Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photography Commentary: Why Do I Do This?

Light Rays - Stallion Springs, California
I've been asked more times than I can remember: "Why do you do this?" Sometimes the question is about the Roesch Photography Blog. Sometimes it is about my personal photography. Often the question is in regards to both.

Why do I do this? That's a tough question to answer. I usually give some quick surface response and move on. It can be difficult to dig deep and truly understand the reasons.

Someday I'd like to become a rich and famous photographer. Just like someday I'd like to win the lotto. The odds are so incredibly slim of either of those happening. So that's not it.
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Making money is nice, even if I'm not rich or famous. That's true, but I don't make a whole lot of anything as a photographer or as a blogger. Yes, I earn a little, but it is just a little. If all of this was for the money I would have abandoned it a long time ago. That's not to say that money isn't a motivation (because it is), but just that it is not at the top of the list.

My photography and blog posts help other photographers. People find helpful advice and inspiration from what I do. I published a post called Things I Wasn't Taught In Photography School back in April of last year. I've had several people since then tell me that was an important post for them to read. Same for my articles on photographic vision.

There have been plenty of people that have helped me along the way. Most of them don't even know who I am. I hope that I can pass along something of value to others--even strangers--just as some have passed it along to me. I want to be a positive participant in the photography continuum. This is a big reason why I do this, but it is not the biggest reason (not even close).
Abandoned Boles-Aero Trailer - Mojave, California
The main reason that I carry around a camera and take time out of my busy day to blog is for myself. I do this for me.

Photography is a big stress relief for me. To say that I enjoy it is an understatement. I feel as though it is an extension of me. I am able to express things through images that I'd have a difficult time doing through words. It is a view of my mind and of my life. Photography is my journal.

I kind of feel like I was meant to photograph, almost as if it is a part of my purpose in life. In a way, photography gives me both pleasure and purpose. That may seem strange, but it is a deep-rooted feeling that I'm not really sure I can fully explain.

Blogging about photography is an extension of the art. It gives me a platform to share what I create. I also learn a lot by typing. Often my posts may seem like they are for others, when they are actually meant for me.

Why do I do this? It is not for fame, money or to please others (although there are some of those elements found in my motivations). I do this because, deep down inside, I need to. That's why.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Everyday Photography

Hill Valley - Stallion Springs, California
You should photograph each and every day if you can. You should make an effort to get out with your camera and capture. Photography should be an everyday thing.

Legendary street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said, "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." I like to add that your next 10,000 are your second worst. Why? Because, like anything, it takes practice to become skilled. The more you do the better you become.
Triangle, Circle & Square - Stallion Springs, California
It is important to capture at least one photograph every day because it will make you better. Just the simple exercise of doing will improve your skills.

Imagine if you wanted to run a marathon, but only sporadically trained. Would you be prepared? Absolutely not! It takes getting out day after day, pushing your limits, in order to do well in the marathon.
Curves In The Desert - Rosamond, California
One challenge of photographing every day is to stay inspired. If you are not feeling inspired to photograph, how can you be expected to grab your camera and capture anything meaningful?

Here's the thing: you get inspired as you do. Inspiration isn't something that you necessarily feel, but something that you create.
The Warm Last Light On The Hill - Stallion Springs, California
I have found that when I'm not inspired to photograph, if I grab my camera and actively look for something to capture, it is not long before the creative juices start flowing. Soon one image captured becomes 20 images captured.

If you wait for inspiration, you will not often find it. Inspiration is something that's out there waiting for you to go get. Inspiration requires action.
Mountain Oaks - Stallion Springs, California
Once you get out with your camera the ideas will start to come. Your photographic vision will become more clear. But it takes grabbing your camera in the first place, even if you are not feeling inspired.

I'm not saying that you should start a 365 project (you certainly can if you want to). What I am saying is that an honest effort should be made to be an active photographer daily. Photographs are never created while sitting on the couch watching television.
A Blossomed Rose - Tehachapi, California
The photographs in this post are recent "everyday" images. I used my camera, even if I didn't necessarily feel like it. And I captured something. Sometimes anything. Doing so allowed me to create some other photographs that can be found in other posts on the Roesch Photography Blog.

Some of these photographs are good, some are mediocre. But without them other photographs are not possible. These images are stepping stones to others. 
Hazy Sunset - Stallion Springs, California
Starting at the top, Hill Valley was captured moments before two other photographs that I really like (Light Rays and Rays Over The Valley found in the Don't Be Afraid To Crop post). I had to stop and create Hill Valley first, and then my eyes could open up to the better opportunities present.

