Working on it

So with my last post deciding what I should work on I have started working! You should feel proud! I feel proud! However as I have been sick for going on about two weeks now I haven’t gone out and gotten new shots…… How am I working you ask?  That is a good question! Youtube and Adobe tutorial videos and such! Yeah for the computer!

Everyone knows that the camera can’t see what you see in fact sometimes it’s way off~ way way off sometimes if you are me. If you are working with a DSLR, welcome to heaven and purgatory! Better known as Photoshop and Lightroom in my case. One I have trouble getting it just right in but when I do it’s great and two is fantastic for organizing and non-serious edits but I hardly get any photos out of it, they just sit in limbo. More of a personal problem I know but I would like to believe that it happens to all photographers at one time or another.

So what have I been doing about it you ask. Well first I watched The Grid: How to be a better Photographer in 2014 and as you know I scrapped my 365 project, we had that lovely discussion earlier. I decided I needed to learn PS and LR better than I already do, which involved me buy Scott Kelby’s book covering Lightroom 5 because I like his writing and his book usually covers enough to get me going into the extras that I can later explore on my own. So started flipping through that learning some new tricks and tips. I headed online and watched a bunch of educational(FREE) videos because I wasn’t going out in the wind and cold. So with my hot chocolate I sat down to absorb all I could in about 3 or 4 hour segments.

I realized that I did not know as much as I thought I did. So then I decided to delve into all the photos! I mean ALL THE PHOTOS… I hate deleting, that just in case always gets me. So I decided to start just randomly and closed my eyes and clicked a folder. It happened to be my Shirakawago trip. I then picked a photo I really liked but I couldn’t get to work/look the way I wanted. This was the photo I started with….Snow in Color - Original

So as you can see it’s kind of flat, a little boring and not really at all how that morning looked to me. The snow is rather gray and a little dirty~ Not really the pristine snowy landscape I saw. So using all the wonderful information I has absorbed I took it all into lightroom, took 3 of the different exposures, bumped them over and into HDR in photoshop and then SURPRISE, SURPRISE I bumped them back into LR as a 32bit TIFF! Oh the things you learn… So about an hour or so later, yeah I’m still learning LR, I had a final-ish product.

Snow in Color

Now I tried to crop it so those little branches on the side disappeared but the crop looks funny and as much as I don’t like them I have started to like them. Not sure if that is good or not. So what do you think? Let me know! More and more the work continues. So much more to do and learn and hopefully when I get over this stupid sickness I will be able to get out and get more shots.

A need shutter actuations~

Kyoto and things~

I am back, I’m back again…. It’s been a day and an age I know but I swear the older you get the faster life goes…. It doesn’t feel that long until I look at a calendar.

Anyway, Life is continuing to happen. Just when you think you got everything set and laid out… well Murphy’s Law, I hate Murphy and his laws.

But onto photog news~ I went to Kyoto for the Kouyou/Momiji season! ONCE! I was planning to go twice but I got sick. I have never been as sick as I have this year. I give you odds if you took all the sick days from the first 29yrs of my life and added them up I would still be leading by a long shot for sick days just this year alone.

So anyway, I went to Kyoto and I learned 3 valuable lessons! #1 You need sleep to operate your camera, I am not as young as I used to be and my hands just aren’t as steady. #2 FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS. USE LIVE VIEW AND CHECK YOUR FOCUS >.<* and #3 Kyoto is a little sparse on bathrooms. I blame all of my problems really on #1 I just cant pull a 48hr no sleep go at it anymore without side effects.

So I had decided it made much more sense and money sense to go to Kyoto after my shift on Monday. (I have Tuesdays off) So I roll into Kyoto around midnight~ YEAH! and Cheap A$$ that I am you know that I am not going to throw down for a hotel so what do I do? What the smart traveler who doesn’t mind smelling vaguely cigarettes usually do? A net cafe/manga kissa of course! Now if this traveler also happens to be hauling around more gear than they are comfortable falling asleep with out in the open they should stay at the OWL net cafe. It’s at most a 5 min (2min) walk from Kyoto station and has private rooms that have a door and LOCK so you can go about reading manga, visiting the drink bar and the bathroom without bringing everything with you! Now it’s best not to ponder what exactly has gone on in these rooms before you showed up but other than that its great~ I recommend the VIP cushioned floor room! Its just like a giant mattress on which you lounge, read your manga, and dont think of what might have happened before in the spot that you happen to be reclined in. Its in Japanese for the most part but check it out here. It is pricier than a regular manga kissa but that door and lock are worth the extra price for me.

