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Birding in Georgia and Florida - April 15-24, 2017

April 26th, 2017

I just returned from a grand 10-day trip to Georgia and Florida with two fantastic friends and superb fellow photographers, Larry Jordan and Phil Perry. Now to download several memory cards from some five cameras used (Nikons for all but one: D500, D7100, D800e, AW110, and iPhone 7 Plus), select some keepers, edit those, and post a handful.

We shot in the following venues:

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Georgia
St. Augustine Beach, Florida
Alligator Farm, St. Augustine
Circle B Bar Reserve
Viera Wetlands
Gatorland, Orlando
Orlando Wetlands

With the exception of some landscapes shot mostly at sunrise at St. Augustine Beach and in the Orlando Wetlands, and a few images captured in various other settings, most of our targeted images on this trip were of birds. The venues of Alligator Farm and Gatorland both have substantial bird rookeries, which provided some close up shots of great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, rosette spoonbills, great blue herons, little blue herons, tri-colored herons, green herons, wood storks, and more. Some of the chicks were so ugly they were beautiful!

At the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida, we ran into Lynn Hackett, with whom we had previously shot at St. Marks NWR, in the panhandle of Florida and last year at Campos Viejos, a ranch in south Texas.

Other sites included opportunities to shoot gators in abundance - as in, there are an estimated 1,700 gators in the 1,500+ acres at Orlando Wetlands. Also seen were wild boar and an eastern ribbon snake (Circle B Bar), raccoons (Orlando Wetlands), and numerous other bird species among the various places we visited: glossy ibis; white ibis, purple gallinule, common moorhen, American coot; limpkin; least bittern; anhinga (aka "snake bird"); bald eagle; osprey; barred owl; black vulture; black-bellied whistling duck; black-crowned night heron; boat-tailed grackle; common gallinule; morning dove; northern cardinal; red-shouldered hawk; sandhill crane; turkey vulture; and I am sure a few others that do not readily come to mind.

As with all birding, some lent themselves to capturing some good to great images, while others such as the least bittern proved elusive to obtain a credible image. Include an otter seen in Viera Wetlands in this category. A few of the different species made it into the "proof of life" category - images captured, but nothing to write home about, as in the hind end of a baby raccoon.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, this one planned to a tee by Larry Jordan. The verdict is in: There is, indeed, life in retirement!

P.S. The restaurants in Georgia and Florida that we visited were outstanding! Fortunately, we hiked considerably, as in 6.4 miles one day in Circle B Bar.

