•10/17/10 • 2 Comments

sports legend

Feeling a bit nostalgic these days. Maybe it’s the changing seasons, coming off a particularly long, hot and dry summer that just seemed like it would never end. Maybe it’s my age and upcoming birthday. Maybe it’s the belated realization setting in that both my parents are gone now, after long, healthy and happy lives. Maybe it’s the scotch I’m sipping (a considerably smoother swig than the bottle of paint thinner masquerading as scotch that we finished off in my Dad’s room after going through his effects).

office view

I got an early birthday present, a high end flat bed scanner that scans negatives as well as photos. It’s the last piece of kit I’ve been waiting for before diving into playing with my 4×5 large format camera.


The scanner’s reminded me that I got a bunch of scanned photos after my Dad passed away. There’s a whole side of my dad’s life before he got married that I always vaguely knew about, serving in the RCAF flying bombers during WW2, but didn’t really know. He rarely talked about it.


Many of the photos of him from that period were photos that I had never seen before. Photos of a young man with a cocky grin who wore his hat at a rakish angle. He had all the confidence of someone who had his whole life ahead of him.

At the age of 24 he enlisted in the RCAF in 1942, after working in an English aircraft factory for 3 years. At some time during his tour of duty, he took in the all nude revue at the Windmill Theatre at least once (and probably more times) on his time off. If you haven’t seen it, Mrs. Henderson Presents is a wonderful movie telling the story behind the Windmill Theatre. I first saw it a couple of years ago. So I was really tickled when I found a souvenir program from the Windmill Theatre in my Dad’s effects.


His plane was named in honor of Jane, a cartoon character during the war who had the unfortunate habit of continually losing her clothes at innoportune moments, and in the process helping to inspire the entire English war effort. Dad, I hardly knew ya at all.


By his mid-20s, he’d completed a tour of duty flying night bomber missions over Europe with the Lion Squadron of the RCAF. Reading through his log book from the missions, I immediately recognize his handwriting. I also gain a new appreciation, and deeper respect of what he accomplished during that time.


After the war, he went to college. As far as I know he never flew a plane again, and rarely talked about his experiences. He was never one to wear his experience on his sleeve. Knowing who he was, I know how those experiences helped form the man I knew growing up.

another day at the office

For his 90th birthday we bought him a tour of the area around Victoria in a float plane. He never lost his sense of adventure. Not a bad role model to have.

Dad and John

So as I ponder my sense of nostalgia, I’m left with the lesson that life is what you make of it. Don’t wait for it to happen for you, go out and make it happen.

"You planning on drinking that or taking my picture?"

Life is what happens when your’re busy making other plans


hiatus interruptus

•09/26/10 • Leave a Comment

Interrupting my hiatus here.

Yikes, has it really been this long since I wrote up a post for my blog?

I really don’t have any excuses, other than life has been happening. Lots going on. Tammie decided earlier this year to give up her dream of going to med school. Damn biochemistry got the best of her. Misty graduated high school last spring and is still trying to determine what to do with the rest of her life. She has time.

I’ve obviously kept developing my photography. I finished a black and white film developing class last fall, and really enjoyed it. We don’t have room in the house to set up a darkroom, but I do love the look of film.


I’m starting to really enjoy looking at large prints of photos that I take. So after thinking about how to incorporate film into generating large prints, I decided to take the plunge and dive into large format film cameras. 35 mm negatives just don’t hold enough detail to generate really large prints. After a lot of reading, and cruising eBay and Craigslist, I found a 4 x 5 film camera on sale locally for a steal of a price. It’s not exactly what I was looking for in terms of camera, I would have preferred a folding 4 x 5 field camera instead of a monorail. But the price was way too good to pass up. This will be perfect as a relatively inexpensive way for me to determine if large format is in my future. A couple of months after getting it, I also took a class up in South Bend to learn more about how to use it.

my new toy

This isn’t quite as portable as I’d like, but I think I’ve managed to organize everything so that it fits into an old camera backpack that I have:

What's in my camera bag?

Long story short, I’ve got a few exposed sheets of film sitting, waiting for me to get around to mailing them off to be developed. A couple of things have temporarily put my large format camera on hold. One of them is not having any way of scanning the developed sheets. I plan on getting an Epson V750 in the near future. That will take care of giving me about the best quality scans that I can do myself, short of drum scanning. The other main culprit delaying my exploration of large format film has been a plain simple lack of time. Something I hope to be remedying in the near future.

I also rented a tilt-shift lens earlier this year, as a way to experiment with the same types of lens movements you can do with a view camera, but with my dSLR. The quality of images that I got from that lens blew me away, especially getting large prints made from them. Razor sharp detail from edge to edge on a full frame camera, even printed out 3 feet wide. I’m in love.

Eagle Creek Park

So I’m trying to sell the wide angle zoom lens that I have to fund purchasing the tilt-shift lens. I’m realistic, I can’t justify just collecting whatever lenses I want, and I’m finding that I’m not getting a lot of use out of the wide angle zoom.

I also recently decided for the first time to enter a couple of my photos in a public competition, the 2010 Images of Eagle Creek exhibition, sponsored by the Riviera Camera Club and Eagle Creek Park. It took a bit of scrambling on my part to get the prints ready. Luckily I was taking a week-long vacation already, so I had time that I wouldn’t normally have had. I bought a mat cutter, learned how to mat my own photos, briefly flirted with the idea of building my own hand-made frames, till I decided I didn’t have the time to do that. Maybe building my own frames is something I’ll do in the future, when I have more lead-time.

