Posts Tagged ‘Reflections’

Grandmom_john_May_1949_smI’m having a difficult time projecting myself back to my childhood to specific measures and perhaps my dreams. Maybe I’ll connect somehow. Could my dreams and aspirations have been so vague that they existed as mist? Do I need to dig out the bad (and the good)?

Don’t all kids have dreams and aspirations of ‘what they want to be when they grow up?’ I thought something must be wrong with me because I don’t remember. Could it be that I had no dreams or aspirations? I learned that there’s nothing wrong with me or my childhood memories (or seeming lack of) when I discovered an article from aeon online magazine (it’s free) this past summer — “The Great Forgetting” by Kristin Ohlson (July 30, 2014). I’m not the only one who doesn’t remember much from their childhood. I’m not alone.

I’ve always loved books and reading and wondered if I ever had aspirations to become a writer when I grew up. I don’t remember. But I do remember how I found my refuge from the world in books and my imagination. When I discovered reading and got my own library card, new worlds opened to me. I could retreat into my books and learn, discover, imagine and dream without interference, a love affair that was destined to endure for the rest of my life.

I cannot imagine my life without books. Who planted those seeds? Who encouraged me? It was probably my grandmother. I don’t remember that either but I’ll always be grateful. Now that I think on this, I lived in my imagination and like to think I still do — as a reader and a writer. Maybe I was repressed back then (watch for an article on the subject). Maybe I was shy, but imagination and creativity are reborn and very much alive.

Note: This piece was stimulated by handwritten notes from May 6, 2010. Some of the text is verbatim, some revised and more added. The photo was taken with my maternal grandmother, the most wonderful person who ever touched my life, in May, 1949 when I was four years old. Click the photo to enlarge.

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I wrote this vignette [Wonder and the Fragility of Ideas] after clustering (from Writing the Natural Way, in October, 2012)

My head bobs up and down anxious, no, eager (because we don’t like worry words and anxious is a worry word). We like words like eager, a puppy aiming to please, a child wondering about his world, living in the moment, the wonder of Now.

Wonder sneaks up on me when I sit quietly. No thunder — who needs thunder? Thunder is suspect, drawing attention to itself with noise rather than substance. When I don’t know what to wonder about, wonder tells me. All I need to do is pay attention.


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I dipped into my archives for this week’s photograph. This image is early in a series of photos I took on my first trip along Mantua Creek on the Wenonah Trail. I published five images from that roll of film on Feb. 1 but I didn’t include this one.

Under the trestle — Click to enlarge

Going back for a second look, I prefer this image over a very similar first image from the earlier post. I also processed this image differently using digiKam instead of Picture Window Pro or the Gimp. I resized the image for web use then gave it a selenium toning, tweaked the local contrast and sharpened it using the refocus method. I like the result and think it’s better than last time. I did not crop the image.

The camera was my Nikon F3HP w/ 50mm 2.0 Nikkor H lens loaded with Tri-X B&W film, ISO 1,250 processed in Diafine.

Yep, this was the first frame of my first attempt to capture moving water. I like the results and glad I revisited my archives.

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Say hello to daughter Sue (on the left) and her good friend Jody. It sure felt good to be out of the house, camera in hand, basking in the warm sunshine for a few hours. We went to watch Sara, Emily and Julia play soccer last Saturday.

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These two photos are from the tail end of a roll of FP4+ B&W film I started in the spring and finished last week at the soccer games. Sue and Jody standing behind me (I was sitting in a folding chair) said “take our picture.” I turned in my chair, pointed the camera and took two shots: One with Jody wearing glasses and one without. Hope you like them.

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I have another good shot from that roll that I’m saving for next week. Hint: Maddy loves having her picture taken.

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Indeed, I’m back, I really am OK and focused on the positive aspects of life. The image of my friend Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith was taken almost ten years ago on Thanksgiving after dinner. The lady in the background is my mother-in-law.

