Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blue Skies Aint Everything

The last Post I made, the photo of the Osprey was taken just a few minutes and a few yards away from this shot of an Egret in the pines.
The weather today looked more like the last photo I posted; grey skies all afternoon and it looks like it'll be that way the rest of the weekend. So, I decided to post this Sunny Day photo to cheer myself-up. Another reason for posting this shot is just to see how it looks on the right side of the page.
Vertically composed photos always drive me nuts, but Magazine Editors love them, for some reason. I think it gives them more room for text and advertising. If I had my way, I'd make all my shots horizontally and pass a law that says any Magazine that wants their photos horizontal has to buy vertical shots and print them real big then cut the sides off to fit their pages ! Or, better yet, put their advertising on another page where it doesn't be distracting the reader from enjoying a good look at a Nature shot.

Glad I got that off my mind. I hope everybody has a Sunny Day tomorrow !

Friday, February 27, 2009

On Being Artistic

For you folks that have those old Black and White monitors on your computer, I figured I'd give you a treat; a B&W photo ! Why would a nature photographer take a beautiful picture of an Osprey with all those neat colored feathers lit-up by the early morning sun and ruin it by presenting it in Black and White ?
Because it's my picture and I can do any damn thing I want to with it ! No, really I was trying to be artistic. Yesterday was the first time in about a month I had a blast doing what I like most in life; hunting for wildlife with my camera. I was awake before 4AM, coffeed my body-up, walked my dogs, loaded-up my cameras and was out waiting for the birds to wake up before 6AM. Froze my butt off wearing my Grandpa T-shirt, shorts and flipflops but I was happy; no dogs, I snuck-outa the house before the wife woke-up, not a care in the world. Just me and my cameras; Man against the Elements !
Got 179 great photos of all kinds of birds in the wild and even shot some fish in a riverbed. All in about 4 hours. I was actually on my way home when I spotted the Osprey and then, another Osprey. I know their habits pretty well, so I had plenty of time to do manual settings on my camera. Tripod: forget it, it's a waste of time when you have to move as quick as they fly (unless you maybe have a 800mm lens and you're in a tower somewhere). Just act like you're not going to shoot him and when he gets close enough, SHOOT !
When I get home and download on the computer ( Mine has a color monitor) the first thing I do is delete any photos where I didn't catch the eyes just right, unless the critter is doing something really interesting, like reproducing or taking a nap, or, eating another critter ! Then I get rid of any photo that just isn't composed right and can't be recomposed by cropping. Then, I take my absolutely best photos and hide them in my Million Dollar Folder which I hide under my mattress. The rest I enter in contests, put on my website or post to my Blog.
Some folks think B&W is artistic, so, I thought I'd show everybody; I can be artistic, too ! The truth of the matter is I was going to throw this photo away. All the rest of yesterday's Osprey shots were taken when the bird was flying in clear blue skies. This was the only shot I had where he flew with a big grey raincloud behind him. Comments ?

Thursday, February 26, 2009


After the Crab and Bird got flushed down wherever things go after you empty the Recycle Bin, I decided to go have a beer last night. It all started off innocently enough, until I ran into another cameraman; then it turned into a few more beers and some Karaoke. Soon it was 1:30AM and I wandered on home, knowing my plans to catch some sunrise shots were probably doomed. But, the good news was, I had written a note to myself and stuck it in my cigarette pack; something about a total eclipse of the sun 22 July, this year. A potential MILLION DOLLAR PHOTO ! And I was invited to go shoot it up in Kyushu, Japan.

Lots of things are done differently here: People drive on the left side of the road, Take a shower before they get in the bathtub, Get their butts washed while they're sitting on the throne, and conduct important business in bars after working hours ! And the Bulls fight each other instead of some guy with a cape and a dagger. But, that's not what this POST is really about.

Some nice lady in Colorado emailed me this morning asking me to sign and return Copyright papers for publishing this and another photo along with a story about Okinawan Bullfighting (of course not this exact photo, but one like it). As soon as I see it, I'll believe it and tell you where to find it and I hope NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC finds it, too and asks me to go to Kyushu and shoot the total eclipse of the sun ! I'm done feeling crabby, now; think I'll go home, take a shower, take a bath and crash early to see if I can catch the sun come up tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feelin' Crabby

This photo I dug out of an old favorites folder from sometime in 2007. Today was one of those days when I went halfway around the island with 2 cameras and a tripod in the back seat of the car and never took a picture ! Sometimes it's a good idea to let the cameras have a day off, especially when a picture just doesn't jump out at you.

