DragonflyPhoto: Blog https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog en-us (C) David Mair (DragonflyPhoto), All Rights Reserved (DragonflyPhoto) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:38:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:38:00 GMT Travel, travel, OMG, travel https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/9/travel-travel-omg-travel After my experience traveling to India for the first time in ten years I felt as though I was prepared for my next trip. That next trip was Beijing which was last week. I'd even booked a hotel room that was walking distance from Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City so that I could spend at least a couple of evenings wandering around and experimenting with doing photos with my mobile. I just didn't have room to pack the DSLR in my bags and I refused to check a bag on this trip. I even planned for the cab fare to come out of my own pocket since the hotel most of us book is within walking distance to our office. Unfortunately, old man Murphy had other plans in mind. By Monday night I was beyond fatigued (I arrived Sunday afternoon and had a really, really good night's sleep Sunday night) and was starting to feel the signs of something coming on. By Tuesday morning I knew I was coming down with something and by Tuesday night I was at a local pharmacy looking for anything to at least somewhat abate the misery. I'd managed to catch my first cold in over two years on my way over to Beijing. The cold, which has now turned into a sinus infection, took me out for the week. It was all I could do to make it into the office and I ended up taking a sick day anyway; wrapped in a t-shirt, shorts, robe and bundled under the covers on Thursday; I couldn't get warm to save my life Thursday afternoon. That is not something you can mitigate for unfortunately.

However, I can share some helpful tips if you plan to travel to China. Entering China with batteries won't be a problem but attempting to leave China (boarding your flight)  will be a problem. The security services at the Beijing airport will want to see proof of what capacity in watt hours of your batteries. I entered China with eight batteries for my vaporizer as well as charging banks. I left with one. I presume I was able to keep the one I did because they didn't catch that it was a charging bank because it certainly DID NOT have the capacity listed on it anywhere either. It has enough capacity to charge an iPhone X once, so not a huge amount. Of the six lithium ion batteries I had for my vaporizer, they all went in the trash. Along with a fairly expensive charging bank with two USB ports that plugs directly into a wall socket. All because I couldn't tell them how many watt hours these batteries contained. None of them exceeded the 160wH they enforce but because I couldn't prove that I had to give up in frustration and tell the services to throw them out. I couldn't figure out, on the spot, to explain that 3000 milliamps does not exceed 160wH. And, honestly, who the hell is going to know how many watt hours their battery holds? I would not be surprised, though, if my laptop's battery exceeded that 160wH cap but, of course, the laptop was fine. It ended up feeling like things were being confiscated, "just because".

So if you travel overseas, I'd recommend traveling with as few batteries as possible. Purchase batteries that clearly state the capacity. If you have an airline you use frequently, give them feedback about providing the ability to recharge devices. I fly with a particular airline pretty much exclusively and I have given feedback on the inability recharge on flights. They seem to have taken this seriously as this past year it's been more difficult to be on a flight that didn't have charging ports or outlets than it was to have them. That's important if there is going to be more scrutiny about batteries being brought on to flights. I'd rather be able to charge at the gate and on the plane than carry around extra weight and not be hassled in security as well.

Flying international through DTW (Detroit). On the outbound flight all was well. DTW is a fairly modern airport and terminal A (McNamara) is HUGE. I'm pretty sure it's the first airport I've been in that has an indoor tram. My experience on the outbound flight was good and I actually liked DTW as my connecting point on the way to Beijing even though I wasn't looking forward to the extended flight time (instead of Seattle). Coming in through DTW, however, was a different experience. Basically, it sucked. Having Global Entry was certainly an advantage but it only offered me the ability to get to the security checkpoint before the line became an hour long wait. There was no TSA precheck line to transfer to a domestic flight, for example. I also overheard TSA agents joking about how it was going to suck for everyone coming in on the Beijing flight to go through the one lane they had open... while they were just standing around apparently not doing anything (not kidding). There were three other lanes at the checkpoint that were closed. I'm not disparaging TSA here, because my experience going through security and speaking with TSA agents is overwhelmingly positive. If I had to go through a TSA checkpoint to get work here in Raleigh everyday it would be annoying but I'd have ZERO complaint about the agents in RDU. I definitely can't say that about the agents in DTW. It just confirmed I made the right choice moving away from the area, it was a reminder why I don't miss living there. I also found border protection agents less than friendly, comparatively speaking. I usually chat the agents up when I'm going through because I'm really happy to be home in the US. DTW was the only airport I've not been told "welcome home" by a border control agent. I actually look forward to hearing that because on some level it just feels really good; especially coming from a complete stranger. I have been told "welcome home" at every airport I've re-entered the US except DTW. Maybe they have stopped that practice? I hope not because after being overseas and on a long or really long flight that goes a long way to just make all the annoyances of traveling via air (which isn't that great) tolerable. Who wouldn't want to hear that?

From a business perspective, my trip to Beijing was very productive and useful. From a personal perspective my plant went to crap and it was a total bust and dealing with Chinese security put an exclamation point on that.

Take aways:

  • Minimize or eliminate rechargeable batteries
  • Purchase batteries that clearly state capacity
  • Avoid DTW on the return trip to the US
  • Paying for Global Entry if you travel overseas more than a couple times a year is worth the price
  • Stick with one airline for your travels. Don't go with just the most cut rate flight prices. The airline will make it worth your while for your loyalty and in the end you won't be saving that much money. The airlines are, usually, pretty competitive. I won't endorse any particular airline on this blog but I do have my preferred airline. They are competitive and they make it worth my while to be loyal.
  • Be prepared for unexpected hassles. It's just the nature of traveling. If you expect everything to go just swimmingly you will be disappointed. That applies whether it's domestic or overseas.
  • If you are flying with an unfamiliar airline (like in my case Air India), do some research on them. How often do they cancel flights? How often are they on time? What are flyers experiences with them? I'll never fly Air India again but if I'd done my homework up front I'd have never booked that ticket in the first place. The difference in ticket prices was less than $50 US. Definitely worth the avoided stress I experienced.