The Power of Candles at Antietam

December 8th, 2016

The Power of Candles at Antietam

Copyright © 2016 by Don Mercer

As I drove toward Sharpsburg, Maryland, on a bleak, mostly overcast day on Saturday, December 3, 2016, I was giving thought to just what the battlefield at Antietam would be like and what the experience would hold for me. The previous afternoon, I had visited the New Market, Virginia, Civil War battlefield. And this morning, I had just walked some of those fields again in which a long ago battle had occurred in 1864. Then I had gotten back in my car and headed north to Maryland and the battlefield at Antietam, yet another sad chapter in our nation’s history.
With some irony, I had never previously set foot on the New Market Battlefield, although the participation by 257 cadets from my alma mater, Virginia Military Institute, or VMI, in that battle on May 15, 1864, had become legend. This battle is the only one in the history of the United States in which a student body fought as a unit. Ten VMI cadets fell that day, mortally wounded.
To be sure, as I drove mostly on back roads, as my general preference is to avoid the Interstate system when feasible, I reminisced of the numerous occasions that I have visited Arlington National Cemetery. Those times have been on more than a few occasions to attend the burial ceremonies for friends and close acquaintances, most from the bygone days of the War in Southeast Asia, known to many as the Vietnam War. Yet that cycle has begun anew with some who survived that war and are now eligible to be buried there, as with one of my roommates from VMI who died in 2010. Our ranks are now thinning once again.
Then there was a visit to the American Cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer on the coast of Normandy in May 2008. The clean geometric lines and diagonals present in the cemetery created such symmetry among the nearly identical headstones – differentiated only when seen at a distance by the appropriate religious symbol. I could not help but feel a chill run up my spine, as I stood in that cemetery overlooking the English Channel, or La Manche (“the sleeve”), as the French term that body of water.
Attempting to comprehend the intensity of the battle that raged on the beaches of Normandy beginning on D-Day – June 6, 1944 – and in the days that followed remains impossible for me to grasp in its entirety. Yet there lay at Coleville-sur-Mer the remains of 9,387 men and women who gave their lives in the fight to bring freedom to Europe. And those are only representative of the many who are buried elsewhere and who also died in Operation Overlord, just one segment of the brutality that raged around the earth during World War II.
Then there are my visits to The Wall, the memorial to those who died during the war in which I fought. I paused with that thought in realization of the trend that seems to be so repetitive – America is more prone to be forever at war than at peace. That is a tragedy for all Americans, not only those on the front lines who bear the direct impact, but also for all their families and loved ones.
My visit to Antietam on this particular date was purposeful, as the National Park Service oversees the efforts of more than 1,500 volunteers who work to place small luminaries across vast areas of the battlefield for just one night each year. December 3 was to be that night in 2016.
I had been in contact with Ranger Linc Beers in order to obtain the necessary permit allowing me to photograph in certain areas of the event. With any luck, I would be able to shoot, as desired, and then join the lengthy line of cars in order to drive the approximate five miles through parts of the National Battlefield Park, as I hoped to view the full extent of the Annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination.
This ceremony is held each year in order to honor those soldiers, who fought for both the Union and the Confederacy, and who fell during the Battle of Antietam. That number involves the placement of 23,000 candles, one for each soldier who was killed, wounded, or missing in that battle.
The sheer number is somewhat mind-boggling, but the time frame in which those numbers were accrued takes your mind to a new and tragic plane, for the battle began in earnest around 6 AM on the morning of September 17, 1862, and was drawing to a close by 6 PM that evening. In just twelve hours, 23,000 soldiers gave their lives either through deaths or wounds in defense of their respective beliefs.
As with the war in which I fought, though, I imagine that most men under arms were far more focused on saving their buddies than raising their guns in pursuit of any politicians’ high-minded ideals. While the fight for and against slavery were prominent causes during the Civil War, there were others to include a highly industrializing North pitted against a predominantly agricultural South, having different and conflicting ways of life, to be sure.
With my aviation background and penchant for math, my first thought, as I drove up, down, and over the small hills of Maryland’s farmland was to translate the number of 23,000 into one hundred aircraft, with each one carrying 230 passengers and crew, crashing during a 12-hour period. Taken one step further, one such crash would have to occur once every 7.2 minutes, as there are 720 minutes in a 12-hour period … a life taken or changed forever in less than every 2-second period of time for that 12-hour duration.
I arrived at the battlefield’s Visitor Center in the mid-afternoon and, as I had planned, and had the opportunity to walk the areas on which I had my permit to shoot. With sunset at 4:47 PM, I had ample time to scout the area; and I hoped that, following my efforts at photography, I would also have time to join the procession of cars that would be making the slow winding drive through designated sections of the battlefield. This drive would allow me to gain a full appreciation for all 23,000 luminaries set out for the occasion.
The Park Rangers were advising that the line generally took two hours to get to the point of entering the battlefield. That would prove to be accurate, with another hour to drive slowly through the Park in the lengthy line of cars and pick-up trucks. It was as if an immense funeral procession was underway.
As the sunlight faded behind the now overcast clouds in the early evening, the candle luminaries grew in prominence from the first of several of my chosen vantage points. I shot in silence, although there were several other photographers present, but most all kept to themselves, which added to the somber mood prevailing in the Park.
Just before 7 PM on completion of my shoot, I returned to my car and exited the Visitor Center lot to drive east on state route 34. I passed the appointed point of entry to the battlefield for the procession and drove a few miles before the line of cars on the opposite shoulder ended, with yet other cars pulling over to join the file. Finding a restaurant, I thought perhaps that the line might shorten while I enjoyed my dinner.
After an excellent meal, I turned west, only to find that the line had lengthened somewhat. I pulled over and crept in line, which took right at two hours before entering the battlefield.
At first, as I climbed a small hill, there was a single line of luminaries on the shoulder on each side of the small paved road. That was reminiscent of the many times that I had landed on some runway at night and then taxied into the ramp in order to park my aircraft when flying in the Air Force, Virginia Air National Guard, and also in general aviation planes.
Once I crested the first of numerous hills, the line of luminaries on each side of the road became two deep, two geometrically aligned rows of small paper bags, with some sand in the bottom to hold them in place, and with a candle, now each having been lit by all the volunteers, glowing inside the bag. As I rounded a turn, the luminaries became three deep with rows set some approximately fifteen feet apart, both vertically and horizontally in long lines that ran, in some cases, to the horizon.
Then there were rows of split rail fence with candles between the road and fence and also set in rows behind the fence line. As I wound my way onto the vast battlefield, with parking lights only in use at the direction of the National Park Service, I crested yet another small hill. There, before me lay thousands of small lights stretching over acres of farmland, sloping slightly upwards from numerous swales.
The impact of the luminaries certainly had the desired effect on me, as to the enormity of lives lost and ruined in that battle. The sight was truly sobering.
As I continued to drive through the battlefield, yet more acres of small lights, each representing one life, could be seen glowing in the crisp, chill air of the evening. It was an astounding sight, one for which I had not totally prepared myself.
I could not help but think about those whom I have known who died in war or had their lives forever changed, as the result of serving our nation. And yet, I found the occasion to be one that was most worthwhile. It was a small tribute, giving of my time to honor those who paid such a dear price on that long ago day in our nation’s history.
To be sure, for me, the utter futility of war, both in our Civil War, as at Antietam, and in so many others across the globe in which our politicians and generals have waged, was in the forefront of my mind this night. I have arrived at a point, as a veteran, at which I am of the opinion that so many of the wars my beloved nation has fought have been in vain, with little to nothing really accomplished other than lining the pockets of many in our military/industrial complex. We continue to fight with off-again, on-again strategies, if any actually exist, flawed tactics, and absurd Rules of Engagement, or ROE. And, yes, the above is the short version, and, yes, sugar coated, of my opinions.
In closing I offer several lines of verse from a poem, “Shot Down,“ which I wrote to honor two men in my US Air Force unit who were killed in action (KIA) in the early morning hours of October 1, 1970, near Tang Kouk, Cambodia – Lieutenants Garrett E. Eddy and Michael Stephen Vrablick. These lines seem to be every bit as fitting for those who perished and were wounded at Antietam, as with the circumstances in which these two pilots gave their lives in combat:

You can only sit and wonder;

Today, we have when, where and how.

But even though we know the answer;

Can’t help but ask why, even now.

