Over the years, I’ve accumulated a number of photos of trains and railroads. I’ve often been asked to make them available for sale. To meet the demand, I’ve created a gallery of photos of steam locomotives. Prints of these photos are available for sale in three sizes:
8-1/2 X 11″
11 X 14″
16 X 20″
Feel free to browse the images and if you are interested in one or more prints, write me via the Contact page.
My most recent book, On Living Well: Reflections on Creating a Good Life, has just been published on Amazon.com. The book, a collection of wise thoughts and aphorisms from many sources, is both a personal manifesto and a guide to creating a life of integrity and wisdom.
To live well—to have a good life—is a goal most of us seek. But what does it mean to have a good life? Is it, as is often believed, a matter of sating desires, amassing possessions and riches, or seeking personal enjoyment? Or is it about serving higher goals and reaching beyond pedestrian pleasures to contribute to the society of which we are all a part?
Drawing on the observations of wise observers across the ages, this volume argues that to live well means pursuing higher purposes, goals larger than personal satisfaction, and values that can give our lives meaning more lasting than simple pleasures.
Achieving a good life is not something that simply happens. Instead, like all worthwhile things, a good life must be constructed deliberately. Its building blocks are many. As this volume shows, much valuable advice about creating a good life can be gleaned from the writings of wise persons from the past. Drawing on a wide range of traditions, the advice collected herein constitutes a valuable set of guideposts to inform a journey to make one’s life a good life.
I’ll frankly admit that in the past I’ve failed to use a steady, and studied, approach to post-processing my images. My practice, such as it’s been, was to make changes that looked good and seemed somehow better than the original. The problem, of course, is that while this practice sometimes leads to pleasing results, it’s random and unpredictable. Since I’ve set no clear goals for my images, my approach has lacked discipline, order, and, ultimately, effectiveness.
I figured there must be a better way. And as it turns out, there is. Several resources have led me toward a more practiced and reasoned strategy for enhancing my images in post. First of these is Guy Tal’s essay entitled “Obsession, Joy, and Torment” in his recent book, Another Day Not Wasted. Tal argues that color and luminance, which are processed in separate parts of the brain, can and should be used expressively. As he says, the purpose of editing images is “to elicit some meaning, rather than just to illustrate an appearance.” In other words, both color and luminance, if thoughtfully managed in post, can enhance the meaning conveyed by an image, rendering it more than just a pretty picture. Tal’s essay inspired me to seek out practical ways to portray such deeper meanings in my images.
Marc Muench’s recent book, The Art of Luminosity, is a valuable resource on post-processing techniques. This short volume, available for free from the Muench Workshops web site, examines how to capture luminosity effectively in camera and then how to manage it when processing images. Muench gives good illustrations of the way he edits images of different types, and they’re both inspirational and instructive as a guide to altering luminosity levels to achieve more effective results.
Another excellent resource teaches color theory, how different colors affect the brain, and how to use them to best advantage. It’s See It: Photographic Composition Using Visual Intensity, by Josh and Ellen Anon. This book, the best on using color I’m aware of, does for color what Muench does for luminosity.
The question then becomes how to apply this information to my images. Drawing on these resources, I developed a set of practical actions to help me reveal more meaning, the purpose set out in Tal’s provocative essay. I’ve boiled them down to four steps. I’ve applied them here to images I made while participating in Irene Hinke-Sacilotto’s fall color workshop in the New River area of West Virginia.
I start by examining each image to visualize the concept I wish to illustrate. Visualization may be an overworked term in photography, but it’s basic to creative work. What it amounts to is this: I must have a clear idea of what I want each image to achieve. Of course, visualization needs to start before the shutter is tripped. A poorly conceived image is difficult and probably impossible to recover in post-processing. There must be good material to work with. But if I have good raw material, I then need to imagine how post-processing can enhance my meaning and bring it into clear focus for the viewer. This step is neither easy nor quick. But it’s important that I take the time to establish a clear conception of what I want to achieve. Only after I’ve done that can I usefully proceed to subsequent steps.
The question naturally arises, how do you carry out a visualization process? Are there some practical steps you can take to facilitate it? Can the process be structured so the chances for achieving clear concepts are increased? Guy Tal comes to the rescue. In another essay entitled “The Mindful Photographer“ he urges taking time to meditate to prepare the mind for openness to creativity. But recognizing that this will not work for all photographers or in all situations, he suggests some alternative practices that are as valid for visualizing in the studio as they are in the field. First, he suggests making a visual inventory. In post processing, this means clarifying your impressions about the image, identifying things you like, those you don’t, where it’s strong, where it can be enhanced. Then, conduct a second inventory, this one emotional. What is your emotional response to the image? How does it make you feel? How can the image be altered to bring it into better alignment with what you felt when you pressed the shutter? Take your time in making these inventories. If need be, write down your observations, as they will guide your editing. Then, after you’ve completed the inventories, use them to build a roadmap for making changes to the image that will bring it into line with what you noticed and what you felt.