Usually, even when the light isn't just right, I come up with a way to compose the shot I want. I'll figure out a way to work with the light that's available and make that wild critter come to life on my memory card, without tweaking it with some, "Plastic after-the-fact- editing Program".

If I'm lazy, like I was when I shot this photo, the camera is in one of the (what I like to call) idiot modes; where it's supposed to know what the picture should look like without any input from the photographer. I keep shots like this to remind me to check the camera settings before I even walk out the door. Check the lighting conditions all around me when I get out the door. Get to where I want to shoot from before the birds are there. Stake out the territory, have my picture composed and just wait for a critter to show up in the scene.

As soon as I hit Publish Post I'm going back to the folder I dug this out of and I'm going to hit DELETE and YES and empty the Recycle Bin. Why ?
Because I'm Feelin' Crabby !

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hauled-Off From Here, TOO !

This is another picture I'll never forget. I didn't exactly get apprehended, this time, but "Doc" did and I didn't want to walk 30 miles home carrying all my camera gear. Somehow, I knew if he got thrown in a cell, he wouldn't let me have his car keys. So, when the Security Guard took him in for questioning I went along, just to see what would happen.

I felt a little guilty because I told a worker in the Museum that Doc was from the newspaper and he called Security.

Apparently, it's OK to take pictures of the Ancient Ryukyu King's Throne for your own personal use.

If you're a reporter or somebody who's going to make a living off your photos, get authorization from the Shuri Castle Office.

The Guard that hauled us away couldn't of been five feet tall, but wore a policeman-like uniform and lectured us all the way through (what seemed like) half a mile of corridors and tunnels, waving his arms and pointing fingers.

I started thinking out loud, " Let's just give him our Memory Cards and RUN, Doc, or WE'RE GOING TO JAIL!"

It turned out, all you have to do to be authorized to take pictures for OTHER THAN PERSONAL USE is go to the office first and explain what you're doing. Then, they give you an armband to wear and a signed release form.

So, while Doc was explaining what newspaper he works for, I started telling the translator I send my pictures to National Geograghic, JPG Magazine, Popular Science, Reader's Digest and anybody else I could think of, just so they'd give me a slip of paper like they gave Doc.

Shoot first and ask questions later doesn't work too well if you plan on making a living with your camera.

Always get a signed release !

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Butterflies in Your Stomach

Ever get Butterflies in your stomach ? It happens to me all the time when I get really, really nervous. It used to be when I was a youngster (About half a century ago) and the teacher asked you to get up in front of the class and recite the Declaration of Independence, or something.

Now, it usually only happens right before I get arrested or almost apprehended, like today. And it happened a few months ago, too, so soon I should develop a tolerance for it, just like I did for History teachers. Either that, or quit doing stupid things that might get an innocent looking fellow like me get apprehended !

The end of the month is coming around real soon ( I know because my wife says PAYDAY is just around the corner because FEB is a short month) and writers have to meet deadlines and need the photos they're writing about, like YESTERDAY ! Well, my favorite writer because she speaks better English and Japanese than me, needs some Cherry Blossoms by an Elementary School photographed this week. Friday would've been a good time for her but not for me. So, the sun looked right for shooting this morning and I decided I'd go shoot and surprise her with a "Mission Accomplished" before the day was done.

When all my morning chores were done I grabbed a camera bag and tripod and walked to the school. Not wanting to disturb the people in the office, I spotted a Gym teacher taking a class out to the soccer field and asked if it was OK to shoot pictures of the Cherry Tree and got a Thumbs-Up .

Well, when I do a shoot like this I'm all over the place playing with light and camera settings, taking shots at every imaginable angle, looking for the best background and most importantly being real careful to NOT GET ANY KIDS in my pictures !

About half an hour into my work HERE COMES SECURITY !!! " Hey, this is a school NO CAMERAS ALLOWED " the guard yells as he rushes me waving his arms like an Olympic Swimmer. When I explained , in my Japanese as a fifth language, that I was doing the shoot for a story on Cherry Blossoms for a the English Teacher at the School and that I had asked the Gym Teacher out on the field for permission beforehand, the guard backed-off and let me continue. But, I saw him walking towards the office when he left me and that's when the Butterflies started. My instincts, from being a wildlife photographer, told me what to do next: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE !!!