Don Mercer
Virginia Beach, Virginia
December 6, 2016

Our National Parks

June 19th, 2016

Thanks to my parents, I was able to travel during my childhood and into my teens to all 48 contiguous states while camping in a 10' x 10' umbrella tent, together with sleeping bags and air mattresses. A Coleman stove and lantern, along with fishing rods and reels, and numerous camping accessories, rounded out our equipment. Dad and I fished many a river and lake across our grand country; and it was then that I was introduced to "hook and cook," as we would clean the fish that we had caught, and then Mom would tend to the cooking.

My dad had seen a large part of the world during his service in the U. S. Army in World War II - Mainland China where he served from 1942-45, Australia, India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Egypt, and more. He shipped out from San Francisco; and, after spending just over three years in China, he returned home by traveling westward in a troop ship and made a complete circuit of our world.

In 1970, I departed from Travis Air Force Base, outside San Francisco; and following my combat tour of one year in Southeast Asia, I returned in October 1971 via a series of embassy flights across Southwest Asia - India, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, to then land in Spain and visit a number of countries in Europe. That served as a wonderful decompression chamber of sorts before catching a contract flight from Germany back to the States, then home for a week, and on to my next Air Force assignment.

Those were grand times during my youth in which I visited many National Parks, along with numerous state parks throughout our country. I have continued to visit National Parks; and, by 2011, I had been most fortunate in seeing 28 of the now 59 National Parks in the United States and its territories, as one is now in America Samoa and another in the United States Virgin Islands.

Together with my passion for photography that has been renewed since the late 1990s, with the advent of digital versus film, I have decided to make photographing our National Parks a principal project. In part, I owe this idea to Mark Thiessen, Staff Photographer, National Geographic, who suggested during a workshop at the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, DC, that every photographer should undertake a major project.

That thought was reinforced when attending a Nikonians workshop with noted wildlife photographer, Jim Stamates, in Grand Teton National Park in October 2011. Having seen much beauty of God's bounty throughout many National Parks since my childhood, I then decided to make photographing "Our National Parks" my lifelong quest. With a family ski trip to Jackson, Wyoming, in March 2012, I was able to venture out and see Grand Teton National Park from the altogether different perspective of winter; and it was glorious.

In 2012 and 2013, I revisited Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, one to which I have been attracted many times over the years due to the beauty of Skyline Drive, together with its proximity to my home in Virginia Beach. I was also able to travel to Congaree National Park in South Carolina for the first time in 2013.

Those visited prior to 2011 are indicated with an "*" in front of the park's name. My level of photography taken in these parks varies from having used a small box camera when I was a kid, to my first Nikon camera purchased in 1971 and used in many subsequent years, to an entry level digital SLR (single lens reflex) bought in the late 1990s. More serious photography is being undertaken in conjunction with my current endeavor begun in 2011. Those parks have the year in which I traveled to visit each noted to the right of the park's name. God willing, I will photograph them all.

I hope that you enjoy some of these images and take the time to visit some of America's greatest treasures, our National Parks. A listing is provided below, with the number of visits in any one year noted in parentheses, if applicable:

*Acadia, Maine 2015
American Samoa, American Samoa
*Arches, Utah 2015
*Badlands, South Dakota 2015
Big Bend, Texas 2016
Biscayne, Florida 2015
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado 2015
*Bryce Canyon, Utah 2015
*Canyonlands, Utah 2015
Capitol Reef, Utah 2015
*Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico 2016
Channel Islands, California
Congaree, South Carolina 2013
*Crater Lake, Oregon 2014
Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio 2014
Death Valley, California 2015
*Denali, Alaska
Dry Tortugas, Florida 2015
*Everglades, Florida 2015
*Gates of the Arctic, Alaska
*Glacier, Montana
Glacier Bay, Alaska
*Grand Canyon, Arizona 2015
*Grand Teton, Wyoming 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016
Great Basin, Nevada 2015
*Great Sand Dunes, Colorado 2015
*Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina 2014
Guadalupe Mountains, Texas 2016
Haleakala, Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes, Hawaii
Hot Springs, Arkansas 2016
Isle Royal, Michigan 2015
Joshua Tree, California
Katmai, Alaska
Kenai Fjords, Alaska
Kings Canyon, California
Kobuk Valley, Alaska
Lake Clark, Alaska
Lassen Volcanic, California
*Mammoth Cave, Kentucky 2015
*Mesa Verde, Colorado 2015
*Mount Rainier, Washington 2014
North Cascades, Washington
Olympic, Washington 2014
*Petrified Forest, Arizona 2015
Pinnacles, California
*Redwood, California
*Rocky Mountain, Colorado 2015
Saguaro, Arizona 2015
*Sequoia, California
*Shenandoah, Virginia 2012, 2013, 2014 (3)
*Theodore Roosevelt, North Dakota 2015
*Virgin Islands, United States Virgin Islands
Voyageurs, Minnesota 2015
Wind Cave, South Dakota 2015
*Wrangell-St. Elias, Alaska
*Yellowstone, Wyoming-Montana (3%)-Idaho (1%) 2014, 2016
*Yosemite, California
*Zion, Utah 2015

Thoughts on Photography

April 17th, 2016

“Thoughts on Photography”

Copyright ©2016 Don Mercer, Rustic 41 Creations


Dedicated to Some Great Photographers and Teachers:

Larry Jordan, P.E.
Phil Perry
Mark Thiessen
Paul Renner
Jim Stamates
Winston Hall
Ken Knight
Ty Brown
Jose Calvo
Aura Banda Cruz
Christian Sea
Royce Bair
John and Barbara Gerlach