Once I have a plan, I’ll look at cropping the image. Although I try to crop in-camera as much as possible, some creative decisions may be needed in post to focus attention on the most important elements in the composition. Also, if I plan to convert a 3 X 5 full frame image into a different aspect ratio, such as the one needed for a 16 X 20 print, it’s best to do that cropping now.
Then I turn to luminosity. My visual inventory will have identified any distracting zones that draw attention away from the principal subject. Usually these are bright spots. But dark areas might also need to be brightened to reveal details important to the overall conception. After fixing these problem areas, I’ll make subtle adjustments to luminosity throughout the image to enhance my compositional concept. The intended result is an image that avoids unwanted intrusions, emphasizes the subject I wish to highlight, and is complementary in luminosity throughout. Though I want well-balanced images, I don’t want images that are bland or, worse, muddied. Instead, depending on the subject, broad ranges in brightness may be desirable. The goal is to use luminosity as a creative and expressive tool to enhance the image’s underlying mood as I conceived it in my visualization.
Finally, I turn to color. Adobe Lightroom and other post-processing software packages allow local adjustments to the hue, saturation, and luminosity of individual colors. These controls let me bring out the tones I saw when I captured the image or those I now wish to reflect in implementing my current visualization. Color adjustments are intended to emphasize the principal subject and reinforce the image’s overall composition. However, because the human brain makes different emotional responses to individual colors, the color adjustments I make will also affect the deeper meaning the image ultimately conveys. I need to keep this in mind as I work with the colors. This is when the emotional inventory can help me interpret my feelings about the scene. How I approach the use of color will affect the mood evoked by the image. My visualization will guide me in rendering the colors as subtle and subdued or vibrant and intense.
This may seem like a lot of work. And frankly, it is. But capturing raw images is less than half the process of creating high quality images with sensitivity and meaning. Thus, to achieve my hoped-for impact, I will need to give my images thoughtful and careful attention in post processing.
I recently had an opportunity to visit and photograph the little town of Thurmond, West Virginia. Tucked deep into the mountainous region in the New River Valley central to the state, it was once a thriving center for servicing the mammoth and frequent Chesapeake & Ohio coal trains that traversed the rails through this beautiful but rugged countryside. With a population now totaling five, it has virtually become a ghost town. For all that, it retains many of the symbols of a bygone era, including the black layer of cinders laid down decades ago by the giant steam locomotives that once hauled freight through the town and stopped here to replenish their coal and water loads. Several classic brick structures are reminders of the vitality of this once-bustling and still charming railroad town.
I was tempted to title this posting “A Fungus Among Us,” but that’s so trite I opted for something plain vanilla instead. Regardless, what I present here are some photos of toadstools and other fungi I recently made. These were all made in late September at Moosehead Lake, near Greenville, Maine. The rains brought out a plethora of fungi of differing types and colors and shapes. I had a fantastic time making these images and could have spent hours exploring the woods and side of the roads for more examples. Clearly, the fall colors are not limited to leaves!
I have no idea what their names are, whether they are poisonous, or anything about them at all. If any of you is a specialist in fungi, I’d love to be enlightened. Otherwise, enjoy this brilliant display of one of nature’s autumn wonders.
I was out shooting a bed of roses recently. I was using my newly-acquired Nikon 105mm f/2.8 S lens for Z-mount cameras. I am still testing this lens, but am quickly coming to love it. As these photos will show, it is an extremely sharp lens and is capable of showing very tiny details very crisply.
Here are my recent images. All were taken tripod-mounted. All are heavily cropped so not only are they close-ups, but they are small parts of close-ups. They represent the tiniest details I can photograph easily with this camera and lens.
My intent was to make extreme close-ups and use selective focus to highlight parts of the roses that have interesting graphic and color possibilities. As a result, they are not representative of rose blossoms taken as a whole but are, I hope, good artistic expressions of shape, line, color, and detail that are interesting from a graphic perspective.
I was out early this morning, while the light was still soft, making images in the garden of a home where we are staying. These are some of the images I made. All were made using the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera with the newly-released Nikon 105mm f/2.8 S lens. This lens is quite sharp. It’s reputed to be the sharpest 105mm lens Nikon has ever made, and they’ve made some legendary lenses in that focal length. I’ve owned several over the years and I can’t disagree with that statement. In addition, the lens is surprisingly light for its size and it operates very smoothly.
These lenses are hard to get right now, due to a computer chip shortage affecting the industry. If you can get one of these lenses, you won’t be disappointed.
