Adventures

Adventures

Photography

A Weekend of Photography

Over Memorial Day weekend I was lucky enough to spend the majority of my time out and about in nature with some great friends and other photographers!  Being primarily a landscape photographer, it is always a blast hiking, biking and photographing the beauty nature has to offer.  To end it all, I was able to visit some family and take a few photographs of the newest addition to our family, my niece Kacie.

Being on the coast, I usually have to drive a fair bit to get to the waterfalls and other areas but that’s never a problem since I get to listen to podcasts, audiobooks and music to pass the time and get me pumped up for shooting!

The weekend entailed a few different places…..

  • Opal Creek Wilderness area
  • Scotts Mills Park
  • Abiqua Falls
  • Silver Falls State Park
  • Visiting family! 

Continue on to see my favorite pictures from the trip! Click on each image for a lightbox view for better detail.

Opal Creek Wilderness

 

Opal Creek is an area that I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now. It always sounded so beautiful with a good variety of stuff to shoot.  It was definitely an incredibly beautiful place with some fantastic colors throughout.  To get here, you start with a 3 or so mile hike to a place called Jawbone Flats.  The flats is basically a small area with some cabins that you can rent which will put you much closer to the center of everything around.  You’re not allowed to drive to these cabins, so you have to hike or bike.   

In this case, I met up with a couple friends Saturday morning and we biked in.  Being the out of shape guy I am, it was quite tiring, but a lot faster than hiking in.   We are able to do some short hikes to the beautifully colored water, some great rapids and waterfalls mixed among a beautiful forest area. There is plenty more to see including some old growth forest, more waterfalls and such but those were a bit further than we were wanting to go for this trip, and one of the bridges crossing the creek has been washed out and never replaced to my knowledge.

 Upstream view from atop a bridge that spans Opal Creek.  You can see where the creek gets its name from the beautifully colored water. It's very inviting!

 SawMill Falls along Opal Creek. This waterfall is right where an old saw mill used to operate and one can assume, where its name originated from.

I had a Cokin P series filter set with a few other filters and accessories for it that I lost to the creek while taking the shot above.  I was able to climb up some rocks to get a slightly different vantage point than the easy one with no problem. On the way back down is when the filter holder fell into the water and floated out of reach before I could get down safely with my camera to snatch it.  Luckily, it’s a fairly inexpensive set of items to replace if I choose to do so. Was it worth it to lose that stuff while getting this shot?   I don’t know, it’s a beautiful view, but with a little more care, I probably could have left with everything in my possession. 

Scotts Mills Park

 

Scotts Mills county park was our meeting place before heading up the road to Abiqua Falls.  Marty (one of the friends and photographers) wanted to shoot this park before heading out and thought it would be a good meeting place and he was right!

There’s not much to shoot overall, but there is this pretty cool looking waterfall of sorts with some man-made aspects and interesting rocks all round it.  I arrived earlier than our planned meeting time since I didn’t sleep well the night before and was able to catch just a glimmer of color from the sunrise. 

 Small waterfall at Scotts Mills County Park along Butte Creek with some great and interesting man-made aspects to it.

Abiqua Falls

 

Abiqua Falls is easily one of the best waterfalls I have been to.  The hike through the forest, along the creek bed all to open up in this beautiful area of column rock and a gorgeous waterfall in the middle.  It’s not the easiest to get to, but definitely worth the trip.  It starts with a pretty rough drive down a road for about 2.5 miles or so.  I highly recommend a 4×4 vehicle or at least one that has higher road clearance.

Once you get to the trail head, it’s only 1/2 mile hike or so to the waterfalls, but don’t let the distance fool you. It’s a fairly steep hike through the forest down to the creek bed.  There are plenty of steep areas that have ropes to help you climb up and down.  Once you get to the creek bed, you’ll walk upstream a short distance, but this short distance requires climbing over, under and around numerous fallen trees and over loose rocks. 

As you get closer you hear the waterfall from a good distance, but you can’t see it until you round the last corner and opens up into this amazing area you see below! 

 The beautiful Abiqua Falls showing off a great water flow this time of year.

 Abiqua Falls from a lower perspective showing some of the rocks along the creek.

After leaving Abiqua, we headed for Silver Falls State Park.  We continued down a road passing some great looking forest areas only to come to a locked gate. So we had to turn around and lucky for us, the car leading the way had a photographer in it who convinced the driver to pull over to photograph the forest with some great light and fog throughout. 

 Fog in the forest creating an eerie but beautiful feeling and that's what I wanted to create with this image.

Silver Falls State Park

 

After Abiqua Falls and a quick lunch, we headed over to Silver Falls State Park.   This is a very well known state park that’s home to a lot of waterfalls. Most famously known for 10 or so falls along it’s trails that are pretty easy to access if you’re willing to walk the distance.  One of the unique aspects about this place are a couple of the waterfalls you are able to walk behind which is always an interesting experience if you’ve never done it.