And to:

Donna Brennan, Editor, “PSA [Photographic Society of America] Journal”
Margaret Sprott, Publications Vice-President, Photographic Society of America

With Special Thanks to:

Donna Krabill, Director of Education and Communications, Norfolk Botanical Garden
Hugh Hopkins, Class of 1969, VMI, Brother Rat, For Editing Comments & Invitation to Join “Florida Birds” on Facebook
Cathy Peyton, 1st Vice President, HRDSC [1]
Christa Dillabaugh, Amazon Rainforest Workshops – Introduction to "Project Noah"
Carol Snow Milne – Invitation to Join "NATURE LOVERS" on Facebook
Karen Richard Loughrey - Invitation to Join "Project Noah Worldwide" on Facebook
Walter G. Carlson – Invitation to Join “The Tao of Birds” on Facebook

Affiliations and areas of photographic instruction are noted below [2]

Background & Aviation

Photography is a great passion;
Has been for many years.
But in recent times, with digital;
Have acquired, a bit more gear.
There are, those bygone days, with film,
Some great fun, then was had!
When flying high, and also low;
Which some thought daring, others bad.
But buzzing was such fun, you see;
With, the low altitude record, to tie;
As the alternatives, were but few;
For no one, wanted to die!
And even when, not nearly touching;
The land that was, just right below;
Too, when flying at, a thousand feet, or more;
With wonderful memories, so aglow.
My time in flight was all quite grand;
To slip those “surly bonds” and ride, on clouds and wisps of air;
To dive and soar, go slow and fast;
At times, a camera, then in hand.

Moving to Today

But on the subject, of photography;
With all the more, to tell today;
Information in abundance, all quite grand;
And with the Internet, much is right, at hand!
And all the gear, that you might acquire;
Gives budgets quite the scare;
But start out small, and grow a bit;
It’s so much, like, climbing stairs.
There are camera bodies, and lenses;
With primes and zooms, and even a loupe;
With special filters, for different effects;
Memory cards, remote cables – all to group.
Then add, the chargers and batteries;
Those spare ones, to be certain;
Along with those supplies, for cleaning;
So shots don’t appear, from behind a curtain.
Take great care, of your equipment;
And it will take care of you;
So all works, as expected;
Your problems will be few!
Makes packing, all the more interesting;
When heading off, to some far-off land;
Trying to have all, as but carry-on gear;
With the most expensive, close at hand.

Three Approaches: Shoot “Green” - Shoot “Scene” – Shoot “Clean”

There are three approaches, to shooting;
From my vantage point, these days:
Shoot “Green,” Shoot “Scene,” or opt for “Clean;”
As if starting from scratch, for better sway.
The more, you control your camera;
The more direction, you impart;
The result will be, better images;
So gear up, for learning, take heart.
Your camera is quite dumb, you see.
It craves the more, some clues;
With “Scenes,” or “Aperture Priority;”
“Shutter Priority,” and “Manual,” to choose.
Shooting “Clean,” translates into taking control;
Of f/stops, EV, and shutter release;
Of ISO, white balance, and more;
Providing clues, with control – Yes, indeed, increase!
Along with technical knowledge;
Combine some artistic techniques.
The melding of, these two affairs;
Will produce images, more in sync.
And, along with these broad thoughts;
Give consideration, to telling a story;
Recording history, personal and other;
To look back, on some wonderful memories.
“Automatic” mode, is the “Jack of all trades;”
But sadly, it’s the “Master of none.”
Even the manufacturers, paint the dial just so;
Go “Green” for starters, but not best, for the long run!
If you want good images, with your camera;
As you learn, choose scene-specific, for fun.
Provides your camera a clue, and more;
To derive better images, some.
“Landscape,” “Portrait,” or “Action;”
If you have those, at your call;
Select the one, that’s best for the shot;
And then fire, and have a ball.
If you want to go for distance;
Then “Landscape,” you should choose.
But if closer up, is your preference,
Then “Portrait” will not lose.
And if it’s “Action,” you desire;
If you have, that great selection;
Then fire away, and “freeze” your shot;
Use the shutter’s fast detection.
And if it’s really, up so close;
Then “Macro” is your game.
Choose the “Tulip” with abandon;
So you’ll have nothing, thus to blame.
But most important so, you know;
Is keeping all, so clean;
The lens, viewfinder, body;
So you’ll more enjoy, those scenes.
There are none, that clean themselves;
Of that, I’m crystal clear.
Only some, whose camera sensors;
Do clean themselves, with cheer.

EV, HDR, Camera Manual, Focus, Tripod

And “Exposure Valuation,” EV is its name;
To “bracket,” with more brightness;
Or with less, exposed, but under;
So you’ll have, among the finest.
And with bracketing, while on this subject;
Consider merging, two or more;
Using “High Dynamic Range” – HDR, it’s called:
For some images, to soar.
Brings out, much greater contrast;
With some painterly options, too;
While some artists, do not like it;
But gives them issues, on which to chew.
And more, but not so least;
Note, that a manual was included;
When you bought a camera, to have fun;
Don’t let it, be excluded.
As for focus, crisp, and sharp;
Stability is the clue;
For sharpness, like a tack;
You’ll have blurred, only but a few.
Consider using a tripod;
A bench, or something stable;
To rest your camera, for your shoot;
For best images, to enable.

