Month: July 2017

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

Amish Dreams

For sale-$3000 OBO
For sale-$3000 OBO

Young Jacob comes running in the door one afternoon as excited as a rooster at dawn and pleads his case: “Dad-Dad-Samuel Stoltzfus is finally selling his buggy for only $3000 or best offer! Can you buy it for me-please, please, please?

Even the Amish know that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is, but he’s a good kid and it’s about time for him to have his own vehicle. So after milking the cows they go down and take a look.

Dads been around buggies all his life and he knows his stuff. He walks around slowly and looks for repairs to the body. Then he inspects the rims as well as the suspension and lights. Its bad, probably run into ground by Eli and Amos those hooligans. But Jacob sees only independence and freedom.

Dad says: Tell ya what son, at the end of the corn season you can have my old one and I’ll see about getting myself something new. Jacob is a little disappointed but in November he’ll be 16 and that means Rumspringa. He knows that patience is a virtue, and with a buggy and a little luck he might just end up with Emmas.

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.

Is Power Napping Right For You?

Al takes a power nap
Al takes a power nap

I met Al at 7:00 on a morning that was already close to 90 degrees. He looked at me, thought about his obligations and decided to take a power nap right where he was. This will likely improve his attitude and restore his energy for the long day ahead.

There’s a whole science behind power napping and many books have been written about it outlining the basic principles as well as the benefits. For example; a power nap is a sleep session that happens during the day and lasts for between ten and thirty minutes.

Research has shown that even six minute naps can improve declarative memory (a type of long term memory that helps recall facts and knowledge). There are no hard and fast rules but some tips can be helpful to new power nappers.

For example: be consistent and keep a regular schedule. Prime nap time falls in the middle of the day, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. This may slightly conflict with your work schedule so if you get fired buy one of the books and consider a lawsuit.

Make it quick. Set your cell phone alarm for 30 minutes or less, for longer naps you may need to find a quiet place such as a sleep room if your company has one or a nearby hotel. Note: a nap hotel may be a legitimate business expense so save your receipts.

Author Stefanie Weisman wrote: “A lot of high-profile companies are recognizing the benefits of power napping…it’s like kindergarten all over again.” It may not be exactly like kindergarten because things will never be that good again, but after a quality nap you’ll probably play nicer with the other kids.

Shooting the Moon (flower)

Moon Flower
Moon Flower

On my way through the park this morning I saw what I now think are moonflowers, also known as white morning glories. According to Wikipedia, the flowers open in the evening and last through the night, remaining open until touched by the morning sun. These didn’t read that.

I took Scott Kelby’s and my own advice and did not shoot down on these beauties. Instead I set up my tripod and got myself to their level. I did ignore the park ranger’s advice telling me not to park where I did but I have my priorities.

I told them about the miracle of a single flower and how I hoped my whole life would change, but they seemed to be moving anyway in the very slight breeze. Forgetting to set my ISO higher I took a few shots at 1/40th of a second and they seemed pretty sharp.

Then, just to challenge myself I asked a tiny bee to pose on the pistil and stay still. To my surprise both the flower and the bee are almost tack sharp. You’ll have to take my word for it because the original photo is 6000 x 4000, I resized this one to 1000 x 667, and WordPress makes them even smaller for some reason.

Back in high school two of my friends ate a tremendous amount of morning glory seeds and ended up in the psych ward for three memorable days of climbing imaginary ladders and talking to the furniture.

I didn’t see any seed pods because I had to eventually move my car, but I suggest you don’t get any bad ideas. If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly…well, you know the rest.

Stillness Speaks

Stillness Speaks
Stillness Speaks

Eckhart Tolle: “All artists, whether they know it or not create from a place of inner stillness, a place of no mind.”

Me: “I have so many things on my mind right now its hard to even think!”

ET: “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself.”

Me: “It’s too much trouble to set up my tripod so I’ll try to hold myself still.”

ET: “True intelligence operates silently. Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.”

Me: “I wish that damn bulldozer would finish up so I can concentrate.”

ET: “Surrender comes when you no longer ask, “Why is this happening to me?”

Me: “These mayflies are driving me crazy, why is this happening to me?”

ET: “Whenever you are immersed in compulsive thinking, you are avoiding what is. You don’t want to be where you are. Here, Now.”

Me: “I should have gone to the Shoe House instead of here in Wrightsville, I’d love a shoe brownie right now.”

ET: “Become at ease with the state of not knowing.”

Me: “I have no idea if this will look good in black and white, I just don’t know.”

ET: “Whenever you deeply accept this moment as it is-no matter what form it takes-you are still, you are at peace.”

Me: “Man its hot out here-it must be ninety degrees already and as humid as a rainforest.”

ET: “Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.”

Me: “Put a fork in me I’m done, I’m gonna go home, crank up the AC and watch cartoons like a normal unemployed 58 year old man.

ET: “Here is a new spiritual practice for you: don’t take your thoughts too seriously.”

Me: “I think I have a few Rick and Mortys on the DVR, that should get my mind right, I hope so, I’m so confused!”

Don’t Shoot Down on Flowers

Level the field
Level the field

The first really helpful book I read many years ago was The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. It’s very basic but he covers a lot of simple things that people often overlook.

One is not to shoot down on flowers. He claims that this will produce a boring shot because people are used to seeing flowers this way, so get down and dirty with them: “well, at least your knees anyway,” says the merry prankster.

He may be right, he may be crazy, but he overlooks a very important part of the photographer/flower interaction. If you look down on flowers they sense the condescension. How is that a problem you might ask?

Once they get the feeling that you think you’re better than them they will mess up your photos every time. Even on the calmest day, a day that’s as calm as a convent they will move just enough to blur the shot, especially closeups.

If you use a tripod and the self timer they have you by the stamens, because then they know exactly when to shake it off. It may sound crazy but I’ve seen it over and over again.

The Buddha allegedly said that if we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. You might want to mention that to them right from the beginning.

Four Optical Delusions

Separate from the rest
Separate from the rest

“We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for the few persons nearest to us.” Mister Ed, Einstein, et al.