 Double Falls at Silver Falls state park.  Above the big waterfall you can see just a tiny bit of the upper falls.

 A waterfall at Silver Falls state park.

 A view from under some of the rocks that you can get to from walking behind the waterfall.

 A more traditional view of one of the waterfalls at Silver Falls state park.

 A view from directly behind the waterfall. Taken rather quickly to avoid all the spray from the water.

Family to end the weekend

In addition to all the beautiful outdoor nature I was able to photograph this weekend… I was also lucky enough to photograph the newest addition to our family. My niece Kacie!

She was 6 days old when these were taken and really did not want to sleep at all for us while we were trying to do a shoot.  The shot with her eyes closed only lasted a minute or so, but was long enough to capture that pleasant and peaceful look on her face. 

 My niece Kacie having a curious look on her face.

 A very rare moment during our shoot when Kacie had her eyes closed. It didn't last long though!

 Kacie lifting her head on her own with a determined look on her face.


It was definitely a fun filled and busy weekend.  Couldn’t think of a better way to spend a few days, except maybe if there was a Portland Timbers game in there somewhere. Which I was able to watch in my motel the first night. 

Let me know what you think of the photos and these places! Have you been there? want to visit?  Have any stories and places you’d like to share? Post away! 

If you enjoy these posts and my photography, be sure to click the Subscribe button at the bottom to get email updates when I post new content!

Photography

Making of – Ona Beach Sunset

Hello everyone!

Today I wanted to try something a little different than usual for me. I’ve recorded a screencast of my editing on one of my favorite photos. I’ve also included a link to download the files I started with straight out of camera.  This is a bit longer of a post than usual, but it goes more in depth into how this specific image was created, the software I used and the effects within those pieces of software.  The video itself is about 7m 27s long from beginning to end, with a more detailed description written out here in the post.

The software/plugins I used for this image are

All of these programs have free trials that you can test if you do not own them. I highly recommend every piece of it, but I would not be able to live without Lightroom and Color Efex.

I’ve included the 3 original files that I start with at the beginning of the video if you would like to download them and follow along or just do your own edit and see what you come up with. These are in the DNG format and straight out of camera.  Click the link here to download the zip file containing the 3 raw images.  http://db.tt/i9MqE4YB

 These are the 3 original exposures taken directly from the camera and are the files included in the download link above for you to use.
These are the 3 original exposures taken directly from the camera and are the files included in the download link above for you to use.

Creating the HDR image…

My program of choice for creating an HDR is Nik HDR Efex Pro2. To get things started, I selected the 3 exposures I was wanting to use and exported them into HDR Efex. For some reason, to send the images over into HDR Efex, you need to open the “Export to” and then choose HDR Efex as opposed to most other plugins where you select from the “Edit In” menu.

The first window you see pop up is where you select the image you want as a reference image for ghost removal.  You can choose to not have any ghost removal, or in increments of 20%.  Knowing that I wanted to have the water from the longest exposure visible, I chose the right hand picture from the top of the window, and you see the preview change. You can adjust the amount of ghosting until you’re happy with the look. In this case, I left it at 100%.  The slider below the preview image adjusts the exposure of the preview only, this will not affect the image creation at all.  On this same window, you can correct for Chromatic Aberration and the alignment of the images.

After you select the ghosting options you want, you click the “Create HDR” button on the bottom right and your HDR is created in a short amount of time and you are taken into the main part of the program to do some stylizing and other options.  On the left pane you can select from a good variety of presets in a few different categories and you’ll see a small thumbnail preview of the effect.  Feel free to play around with these all you want and you can always reset back to the default blend by selecting the Default preset.  Once you do a few images, you’ll get a feel for what presets you like and you will be able to select them rather quickly.  I usually pick between 3 or so options, and rarely will I pick a different one.

My top 3 choices tend to be

  • Deep 1
  • Deep 2 (used for this image)
  • Dark

Of course you have the large preview of the image in the center, and many more options over to the right.  On the right you have a lot of control over nearly any element of the image you would like.  The preset you choose on the left will adjust the options over on the right, but you can override each option if you wish.  For my workflow, I normally just play around with the Depth, Detail and Drama under the HDR Method portion. I don’t do anything with the color adjustments as that comes next in a separate plugin.  When I’m happy with the look and tonal range of the highlights and shadows, I save my image and back to Lightroom it goes as you see below.

 3 exposure HDR image being sent back to Lightroom for further adjustment.

Color adjustment

This is where most of the major changes happen to the look and feel of the image. Another one of my go-to plugins is Nik Color Efex Pro 4.  Nearly every image I create, whether it be a landscape or a portrait makes a run through this software. This is another plugin that can have such drastic effects on your image. It’s very powerful for full image adjustments or localized adjustments using what Nik calls U-point technology.  