Composition: Rule of Thirds, Center Power Frame, Perspective, and Horizon

Next up, is composition;
How best to capture all;
So viewers, as your jury;
Will never, cast a pall.
The Rule of Thirds is foremost;
Those “Power Points” prevail.
Placement of your salient features;
Important all, with such details.
And when animals, at times confronting;
Consider, what I call: “Center Power Frame.”
Put the creature’s face, front, and center;
And keep steady, then take aim!
This is, indeed, a deviation;
From the most accepted, Rule of Thirds;
With difference, as the consequence;
However, some may view, as “for the birds.”
Perspective is yet, another view;
Shoot high, low, or from a different point;
Makes wondrous, unique images;
But with age, at times, it hurts your joints.
Horizon, keep it level!
So most, may keep their wits;
‘Cause when it’s not quite level;
Gives many quite a fit.
But then, when choosing bold;
And pix, with purposed slant;
Then do so, with intent;
As if you had a grant.
So when, at times departing;
These rules of imagery;
Do so, with much purpose;
So artistic, you may be.

Composition: Balance, Symmetry, Lines, Patterns, Framing, Travel Space, and Bokeh

Use balance, like the Greeks of old;
And symmetry, better yet;
So all your images will look, quite nice;
And you, nor viewers, fret.
Attempt to use some lines:
Curved, straight, or winding so;
Patterns, and some zigzags;
Running here, and there, and fro.
So the viewer’s eyes are drawn;
To the features, that most appeal;
And your purpose, in composition;
Is yet subtle, but yields more real.
At times, when you’re composing;
Consider framing, too;
To have a composition;
As in a window, through.
And with objects having motion;
Leave some “travel space” for show;
So that animals and subjects;
May have a place, to go.
Now Bokeh, is subjective;
Not all, so much agree;
When blurring some, in background;
For the foreground, to decree:
That this area, is more the object;
The thrust of imagery;
So that focus, is pronounced;
In the foreground, the best to see.

Composition: Foreground, Middle Ground, Background, and Scale

And when beginning, to advance your skills;
With your imagery, consider;
Determine, on which best to focus:
Foreground; back; or middle: for a winner.
When you’re shooting scenes immense;
Consider including scale:
A person, or an object small;
So the scene, just so, prevails.

Wildlife: “Eyes, Eyes, Eyes … and the rest will follow!”

With animals, it’s “Eyes! Eyes! Eyes!”
And legs, plus a tail, to boot;
So that all, will be included;
And focused sharply, when you shoot.
Because when focusing, on those eyes;
“The rest will follow” suit.
Your shot will be quite pleasing;
You will have yourself, a beaut.

Composition: Colors, Moods, and Black & White, Reflections

Today, when shooting color;
Brings moods, into your scene;
Brightens, and lends contrast;
Makes many pix, so keen.
Some color, times will pop;
Makes the image, very nice.
Use complimentary colors;
And, contrasting – good advice.
Use reds, for passion and energy;
Generate feelings, and emotions, too;
Greens are soothing and cheerful;
Yellows, bright and warm, some clues.
Purple connotes, royalty and wealth;
But does not appear much, in nature.
Pinks for calming, love and romance;
Magenta and cyan, for added pleasure.
And don’t forget the blues, quite nice;
To round out, all the hues.
Keeping in mind, the “Color Wheel;”
Those colors, warm and cool, to use.
Not a bad idea to study artists:
From Ansel Adams, to van Gogh;
To jump start, your photography;
With colors and moods, just so.
But black and white is pretty;
For details, textures, contrast, too;
But it, may also, be obtained,
When, post-editing your view.
And, while on composition;
Reflections are quite nice!
Using many different surfaces;
With two such: water; and clear ice.
Using all reflective surfaces:
Mirrors, even, concrete polished;
Can make an image, a work of art;
Giving it a look, which is, quite burnished!

Panorama, Editing, Cropping, “Practice! Practice! Practice!”

And forget not, panorama;
A wide or tall shot, quite impressive;
Just overlap, those images;
So to be yet, more expressive.
Too, when working back at home,
Or in the field at night;
Consider, edits and cropping;
To get the job done, right.
You may want to shoot an image, larger;
So you have some room, to crop.
To best position, your composition,
Moving subjects a bit, to swap:
A salient feature on a “Power Point;”
A face dead on, and in the center,
Or perhaps, along a “Power Line;”
Improving, for a contest, so, to enter.
But with cropping, consider file size;
As you cut, some pixels hit the floor.
But then carefully, when editing,
You might improve, your image’s score.
But “Practice! Practice! Practice!”
Is the best advice, to take;
For improving, your photography;
While hoping to gain, at times, “the cake.”
Mistakes are overcome;
As your fingers become, familiar;
With all those dials and buttons;
And the menu, saves from failure.

Light – Hard, Soft, Flat, Flash, Shade

Then light is most the judge,
When your jury is those viewers;
Soft, harsh, some flash, or otherwise;
To keep, your images, from skewers.
Use light, as best you can;
Work around it, if you may;
But use soft light, more oft, than not;
So your work, will save the day.
Avoid direct, hard sunlight;
With shadows, not so soft;
Makes features, dull and lifeless;
Much, as flat light, shade does oft.

Take the Shot! – Use the Light!