Planning on traveling overseas somewhere you've never been? I'd be happy to answer questions! While I haven't been to a ton of countries outside the US (15) I can probably answer your question(s) or help find the answer to your question.

'Til the next post. :-)

(DragonflyPhoto) planning travel https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/9/travel-travel-omg-travel Wed, 25 Sep 2019 01:27:20 GMT
Scars and Secrets https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/9/scars-and-secrets Bruarfoss, Iceland in early evening.


Bruarfoss, Iceland in early evening.


(DragonflyPhoto) falls iceland landscapes photography summer travel waterfalls https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/9/scars-and-secrets Thu, 12 Sep 2019 00:49:59 GMT
The Trek to Bruarfoss https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/9/the-trek-to-bruarfoss In one of my earlier posts about my trip to Iceland I think I mentioned I would post more about the hike out to Bruarfoss. This was the hike I came to love and left the biggest impression on me. It's also the hike I shared a photo of me sitting about 15 feet from the first falls of the hike.  HlauptungufossJust fifteen feet away... maybe. I really could have ended the hike here but not because I was tired. Because these falls which, I have learned since, are called Hlauptungufoss (I'm not even gonna try to pronounce that) were my favorite of the entire trip. I was just enamored by these falls. You could get so close to them and really feel the power. If that weren't enough the water was just a brilliant sapphire blue. The hike was to get to Bruarfoss though so we continued on from here but not before we took our time to enjoy these falls, photograph them thoroughly and take a slight rest. By the time we had arrived at these falls Steve and I had gone from cool, to comfortable, to hot and sweaty and we were only just over half of the way there (roughly).

According to the information available to us, the hike to Bruarfoss is 2.5 kilometers. HA! HA! I'm telling you,  right now, this is NOT a 2.5 kilometer hike. After we nearly finished the hike and finished chanting "beer" as our car came into sight, I mentioned to Steve that the hike felt more like 5 miles (8 kilometers). It turns out, I wasn't far off. The hike is actually just a hair over 4.5 miles (just shy of 8 kilometers) round trip which means Bruarfoss is about 4 kilometers from your starting point. Slightly off. This is partially due to a slightly meandering trail but also due to the fact that the 2.5 kilometers is just plain inaccurate, even as the crow flies (yes I measured point-to-point on Google Maps and it's not even 2.5 kilometers in a perfectly straight line).  It's not a difficult hike as there is virtually no elevation change, on average. There are some ups and downs but nothing serious. You'll encounter some suddenly very steep but short changes in elevation. And while the river doesn't follow a straight line you're dealing with switchbacks or anything. You're generally traveling in a straight line with, I'd say, a gradual elevation change overall. What you do have to watch out for is tree roots on the trail. I would not ever want to be hiking this trail at night; the tree roots will definitely try to grab your feet so you have to be vigilant at all times in terms of your steps. There will be portions of the trail, also, where there's nothing between you and the rushing river but 50-75 feet of cliff and your wits. I remember commenting to Steve that I didn't remember looking down this cliffside on the way in (as we were returning -- I'm scared to death of heights). If you are just hiking out to the falls to grab some photos with your phone or mirrorless camera this is a relatively easy hike and you get to see three falls along the way. If, like Steve and myself, you are carrying upwards of 35-40 pounds (18kg) of gear this hike will tax you unless you're in prime shape. Us 40-something ex-Army dudes with bum joints and post-surgery crap definitely felt it when we got back to the car. A couple of ibuprofens and a couple beers and we were right as rain and it was categorically worth it. Regardless, bring water and a light snack to keep your energy.. emphasis on the water.

So aside from Hlauptungufoss, you will then come upon Midfoss which is deceiving because it's not really the midway point. It's just the middle falls of the three. I'd say Midfoss is two-thirds of the way to Bruarfoss; just enough for you start wondering "are we there yet?" but just a couple hundred meters after you start wondering you can hear Bruarfoss ahead. I wasn't all that impressed with Midfoss, not after Hlauptungufoss, so I had started wondering if Bruarfoss was going to be worth it as we continued on. I have to admit that when we first arrived at Bruarfoss I was underwhelmed. Not because Bruarfoss is ugly or disappointing, it's because Hlauptungufoss just captured me in a way that I can't explain. As I've edited pictures, thought about that hike, and reflected on the whole trip I can unequivocally say that Bruarfoss was worth the hike. It's a majestic and unique falls with opportunities for different angles of it including getting pretty close, despite its enormous size. The skies were moody again but we had a slightly harsh mixture of Sun and clouds. I just wish on this occasion that clouds were positioned differently. Still, I think the photos turned out pretty good and you can really appreciate the majesty of these falls that a small percentage of the tourists that are now inundating Iceland (with their damn "selfie-sticks") bother to go see. I'm glad they don't as it is apparently too much effort for the vanity. Steve and I had the falls to ourselves for the better part of an hour at the least. When we arrived another photographer had arrived just before us (she passed us on the trail while we stopped at Midfoss) and left about 30 minutes after we arrived. It was nearly an hour later that a young couple arrived at the falls to enjoy them and Steve and I left them to enjoy the falls all to themselves.

The hike back seemed easier, probably because we didn't stop as much, and a lot faster. As I said though, by the time we got back to the car we were cooked. Hungry, thirsty, and beat. It was a great way to end the trip but upon thinking of this trip I wish we had the time to do more hikes to get to more remote features. We were on a tight schedule though and I don't think I would have obtained the number of photos I did if we had spent more time on hikes. It does make me want to go back again. I can only imagine what Milky Way and Northern Lights shots in the winter might be like. It's the shortest pleasure excursion I've taken but it was also the most fulfilling and enjoyable I've had in my life and I'm very grateful I had the opportunity to do it.