Portrait of Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith — Thanksgiving, 2002

Chinna played the guitar, we listened and I shot a few pictures. Had I worried about the negative aspects this lovely portrait wouldn’t exist. I was using an old Pentax Spotmatic film camera I had just won on eBay. In fact it was the first roll of film I ever put through this camera so I was flying by the seat of my pants. Really — no light meter in this old guy. The composition was a bit cluttered and I was shooting handheld, lens wide open under the available light of a dining room chandelier. And to make things even more fun, the camera focus was off and I didn’t know it until I had the camera CLA’d a few weeks later.

Ah, but the portrait turned out well because I focused on the positive aspects. I was taking pictures of a new friend using a new friend camera that evening and not concerned about negative aspects.

Chinna is a world class musician who was on tour, away from his home in Jamaica. Jim, my brother-in-law, is a good friend of Chinna’s and asked if he could bring a friend to Thanksgiving dinner — We are so glad Jim asked and that we said yes.

It’s been almost six years since Chinna’s last visit. Jim and I were talking the other night and I asked how Chinna was doing. Jim told me that Chinna was doing well and that Chinna asks about me each time he and Jim talk.

Thanks Chinna. I’m back, I really am OK and focused on life’s positive aspects.

Thanks to you too IMUS. I love the way you told cancer to kiss your ass. Cancer can kiss mine too. I refuse to be defined by ‘my disease.’ Chemo seems to be working. My markers are good and I do feel better and ready for the next round of chemo on Monday.

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I stopped in Wenonah late one Friday afternoon at the end of January looking for an entrance to one of the Wenonah Trails. This was before I had a Wenonah Trail Guide (a sort of map of all the trails) so I had no idea of what I was doing.

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This is a photo taken along Break Back Run, a tributary of the Mantua Creek and the first photo I took in Wenonah. I was on the north side of the main drag and the bridge over Mantua Creek. Even though Mantua Creek flowed under the road, the trail didn’t. Access points for the main parts of the trail are on the south end of Wenonah. I returned the following week and began my exploration, then a few days later I bought a copy of the Wenonah Trail Guide at the town office so now I have a map and a much better idea of where the access points are located.

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Pulled another swamp portrait from my archives.

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It’s funny how one discovery can cause a paradigm shift in our thinking, leading to new insights and creative possibilities. My ‘discovery’ of the DigiKam/showFoto refocus plug-in I wrote about last week is a perfect example. I chose a trio of photographs taken on a wonderfully sunny morning in mid-June, 2010 to illuminate (pun intended) my findings. To get the full impact of the photos below, please click to enlarge each of them in turn.

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This photo (and the others in this series) was taken along the Chestnut Branch inside Ceres Park. This was a day when the light came out to play, celebrate, sparkle on the foliage, reflections in the stream — a dance of light and shadow.

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I simply turned the camera from portrait to landscape to change the feel of this second image, from the vertical reach of the trees to the horizontal sweep of Chestnut Branch as it slips around the curve.

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This last photo was taken further upstream after crossing a homemade bridge christened tongue in cheek as the Commodore Barry Bridge by the mountain bikers who built it. It’s a lovely secluded spot with marvelous lighting.

All of the images were taken hand held with my Nikon N8008s, 35mm AF lens and Neopan 400 film rated at ISO 640. I’m sure I published these photos in the past but this time with improved post processing, I got much better results.

I experimented with curves in DigiKam/showFoto but in the end, I returned to the sheer power of the brightness curve transformation in PWP. If you want to get the best out of your images, you must learn how to work with curves and PWP is the best tool in my arsenal.

Rich, textured shadows and brilliant (but not blown) highlights are important but the real key to good B&W printing is in the mid-tones. I didn’t have to do much with these images because I had decent exposures and good scans. I pulled the mid-tones down and to the right.

I liked the platinum tones I got with DigiKam/showFoto but that’s a no choice one click transformation. PWP has a more sophisticated tint transformation that gives me complete control. All I wanted here was to warm my photos just a bit.