But with animals, in particular;
Take the shot, just when you can!
Because you have, no good idea;
When you’ll be back, that way again.
But even shoot, when in the shade;
Especially, animals, when they appear;
The chance, may not repeat itself;
To shoot, some of those, when near.
Use soft shadows, for nice highlights;
For contrast, details, too;
Such light, that casts much beauty;
Makes images, so true.
When in the forest, or the jungle;
Use light, as best you can.
Some passing, through the branches;
Might serve, just like a fan.
And, when early, in the morning;
Before the sun, appears a bit;
And, just after, it goes down some;
The Blue Hour, may permit:
To shoot a beauty, with such hues:
Oranges, yellows, bright those pinks;
And all so pure, the blues;
So dullness, will be shed.
And, then there is, the flash;
To soften, and remove those shadows;
From someone’s nose, or other features;
So the shade, does not appear, as arrows.

“Do Not Disturb!”

When shooting wildlife most;
Use flash, with some great care;
So, not to perturb, your subject;
Which, might give you, quite a scare.
And when photographing wildlife,
The mantra used by most:
“Do Not Disturb!” – such great advice;
Especially, when trying to get close!

ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, Light

Then, with a few more words, tonight;
One variable is, the ISO;
To vary, sensitivity to light;
To close in, on the pros.
When all is said and done;
Four primary, at your beck and call;
Light, ISO, and aperture;
With shutter speed, to round out all.
The trick, is then, to master these;
For better images, to view;
Than to only have, some shots;
On which, to brag, but then a few.

Focal Planes

And give some thought, to focal planes;
With aperture – each setting, when best to use;
To highlight, sharpness in your images;
Combining technical, with artistry, the better, so to fuse.
Makes the subject appear, all the sharper;
By selecting focal planes;
On which the sharpest features;
Appear, for so much gained.

Metering, White Balance, Focal Points, and the Histogram

There is another thought, metering to address;
Evaluative or matrix, center-weighted, and also, spot.
To zero in on exposure, to the extent, that is thought best;
So the image, that you capture, may be a wonderful shot!
Along with that, is white balance;
To make, colors and whites, appear;
All the closer, to what you actually see;
So your images, will be quite clear.
You have many choices, from which to opt:
Shade, cloudy, daylight, and more;
To make your images, all the prettier;
With whites and colors, all the better to soar!
There are those focal points, for some;
With cameras, having such selections.
More the better, to nail the sharpness;
When making these, important decisions.
And then, there is, the histogram,
A graphical representation;
Of blacks and whites, and colors;
With frequencies, and interval functions.

Taking Control of Your Camera

As discussed before, “Automatic,” is “Master of none;”
“Jack of all trades,” yes, good mostly, for some fun;
But when seeking, to learn about images, more;
It’s wise, looking at options, to, therefore, better the score.
One approach, of “Priority,” is “Aperture,” you see;
Fixing the focal plane, for best focus, to be;
And when doing, thus so, the shutter speed moves;
But with mastery of this, more folks will approve:
Of your images, composition, and focus, as well;
These are, some of the sharp arrows, in your bag;
For “Shutter Priority” is another option, to tell;
When using with action, may help you to brag.
Images better, than when shooting before;
With but “Automatic,” these modes, do yet, even more;
While providing greater control of the camera, in your hands;
So your images may be viewed, as better – some perhaps, even grand!
And when you are ready, to take full control;
Selection of “Manual,” runs the gambit, you see;
Of all the options, which you have in your bowl,
As a photographer, then, the best you may be.
For then at disposal, are all the changes, to make;
To benefit your shooting, for better images, to take;
Once you move to “Manual,” you control it all;
And more oft, than not, your shots, stand quite tall.
But of all the selections, “Aperture” suits me quite well;
For most of the times, unless motion prompts me to dwell;
Then, too, using “Manual,” when settings change, but quite fast:
As with sunrises and sunsets, then, the better to grasp.

DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex), P&S (Point & Shoot), and Mirrorless

Next up, are DSLR bodies, digital, to be sure;
When moving up, from cameras, called: Point and Shoot;
With “Aperture Priority,” and vast options, for the “Shutter;”
And, also, “Manual,” to be yet better, shooting more acute.
But so, more than digital, also, now these days;
There are mirrorless, and other DSLRs;
All, with varied lenses, to shoot even more;
For photographers, improving, to raise, yet, the bar.

What Camera to Buy?

So what is the camera, that is best, then to buy?
Price, size, shape, and weight, all questions you ask.
What scenes and options, to best please the eye?
To best match abilities, with your camera’s task.
“Action” or “Sport,” you may find of interest;
And the size of the sensor, an additional thought;
The quality of “glass,” the lens to be sure;
To quantify and qualify, just what needs, to be bought?
Then optical and digital, consider the zoom;
Optical, like binoculars, magnifies quite true;
But digital zoom, is, like cropping the frame;
Of import for certain, the two are not, just the same.

File Format: JPEG & RAW

Then on to the format, JPEG or RAW?
JPEG works well, for many a print;
But will you enlarge, and seek more, to draw;
Yet more from the image, compression, the hint?
For RAW gives more pixels, far less compression;
When editing more seriously, provides more expression;
But RAW eats into space, on the memory card;
And in that respect, you need give regard.
But, if deciding to shoot, in JPEG alone;
You need to check, the menu again;
To see what size image, you then prefer:
Small, just for email, or larger then.
On many occasions, large JPEGs are fine;
Many edits, may be done with these images, you see;
But the use of RAW files, seeking better, to shine;
Gives you more pixels, I think you’ll agree.