A little more about the hike out to Bruarfoss. Currently Bruarfoss is public land and there are trails to get out to it, unfortunately they end at private property. There doesn't appear to be a way to get to Bruarfoss without trespassing on someone's private property which is a real shame. Once you reach the end of the supported/condoned trails you will end up having to cross boggy, multi-stream areas and then encounter multiple paths. Just keep heading north along the river and you will eventually reach Midfoss which then puts you back on public land. From there to Bruarfoss you are no longer trespassing. There may be other ways to get to Bruarfoss without trespassing but at the time of our visit they weren't published anywhere we could find and the shame of that is that you would miss out on Hlauptungufoss unless the local municipality and the land owners can come to some kind of agreement. It did sort of feel like there was kind of a stand-off going on and anyone wanting to get to Bruarfoss could potentially get caught in the middle of legal trouble. I was actually a little dubious that we were really trespassing and the local land owners are tired of people hiking out to the falls due to irresponsible tourists. There is a small community right next to the river but it appears there is a green space buffer between the community and the river (which is what made me wonder if we were actually trespassing or just not being fooled by locals attempts to thwart throngs of people doing the hike). With that said, hike to Bruarfoss at your own risk unless you can confirm a way to hike there without trespassing.

So with this blog post I'm publishing the next Iceland photo and the following photos will focus on the hike and sights to Bruarfoss. I don't wish for it sound like any part of my trip to Iceland wasn't satisfactory because it was all far more than satisfactory. It's just that if I had to pick a favorite part of the trip, this would be it. Hands down. 


(DragonflyPhoto) Bruarfoss Hiking Hlauptungufoss Iceland Landscape Midfoss Photography Summer Travel Waterfalls https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/9/the-trek-to-bruarfoss Tue, 10 Sep 2019 23:03:17 GMT
Back From India https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/back-from-india I recently traveled to India (for the paying job) and I thought I'd share my experience(s) of getting to and from there. Obviously I'm flying out of Raleigh since that's where I'm located. Delta Airlines offers a flight from Raleigh to Paris which is nice; however, CDG (Charles De Gaulle Airport) is a maze of terminals and the signage for getting from one gate to another (especially if you have to change terminals) is confusing and sometimes just plain stops. My first time going through CDG I became completely lost and I crossed through EU passport control at least four times before I finally found my gate. I finally asked someone where E42 was and she pointed down a staircase which was not marked AT ALL.  I am certain I walked past it at least once before finding but not before I ended up going through passport control again.

If you can swing it, I highly recommend going through Amsterdam's Schiphol airport instead. The airport is far easier to navigate and negotiating security checkpoints is as seamless (but as thorough) as it is here in the US. That's likely going to mean flying through Atlanta if you fly with Delta but plenty of other airlines also fly through AMS. Of the major European airports I've been through now (Heathrow, Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, and Vienna), Amsterdam is, hands down, my favorite. The people working in the airport are friendly, clear, and helpful. Even the security folks are extremely helpful in setting expectations of what they need you to do and unless you do something stupid or have ill intentions you will not have problems getting through security. After coming through Delhi security the Dutch made me feel as though I was home already. They did their job but I didn't feel as though I was a potential criminal either.

Getting to India is just the start of your adventure. I do recommend flying into Delhi over Mumbai but that depends on where you are going in India as well. For your first destination in India you can't really do better than Delhi though. The airport is new, there are plenty of hotels very close to the airport; which is important if you are going to another destination in India as you will likely be landing late at night in Delhi -- or Mumbai for that matter -- without the ability to get a connecting flight until the next day. I highly recommend the JW Marriott by the Delhi airport. The rates are extremely reasonable for an extremely well appointed and (honestly) pampering hotel. After 12-16 hours of travel having the staff take care of you when you get there will be worth it. They will also contact you about flight details and arrange a personal pick up at the arrival hall (for a nominal -- and I mean nominal -- charge). The JW Marriott is less than ten minutes from your gate. You'll be waiting for baggage longer than it will take to get to the hotel.

Okay! So you've been immensely enjoying India! Now it's time to return home... or perhaps, Delhi isn't your final destination and you'll be going back through an airport for destinations further in India. Here is where things get really interesting. Negotiating security at the airport. You cannot enter the terminal of any airport (at least that I've been to) in India without either your boarding pass or itinerary (and of course, passport). Period. I'd strongly recommend checking in on-line and then printing your boarding passes. If your flights are to leave India then you may not be able to print boarding passes because you'll need to show your passport to get them. In that case, print your itinerary and have it on paper. Be prepared for the following:

  1. Long lines to enter the terminal
  2. Once you are in the terminal, you can't leave. (No, I'm not kidding)
  3. Long lines for checking bags, checking in, security, etc. Everything moves on India time at that point.
  4. LOTS of people. Lots. And lots of people working in the airport trying to make things orderly which is questionable they are.
  5. Showing your boarding pass and passport uncountable numbers of times. You will show your passport boarding pass/itinerary to enter the terminal. Then again for check in obviously. If you use a self-check in kiosk. You will need to show your passport and boarding passes to check your bags. You'll need to show your passport and boarding passes to enter the security checkpoint (sometimes but not always).
  6. Unlike almost anywhere else in the world, you will need to keep your boarding pass on your person as you go through security as they will want to see and stamp it.
  7. Passport control will want to see your passport and boarding pass(es).
  8. You may need to show your passport and boarding pass(es) to enter the gate area depending on the airport.
  9. You'll have to present your boarding pass (normal anywhere) to board the plane and your passport... again.
  10. On the jetway there will likely be someone checking boarding passes and passports.... again.
  11. As you enter the plane you'll be asked to present your boarding pass... again.

All told, you're going to end up showing your boarding pass and passport at minimum a half dozen times from the point you enter the terminal to the time you board the plane. It's definitely overkill and, by the time you are boarding the plane, downright annoying.

