For Episcopalians in the southeast Sewanee, the home of the University of the South, is considered the “Holy Mountain.” I am spending this year in Nashville and this week took a bit of a retreat to St. Mary’s Sewanee. We have had massive amounts of rain, but before the storms came I was able to take a quick hike out to “Bridal Veil Falls.” I did not have ND filters or a tripod so I do not have any photos of the falls with that smooth, graceful look. Still, I was a nice day to take a hike. This morning, in the fog and rain, I took a few shots with the iPhone 7 plus. A remarkably good camera as well. I have added those at the end.
Taking pictures of a concert aren’t easy. It requires fast glass and access. Recently I have met some wonderful people who just happen to be incredible musicians. SM invited me to a gig for the Beattles cover band he is a part of, SixtyFour. It was a small venue, a local wings bar, and a fun crowd of the older generation who danced to the tunes of their youth. The lighting was good, but not great. Once thing I have found is that the multicolor lights and various textures and elements often on a stage can be distracting. Solution: convert to black and white. For example, this is a nice image in color. Steve is crisp and clear, the Corona neon looks nice, and overall not a bad image.
But in B&W it has mood and character that the color just doesn’t have.
In the end, it is personal choice, but I like the black and white so here is a selection from the evening.
UPDATE: I spotted a hummingbird from a long way off. Take a look at the uncropped and cropped photos. Not bad. Remember this is with a D810 and the 200-500, handheld.
Yesterday the Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6E arrived and it seems like suddenly all the critters in the backyard disappeared! There will be a lot of experimenting to get used to it and find the best settings for various situations. I started this morning with a few shots of the dog and then, through a window, I managed to get this squirrel with a nut in its mouth running across the yard. So, early trials but it is a very solid lens and a great value.
This weekend was the fourth running of the US Grand Prix in Austin, TX. I joined two close friends for an incredible weekend. Wet, but incredible. We sat through a torrential downpour for the UT game, they beat K State fairly convincingly (if you ignore the second and third quarters) and Sunday morning we headed out early to catch the qualifying round that was cancelled from the day before and finally at 2 PM the race would get underway. Assuming, of course, that the rain would stop. This would be the race at which Lewis Hamilton secured his third world championship.
Regarding camera gear, I rented the Sigma 150-600, f5-6.3. It is a heavy, solid lens in every sens of the term. Very fast focusing and quiet. But I did not have a lot of time to play with it before the race. I may not have gotten the best out of it but I used it well! It certainly was much better once the sky lightened, the 5-6.3 limitation is just that with overcast or low levels of light. I have over 2200 images to review, so here are just a couple for now.
The full album (unedited) is up on Flickr now. A few more pics are below.
Today, in an effort to escape the 100º heat in Freiburg we drove up to Schluchsee, a beautiful lake in the Schwarzwald. What I did not expect was the Pfarrkirche St. Nikolaus. From the outside it appears a fairly traditional looking church, with a large wooden structure. The first hint of something different is the sculpture out front, “Kinderreigen.” It is four children holding hands going around a mitre and staff. The sanctuary itself is a gorgeous work of modern sacred art.
Now while I love modern architecture and like a lot of modern art and I have seen some of the most amazing modern sacred art rarely have I ever seen it work in a church or worship space. Usually it is too brutal and chilling, rather than inviting and affirming as I believe a place of worship should be. This church was very different. So far as I could tell almost all (if not all?) the work was done by Helmut Lutz, a native Freiburger, who did der Kreuzweg, the “Stations of the Cross.” I was only able to capture a few of them with anything like the power and energy of the originals. He clearly also did the altar pieces and even the chairs for the ministers.
While there I also lit a candle for Mack.
It was a beautiful, quiet and reflective space, made all the more meaningful due to the unique Kruezweg. If we had a car longer I would go back again.
Every year I take a few shots of our ornaments, trying different things. This year I decided to be very mundane, I simply set up the tripod and tweaked aperture, ISO, and speed. This is the best way to learn, after all. I am still learning, in fact, my way around the D810 and I have to say, its ability to capture so much data, allowing one to pull out almost endless shadows in post, is simply amazing. Here a very few images. When I have time I may set a holiday task of taking a picture of all our favorite ornaments.
