It is really hard to narrow down all of the thousands of photos that I made in 2017 to just 17. The number is arbitrary because of the year. The good news is that with each year that passes I get to add another photo to my year end countdowns. This list is not a list of my best technical achievements. I would rather pick seventeen moments that I really liked from the year. Even doing that it is a hard list to put together.
17. Oh boy he is going to talk about his kids again! Of course this countdown starts with my little one. She is probably the person that is most photographed in my life. Here she has a great time trick or treating in downtown Lafayette. I love the smile and the sense of place of this photo. It is probably my favorite photo of her from last year.
16. On August 21st everyone turned their eyes to the sky. The sun would be eclipsed by the moon. With the sky looking cloudy in our area I made the quick decision to head north to where I saw clear skies. We found a country road that we could park on, and we watched the eclipse. Here my step daughter enjoys the moment. I could have set up gear and shot the actual eclipse, but this seemed more important to me at the time.
15. On our way home from Ocean City, Maryland this year my wife budgeted some time into our schedule to spend in Philadelphia near the Liberty Bell. If you know me then you know that I love American History. This is basically where American history started if you think about it. That is what I love about my wife. She knew I would love this, and she made sure that it happened.
14. The night before our Ocean City, Maryland trip I headed in the other direction to see Metallica play at Soldier Field. I love Metallica, and I had not seen them play live in quite some time. This was a great night listening to my favorite band. This photo also shows just how fluid these top 17 lists have been. This photo wasn’t even included in the Top 17 concert photos post, but it appears here. As I was making this post I realized how much I loved the colors. When viewed larger I think that it looks much better than it did in the thumbnail that I used to choose the concert posts.
13. This photo was made on the way to Indiana State. Here I saw a familiar barn that would allow me to create a starburst through. It was a no-brainer to pull off of the road to make this photo. When you can make colorful photos in the winter you do it.
12. Here is another photo made on the way to Indiana State. This was an early morning drive to cover one of the first football practices of the year. I left a little early on purpose so that I could make a sunrise photo somewhere along the way. I looked fruitlessly for a while. The mist in the air would have made for a good photo, but I couldn’t find anything interesting to put around it. Here I found a scene that looked okay, and then the deer showed up. It ran through the frame and made the photo. This is another photo that looks best larger. Click on the image to see it that way. Continue reading “Top 17 Photos of 2017”
Today is a special day for our country. In 1776 the Declaration of Independence was approved on this day. Two days earlier the congress had voted to form their own government. In fact John Adams sent his wife a message saying that from that day on July 2nd would forever be remembered in America. We took to calling July 4th our Independence Day though. It is a day when we celebrate the heroes that risked their lives for something that they believed in. In a time when most politicians care only for themselves it is refreshing to look back at those who dared to do what was right. As I stood there thinking about what those men could have lost by signing the Declaration of Independence I couldn’t help but wonder who in our present time would come forward as our hero.
Fun In Post Processing
On site I had an idea for a photo. I wanted to have a photo with equal space on each side of the bell tower. In post I would have a little fun making a red, white, and blue photo using the graduated filter tool in Lightroom. For some reason I usually use my preset which has the red (or orange) on the left side of the photo. With the blue sky on the left though I changed things up a bit, and had the left side blue with the right side fading in with red. Using the graduated filter to add color is a fun way to go a little crazy on a photo. A little artistic freedom is a great way to celebrate the freedom of our country today.
One great thing about my wife is how she thinks. With a late night flight out of Philadelphia she planned to spend some time in Philly after we left Ocean City last week. She knows how much I like history, and that we have flown through Philly many times, but never stopped. She used to live just outside of Philly so I would guess it was all old news to her. It was a place that I have always wanted to visit though so we stopped in for a couple of hours. It was great to get to see some history, but this just made me want to go back and see it all with a lot more time on my side. There is a lot to see and take in, and I want to come back when I have the time to do it right. It was great to spend a couple of hours in the footsteps of greatness though.
Ice Cream Over Liberty
On the drive up to Philly from Ocean City the oldest had a lot of questions about the Liberty Bell. We explained the whole thing, and she seemed pretty stoked to see the Liberty Bell. She was stoked until we got within a block of Independence Hall that is. As I could finally see the bell tower and started to walk a little faster the kids noticed an ice cream stand. So of course with our destination in site we stopped to order ice cream. At the time I was laughing as our priorities changed so quickly. At the time I came up with the hashtag #givemelibertyorgivemeicecream. I was shocked to see that I was one of many that had come up with that already. Thankfully there was not an ice cream truck out front in 1776 or we might still be having tea time.
I normally do not get a window seat on an airplane, but on my flight to Ocean City from Philly I found myself in that window seat. Before I left town I decided to take my window mount for my GoPro after watching some cool videos by another photographer Trevor Mahlmann. He has some amazing photos so go and check his new website out. I thought the flight would be short enough for a cool time-lapse so I put my GoPro in the window of the plane. After I made the photos I realized that I had my camera shooting a new photo every ten seconds. That was probably too much time in between frames. On a short flight like this I should have made more images. You learn with each shoot though so I now know that I need to shorten that length. It still is a great way to condense a flight into 16 seconds.
