Month: July 2017

Between a Fence and a Hard Place

On the fence
On the fence

I saw these huge flowers this morning which I now believe are Hibiscus, also known as dinner plates. The light was fairly good and it seemed as calm as a lake in heaven, until I set up my tripod. Then they started to move.

I’m not sure why, I didn’t shoot down on them and tried my best to show their good side, but no matter what I did they swayed back and forth slowly like a drunk sailor (no offence to sailors or drunks). After about a half hour I was about to give up when I saw one on the fence.

The dictionary definition of being on the fence is to be uncommitted or undecided in a controversy. I believe the controversy here was whether or not to let me take some decent photos and the majority decision was not to. But she was wedged in tight and we both knew it.

There’s probably an important lesson to be learned here about resistance. Suzy Kassem said: “When you keep hitting walls of resistance in life, the universe is trying to tell you that you are going the wrong way.” On the other hand, Constance Friday said: “Resistance is a sign that shows you’re going the right way”

Next time I hold them in place or find one on a fence. For a fraction of a second I considered picking some and bringing them home but that would be wrong on too many levels. Karma is a bitch.

The KKK Took My Baby Away

The miracle of a single flower
The miracle of a single flower

It was a beautiful morning as I headed to the Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown to visit the sunflower baby from my post Great Expectations. I was excited to see her progress over the last week and a half and expected a beautiful flower smiling at the sun.

I knew exactly where she was because last time I parked right in front of a sign that said Thou Shalt Not Park Here. And as I got out with camera and tripod to wait for the light I saw total devastation, someone had cut all of them down and left nothing but stems.

My first thought, logically, was that The KKK took my baby away; they took her away, away from me. The KKK took my baby away, they took my girl, they took my baby away. Maybe because the Ramones were just on the radio as I pulled in, but it made sense.

As I stood there dumbfounded, a waitress walked up and explained that they cut them down to put on the tables as decorations, oh. So I asked her how I could see the miracle of a single flower clearly if they keep cutting them down.

She said it was probably a good idea to appreciate them while they’re here and pointed to a small patch of new ones in between the wheat. I realized she was right, took a few photos and tried my best to see the miracle.

I suddenly caught a fleeting glimpse as the sun lit her up, and just as my whole life was beginning to change I slipped in the wet grass and fell on my butt. The flowers and the waitress thought this was hysterical, and at that moment I had an epiphany. Change is as hard and as messy as a muddy, rock filled field.

So today the only thing that changed was my pants, but tomorrow is another day and I’ll try again. Robin Sharma said that change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. I wish the waitress said that, it would have made my whole day.

Can Lightroom Presets Save You?

Thomas Gets Clean
Thomas Gets Clean

Lightroom presets may not save you but they might be able to save you some time in post processing. Even if you don’t like the effect you can learn how it was created by looking at the applied settings, then just reset and start over.

The above photo is a RAW file converted using B&W Sombre Street, which is one in a set of twelve free presets called Street-Photography by Contrastly. Another set of presets I’ve found useful are offered by ON1.

Between the two there are ten free sets contain well over 150 different presets as well as free brushes for making local adjustments. Installing and removing them is as easy as shooting a bald eagle at the Conowingo Dam with a $12,000 600mm lens, maybe even easier.

All presets work with Adobe Lightroom 4, 5, 6, and CC. I downloaded mine a long time ago for Lightroom 3, so if you need that just do a quick search for older versions. Don’t forget to apply sharpening and noise reduction to your photos, they leave that up to you.

This photo is far from perfect but it took me ten seconds using the preset versus at least ten minutes to convert to black and white manually. Other than recovering some blown highlights you would never notice the difference at this size anyway.

Remember, you can’t save a bad photo; you can only convince yourself that it’s not a bad photo.

Note: Thomas is not in this facility to get clean and sober, he’s just having a bath. I feel it’s important to point this out for those who think that all trains come from the wrong side of the tracks.

Free Presets for Adobe Lightroom ON1 Inc.

Free Street Photography Presets by Contrastly

Were you born in a barn?

Barn find
Barn find

When I was growing up my father was very fond of the phrase: Close the door, were you born in a barn? I felt this was rhetorical so I never answered, but I always wondered about the barn lifestyle.

It must be a great place to live I thought, because for one thing you apparently didn’t have to close the doors. But we lived in Levittown, Long Island in the 60’s and there were no barns anywhere to be found.

Later we moved further East to Setauket, and in the woods behind our house was a real barn, doors open and everything. The owner was said to be insane and shooting trespassers was not out of the question so I never had the nerve to see it up close.