All my original scans are large enough for high quality 4 x 6 prints but too large for web display so the next step is to resize. I’ve standardized on 800 pixels for the long dimension for digital display. Any time you downsize an image, you lose sharpness and you must re-sharpen. The trick is to get your images sharp without introducing crunchy over-sharpening. Here’s where PWP and I part company. After downsizing, I converted the 16 bit image to 8 bit and saved it as a new tiff file and exited PWP.

As I mentioned last week, I ‘discovered’ refocus sharpening in DigiKam/showFoto so I loaded each image into showFoto, ran the refocus sharpening, added my watermark and saved the result as a jpeg file. Photos #1 and #2 were re-sharpened with refocus in showFoto.

I learned that the refocus plug-in used in showFoto was ported from the refocus plug-in in the Gimp. Who knew? So I used the Gimp refocus on the final image.

I think the refocus sharpening is superior for re-sharpening after downsizing for web display. From the manual: “The FIR Wiener filter is frequently better
in restoring small details” which is precisely what I needed here. The images are sharp and don’t exhibit any evidence of over sharpening. The photos have that pop that can be so elusive. You need to enlarge the images to see and appreciate what I’m talking about.

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When I visit Ceres, more often than not I cut off the main trail early and take the ridge trail because I like the perspective of being high above and parallel to the two lakes. The trail is narrow and the footing gets tricky in many places. The trail drops to lake level midway and there is another trail that branches off to cross a section of swamp between the lakes.

Swamp Crossing -- Click to enlarge

I took this photo from the wooden plank bridge that crosses the wettest part of the swamp. This image was taken during the summer. I don’t think I used a tripod here because I don’t like to linger and become a meal for the mosquitoes. The only time you can beat the buggers is when there’s a stiff breeze.

It’s amazing how dark it gets even on the brightest day under the thick forest canopy. When I find a spot like this one where the light is filtered, I like to play with the light and shadows.

Addendum added March 10, 2012 ——————————————————-

Swamp Crossing Addendum -- Click to enlarge

I’m an inveterate experimenter. I always scan 16 bit, then edit in 16 bit mode using Picture Window Pro 5.0 (PWP). PWP is a great photo editor that I’ve been using for something like 10 years now. But — here it comes, PWP is a windows only program and my desktop computer runs with Linux (Mint 9) as my operating system, so I have to use PWP under Wine which works OK but with some compromises.

DigiKam is a KDE (native Linux) image management program that includes a capable image editor that can work with 16 bit files. The editor is available as a stand alone program called showFoto. I created the Swamp Crossing Addendum above using showFoto as an experiment, a successful one in my mind.

I almost always use USM sharpening for local contrast enhancement. ShowFoto has a local contrast plug-in that works even better. ShowFoto also has an interesting sharpening method called “refocus” that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I like the results I’ve been getting from sharpening with refocus and will continue experimenting.

“Refocus is a tool to refocus an image by enhancing the sharpness. It uses the Deconvolution Filter algorithm copyrighted by Ernst Lippe. This tool attempts to “refocus” an image by undoing the defocussing. This is better than just trying to sharpen a photograph. It is employing a technique called FIR Wiener Filtering. The traditional technique for sharpening images is to use unsharp masking. Refocus generally produces better results than Unsharp masking.”  Quoted from the showFoto manual.

I also discovered the B&W tone filters. I used the platinum tone filter that replicates platinum toning done  in the traditional wet darkroom. Platinum toning is done for archival permanence and gives the finished print a lovely tone. I think the addendum version of Swamp Crossing is better in many subtle ways. I will be experimenting more with showFoto with the idea of making showFoto my image editor of choice.

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While browsing through my image collection, I came across a series of color shots of turtles sunning themselves on a log in Emerald Lake in Ceres Park taken almost two years ago. The images are scans from Ektar color print negatives. All of these images have been published in the past. I was in the mood for a re-run.

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