Photography by J.D. Magers

December 2015 Goals and Metrics Revisited

Added on by J.D. Magers.

This will be just a quick roundup of last month's goals and metrics.  The original post was here. Once again, I think I overreached a little bit and set some unrealistic goals.  Since this is a self-critique (which is very important in photography by the way), we need to go through this exercise, so here it is.

Goal #1: Post three times per week during the month.  You should see new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  In order to be successful in this goal, on Saturday or Sunday of every week, I am going to plan what my posts are going to be about.  That way I no longer will be sitting at my computer the night before (and after a long day of work), thinking about what I want to write about. 

Assessment: This one I actually came pretty close on.  I missed only three days, which is a vast improvement over November.  I did a much better job of not only thinking of posts on Saturday and Sunday, but actually writing them.  This helps a lot.  I just need to make sure when I go to write on the weekend, I know what I am going to write about.  That is half the battle.

Goal #2: I think 300 page views for the entire month of December is doable.  That would be 10 per day.  In order to be successful with this goal, I will need to continue to interact with other blogs and websites to build some community.  If you come here from Google + or Facebook, or anywhere really, please drop me a line and tell me where you saw this blog.

Assessment:  This is the unrealistic goal.  I only had 137 page sessions (which I just noticed is not the same as page views) during the month, and about 40 of those came in just the last three days of the month.  In all, I had 220 page views.  This just reinforces the idea that blogging is hard, and I have a lot of work to do to build a community.  I did get someone checking out my site from a comment I left on David DuChemin's blog, so that was cool.  

Goal #3: I will write the Vision and Purpose document for this website.  This will be my effort to define my ideal reader (and eventually customer), and put some thought into the kinds of content I want to create.  I am going to get some feedback from a couple of friends first, but I do want to be transparent, so I will post it here, probably near the end of the month.

Assessment:  I made some pretty good progress on this goal at the beginning of the month, and then my day job took over and I honestly forgot about it.  This still needs to be written, along with other exercises from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog exercise.  It is something else to work on here in January.  

These last two months have taught me a lot about building this blog and business.  But every time I sit down at this keyboard I get a smile on my face and I can honestly say I am having fun. At this stage of the game, I think that is most important.  I'll come up with some goals for January, and get them posted soon.  In the meantime, if there is something you want to see me write about, please feel free to contact me.  See you on Friday...

On1 Processing For a Very Cold Image

Added on by J.D. Magers.

On Friday morning, I drove over the South Platte River to run an errand.  It had been especially cold the night before, and the moisture from the river coated all the trees next to it with an awesome layer of hoar frost.  It was extremely pretty.  Of course, I didn't have my camera (when will I learn this lesson?!?), so I wasn't able to photograph it.  Friday was cold though, so I figured the frost would still be there on Saturday morning.  I got up, and with camera in hand, I drove back over to the river.  Nothing.  Apparently hoar frost doesn't stay around too long.  Oh well, I was out of the house, and that was good enough for me to try and make some images.  So I walked down to the edge of the main lake and saw a whole bunch of these little jagged icicles sitting on top of the frozen lake.  I spent about 15-20 minutes shooting these little intimate compositions.  This one here is one of my favorites:

Unprocessed image of frozen lake water at Adams County Regional Park, near the South Platte River.  Adams County, Colorado.

Unprocessed image of frozen lake water at Adams County Regional Park, near the South Platte River.  Adams County, Colorado.

Now let's look at how I processed it.  This image was taken around 09:00 in the morning, so the sun had already risen quite a bit. It was also over my right shoulder and slightly behind me.  In photographing scenes like this, it is important to get down low to avoid shooting down on the subject.  I try and shoot across the subject to show depth of field.  

The raw image is pretty flat, and there is not a lot of color in here.  My first thought was to try and convert this to black and white.  There is definitely potential here as a monochrome, but I decided to start out by conveying the feeling of exactly how cold it was when I was out shooting. It was around 25 degrees.  In Lightroom, I lowered the temperature slider down until I got a nice blue tone, and then adjusted the HSL blue sliders until I liked what I saw.  From there, I opened the image in On1 Effects.  

Since this is a photograph of ice, I wanted to bring out the texture that ice has.  The first preset I used was Dynamic Contrast.  This did a very nice job of bringing out the textural elements I was looking for.  Especially in that big air bubble towards the upper right.  I then added a Tone Enhancer layer to bring out the blue color a little bit more. Within the tone enhancer, I slightly lowered the brightness, and increased the Compression setting just a little bit.  The other sliders I didn't touch.  Lastly, I added a subtle vignette to finish off the image.  

The final image, processed using Lightroom and On1 software.

The final image, processed using Lightroom and On1 software.

I really like the way this image looks and think it's a nice way to start off 2016.  What drew me into this image is all of the circles, and the jagged edges of the frost on the surface.  I like how I processed the image too, but realize there might be some aspects that make it look a little off. I would love to hear what you think, so please let me know in the comments.  And, we'll see you on Wednesday.

The Plan for 2016

Added on by J.D. Magers.

