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I dug through the old to find something new. I found a Fuji Reala color negative from a roll of film that I shot way back in the Spring of 2001. This was when I first got back into photography after a long hiatus, but before I began using color transparency film exclusively for my macro shots.

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This is a shot of a single branch from a barberry bush we once had in our side yard. I always liked this image but had forgotten about it until today when I went through my old color negative archives.

I scanned the neg with my Minolta Scan Dual III powered by VueScan software (highly recommended). Then I switched to my editor, Picture Window Pro (PWP).  I cropped the left and right edges of the image from 4 x 6 to a 4 x 5 proportion, boosted the saturation about 10% and applied two rounds of USM sharpening. The first was a local contrast enhancement using a small amount (20%), radius = 40 and zero threshold. The second was 50% with a radius of 2 and zero threshold.

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Just for kicks I decided to do a B&W conversion. I like it. I used the monochrome transformation with a green filter in Picture Window Pro, then I tweaked the contrast using curves and gave the image another sharpening with USM (not too much). The green filter darkened the berries nicely.

Which version is better? I like both.

I took this picture before I got my F3. I used a Nikon FG, probably my 100mm lens (I don’t remember now) and a cheap tripod. The FG is a nice little camera but not suited for serious macro work because you can’t stop down the lens to preview depth of field and the mirror has no lock up either.

The frustrations I went through early on led to my decision to buy a used Nikon F3HP on eBay. I got a good one at a good price not long after I took this picture. I’ve never once regretted the purchase.

I’m going to dig into my old color negatives again over the next few weeks to see what goodies I can find. I shot so much color negative film back then (in the beginning) that I don’t remember what I have. It will be fun.

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I was hiking along the ridge trail in Ceres Nature Preserve the week before last. It was a beautiful day, shadows deep under the forest canopy and when the sunlight shone through — a marvelous sight.

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I think this tree, with the gnarly roots, might be my favorite tree of all. Such character. And yes, the trail climbs over those roots. The lighting was perfect. Sometimes you just get lucky.

This image helps validate my decision to buy my only new Nikon lens earlier this year (all my other lenses were purchased used). If I’m out with one lens, this 35mm AF is the one — I really like the perspective and the quality of the images I’m getting. I shot this one on repackaged (Freestyle Legacy Pro 400)  Fuji Neopan 400. I’ve been testing several B&W films and this stuff is a keeper.

Drop on by The Weekend in Black & White, especially if you are a monochrome maniac. There’s lots links to some great monochrome photography. And some of the monochrome maniacs still use film like I do.

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I shot these images last Sunday on one of my bicycle/photo outings. Both are from the same roll as yesterday’s Reflections shots.

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My 35mm lens lets me get nice and close. Here’s a nice detail shot of the bridge side railing. I was attracted to the weathered wood and the big old bolt head.

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This image will give you some idea of the scale and location. The detail of the bridge was taken on the other side of the road because the wood is more weathered on that side. I like the perspective looking up the hill from this side better. I lost the sun on this shot. In fact it was threatening rain and I beat a hasty retreat after this shot.

As it turned out, I felt a few drops of rain but by the time I got home the sun was shining again. Go figure.

Drop on by The Monochrome Weekend, especially if you are a monochrome maniac. There’s lots links to some great monochrome photography. And some of the monochrome maniacs still use film like I do.

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Sunday was such a beautiful day that sitting inside in front of a computer monitor was inconceivable. When I finally turned my computer on I fished about in my archives to come up with a suitable image for Monday Macros.

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I have no idea what this monochrome blossom is. I found a scan of a very old (40 years old) color slide that had a decidedly blue cast that I didn’t like so I converted the image to B&W in the Gimp. I probably took this shot hand held (I didn’t own a tripod back then) with my Pentax Spotmatic and extension tube(s). I like the monochrome rendition.

Sunday’s weather was perfection! Not a cloud in the sky, a pleasant breeze and temps in the eighties — a perfect beginning to the summer. Sunday was a perfect day in other respects as well.

I took a nice ten mile ride on my bicycle in the morning. And in the afternoon, I got my mom out of her house for the day. We went over to my daughter’s place for a family BBQ. Naturally I took my camera and hope to have some decent shots soon. I’ll send my roll of color film off for processing in Tuesday’s mail and finish the roll of B&W I started sometime during the week.

Mom was tired when I brought her home but she enjoyed the day with her family. She ate hearty and smiled a lot. Mom is 87 and her twin great granddaughters are 19 months old and they are so cute now. Yeah, Sunday was a fine day!

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Fallen trees often lend themselves to interesting compositions. We have two nice parks in our township. Chestnut Branch Park (named after the Chestnut Branch tributary of Mantua Creek) has a number of sports fields but the real treat is the 9/11 trail, hidden in the back of the park. As many times as I’ve gone to the park to watch my granddaughters play soccer, it wasn’t until last week that I ‘discovered’ the wonders of the trail.

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I rode my bicycle to the park, took it down the trail for about a hundred yards, found a slender tree and locked my bike. The trail is not suited for riding on my hybrid (mostly street bike). I traveled light with only my Bessaflex and 28mm screw mount lens. The day was cloudy so the lighting was flat. This fallen tree was close enough to the trail that I could get to it without too much trouble. I like the angles and the textures.

