The GoPro Here 4 Black comes with so many great options such as burst mode which can take up to 30 pictures in a second which was used in the above photo to capture the firing of this gun along with timelapse, video up to 4K, and even the ability to make a timelapse video without any other software. These are all great features of a camera that takes nice photos and video in places such as under water or in the snow. Most of which I’ve used at one point or another to get some nice pictures previously unavailable to me. With all these options what is the biggest problem with the GoPro Hero 4 for me? The requirement for more storage space. It doesn’t take long to use 30 – 60 gigabytes of storage room and that can fill a hard drive in a very short time if you’re like me and tend to keep as much as you can without deleting files you may never really use just because you may want to use it someday.
Try saying that fast a number of times. It’s enough to drive you crazy (or at least appear crazy). I don’t have any real expertise in psychology other than the one class I took part in in college but I do read books that cause me to think about why I do the things I do which I consider psychology because many of those reasons originate from emotions. This post will cover the last couple of years as I began to focus more on photography and the games we play within ourselves along the way to reach for better results. Reading and talking with others who enjoy photography, the paths tend to be similar.
I’ve occasionally taken pictures for almost 30 years but just to capture a moment and never really to display that moment. The focus became a little more intense with the arrival of my first child which also happened to coincide with the change from film to digital making photography easier and less expensive. At least I think it was less expensive but I never really added together the cost of more batteries, hard drives to store the pictures on, and memory cards for the camera. Still, honing my photography skills was not of much interest other than nice photos of the family. On my first point and shoot camera there was the option of manual settings but I didn’t really understand them and never really wanted to. Auto was the only setting I wanted to use.
After a number of trips on our National Parks Monopoly Board I started to question the quality of the photos I was taking and if I should upgrade. Do I go to an interchangeable lens camera or just a better point and shoot? Watching others struggle with changing lenses and having to carry around all that extra gear was not really appealing to me. Finally I began to see spots on my photographs and realized that there was dirt inside my lens and probably on my sensor. I decided to take the camera apart (you can read that story here…) and ended up breaking one of the electronic boards inside. After getting another camera of the same model for parts I got it back together but still knew it was time for an upgrade. The question was how much of an upgrade.
During the summer of 2012 we took a trip to Yosemite with friends of ours. During our time there we were taking pictures and so were our friends with their new Sony interchangeable lens camera. Later in the year I got to compare the photos and was essentially convinced it was time for that type of camera. Photography was starting to intrigue me more and I was already beginning to play with some of the manual settings and I wanted a camera with more versatility so an upgrade to a Sony Nex went into the budget. I chose this camera because of the overall size. It was smaller than most dSLRs but with many of the same qualities of photos.
During the next year I read a couple of books on photography and started practicing attempting to reach the level of professional photographers but severely failing. What’s the first thing we blame? The quality of the camera of course and I was no exception. As I continued to read more and look at the pictures of much better photographers I paid attention to the equipment they were using and kept thinking that’s what I need to get the pictures I wanted. The only problem was that equipment had a much higher price tag and I really didn’t want to put that much money into my camera equipment. How could I possibly achieve the results I wanted with the camera and lenses I had?
I struggled with this for several months continually looking at my pictures and those from other people thinking my equipment was sub-par and that was the major issue. The other part was of course the need for more knowledge and practice. Now some of the reason for blaming the equipment was I was trying to take amazing pictures of the night sky which are some of the toughest pictures to take and equipment can make a tremendous difference for those types of pictures. There were several times when I thought I made the wrong choice in cameras because no one else was using a Sony Nex for their quality photos.
I had to continually ask myself what I wanted to achieve with my pictures. My answer continued to be to take pictures that I would enjoy and others who looked at them would say “wow” when they saw them. Selling them was never the goal although it would be a confidence booster to sell an image or two. With these answers, upgrading equipment again didn’t make sense so I had to convince myself the equipment wasn’t the problem.
Practice and reading on how to take better landscape photographs kept me occupied and I have now convinced myself that my equipment is just fine for what I want to achieve. Over the past two years I have taken over 12,000 pictures and captured some amazing images in my opinion while learning a tremendous amount. These images are still not the caliber of many professionals but they are getting closer. The equipment has been pushed and I’ve found a number of limits but I’ve become ok with those limits. As long as I know what they are my expectations can be set accordingly no longer setting me up for disappointment.
