Photography by J.D. Magers

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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.

Those missed shots

Added on by J.D. Magers.

A couple of months ago, I was driving to work on that train wreck that is the Highway 36 construction project between Denver and Boulder.  In one of the many places that I had to temporarily stop, I looked to my left into the median and saw a construction worker, complete with bright orange vest and hard hat standing up in the back of a dirt hauler with cars zooming by behind him.  The next thought that raced through my head was of course, "If only I had my camera!"

This would have been an awesome photograph.  Not only were there cars racing by that could have been juxtaposed against his stationary profile, he also had the Flatirons behind him.  As I was at a complete stop, I could have very easily rolled down the window and gotten a few clicks before having to move again.  But I didn't have the camera, and that moment is now gone forever. 

A couple of weeks ago I was on one of the back roads going to work, when the car in front of me slowed down and made a swerving motion to avoid hitting something.  I saw a hawk fly a few feet in the air and then land in the bike lane.  I slowed down to get a good look, but once again I did not have the camera with me.  I have managed to get only one good photo of a hawk in over eight years of passively trying, and here I was driving by one on the side of the road just sitting there.  At first I thought the bird might have been injured because he didn't fly up very high with the first car, and he just sat there as I drove by.  I could have very easily stopped the car real quick and walked back to a safe distance where I could still get a great composition and I simply wasn't prepared.  I wanted to kick myself, and it reminded me of my earlier experience with the missed opportunity to shoot the construction worker guy.  Side note, the bird must have been fine because I saw him the next day up in a tree.

I'm sure we all have these stories of missed opportunities because we weren't carrying the camera around.  My reason I don't take the camera to work is because I don't want my bag to sit at my desk all day long, and I don't want to leave it in the car where it would be exposed to high heat in the summer and freezing temps in the winter, or worse stolen.  And I don't carry it around when we go out as a family because I am usually the one carrying the baby, and it would be too much.  

In the end though, these are just excuses.  The family time particularly is the most important time when I should be carrying the camera.  You never know when somebody is going to do something cute or will make a lasting memory. If I have the camera and see something else, then I am prepared. After all, can I truly call myself a photographer if I don't carry around my camera? I think the answer to that might just be no.  I don't want there to be any other missed opportunities.  In 2016, there needs to be a concentrated effort on carrying my camera bag at least 90% of the time.  After all, I can not grow as a photographer unless I am making photographs.  

That's the message I want to leave you with heading into the weekend.  Whatever we decide to do tomorrow, or next week, or next month, our challenge should be to take the camera with us. You never know what we'll see.  And since I know everyone has stories to tell about missed opportunities, go ahead and leave a comment telling us what they were.  Let's build a community here on Focustheframe where we can all learn from each other.  So go ahead, tell us what your missed shot stories are?

The Kelby Submitted Photo

Added on by J.D. Magers.

On Monday I showed everyone an image from the recent Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.  I really had a hard time choosing which of my photos I thought was best.  The other couple of times I had participated, I only was able to get one or two images that I liked, and when I saw the others that were submitted, I would quickly lose confidence.  Now though, I have a couple of more years of experience.  I was pleasantly surprised with how many photos I took that I liked.  I also came to realize that street photography is fun, and asking people for permission to take their photograph is not as hard as it seems.  The worst that can happen is they say no.  You just have to project confidence and be friendly.  I even want to photograph complete strangers again.  It's not scary at all.  

As I said, choosing which photo to submit was difficult.  To be honest, I'm not even done processing all the images that I liked.  I think I have 2-3 more.  One of the photos that I gave pretty strong consideration to submitting is the one below.

The Cigar

This dude and his buddy were standing outside on the sidewalk.  Both of them were smoking these whopping huge cigars.  When I first saw the hat on this guy, I knew I wanted to get a portrait.  I didn't want to just take any old sneaky shot though, I kinda wanted to act like a real photographer.  I had successfully asked a couple of women earlier in the evening if I could take their picture, so with my new found confidence I walked up to the two guys and broke the ice with a straight simple you guys look awesome.  We talked for a moment about why there were so many photographers downtown, and then asked if I could take their picture.  They said sure right away, and asked if I wanted them to pose or anything.  I told them I just wanted them to continue having their conversation and puffing on the cigars.  I took about ten frames total of the two guys, the last of which was my profile portrait of the guy in the white hat.

Later on in the evening, standing on a corner near the world famous Comedy Works, I saw this guy just standing on the sidewalk staring into his phone and lighting a cigarette.  Since I was on the other side of the street, I walked to a point where I could photograph him head on.  I got lucky when the woman walked into my frame from behind.  When I look at this picture, my eye goes from him, to her and back again.  I think there is a lot of visual interest in this photo.  My processing for this photo was a kind of a cinnamon matte look.  I feel like there is a sort of nostalgia to this frame, and I intentionally processed it to be kind of an old school look.

Where am I?

Ultimately though, the image that I submitted to the contest is this one down here.  This young couple was sitting at the bar of a restaurant whose windows were open to the sidewalk.  The place was empty except for these two.  I love that he has his body turned to her, giving his date his undivided attention.  They're relaxed, which is how a date should be.  I also like the brightness of the background, with all those bottles back there.  I think that holds a little bit of interest too.  Does this place stock the cheap stuff, or are they high end?  It makes me wonder.  

(I did just think of a couple of other images I could have made from this scene if I had thought about them.  What if I had waited a couple of more minutes and watched them interact?  What if he made her laugh right after I left?  That would have been awesome.  The other idea is to zoom in on all those liquor bottles, and try to isolate them.  They are so well lit that it would probably be a really cool image.  Mental notes for next time I guess.)