Being Clear About Your Intentions
As I was placing my GoPro on the window the elderly woman next to me started to look a little alarmed. I explained to her what I was doing, and I even showed her my camera. I missed some of the footage at the gate, and I did not check my settings to see that I was at ten seconds because of this. I did however put her at ease, and that was important to me. I never want my photography to make someone uneasy.
I am not a professional reviewer. I can only speak to what I have seen with the camera using it for everyday images. This is a camera that I thought would solve a lot of problems when I bought it. I wanted a camera that I could take to concerts, or just have in my pocket so that I wouldn’t have to lug my dSLR around in everyday situations. I went to Best Buy with a couple of cameras in mind, but a sales rep talked me into this Nikon. My main concern was that I wanted a camera with manual controls, and the person in charge stated that it did have them in the menu system. Of course the camera could not turn on for me to see the controls. When I pulled the camera out and charged it I realized that I had been lied to. The camera performed very well though in good light so I thought that maybe it was a keeper after all. When I took it to my first concert I realized that I was very wrong. The camera would hit on an image every now and then, but for the most part it would give me a terrible blown out image.
The first day that I had the camera I made an image of a diner just south of town that I really liked. I can’t say this enough that if you have good light this camera can do some great things. The problem with that is that most situations that I wanted to use it in that involved family are inside where the camera did not perform very well. The smart setting on the camera would do its best though, and was very useful. It made candid moments easy to photograph. You didn’t have to worry about the settings, you could just point and shoot. I took this camera into the delivery room when my daughter was born last year. I had it in the smart mode, and it helped me make some of my favorite photos. Of course the room is well lit because of the operation in progress.
Nikon Coolpix S9500 Pros and Cons
Size of camera
Long zoom capability (550mm)
Smart mode is great
18 megapixels in a point and shoot
Pop up flash is very powerful for a small light
If you are into filters there are options in camera
Picture quality fades quickly as the light does
Charging problems early in life
No manual controls
GPS continuously searches for your location killing your battery
When I finally landed in Pennsylvania I went down to pick up my bags at baggage claim. A normal process was interrupted by a very cool photo of a barn on the wall. I decided that even though it was a quick trip with nothing photography related on the agenda that I would photograph that barn. I really did not have any time to go out and find the barn. It was a busy weekend, but a stroke of luck helped me out. I volunteered to take my sister in law to the airport. On the way there we passed the barn on the highway. Through a little trial and error I found my way to it, and made my photo. I did not stay long on the site, but I was able to find the angle that I wanted. I am glad that I was able to find this barn because it is to be dismantled and moved to another site. It has been at the current site since 1872. I don’t know when I get back to this area, but I hope that I can see the barn again when it is finished.
Once again I have made a video that I will share below showing my process for processing this photo. I like this one because it is not very polished. You can see me struggle a bit to find the right way to show this barn. The light was crazy when I was on the site. The front of the barn was in shadow while the sun was setting in the background. With no clouds to diffuse the light it was coming in pretty harsh. The human eye can see this dynamic range of light, but the camera cannot record it. That is why I bracket knowing that I can make a photo that represents what I saw in person. On the site I bracketed at -2.5, 0, and +2.5. I usually only shoot in two stop increments, but I wanted a little more on each end to work with. In all reality this would have been a great time to make a 5 shot HDR. I fused the three photos in Photomatix 5, and then sent the 32 bit file into Lightroom to work on it there. You can then see in the video how I tried a few presets on it before finally settling on the HDR Look light by Matt Kloskowski. From there it was a long set of adjustments to get the shot where it is now. Instead of going through all of those I will just let you watch the video. When I first saw the photo I thought that it was too far gone. Thanks to a little processing though it is a very usable photo. The fun part about this photo is that I processed it on the plane on the way home in a little turbulence. It is nice to process on the way home if you can to get some of the work out of the way. This was a short flight though so the computer was not out very long. I sped the video up to 4x so that you didn’t have to sit through twelve minutes of editing.
Back at the end of July we were to fly out of Maryland back to Indiana. The trip did not go as planned, but we ended up making it back home. Sometimes when you spend a lot of time in an airport you start to notice things. One of those is the fact that almost fifteen minutes after our flight was supposed to leave the gate it was still listed as being on time on this board. Pennsylvania was the fourteenth state that I had visited this year. I set a goal of making a picture in thirteen states. I was able to go a little above and beyond that with a little luck and a couple of unexpected trips. Most of my goals for the year did not make this blog. They were personal, but I really have done much better than even I expected to do. My photography has really done well this year, and I hope that the following year sees it grow just as much.
This photo was taken with my Nikon point and shoot. I really just tweaked a couple of settings in Lightroom to get this to where I wanted it to be. I also cropped it a bit to get rid of the distracting backgrounds on either side.