Pre-competition jitters & a cold: Emigh’s Hardware, Sacramento

It’s 4:50 a.m. and way too early to be up, but I can’t go back to sleep. Today I’m taking my photos down to Columbia in Tuolumne County for the competition. Since I blogged about two of my images making the finals, a lot has happened, and the person responsible is my photo buddy Lucille.

I was talking about my 8 x 12 prints and that I wasn’t thrilled with them after getting them home and seeing the difference in color on my monitor. I’m also thinking she wasn’t happy with the idea of me taking small prints to the competition. She invited me to her home and together we worked on producing larger prints.

When I left, a whole new world opened for me. I couldn’t believe how wonderful the pictures looked larger. I thought I couldn’t resize them and not lose any of the image. The whole new world is that of do I want to start investing in printing and selling my pictures. I thought about it and decided to wait to see what happens in Columbia. I’m not sure, even if I do well, I want to walk through that door. Do I really want all that pressure at my age? Do I want to turn this photography passion into a small business? I have lots of questions and, right now, no answers.

And, now for the cold. I’m not talking about the weather even though it has been cold and raining for weeks. I’m talking about the sneezing and coughing kind. I’ve been tired for a few days, thinking it was just jitters and being anxious. I’m anxious especially since streets in Tuolumne were flooded a couple of days ago, and I don’t drive a boat!

But, last night at a Toastmaster contest, I realized I had a cold. Just my luck! I fully intend to take my photos down. However, whether I say for the weekend events will depend on my friends Sandy and Ken accepting me with a cold. I’m due to stay with them in Tuolumne City.

Right now my mind is in a quandry and my body is working hard to get me through the weekend. Since, this is a blog about pictures, here’s a few from another rainy day outing at Emigh’s Hardware in Sacramento. When I shoot in a crowded store, I try to isolate my subject and shoot mostly close up.

Anxiety: Finalist in the INFOCUS competition

I was on overwhelm. I had bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D3100 in late 2012. Digital photography was slightly out of my technical expertise. Like what was ISO? Nikon wrote a pretty good manual, but assumed that the reader understood the terminology.

So, I looked for help, and I went to visit my friend Sandy, in Sonora, who’d been shooting for years. We had a great couple of days. Mostly, she showed me how to relax with the camera and gave me composition tips.

Since then, my expertise level has increased, mostly because of doing the 365 (taking a picture each day of the year) and joining the Sierra Camera Club in Sacramento which offers juried competitions twice a month. I’m not there to win; I’m there to learn. But, I always wondered if I should enter into a more broad type of competition.

I watched Sandy winning or placing at small county fair compeitions and asked her to let me know about one when it came along. The California State Fair, right here in Sacramento, seemed daunting to me. Could I really compete with the wonderful photographers in this region?

Sandy did let me know of the INFOCUS Photography Competition & Exhibition in Columbia, California. I knew if I didn’t enter this one, I would never enter one. I submitted five photos and two made it into the finals. So why am I anxiety ridden? It’s the printing, matting and framing that has me in a tizzy. The wonderful owner at Image Pros Photo, in Orangevale, helped me understand that I couldn’t make the images larger. I would lose some of the picture. Since these were macro and closeup photos, I kept them small. She also worked with me on the lighting in the picture.

So, here I am, ready to frame and bring the pictures down to Columbia for judging and exhibition on March 9. Still on overwhelm!

Here are my entries that made it into the finals. Wish me luck!

Discovery: Christmas at the Capitol Building, Sacramento

I have discovered Color Efex Pro, and I love it. I love it just as much as I do Silver Efex Pro which I use all the time when editing for black and white. I don’t edit my photos that much because I still have not gotten into Photoshop or other programs. So, these presets are a great way for me to give my images a fresh look and a start at creativity. I do work on them after I apply the preset.

