A Visual Celebration of the End of Summer

While most people celebrate the end of summer with back to school and Labor Day activities, I prefer to take notice of the turning of the season, a turning toward what I like to call the “good light.” Softening sunlight and lengthening shadows and fields that turn to gold. This is the nature photographer’s best season when capturing images of the Ohio landscape. It’s also the primary reason I’ve scheduled my first, full-day photography workshop for the weekend of September 26th.

The End of Summer on the Ohio Landscape by Jim Crotty
The End of Summer on the Ohio Landscape by Jim Crotty

It is also with some melancholy that I say farewell to the summer of 2009. Back in May I made a goal of making this past summer one full of positive experiences from the limited time I have available to spend with my daughters, Emma, age 10, and Chloe, age nine. Making this my goal was in response of regretting not doing such during the summer of 2008. You see I am a single, divorced dad of two very special little girls. During the school year they live with their mother in Texas. Emma and Chloe are my everything, and I’ve made it no secret that there is NOTHING for me in Ohio that comes close to being worth the pain I go through when I have to say goodbye and put them on that American Airlines flight back to Texas.

I mean it – NOTHING, especially Dayton. I don’t think I need to explain that point further for most regular readers of this blog.

I succeeded in accomplishing my goal for this past summer, so much so that the pain of the goodbye (at least for me) was as sharp and searing as it has ever been.

And it’s with that emotion of love and commitment to my children that I present the following video and images, most of which were taken during my daughter’s last week with me in mid-August and going through the lonely days following to the beginning of September.

The visual artist creates what is discovered in the light from that which is felt within.

Photography by Jim Crotty : Four Image Poster Print Storefront

Photography by Jim Crotty : FourImagePosterPrints

The rule of four. Selecting just four photographs that best represent my artistic vision of a particular location. That’s what I had in mind in the creation of four image poster prints. Fine art nature and landscape photography that I’ve taken in locations such as Dayton, Hocking Hills, New Mexico, The Smokies and more.

Each of these four image poster prints are now available for online purchase on my Imagekind storefront. Customers are presented a variety of options including print size, frames and paper. Imagekind does an exceptional job in both print quality and packaging (see YouTube video with this post), and the prices are VERY reasonable.

I’ll be adding even more selections to the four image poster print storefront in the weeks to come, including my photography of Zion and Glacier National Parks.

Jim Crotty presents four image poster print of Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Jim Crotty presents four image poster print of Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty presents Sugarcreek Four Image Poster Print
Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty presents Sugarcreek Four Image Poster Print
Dayton Photographer Jim Crotty presents Seasons of Ohio
Dayton Photographer Jim Crotty presents Seasons of Ohio
New Mexico Four Image Poster Print by Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty
New Mexico Four Image Poster Print by Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty
Landscape Photography by Jim Crotty of the South Carolina Lowcountry
Landscape Photography by Jim Crotty of the South Carolina Lowcountry
Photographer Jim Crotty The Inn at Cedar Falls
Photographer Jim Crotty The Inn at Cedar Falls
Gettysburg Four Image Poster Print by Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty
Gettysburg Four Image Poster Print by Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty
Dayton Four Image Poster Print by Jim Crotty
Dayton Four Image Poster Print by Jim Crotty

Outdoor Photographer August 2009 Issue Best Yet

Over the years I think I’ve subscribed to nearly all of major photography magazines. You name it, I’ve read it. Many photography publications are directed strictly toward the average hobbyist market, relying heavily on advertising from the big retailers that sell just about any type of photo gear you can imagine.

There are other photography magazines directed strictly toward the professional photographer. These are the publications with impressive portfolios and practical information on everything from studio lighting to optimal digital workflow.

There’s one photography magazine that has been able to consistently offer editorial content that is suited for both advanced hobbyist and professional shooter, particularly those who enjoy nature and landscape photography. Outdoor Photographer is that magazine, and this month’s issue is the best yet. It is timely that the August 2009 issue came to my attention now because it will serve as an excellent reference resource for my upcoming, full-day photography workshops on nature and landscape photography, the first of which is scheduled for September 26, 2009 at Cox Arboretum here in Dayton (it filled-up quite some time ago, but I will be doing another one this winter).