If the constant requests for boarding passes and passport isn't enough, going through security is a hassle. It would almost be more efficient for the security folks to ask you to empty the entire contents of your bag into a bin so they can scan the bin and your empty bag. If you're like me, and you travel with a lot of electronic gear, I strongly recommend getting an organizer to put in your carry on for all your power cables, bricks, batteries, and devices. Going through my first airport and then Delhi I was asked to take cables, power bricks, chargers, batteries, mobile, tablet, laptop, earbuds, ethernet cables, power adapter, etc. out of my pack and put into a bin. The only thing left in my pack was a clear bag with my vape liquid and toothpaste, car keys, a notebook, a cotton garment, breath mints, and a pack of coils for my vape device. Interestingly, they didn't give two shits about the "liquid" in my pack but they were very "concerned" about the small vape device I had which I had just purchased for traveling. It's about half the size of a playing card and about half as thick as a full deck of playing cards (they also didn't like that I had deck of playing cards in my pack and made me take those out and scan them also). They didn't like the small vape device so much that they actually made me use it right there in the security checkpoint. I'm assuming this was because they'd never seen one this small before but, honestly, it doesn't look all that much different than a power brick for charging a device. Moral of the story, they definitely don't like electronic devices in the security checkpoints and put extra scrutiny on them. If you can have them in an organizer that you can easily pull out and put into a bin it will save you time, especially when you are left putting a huge bundle of crap back into your pack and you have a crowd of people around you pushing past to get their own items (and when I say pushing, I mean that literally).

Now that I'm back, the first thing I did was order an organizer that will allow me to just pull out all that stuff together and put into a bin with little fuss and then I can just put it back into my pack with minimal fuss.

If you're traveling with photo gear, it's going to be more difficult as I witnessed another person getting even more scrutiny over his photo gear. The security services wanted all of his lenses out to scan individually even though he had taken his small pack of photo gear out of his main pack put it into a bin separately. That still wasn't good enough. I'm debating whether I ever bring any photo gear to India or not after witnessing that and they were not handling his gear gently either which was clearly causing this guy a lot of distress. I could completely empathize with him.

Uber is available in India but don't expect the same experience you get in Europe or North America. It's going to be basic transportation; however, it's dirt cheap. My ride from the original point to the airport (about 7 kilometers) was less than five dollars even though it took almost an hour (due to the organized chaos of Indian traffic) to get there. The cars are relatively clean and get you from point A to point B but don't expect conversation, AC, or a car made in the same decade you're traveling in. Traffic in India is INSANE. I seriously cannot stress that enough. There are no rules so it's better left to have a local drive you to wherever you need to go.

Splurge! India is a great opportunity to stay at nice hotels at ridiculously lower rates than what you would pay in many other countries around the world. My stay at the JW Marriott in Delhi was less that $150 USD (before taxes and the Pepsi I drank from the mini bar). A stay at the same hotel here in the states would easily be 5 times that much!

This most recent trip was only my second time in India. My first trip was 10 years ago this year and I noticed some changes. First, India is still a developing country and the chasm between the people that have money and those that don't is going to be right in your face. While the caste system is not the accepted (sic, official) way forward in India it's obvious that cultural heritage will take a couple or more generations to take hold. People will be living in slums like you haven't seen before (unless you've been to similar places). It's not unusual to see corrugated tin shacks cobbled together with a satellite dish on top. On the other hand, my experience ten years later made me notice that things have progressed. I was not greeted in the airport or outside the airport with a "what the !@$# is that smell?" reaction. I vividly remember that as soon as I entered the terminal in Mumbai in 2009. The other thing I noticed was that the rivers and streams weren't clogged with trash. In fact, I learned this trip that India has completely banned single-use plastic bags. That really impressed me and I think that decision has made a huge difference. India is a beautiful country with beautiful and interesting people. I was so happy to hear that steps are being taken to mind the environment there.

On food and avoiding getting sick. Yes it's true that if you don't live there it's a real possibility to get very sick since your gut is not used to what it's going to be exposed to. Avoid eating any sort of raw fruits and vegetables. Everything you eat should be cooked. Eat yogurt or curd as much as possible. Fortunately bottled water is not difficult to come by there at all. Use the bottled water to wet and rinse your toothbrush (and obviously rinse your mouth). Avoid getting water in your mouth while you shower and as a precaution bring mouthwash (like Listerine) to rinse your mouth out thoroughly after you shower. If you get ice in your drinks, ask if the ice is made from filtered water -- you're not being rude if you ask. If the ice is not made from filtered water then avoid ice in your beverages. Enjoy the food! If you are sensitive to spicy food then don't be afraid to ask for "less spicy" or no spice at all. Indians eat a lot of spicy food and it's much hotter than what we are accustomed to in the west. If your gut isn't used to this then all of the above won't matter. Your gut will retaliate for all heavy spices you're introducing to it. I would also recommend avoiding seafood even if it's cooked. Seafood is going to take in whatever pollutants are in the water and while India is taking steps to be a better custodian of its environment there is still a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately, there's no telling what you will ingest by consuming seafood no matter how much it is cooked. There is plenty of other food to try and enjoy though.

My last bit of advice is to avoid Air India at all costs! If Air India is even around a year from now it will be a small miracle. I cannot stress enough how much this airline SUCKS. For domestic travel I highly recommend Vistara or IndiGo. On this most recent trip I booked Air India from Delhi to my final destination and then back to Delhi. I was less than impressed with the flight from Delhi because everything screamed "bankruptcy" to me. It was less than a two hour flight from Delhi to my destination but they still served a full meal on the flight; it wasn't even a normal meal time. Yet the whole experience felt "cheapo air travel". Why serve a meal on a flight that short? I'd have been fine with just beverages and some peanuts. That was a red flag definitely. For my return trip to Delhi I received a sketchy email saying that my flight had been cancelled about 19 hours before I was due to take off. This is where it gets interesting. I checked the Air India site, we called the airline, we had our corporate travel agency call the airline, heck even the departure boards at the airport all indicated that my flight to Delhi was still scheduled. It wasn't until I went to check my bag that I was told the flight was, indeed, cancelled. Apparently she and the crew were the only people in all of Air India that knew the flight was actually cancelled. So the email was legit but the number I was supposed to call resulted in a "this number is no longer in service" answer. No explanation offered, by the way, and because it was a full flight of over 220 people every other flight to Delhi was sold out. I was lucky to grab the last seat on a Vistara flight that was one of the last flights out. I narrowly avoided being stuck and having to purchase all new tickets to get home. This was also when I discovered that once you're in the terminal, you're not getting out of the terminal. I had a terrible signal in the airport and there was no WiFi to connect to and I was stressing at this point thinking about how much this was going to cost my employer if I couldn't get to Delhi to make my connecting flight. I wanted to get outside to get a better signal and vape like a mad man while I sorted all this out. Access denied.