I’ve been using Color Efex on my outdoor landscapes. You’ll see some of it when I start posting my Kauai pictures (I still have the last day to edit.). I can see the opportunity. I can compose the image. I can do the basic editing. But, when it comes to giving the image that creative touch, I’m unable to do it on my own. I can’t see the final image in my mind, let alone know how to get it there! In comes the preset or profile. They give me ideas to jump off on. Then, away I go. Maybe with practice, I can do it on my own in Photoshop with layers, filters and more.

Every year, I promise myself that I’ll get into Photoshop, but it never happens. Life takes up the time I’ve set aside. I remember when I ran my home-based business, and I actually blocked off office time. I’ll have to do that for studying processing. It’s not only Photoshop, I’ve got other programs that I haven’t learned.

In the meantime, I’m so happy with the Nik collection. Take a look at a recent outing to the Capitol Building in Sacramento and the beautiful tree on the front lawn.

I didn’t do that well Tuesday night at the Sierra Camera Club, in Sacramento, competition, but then I expected I wouldn’t. Sometimes pictures look great on the monitor, but not so great when they are printed. That was my predicament.

When I looked at the prints, I was dismayed. I decided to enter them anyway. After all I’m there to learn, and I did. The scores range from 8 to 12. I got two 10s and two 11s. I’ll confess that the judge didn’t give a score under 10! Print is just one of several categories, and for me, the most difficult. I’m not the only one printing out 8 x 12 images, but we are in the minority. However, I don’t think I’m ready to invest the money in larger prints.

In the digital categories, I have been awarded 12s, but never made it to the golden “13.” But, I’m happy. I joined this group to learn, and I have. I’ve also learned how to look at images. It’s amazing what details the judges see that I haven’t trained my eye to look for.

Toastmasters has trained me not to take critiquing as an assualt on my abilities. So, I understand that judging is subjective. There have been a few times when I dissagreed with the judge; but, after a few weeks, I saw that the judge was so right! Sometimes we get attached to our product and what we see in it that we don’t view it with a critical eye.

I thank the fantastic members of the Club. They are most eager to help, and just seeing their work gives me something to shoot for. Most of all, I feel great when my images are competitive with theirs.

If you are a new photographer, I urge you to join this type of club. There’s always something new to learn. You’ll find some of my entries below.

 

 

Now a yearly trek: Lotus blossoms

They are so beautiful, but only bloom once a year. But, that’s also what makes the Lotus flowers so special. The flowers in this post are from the Vedanta Society of Sacramento in Fair Oaks (Where last year’s images were shot.) and my chiropractor’s farm in Auburn. Who would have thought that a small Lotus pond would be on a farm!

At the Vedanta Society, the mature Lotus were more inside the pond and the buds surrounded them on the outside. That made shooting them a little tricky, but with the lens extended all the way out to 140 mm and creative cropping, I managed.

At the farm, it was just the opposite.  The featured image is a black and white from the farm. No matter, they are beautiful no matter where they are. And, pictures are a way of enjoying them all year round.

Blog neglect: Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area, Davis California

It takes a lot of time and effort to get a house ready to sell. If you’ve ever sold a home you know what I mean. We had pictures taken today and have a few days before the listing goes live, giving me the time to write this blog and go on a photo outing tomorrow.

Today’s post is on the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area–we locals call it the Yolo Bypass. This close-to-home wildlife area that covers 25 square miles and is home to nearly 200 species of birds. I’ve never seen 200 birds, but it’s close to home and usually we can spot a few species. Unlike other wildlife areas, we are allowed to get out of our cars to photograph the wildlife.

However, the last couple of times I’ve been there, the wind was blowing so hard that even the birds were having trouble. This recent outing was a challenge for me to hold a heavy camera and lens while bracing myself in the wind.

Still, it was fun and I’m looking forward to the break in the house selling effort to attend my Tuesday group’s outing to the Historic Old Sacramento City Cemetery. Marlene is spicing it up with a scavenger hunt.

We’re not moving far, just downsizing. When you’re in your mid 70s, it’s best to think ahead and buy a home without stairs, etc.!

