Where Do You Start?

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For several years now, I’ve photographed my wife’s petite flower garden and, lately, a larger patch across from the house we call The Wild Area, because just about anything is welcome to take root there.

Stepping outside in slippers to say good morning to day lilies makes coffee taste better; I have no scientific evidence to support that claim, but on the other hand it is an indisputable fact that an occasional wheelbarrow, topped off with loam or compost or yard clippings, is a cheap ticket for the live performances she presents beginning in the spring.

What do I do with that largesse, hundreds and, eventually, thousands of pictures? Almost unknowingly, it seems, I’ve started a project, wielding a camera instead of a trowel and garden hose. Though our satisfactions are different, the idea is the same. Without them, this would simply be labor, something to fill time until we moved to something else.

It is extraordinary that whole populations have no projects for the future, none at all. It certainly is extraordinary, but it is certainly true. —Gertrude Stein


Bombs Away!

The Fallon Electronic Warfare Range is located in the southern part of Dixie Valley, not far as the crows fly from Middlegate, Nevada. It’s open to the public (with some understandable restrictions) because the Navy doesn’t drop real bombs there—as the name implies, it’s computerized.

On the day we visited the roads were soft following a heavy rainstorm. If we got stuck, help (if any) would be a long time coming. We had our chance the next day. I’d added GPS coordinates to my Garmin hand-held, Ulrich had photos from Google on his laptop…now all we had to do was locate our targets.

I’ll bet the Navy pilots find them easier than we did.

We stopped at two locations on the Range, and probably missed a couple more. If Nevada seems large on a map, wait until you get out and walk around. We used up most of our day at just those two spots.

Highlights for me: The emptiness. Lean, spare scenery in every direction. Lack of insects (until dusk, anyway). The quiet. And the questions that come to mind out there—who operated the equipment, and when and where did they serve? The stories they could tell.


Delicious Light

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A trio of photos taken at Thompson’s Mills; after an absence of several months it feels good to return to a place where visual treats are a constant surprise.



Bison's Dust BathBW

In my dictionary, one definition of Re•dux is presented in a new way. I couldn’t ask for a better title, or theme, as I revisit this blog’s archives and try to demonstrate improvements to original photos made possible as software programs, and my skills using them, have matured. I’ll end Redux when I’ve run out of worthwhile possibilities but, meanwhile, follow me as I try to prove that some of the photos we file away and forget merit new lives.

I began Listening For Thunder almost eight years ago…that was quick! I had to look up the date of my first post (it was in April, 2006), but I did remember the topic—the National Bison Range, near Moiese, Montana, part of the federal wildlife refuge system. Along with a bit of general information, I included two photos—a white-tailed deer in evening light, and a bull bison in the midst of a summer dust bath. Here’s the link to that initial post, Sidetrack: Home On The Range. The photos are unchanged since I placed them. Otherwise, I’ve refreshed the link to the Bison Range, and added Categories and tags. Both photos were scanned on a Nikon Coolscan V ED, using SilverFast software.

Compare the originals with the updated shots accompanying this post. The more obvious change is the bison (above), which has become a gritty Black & White (the graininess wasn’t added—remember, this is from film). I did this because, at the time, I’d been shooting digitally for barely two years, and hadn’t yet converted anything to monochrome. Tools for doing that were few then, and digital B&W prints were mostly awful. That’s changed remarkably. We now employ many excellent tools. For this I used Nik Silver Efex Pro, with Photoshop following up for retouching (I’ve removed some distracting grass—the photographer’s prerogative). I’m still fond of the color version, as it reminds me of the day’s strong heat, but the reworked image is stronger, and suggests the thunder created when a bison attempts to relieve itself from relentless clouds of flies.

The white-tailed doe, by comparison, is a delicate matter. Only a shaft of sunset light illuminates her, while the fore- and backgrounds fade into dark shadows. To my eye, there’s an overall green cast to the original; either I didn’t recognize it, or I was in a hurry (lazy). It jumps out at me now. There’s also a lack of contrast, and areas where burning, or dodging, would help. Again, there’s no single magic button to transform the photo. I made adjustments in Nik Viveza and Photoshop, including actions from Tony Kuyper to selectively burn or dodge tones, especially the highlights and mid tones. Compared to the bison image, this redux is subtle—remove the greenish hue, and it’s a coin toss.

Whitetailed Deer, Montana-Redux copy

We can’t rewrite history, but sometimes…improving the photos we’ve taken can refresh the recollections we’ve gathered along the way.