In the end it all worked out; but I cannot stress enough about avoiding Air India. You will definitely run the risk of getting stranded because they apparently cancel flights without notice and do next to nothing to make sure you have a path forward. In other words, if they cancel a flight you are on, your own but they will offer to refund you for the flight. That's a big fat consolation when looking at being stuck at an airport and having to completely rearrange your entire travel at a significant cost to you or your employer. I am, by the way, not basing this solely on my single experience. I'm also basing this on the what the locals and my co-workers told me. My co-workers even told me that I should have asked them which airline to use when flying from Delhi to my final destination and they would have told me to avoid Air India. Many of them thought that Air India would likely be bankrupt and gone by the time I return next year. I hate that for an airline but given my one experience I can see why they think that. The only other airline that I have experienced something similar was US Air many years ago and we all know what happened to that airline. If American hadn't bought them, they would have ended up folding.

As a result of this trip I also purchased an electronic organizer through Amazon for a bargain price of $20. Electronic Organizer It's well constructed and, with the exception of my power adapter and travel extension cord, fits all my gear including my 12.9" iPad Pro (in it's keyboard case). I'm totally fine with it not being able to accommodate either of those things as I won't need the power adapter on a plane and I can easily put the travel extension cord in my pack. I also purchased the Nomatic messenger bag which I cannot recommend enough. I ended up getting their previous model messenger bag on clearance which still isn't cheap.  Nomatic's bags are thoughtfully (and cleverly) designed, and extremely well made. For example, the shoulder strap for the messenger bag is removable and held in place with rare earth magnets and a gravity locking mechanism. This means that when the padding on the shoulder strap wears out (which it eventually will) I can order a new strap. Messenger Bag The bag will probably last me a lifetime judging by the craftsmanship and materials. I will also be purchasing their 40 liter travel backpack which for most of my travels will hold all of my clothes, including an extra pair of shoes meaning I can avoid checking baggage completely. While I'm not on the road every other week I do travel frequently and there is nothing like the feeling of being able to walk straight on and off the plane avoiding waiting for baggage and not worrying about it being lost or items stolen. For times when I'm traveling with lots of photo gear I have purchased another backpack that holds nearly all of my photo gear which is the Lowepro ProRunner BP 450. This bag is a beast but it's really well designed and does a magnificent job of distributing the weight of my gear (including tripod) evenly which is important because this bag weighs about 40lbs (18kg) when I have it fully loaded. If I wanted to I could even get my enormous 120-300mm telephoto in this bag but it would be at the sacrifice of other gear. Camera Pack For trips where I'm traveling on business but plan to take my camera the Nomatic 40L bag will allow me room for a camera body and a couple of lenses; especially since I'll be carrying my messenger bag for my work gear. The whole point of this is that if you are or plan to start traveling more for business, photography, or just fun, it's worthwhile investing in the right gear to make luggage, check-in, security, etc. as simple as possible.

(DragonflyPhoto) Airports Backpacks Bags Gear India Organizers Packs Photography Security Travel https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/back-from-india Fri, 30 Aug 2019 21:28:06 GMT
Where Are You Going? https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/where-are-you-going Where Are You Going?Where Are You Going?Seljalandsfoss during the golden hour which concluded my first day in Iceland. The colors were just incredible!


Seljalandsfoss during the golden hour which concluded my first day in Iceland. The colors were just incredible!


(DragonflyPhoto) golden hour iceland landscape photography summer sunset travel waterfalls https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/where-are-you-going Mon, 26 Aug 2019 22:22:07 GMT
All I Want (BW) https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/all-i-want-bw-1 All I Want (BW)All I Want (BW)Icelandic horses graze in a meadow with the enormous Prestahnúkur volano and glacier looming in the background.


Icelandic horses graze in a meadow with the enormous Prestahnúkur volano and glacier looming in the background.


(DragonflyPhoto) animal clouds color domestic glacier horses iceland landscape meadow moody mountains summer volcano https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/all-i-want-bw-1 Thu, 15 Aug 2019 01:19:01 GMT
All I Want https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/all-i-want All I WantAll I WantIcelandic horses graze in a meadow with the enormous Prestahnúkur volano and glacier looming in the background.


Icelandic horses graze in a meadow with the enormous Prestahnúkur volcano and glacier looming in the background.


This is the color version and there will be a black and white version posted in the next couple of days.


(DragonflyPhoto) animal clouds color domestic glacier horses iceland landscape meadow moody mountains summer volcano https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/all-i-want Tue, 13 Aug 2019 00:51:48 GMT
Hauntingly Familiar (Color) https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/hauntingly-familiar-color Hauntingly Familiar (Color)Hauntingly Familiar (Color)A color version of Hauntingly Familiar.


A color version of Hauntingly Familiar.


(DragonflyPhoto) https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/8/hauntingly-familiar-color Sun, 04 Aug 2019 21:41:59 GMT
What's With All the Horses? (Photo Previews Too!) https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/whats-with-all-the-horses That's what Steve and I kept asking ourselves as we spent hours driving through the countryside of Iceland. We also pondered where they got all the rocks too...

