Vacation Time

Oh, the thought of Vacation, time to relax, have fun, and just not think about work at all.  A time to step away from life as we know it and enjoy a week or two of a life that we wish we could live every day.  Currently, my friends and I are starting to plan our vacation next year.  Now is this my dream vacation?  No, but white sand, ocean, and no kids not that I have any.  This is going to be fun anyways, Adults only nothing holding us back from doing things because we have people too young to participate in the activities and someone having to stay behind to take care of them.

So, you may be wondering what does this have to do with Photography?  Well, I can answer that question.  I am one of these people who like to research and read up on things.  Thus, as we are picking our location which is either going to be Puta Canna, or Aruba unless things change.  I am looking at all the locations I can find to see what I activities I want to do so I can get some perfect pictures.  The planning of locations is helping me consider what I may need to purchase such as a good tripod, new camera (still in research mode on this), lenses, filters, and debating on if I want my laptop with me or not.  Luckily, I have 11 months to decide on all of this.  LOL.

One of the things I am planning for is Sunrise and Sunset pictures, the resort we will be going to will be beach front so that means that I can easily get up early in the morning for sunrise photography a couple of days.  Sunrises can be so beautiful on a beach scenery with the waves of the ocean.  But this also means that I should have a good chance for Sunset pictures as well.   Sunsets may be better from a lookout or on the beach itself.  These are two areas that I am currently working on strengthening my portfolio.  Living in a city it is hard to find a good place to capture sunrises and sunsets.  I thought I found a place but then realized that the power lines were not going to work that well in my favor.

Other things I am looking for are waterfalls, good hiking trails for wildlife, scenery, and lookouts.  I love taking waterfall photos.  I am currently learning how to blur the water so it looks like a steady stream and not have the individual water droplets.  Now I tend to switch in between both and take the same photo twice and then I decided if I like one better than the other or if I like both.  I am researching what kind of wildlife the island has in the area we will be staying in.  I love birds and I hope to get some great shots of some very colorful birds while we are there.  Animals are another subject I want to get some photographs of.  Living in West Virginia I am limited to the type of wildlife I can capture and this will hopefully add to my portfolio.  Then there should be some beautiful insects such as butterflies that I cannot find where I live.

After I get all this planned I will make a list of the top things to capture and if I get others then so be it if not I at least accomplished my list of items.  I am a list person, without it, I am stressed out.  Now this will be as far as planning goes for me on the trip.  If we decided to do other activities we will if not then we won’t no use having the whole day booked when I could be lying on the sand listening to the waves, and just enjoying the beauty our God has created for us to enjoy.

I think planning your photography for your vacation is a very wise thing to do.  Having a plan helps you decided on what you need to take with you, incorporating locations and time of day into your vacation, and still allowing yourself time for fun and relaxation.  This way I limit the I wish I had or I didn’t know that was here kind of situations.

So as a photographer what kind of things do you plan for on your vacations?  Any helpful tips would be greatly appreciated.

To Enhance or Not To Enhance

Well, today’s subject is enhancing your photos.  Now, this is not going to be a tutorial of how I perform the enhancements that will be later when I have some time to go in depth.  A lot of people will not admit they enhance their photos as if they are afraid they will be looked down on.   Now I feel I have a good eye for this, and I would say at least 95% of photos I come across have been enhanced.  Now when I talk about enhanced I am talking about enhancing the colors and clarity of a photograph.  Not adding things to the photo.  Like when I come across a photograph of a dark sky with a moon over the lake with color on the water when no other color exists in the photo.

Sometimes it is necessary to enhance the photos.  For one sometimes the camera does not capture the colors of a sunset as they really are, or you underexposed a photograph and need to brighten it up.  The way I look at it if I can save a shot and use it then that is what I am going to do.  You only get one shot at it because you will never be able to capture the same shot again.  Kind of like snowflakes, each shot is different.