After spending 3 hours there… I decided to WALK to Arashiyama…. not my best decision…. but I wanted that sunrise picture… that was ruined by clouds. By then I was cold, shaking and tired…. oh so tired… but press on! My feet were also ice blocks…. it hurt to walk. I love my Vibrams, dont get me wrong, I think they have helped me a lot… but they aren’t really made for standing still in about 0 degree temps on cold stone. So after a few not so spectacular shots at Togetsukyo Bridge. I minced my way to Tenryuji! Surprisingly enough it was open! Most places in Kyoto don’t open until 9am so I am still not sure if it was a special day/event or I just got lucky and was able to walk in with everyone else that was holding a camera. So I got a few nice pictures~ It was very picturesque. However due to  lack of sleep, and my body unable to regulate my temp into anything of the warm variety a lot of the pictures were blurred by shake. Whip out the tripod you say? Ah my friend, you have never been to Kyoto have you? In most cases and places tripods are prohibited. As in they can kick you out and request that you delete your pictures. Also as a bit of random information. You can’t/should not sell your pictures of MOST temples in Kyoto. Unless you want to pay a big fine…. Most places fall under “important cultural property”… That’s translated and I have no idea where to find it in English… But here it is in Japanese. Quite simply you CAN’T that is right, CAN’T sell photos of certain temples/buildings/and grounds without it falling into a dark gray area… in which if they catch you, you must pay a big fine.

So temples and shrines and temples upon shrines later it became very apparent that the trees were all confused this year. Where Tenryuji had some rich gorgeous colors, a little down the road everything was still green. Even the hills around Kyoto hadn’t decided if it was time to change colors or not. So all in all the though it was a nice trip it was a little underwhelming. Luckily I was able to meet a friend there and get a little off the beaten path! Unfortunately, #1 struck again. By 5pm I was dead tired. Like falling asleep during conversation tired. So had to call it an early night and head back to Nagoya.

I had a great time but if there is anything I took away from this go around its that I need sleep before attempting a full day photowalk. I also need to start using live view and concentrating on getting the focus on the first shot. So I don’t come home with 500 photos to sort through and only find around 50 nice shots~  So here are some of the shots I got~

 

Golden Doorway

 

Bamboo and Momiji~

 

Tenryuji in the Morning~

 

As you can see even in these three live view auto focus would have greatly improved them~ Sad 😦

 

So now I am contemplating what to do for my next photo trip. Maybe Takashimaya xmas display, Nagoya xmas town, or maybe the illumination in Nagashima~ Decisions, Decisions. What to do and where to go. If there is anything you would like to see in the Tokai/Chubu area comment and tell me where to go and what to shoot!

What’s in a Name?

I am a big fan of Patrick Rothfuss. If you know who I am talking about then double extra bonus points for you! I have just finished re-re-re-re(maybe one more re-) reading his two books while I am awaiting the third and something struck me as interesting. I HATE NAMING my photos or entitling them if you will. I believe in a way it detracts from them! Well for the most part, sometimes I will find something that just works. If you have read the book or thee books then you will know why this is relevant.

So here is my question for you…. Do you enjoy naming your photos? If so why? I find it one of the hardest parts of my photography. In fact if you check out my G+ page you will find of a lot of the photos are named… Why you ask? Because I feel like its a failure on my part if there isn’t a name along with my photos. But at the same time I feel that in a way I am forcing my view upon whoever is viewing my photos. Maybe they don’t see the same thing, maybe it creates a different feeling, maybe there is some other connection that just isn’t there for me and by titling my photo I have now taken that chance away.  AAAAHHHHH THE PRESSURE!!!

This is especially true of photos of people or animals, for the most part I focus on nature and landscapes but sometimes…. ahhh sometimes its just too cute or too perfect to pass up and when I get it home and load it up its still perfect! But it will just sit there…. in an abandoned folder on my hard drive lost forever due to the fact I can’t, or won’t name it! *sigh* There is a literally a folder… and the folder itself was just left as “unnamed”.