On the left pane you’ll find the different effects you can use. It can look a bit overwhelming at first since there are a lot of options, and when selecting one, you often see a huge change to your image.  This will take some playing around with and seeing which effects you like. You’ll quickly find your favorites after using it a couple of times.  

My favorite adjustments are easily the following.

  • Brilliance/Warmth
  • Polarization
  • Contrast Color Range
  • Detail Extractor

You can see major changes with each of the effects during the video.  You’re not always going to want such drastic changes, nor are you going to want every effect across the entire image.  This is where the right pane comes in.

On this pane, you adjust the different options for each effect you choose.  For Brilliance/Warmth, you see a Saturation, Warmth and Perceptual Saturation slider.  Saturation does exactly what you’d expect and simply increases the saturation of your colors. The Warmth is your temperature and makes it warmer or cooler.  I tend to be drawn more towards bright, warm vibrant colors so I typically increase the warmth a tad as you see in the video. 

Perceptual Saturation was introduced in version 4 of Color Efex pro.  This isn’t a simple saturation booster as it works differently and is best left described by Nik software themselves.

They state… 

Perceptual Saturation is a new setting in the Brilliance/Warmth filter in Color Efex Pro 4. This is different from the Saturation filter in that it doesn’t increase the overall saturation of the image. Instead, it affects the hues and their complimentary color in the surrounding colors to increase the perception of additional saturation.

You will need to find a look that you’re happy with, as these items are very subjective. I like the look across the entire image so I didn’t use any control points (selective adjustments) for this effect. Once you’re happy with that  particular filter, you click the “Add Filter” button and you’re then able to select the next effect/filter you want.  If I had to pick just one effect to use, it would be this one and I really love the way it brings out the greens and oranges on the rocks more than anything else.

Pro Tip – Change your effect sliders from one extreme to
another a couple of times so you can see the entire range of what it’s doing.
Then dial it back to where you’re comfortable.

The next filter in this image I used was Polarization. This does what most would expect and really affects the blue skies more than other parts of the image. It does have subtle effects on other parts if you watch closely, but most drastically in the sky.  I usually like the way this effect changes my image, so I leave this one effecting the entire image as well.  There are some subtle changes here and nothing to big, but I think it adds to the photo.

Contrast Color Range, like many others can change the look and feel of your photo very easily.  Simply sliding the top Color slider back and forth, you can see how it changes.  This filter is fun to play around with and can create some awesome effects and changes when balanced correctly.  Spend some time and adjust all 4 of the sliders available to you to gain the look you’re after.  Again, I like the look this has across the entire image.

Detail Extractor… some of what this filter does can be achieved with tone mapping in your HDR creation, but I prefer to use this in Color Efex instead. It’s more comfortable for me and easier to select specific parts of the image for it. As I do with most of the effects I apply, I will change the slider from one extreme to another.  While doing so, looking closely at different parts of the image and not just the image as a whole.  I’ve never used this effect across the entire image.  You will see that I use the Control Points (U-point technology) to apply this effect in specific areas.  To add a control point, select the + sign that sits next to a Control point icon below your effect sliders.  Then drop the pin on the part of the image you want to add the effect to.

With this image, I used 2 control points. One on the top of the rock in the foreground and one around the sun.  You can adjust the size of the affected area and the opacity of that particular control point.  I enjoyed the effect at stronger levels on the rock, but not as much on the sun. You can see the sun gets some weird contrast in the colors there, so I was able to adjust that by changing the opacity on that control point only.

Pro Tip – Uncheck the boxes for the effects to see the image with/without that effect applied. This is great to do on a final pass to make sure you’re happy with the edits.

Lastly, I used the Skylight Filter. This filter isn’t always used, but I did like what it did to the colors and glow on the rock in the foreground.  it was a bit to much for my liking in the sky, so to have only the rock (and nearby surrounding area) affected, I used another Control Point. 

You can adjust any of the filters again by simply clicking on them on the right pane. Now that we’re done in Color Efex, we save the image and it gets imported back into Lightroom for any further adjustments you may want to do.

Below is the image that we just finished up and sent back into Lightroom.

 The photo after adjusting the colors and effects in Color Efex Pro4 software.

You may be able to see some dust spots in the sky, and what looks to be water drops on the filter that I was using when taking this shot. The water is apparent on the shadowy part of the rock on the right side of the frame.  There is also a small piece of white shell on the lower right.  The next step is to remove these items that I don’t want in the frame, and for that I kick the image over into PhotoShop.

These edits are very simple on this image and I just use the Healing Brush to click and remove those spots. Adjust the brush size for the water spots, take a final glance over the image, then close Photoshop and save it back into Lightroom again.

After looking at the image for a few minutes during this process, I could tell that I wanted the sky to be just slightly more orange/red to better match the color on the front rock.  Open up the Develop module in Lightroom, scroll down to the HSL/Color/ B&W, select HSL (should be selected by default) and now I can adjust the Hue of specific colors.  To pick certain colors that your mouse hovers over, click on the little circle/pin at the top left of that menu.