The articles that I found to be most interesting were “Get 4×5 Quality with a DSLR,” by Dennis Frates; “Get Into the Stock Market,” by Art Wolfe (thanks Art for introducing me to PhotoShelter back at the NANPA Summit in Albuquerque); “The Zone System Revisited,” by Ken Rockwell; “Making Your Best Black-And-White,” by Richard Lopinto; and “The Big Trip,” by Mark Edward Harris.

This why Outdoor Photographer is one of those magazines that I actually take the time to read from cover to back. It always deliver, especially if you are a photographer who is constantly seeking new information and ways to improve your craft, and who isn’t ? The constant learning process is what makes photography so much fun, whether you’re just starting out or an established professional.

The following images aren’t directly related to this blog entry other than they were taken by a “photographer” (me) and “outdoors.” Plus I thought it would be fun just to post them and provide a little variety. The landscape images were captured on the evening of July 16, 2006 from Dead Horse Point near Moab, Utah, overlooking Canyonlands National Park. Something kind of cool happened to me when I was out there photographing the scenes and the sunset that evening. Can’t quite explain it, but I think it comes through with the images.

The skyline shot is of Cincinnati during the 2006 Tall Stacks Festival.

Sunset from Dead Horse Point Utah by Jim Crotty

Colorado River from Dead Horse Point by Jim Crotty

Canyonlands National Park from Dead Horse Point by Jim Crotty

Tall Stacks Cincinnati 2006 by Jim Crotty

Again, back to black and white photography

I keep finding myself returning to monochrome – aka black and white – photography, particularly when converting from original digital files that are high dynamic range. My favorite digital tools for crafting these images includes Apple Aperture and the Nik plug-ins. When completed with care and attention to detail, the fine art black and white photograph should evoke a viewer reaction reminiscent of the works of the early masters, particularly Weston and Adams. I’m not sure if I will ever achieve work of that caliber, but it’s sure fun to try.

Teaching a Photography Workshop at Wegerzyn Garden in Dayton

The Photographer At Work

Originally uploaded by Sue Combs.

Thanks to workshop attendee Sue Combs, who was at my short, photography workshop yesterday at Wegerzyn Gardens in Dayton. She snapped this shot of me as I was demonstrating the use of a Lensbaby lens in photographing a Sunflower. I like the angle she’s using, how she composed the image and the choice of a narrow depth of field.

I think there were close to 100 people who attended the program. The Thursday prior to the workshop I contacted the Five Rivers MetroParks office with a “heads-up” on my anticipating a VERY large turn-out. The staff responded promptly with the addition of a second instructor, Adam Alonzo, another very talented photographer here in the Dayton area and experienced instructor. We were able to divide the group into two sections.

While I presented a practical application of basic flower photography techniques, outside in the gardens, Adam conducted an indoor, classroom presentation through the use of laptop and LCD projector. Half way through the one and hour workshop, the two groups switched. This gave everyone an opportunity to receive instruction from myself and Adam, in both classroom and outdoor settings.

All is well that ended well. A special thanks goes out to Adam and the staff at Five Rivers/Wegerzyn.

What’s great is that I now have a waiting list started for not only my full-day photography workshop at Cox Arboretum on September 26, but the registration list for a second, full-day program is already half-full. I limit these programs to just 20 people. The cost is $89 per person, which includes lunch.

I’m going to see how well these first, two full-day workshops go and then I will most likely establish a regular schedule, perhaps a program every one or two months.

To find out more, see http://www.ohiophoto.org/PresentationsWorkshops/PhotographyWorkshops.html

Capturing a Falling Star with Digital Photography

Those in Dayton with an interest in photography could very well be presented with an opportunity to expand their image making skills next week. The evening of August 12th will see nature’s fireworks – the annual return of the Perseid Meteor Shower. This cosmic display of flashing fire and rock through the Earth’s upper atmosphere is the biggest meteor shower of the year.

Many amateur photographers tend to limit their cameras to the more common subjects that we see around us everyday – nature, landscapes, wildlife, flowers, friends and family. However, with just the simple addition of a sturdy tripod and making use of the time exposure settings of most of today’s point and shoot digital cameras, photographers can capture on digital sensor a “falling star,” and with the Perseids just one photograph could easily contain several flashing trails of meteorites.

Photographing meteor showers is often the first step into the realm of “astrophotography” – the photography of night sky objects ranging from the Moon, the planets, nebula, star clusters and distant galaxies. But with photographing meteorites the difference is in the gear required. Most of the other subjects requiring the attaching of a digital camera body to a telescope through the use of mounting adapters, and then the tracking mechanism on the telescope (also known as a motor drive) has to be carefully aligned so that it tracks exactly with the rotation of the Earth. Deep sky subjects often require exposures of an hour or more, oftentimes multiple exposures that are later “merged” or combined together.