Anywho... we were genuinely curious about why Iceland has so many horses. It turns out that horses are culturally significant in Iceland and nearly every single farm in Iceland has at least a few horses. Riding and caring for horses is a part of Iceland life. They are, of course, part of the tourism trade with many farms offering countryside tours by horseback. I think that would be a fantastic way to enjoy the views away from roads and street noise. Icelandic horses are also an export which are sought around the world because they are distinctive breed. I have to agree, these horses really are just gorgeous. Icelandic MeadowIcelandic horses in a meadow with the Prestahnúkur volcano glaciated and looming in the background (color version). Not the absolutely IMMENSE cinder cone in front of the volcano. They don't look like the thoroughbreds you may be used to seeing in horse racing. Icelandic horses are their long-haired mountain man cousins with their shaggy coats. But their long, flowing manes dance in the Icelandic winds and are often contrasting to their coats. They are just as curious as any horse but they are also just as stand-offish as the wild ponies of the Outerbanks here in North Carolina. If they don't know you, you can only get so close before you are rebuffed. If you read on Wikipedia bout the breed you'll understand that they are, sometimes, a smaller breed of horse "almost pony sized"; which explains why I saw so many stickers, magnets, and other souvenirs that had an Icelandic horse with a quote saying, "I'm not a pony!". It makes my chuckle in hindsight.

Icelandic horses in a meadow with the Prestahnúkur volcano glaciated and looming in the background. Note the IMMENSE cinder cone in front of the volcano.
We spent some time photographing the horses when the opportunity arose but I really wish that had more time with those horses to the point that they trusted me enough to get closer and then really capture their beauty up close. With incredible backgrounds to shoot with, they have potential for some amazing shots. Natural beauty with natural awe in the background. Doesn't get much better than that. :-) So I'll post my first shot (of four) that I captured of the horses in Iceland in a couple days from today; for now these are just previews. Unfortunately, these are only two original shots but I've done them in both color and B&W. I'd love to hear people's opinions about which are better and, if you're so inclined, why as I post these next four images. Many of the other shots I have the horses are just too far away or too similar to these two images or I'd post more. Horse FarmThe horses were curious about us so long as we stayed a few meters from the fence line. Note the waterfall in the distance too.

Yes, the next four images will all be horses as the main subject. In this blog post I have the first two (in thumbnail) as well as the full resolution image of the first posted to the gallery. I'm still working on final touches of the second scene and should have that done in the next coupe of days. I'll post the other scene and then alternate the color and B&W posts.

Please let me know what you think! Personally, I'm kind of partial to the black and white versions of both shots but the color versions have their merits as well.

Horse FarmThe horses were curious about us so long as we stayed a few meters from the fence line. Note the waterfall in the distance too.

(DragonflyPhoto) Black and White Horses Iceland Landscape Photography Travel https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/whats-with-all-the-horses Mon, 29 Jul 2019 23:35:00 GMT
What's Going on at the Volcano? https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/whats-going-on-at-the-volcano As you may have read in one of my other posts I was just in Hawaii for a couple of weeks. I thought doing a post on the volcanoes after returning might be timely.  You may be surprised to learn, though, that I did not visit the volcanoes this trip. Not to sound pessimistic but there just wasn't any point since there aren't any active lava flows and who wants to look at pictures of, well, lots of rock? Believe me, I'd rather there had been active lava flows as I definitely would have spent my entire vacation photographing lava.

At any rate, even while I was there I did my daily check on my volcano through the HVO site and I'll admit I was hoping something was going to happen. Foolishly, I admit.

Speaking of my daily check and the HVO site I was doing my daily check on the 23rd and saw something I haven't seen in the almost four years of religiously checking in. Steam at the summit of Mauna Loa, a lot of steam. Now, it isn't unusual to see some steam rising from the caldera floor but it's usually faint wisps that vanish readily once the sun comes up and warms the air. USGS just recently changed the status of the volcano from "normal" to "advisory". Image Credit: USGS/HVOSteam on Mauna LoaQuite a bit of steam in the Mauna Loa caldera on the morning of 23 July 2019. Image Credit: USGS/HVO

This is due to an increase in activity at the summit and along upper southwest rift
zone. The increase in activity has been the frequency in earthquakes rising above what is considered to be "normal background" levels. It certainly does not mean Mauna Loa is going to erupt any day. These two things did make me wonder if the theory of eruptions alternating between Mauna Loa and Kilauea is more than just a theory. Since the 23rd I have, of course, kept up my daily checks on the HVO site and I haven't seen the same amount steam so who knows. Perhaps it was just an exceptionally cold morning and the weather was conducive to lots of steam collecting within the caldera instead of being blown off... or maybe this was a many fog bank inside the caldera too.  I do wish the HVO would include the current temp and humidity at each camera location as the weather conditions can certainly influence things. I've included a data shot of the increase in seismic activity on Mauna Loa over the past month at the bottom too.

In the meantime, even though Kilauea isn't actively erupting there's clearly still fallout occurring from the eruption. While the main caldera seems to have stabilized and is content to have steam and sulfur lazily drift from fumaroles, Pu'u O'o continues it's collapse. Back in April USGS lost one of it's GPS units as the edge of the crater slowly slid and finally collapsed into the pit. Over 24 hours between 22 and 23 July another small collapse occurred as can be seen in this time-lapse GIF. It doesn't look like we actually catch the collapse happening itself but you can see the dust on the camera lens after it happened. So either this was another minor collapse at the cone or possibly a steam explosion throwing up debris. It's hard to say since the time-lapse doesn't appear  to capture the event itself. This is a time-lapse once per hour over 24 hours and there is a spot where it looks like we see the "explosion" but I believe that's just a change in the weather conditions at the cone. A steam explosion is certainly possible given that it appears a lot of rainwater may have entered the cone/pit which is still quite hot from the magmatic activity.

Pu'u O'o Timelapse24 hour timelapse (once per hour) at the Pu'u O'o cone. We can see evidenice of a collapse or perhaps a steam explosion. Image Credit: USGS/HVO


The infograph below shows the distribution of earthquakes at the Mauna Loa summit over the past 30 days. According to USGS there's been a steady uptick in seismic activity on the volcano over the past 30-60 days which can also be seen in the second infograph underneath. 