LCD, Video, Seeking Value, and Lenses

And today, we have, our LCDs;
Liquid crystal displays;
Which allow us to engage in chimping;
Catching glimpses of image arrays;
So as to see, just what we shot;
To improve, immediately upon;
If necessary, change EV, or more;
For the best images, when done.
When using, the liquid crystal display;
The size, and ability, to move it around;
Yet another thought, when buying these days;
Does indeed, make the questions, simply compound.
And of video, be definite, sure to include;
If movies you use, to brighten the mood.
Think of what you will plan, all, to shoot;
So that, your new camera, proves the best route.
Scan online comments, and magazine reviews;
Talk to photographers, for their best thoughts;
Seek to obtain, informative news;
The result, good value, will then be, but bought.
And, with those having, an interchangeable lens;
These IL cameras, ILCs, so called by some folks;
Whether to buy a zoom lens, or a new prime;
The lens, which is better, for work or pastime?
Telephoto, wide-angle, and macro, all quite nice;
But what do you plan, in your imaging quest?
Just what lures you the greatest, in your roll of the dice?
What attracts you the most, for your images, best?
And, today, there is more, mirrorless is here;
Yet another advance, with cameras these days;
To investigate many options, more decisions to make;
For the paths and choices, which are needed to steer.
When these questions are answered;
Then, it’s time, to run out and buy;
Seek the best value, for what you desire;
So that your images, might then, but inspire!

Yet Other Considerations and Learning

There are cards: some gray, some with color, to use;
D-lighting, color space, image control – to apprise,
So there are more, than a few options to choose;
Before images, vie for, and seize, any great prize.
But such is the beauty of photography;
There is so much to learn, yet all is much fun;
With such wonderful, new products, today;
Your quest, is, thus, just never quite done.
And when you think, that you, have it all mastered;
There are terms and acronyms, abounding today;
Chromatic aberration, vignetting, to be answered;
Even keystoning and Bokeh, which may hold you at bay;
From learning it all, in but one lifetime;
But it’s fun, all the same, to tackle it more;
For landscapes, macro, and portraits, sublime;
To go outdoors, hear wildlife that roars.
So the nature of “tips” is boundless, you see;
As I could go on, but we all need some rest;
It’s time with my camera, to once again test
The outdoor realm, the great fun, of photography!
So there will always be, more to learn;
All the better, for a lifetime of joy.
To read and shoot, and capture more
When using your camera, as a great toy!
And, this is just, a beginning,
A primer, perhaps, at best;
For so much info, is now at hand;
To assist, in making images, best.

Editing, Macro, HFR, Stacking, HDR

And, then, you have some editing;
Which, I like to do the least;
For if I capture most, of what I want;
Then editing, is decreased!
And back to macro, but once again;
For “stacking” images, may now be done;
Using, what I call HFR,
High Focal Range, for fun.
Taking several images;
On different focal planes;
Then merging, here, called “stacking;”
For optimum focus, throughout, to ascertain.
HDR, is a cousin, to HFR, with neither very strange;
With HDR, several goals, just so, are sought:
Best luminosity, contrast, and tonal range;
Selecting more EV steps, with beauty to be wrought.
But with HFR, sharp focus, is the quest, the goal;
Seeking images having, different focal planes,
And just, as with HDR, the role;
Merging images, much the same.


Another concept, by no means, least;
Is of burst, or shooting fast.
Using, high frames per second;
“FPS,” to capture vast.
Use burst, to shoot fast sequences,
Use it, to capture, quick changes;
To better the chance, for a tack sharp shot;
Firing the shutter, rapidly, as it races.

Cityscapes, Nightscapes, Rainbows

And there is such beauty, all around;
Even in cityscapes, when shooting an array.
But the wonder of, our grand universe;
Is demonstrated, time and again, in the stars and Milky Way.
Then, of course, there are, beautiful rainbows;
Those fleeting belts, of colors bold.
And, it is said, of these phenomena;
At the end, is “a pot of gold.”
But the “gold” may be your image;
Of a rainbow, or its double;
When shooting, all of such beauty;
Your image is the “gold,” for your trouble!

Marine Related Photography

On, in, and under, the water;
With such sunsets, and marine life;
Is to photography, quite an altar;
The beauty, poses nothing rife.
With gondolas, and boats, some ships along the way;
Trying to capture turtles, fishes of all colors;
All sizes, shapes, and attitudes, along with gorgeous bays;
It’s easy with the sea, to be nothing, but a lover!


And now and then, take what is called:
A “selfie,” or a self-portrait.
Hold your camera out, with yourself enthralled;
So you don’t, at that moment, an image forfeit!

“Pano Balls”

Then, you also have when editing, the option to “Distort;”
With polar coordinates, and rotation, only to cavort;
I call these “circular panoramas,” just “pano balls,” for short;
“Panoramic balls,” as good a name, in photography, the court.

Panning and Contre-Jour, or Backlit Photography

And there are, many other approaches;
Only some, that are covered here:
Panning, and backlit, contre-jour;
Outlining subjects, all quite clear.