The pressure… I pretty sure there are people out there that would love a job to just sit around a name photos, to be honest it would be a fun job, but I would still be afraid I am taking away something that someone else may see by the simple action of slapping a name on it!

 

 

THE BOX

THE BOX, you either love it or you hate it! Then again there are those of us that just don’t really care 😉

If you haven’t figured it out we are talking about Instagram. Arguably the most popular photo sharing social media site out there. Started in mmnnmnm (What Anne means is “October 2010” – K) and now owned by the Big Blue Giant FB the box hasn’t changed.

I use instagram…. >.>…. sometimes. My screen name is Chimera_Refelections. I usually don’t post a lot of mobile photography per say as much as I take my camera shots and crop them to fit the box. I also hate trying to hashtag all my photos.

I happen to use G+ for a lot of my mobile shots now. Even before it changed owners I wasn’t a big user and after well…. I felt much less likely to use it. From my previous trip I posted a few shots of Fu but other than that I haven’t done much. In all honesty if I used it more it would probably be pics of my daily life (which I assume is what its supposed to be) and my dog.

Her first ocean wave~

A post shared by Anne Vornbrock (@anne_vornbrock) on

Being the stupid perfectionist that I tend to be when it comes to my photography I don’t like posting half thought out shots and thats what most of my mobile shots are. My bf on the other hand is an instagram pro, his screen name is shirokodogg  and he spends HOURS and HOURS (small exaggeration……not really pretty sure he spent an hr on some of those photos) getting that perfect instagram shot. He works from within the box to begin with and doesn’t crop. I on the other hand can’t spend that much time doing so with my phone. I like being able to enjoy the moments as the come rather than record them as they go.  Especially if I didn’t bring my big camera for just that reason. I am one of those people who get upset, well FURIOUS, at those people who can’t put their phone down and just enjoy dinner or the park or wherever we are. Also I hate it when my phone dies and the camera and auto-upload with G+ are two things that drain my battery!

I, on the other hand, use Instagram quite a bit.  You can find me as kwaterloo.  As per my previous post, I use it more to share moments in my life with my friends and family.  I do equal parts bringing a photo in to Instagram and simply using the camera feature within Instagram.  It depends on how quickly I want to get the shot.  And I don’t typically spend a whole lot of time perfecting a photo.  I worry less about “does this photo look amazing?” and more about “will this photo remind me of the experience I was having at the time?”  

My evening.

A post shared by Kate Waterloo (@kwaterloo) on

I was very hesitant of using Instagram at first, but once I took those first steps, I broke out into a run into the Instagram craze.  I don’t have it linked to my Facebook or my Twitter.  I have more friends on Facebook and don’t necessarily want to flood their news feeds with pictures of my cats (read: they would not enjoy being flooded with pictures of my cats).  

Disco… Are… Are you trying to seduce me?!?

A post shared by Kate Waterloo (@kwaterloo) on

And then this happens.

A post shared by Kate Waterloo (@kwaterloo) on

But I am considering connecting it to my Twitter, just for shits and giggles.  I feel like Twitter would appreciate my cat pics more than Facebook would.  I tend to be one of those people that’s always on my phone.  But I think that has more to do with the fact that I’ve had a smartphone for less than a year and am still mesmerized by the whole experience.  If I am at dinner or out somewhere with a friend, what I usually do is snap a quick picture and deal with Instagram later.  That way I get to capture the moment and enjoy it!  

September Challenges

Hello world!

We have Challenges! A monthly schedule if you will, that allows you to play along and be published on our blog! Both of us are really looking forward to seeing what each other and you can do! Our challenges will take place every 7 days except for the monthly one which you will the entire, well almost the entire, month to complete!  A little bit of slow start here as the first challenge is due on the 7th! You can submit your photos at writtenshots@gmail.com

The rules are quite simple. Every week we will have a challenge that will fall into 3 categories with a monthly challenge due the last week. Since these are weekly challenges you wont know the “theme or subject” of the challenge until the week before. These challenges will fall on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th of every month. So if you want to know the challenge of the week refer to the previous posting on those dates!

Rules:

1. Must fit the theme/subject

2. No Nudity

3. We realize that we may be busy, life happens and sometimes things just don’t work out so you may use a photo you have taken before as long as it falls into the theme or subject AND IT IS NOT MORE THAN A YEAR OLD!

