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PIXelations 22

Aruba: lessons learned

by fotofinish , 09-03-2008 at 09:50 AM (274 Views)

I finished processing my pictures from our family trip to Aruba. I think I took about 4 gig of pictures. At least half of those were taken with my old Canon 20D with 50mm 1.8 lens. The reason for that was because it was smaller and lighter and I usually was either beachside, or at dinner, or some club with the family. I brought it just about wherever I went, including on the boat deep sea fishing. I wasn’t going to be as paranoid about damaging this system as I would with my 1 series.

That said, I did get up early the second day we were there to see if there was anything interesting at sunrise. I took my 1D Mark III with me. There as a pier with some smaller boats docked down at the water, and the moon was about to set. So I took it out to shoot when I discovered that the system was completely fogged up! I figured it would have some condensation, going from an air-conditioned condo in a hotel out to the beach in 95% humidity with temps in the 80’s at dawn. I tried wiping the lens and viewfinder but the moisture was at the CMOS level! So that was the end of my morning shoot. I ended up leaving my entire equipment bag out on our balcony in a shaded spot for the rest of the week. It was fine the next day. That is the thing about 1 series cameras: they are built to take this kind of abuse.

So, here is a cute picture I took. Every day at 10am, the hotel feeds the iguanas to show the kids:

Some others…

Classic Aruba…

The interesting architecture…

And a complete mistake…

This is my son, Josh, on the fishing boat at dawn on choppy seas. I like the abstract quality. It was a pleasant consolation. We all caught a fish, mostly small snapper and tuna.

These were all pretty snapshots, but my wife Jayne was happy with my family shots. There really was very little time for anything creative, but I still had fun taking pictures just for the fun of it!

You can see the rest of my scenic Aruba shots here.

You can see the rest of my Aruba architecture shots here.

Lake George

by fotofinish , 09-21-2008 at 09:36 AM (262 Views)

A couple of days ago, I went up to Lake George, NY, to visit with Mike, a friend and fellow photographer. I was there only 24 hours, but he graciously took me to some of the more photographic locations around the lake. We got up for the sunrise and shot various scenics. Out of 180 pictures, I ended up with just the three below:

Thanks, Mike, for your hospitality. I’ll have to return!

My New Website Adventure

by fotofinish , 09-25-2008 at 07:46 AM (309 Views)

What a learning experience it was for me to create my own new website! So, without further delay, introducing my new website:! The details below will summarize this latest adventure.

Design Goal
I am not a graphics designer. That said, I knew I wanted to create something that was
Simple to maintain
Have a clean, uncluttered look
Be fast-loading and use flash only for my picture galleries

The purpose of this site is to present a formal presence to a more formal audience: galleries, potential clients/customers, etc. I will still retain my current, informal website fotofinish photography as my experimental site, where I test out new image projects, show family stuff, etc.

Page Design
Each page
Has the name logo banner. This banner has one thumbnail for each of my picture galleries. What a hard thing to determine! I ended up with four galleries (more on this latter), so I had to pick a representative, best image which defines the type of gallery it is; something recognizable.
Has a linked central style sheet which controls the fonts, color, formatting, etc. for the entire site. This makes changing a font or color for the entire site easy from one point of control.
Has a menu banner image which allows the navigation from page to page, so I bought the program tool MapEdit to provide the ability to create the page coordinates which allows the user to click on that menu item for that page.
Has one main image, used for decoration, but represents something different from each of the main galleries that was not used elsewhere in the site already. I decided to also hyperlink each image back to its particular gallery.

Galleries page
This will also serve as the Home page for the site
Features one “eye-grabber” image which represents the overall approach Jerry Grasso applies to all of his picture-taking; also represents the current project either recently completed or in progress.
Surrounding this picture are the hyperlinked pictures to the major galleries. These images are stored in one central images directory on the website itself. As you hover over each picture, a tooltip or small banner appears telling you to click here to go to this gallery.
There are keywords and description metadata tags at the top of this page that describe this site to all of the web crawlers and search engines. There is a website here that is a wealth of information about how to control the visibility of your site on the internet. And here is a cleverly done story about how web spiders work.