Wrap Up

This, then, is needing wrap up,
As my computer keys, are getting tired,
Not to say, anything of my fingers,
And my brain, now slowing, to inspire.
Dad once said, “When you’re green, you grow;”
“And when you’re ripe, you rot,” the end result;
Of sitting back, and seeking, no more to learn;
When no longer a kid, but now, an adult.
So move forward, striving to learn, all the more;
To travel, and shoot, for what, life, has then, in store;
So that photos “pop,” with colors alive;
So your passion for images, only but thrives.
So press on and learn, as life rolls along;
Whether photography, or another, passion of note.
Keep growing, so as not to rot;
In order to learn some, from this quote.
Partake of reading much, enjoy searching the Internet;
But take some time to gather with friends, some old, and of, some new:
In workshops on different subjects, to learn, some more;
To take in, some different, and meaningful views.
Photography is all about sharing;
Some of the images that you take.
With others who appreciate beauty;
And who help you, to gain so, from some mistakes.
And along the way, just one more thought;
Have an image or two, taken of you;
So that you may sit back, and enjoy:
Memories of great times, too!
And have someone, perhaps, a passerby;
Take an image, or a few;
Of some great friends with you;
Some, for me: with, in combat, did come through!
Take some, a few of those bygone times;
Of homes, from long ago;
That once back when, they seemed, so large;
But with time, have shrunk, just so.
And last, but not the least, by far;
Do not forget, at all;
Those who brought you to this party;
That’s called life, with which, I’m so enthralled!
But I come back to that wisdom
On learning, said by my dad, for sure;
“When you are green, you grow” – The more;
But when you are ripe, you rot.” – A poor final score.
And to end this on a high note – Life is much like camera gear;
In order to be the happiest, to be thankful, for all, that you hold dear;
It’s not about how much you want, in life, or with more things;
It’s really of, how little you need, to make your life, and images, sing.


[1] Hampton Roads Digital Shutterbug Club, Virginia

[2] Larry Jordan, P.E., Larry Jordan Photography (wildlife, landscapes, HDR, editing, focus stacking, and technical issues – Africa, Grand Tetons, Arizona, western North Carolina, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Death Valley National Park, Jekyll Island); Mark Thiessen, Staff Photographer, National Geographic (modes: aperture priority; shutter priority; and manual – street photography, architecture, memorials, portraiture, interior lighting, flash, editing, image selection – National Geographic Society workshop at its Headquarters in Washington, DC); Paul Renner, Renner Safaris (wildlife in Africa and Victoria Falls); Jim Stamates, Low Impact Wildlife Photography, and In the Rhythm™ Adventure Tours Photo Workshops (nature: wildlife and landscapes; use of flash; Nikon cameras – Nikonians workshop in Grand Teton National Park); Winston Hall, Tuner Photography (landscapes & Nikon cameras – Nikonians workshop in Arizona: Monument Valley; and around Page, AZ); Ken Knight, Knightvisions and former President, Hampton Roads Digital Shutterbug Club (panorama, black & white, low-light, nightscapes, and Power Point); Ty Brown (macro); Jose Calvo (aboard the National Geographic "Sea Lion" in Costa Rica and Panama), Aura Banda Cruz and Christian Sea (aboard the National Geographic "Islander" in the Galapagos Archipelago), John and Barbara Gerlach, Gerlach Nature Photography (nature: wildlife and landscapes; back-button focusing; winter conditions; and referral to Photographic Society of America); Donna Krabill (referral to HRDSC and to Amazon Rainforest Workshops); Hugh Hopkins (sharing images and ideas on photography, editing assistance on prose and poetry); and Cathy Peyton (Power Point presentations and speaking in public). All have imparted a wealth of knowledge on many general, and numerous specific, topics relating to photography. A few have provided comments with respect to my writing and poetry, together with my presenting to a group. Others, more recently, have added much to my photography. These include Phil Perry, Charles Galloway, Lynn Hackett, and Bill Harvey, to name but a few. They have willingly shared their vast array of technical and artistic talents and, in some instances, even a new camera body or lens.

On Aging and Photography

April 15th, 2016

My dad, who was raised on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia - "God's Country," as he called it - offered this:

"When you are green, you grow;
and when you are ripe, you rot!"

That pretty much sums up my approach to life, as I returned to my passion for photography more than a decade ago, not only in the hopes of sharing with others God's beauty that surrounds us everyday, but also to have a platform with photography - places to go, things to see, hardware and software to learn, new friends to meet, and old friends to enjoy - that provides for a lifetime of learning and fun!

Fine Art Photography

April 14th, 2016

Fine Art Photography

This approach to photography is accomplished to advance the vision –perspective, emotions, and mood – of the artist as a photographer while exercising his or her subjective intent. It usually encompasses the use of:

• Professional camera equipment using large sensor size to capture as much detail as possible with excellent resolution, high quality lenses, a tripod and remote release for stability when shooting landscapes, and selected filters, among other considerations. Most fine art photography is planned; i. e., sunrise, sunset, nightscape, weather systems, lightning, etc., what some in the industry refer to as “produced photography or imagery.”
• Merging two or more images taken at different exposure valuations (EVs), which is often utilized to enhance contrast and exposure in a final image. This process is referred to as HDR – High Dynamic Range. Focus stacking, what I refer to as HFR – High Focal Range – may also be utilized.
• Post processing, employing methods and several different software programs to reduce noise and to optimize vibrancy, colors, contrast, exposure, definition, sharpness, and address related considerations.
• Professional printing that incorporates the latest technology, in tandem with: high quality paper, canvas, metal, or other medium; excellent quality ink; and printers that have multiple ink dispersals for the highest quality of colors and tonal ranges.
• Framing, when used, is of the highest quality, many times using multiple mattes to better highlight a work of art and often using glare free, museum quality, glass.

The objective of fine art photography is to present the artist’s work in the manner in which he or she perceived it through superb capture of an image, or images when merged, together with desired editing, while incorporating the best available means of presentation: printing; formatting (paper or canvas print, metal, glass, etc.); and exhibiting.