This infograph shows the number of earthquakes per day (blue bars) and the cumulative amount of energy associated (red line). The red line helps to show that seismic activity is increasing. The sudden uptick around 24 July is an indicator in at least one larger earthquake. It's like due to the the mini-swarm of in the center-right of the caldera. These are all indicators of magma on the move but not necessarily an eruption will occur.


(DragonflyPhoto) Hawaii Kilauea Mauna Loa USGS Volcano https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/whats-going-on-at-the-volcano Sat, 27 Jul 2019 17:15:00 GMT
NASA Mars InSight Mission Update https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/nasa-mars-insight-mission-update If you have been forgetting to keep up with what's going on with the Mars InSight mission I have you covered! Back in early April, I posted about the Mars mission and even shared NASA's weather forecast. I still can't help but get nerded out by the weather updates. I know weather may seem a bit banal but did you ever imagine we would have something as pedestrian as weather forecasts and current conditions from another planet? Think about that. Why didn't NASA do weather for the Moon? Well, weather requires atmosphere and the Moon, well, it's a little deficient there. So there are no variations on the Moon like we have on Earth... or Mars. Okay, there are variations but it's all very black and white on the Moon (almost literally). When the Moon's surface is facing the Sun it's hot. Damn hot. Like 260ºF hot. And when the Moon's surface isn't facing the sun it's cold. Damn cold. Like -280ºF cold. Those are just changes in temperature which is not the same thing as weather. Heating a pot of cold water to boiling isn't weather if you want to think of it that way.

I digress though. Since my last post on this topic, NASA have been working through the issue of getting the MOLE (the instrument designed to dig 5 meters down into the Martian soil) "unstuck". The original working theory was that MOLE hit a large rock, which is still possible, but through their testing a more plausible theory is that the soil is just too soft. MOLE is basically a hammer drill. The design of such an instrument banks on whatever material you are digging into is going to provide resistance which may seem counterintuitive. Obviously solid resistance at the surface would be problematic but for a hammer drill to work it needs friction which it uses against what ever material it's drilling into to drill further down. Now imagine trying to use a jackhammer in dry fluffy sand to drill a hole... sure the jackhammer will make an indentation but just as fast as it makes a hole it will just fill back in with sand, never really making a hole. In this case, though, it sounds like the type of soil NASA are trying to drill into is more like a silt which is compacting and providing no resistance around the drill at all.  Instead of a hammer drill, they have a jackhammer. Just bouncing up and down. The team are still working the problem and hopefully they can find a solution. Sadly, the lander does not have the ability to change MOLE's location unless the engineers can come up with something clever to move it (that's assuming that moving the MOLE a meter or two will change the outcome).

But the news isn't all bad. Remember, part of the mission was to place a seismometer on Mars too. Through data they have collected, they have been able to map what a marsquake looks like (yes! they've measured marsquakes!) and it's starting to reveal what the structure of Mars looks like. Lots of work to do still but the team have already been able to simulate what quakes feel like between Earth, the Moon, and Mars in a really interesting (and slightly comical) video they posted on 22 July.

I continue to stay fascinated by this mission and I'm eagerly awaiting the Mars 2020 mission but I'll need to be patient. We are still a year away from launch and then several months after that before Mars 2020 lands on the surface (expected February 2021). It gets easy to get caught up in books, TV shows, and movies about humans in space and then become impatient at how long these things take but I have to remind myself that in my lifetime we put rovers, and more rovers, and will put even more rovers on Mars. We visited another planet's moon and we have not one but two probes outside of our solar system. During the week that we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon it's easy to forget everything we have accomplished so far (as a species) in space exploration and we're still working with stone tools. Rovers aren't as "sexy" as people on the surface but they are still huge accomplishments. If you want to see the entirety of space missions unmanned and manned the Planetary Society has a pretty cool infograph of this. If you're a fan of Carl Sagan or Bill Nye then you might even want to consider donating to them (I have). It's a pretty cool organization and, if I'm being honest, wish I had half the smarts to be a part of. :-)

Speaking of Mars 2020, did you know you can send your name to Mars? Check it out! I signed up even though it's a little silly but I was surprised that already nearly 8 million people had already signed up too. Wow!

(DragonflyPhoto) Exploration Mars Mars 2020 Mars InSight NASA Solar System Space https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/nasa-mars-insight-mission-update Thu, 25 Jul 2019 22:27:50 GMT
Thank you! https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/thank-you At the beginning of the year I set myself a goal to sell one photo in 2019. Well, we're over halfway through the year and I haven't even had a nibble so earlier this week it was time to take the gloves off, so to speak. If you're reading this then you likely received an invite from me to like my FB page. As I said in my message, I apologize for sending the FB spam but I needed to start getting more aggressive if I'm going to make my goal.

For those of you that liked and/or followed page. Thank you! I know you didn't have to do that but I really appreciate it very much. Anything I can do to broaden my reach, even a little, helps with achieving my goal. In a post back in February I laid out my goal for the year.  I launched a new logo and also set my goal to sell that one photo this year. Any help to broaden my reach would really be appreciated because you never know. I also have to be realistic in that people just don't buy photos as much as they used to so it just may not happen. I'm staying positive about it though!

As a reminder, if you refer someone that ends up buying a photo there's something in it for you too! In fact, if anyone helps me sell a photo through a referral I'm willing to give away a print, of your choice, up to a 24"x36" version. While I would like for it to be something "fancy", it would be a print only, I'm afraid. I don't have the funds to have it mounted/framed but we could perhaps arrange for the photo to be printed on metal or glass.

Lastly, if you have experience with marketing and/or social media I'd be all ears. I still haven't achieved my aim to work with local shops/stores as funding to do that has been limited and I've been super busy with work and travel since March. I still intend to do it as it may lead to a sale even if it ends up not being in 2019.

Cheers and thanks for being awesome in trying to help!