Amazing photographs are in the person viewing them. There are many of my images that I love but many others don’t think there anything special. It’s because I know everything that went into each image and the experience around it that makes them special for me. I’ve come to believe that great photographs require two parts. The first is know how your equipment works so you can make the necessary adjustments to it quickly if need be. Second is the photographers view of each situation which eventually becomes more important than the first part. A landscape photographer needs to be able to identify a unique situation and have the knowledge of how to photograph it. Some of those unique situations only last for a few seconds and you have to know your equipment thoroughly enough to capture it.
The knowledge of your equipment can be the difference between and amazing picture and a great one. There is still much for me to learn and I’m having a lot of fun doing it. I see more and more opportunities to take a great picture and continue to work towards an amazing image.
When going out to take pictures I generally stick to the landscapes and/or wildlife as that is what I enjoy the most but from time to time I see textures or colors together and attempt to capture them. On a recent trip to Blue Mounds State Park I took several artistic pictures from a few places that I saw interesting combinations so here are a few of those.
In the picture above I thought the softness of the water and moss growing on the rocks contrasted nicely with the hardness of the fallen leaves. In addition, the colors contrasted beautifully together. Taking this photograph at another time of day could have given better light to really create a great picture and set off the colors.
While exploring the park I came across a number of places where the rocks were split apart exposing different patterns and colors. This was one of more unique pictures with the pinks of the rock closest to you and more of a green tone which is amplified by the shading of the sunlight as you look through this crevice. Also, I liked the text of the fallen rocks as you peak through this photo.
Another great contrast with one little flower managing to survive in a crack in the stones. Also, the purity of the white flowers against the irregular cracks in this hard, pink mottled stone add to the contrasts that I liked about this image.
Can you feel the warm breeze blowing when looking at this photograph? The grasses in the background are at an angle along with milkweed seeds all angled in the same direction and the bright sunlight illuminating it all. When I look at this picture I keep waiting for some of the seeds to fly off in the wind.
When I saw the amazing reddish fall color in these roses I kept trying to find a way to bring that out. The sun showing through these leaves provided the perfect light to bring these brilliant colors out which contrasted beautifully with the still green grasses surrounding this plant. In addition, the bright sunlight highlights the serrated edges of the rose leaves against the straight blades of the grasses making for a nice texture contrast.
Analyzing my ‘artistic’ photographs there are usually two main elements that catch my attention: contrasting textures and contrasting colors. With that in mind, I wonder how some of these may look as black and white photographs eliminating the contrasting color aspect?
Seeing these two next to each other I really like the black and white version as well. Just focusing on the textures and evident wind makes for an interesting photograph.
With this image the black and white version is not as interesting but still not bad. If I had focused on creating a black and white picture I would have taken it at a different angle to get the white flowers against the solid stone above them allowing the cracks to show through without being covered by the flowers and the flowers could contrast against the stone without the cracks taking away them.
I was amazed at how much I like this photograph in black and white. Removing the color really gives a sense of peering in between these large rocks and shows the shapes and shadows in much more detail. This little addition to this post may be helping me rethink the idea of black and white photographs. I certainly did not plan on doing this with this post. Since I’m having so much fun with it let’s try the top picture.
No, this picture does not benefit from the conversion to black and white. It eliminates the effect the moss has which is one of the things I like about it. Definitely worth trying though.
I won’t even consider trying the rose picture because the purpose of that photograph is the bright red colors. Hopefully this was interesting to look over. It was for me to write it.
Usually when someone thinks of going to the beach in the winter they have images of a white sandy beach in the Caribbean, Hawaii, or the Seychelles. I had a slightly different opportunity to start the New Year. A trip to Northern Minnesota to view the picturesque shore of Lake Superior. It was a beautiful January afternoon with temperatures just above 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius) which felt warm compared to the cold of the previous days and days to follow which where anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees colder with brisk winds. Yes, I did take a quick dip in the lake since this is a beach with open water (if you consider sticking my hand into the water, which was warmer than the air this day, a quick dip) even if the beach is ice covered.