Then move your mouse over to the area that contains the color you want to adjust. You will see the colors on the right highlighting as your mouse passes over them and when you have the one want highlighted, click with your mouse and drag up or down to adjust the hue. This will adjust the hue of that color across your entire image.  I wasn’t going for a big change, just a tad adjustment.  Only thing left was to lower the exposure just a tad and then level out the horizon ever so slightly until I felt I was finished and ready to export the image for sharing.

Here is our final image after all of the editing! This one you can click on to view a larger view of it.

 The Final and completed photo after all of the editing

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and watching the process I went through on editing this image. I am really happy with this and is one of my personal favorites. Not everyone will like it and that’s perfectly okay! We all have different tastes and I enjoy seeing how other people create their photos, even if I see the image going in a different direction. That’s the beautiful thing about Art, it’s all subjective and we create to fit what we see in our own minds.

I’d love to hear what you think about the image itself and my process.  Better yet, if you downloaded the files and followed along or created your own version, post a link so I can check it out!

Flowers

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival

 A panorama crop from a low angle at the top of a row of tulips.

Most of you who follow my work know that landscapes are definitely my go to type of shooting.  I really enjoy doing all types and trying new things, but landscapes are where I’m in my element.  

Every year, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm has a month long festival allowing the public into their tulip fields.  This year was my first time going and it was quite a bit of fun shooting all the beautiful flowers and trying some new things.  Naturally I took some more typical landscape looking shots, but I also tried to go out of my element and shoot some more close-up shots and different compositions than usual.

 A shot before sunrise looking down some rows of various colored tulips.

 A second shot before sunrise from a ground level perspective looking between two rows of tulips.  Some Light painting was used via a flashlight to help lightup the flowers.

The two above images were taken early in the morning about an hour or so before sunrise.  In order to have enough light on the flowers without blowing out the sky, I used a headlamp during the long exposure to provide some light on the flowers.  The beautiful colors in the sky were not the sun rising, they were in fact a great combination of sky, clouds and city lights.  Light painting is a lot of fun to play around with and a new technique I’ve been experimenting with more frequently.

The Hot Air Balloon launch was one of the main reasons we went up so early in the morning.  There were 4-5 balloons there and prepared to go, but only one was successful in launching. The second kept going up, then losing altitude and they said it was a result of to much wind and scrapped the remaining launches.

 The first and only Hot Air Balloon that successfully launched from the tulip farm.

 The second hot air balloon being inflated with a view of some tulips and a tractor.

 Look from down low between two rows of red/white tulips.

 A closer shot of a pink tulip missing a pedal allowing a great view into the middle of it.

 Closer shot of the top of pink tulips on a gray sky background and a shallow depth of field.

I love the simplicity of the one above. I found a great composition with a clean background that focuses on the texture and beautiful color tones.

Lastly, There was this one flower I found that stood out from the rest. Not because of it’s height or color, but because it was taking it’s own path as it grew and not the same path as everyone else.  After getting this one processed, I began thinking that it deserved a great quote to go along with it. Check out the picture then read the quote just below and see if you think it fits as well as I do.

 One tulip leaning sideways, then growing upwards standing out between two rows of only vertical flowers.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

— Dr. Seuss

The festival closes on May 5th, so if you live in the Oregon/Southern Washington area, it may be worth a visit to see some beautiful tulips.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the pictures and if you have been to a tulip or flower farm and what your experiences were, or stories about shooting new and different things from your usual subjects.

Guest Post

Procrastination & Blogging – Guest Post by Jaci

About a month ago I was asked to make a guest blog post. After agreeing (to something I can’t even do on my own blog consistently) I tried to come up with topics that I could cover without being redundant. I tossed around ideas on what to cover, some not so serious topics like: “how to apply makeup,” “what not to wear when shooting,” “how I fail at being a blogger,” “how to pick the wrong guys on dating websites,” etc.

So here I am, writing about how to procrastinate when a fellow photog friend wants you to be a guest blogger.

There are three main steps you must take in order to achieve this:

First, you must agree to something you really aren’t going to do (even if you believe you will… eventually), but you should act enthusiastic and willing to do what is requested of you.

Secondly, you will then put off and forget about said agreement. When asked if you’ve thought about a topic and when you’ll be posting you will brush it off and tell your photog friend that you’re still working on what to write about.

Lastly, you two will engage in an entertaining conversation pertaining to the agreement you had–after a month has already passed–and joke about silly topics, which lands you right where you are now- reading about procrastination and blogging.

There have been numerous times I’ve read photographers blogs and their recent post begins with “I’m so sorry it has been so long since the last time I’ve blogged!” Why apologize? I mean, let’s be serious, we just want to see your beautiful masterpieces, enough with the jibber jabber- get on with it!