Triangle, Circle & Square was an exercise in underlying photographic elements. You have basic shapes. You have the rule of three. Good use of light contrast. Even so, it isn't all that interesting of an image. Perhaps it is the best images that could have been made of that scene, but it doesn't stand out as anything special. The lesson: sometimes following all the rules and principals equates to nothing if the photographic vision isn't all that strong.
Bee On A Yellow Flower - Rosamond, California
The next photograph is Curves In The Desert. I wasn't feeling inspired. The lighting was terrible (harsh and overhead). The scene wasn't particularly great. But I wanted to create something. Anything. So I pulled off the road, grabbed my camera and created this image.

The Warm Last Light On The Hill was captured while on a short family hike at a local park. The color contrast is pretty weak, but I like the lighting. The shadowed foreground adds a little (much needed) interest.
Country Road - Tejon Ranch, California
What I like about Mountain Oaks are the purple distant mountains and the subtle depth. The hill was actually quite far away. I used a telephoto lens and then cropped about half of the image out to create this photograph.

I was at a local park with my family when I captured A Blossomed Rose. If I hadn't brought a camera with me, I wouldn't have captured the photograph.
One Wish - Tehachapi, California
Hazy Sunset was a more of a test shot than anything else. I had purchased a new camera, and I wanted to see how it would handle being pointed directly at the sun. Digital cameras don't always do well with that. The hill is the same hill seen in Hill Valley but on a different day. 

After capturing Curves In The Desert I was feeling inspired to create something else. Bee On A Yellow Flower, captured only minutes after Curves, is the image that came out of that inspiration. If I had not stopped to capture the first photograph, the second photograph most likely never would have happened. 
Mojave Joshua - Rosamond, California
Country Road was captured immediately before Mountain Oaks. I used a telephoto lens, then "zoomed" some more by cropping about two-thirds of the image out. There was a lot of haze/smog (as there often is in the Central Valley), and I was at an elevation about 3,500' above the scene. The tiny black dots are actually cows.

I was at a park with my family when I captured One Wish. The black background is the shadowed side of a structure. The dandelion was back-lit. A bunch of people were at the park, but I don't think anyone noticed the beauty of this small scene.

Finally, I captured Mojave Joshua one morning while traveling through the desert. It probably would have been a better photograph if I had been at the scene 15-20 minutes early when the light was a bit softer. Even so, it is a decent image of one of the more interesting things found in the Mojave Desert.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Abandonment: Old Military Building - Mojave, California

Hope Through Brokenness - Mojave, California
The Mojave Air And Space Port in Mojave, California, was once a Marine base. It was officially called Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station Mojave, and it was open from 1941 to 1953. There are some remnants of the old base that still remain.

On the south side of the airport one will find an old boarded-up structure that is abandoned. Nearby are some foundations to some long-forgotten buildings. These were once a part of the base, but now sit outside of the fenced-in airport property. 

The structure isn't much to look at--it is a very plain building. It is securely boarded up and there's no interior access. I stopped by the old place mid-day, and the lighting was less than ideal. Even so, I still managed to create some interesting photographs.

I used a Nikon D3300 DSLR with a 55-200mm lens. Post-processing was done using Alien Skin Exposure 6.
Roof Detail - Mojave, California
Light Old Wood - Mojave, California

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Don't Be Afraid To Crop

Light Rays - Stallion Springs, California
This photograph was cropped.
There are some photographers who think that cropping is bad. This is not a new idea. Legendary street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson did not believe in cropping. In fact, the black-border grew out of this, as photographers wanted to show that their images were not cropped. They'd enlarge the opening on the negative cradle, and when printing they could show the unexposed portions of the negative (including sometimes the sprockets) on the prints.

Anyway, this idea continued with slide users who couldn't crop their slides (without an X-Acto knife, anyway). For many it became a point of pride. I'm so good I don't need to crop. Cropping is for lesser skilled people.
A September Sunset - Stallion Springs, California
I cropped this photograph, too.
Anyway, that idea is dumb. While I do think that one should take great care to ensure that everything is just right before exposing a frame, I also think there are plenty of opportunities to improve photographs by cropping.