This was the first opportunity I’ve had to take in the North Shore of Minnesota during the winter and it was worth the effort to dress appropriately for a couple of hours in the cold. Surprisingly, I was not the only person on this beach this day. One of my neighbors joined me in climbing ice covered rocks and exploring this winter wonderland. We did encounter other people also taking in this winter wonderland that was missing it’s snow blanket exposing the many colors contained in this rocky shoreline.
Large waves had made their mark here earlier evident by the ice covered rocks and shrubs but on this day Lake Superior provided a relaxing, calm motion in the water giving great opportunities to explore the shoreline. Icicles hang abundantly off of the rock ledges from all of the water running towards the lake before this area became a frozen spectacle.
I could only imagine what it must have been like to be in this area when the waves where large enough to come crashing over the shoreline high enough to coat everything in a thick layer of ice creating these amazing ornaments only visible during winter time. In reading other accounts of the ice sculptures created by Lake Superior I could not fully appreciate what they were writing about. Now those experiences have become clearer and much more exciting to see.
Only a couple of miles to the north there was 6 – 8 inches of snow on the ground and to the south there was an inch or two but here…. snow was missing on this day. For me it was fortunate to be able to have the contrast of the ice and colorful rock all around. I’m sure there is a whole different beauty here when it’s all covered in fresh snow.
Lake Superior always gave away it’s location during these colder days because of the constant cloud cover created by the steam coming off the warmer water. A mile inland could be sunny but there were always clouds on one of the horizons. Fortunately there was just enough wind to blow this cloud cover away from the shore allowing the sky to clear a little overhead during these afternoon hours. It didn’t last long.
For a few minutes while the sun was out I was wishing for a comfortable lawn chair to be able to set up on the beach and just take in the quiet, calm solitude of this incredible landscape. These blue waters just begged to be touched and so I obliged by removing my two layers of gloves and soaking my hands. Sure the water was a little colder than I prefer but it wasn’t unbearable. It helped that I was kept warm by climbing up and around the boulders and trees of this shoreline before testing this water. I don’t recommend wading or swimming during the winter but a quick rinse of the hands is typically harmless.
While hiking through the woods this member of the local wildlife kept posing as if to tell us it was alright to take a picture. We were mere feet away and it just sat there like we were of no concern. Why would I pass up such a situation? I pulled the camera from it’s case and snapped a few photos. After a couple of shots it was time for red squirrel to move on to his daily routine.
After hiking for a few miles we came to this point, looked out over this Great Lake and decided it was time to begin our trek back.
On the return trip we noticed the clouds on the horizon appeared to be bringing snow and we were due back to our camp shortly so making our way to the vehicle became a little more hurried. Once snow covers the roads it can greatly increase the difficulty in traveling so using the dry roads seemed like a good idea. A few miles north we encountered this snow along with colder temperatures and increased wind. Yet, passing by this area again later in the week showed the snow never reached here. The beauty of Lake Superior is such a privilege to be able to take in and winter appears to be no different and with a lot fewer people joining you.
For Several Areas in the Northern Hemisphere there have been some great astronomical events to watch in the form of eclipses. Late in September we had a lunar eclipse which was also called a blood moon due to the red colorations at the peak of the eclipse. A month later there was a partial solar eclipse. Solar eclipses are a bit more difficult to watch since you shouldn’t look directly at the sun without a heavy filter such as welders masks or you risk hurting your eyes.
There are some people who travel great distances in order to witness these astronomical events. For others, they just wait until one of these events happens and they are in the viewing area which can take many years to occur. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be in the viewing area of a pair of eclipses this year. Even more fortunate than that, they’ve occurred at times which I could take time to go out and watch them without missing important obligations. The first that took place was the blood moon which is when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon blocking all direct light on the moon creating a reddish appearance across the moon.
The night before I decided to go out and witness this lunar eclipse first hand and see if I could get some nice pictures of it in the process. After a little research it was discovered that the full eclipse would happen just before sunrise and just above the horizon. Before this eclipse would end the moon would dip below the horizon eliminating the view of the last part of this eclipse. I set the alarm and went to sleep for a short night. With the noise in my ear I quickly shut off the alarm and questioned if I really wanted to get up at 4 am just to see this eclipse. After laying there for a few minutes I eventually got up, knowing that I could come back to bed after the eclipse, and put the camera and some food in the car for my 10 minute journey to my viewing location. But before I left, the eclipse was already under way so I snapped a picture and took off a little more awake especially after hitting that cold night air.
