well, and I was really coming into my own as a nature photographer once again. I decided that I was going to need to learn as much as I could, and find new locations to shoot at if I was going to be successful as a photographer. After some searching, I found one of the largest regional photographer's clubs, the Carolinas' Nature Photographers Association. I went ahead and joined and started going to the meetings to learn as much as I could about photography in this area. One of the first things I learned was photographers in this area go far away to get their favorite images. Well dang, I can't afford to do that, so I tried to pay the most attention to things that were much closer to home.
Sitting in the living room, she told me that she wanted to change the pictures up and bring some new color into the living room. She detailed what she wanted to do, and told me that to balance out her beloved Braided Knot, she wanted a new tree picture. I was thinking that she was going to go for this one, since they were both shot in portrait orientation, but I was wrong. She wanted the creepy tree I had shot on the Parkway from Laurel Knob. Well, like I said, I liked it, but wasn't so sure I liked it like that. But what Toni wants, Toni gets.
David Card who has been doing my framing for the past couple of years at After 5 Framing was impressed with the picture and worked with me in selecting the right combination of mats and frame to really make it pop. Since this was for Toni, I went wild with the options and tried not to cut any corners. I was feeling a bit of buyer's remorse after getting the bill, but I liked what was planned for it. After a couple of weeks it was ready and David called me and in a very creative way told me to prepare myself for the finished product. He said this was the best one to date. And, when I picked it up later that day, I have to say, I agreed with him. It finally made sense in the frame, and it all came together. Of course, Toni loved it and was happy to have it on the main wall in the living room.
The story wasn't over with that though. David asked me if I would consider selling him a print of this old tree. Heck Yeah I would!!! He said that this was only the second time that he had wanted to buy a piece of art from one of his customers in all the years that he has been in business. Talk about humbling! Well, I went home and printed it out once again as a 13x19", which was signed on the front by request (little trivia for the collectors out there). I again had that mixed emotion on seeing the print. I kept picking out the things that I saw wrong with the picture, and that brought me down from the high that I should have been feeling, but David liked it, Toni liked it, and I was doing these prints for them.
Well, I took it to work, and had it laying out getting ready to take to David, and I had several folks drop by and talk to me about it. One of which told me that he was planning on getting several of my prints for his home and office. While all of this was going on, I got an email for a print request from my favorite barn shot in Jefferson, Rust and Splinters. OK, this was starting to get real. I was actually having to juggle orders in my head. I had one about to be delivered, one being ordered, and several others being spoken for. It was a stress I was happy for, but again, it was rather scary.
In just a couple of days, I had a formal order for another Gnarled Centurion print from my coworker. This was now the third time I had printed this particular picture in 13x19"!! I still wasn't sure I liked it that much, but I was happy to be wrong on this one. I started to feel like the singer that has that one song that everyone wants to hear at the concerts year after year. I've got to admit, that isn't a bad problem to have
Well, I had kind of floated around with my photography at the beginning of the year with no intention of making it a serious venture. There were a series of mundane trips through the year, and then, the computer crashed. Once I got things up and running once again, I found new inspiration in my craft. I have not seen the saddle of my bike in months now, and I have been fully involved with my photography. Not only am I out trying new things with old locations, I am learning all that I can about the art of photography, along with post production. There are still things that I have no interest in doing in Photoshop because it damages the integrity of the image, but I'm really liking the photo specific nature of Lightroom, and the opportunities that it is opening up for me.
|A Bit of Drama|
|Guarded and Weathered|
|A Close Race|
|The Wolf's Cry|
In many ways, I have Toni to thank for much of my success this year. Whether it is her voice telling me to photograph a certain tree, or her constant support of my long days along the Blue Ridge Parkway, she is always behind me. I am very fortunate to have her by my side, and am very fortunate that she has an artist's eye as well. I love you, my Photo Wench!