4. The photo may be from any device, be it camera or phone or whatever.

Those are the only rules. Editing and so on is up to you!

We will give credit and Link back to you if you send the info!!

The first week will always be a “Same Object Challenge” in which we showcase how the same thing can be seen differently or differently seen.

The second week will always be a “1000 word Challenge” of a photo shown on the 7th. A picture is worth a 1000 words right?

The third week will always be a “Living Thing Challenge” this challenge does exclude plants, coral and such. We like the challenge of catching something thats moving.

Finally due on the 28th of every month will be the monthly challenge photo! You have a month to work on this so make it count!

We are unfortunately a little behind this month so there is only a few days left to complete the Same Object Challenge!!

Even though Kate currently resides in America she is coming to Japan soon so our blog is set to Tokyo time! Which means for all of you on the other side of the world that we may be ahead of or behind you in time. So that only gives some of you a few days at most to complete our first challenge!

Due on the 7th is a photo of your own handwriting. 

For the month of September, can I have a drum roll please…….. The challenge is “Night Shots”!

Being Mobile

Almost everyone has a camera on them. If you are reading this you probably own and have with you at this moment at least one or two cameras. One would probably be on your computer or tablet or whatever you are reading this on and the other would be on your cell phone/mobile. I am sure many of you have heard of the Chicago Sun-Times firing the whole photography staff and then giving out iphones to make up the “new” staff. It was a shock to the photo community as a whole and in a way a sign of the things to come. What is interesting is when you come down to it being a “photographer” is the easiest job to get in the world because all you technically need is a camera, preferably you also have talent but its art, so again subjective. Instagram fame aside apps like Flickr’s, Streamzoo, 500px, Lightbox, Muzy, and We heart it, all point to a new direction in photography. Social sites like G+ and Facebook have a heavy emphasis on photos and even offer automatic uploading from your mobile device. The new trend is towards social photography. We enjoy “hearting” or “thumbing” to show our appreciation but let us not lie….. we also greatly enjoy being a critic, and an anonymous critic at that, no chance for backlash well not a great chance, you can always block them. Using these services in a way also limits the photographer. They no longer have to think about how to show this photo to the best of their ability. This also affects how we see things and what we expect in a photo. When everything is laid out cleanly we become more attracted to it because it’s easier to process and able to be processed quicker. Instagram for example only works in one frame, that of a square, all members of the community must operate within that square. So when we pull up IG it automatically appeals to us because everything is uniform. Though the pictures are different the layout is always the same. When you move over to Streamzoo for example the “photographer” has the option of using their original photo or cropping it. It doesnt seem as visually appealing for this simple reason. But social photo-sharing sites and services aside. How else is this changing photography and what are some key points to remember when you are out and about and only have your mobile available?

What are some simple tips to great, well decent, mobile photos you ask? Well most our common sense and a few are some that are always optional.

1. CLEAN YOUR CAMERA! Let me just say that my phone resides for most of the day at the bottom of my purse, and well… I think I still have a few M&M escapees down there too…>.>  Among other things. But needless to say I have found this clears up quite a lot of my “cloudy” photos. Whether you decide to go all out with a case or to just carry around a small cloth for cleaning it will definitely will help you out!

2. Check your case. If you have a case do a little test. Take a photo with the case on and the same photo with the case off. You might be surprised but the photos may actually be quite different. Due to lighting, shadows, focusing in & out, and how secure you case is there could be a difference even if slight in the quality of your photos. I have to take off my case if I plan on doing a short video or a shadowed scene or sometimes depending on the light a bright as my case is red and reflects a bit the light in my photos also changes.

3. Check your settings. No I’m not talking about your “night mode” or “portrait mode” I am referring to all the other options your phone may have. In my case I have a global HTC One ❤ which I love! Not sure how fond of the “ultra pixel” I am yet… more on that later. However, as for optional settings I can control my Crop, Quality, In phone Image adjustments, ISO, White Balance, Lock focus, Auto smile capture, Geo tagging, face detection, auto uploads, Touch to capture, Grid, Continuous shooting, default filter, and Flash just to name a few. These settings can be personalized to your style to help you get the photos you want.

4. Get the Light! Lets face it, you aren’t carrying around a mini-DSLR here. All phones are different but lets just say that the sensors are all about the same size… for the most part. Don’t expect amazing HDR photos or superb night shots because it’s just not going to happen. Read the light, change the light, use the flash! Whatever you need to help brighten your subject the better it will look.