We get it… you went out with this beautiful family who was absolutely amazing to work with and you can’t wait to get together again in the future! How many different ways must a photographer try and come up with what to say about every session when that is the jist of each session you’ll blog about? As a photographer your time with clients is always a blast (or rather, it should be), you’ve enjoyed yourself immensely (or at least we hope you did) and you’d also love for them to be returning clients in the future. What more is there to really say?

My tip to blogging is simple: let your images tell their story. Forget about posting a paragraph of nonsense and stressing over what you must come up with and if it will please your clients/readers. If your clients had a great time the images will be evidence to all of the good times had and memories you’ve helped them create to save for a lifetime.

Jaci is an educated on location, natural light photographer in the Metro Detroit area! Her style is a little bit different and much more personal than a retail portrait studio. You can follow her on Facebook: JW Photography or Flickr: oneflashatatime. 

Design

New Look, New Features!

Hey everyone! I’ve been busy making some changes to the website and adding some additional features. I hope you’ll find the new look as awesome as I do and enjoy the new features.

First off….. The New Look

 Screenshot of the new home page. Full screen images, quick access to gallery and thumbnail views and an information button to display information about the pictures.

As you can see, a lot has changed with the look and feel of the site from the last version.  This new style is really designed to showcase the photos more by filling the screen real estate available.  Combined with a thinner more streamlined navigation bar, the photos quickly become  the focal point of the site.

Wait, there’s yet another way to view the full images with additional information.

 Information Button on the bottom right to display full image with a description of the photo.

See the little “i” button on the bottom right? Click on it! Go Ahead, it’s safe I promise. This will open up another great view with more information about the photo. Where it was taken, maybe a story involved with it, you never know what tidbits of information you may find here.

 Information view displaying the full image with the information and description about the photo to the right.

Both the full bleed and information view can be navigated by using the arrow keys to move forward and backward between photos.

One more way to view images faster!

 Gallery grid view button on the top right of page.

On the top right of the page, you’ll see 4 small square icons forming a larger square.  This take you to a page to help teach geometry and basic math skills!

Yes, that was my attempt at humor 😉

What this button really does is displays the galleries in a grid layout filled with thumbnails of the images.  This is a much faster way to browse through to a specific photo or view some of the other galleries such as my Portrait/People gallery! Clicking on an image will bring that image to full screen or clicking the top right again, where an now appears will close the grid view.

 Screenshot of the Grid thumbnail layout for the galleries.

But wait! There’s more, you can now subscribe via RSS or mailing list.

Apart from the different look and feel, I have also added 2 great new features.  The first feature is an option to subscribe to mailing list!  This mailing list will *only* be used to send you an email when I post new content on the blog.  This way you don’t have to keep visiting the site (although I wouldn’t mind if you did) to check for new content.  I also added a link to subscribe via RSS for those who prefer a news reader approach.

To subscribe, simply visit the Subscribe page in the navigation bar at the top!

Second New Feature… Forums!!

This is more of an experiment and trial to get a great product and community going.  I have implemented some forums where you can post all sorts of stuff. Favorite places to shoot, gear, questions, off-topic stuff, you name it!  

 Screenshot of the forums hosted by the service www.moot.it

These forums are free and hosted by a service called Moot.It.  You’ll be creating an account with Moot.it which will allow you to comment and use other forums created with this service as well.  This is a new service, and it’s something I’m experimenting with to help create a better experience on my site. I have setup a few basic forums to get things started, and I can always add more if requested!  I am still learning more about Moot, but it is pretty solid so far and a great, free way for anyone to setup some forums on their own site.  Check them out!

But Wait… No, that is about it for now!

I’m excited about the changes and new features I’ve added. I would love to hear your thoughts on the new design and added features to the site both good and bad.  Comment below or shoot me an email.. I’m always looking to improve and make things better and more enjoyable for visitors.

Until next time, hope you enjoy the new stuff and subscribe to my mailing list for updates!

Uncategorized

And the Winner of the 20″x30″ Metal Print is…

Congratulations Al Dee Sollinger!! 

You are the winner of the Metal Print Giveaway. All you have to do now is get in touch with me to let me know what photo you want and where to ship it! You can email me via the form on this site or directly at zach@zblackwood.com

I want to thank everyone for their entries, the help of spreading the word and above all else the very kind compliments from everyone.  Definitely made my day and made this worth while!  Perhaps there will be another one down the road as well.

For those who did not win, thank you again for entering and prints are still for sale, at newly reduced prices over on www.zlbphotography.com.  There is a completely automated process where you can choose various sizes and prints such as Metal, Canvas and prints on a beautiful lustre paper.  If there are other mediums, sizes and more custom options needed, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and we can work something out!

If you want to keep up with my latest work, you can keep an eye here on this site and blog or follow me on the social networks listed.  I seem to be most active on G+ but do generally share all the “good” work everywhere!

