What time with my monopod taught me about myself, and garbage in garbage out

Go_Pro_3_test_0036979©_2015_Copyright_Linda_Enger_Photography
Still photo taken on Go Pro Hero3

 

Lots learned on this hike!

First, the photo  above is ironically one of the last photos of the day. But what is important about it is my first time with a GoPro Hero 3 ( yep I confess I am a late adopter on too many things that involve new tools.) My friend Neil graciously  let me borrow it for the day to test it. HMMM without a view finder,or anything to attach it to me while hiking the test changed focus ( sorry can not help myself ) . I wondered what quality  still photo I could expect. Well I still have not gotten through the manual  to see if I could have gotten a larger file  but the  jpegs that came out of the camera were only 2.4 MB… so these are  smaller than my iphone 5s which are running around 3.6 and being they are not Raw files that I prefer I do not have big expectations on how I can tweak them. BUT /AND they both satisfy the the purpose of getting a small image into LR to make nice for you to see here 🙂  With that said I would be happy to have anyone who is really well versed in shooting still and video on both formats chirp in and comment . And that most likely would be my friend Frank who is the GoPro master.

Some background story to this post: I am very grateful that after  more than 2 years of being out of an activity I love so much I have slowly built up the capability to hike again and testing the waters of carrying some camera gear again. It has not come easy . I must say it was quite depressing to go for a 15 minute walk in my hood to find my back was in  too much pain to walk more.My treasured hikes with or without camera gear were, needless to say too painful to do and  in another way and bluntly  probably as painful,my fragile ego was having  little identity crisis. Ok, that may be more information than maybe I should be sharing but for any of you who know what it is like to loose any kind of your mojo… it is tough stuff.

So I have already digressed from the purpose of this blog entry.

This past Sunday I was hiking with a small group of my hiking buddies . We drove down to Tucson to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area where we set out for Seven Falls. This is approximately a 7.5 mile round trip hike, and by the time we got started on our hike on  Sunday April 19…. it was already very sunny ( no kidding it is Arizona) and kinda hot ( all relative really it is not summer!)  Seems like my body does not deal with hiking in heat as well as it used to. If if ever did.

When I finally arrived to the “destination”  of the Falls  I was very hot, tired, shaky, and honestly worn down .  Of course it would have helped if I had a good night sleep the night before . Oh well. After trying to relax a few minutes , snack on some salty nuts and dried fruit and inhale yet more water  I was reminded  how unfortunately pressured on time we were to get back to Phoenix. Hmmm, thus I internalized tension  with  little shooting time…  I barely had time to review the entire scene when I  found a little shady nook I wanted to explore trying to focus mentally and physically on for a photo .  I was way too shaky and short of time to explore the upper level of the “Falls” . I write “Falls” that way and not Falls because I do not call dribbles real falls! ( again I digress)

So there was a  sweet young  college age looking Asian couple sitting where I wanted to be and they  invited me to join them  in their  quiet space on a  very well worn by the water, slippery rock . We all sat silently as if in partnership with the calming of the space. I used the rock wall behind me to help my arm  brace  my monopod as I kept searching for a photo that best represented the meditative feeling that I truly wanted internally and in my image. I have been shooting these zen like water photos whenever and where ever  I have found them for many decades… but with a tripod.  I like to shoot them  at 1/8 to 1/15 of a second. But here I was without tripod . Hey remember taking this hike was huge accomplishment for me and I had chosen not to bring my little Canon G9 ( which had depressingly become my go to hiking surrogate camera for a while ), nor did I want to use the iphone I had with me ( honestly had forgotten about it ) , or the Go Pro that I had borrowed that day from one of my hiking buddies that was there . I wanted to shoot a “real ” photo. I had shlepped my Nikon D700 and resolved I would only bring my 60 macro with polarizer filter and a monopod that could multi task as a walking stick. I resolved  to do whatever I could. Of course I knew that camera and lens was an issue for my neck and back depending upon how I was wearing it or carrying it and all day long I was CONSTANTLY readjusting my body and holding patterns.

I could hear my Physical Therapist Elizabeth as if she were standing next to me. “You keep doing things that work against all the progress we are trying to make ! You have a lifetime of muscle imbalances that have taken their toll on top of everything else that your back and neck has gone through. ” ( ok so I digressed again )

So more back story (pun intended)  WOW,  it was in the 90’s  that I had done this same 7.5 mile hike alone. I am not talking about long extended back packing like in the story WILD. It was a day hike but…. carrying my own water, along with rented 4×5 view camera with  multiple lenses , heavy 4×5  tripod and a pack of negatives  in their glass holders . I wanted so much to create beautiful 4×5 landscape imagery. FYI I do not now , nor did then have a good back packing size body . There are specific recommendations made by the back packing gurus as to how much weight a person should carry in relation to their body mass.  ( HMM, another time for that topic!)