Here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania there are almost as many barns as soccer moms who drive like Indy Car racers. And I still wonder what it would be like to live in one. I have a feeling it’s probably cold in the winter, hot in the summer, smelly and buggy.

Of course some people renovate old barns to perfection, complete with heat, air conditioning, windows and even doors that close and lock. But I think that most of the people who can afford that were born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth. The north side of my town faced east, and the east was facing south. The simple things I see are all complicated, I look pretty young, but I’m just back-dated, yeah.

If you meet the snapping turtle in the road…

Snapping Turtle-Lancaster County Park
Snapping Turtle-Lancaster County Park

If you meet the snapping turtle in the road call the turtle man. Unfortunately the turtle man lives in Kentucky so you might have to figure something out for yourself. Based on today’s experience, I strongly suggest you do not try to pick him up.

I’ve saved many turtles in my day by gently moving them across the road in the direction they were traveling, so I thought: why is this day different than any other day? And as he went to bite off my hand I realized that snapping turtles have a bit of an attitude.

When I first saw him I wasn’t even sure it was a turtle it looked so strange. So I got out to confirm this and ran back for my camera. After a few quick shots I decided to save him from becoming a paperweight, but I guess he wasn’t thinking that far ahead and resisted. Then I got my other camera.

Several drivers slowed to look at the turtle and the photographer in the middle of the road, some gave advice and some made jokes. But it only takes one person driving while on their phone to run us both over so I nudged him across.

Park rangers showed up and after a brief discussion everyone felt he was fine where he was, safely on the other side of the road in the wet grass. I was the only one that knew he was actually headed up the hill, possibly for a Slurpee, but he’s an adult and has to play the hand he’s dealt. Fortunately it wasn’t mine.

The Escape Artist

Daisy on the lam
Daisy on the lam

Back in march I wrote a piece called Coming Home, about how cows never come home because they never leave, and I talked about the brave ones that occasionally make a break for it just to see what’s out there.

This morning I saw one make the escape, only the second cow escape I’ve witnessed in the eleven years I’ve lived in Lancaster County. I watched with an almost clinical interest to see if this was bravery or boredom.

Daisy (she was tagged) crossed the road and instead of tasting her freedom she tasted the grass on the other side. I walked over to take a photo, and chewing on a stem she gave me her best tough girl look. But she was scared; I could see it in her eyes.

Soon a very large Amish woman came out and shooed Daisy down the road to her own farm while the other cows cheered. I’m not sure if they were cheering for Daisy to come home or to make a break for it, but it started to rain and I lost interest.

T.S. Eliot once wrote: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” In this case it was about a quarter mile until she was reunited with her friends. I can only wonder if they thought Daisy was a hero, a coward, or just another pretty face in the crowd.

Unconditional Friendliness

Unconditional Unfriendliness
Unconditional Unfriendliness

Maitri is translated in a lot of ways, maybe most commonly as love, but the way Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche translated it was unconditional friendliness, and in particular unconditional friendliness to oneself.

I passed this sign today on the window of a store in downtown Lancaster city. As far as I can tell it’s a normal store selling cigarettes and Snapple among other things. But for some reason they do not want people to sit or stand.

Could their very unconditional unfriendliness be because in order to buy something people have to stand in the store, or do they make an exception for that? I wonder if their customers have a time limit, or do they run the place like the Soup Nazi where you go in, state your order and leave?

I was taking a photo and asked a man walking by if he would stand in front of the sign that said no standing. Maybe it was the police car a hundred yards away or maybe it was the bad karma of the place, but he said: “I ain’t standing nowhere for nobody.” Alrighty then.

Suzy Kassem, author of Rise Up and Salute the Sun once said: “To really change the world, we have to help people change the way they see things.” And as Trungpa Rinpoche always said, “Good luck, sweetheart.”

What Dreams May Come

Dreaming of Jupiter
Dreaming of Jupiter

I was walking the streets this morning thinking about the relationship between dreams and depression. I know that when I have dreams about having nowhere to go and nothing to do I wake up depressed.

So I see a young man soundly sleeping on a ledge right off the busiest intersection in the city. I decide to take a quick photo for my study and discuss this with him when he wakes up. His friend comes along after a few minutes and says: “Dude-wake up, this idiot is taking your picture.”

Then he looks at me and says: “Why man, why?” I told him about my study and he looked at me like I was an idiot. So I decided to leave without even explaining my conclusion so far, which is that things never are as bad as they seem.

In a nutshell, dream when the day is through, dream, and they might come true. Things never are as bad as they seem, so dream, dream, dream.