Photography

Enter to win a 20×30 Metal print of your…

Ever wanted to see what a metal print looks like on your wall?  Now’s your chance to win a huge 20″x30″ metal print of your choice!!

This give-a-way will be running from today, March 19th through the end of the month Sunday March 31st ending at midnight PST. The winner will be announced on April 1st. No, this is *not* a trick, this is a real free give-a-way for a beautiful metal print that will add a great decoration piece to any home.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below on this post with a link to where I can follow you on any social network! be sure to share a link to this give-a-way as well.  It’s that simple!  Be sure to include a name since I can’t award this prize to “anonymous”

You can find a share button at the bottom of this post or copy the link here
https://zblackwood.com/blog/2013/3/19/enter-to-win-a-20×30-metal-print-of-your-choice

If you are the winner, you can choose any one of my pictures that you’d like. To browse a good selection of my photographs, CLICK HERE.  The pictures are not limited to what’s on that page. If you find a photo of mine that is not on that page, let me know and we can use that one!

Even if you don’t win, you can visit my purchase page here if you find one you’d like to order.

You can follow me on most social networks, and who knows when I’ll be having another one of these!

Follow me with the links below!
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
App.net

I have been made aware of a couple issues when trying to comment from a mobile device.  At this time I am not sure what is causing it or if it’s something that can even be fixed on my end, but I am looking into it.  The problem seems to be on iOS devices when using the Safari Browser, and also on some Android devices when using the stock browser. It does work when using the Chrome mobile browser.  

When you attempt to make a comment and click the “Post Comment” button, a small window should appear asking you to enter your name, email and website (optional), or allow you to login with Facebook, Google etc….  The issue is when that window does not appear. Disabling popups doesn’t appear to make a difference as it’s not truly a new window.  If at all possible, try a different browser and see if it works, or of course using a laptop/desktop will work too.  If you are having the issue with non-stock browsers, let me know! The more information, the better.

The Fine Print

This contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.  If you are announced as the winner, you will have 72 hours to make contact with me. I will do my due diligence in trying to contact the winner as well, but if we fail to do so a new winner will be chosen. 

Reviews

Squarespace Review

 Squarespace homepage screenshot

     Are you looking for a quick and easy way to create and mange a great looking website?  You need to check out Squarespace. No, this is not a sales pitch, nor am I getting paid to write any of this.  Squarespace is exactly what their tagline says it is…….

Everything you need to create an exceptional website”

— Squarespace

     It’s really easy to get started, and they offer a free trial in which no credit card is needed.  You simply choose from a great selection of templates and start adding your content.  All of the available templates are very design centric.  They look great and show off different types of content very well.  You can organize the templates based on what they work best for, portfolio, business, blog etc….  don’t worry about which one you choose, as you can change it at any time and your content seamlessly switches over to the new template.  If you’re adept at coding, they do have a developers platform in which you can completely create a site from the ground up.  Even with templates, you are able to add custom code blocks and css to add functionality or make changes.

 Squarespace template selection.

Of course this site that you’re reading this on is a Squarespace site.  It is my personal site which houses a lot of different content.  Galleries, contact forms, about pages, custom pages and 2 blog pages.  With the unlimited plan, you get truly unlimited everything.  Unlimited number of pages, storage and bandwidth.  There are so many options you can do, it’s pretty crazy.  It is often touted that you cannot bring a Squarespace site down.  Normally if a small time blog or site gets published in a place where it gains a huge surge in traffic, the site just fails and goes down. This doesn’t happen with Squarespace. They have some genius way of scaling bandwidth when it’s most needed so your site never goes down as a result of a spike in traffic.

 Mobile screenshot with menu

One major benefit that comes with all Squarespace sites is the often talked about responsive design.  This allows your site to scale in a pleasing way depending on the screen size of the device you’re using. To the right is a screenshot of this site on a phone.  You can see the navigation menu becomes a dropdown, which when touched opens up a beautiful looking list of the pages. Makes it very user friendly on mobile devices.  Another fantastic thing that occurs, is Squarespace will resize your images to 7 different sizes to feed up only the proper size in respect to the screen size.  If you’re on your phone, you won’t be downloading huge high resolution files that take up an enormous amount of data. On your desktop, you’ll see the higher resolution versions.  This works great on tablets as well.  All of this is just built right into the platform and you don’t need to do anything to make it happen.

 Content Blocks

Adding Content…

 to your page is very simple.  You pretty much select “+Add Page”, tell it what type of page you want it to be, then select the content using content blocks that you want to add.  If you select an image or gallery, you comply drag and drop photo’s from your computer into the window and they are uploaded. If you want to add some text, select the text block and type away. Once you’ve added all the content you want to the page, you can drag and drop the different blocks to rearrange them, float them left or right and change it all around till your heats content.  If there are still some changes to be made, you can add some custom CSS to the page to fine tune if needed.  There is a lot of built-in social integration for most of the major social networks. My home page for example has my twitter feed, foursquare feed and 500px feed in addition to a collection of my blog posts to display the 3 most recent posts.