Arriving at the viewing location, it was quiet and peaceful. Just me and the moon. I set up the camera and started photographing the eclipse and adjusting settings to find which ones worked for the pictures I wanted to achieve and switching lenses on my Sony Nex camera to see which shots each would produce during the rest of the morning. Soon another car drove in and a camera was set up. Hmm… I’m not the only fool to give up the early morning hours of sleep for this. A little re-assuring in this choice. I continued taking pictures throughout the rest of the visible lunar eclipse with a little conversation mixed in between photographers.
The second eclipse of the fall was a solar eclipse where the moon goes between the Earth and the sun blocking the sun. Fortunately this one happened just before sunset again allowing me the opportunity to watch it without missing other important obligations. During the afternoon I was texting back and forth with my wife, after finding out about this eclipse from another co-worker that morning, to see if she wanted to join me on this nice fall day to witness a solar eclipse. I agonized for several hours on where to watch this and take pictures. After finally accepting the options I had, I arrived home and met my wife and daughters to head out to watch this astronomical event.
Viewing a solar eclipse is far more challenging than a lunar eclipse due to the brightness of the sun and the damage you can do to your eyes by looking at the sun. Fortunately I had a dark enough filter for the camera that allowed us to view the eclipsing sun through the camera without looking directly at the sun. Even though you couldn’t see the eclipse directly, the amount of sunlight shining on the surrounds was noticeably decreasing. It’s like wearing sunglasses but you can’t remove them and make your surroundings brighter. And since this was happening with the setting sun, there was a yellow tone over everything more than usual. It reminding me of the sun rays gleaming over the horizon just before it dips below the surface only this time the sun was higher in the sky.
It was nice to be able to get out and enjoy both of these fall eclipses if for no other reason than allowing some time to relax and slow down for a few hours. By the way, I did not end up going back to sleep after the lunar eclipse. It was in the plan and was a great way to motivate me to get up originally but never happened.
To see more Lunar Eclipse Photos go here….
To see more Solar Eclipse Photos go here….
Hopefully you’ve been able to take in some of the amazing fall colors in recent weeks. They seem to be more vibrant this year compared to the last couple of years in many areas. Taking in the fall colors can take many forms from a weekend getaway to a camping trip or for many, a simple walk around a lake or area park. There seems to be one catch with these incredible fall colors this year: you have to take them in quickly because they’re peaking and than just as quickly being blown off the trees or changing to a brown color. It seems as though the colors peak and then two days later have begun to fade.
If you are unable to get out to see the colors or just want to have a reminder of their vibrancy, here are a few pictures from the past few weeks.
Recently I traveled to Southwestern Minnesota to Blue Mounds State Park with two goals for the weekend. First was to get out and enjoy an unseasonably warm weekend with daytime highs of 80 degrees. Second was to practice photography and enjoy taking pictures of whatever I thought would make a good picture with the Milky Way and sunsets/sunrises the top priorities. Since I was mostly interested in nature and wildlife I wanted someplace relatively quiet and this seemed to fit what I was looking for. Both of these goals were accomplished by camping in the park and spending most of my time there with a camera hiking around different areas of the park.
Throughout the weekend there I managed to take over 700 photographs. I wanted to narrow those down and see what I thought the top 1% of those pictures would be so here they are. My decisions would probably change depending on the day and how I’m viewing these pictures but as of this day these are my top 7 photographs from Blue Mounds State Park. All of these pictures are basically unedited other than what the camera does when it converts them to the jpeg format. Taking time to process many of these photographs may alter my top choices but I just wanted to judge my picture taking ability without the post processing.
This is the sunset shortly after arriving at Blue Mounds State Park. I chose this picture of the sunset because of the arrangement of the rocks in the foreground combined with the clouds in the sky and colors throughout. The rocks and clouds direct you to the setting sun (which you can’t actually see) which is the focal point of the overall photograph.