5. Now go on and check your mode. Most smartphones today come with different modes, or filters. These can both help or hinder you…. but they are there! USE THEM IF YOU NEED THEM!

These are probably the most common sense things once you read them but I doubt you have seen many people clean off the lens after they pull it out of their pocket before they take the shot. Now I can’t tell you how to take your shot only that these will help you get that shot!

Last but not least depending on your phone and your style you might want to get or invest in a phone photo editor. I enjoy Snapseed. It works great for me.

I will leave you with a few shots that were shot by my HTC One and minor edits in Snapseed.

Up or Down~ Illusion

Squishy Nose~ It’s her ball

Remember it isn’t the camera that makes the photographer, it’s the eye behind it.

~Anne

Get a Different Perspective

Don’t you just hate when the photography bug bites and you’re somewhere that you’ve been a thousand times before and it just sucks because there’s nothing to really inspire you?  You just sit around the park by your house or the lake at your family’s summer cabin, camera in hand, staring wistfully at the screen or through the view finder.  All you can manage are a few family photos that you’re basically forced to take just because you have the “nicest camera!”

In these situations, you have to force yourself to think outside the box.  When you’re at Grandma’s house for the millionth time, you can’t expect to find the same tree that’s been in the front yard since your mom was born as interesting as it was the first twenty times you photographed it.

This advice comes from personal experience: don’t be afraid to get a little dirty.  Get on your knees.  Lie on your back.  Get a little closer than you usually would.  Move a little farther away.  Look at your surroundings from a different perspective.

Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Take a walk around and make a note of the things you have photographed a thousand times before.  Think about where you usually stand or what angle you usually take the photos at.  Then don’t do those things.  Do something different.  And again, don’t be afraid to get dirty!  I was up to my eyes in this tall grass in a ditch on the side of a dirt road.  Bug bites galore, but I love this shot of my grandparent’s barn.

Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Us grandkids have always been told to stay away from the barn, which is falling apart at the seams.  But be willing to break the rules, so to speak.  Get up close and personal with something you’ve stayed away from.   Look critically around you and step outside your photography comfort zone to find a picture you wouldn’t have typically taken but will absolutely love.

Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Even things that you would normally take photos of (for me, that’s flowers) can become a source of inspired photographs – especially when the subject seems old hat.  It’s all a matter of twisting your body and holding your breath to get the shot.  Composition is, of course, important when searching for inspiration in everyday, familiar subjects.

Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. Edited in Camera Raw.

Find things around you that you might take for granted.  For me, for this shot, this mobile hanging from Grandma’s laundry line has just always been a part of the scenery.  It never really stood out to me and I never had a reason to look twice at it.  Don’t get put in a situation like I did for this shot.  Grandma recently moved out of the house that she grew up in, that she raised her own children in, that I’ve spent quite a number of summers at.  She’s 92 years young and lives on a farm by her lonesome.  She decided that she didn’t need or want to care for a huge amount of land and a dilapidated house that had more problems than there were solutions.  My last trip to the farm was a few months ago when I visited for a few days to help her pack.  It was a bittersweet experience for me.  I’m 100% supportive of my grandmother’s decision to move to an apartment – she’s still completely capable of taking care of herself – but on the other hand, I’m going to miss the farm house and the creaky floor boards and the crab apples and the tire swing hanging from the tallest tree in the yard.  She ended up selling the house to a neighboring farmer who currently rent out the actual farm land.

The lesson to take from that story is don’t take anything for granted.  That old boat at the end of the dock at your cabin, the slide at the playground of the park next to your house, wherever you think you’ve already captured your favorite memories – look harder.  Look again.

Nikon D5100.  No editing.

Steven’s Point, WI.  Nikon D5100. No editing.

Above is my ultimate “different perspective” photo.  It’s an old old old make-shift fence my grandfather put around Grandma’s little garden to keep the deer from eating everything.  Change your focus.  I have this picture focusing on the post and the background, too, but I like this one the best.  It’s such a small detail to focus on, something I typically wouldn’t look twice at.

That’s the whole point of photography, no matter what or where you’re shooting.  Always look at least twice!  Feel free to share your own stories about looking at things with a new perspective in the comments.

Get out there and shoot!

– Kate