SEO is not something I’m all that familiar with except that I know it’s important when it comes to Google search rankings.  I DO know that SEO is a high priority for Squarespace and it’s integrated automatically so you don’t need to worry to much about it.  There are little things you can learn if you wish to increase search rankings with file names, captions etc… but the topic of SEO alone could go on forever and I know next to nothing about it.

 Style editor to adjust page settings.

With every template, you have access to over 300 fonts in the Google font library, changing the color schemes of links, backgrounds and all sorts of different elements on the page.  There is even Typekit integration if you have a membership there and want to use those fonts.  You can view a long list of options to change for the entire page, or you can click on the section of the page you are wanting to edit and you’ll see the options that apply to just that one section.

Some templates have additional options, and others have less, it just depends on what the developer of the template enabled.  Of course as mentioned before, you can add some custom CSS if you’re wanting to make a change that is not available by default.

Photography as any of my followers know, is a big passion of mine.  Having the options to display photographs in a beautiful manner is a key thing.  For this site, I chose more of a blog oriented template, but I still have a lot of photos.  With this template, the default gallery displays as a slideshow such as this.

However, you are able to add galleries so they display as a Slideshow, Slider, Grid or Stacked layout. You can adjust the speed in which images cycle, add thumbnails and change the spacing between images. For examples see the links below.  

Grid Layout 
Stacked Layout
Slider Layout

Customer Support…

     is another top notch aspect that cannot be over looked.  If you have any trouble with their service, send them an email and they always respond in a very timely fashion.  Doesn’t matter if it’s at 3 or 4 AM or middle of the day.  Their email support is 24/7 and 365 days a year.  They also have live chat support during certain hours on weekdays.  From my personal experience, I’ve always received a reply to a ticket within 30 minutes and often times sooner.

Not to long ago they added SmugMug integration allowing you to import albums from SmugMug galleries.  I ran into an issue where nothing was importing.  They were able to identify there was indeed a problem right away and they were quick to put the engineers on it to implement a fix.  This problem is not a common type to have, as it was something to do with the resolution of images on SmugMug being to large to import.  The fix for this problem did take a few days, but that’s because of the work involved in making a fix like this.  Throughout the few days, they kept me updated as to what was going on making sure I knew it was being worked on and I wasn’t forgotten. 

Other Notes…

     There are a couple additional features that I haven’t used as of this post that may be very compelling for a lot of people.  The biggest one being E-commerce.  Just a couple of weeks ago they announced built-in e-commerce for their business tier subscribers.  This is in partnership with Stripe for payments allowing you to setup an online shop to sell physical or digital goods.  As far as I know, there isn’t built-in fulfillment options yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is something in the works.  For me as a photographer, I could put up some pictures for sale at various sizes and mediums, people can purchase an item giving me the required information for shipping and printing, then I can send it off to the lab I get prints from.

Another item that may be useful is you’re allowed to have other people manage different aspects of your site. You can allow them full access to everything including settings, or as simple as content editors and comment moderators.

There is a built-in commenting system, or you can set it up with Disqus.  The social integration is really nice from making simple links to adding blocks with content from those services.  You also get some built-in analytics with most of the important information, or you can integrate it with Google analytics if you want to delve deeper into the viewer stats.

This is an entire content management system that’s hosted. No having to worry about updating your version of WordPress and breaking plugins, or worrying about all the hacks that come with badly written code.


Final Thoughts…

     As you can tell, I am a big fan of SquareSpace.  I am a small time user, not a web developer, and I think I was able to create a pretty solid looking website.  It’s constantly changing, and SquareSpace makes it easy to make those changes.  I have been very happy with how easy it has been and the responsiveness of the customer support.  The responsive design is top notch from my experience and looks fantastic on mobile devices.  It’s just a great option for someone who wants a good experience and is not a web developer or doesn’t have a lot of time to work on a website.

Having a free trial that doesn’t require a credit card, or anything other than an email address for that matter is great as well. It allows you to test it out in a full capacity to see if it’s right for you.  They have 3 different tier plans now that they’ve added e-commerce options.  You can pay month-to-month or yearly, and if you do pay annually, you get free domain registration.

Don’t take my word for it, try it out yourself and let me know what you think! I would love to hear from you in regards to your experiences and thoughts on the SquareSpace service.  www.squarespace.com

Inspiration

The Importance of Exploring Close to Home

 Newport, OR public fishing pier with the famous Yaquina Bay Bridge.
Newport, OR public fishing pier with the famous Yaquina Bay Bridge.

I’ve been photographing for a couple years now, and since that time I have been looking at everything with a completely new set of eyes.  Naturally, people want to capture these grand, epic landscapes or portraits in exotic locations.  I am certainly one of those people as well.  It’s taken me quite some time now, but getting out and exploring closer to home is still just as interesting as exploring new places.  It all depends on your mental eyes approach to your surroundings.