In June, Nikon began releasing its new 105mm macro lens for its Z-mount mirrorless cameras. The lens was touted as being sharper and as good a lens as Nikon has ever made. As a photographer who likes shooting close-ups, I was eager to get my hands on one as a replacement for my F-mount 105mm lens. But not so fast! Although Nikon issued the lens in late June, supplies were very short due to limited computer chips needed for the lens. And, demand for the new lens was very high. As a result, the few that were available were sold out quickly, with no more on the near term horizon.
I went to my usual supplier and was told the lens was “coming.” I contacted a number of other suppliers to get on their waiting lists. Finally, in a desperation move, I checked the Best Buy website. Bingo! Not only did they list a lens in stock, but they had a second one for my friend, who was also looking to buy one. Three days later, they arrived at my local store!
Naturally, I’m eager to give the lens a tryout. I haven’t had much chance to do close-up photography with it, but the lens is also good for general shooting and portraits. What follows here, then is a set of early images–grab shots from my travels–that show some things I found interesting, all made with the new Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Z-mount lens and a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera.
All of these photos were made hand held. I’m impressed with both the speed and the sharpness of this lens. I plan to make a lot of good use of it.
The Cascade mountain range is located in the northwest portion of Washington State. The portion of this region contained in Whatcom County is largely organized into three national land management areas. The central region, which incorporates the snow-capped Mount Baker, is the Mount Baker Wilderness. The second and largest area is the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The third and smaller area is the North Cascades National Park. Only two roads lead into the area and allow viewing from the highway. State route 542 is a scenic road that crosses the northern portion of the national forest, leading to Mount Baker from the north. Farther south, route 20 leads through the North Cascades National Park and allows views of Mount Baker from a distance. Because so much of the area is wilderness, interior access is only possible in most places by hiking trails.
We stayed for several days in the charming hamlet of Glacier, Washington, located at the mid-point of route 542. Driving this road took us through forests of tall and often moss-covered trees, alongside the Nooksack River, and up the foothills of 10,700-foot Mount Baker. We paused at Nooksack Falls for photos of the impressive rapids there, then climbed higher and higher toward Mount Baker along narrow, twisting roads that tested our nerves. We reached the ski lift area at Heather Meadows, which afforded a good view of 9100-foot Mount Shuksan, which is situated in neighboring North Cascades National Park.
We took our time making photos, using a tripod for most shots. Though I had both a wide angle and telephoto lens with me, at the distances we were shooting, I was able to make most of my landscape images with a 24-70mm zoom lens. I’m generally pleased with the resulting photos. My principal regret is that I was unable to make any time exposures of the rapids so the water would appear as a frothy foam. I thought I had packed the neutral density filter I needed to achieve this effect but discovered at the scene that I’d failed to pack it. In addition, there was not enough time to make all the images I would like to have created. But then, when ever is there enough time?
I made a recent trip to Glacier National Park, both for family sightseeing and, of course, making a few photos I hope are sufficiently good to share.
The real purpose—and the heart of the park—is the famous Going to the Sun Road, which runs across the western continental divide and through the Rocky Mountains just south of the Canadian border. The first challenge is being able to drive that road. To do so requires both a park pass, which can be purchased at the gate, and also a pass to drive the Going to the Sun Road. The National Park Service is limiting the number of cars that can drive that route daily in order to keep the numbers of tourists manageable and the experience good for all visitors. The passes cost $2 and can be purchased on line. The problem is getting one. They are made available daily at 8:00 Mountain Time and each day’s allotment is snatched up in a matter for 2-3 minutes. It requires coming back on successive days to try for a pass, and a bit of luck, to get one. Fortunately, my friend and traveling companion succeeded.
Because our room was on the west side of the park, we drove through the park from west to east. Since we traveled in the early afternoon, the sun was mostly at our back for eastward-facing photos. However, by the time we arrived at Saint Mary Lake and the iconic Wild Goose Island location, we were facing into the sun, which made for difficult conditions for that highly desirable photo.
Our drive from Great Falls to Eureka, where we stayed, was in hazy conditions, due to the smoke from numerous wildfires spread across the west. Fortunately, the smoke conditions were somewhat relieved once we got into the park, and they did not impair our photos significantly.
Because many of our photos were made during quick stops at pull-off locations, most were made handheld. However, I took a small Peak Design travel tripod with me and used it on several instances to help stabilize my 70-200mm lens. Most of my wider images were made with a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera and the 24-70mm Z mount lens. However, I had just purchased the 70-200mm f/2.8 Z mount lens prior to leaving and was eager to give it a tryout, which I did on several occasions.
I purchased a 15-inch Lenovo L440 Thinkpad for editing photos while on travel. I use Adobe Lightroom Classic to manage my photo catalog and do initial processing. After that, I relied on a variety of packages for editing: On1 Photo Raw, Nik Viveza and Color Efex Pro 4, and Silver Efex Pro.
Some of my better images are shown here. You can judge for yourself whether I have been successful in capturing some of the beauty of this magnificent park.