First, one should crop in order to shape an image. Not all photographs need to be shaped the same. You might want to shape the photograph to be printed as an 8"x10" or 8"x12" or 11"x14" (16"x20" or 16"x24" or 22"x28"). Perhaps you want it to be square. Or something else entirely. There are no rules, you can shape an image however you want and can even go way outside-the-box. Whatever shape you decide, it should be the appropriate shape for whatever the image is.
Rays Over The Valley - Stallion Springs, California
This was also cropped.
Next, one should crop to clean up the edges. Some viewfinders have 100% coverage and are 100% accurate. Many others are not. Meaning even if you took great care to make sure everything was right, there may be something around the edges of the image that you didn't intend to place there. If cropping makes the photograph better, by all means do it.

Finally, one should crop to zoom. Sometimes you just can't get close enough to the subject, either because it is too far away and it is impractical to move closer, or because the lens cannot focus close enough. Whatever the reason, you most likely have plenty of resolution to spare to get in closer by cropping. There is nothing wrong with cutting part of an image out to make it better.

Don't be bothered by those who think that they are better because they don't crop. Let the images speak for themselves. The finished photograph is what is important, and the details of how that image was created is not important to the viewer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Abandonment: Weird Place In The Desert - Mojave, California

Forgotten Fireplace - Mojave, California
I stumbled upon a weird old place in the desert near Mojave, California. I'm not really sure what I found, exactly. Was it a home? A business? Something else? It is abandoned, and has been for many, many decades.

What stands is a large rock chimney, two small stucco structures with wire windows, a bunch of foundations and a basement. It almost looks like it might have been a community of some sort (Hotel? Lodge? Camp?). 
Tire Window - Mojave, California
Not enough is left to answer the many questions that I have about this place. The internet didn't turn up anything at all.

Now it sits empty slowly succumbing to the harsh desert environment. It can be seen from Highway 58, but I doubt that many even notice.
Alien - Mojave, California

My Five-Year-Old Playing Football

A Football Dream - Stallion Springs, California
About a week ago my five-year-old son wanted to play some football. We have an NFL-sized football in a basket with some other sports equipment. He pulled it out and begin to throw, kick and run.

I grabbed my camera (a Nikon D3300 with a 55-200mm zoom lens attached).
The Forward Pass - Stallion Springs, California
There were some clouds in the eastern sky and I wanted to incorporate those into the images. There's a lot more interest and drama in the photographs because I did that. 

It was early afternoon so the lighting was terrible--harsh and from above. Because I wanted the clouds in the image the scenes are slightly back-lit. I used Alien Skin Exposure 6 to post-process the photographs.
Fingertip Catch - Stallion Springs, California
The Kick - Stallion Springs, California
Spiral Pass - Stallion Springs, California

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nikon D3300 & High ISO

Bull Elk - Stallion Springs, California
Not long ago high-ISO digital photography was limited to cameras with full-frame or larger sensors. Those days are gone. APS-C sized sensors are now producing results that just five years ago was only possible with larger sensors.

Digital technology changes quickly, and advancements are happening everywhere. It is an exciting time to be a photographer. Just this year we have seen improvements in camera sensors all the way from medium-format to the tiny sensors found in cell phones.
Joyful - Stallion Springs, California
I very recently purchased Nikon's "entry-level" DSLR, the D3300. This camera has a 24-megapixel APS-C sized sensor. As I've been playing around with it, I've been blown away by its high-ISO capabilities.

It is not only an improvement over the D3200, but it is right up there with what Fuji is getting out of their 16 megapixel X-Trans sensor. It is also right up there with full-frame sensors from just a few years ago, like the Canon EOS 5D, Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, the Sony A850 and the Sony A900 (according to DxOMark).
Shelvador - Rosamond, California
Comparing JPEGs from the D3300, there is almost no distinguishable differences between ISO 100 and ISO 400. Yes, if you closely study side-by-side 100% crops you can detect a slight increase in digital noise in shadows that have been lightened (or burned, using the old darkroom term). The first jump in noise is at ISO 800, but it is a small jump that's difficult to notice without a close study. The jump at ISO 1600 is similar to the previous one--small and not all that obvious without a close look. If you were to compare images captured at ISO 400 or below with images captured at ISO 1600 there is a noticeable increase in noise, but it still isn't all that big of a difference.

At ISO 3200 the photographs begin to look just a little soft, but there is no noticeable increase in noise. This is because Nikon has increased the noise reduction applied. While the images are softer, they still look quite good. In years and cameras past, I might have expected similar results around ISO 800-1600.  
Half Cup - Rosamond, California
Above ISO 3200 there are noticeable increases in noise and softness. However, RAW files, with some careful post-processing, are perfectly useable up to ISO 6400, particularly for grainy monochrome images.