All of the photo’s in this post are within a few minutes drive from my home.  The photo at the top includes a very iconic bridge in Newport, the Yaquina Bay Bridge.  Years ago there was talk and movements to building a new larger bridge to increase traffic flow.  It ultimately got turned down, and is now constantly under repair to maintain it’s historic stature.   There is no shortage of pictures containing this bridge in the world.  I’ve got quite a few myself where the bridge is the sole focus of the image.  Wanting to try something different, this sign for the public fishing pier is so obvious, that I never considered it.  While walking around one day, I decided “what the heck, lets try it”. 

Got my tripod low, composed the shot with the bridge in the background, and it has turned out to be my favorite shot containing this bridge, and it’s not the sole subject in the photo as so often seen, like the photo below.  Sure, the image may be beautiful to some, but what’s so interesting about it that you haven’t seen before? Nothing!

 Yaquina Bay Bridge as seen during the blue hour from the south jetty.
Yaquina Bay Bridge as seen during the blue hour from the south jetty.
 An old boat that's been sitting along side the highway for as long as I can remember. 
An old boat that’s been sitting along side the highway for as long as I can remember. 

This boat here has been along side the highway about 3 miles from home forever. I remember seeing it when I was a kid, and just simply thinking, “what an odd place to park a boat.”  To this day, I still don’t know why it’s there or who it belongs to.  I have driven by this boat thousands of times. Every time I drive into Newport and back home, I pass by it twice.  Took me quite some time to decide to stop and photograph this boat, even though it’s been there for such a long time.  Who knows when this boat may fall apart, be moved, or even vandalized completely changing what has long been an after thought for me.  Now, I have some great shots that if anything were to happen, I can always look back on.

 The very popular Ona Beach State Park, as seen during winter.
The very popular Ona Beach State Park, as seen during winter.

If you follow me on social media, you will have recently seen this picture I got (above).  This is at a popular state park, well known for it’s flat, boring ol’ beach.  There is no shortage of just sand, and it certainly makes for a great family outing.  However, that’s not very interesting to someone who lives just a few miles away.  We see that all day every day.  What’s interesting about this park is, that if you walk south instead of the usual north, you’ll run into this beautiful area.  An interesting tidbit, these rocks are usually covered by sand during the summer, and only exposed during the winter.  If we have had a stormy winter, there are even more rocks revealed.  Put these rocks in your scene with the vibrant colors, include the famous sunsets as just a part, and you’ve got a whole new look than what is usually found. 

Lastly, the photograph below is from another very popular spot, Seal Rock.  This tiny little town has some gorgeous rocky landscapes that provide for consistently great photographs.  I drive by this place twice a day for work, and shoot here a lot. It’s easy to capture a beautiful landscape, but it’s a little more difficult to capture something new in such a highly photographed area.  I went exploring and walking around in different areas that I don’t normally walk through trying to find a different vantage point.  That is when I found this small little overlook that provided a great view of the setting sun, the ocean below, a little bit of the famous Seal Rock itself, while providing some new elements that are much more prominent in the frame.

 A new vantage point for me to consider shooting out a few more times while still trying to find others.
A new vantage point for me to consider shooting out a few more times while still trying to find others.

This post isn’t to simply tell you about what I’ve found or show off my images.  The goal is to help inspire you get out and explore closer to home and see what new interesting places and things you find.  Whether you shoot landscapes, architecture or even people, I guarantee you’ll be able to find A LOT of new and inspiring subjects to shoot.

Check out some of your favorite places as a kid during different seasons, you may find a completely different scene different times of the year. I certainly found one I wasn’t aware of.  Go explore with different weather conditions. Everyone loves a beautiful sunset, but what’s so interesting when you see a million of those every day?  Go shoot the same place when it’s snowing, raining, cloudy, you never know what amazing stuff you will run across. When it comes to objects, capture them, before they are gone. You just don’t know how long things will be around, and that can include major structures like a bridge.

Who knows, maybe you’ll capture a historic moment that will live on well beyond your own years, all because you decided to take a closer look at exploring close to home.

 

Let me know your own thoughts on this subject.  Feel free to link to
your own photo’s and interesting things that you’ve found close to home
that you may not have noticed or appreciated before. What inspires you to go out and explore close to home?

Uncategorized

Great Give-A-Way over on Crave Photography

Easily one of my favorite blogs and photographers to keep an eye on for portraiture is having a fantastic give-a-way.  Crave Photography.  Not only can you win a great lens, but you will also win a marketing set from her, and better yet, a one-on-one mentoring session!

Her style and editing process is something to behold and highly recommended that everyone check it out.  Whether or not you enter the give-a-way, check out her work and be inspired.

Check the link below for entering.