The New Year is here at last.  2015 brought with it a heck of a lot of change in my life, from the baby, to my day job, to finally getting serious about blogging.  Blogging certainly takes a lot of focused energy, which I am realizing now more than ever.  I want to accomplish so much more with my photography and this blog in the coming year.  I thought I would make a quick list of things I want to get done.

  • Monetize the blog - I will be working very diligently to get this blog to pay for itself and working to get my photography out there so people can see it.  Whether it be ads, or affiliate links, my own products, or even a local portrait session, it's time to take this to the next level.  I'm going to do this by creating content that has value to the people that read it.  I really think by explaining my workflow to the reader, I might be able to help a fellow self taught photographer learn something. 
  • Create my own product line - I have several ideas in this area.  I want to create my own presets in both Lightroom and On1.  I want to write an ebook.  I want to make portraits for clients.  I also have a couple of images that I would like to try and get published or licensed.  Anything I can do to work through presets and filters, we're going to try and do.
  • Work more on personal projects - Mainly around photographing my kids, but there are a couple of other areas too.  I want to continue to photograph and identify species of birds.  And I want to get up to Rocky Mountain National Park more.  I have never been to the Western side of the park. That is going to change this year.
  • The last major thing I'll mention is that I want to do a little revamping of the website.  I need to have an about me page, and I want to consolidate all the galleries under one portfolio umbrella.  I also don't like how the blog page looks right now.  I want to make it look a little more traditional. Doing this will make the site flow a little bit better and might help the reader to more easily be able to find information.  Maybe I should create a page dedicated to what I'm trying to teach to help with that as well.  

These are just four quick ideas to put down on paper to get me started.  As I said, consistent blogging is a great deal of work.  Everyone who blogs knows that, and I'm certainly not afraid of work.  I'm am more than willing to put in the effort to get my ideas out there, so you can learn from me, and I can learn from you.  I'm excited to see what 2016 holds and where it takes us.  It's time to get started...

So What Exactly Did I Do In 2015?

Added on by J.D. Magers.

Here it is, the last post of 2015.  I thought it might be a good idea to reflect on what I accomplished photographically in 2015.  That way I can have a sort of baseline for when I do this exercise again at the end of next year.  So here goes:

  • The first one can't be considered an accomplishment.  According to my Lightroom library, I pressed the shutter button nearly 3,000 times less in 2015 than the previous year.  I even took less photos than I did in 2013.  For someone that wants to keep learning, I need to practice, which means I need to be shooting more.  There certainly is a good reason for shooting less, as the baby came right when she was supposed to.  In addition, my day job keeps me extremely busy, and I am pretty much limited to creating and shooting to on the weekends.  Shooting on the weekends is hard with an infant, but I should be photographing her instead.
  • I did start the year off with a trip to Barr Lake State Park (which I will actually be doing again this year.  Have I started a tradition?).  I went at sunset, and got a really great photograph of mullein against some out of focus cottonwood trees.  I posted that image here.  We love this photo, and it's now hanging up on our walls.
  • I took 200-300 photos of various kids' birthday parties.  The first one, I actually took the best photos of each of the kids and made prints to give away to the parents.  I was hoping this would lead to a family photo shoot, but that never materialized.  Maybe this year.
  • I took some maternity shots of my wife before the baby came.  That practice will come in handy this year too, as I have a plan for doing more of this.
  • In my limited birding time, I knocked a few new species off my bird photography life list.  This is also something I will be doing more of.  Especially now that I have a little bit more reach with the 7D.
Western Grebe, Barr Lake State Park, Adams County, Colorado.

Western Grebe, Barr Lake State Park, Adams County, Colorado.

 

  • My first attempt at light painting was a resounding success in my book.  Light painting is a lot of fun.  If you want to check out someone who's really good at it, check out Dave Black Photography.  More on my light painting later.
  • I made it up to Rocky Mountain National Park once.  That's also unacceptable and will change in 2016.
  • In October, I walked in the annual Kelby Photowalk in downtown Denver.  Our leader was not very organized, and even forgot to pick a winner.  In 2016, I resolve to lead a walk along the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.
  • On the photowalk, I got an idea for a photo of Sports Authority Field (where the Broncos play). My idea was to shoot the stadium at sunset during a game when it is all lit up.  That shot became reality in November, and it was one of my favorite photo shoots of the year.

Looking at this list, I did more this year then I thought I had.  When I first started looking through the library, I felt disappointed like I didn't shoot enough.  But, as I said, it gives me a sort of baseline to compare to for all the ideas that are floating around in my head for where I want to go this year.  And I will get there.  I have a plan.  I have goals.  It's going to be an exciting ride in 2016.  I invite you to please join me.

Merry Christmas!!

Added on by J.D. Magers.

Today is Christmas, so I am taking the day off to play with the kids.  I would sincerely like to thank everyone who has taken the time to view this blog.  May the joy of the season be with you always.  Merry Christmas!

A Note to Santa Clause...as written by a three year old.

A Note to Santa Clause...as written by a three year old.