Prices page
After much thought, I decided only to list three generic sizes that my current printer can accommodate. Also after much thought, decided to low-ball my prices. I did not take doing this lightly. I understand what the “industry” (photography) feels toward having consistent, high prices to create the sense that these are specialty items that are hand-crafted. While I don’t discount this, I feel that I prefer to cater to my customer who will most likely be the average homeowner rather than the art collector. Also, until I earn my place in the photography world, my stuff should be priced accordingly…just my two cents…

News page
This is a place to be able to announce anything new and relevant to my photography and my website.

Resume page
This was a hard page for me to decide to include. This can be called a “vanity” page I suppose. But my reason for including this is to substantiate my credentials and to give proof of my seriousness and dedication to my craft.

Contact page
Just a simple page to provide a place and way to contact me.

I like the professional look and feel of flash-related sites. Flash also seems to showcase a better quality of image as well. But I wanted to limit the performance issues and the “glitter” effect of forcing people to endure intros, etc.
These galleries of my pictures have to be easy to maintain or I will quickly lose interest in keeping it up to date. Also, I want to have time to take pictures; I want to minimize my time maintaining my site. Lightroom does a good enough job at producing generic flash galleries. There may be future plug-ins I can use later to jazz up the appearance and provide better functionality.

Gallery selection
This was by far the most interesting thing I have done to date regarding my photography. It really makes you stop and do some serious, deep thinking: who is Jerry Grasso, and why is he any different from all of the typical “point-n-shoots” in the world?

What I did was to go back through six years of photos contained on the sleeves of dvds/cds in my basement. This approach is nothing new. Try it some time. Look at ALL of your pictures and try to come up with, say, four general categories of pictures. Now, find your best images…

After much thought, I selected the ones I was proudest of, that best presented the idea I was trying to capture. I did not select these from the idea of salability. As photographer Jay Maisel once said, “If you are not your own severest critic, you are your own worst enemy.”.

Once I had my four buckets, I then picked those that showcased the best quality. At first, I thought I wanted to separate black and white from color, but in the end the theme of the category won out.

Coding the actual pages was easy enough for me. I chose to write the HTML by hand from scratch without the use of a tool other than Notepad. I wanted a minimum of tags to keep the page load times quick.

Domain ID/Web Hosting
I decided to use a separate vendor for my domain ID, The internet has many forums like this one which will guide you through the process of creating your internet presence. The advice was to keep your domain vendor and your hosting vendor separate in order to reduce the risk of any future conflicts with them, and also to best leverage any future pricing deals. So I selected Namecheap as my domain vendor, and Dreamhost as my hosting vendor. This was based on feedback from the forums.

I kept one point of email contact through my hosting vendor. I redirect the email to my current email id. However, I do provide auto-responding. As soon as my site receives an email from someone and forwards it to me, my site will automatically send a “canned” letter back to the sender acknowledging receipt of the mail and promising an answer.

I opted for a unique counter on the bottom of my home page that only records unique visits to my site. My hosting vendor makes extensive reporting available to me as part of the cost of hosting. This way I track interest in my site.

This project was a lot of time and work. I started work in June. The website is not a “set and forget” process, and must be periodically updated in order to demonstrate that I am not stagnating and indeed am constantly moving forward. Only time and visits and any comments/requests for info will prove if I have achieved my goals.

Go Out Empty

by fotofinish , 09-27-2008 at 05:05 PM (377 Views)

My latest class with photographer Mallorie Ostrowitz requires a research presentation of a photographer from her pre-selected list. I chose Jay Maisel. The reason for this is because of an Epson Print Academy online seminar and live seminar I attended in 2004. Also, Michael Reichmann interviewed him in recent issue of the the Luminous Landscape Video Journal #17. Anyway, during my research, I stumbled upon an interesting photography lesson here that describes the merits of going out to shoot something with no pre-conceived notions of what to capture. There is something to be said about just taking the camera with you wherever you go and “allowing yourself to see what’s there, to see what you’ve never seen before, to discover visual relationships that you’ve never noticed and experience the absolute joy this will give you.” I have started taking my Canon 20 D with 50mm f1.8 lens with me wherever I go…

Class Abstracts

by fotofinish , 10-03-2008 at 01:46 PM (356 Views)

So far, for my class in abstract photography, I’ve had to research a photographer from the teacher’s list. I chose Jay Maisel. We have to tell about his use of abstracts and then shoot a couple in his style on our own and show the class. Jay said he occasionally has fun shooting through things: fences, car windshields, old gears he’d hang in his studio windows. The abstract patterns he captured as a result lends interest to a photo because it makes the viewer try to figure out just what he is viewing.