So here are some of the types of enhancements I perform on my photographs.  Some of them are applied to all photographs.  Such as when I load my RAW files into Lightroom I instantly apply an “S” Curve to the photos this helps bring out the shadows and highlights and seems to help the photos pop a little more.  (I know there is a lot of info out there but please shot in RAW you would not believe how many times I have saved a low light picture that I was not able to fix as a JPEG.)  The next thing I do to most of my photos is warm the photos up a bit especially if they are fall photos.  My camera tends to lean towards the cool side of the spectrum when taking photos.  This is my personal preference as I like a warmer photo.

Some of the enhancements I perform are based on the photo or the subject of the photo.   For fall photos, I tend to darken the Red, Orange, and Yellow colors and up their saturation a little bit.  When I say a little bit, I mean I change their number of 0 to 5 I keep the colors as natural as I can but just helping them pop a little bit more.  Depending on the scene I have also been messing with the Clarity setting in Lightroom.  I love how it can bring out the texture more in some shots especially shots of boulders, or rocks.  Living in West Virginia we have hazy days in the summer and early fall.  Now with a filter on my lenses, this helps combated that.  But sometimes I don’t have it with me.  So, I use the dehaze feature to remove it.  You would be surprised what you can recover with some of these settings.  I have also used the noise reduction for my night photography.  My camera being almost 9 years old tends to add a lot of noise to photos at night even at its lowest setting.  The only down fall is this tends to soften the photograph so I tend to not take photos of things I am wanted to show the texture of.  Mostly it has been Christmas lights at night.   Cropping is another enhancement I use especially if it helps frame the shot a bit more or cut something I don’t like being in the photo.

Now when it comes to adding and removing items from a photograph I will admit I have removed them.  This past spring I went to a state park called Swallow Falls in Maryland.  People were swimming in the falls or standing above them.  Due to all the people, I could not get a shot of them without someone in them.  So, I removed them using the clone feature of Photoshop.  However, I have never added anything to my photograph.  To me,

it takes away from my photos and is just my personal preference.  I have viewed good photos where it is hard to tell that something was not originally in the photo but I have seen others that I could instantly tell should not belong in it.

With the newer cameras out a lot of what I end up enhancing probably would no longer need to be done.  However, dealing with a 9-year-old camera some of the enhancements are necessary to help my photos keep up with newer cameras.   Below is an example of some enhancing of a photograph.  One is without any enhancements and the other is with the “S” curve, cropping, dehazing, and changing the saturation of the blue for the sky.

Do you enhance your photographs and if so what type of enhancements do you apply?

Dream Photography Destination

We all have that one place we would just love to go once in our lifetime.  A few years ago, I would have said Hawaii.  Now don’t get me wrong I would still love to go there; it is just not as high on the list of places for me to visit. The lush forests with their beautiful wildlife and flowers.  The wonderful waterfalls that only you can dream of.  The volcanos active and non-active that have given life to these islands.  Without them, there would be no Hawaii.  Then you have the beautiful beaches that everyone dreams of.  However, that was then and this is now and that dream location has changed for me.  After taking an Art History course at WVU my dream destination changed.  Gone were the thoughts of taking pictures of exotic birds and flowers.  In was the thought of capturing photos of old churches, monuments, and stained glass.   This all changed when we got into the Architecture portion of Art History I fell in love with the structure and glass of old Churches, and the old architecture period itself.  Where man learned to overcome obstacles, and building these giant structures out of stone by hand.    So where do you go to see the old gothic churches and some old architecture?  Yep, that is right Italy, Rome, and Greece.

I can just imagine the pictures I could take, of old stained glass with the sunlight pouring through it the colors bouncing off the old stone pillars and floors.  The thought of what it must have been like when it was first built.  I also imagine visiting some old Greek and Roman structures still standing today when most modern buildings would hope to last that long.  The old fountains with tons of people around them just enjoying the beauty that was meant to be enjoyed.   Learning more about the famous sites, things I did not learn in class.  To see the real thing and not just pictures in a book.  Walking down the tiny streets and feeling connected to the places themselves.  Becoming part of their history, loving them for what they are and their beauty.