Instead, I did the wise thing; shot from a few more angles, slowly working my way towards the gate. I even saw one of my Grandsons out on the grounds for recess. He barely said "Hi" to me. Either he knew I was working because he saw the camera and tripod or noticed the guilty expression on my face, or he just got asked to recite the Gettysburg Address and had Butterflies in his stomach, too !

Anyway, once I cleared the school grounds, I hurried across the street, stopped in a store for a quick coffee and once I was sure nobody was going to come after me, climbed a tower and looked back at the school and when I was sure all the Butterflies were gone; RAN LIKE HELL all the way home!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Photo Courtesy of "Doc" Keith Graff

Times a wastin' and this blog stuff gets easier for me everyday; only takes about five minutes, if you don't worry about what to compose and just put whatever pops into your head right into the PC.

Doc's a photojournalist; me, just a cameraman, but, if I keep doing this blog stuff everyday and can train the finger I type with to quit banging on the wrong keys, maybe I'll try and do a story someday.

It just dawned on me last night that people reading this blog might not know what I'm talking about when I yell about buying my pictures. I forgot to hook this thing up to my website ! Well, today I URLd and Meta Tagged and a whole bunch of other stuff so the website has the blog and the blog is linked to the website. Welcome to the 21st Century, Grampa !
As long as I was doing all that administrative stuff, I decided to put my picture on and fill out the About Me section, too and give you a better look at me by loading Doc's picture up full size. Now Doc is published again and loading his resume up with all kinds of credits.

These Google folks sure do ask alot of personal questions about you, though. I left alot of spaces blank and gave them my birthday, for a couple of reasons. One is so when people see how old I really am, I won't have to worry about somebody like Merryl Streep hunting me down like she did with that character in "Bridges of Madison County". Another reason, maybe Mr. Google sends birthday presents out on your birthday ! I have just enough space left in my camera bag for an 800mm lens. Ya hear me Mr. Google ?

Thanks for the picture, Doc and I hope some of my both followers visit your blog. And NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC doesn't call me for an assignment soon, I'll be switchin' to SMITHSONIAN ! More later

In Case You Were Wondering.....

.....Where I get all the Bull Crap I type in my Blog from, or, what I look like (since I never got around to posting a photo of myself) I decided to post this, because, it probably won't make the cover of GQ, Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, or any of my other favorite Magazines !

Gettin' down and dirty is what I do when I'm out shooting with a camera. I'm always out looking for that million dollar shot and sometimes to get it composed the way you want it you have to do some real dumb things with your body; like kneel down in front of a fighting bull waiting to enter the arena.

Sunday the 15th of Jan in Okinawa, Japan (while you folks were probably with your sweethearts doing Valentine's stuff) I spent the day with bulls, taking pictures and because my Sidekick "Doc" paid the entrance fees for us to get in to the event, afterwards, I sprung for a steak dinner. All that beef running around made me hungry !

Oh, we're Homo sapiens and have wives, in case you were wondering !
We just get our freedom to go out and try and make more money with our cameras, so our wives get to spend more, on things we don't really need, unless, it's stuff to help us make more money, with our cameras !

Cycles, everything seems to go in cycles: earning and spending, uploading and downloading, up and down (Dollar, Yen and Euro), Peace and War, World Economies, Life and Death, Bear Markets and Bull... enough bull.....if you come away from this blog with anything valuable today, remember this, " Speak well of the dead; you may be one of them someday".

Also, if you were thinking of stealing my picture, save yourself alot of trouble and just send me ten bucks ! More later.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Today was cloudy and raining outside, but I learned along time ago to take my camera with me every chance I get.
I never got a shot in today, but, if I'd have left the camera at home: THE BIRD OF PARADISE probably would've flew right up my nose!

There must be a few hundred thousand bird pictures that I could've posted here today, but I dug this one up because it's fairly recent and I just entered it in a contest at Better Photo and I want someone to try and steal it. That way, I can see if anyone reads my blog and it will help me decide if I really want to start posting my photos on flickr, and, besides that, I just couldn't think of anything great to Blog about today !

STEAL THIS PICTURE, REALLY ?.... Yup, there's a few easy ways I can teach you how to get free pictures off the internet. One is by right-clicking and saving it to a file, and another is a screen shot. Simple as that !