I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of the competition, but was pleasantly surprised when one of my photos received honorable mention in the General Nature category. Cool.

honorable mention

Why I always keep a hood on my lenses

•01/24/10 • 2 Comments

why I always keep a hood on my lenses

It wasn’t a good day for my 135 f/2L lens. This morning, after I got home from an early morning jaunt out shooting, as I was unpacking the camera stuff from the car, the lens fell out of my backpack that I had forgotten to zip up (what can I say, I was still sleepy after leaving home at 6:30 to try and find some early morning fog to shoot).

I didn’t even realize it had fallen out till I heard it bounce off the concrete driveway, and start rolling towards the street. “Oh f*ck me” was all I could think. After some careful checking though it seemed to be fine. No sign of any scratches on the glass, a couple of small dings on the body, and a small chunk of cement lodged in the ridges at the back side of the lens. The hood took the brunt of the damage, with some good size dings on the edge where it first hit. It seems to be working fine.

So later in the day we headed out to the third annual charity auction for the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. I took my camera, and had the 135 f/2L on it because I wanted to use it and see if my initial impression that it was OK was correct. Standing in line filling my plate with free food, I leaned over to get something, and the camera swung unexpectedly and the hood took a dip in the dip. Second time today the lens hood protected the glass.

So in a nutshell that’s why I always keep the hood on my lenses, even when I’m not using them. I’m a klutz.

I need a new backup strategy

•01/03/10 • 7 Comments


This is becoming an annual end-of-the-year ritual. I look at the hard disk on my laptop and realize that it’s 95% full, and the next time I download a CF card full of images it will likely tap out.

Digital photography is a major resource hog. I keep probably 95% of the images that I shoot, even if I don’t think right now that they’re worth working on. Often enough, I go back a few months later and decide that an image that I originally dismissed is worth working on. Of course I also need to keep every single family photo that I take, or risk a severely ticked off wife.

A few years ago I decided to switch to a laptop for all my computer needs, and I’m on my second MacBook. But I’m beginning to realize the limitations of that approach, and I think my next computer I’ll probably go the other direction and go back to a desktop Mac. One that I can upgrade extensively.

I don’t shoot nearly as much as a lot of serious photographers, but I do shoot RAW, 21 megapixel files. Once you start editing those files in Photoshop, with layers, it really doesn’t take long to fill up a hard disk.

Around the middle of 2009 I replaced the 250 Gb hard disk that came with my MacBook Pro with a 500 Gb disk. “No problem”, I thought at the time, that will give me plenty of space. Yea, right. My 500 Gb disk now has less than 10 Gb free. Time to do something different.

For the last couple of years we’ve used an old desktop PC stashed in a closet as a backup server for my laptop and Tammie’s. I put a 750 Gb hard drive in it just for data backup, and each day at 3 am it connects to our laptops using SyncBak and it copies over any new files that it finds. About an hour later, it uploads any new files to an account we have on Mozy, providing us with automated off-site storage. Our Mozy account currently has over 500 Gb of stuff on it. It’s a system that works beautifully, and I don’t have to think about it very often. Once or twice a week I connect to the desktop remotely to make sure it’s doing what it’s supposed to, and rarely do I ever have to mess with it.

But it’s not sustainable.

Our big concern is to have off-site backups of photos that are irreplaceable. That means, for the most part, family photos. For me it also means my artistic photos that I consider to be keepers. Ones that I really don’t want to lose. That means that other than the family photos, only about 5% of the RAW files I generate need to be backed up off-site. It also needs to be something that I can do with a minimum amount of manual effort or thought. I’m willing to put a lot of thought and effort into getting the thing working, but once it’s working I don’t want to have to mess with it.

I’ve used Lightroom for the last several years for managing and editing my photos, and it’s an essential piece of how I work with photos. In order to keep disk-space on my laptop manageable, I’ve kept a separate Lightroom catalog for each year, moving last year’s photos and catalog off the laptop to the backup PC when I’m done with them. But at this point I don’t want to have to keep upgrading the hard disk on the server PC, I don’t see the need to back up the vast majority of the RAW files to an off-site location (just the keepers), and my laptop can’t hold a full year’s worth of RAW photos, even if I sacrifice my music collection and numerous programs.

So what am I to do?

Yesterday I bought an external 1.5 Tb drive that I’ve got hooked up to my laptop. I also have a 1 Tb Time Capsule set up to sync my laptop, providing me with a convenient, automatic backup of everything on my laptop. My current plan, is to have all my photos automatically copied to the 1.5 Tb drive, and that will be the main backup for the majority of my photos. I’ll export my keepers to a second Lightroom catalog, and just that catalog and all the associated RAW files will be copied to the server PC, and then to Mozy.

But Lightroom doesn’t make this as easy as it could. I’ll write more about that once I figure out the mechanics of getting this to work.


•01/03/10 • Leave a Comment


The end of an old year, and the beginning of a new year. A slightly belated happy new year to everyone out there.

Although I’ve badly neglected this blog the last several months, that doesn’t mean that I’m not still developing my photography. I’ll spend more time updating this blog in the future (but I refuse to call it a new year’s resolution).

cool ride

•10/06/09 • 2 Comments


Infrared, converted to black and white.

best seat in the house

•09/07/09 • 1 Comment

best seat in the house...

We went to an Indians baseball game a couple of weekends ago. I didn’t take too many photos of the game itself, we were a bit too far away from the infield, and my lens was a bit too short to get the shots I would have wanted. But I got to watch a glorious sunset as the game went on, and I can’t complain about that.