The Date

Anyway, that's the photo that was submitted.  I like how simple it is.  I have no idea if I won or not, but like I said on Monday, it doesn't matter.  I would love to hear what you think of them as well.  How do you like my processing?  Please tell me in the comments section of this post.  I greatly appreciate it, and will respond to any comment that is left.  Now I am off to process some more photos.  Thank you for reading today.  More later...

Waiting for the Bus

Added on by J.D. Magers.

October 3 was the 8th Annual Scott Kelby Photowalk.  I love doing this event even though for some reason it always seems to conflict with something else I have going on.  I've only made three of the eight, but it seems like I have known about the walk since the beginning.  Anyway, this year's walk was organized to take place in the early evening along the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver.  To be honest, I waffled a bit before signing up because I wasn't sure if I wanted to go downtown.  I asked a coworker if he wanted to go with me, and when he said he would, I signed up too.  One of over 21,000 people to participate on the day!

Unedited (but cropped apparently) version of a woman waiting for the bus in downtown Denver during the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.

Unedited (but cropped apparently) version of a woman waiting for the bus in downtown Denver during the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.

Unfortunately, the weather that we had that day was really crappy and overcast.  Not good for walking around in the early evening.  Of course I should've taken the tripod, but it's old and crappy and I want a new one, and I just didn't bother.  Once the sun set behind the clouds, I had to put my camera in Auto ISO mode and started shooting at ISO 12800.  Boy are those photos noisy.  Anyway, before I lost the light completely, I spotted this bright orange color across the street.  I know street compositions like this are pretty commonly chosen as winners during the contest phase of the photowalk, and I have been wanting to make more images like this so I took the opportunity to make the photograph.  You can actually see me in the window behind her.  

So let's look at how I processed this image.  After importing into Lightroom, the first think I did was do a lens correction and straighten the image.  I figured the crack in the cement in front of her was probably a straight line, so I drew my level indicator line over that.  After adjusting the point curve to Medium Contrast, I adjusted the saturation levels of her orange sari, and her green pants just to see how that would make the photo look.  What I noticed was that when I increased the reds, it made the light in the shops in the background appear warmer.  This started to make the shot look really nice, so I went with it.  Some more global adjustments were made in Clarity, Vibrance, Saturation and the red channel Hue and I had close to my final image.  I warmed it up just a little bit more with the temperature slider, and added a medium vignette from Matt Kloskowski to complete the frame.

A completed street image from the 8th Annual Scott Kelby Photowalk in Denver, Colorado.

A completed street image from the 8th Annual Scott Kelby Photowalk in Denver, Colorado.

Ultimately, I decided to submit another image to the photowalk contest.  I haven't heard if I won or not.  It doesn't matter, as I was just happy to get out.  I'll post more images too in the coming days.  These photowalks are really fun, but it kind of surprises me that there aren't more organized in the Denver area.  There isn't one in Boulder for example.  Pearl Street would be an awesome photowalk.  I decided while working on these images that next year I am going to lead a walk along Pearl.  I just need to find the route.  Hopefully you can join me.

I know the above processing steps are kind of hard to read.  I need to figure out how to do a screen capture on a Mac.  Perhaps a subject for another post.

Thank you for reading.  More later...

The Plan

Added on by J.D. Magers.

So how am going to do this?  That's a great question, and one that is still evolving in my head.  I know that I want my business to include a variety of options.  Basically, I'm going to be generating a lot of content.  There will be general posts containing photos I've taken, and there will be reviews of equipment that I have used.  I'm going to learn and write about creating my own presets too.  Eventually there will be ads, and an affiliate program (but I want to generate traffic first).  

The most important aspect though is that my blog posts are going to be informative.  What that means is open for debate.  I will be writing about my photo walks, whether they take place on a hike, in my basement, or on the streets.  I will be talking about how I process photos, and the plugins that I use.  I'm going to explain how I think those plugins work.  I am by no means an expert on Lightroom, Photoshop, On1 software, or the Nik Collection by Google, but I use them all.  I think explaining the small details of my methods could be valuable for somebody.  

I'm going to make mistakes in how I shoot and what I write about.  That's okay.  I want those mistakes to be visible for anyone to see, because it will make all of us a better photographer and blogger.  I'm not worried about mistakes, and I never have been.  I'm human trying to improve myself.

There is going to be openness and humility in how this blog operates.  If I have an idea, I'm going to share it.  That way, any one who reads this blog and keeps reading this blog can help keep me on track with accomplishing that goal.  For example, I'm going to spend a lot of weekends next spring and summer up in Rocky Mountain National Park photographing the lakes.  I've asked my wife if I can do this already.  Luckily she is onboard.  By late next year, I want to create and sell an ebook about those experiences.  I think it will be fun, and it's something I have wanted to learn how to do for quite awhile. 

I do want to make money with my photography.  But this will not be my primary means of income as I really like what I do in the Biotech industry.  Because of this, I do want to also use my photography and this blog as a means of making the world a better place.  I have posted before about birding and my overwhelming desire to be outside.  I want to preserve that for my two girls.  So any money that I make blogging, I am going to donate 10% of it to the Nature Conservancy.  When I make those donations, I'll post about it on the side bar.

There is a lot more to come.  Hopefully you like what you see, and will come back often.  Make sure you find me on Google+ (please connect with me through the side bar) and Flickr.  The Facebook page is coming soon as well.