Used to be I worried about people stealing my hard work for free, but since I started filing for copyrights, I can make alot more money going to court than I can bustin' my ass shootin' bird pictures!

But, how am I going to find out who stole the picture? Can't tell you that and be giving away trade secrets. Just do it ! Oh, yeah and have a spare C Drive ready to install; I forgot to tellya ! And.........................................

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Who Needs Fireworks ?

Last Saturday night while other people were doing important stuff, like drinking beer, I went to check out the Kin Cherry Blossom Festival.

Thinking it would be some big shindig like it is in all the other places on the Island, I spent all afternoon printing photos of birds and Cherry Blossoms I had shot in that location, just two weeks before. I made up all sizes of photos from 3x5 to 8x10 and even framed a batch of them in cardboard, thinking I could get rich selling them to tourists. Or, at least make enough money to reinvest in more wooden frames, for Gallery exhibits.

About an hour after the Festival started, I showed up with my camera to shoot the activities and a bag full of photos to sell. I think that's what younger folks call: multi-tasking. I parked the car a few hundred yards away from the festivities, so I wouldn't get blocked-in by traffic later and decided to leave the bag of photos in the car and stroll around with my camera awhile. Figuring maybe I'd spot a booth set up by someone I know and I could get them to sell my pictures for me ( on commission, of course).

As soon as I walked around a bend in the road and could see the festival grounds, I knew my Get Rich Quick Scheme was doomed. I knew instinctively "There aint gonna be no tourists here" Even though the red and white lanterns were stretched for a 1/4 mile on both sides of the highway and music was blaring from a stage, it was obvious this was an event for the local inhabitants only. How would I know that ? Maybe I've lived here too long !

The layout of the festival grounds consisted of:

A makeshift stage in front of a cargo-container covered by a blue plastic tarp.

A tent serving the normal festival food: Yaki-Soba.

Two tents serving alcohol: beer and awamori.


All the Town Drunks were there swilling their sake and trying to get me to join them ( probably because I used to be one of them). But, the nice thing about being a cameraman, once you tell them you're working, they respect that and leave you alone.

So, I walked around a few hours shooting Cherry Blossoms in the fading light and sniffing sake fumes until my camera started beeping, telling me the battery was dead. Changed batteries and it started complaining about the memory card being full ! I asked around and found out the event was over at 8PM, so, figured I'd put a fresh card in and have 2GBs of memory to shoot the fireworks.

Well, like the rest of my plans gone wrong, there was no money for fireworks. Here it was 8PM and dark and getting cold and my stomach was growling and I waited all this time for NO FIREWORKS !

The only thing that kept me hanging around any longer was they were playing some of my favorite music: Okinawan Mineo. I milled around in the crowd for awhile and even thought of maybe having a beer. But thought twice because one beer might lead to a dozen and I had to drive.

So, I made one last walk around the festival grounds to say goodbye to some folks I hadn't seen in a few years, when all of a sudden the whole place lit-up ! A Whole bunch of Dump Trucks came with glaring lights from both ends of the road. Music blasting, polished chrome shining, smoke stacks smoking and all 3 or 4 cylinders roaring down the highway burning diesel and squeeling tires, blowing horns and showing-off their valet-like parking skills. And I loved it ! The festival didn't end at 8 or 9. I really don't know when it ended. After I ran out of memory card the second time, I had to go home before the scent of alcohol overcame me.

When you have live bands, karaoke, gaudy lit-up dump trucks, alcohol and drunks singing to them and dancing with them, WHO NEEDS FIREWORKS ?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another Cherry Blossom (桜) Day

Today I went out to shoot the Cherry Blossoms (桜) again. The light wasn't right for what I wanted, so I dug up this shot from a few weeks ago.
In the next week or so the blossoms will be gone until next year. Amen ! Just hope I get the shots in the right light over the next few days so they get published and I get paid for them !
Today I figured out, I probably make around a Nickle an hour when you figure for every hour I'm out shooting I spend twice as much time on the computer editing and processing.
Again, I tried to change my settings so people can respond to my Blog. Let me know if it worked. And if you can't respond, let me know that, too. Just go back to the top of my Home Page and hit Questions and Answers. Then look at my Gallery and find a picture that says "Buy This Photo" and TRY THAT OUT, TOO !
More later