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I found this scene a little further down the trail. I wonder if the flat lighting is an asset or a liability. I like the textures and the tonal range I was able to get with this shot.

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I returned to the park last Saturday. My wife and I drove this time because she wanted to see the girls play soccer. I watched for awhile, then slipped off and wandered on the trail. The lighting was high noon sunny. Here in the forest, the harsh light was filtered by the trees. I found the same scene as the shot above but with more dramatic lighting. I used a 35mm lens this time so the view is tighter. I think the lighting in this shot has more depth though the fallen tree is deeper in shadow.

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Here’s another fallen tree that’s partially buried in the spring growth. Come summer, it will be even harder to find.

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And still another fallen tree.

There are many more scattered about but some are well off the trail and hard to get to. I’ll give it a shot one of these days. I don’t want to be trampling all over the undergrowth though.

Now I have two places to visit, hike through and take lots of photos. Stay tuned.

Drop on by The Monochrome Weekend, especially if you are a monochrome maniac. There’s lots links to some great monochrome photography. And some of the monochrome maniacs still use film like I do.

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Are we all ready for another journey in the way-back machine? OK then, take your seats and buckle up. The controls are set for a trip back to Saigon during the 1966 Christmas season. Hang on — here we go.

No white Christmas that year — not with 90 degree plus temperatures — unless you count young girls in sleeveless white dresses (that seems fair to me). I wonder what has their attention? Decorations maybe? I “snuck” this shot from behind the hanging decorations so I couldn’t see what had them locked into their own little world, but I did peek into their private reflections — just a little.

Here’s a young family all decked out in their finest. Whatever they’re looking at (an aquarium maybe?) certainly has the attention of the whole family — especially the young boy. His eyes are about to pop out of his face. He’s mesmerized.

At first I thought this family was watching a television, but it looks like another aquarium or terrarium. All the people in these photos are relaxed and at peace. Even in the middle of a war, the Christmas spirit lives on.

I took quite a few photos of the festive atmosphere in downtown Saigon during that December back in 1966. I have eleven more images of the season I’d like to share with you. I’ll be featuring them in four posts beginning next Tuesday (Monday is macro day) and finishing the series on Christmas Day. I already have the titles and photos arranged. I just need to add my words. Remember to drop by and visit. I think you’ll enjoy the experiences.

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I thought I’d join in the holiday fun so I’m featuring select ornaments from our Christmas tree and trains that are under the “virtual” tree this year. So I put my wife’s dinky little Canon powershot on my huge tripod and took a few shots…

This one looks traditional with the magic lights and the shiny red ball (look carefully and you’ll see the reflection of me and my camera). But wait. Is this an alarm clock in the background — hanging from a Christmas tree?

Yep. It’s an alarm clock alright — a silly one (wouldn’t be much fun if it wasn’t) with a pair of teddy bear santas and a goofy face.

I like the little cherub — so angelic just suspended in air.

No snowman for us. We have our iceman instead, or at least the upper part of this little guy. Maybe the rest melted?

Back to another traditional ornament lit by tree lights alone.

And here are two of my locomotives under the virtual tree. The big one is a Mogul, the little one a Porter. Both are On30 (1/4″ scale) narrow gauge. I’d love to put trains under the tree but our tree is so tiny this year and it fits perfectly on a little table in front of the the living room window. We had plenty of big trees over the years. This year we wanted easy. Our kids make fun of the little tree but we can take it.

I remember one year when I was in high school, my father sent my brother and I out for our tree. We came back with a big, no make that huge, tree that wouldn’t fit on the train platform. What were we thinking? The tree wouldn’t even fit into the living room until we cut the top off and gave it to our next door neighbor. Yes the top was just the right size for their apartment.

We always liked “real” trees, but one year, a week or so after we put new carpeting in the living room, we thought the time was right for a sapless, no needles on the floor, artificial tree. Each time we buy a new tree, it gets smaller. Those big monster trees were a chore for me to get in and out of the attic. Now, even my wife can carry the little tree easily.

The little tree has all the lights and plenty of little ornaments. Looks great in the window too. No room for trains though. Maybe next year I’ll buy some tiny trains to fit under the tiny tree.

Be sure to visit Lisa’s Chaos for more Macro Monday photos. Thank you Lisa. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share.

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I shot two rolls of B&W film on Thanksgiving using two different cameras. One with bounce flash attached, the other with available light and high speed film. I prefer not to use flash, but it’s tolerable with a bounce head and reflector.

This shot is Maddy. The arm belongs to her uncle, my son-in-law. I was testing a film I hadn’t used before (Fuji Acros) and I blew the highlights in most of the shots on that roll. I think I had the flash output settings too high for close-ups. I learned something here.

Here’s Maddy again but this time I used one of my other cameras with my Pentax screw mount 50mm 1.4 lens wide open. The lighting is natural and the large aperture blurs the background nicely. The camera was loaded with Tri-X shot at an ISO of 1250. That’s pretty fast.

