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Photos and Footprints

"Take only photos. Leave only footprints." - Unknown

This quote has crossed my mind often this weekend as my partner and I have spent the weekend hiking in the Red River Gorge area in the Daniel Boone National Forest. This is about two hours from home, but it's someplace we've not really explored yet (even though we've lived in Kentucky for 12 years now), so it seemed like a good place to go to celebrate her birthday. Our dog loves to hike with us, so we brought her along too. (Kitty stayed home with the house-sitter). We spent about three hours hiking each of the last two days. I had planned to post several photos yesterday, but discovered I left my card reader at home, so photos and a summary of the trails will have to wait until I get back.

I've discovered a few things:
Our 9-year-old dog has more energy than I do.What the forest service people refer to as an "easy" hike, is not necessarily easy.Hiking downhill is just as difficult as hiking uph…

Favorite Quotes

Since my high school days (some 26+ years ago), I've collected quotes I find meaningful. Quotes about all sorts of topics. Before the days of smartphones and awesome apps such as Evernote, I used to write the quotes in blank journals. I've filled quite a few of them over the years. Here are a few of my favorites:

"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadquate, I shall be content with silence." - Ansel Adams
***  "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." - Pablo Picasso
***  "The limitation in your photography are in yourself." - Ernst Haas
***  "I've learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou 
*** Do you have a favorite quote that holds a special meaning for you? If so, share it in the comments below.

Exchanging photos for "exposure"

According to a recent opinion piece in the New York Tiimes, I'm not alone in being a "slave of the internet."

"...being told that what you do is of no ($0.00) value to the society you live in is, frankly, demoralizing. Even sort of insulting."

No matter what you charge for your art, someone always wants you to give it away for free. I'm not referring to charities or family members, but to businesses with budgets. If I choose to donate my time or some of my work to a charity I support, that's my decision to make. And if a close family member wants a photo, I don't charge (although a request to pay me always follows). No matter who asks for one of my photos, I'm flattered they asked and it makes me happy to know that someone enjoys my work enough to hang it on their wall in their home or office. But when a business expects me to jump at the chance to have my work included in their newsletter/website/magazine/event/whatever in exchange for "e…

Missed Opportunities

It happens to all of us. Those moments when we see a scene that would make a perfect photograph, but for various reasons, we pass it by - only to regret later not having taken the shot. Over the years, I've missed many such opportunities, but one particular scene I passed up has stuck with me over the years.

My partner and I were on a road trip somewhere in Indiana, if I remember correctly. It was late afternoon/early evening and a thunderstorm was moving in (it wasn't yet raining). We were driving on the interstate, nice farmlands on both sides of the highway. As a photographer, I'm always fascinated by light: how it transforms an otherwise mediocre scene; how it plays with shadows; how it creates or changes the mood. This particular afternoon, I spotted a small farm off in the distance: a weather-beaten barn, a silo and a modest farmhouse all surrounded by beautiful wheat-colored fields. The particular subject matter was nice, but that's not what caught my attention…

The "Peeping Tom" photographer vs. a subject's right to privacy

Where does a subject's right to privacy begin? A "peeping Tom" photographer/artist, Arne Svenson, in New York took photos of his unsuspecting neighbors through their windows. The photos (including those of children) are now featured in a gallery exhibit in Manhattan. Needless to say, the subjects are not pleased. According to the photographer, no invasion of privacy took place because the subjects in the photos can't be identified. I call B.S. on that. While faces may not be shown, I would bet that someone who knows some of the people in the photos could easily recognize them.

I do agree that if you want your daily activities in your home to remain private, then you should close your curtains or window blinds. However, you should also be allowed to assume that your daily activities won't end up being turned into a gallery exhibit, raking in thousands of dollars for the so-called artist. And as this article points out, people don't pay huge amounts of money t…

The story and the message

I recently read an article on ways to strengthen the message and story of your photographs.

"The subject and story of a photograph must be identified quickly by the viewer. If the viewer can't figure out what the subject is... all interest is lost."

Telling a story and providing a message with photos isn't a new idea, but it's something I struggle with in my photography. When I look back at a collection of my photos, each photo does tell a story - to me, anyway. I remember exactly where I was when I took the photo. Who I was with, and oftentimes I can remember how I felt when I took the shot ("freezing my butt off!" or "melting in the summer sun" are a couple thoughts that come to mind frequently). But that story or message isn't always evident to other viewers.

For example, a couple weeks ago as my partner and I sat on our patio one Sunday morning reading the paper, I grabbed my camera and my 300mm lens and started shooting birds at the …

Copyright issues and photo usage

When will people learn that just because you find a photo on the internet, doesn't mean it's yours to use as you'd like? On my main website, I've taken steps to (hopefully) make it difficult for someone to steal my photos - I've watermarked my images. I've disabled right-clicking images on my website (and included a popup box saying the image is copyrighted and to contact me for usage rights). I've included a copyright notice at the bottom of every page on my site. Does any of that help prevent theft? Apparently not.

While doing a Google image search recently on some of my photos, I discovered a blogger who was using one of my images (with no photo credit given, of course). I recognized the photo immediately. Despite my frustration, I preferred to give the benefit of the doubt and assume the blogger wasn't aware the photo is copyrighted. I decided to email the blogger a politely-worded Cease and Desist letter explaining that I found my copyrighted imag…

Unintentional self-imposed limitations

"The limitations in your photography are in yourself." - Ernst Haas

I stumbled upon this quote by Ernst Haas today while reading something online. It struck me that this is exactly how I feel toward my own photography lately. Often on weekends or evenings after work, I'll head out on a photo outing with my DSLR in hand to capture whatever catches my eye. On some of these outings I'm accompanied by my partner or our dog (or both). Other times I'm flying solo. Sometimes I'm in the car. Sometimes on a walk with the dog. For the past year or so, I've not made time for these outings as often as I used to, and when I do go out, I feel like I'm searching for that "perfect photo" moment. A subject catches my eye, I take several photos, but inevitably the photo I capture is never quite as good as the way I had envisioned it. I'm stuck in a creative rut. A humdrum photography routine. Something I need to snap out of. The photo included here is one…

Would you deface a piece of history for a photo?

I read an interesting article yesterday on CNN. Russian photographer Vadim Makhorov and a group of his friends apparently disregarded rules that prohibit the public from climbing the Pyramids of Giza - just to get a few photos from the top of the pyramids.

Were the photos worth it? I'm not sure. Yes, they were nice, but the idea that the photographers not only ignored safety regulations, but risked defacing one of the great wonders of the world - all for the sake of a photo - pissed me off. Now don't get me wrong. Oftentimes I do photograph a subject with the "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission" mantra. But I'm always respectful of my chosen subject, be it a person on the street, a field of wildflowers or a national monument.

Of course Makhorov says he "would like to apologize for this ascension. We didn't want to insult anyone. We were just following the dream." Uh huh. He's not apologizing for doing it. He's apologizing be…

Welcome

"Welcome to my blog." I guess that's what everyone probably says in their first post, right? I've recently redesigned my photography website, but it's been a couple years since I've blogged, so I'm not really sure what to say other than "welcome."

A little bit of background: I've dabbled in photography for over 20 years. I mainly specialize in nature and landscape photography, but I shoot various other subjects as they grab my interest. I shoot with a Canon 20D as my main camera. Other cameras I use include a pocket-size Olympus, an iPhone 4S and a ContourGPS HD video camera mounted on my bicycle helmet.

I'm not really sure where this blog will go, but I appreciate you stopping by and I hope you'll come back.