Getting some exercise: Midtown Murals

One of the things I love about photography is the exercise you get both physically and mentally. Last week’s outing in Midtown Sacramento offered a major amount of both.

This was my third time out to capture the murals, and I tried to get a different slant on the paintings I shot before. Most of these were painted as part of “Wide Open Walls,” a festival held all over Sacramento in the summer of 2017. Some of the paint is fading already, while some colors are bright.

I also tried to capture some other sights like lines, patterns and textures. It was a fun morning with the Sactown Photogs. And of course, a lot of exercise!

 

This and that: Two Mandarin ducks and lunar eclipse

It’s not that the duck and lunar eclipse have anything in common–except for me and my camera. Oh, it could be the fact that one was planned and didn’t turn out well and the other wasn’t planned and turned out successful.

First the Mandarin ducks at Elk Grove Regional Park in Elk Grove. This was a planned outing for 9 a.m. By the time we got there and I drove around to the other side of the lake, the ducks needed to nap. It seems they like swimming in the fog! Those of our group who got there about a little earlier and parked in the right lot, got beautiful shots of them swimming.  I still got some of them napping and standing. And, I did get some fog shots. We get the Tule fog in Sacramento. I love the moodiness of fog.

These are some of the ducks and moody fog images:

For the lunar eclipse, I decided to sleep in if I could; but if I woke up in time, I would just shoot the triple lunar event from my backyard. I woke up at 3:45 a.m. (Darn my internal clock) and tried to go back to sleep. At 4:15 a.m., I got out of bed, gathered my camera gear, set up and opened my back door. Now this is the way it should be done–in PJs, bathrobe, coat, drinking tea and set up right outside my back door! I didn’t get cold!! I did try several lenses before I ended up with my fixed 300mm. These were the best of all the shots:

So there you have it. Planned or unplanned, I had fun!

 

A promise is a promise: Happy New Year

I always try to keep my promises. The operative word there is “try!” In my last post, I said that I would be going out to shoot Christmas lights when my friend Jean got her new camera, and I kept that promise. I was really dragging that night, and I’m so glad that my promise got me up and out. We had a lot of fun in the short time we were taking photos.

Our adventure took us to the Fab 40 area of Sacramento–an area of old beautiful homes. This neighborhood’s holiday effort didn’t compare to the residents of Dove Court in Orangevale; but with my fatigue and Jean’s knee, it was perfect. We walked the two blocks, shooting and talking with some residents. I saw two displays I liked and had fun zooming my lens.

Oh, Jean’s new camera is a tiny Panasonic mirrorless that does a lot. It made my Nikon D7100 look huge and feel heavy! I hope she finds a great deal of joy in using it.

Happy 2018 everyone. My wish if for you to have good health, prosperity and fun!

 

The more I shoot, the more behind I get: Mather Lake

Here I sit contemplating the 1 1/2 shoots I still have to edit. I’m thinking I enjoy shooting more than editing. I don’t even edit a whole lot, but I’m behind. Maybe it’s because the last two outings have been all-day road trips. You know how those camera clicks can add up!

Plus, I’ve started printing. My son wanted two of my images printed on canvas, size 32 x 48 inches. Now that’s a big number for me. I also learned that for the aspect ratio of my camera I should be printing out 8 x 12 prints instead of 8 x 10. And, then I learned how to export from Lightroom to support the pixel count necessary to print large prints.

To complicate my life, I’ve put my D7100 on back focus. After a slight learning curve, I think I like it. Now I have to get my D3100 on back focus also. It was fun on yesterday’s outing with one camera on back focus and the other not.

I thank my son and the Sierra Camera Club for pushing me to print out my images. The Club’s print competition has me gaining more knowledge in that area. I’m so glad I joined that group. I’m more charged up about photography, and more confident in my abilities.

So, maybe I’m behind because I’m learning so much–okay it’s a lame excuse! Enjoy a few shots from the small Mather Lake. I didn’t know what to expect, and brought a wide angle lens rather than a long telephoto. But I got beautiful landscapes and a few of the bird wildlife.