This was the scene near my campsite a few minutes after I woke up. The colors on the horizon transitioning to the darker night sky being reflected in the calm water below are why this photograph is included. There are a few cattails in the foreground barely visible adding to the overall depth of this photograph. It provides a sense of calm reflection to begin the day.
About a half an hour later this photograph was taken. Shortly before this I heard gun shots reminding me that the Minnesota duck opener had begun. I like the position of the rising sun and the colors in the sky being reflected in the water along with the ducks moving across the sky.
Thirty minutes later I took this photograph. It was chosen because of its simplicity and contrast. Blue water surrounding this little patch of grass with dew drops on each tip. This photograph taught me that timing is really important for some subjects. Had I taken this picture later in the morning or during the afternoon the lighting would not have been good to give me this nice reflection in the water.
Minutes later I took this photograph because of the soft, warm glow from the early morning sun on this bright pink flower which was growing on the shore near the water. I debated on whether or not this should be included in the final seven photos but ultimately chose it because of the contrast between this flower and the background in addition to its arrangement within the picture with only the top portion of the flower in focus.
This was a mid-morning photograph that I liked because of the soft wave of the field beginning to change color ahead of harvesting with the tree softened in the picture from the wind accented by the wind turbines on the horizon. Can’t you just feel the prairie breeze?
I just realized that six out of the seven top pics where taken on the same day. It was really a productive day that I must have been focused on what I was doing. Ending the day which began before dawn with photographing my main objective – the Milky Way. Even out in rural areas there is still plenty of light pollution making the night sky more challenging to photograph. Regardless I still enjoyed taking these pictures and like the results. There are pictures that show less light pollution but they are also less interesting to me. One of the things that amazed me when looking out at the Milky Way was how close to the horizon you can see it. I’ve always seen it high in the sky and never really noticed how much of the night sky it can cover. This picture is a good reminder to me of the Milky Way reaching for the horizon.
I’d like to read which of these are your favorite. Please leave me a comment and let me know.
After exploring several miles of Blue Mounds State Park during the morning I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go out in search of the milky way again this night. A nice campfire seemed like a better idea on this gorgeous day and besides, how much different would it be from the same area. As the afternoon progressed there was a nearby national wildlife area close by that I wanted to check out while visiting this area. After checking out the cascading creek I stopped near the top of this Touch the Sky Prairie and gazed out at the horizon. This might actually produce better results as it was several miles west of the nearest town so the light pollution should be less.
I decided to quickly return to my campsite to get some much needed nourishment before returning to the prairie and foregoing any campfire for the rest of the evening. A quick meal and then hurrying to catch another sunset before setting the cameras to stun. I mean setting them up to capture the night sky. This sunset wasn’t as spectacular but still provided a spiritual event that I was fortunate to witness. While waiting on the stars to shine once again I was working on a second camera that has provided some troubles recently to see if there was a good solution. It’s amazing how busy you can keep by running between two cameras photographing a nearby landscape. Especially when those two cameras are from different camera makers so trying to remember where each setting is kept for each one provided a nice brain teaser.
After a short time the stars began to poke through the evening sky challenging the cameras to capture them. This time there was definitely less light on the horizon so maybe this would be the spot to get the milky way added to my increasing collection of photographs. I began testing the camera to make sure the settings and focus where correct to get the best photographs I could and I was ready to begin another evening of astrophotography.
Soon I could see the milky way over head beginning to shine. It definitely looked more brilliant than the night before providing much anticipation of what was yet to appear. As darkness grew so did my excitement at the photographs I appeared to be getting. I know that the screen on the camera does not always show the true look of each photo but taking some time to zoom in on the camera display I had a feeling that things were going well.
Eventually I could see the milky way stretching from one end of the sky to the other. I know I have seen the milky way many times in my life but I had never really looked at it and studied it to see it grace so much of the star filled sky. It was definitely worth skipping a fire to try another night of picture taking. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more – the setting sun or looking up at all these little lights scattered all around me. Finally I accomplished what I had set out to do on this weekend.