Knowing that my photos can help bring joy to people as the photos have for me.  Maybe helping them to make a dream vacation wish list.  However, I also know that I will have the photos to help me remember my time there and help me relive that moment repeatedly.  Knowing what it was like to walk down the streets, meet new people and see new things that I could never see in America.

Having this kind of dream helps me as a Photographer.  I want to hone my skill so that I can take the best shots possible.  I don’t want to come back and regret not being better at taking them wishing they were better and in general hating the photos themselves.  Giving me a bad memory of such a wonderful place.  I don’t want to struggle with trying to capture the image and miss the opportunity because I couldn’t and regret that for the rest of my life think what if.  Having goals helps us a human to be better, and to learn our weaknesses so that hopefully we can overcome them or at least know or limitations so we don’t hold ourselves accountable for something we cannot perform.

One day I hope to be able to remove this goal from my bucket list.  But for now, it gives me something to dream about.

Where would your dream photography destination be and why?

Who is Kevin Gladwell

Okay, so you are probably wondering who is this person, or maybe you’re not.  However, this week’s blog is going to be a little bit about me.  Well, here it goes.

I was born and raised in West Virginia.  I grew outside of Huttonsville, WV a town of 250 people.  Both of my parents still reside there.  I learned a lot about nature from living there.  Considering the closest town to us was 45 minutes away and yes that is the closest Walmart.  Not having any kids my age I spent a lot of time by myself exploring the woods, creeks, and enjoying being by myself in nature.  I never was a big hunter so that did not take up much of my time.  I found fishing boring so I didn’t have that to do either.

From a young age, I loved taking pictures.  In second grade one of my Christmas presents was an 110mm Kodak camera.  I think this one of the most memorable presents I have received.  I took it on all my field trips in grade school.  I remember taking it to Canaan Valley Wildlife area and thought that the roots of the trees were the most interesting thing.  My dad always would laugh and say that I took pictures of the weirdest things.  But I loved them, they were different and I wanted to remember them.  To this day, he still tells me this.  Funny thing is when people see them they always ask me about the weird ones and I am finding more and more people like them too.

After graduating from High School I moved to Morgantown, WV one of the bigger cities in WV with a population 30,000+ people not including the students from West Virginia University.  Here I attending WVU for several years and worked for a local hospital for 8 years before moving on.  During this time, I purchased my first DSLR a Sony A200 camera in 2008.  This having been my only camera.  I carried this thing with me all the time when I went out on trips or when I go home I have it in my front seat.  You never know what you are going to see.  There have been so many times I haven’t taken it with me and wished I had.   Over the years, I have self-taught myself many techniques with this camera.  It has been my first love and I hate to see it go.  However, I am going to give it to someone else who can use it for what it can do, and it is getting time to upgrade my camera.  There is only so much I can do with it and I am limited with the 10.2MP sensor.  My next camera I get will probably have a full frame sensor in it.  I am so eager to learn so many more things.  Along with learning to use my camera I have also taught myself a lot about Photoshop and Lightroom to help me bring out the detail in my pictures.  I do not do a lot of enhancement on my photos.  Most of the time I adjust the exposure, and the curve to help bring out the highlights and shadows in my photos.  Some of my fall photos though I do adjust the color to help bring out the colors of the leaves but never to the point they look fake.  My next goal is to find some photography classes to help me hone my work so that it can be the best it can be.

I have now moved to Fairmont, WV as I am a Software Tester/Project Coordinator/ 508 Specialist for a Government contract.  Yes, I fill many shoes for this job but I love what I do.  In my spare time, I go out with friends or by myself and take photos.  This is one of the ways I reduce stress.  There is nothing better than being alone in a park looks at the beauty and trying to figure out the best way to capture it with a camera.  This helps me to forget about everything else and gives me something else to focus on.  I leave feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the next problem in life.

So, I would love to hear about you leave me a comment on how you started into photography.