Meteorites speeding through the sky need just a basic camera body – either 35mm SLR or fixed-lens, point and shoot – and either a normal or wide angle lens, usually anything from 28 to 55mm, or a zoom in the range. The camera will need to offer the photographer the ability to manually select both shutter speed and aperture, which is usually the “M” setting. Attempting astrophotography in any type of “auto” exposure mode will not work, primarily due to the fact that the source of light that the camera meter is attempting to adjust to is simply too small or dim.

Any type of time exposure that is longer than 1/30th of a second will require the camera to be set-up on a tripod. Hand-holding the camera simply will not work and result in lots of little, indistinguishable blurry lights in darkness. A cable release from the camera’s shutter button is also a good idea so that all possible hand contact with the camera, during the exposure, is avoided. Also be careful to set your tripod on a sturdy surface, such as pavement or hard ground. Many people make the mistake of setting their tripod for night exposures on a porch deck or walkway. Even the smallest step from you or anyone else nearby will shake the camera during the exposure.

Aperture settings should be as wide as possible, such as 2.8 or 3.5, so as to allow as much light in as possible. It’s also a good idea to turn the auto-focus feature off and pre-focus on a distant tree or house on the horizon. If the focus is still on more nearby objects the stars and meteors will once again be blurry.

The longest shutter speed setting should be used for meteors, which on most cameras is 30 seconds. Here again you will want to be in a setting that is FAR away from house, street and city lights.

For the Perseids on August 12 the best time of night will be midnight and after. That’s when most of the meteor activity takes place. Rather than fumble in the dark with camera and tripod, try setting your gear up before sundown. Direct your camera and lens toward the northeast horizon, which after midnight will be the “epicenter” of the Perseid meteor activity. When the time comes just starting taking your exposures, one after the other, 30 seconds for each. The odds will be excellent that you will capture a streaking light of one or more meteorites.

With exposures that are 20 seconds or more the stars will begin to “trail,” meaning they look like little, curved lines dotting the sky versus pinpoints of perfect starlight. That’s okay, because when a meteor comes through it will be in a completely different direction than the lines of the stars, thus making a nice and noticeable difference between star and “falling star.”

Another tip is to try to include a telling (but not too intrusive) foreground element within the frame of the picture, such as a tree or treeline. A certain amount of depth and interest will be added to the final photograph that contains the meteor. However, it’s important to be aware of any possible man-made light that could be falling on the tree or trees. With just the faintest, far away street light the trees will “glow” within the time exposure and make your nighttime exposure tend to look unnatural as well as distract the viewer’s eye away from the primary subject.

Although the chances are good that photographers can photograph one or two of the brighter meteors of the Perseid shower within the limits of Dayton and surrounding suburbs, the best thing to do is drive as far out into a rural location as possible. The further away from intrusive light pollution the better, and will often double or triple the number of meteorites seen and photographed.

Closer to Dayton is John Bryan State Park, in Greene County. The Miami Valley Astronomical Society maintains an observatory in this location because it’s just far away from urban lights to allow for good night sky conditions.

Another option is to take the opportunity of this rare celestial event for a short trip to Hocking Hills State Park in Southeastern Ohio, just a two hour drive east of Dayton. The night sky in this part of the state is some of the darkest to be found within easy travel distance from the Montgomery County area.

Hocking Hills is so popular with amateur astronomers and astrophotographers that both Getaway Cabins and The Inn at Cedar Falls, which both offer superb overnight accommodations, include separate sections on their web sites for stargazers. There is nothing like the thrill of seeing the night sky with all the glory of the Milky Way when standing on the hilltop behind The Inn at Cedar Falls. The Perseids will surely look their best from that particular vantage point.

This year viewers and photographers will have the added benefit of a Moon that is not full on the evening of the Perseid Meteor Shower. The only other thing to do is to hope for clear weather, but even if the conditions aren’t good on the evening the 12th, there will still be sections of the meteor event visible a couple of nights prior and after.

Late summer has arrived with the grand show of the Perseids. With just a tripod and a some time exposures amateur photographers in the Dayton area will be able to capture with camera this amazing show.

For more information, please see http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/31jul_perseids2009.htm

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