How did I find this spot you’re wondering? It took a little bit of research. First I used my Stargazer program to locate the milky way and find out if it was high enough in the northern US skies to get good photographs. After determining this is a great time to photograph it if you can find clear southern skies I started to look for good places to go with less light pollution using DarkSiteFinder.com. Northern Minnesota has some of least amount of light pollution providing for some dark skies so that is where I wanted to go however I was limited by time so distance was an issue. After looking for state parks to camp at I discovered all of the reservable camp sites were booked due to fall color seekers I re-thought where I wanted to go. Being around a lot of people was not my interest for the weekend. Solitude was my desire. Searching state parks I discovered Blue Mounds State Park had very few campsites reserved indicating fewer visitors giving me the quiet I was seeking along with relatively high ground for the possibility of unobstructed photos. Several hours were spent looking for the right place and a couple of stressful days trying to decide if this was what I wanted to do or not. In the end sometimes you just have to pack up and go for a surprise adventure. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.
The rest of my family went out of town for the weekend. So many things to do and a beautiful weekend to work on my list around the house. But that would be responsible and I know I would spend more time inside than I should and miss too much of this last weekend of summer-like weather (highs in the 80’s and sunny). Camping for the weekend seemed like the perfect way to spend a weekend by myself. I’ve really been itching to get some nice photos of the milky way and light pollution is a problem in many areas near me. After a little searching, I found a state park without the fall color seeking crowds and what appeared to be a perfect place to photograph the night sky as the land was higher than the surrounding area giving me miles of horizon towards the south, where the milky way touches the horizon, without much light pollution.
Friday afternoon arrived and so did this last summery weather so I took off from work early and hurried home to pack. Soon after I was on the road for the almost 4 hour drive to Blue Mounds State Park anxious to see the setting sun from this location and look for the milky way to take over the night sky. I arrived at the park just in time to register for my campsite and get to higher ground to prepare for the sun and the stars. It didn’t’ take long for the sun to display it’s breathtaking colors as it neared the horizon prompting me to begin clicking away with the camera. In a very short time I had shot 70 pictures in an attempt to record this beautiful fading display. A few more photos of the twilight and it was time to eat a few snacks I carried with and prepare for my main subject.
Finally the first stars of the night were visible as the sky continued to darken. I took a few pictures to check the settings on the camera and make sure they were correct for astrophotography. Thankfully I did because a couple of the settings needed adjustment with the most important one being focus. The camera was still on autofocus so I switched it to manual focus and adjusted it for infinity in order to photograph the stars as clearly as possible. After changing the settings I snapped a few more pictures and decided it was set up the way I wanted for the night.
Now that I was ready and just waiting for the darkness to grow I began to realize I was all alone out in this park with all kinds of wildlife. Yes, this is where your mind begins to play with you and make you wonder if this is a good idea and jump at unfamiliar sounds looking for some wild animal to come lunging at you. Searching through the list of animals in this area that would be active at night I realized the most likely animals in this area were coyotes and they were very unlikely to cause any problems. Forcing myself to relax I continued to look upward as the sky light up with its nighttime show. Soon I was once again swinging my camera back and forth on the tripod capturing different scenes as they appeared all around me. Eventually the milky way made an appearance above me and I knew it would be a matter of time until it glowed closer to the horizon.
As the night grew darker I soon realized that the milky way would show up right were the nearby town was preventing me from getting the shots I was desperately trying to get. On top of that it was homecoming so the football stadium lights shone bright. All of that time and effort and this was the best picture I could get of near the horizon. Not very impressive however you can still see it. I knew this would be a possibility but hoped for the best. I took the pictures I could and began to vacate my star gazing rock as this part of the park was closing soon. A few photos of the milky way overhead and I was off. Besides it was getting to be a long day and I still needed to set up my tent.
After setting up my tent and sleeping quarters I decided to catch a few photos from this location to cap off my evening of looking for stars. The trees overhead brought a different and interesting composition to all of these bright stars shining down.
After a number of pictures I decided to play with my flashlight and began to highlight the trees and see how that looked against all of these stars. It was kind of interesting and something I would have played with more except I had finished my evening beverage and decided it was time to catch a few hours of sleep as I wanted to get up at dawn and photograph the prairie waking up.
I did decide to try again the next night with a little better luck. To continue on click here…