I was invited by Athletics to be “Guest Coach” for a game and chose Maryland. It was a cold and blustery day, gray with occasional sunshine. An interesting experience for me, to be sure, sitting in on team meetings and meals over Friday and Saturday. Photographically, I borrowed a friend’s D300 with grip in order to get the greater frames per second. The sensor is not as good as the D7000, but I hoped the FPS would outweigh that. And I think it would have if I had been more comfortable with the set up. These shots aren’t too bad, but I lost focus on many, just simple user error. It is great to have that frame rate though!
We spent a lovely week in Vienna (Austria, not Virginia, although we left from Dulles). It is quite literally a monumental city. Statues and sculptures are everywhere. The weather was nice, but not great, often with solid, but bright, clouds. Great for portrait photography, not so great for landscape and architectural shots (depending upon what you are looking for in the later, of course). With all the white marble it occurred to me that B&W might just be the trick. From then on I looked for shots that I thought would benefit from this treatment.
I shot in RAW, did some tweaking in color before using Ponzanelli’s B&W Aperture presets.
Penn State Men’s Soccer had a good spring training with several fun games (although some in the very cold temps). Always in the quest for better gear on a budget, my friend John found a Nikon D2Hs on eBay for only $250. This was Nikon’s sports and wildlife pro camera from 2003-2007. This particular camera had only 15,000 shutter activations and was incredibly well kept (read: hardly used). Coincidentally Ken Rockwell just purchased one for use as well and has a full review. The D2Hs is much better than the D2H and while it is only 4.1MP it is a fully pro camera and shoots 8 frames per second. For daytime sports, it is great! I can’t really expect to do any cropping, but those two extra FPS over my Nikon D7000 is worth it for sports. I am not sold on its JPG compression, but at 4.1MP I shoot everything in RAW with no real lag in buffering.
See what you think:
A year ago my friend Pat, a real photographer, posted this piece on his blog reflecting on taking pictures at our son’s funeral. Coincidentally at Christmas time I had read an article by a woman who had done just such a thing and how much it had meant to the grieving family. So I asked Pat if he would be willing to do this for us. We have still not seen the final images, but we are so very grateful for this incredible gift. With his permission I am sharing some of the post here, but please go to his blog to read the whole thing.
As a professional photographer I decided that the only thing I could offer was to make large prints for them to display at the viewing. I was wrong. What happened next is truly remarkable.I made the offer and hoped he would allow me to do this for them. A small thing for me, but something I thought would help. He replied and said he was thinking about doing just that, and it would be a huge help to them. You see he is a avid photographer and is always talking shop with me as I do jobs for the school. He is also a bigger Apple geek than I am so you can see where this is heading. We became friends very quickly. After he sent me the images to blow up, I received a text message from him that I didn’t think twice about. It simply read “Call me.” I thought he had some instructions for me on sizes or something like that.He was in grief like I never heard before. The next thing he said to me stopped me in my tracks. “Pat, I have a favor to ask of you.” “Sure”, I said. “Anything I can do to help.” “I talked it over with my wife, and we would like you to photograph the viewing and funeral for us.” I swear my heart stopped. I doubt what I said next was coherent or barely even audible. I think I said yes and mumbled something else.I have photographed some very sad stories in my life, and I have shot through more than my share of tears. This, however, was different. I have never been asked to be on the inside of such a deeply personal story. He gave me every out possible to back out of doing this for him. He didn’t want me to feel obligated or uncomfortable. I sent him a message telling him I needed to give it some serious thought, that as I have gotten older I have become more and more emotional, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I needed to sleep on it. However, I didn’t. The next hour or so my mind was on fire. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of it. How could I do this? How could I not do this? I have grandchildren the age of his son. I didn’t know what to do. I spoke with a few personal friends I could share this with and straightened out my thoughts.When I had spoken with him, he guided me to a blog about a woman who had shot a funeral for a friend and said I should look at it. I did. What I learned was she had the exact same thoughts as I did, except hers was from the perspective of actually having done it. It calmed me a great deal and made me realize what was important here. Here is a man and a family that trusted my skills as a photographer, my friendship and sensitivity to enter their lives at the most intimate and deeply personal time. I said yes. I am honored and humbled that they asked me. Over those next two days, I shot images I probably shouldn’t have, and I didn’t shoot things I probably should have. I think that is one of the reasons why they asked me to do this. I tried to be as hidden and respectful as possible. This is time I needed to be invisible.