But this Sunday I was actually humbled by the memory of myown past! Amazed at  how strong I HAD built myself up to be back then.  I had created  the HABIT and COMMITMENT to deliberately workout regularly for this purpose specifically.  I also had younger hormones. I was consistent in my  training physically probably more than photographically ! But honestly the hike was no fun back then. I had looked around me and watched as people were frolicking in the water and enjoying each other’s company. I was lonely, tired but determined. When I reviewed the film after the shoot I came to an epiphany. That was not what I belonged doing nor wanted to be doing. I did nothing with the photos. So what if I got there . I did not feel the love in the images.  I doubt I threw them  out. They are there in my filing cabinets of film that have not been touched for years,decades. Dare I spend the time trying to figure out where they are ? I would love to see them now for one particular reason. Climate change. I am pretty sure the “Falls”” looked different then.

So here I was in 2015 and  I was trying to get a digital image to create something in my digital world.  Early afternoon sucks for shooting landscapes. Nothing has changed that in relationship to photography. Basic photo concept. But rules are made to be broken, and I honestly have lots of history of not following rules. And digital processing has made cheating  too easy. Do we really have to be on location at the crack of dawn anymore? Hey there are filters , right ? Ugh.

Trying to focus. Tired. Shaky. I wanted a nap. I wanted to create a zen like photo but was not feeling very zen like. I needed to meditate. I needed to check out. I needed my nappy. I was shooting variations of the scene with varied exposures with the complete digital mindless approach to photography…. take lots of shots  and work it later in processing. And hope I got something worthwhile.

Honestly.  What has  happened to me ?

SO there I was  finally starting to really see beauty and flow and composition,  getting my compositional groove on , but I am still feeling shaky. Trying to brace my arm against the rock wall to make my monopod and me more of a tripod, when I hear

” Linda , what exposure are you using with all that harsh light and shadow .”

I ignored my hiking companion’s question. But the second time it was asked,  I LET my train of thought shift. Why ? Well I was not alone. I had CHOSEN to hike with others. To be social. SO….I  move away from my spot and go into teaching mode, helping mode.  Ugh.  I was trying to be nice!  Monopods do not stand on their own 🙂  I was on a mono pod. I lost my train of thought. I had not completed my  image. I lost my focus.

When I reviewed my images the next day in Lightroom  my shooting process  was obvious to me. The image with the composition I liked the most was  the one I was interrupted on . But I had not given it the time it needed to shoot several times in hopes one would not show the rocks moving from camera / operator shake. I allowed this person’s desire to make their images better more important than my being in my own zone.

What I needed was a better way of not loosing my focus ( literally and figuratively) before I offered to give a little mini class. Rocket science . No. Just reality check for myself.

SO the take away…

1) When you know you need to not be disturbed because you do not have the mental bandwidth to recoop after an interruption … find a way of politely saying.” I will talk to you after I finish” and hope you are not too flit brained to have that interaction derail you ( or them) and  then be sure to get back to the person if it matters to you to do that.

2) When you are seeing someone photographing (or fill in the blank as to doing anything else quietly on their own) . PLEASE be considerate and wait till they are obviously done to request advice or distract them with questions about anything or if you know them well find a way of disturbing them without disturbing them. Good luck with that. Ha, I am sounding like Miss Manners here.

2 days after hike:

1) My neck hurts from carrying the camera too much of the day around my neck either cross my chest or hanging from either shoulder. … so when will I stop? I  hear my  PT’s voice. FYI , looking at the images,was worth it?

2) So I tried using photoshop’s filter > shake reduction on the  image that had  the composition I really liked and that I ended my shooting with .

I have always gone by the “old ” digital  adage “garbage in garbage out ” when people think software like Photoshop,  can fix everything.  Matters . What do you want?  How bad you want it? What is your  idea of awesome? How good is your skill set with post processing  and how much time do you want to give to make the image sing.  Kind of like lots of things in life!

So to complete  this blog about  patience, and pixels and  photography  I  have included 3 versions of the photo that had the composition I like with the horrid lighting and the moving rocks. By no means am I saying these are art. I would not choose to  blow these up . I am  only sharing them in light ( pun intended ) of sharing as a teacher.  There is just so far the photoshop filter will go with their deshake filter and HDR  filters are not the be all end all. And this was not the kind of shot you could take 3 exposures and really work them with merging in HDR either.  Not exactly garbage in garbage out but … well pixels are in the eye of the beholder.

You know all those “awesome” photos you see on facebook etc. by anyone and everyone with a phone/ point and shoot/ any camera.  Have you ever wondered what they would look like as print larger than 4×6?   Yep, I am so old school.

basic_exposure_4732©_2015_Copyright_Linda_Enger_Photography
Basic exposure in horrible light situation

 

7_Falls__Deshake_filter_4732©_2015_Copyright_Linda_Enger_Photography
Processed in LR and PS with deshake filter to attempt to have image look how I saw it, without rocks moving . Note- deshake  was not shake and bake enough for me to call really usable.

 

 

 

7_Falls__Deshake_filter_ononeHDR_4732©_2015_Copyright_Linda_Enger_Photography

Photo with PS deshake filter then  HDR  filter … just wondering . There ended up being some very weird pixally jagged dewatanabees. (technical term for caca).