This one is my favorite and is the last photo I took that night. My wife and I think this is Livvy. Tracy can’t tell the difference between the twins sometimes and she’s with them all day, every day during the week. The pretty lady holding on to Livvy is her aunt Erin, my oldest daughter.

Livvy is intent on my sister’s little dog. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the dog. It was funny. I like the lighting in this photo. I like it a lot and I’ll be shooting more available light photos with Tri-X, especially with my 50mm 1.4 Takumar. It’s a great lens.

I think the Acros is too contrasty for the way I use bounce flash. I’ve had better luck with Ilford FP4+ (a great film) and flash. Flash is a pain because it’s one more piece of equipment to drag around and no matter how you slice it, even bouncing the flash, you can’t possibly match the natural look of available light.

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Often our dreams are bubbles dancing just out of reach, drifting, iridescent, tantalizing, fragile. Just as often our dreams compel us to reach out and touch them.

Share in Sara’s delight and reach out to your dreams. I took these photos back in the summer of 2001 when Sara was coming up on her second birthday. She’ll be ten next week.

Look at Sara’s joy. There’s nothing on her mind except her wonderful, dancing bubbles. Can you imagine feeling this way as you go after your own dreams. But if you want to chase your bubbles you must make some first.

“My Dragon Blows Bubbles. Whenever I ask.” We (my dragon and I) decided to put our bubble song to the tune of On Top of Old Smokey. We don’t have all the lyrics yet, but we have fun singing the first two lines and blowing bubbles.

All dragons like to blow bubbles — just ask your dragon if you doubt me. Can you picture you and your dragon singing a “My Dragon Blows Bubbles” duet, bubbles jetting out of both nostrils? Your dragon’s nostrils of course. You need to fill your bubble pipe with “bubble stuff” and blow along with your dragon.

Of course our dragons are metaphors for our inner creative being. Invite your dragon to play and blow dream bubbles, creative bubbles, idea bubbles, big bubbles, little bubbles, iridescent bubbles that dance on the wind of imagination and  reflect your innermost dreams.

True, bubbles are fragile and don’t last long, but you and your dragon can always make more. Life is a creative journey, a constant stream of the bubbles of discovery. Destination? Doesn’t matter because you’ll never get there. And if you did what then? No. Life is a dynamic, joyous seeking and playing along the way. The journey matters.

Next time you feel blocked or a little cranky, close your eyes and picture your dragon (and you) dancing and blowing bubbles. Now that’s a sight. Bet you’ll be smiling and feeling creative then.

PS — Sara is one of my six lovely granddaughters. In time, you’ll meet them all because I can’t stop photographing them. And that’s a good thing.

PPS — Be sure to drop by James’ Weekend Reflections blog. Lot’s of links and tons of fun.

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He feared the asking, she the telling. No rider in memory had ever dared the boulevard on this the night of the low moon. At least no rider had ever returned to tell the tale. Would they be the first? Legend be damned, they were the best. Still, they rode — hard and fast. Neither were fools and neither were eager to temp fate.

Sentinel trees lined the road, waiting for moonrise. Soon — too soon. If the wind parted the clouds? If the stark white light of the low moon etched the shadows across the road before they reached the end of the forest?

Best not to discover what happened to the foolhardy who dared barcode boulevard on the night of the low moon. Less than a klick and safety. Quickly before it’s too late and…

Barcode Boulevard

I rode barcode boulevard today on my bicycle. Can you see the end in the distance? It’s safe in the daylight — mostly. I got the idea for a story one day a few years ago while driving along Breakneck Road (honest, it’s the real name). I’ve only ridden that road twice on my bike and only for a short distance each time. It’s too dangerous and the hills are killers.

The sun was bright and low. It cast sharp shadows across the road. The idea of Barcode Boulevard just jumped into my mind and it’s been stewing ever since. I had my camera with me today so I took some photos when I stopped for a drink on Heritage Road (no Breakneck Road for this boy). All the way home I thought about this story and wrote a quick and dirty draft of one possible beginning.

I’ve some ideas percolating about how photography and writing are related. When my brew is ready I’ll pour a few cups so we can sip together.

I had some fun today. Besides getting out of the house on a nice November day, I rekindled my Barcode Boulevard idea, took a couple photos with my little Canon digicam and wrote a rough draft for the beginnings of my story.

I’m happy with the photo. I think it turned out nicely in B&W. I used the Gimp BW photo simulation to transform the color shot to B&W. My story beginning? It’s rough and the first go at one way of beginning this story. I need to explore, especially the two unnamed characters. It’s another fun project.

Another project. I have a roll of B&W film hanging up to dry in the bathroom. I’ll scan the negs tonight or tomorrow. Fingers crossed. More shots of my youngest granddaughters, the twins. Hope I get a few decent photos out of the roll. I’ll feature them in one of my posts. I have another roll of film I’ll probably develop tomorrow and I got my slides back the other day. Lots of new photos to play with and share. Stay tuned. But stay off  Barcode Boulevard on the night of the low moon.

Barcode Boulevard, the photo and story are copyright 2009 John McDevitt.

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