When it comes to digital cameras I have always been a low-ISO guy. I've never been all that satisfied with high-ISO results. But with the Nikon D3300 I'm quite happy to use the camera all the way up to ISO 3200.
Vanity - Rosamond, California
ISO 2000.
All of the photographs here, with the exception of Vanity above, were captured using ISO 3200 on my Nikon D3300 with a 55-200mm zoom lens. I even added grain in post-processing to many of the images (Bull Elk and 7 Eleven are the exceptions). As you can see, the results are quite pleasing.

Now the really amazing thing about this is that the D3300 is not an expensive camera. In fact, I paid $375 for mine (body only). Even just one year ago similar results were not possible at that price point.
Old Motel Chair - Rosamond, California
Home Perfect - Rosamond, California
7 Eleven - Bakersfield, California
This was handheld.
Yellow Reading Chair - Rosamond, California

Friday, September 19, 2014

Abandonment: Tropico - Rosamond, California

A Western Home - Rosamond, California
Tropico, located on a hill in Rosamond, California, began as a clay mine in 1894. It was originally called the Linda Mine. Gold was discovered at the mine shortly after it opened and the focus was shifted to that instead.

In 1908 the mine was sold to the Tropico Mining and Milling Company, and the mine's name was changed to Tropico. A ten-stamp mill and thirty-ton cyanide plant were constructed. At its peak production in the 1930's the mine employed over 400 people. It is estimated that as much as eight million dollars worth of gold came from Tropico. 
Better Days Behind - Rosamond, California
Tropico closed in 1917 due to the first World War, but reopened in 1930. The federal government shut the gold mine down in 1942 due to the second World War. The mine continued to operate as a rock quarry, then it quietly closed for good in 1956.

In 1958 the mine was sold, and the new owners created a tourist attraction. A handful of historic buildings from nearby mines and communities were brought in and the (faux) Tropico ghost town was created. Many of the structures at Tropico are from the late 1800's and almost all of the structures are over 100 years old.
Old West Remnants - Rosamond, California
Throughout the 1960's and 1970's tours were offered at Tropico. It was a popular local tourist attraction. Some scenes from the movie Blazing Saddles were filmed at the site. Rising insurance costs in the late 1970's and early 1980's made the museum less profitable, and in 1982 the place was closed for good. It remains closed to this day.

Now Tropico sits abandoned, closed off to the public by chain-link and barbed wire. "No trespassing" signs are placed around the property. The "ghost town" can be clearly seen from a public road, but you cannot get any closer than that. Everything is slowly falling apart, and it is just a matter of time before this historic site is lost forever.
Old & Dilapidated - Rosamond, California

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Abandonment: Motel - Rosamond, California

Abandoned Window Morning - Rosamond, California
There is an old abandoned motel in Rosamond, California that I recently photographed. This place, located off of the historic Sierra Highway, was surrounded by chain-link fence. A section of the fence had fallen, so I was able to gain access. I didn't see any "no trespassing" signs.

Inside I found an interesting mix of scenes. Some rooms had some cool retro furniture. Other rooms were vacant. Several rooms were torn apart and trashed. Some rooms looked like they were in the process of being remodeled when the place closed. 
Sunrise Through Old Window Shade - Rosamond, California
The hotel consisted of two buildings. The first building is where the office was located. The rooms were accessed from the outside. The rooms on the south side of the building all look like they were in the early stages of remodel. There was one larger room that may have been a lounge of some sort.

The second building had room access from an interior hallway. The rooms in this structure did not have individual plumbing. Instead there was a large bathroom for all to share. I found some old appliances in this building, too.
Room 7 - Rosamond, California
I don't know much about this motel--I'm not even sure of the name. I can guess that it may have been built in the 1940's or 1950's. I'm not really sure when or why it closed, but it has been closed for a while now. It may have been used as apartments of some sort in its last days.

This motel in Rosamond was interesting to visit because it was like stepping back in time. I think when the place closed the doors were sealed up and for a while it was maintained and watched. Time went by and security disappeared, the fence fell and the windows were broken and the doors opened, revealing a time capsule of sorts.  
Vanity - Rosamond, California
Abandoned Motel - Rosamond, California
Home Perfect - Rosamond, California
Half Cup - Rosamond, California
Yellow Reading Chair - Rosamond, California
Yellow Zebra - Rosamond, California
Shelvador - Rosamond, California
Old Motel Chair - Rosamond, California