Below, are my attempts to shoot in this spirit. These were shot through my windshield (I parked the car first) on my way to work, before sunrise on a rainy morning in a parking lot.

The last of these three below was shot during the day through the bend in the windshield which creates its own distortion, and yes, the car was moving!

The next two where shot at greenhouse nursery on my way back from a class shoot.

The one below was also at the same nursery, but there was a pesticide sign that was almost torn in half. I knew as soon as I saw this I had to take this shot. The triangular shapes give a sense of unity; the cutout triangle that shows the inside of the greenhouse skeleton, is contrasted with the burred foreground of the pesticide sign.

Whistling while I work

by fotofinish , 10-14-2008 at 07:38 AM (350 Views)

That is exactly what I will be doing next week. Jayne and I are traveling to Whistler, British Columbia, for vacation and some shooting. It is a little more than two hours north of Vancouver and will be the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. We own a Marriott timeshare so we can go anywhere there is a Marriott or one of its subsidiaries.

The time of year may not work out completely, but the views should still be impressive. We leave Sunday and return the following Sunday.

Some Fall pictures before my trip…

by fotofinish , 10-17-2008 at 12:30 PM (266 Views)

Before Jayne and I leave for Whistler, British Columbia, this Sunday (see previous entry…), I had a chance to get out and shoot a few Fall pictures. I decided to return to the Rt272 corridor from Torrington, CT to Norfolk where I shot a few in the Spring. Here are some results:

My latest class assignment was to shoot some water abstracts with no sky, except in reflection. Here are a few:

I am especially proud of this next one. I de-focused the Canon 70-200mm slightly, trying to achieve a pictorialist-look:

See you when I get back!

O’Hare Abstracts

by fotofinish , 10-30-2008 at 02:58 PM (272 Views)

While on our way to British Columbia last week, Jayne and I changed planes in Chicago. As we went from one terminal to another, we had to descend into the bowels of the airport, a tunnel with multiple “people-mover” walking escalators. The tunnel ceiling was covered with exotic neon lighting tubes. The resulting lightshow of a rainbow of colors was dazzling and provided a sense of wonderment in an otherwise bland crossover. Maybe this was an artwork project? Maybe you’ve been through this at O’Hare…Anyway, I made Jayne stop (boy, is she a good sport!) as I quickly took out my camera and began shooting a series of pictures. I used various defocusing tricks and kept the iso high enough so that my long exposures weren’t unnecessarily long. Here are some of the results:

I’ll process more from our trip, more traditional ones, soon…

Whistler recap

by fotofinish , 11-07-2008 at 05:24 PM (268 Views)

One of the most scenic highways in the world is the Sea To Sky highway 99 from Vancouver to Whistler, British Columbia. Often there is a body of water on one side of the highway, and tall mountains on the other side. The road itself is being widened from two lanes to four lanes in order to support the 2010 Olympic traffic, since Whistler will host the skiing and sliding events. The problem with all of the construction was there were few places to safely pull off to take a picture. Also, finding some of the trailheads was a chore because some of the signs were down.

The weather was mostly partly sunny in the 40F’s. Jayne and I did two long hikes. The first was to Lake Garibaldi. It was roughly a 12 mile roundtrip hike. When we got to the top of the trail, there were a few inches of snow. The lake was incredible:

The second big hike we did was to Lake Cheakamus. This was a shorter (about six miles roundtrip was all we did) and flatter hike. This lake view had its own character:

Unfortunately, I did not capture the prerequisite “golden light” pictures for a variety of reasons, too meager to really talk about, except for one:

We drove an hour north of Whistler to a small town called Pemberton. Near town we stopped at the beautiful Nairn Falls.

Someone lost a mother there in 1988.

This was a beautiful area and will easily showcase the Olympics. Too bad my pictures didn’t really do it justice…

More pictures from this new gallery are here.

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