(DragonflyPhoto) campaign Goals photography sales social media thank you thanks https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/thank-you Tue, 23 Jul 2019 23:37:00 GMT
Big Island Trip https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/big-island-trip SeljalandsfossA gorgeous waterfall no matter the time of year. Back again with another post! I've posted the first photo from Iceland and I'm also doing a post on the Hawaii trip in this installment.

The first photo post from Iceland is of Seljalandsfoss (pronounced "sellyalandsfoss") which was the first waterfall we visited on day one and we returned later that evening to shoot again at sunset. The light is kind of harsh for landscape but I thought the wildflowers and illuminated mist from the falls really made this a nice shot.

As mentioned in the previous post, I spent four days in Iceland and then returned home for 48 hours before heading to the island of Hawaii (big island) for a two week vacation. I actually did not take many photos in Hawaii this time around as the trip was really meant to just decompress. Besides, the volcanoes are all taking a nap. ;-) I spent quite a bit of time editing photos from Iceland, read eight books, and lounged by the pool. There were also some adventures along the way too. On the third or fourth day there we did an entire loop around the island from Waikaloa and proceeding clockwise. First stop was Laupahoehoe Point to take in the views at one of the few spots on the north side of the island where you can get down to the water (most of the north side of the island is sheer cliffs). From there, we headed to Akaka Falls which is a must see. On our visit this Akaka FallsAkaka Falls with all its huge 442 foot drop and emerald green surroundings. time it became apparent that tourism on the big island is picking up as the small state park for the falls was jammed with people. It was my third visit there and was definitely the most crowded I've ever seen it. Unfortunately, there's only one vantage point to get a photograph of the falls which is the exact same photo everyone else has. I did some research on whether it's possible to walk up river from the main highway to get to the bottom of the falls. I have no idea if it's possible but it looks like it would be extremely difficult to do. Perhaps an adventure for a future visit. It does look like there are other falls down river along the canyon walls and perhaps one small falls on the main river.

From there we headed into Hilo for lunch and a little wandering around the local shops where I picked up a hat that I have to admit is probably my favorite now.  It's super comfortable and keeps my head cooler than the others I have. After a really good lunch at Cronies Bar and Grill (I HIGHLY recommend their ribs!) we headed out to loop around the south side of the island. Our next destination was South Point and Papakōlea Beach (green sands). This beach is not easy to get to and quite honestly, it can be a dangerous beach at high tide as the cove is narrow and the surf gets quite rough. Once the tide is fully in there's not really any beach left to stand on either. You can read more about the beach here and here. If you plan to hike out to the beach you're looking at a 5-6 mile out and back hike. At the trailhead you will also find many locals selling rides out to the beach; however, it is illegal for them to do this. Pay at your own risk. We had a borrowed 4WD from a friend and did the drive, though while not illegal, it is frowned upon.
Even if you rent a 4WD the rental car companies expressly forbid you from taking them off road. I would also strongly recommend against doing this drive unless you are an experienced off-roader. There are many tracks leading out to the beach and this is due to erosion. If you are inexperienced doing this type of driving it would be all too easy to get yourself stuck or, worse, seriously damaging the vehicle to the point of making it inoperable (broken axle, broken oil pan, high centering the vehicle, etc.). We arrived shortly before sunset (also NOT recommended unless you have A LOT of off road experience -- driving off road in the dark is 10 times more difficult!) which afforded us having the beach entirely to ourselves and allowed me to get a shot with sunset skies and cooled shadows. The drive back in the dark took almost twice as long as I often had to stop, get out of the vehicle, and scout ahead with a flashlight. Headlights create weird shadows making it hard to judge how steep a ledge, rut, or other obstacle is and whether it's passable. I'm certain we did not take the exact same path out as we did in and this was due to the weird shadows forcing me to make decisions about what looked like the path of least resistance. Once we made it back to the trailhead it was smooth sailing and we completed our loop back to Waikaloa.

Papakolea BeachThis beach is absolutely gorgeous but try to plan your trip when the people are less likely to be there.

A couple of days later we went to a local farmer's market just outside the Waipi'o Valley area where we purchased locally produced honey and jams and also bought a fresh coconut that we drank the coconut water straight out of. It was quite refreshing even though it wasn't cold! From there we headed to the Waipi'o Valley overlook. The Waipi'o Valley is a culturally significant place to native Hawaiians and stays relatively segregated from the rest of the island (read more about why it's significant here). You can descend down into the valley however you must be driving a 4WD vehicle even though it's a paved road. The descent is incredibly steep and narrow and requires a vehicle capable of a very low gear. Once at the bottom you can follow the "road" out to the black sand beach but just be aware that the "road" is unpaved, considered off-road and is quite rough (not as bad as driving to Papakōlea beach though). Waipi'o Valley is beautiful to view from both above and below but to be honest it's not very photogenic. It's just difficult to get a photo to do justice to the valley. Perhaps during a brilliant sunset (the overlook looks west into the valley) or during some type of moody weather it would photograph better. I've photographed the valley on three different occasions now (at different times of day and under different weather circumstances) and they all turned out in such a way that I would not want my name attached to them. If you are renting a 4WD vehicle you may want to ask about whether you can descend into the valley or not. I'm assuming you can because you're technically not going off road but I'm not sure. We saw lots of people doing the hike down and up and I'm going to be honest. It's not worth the walk. If you want to visit another black sand beach that's going to require a hike I'd recommend Pololu Valley instead. The hike is not any more difficult coming out than Waipi'o but it's shorter and the beach offers better views; and if you're so inclined to, you can hike up to the top of the ridge on the opposite side of the valley.

My last adventure of the trip was to go up to the summit of Mauna Kea which I've been wanting to do every time I've been to the big island. This time around, I had a window where the weather was good and had plenty of time to do the trip. From Waikaloa it takes about 90 minutes to reach the summit. This is where things get interesting because Mauna Kea is the highest peak in the Hawaiian Islands at just over 13,800 feet. Due to this elevation and how the winds blow it creates different climate zones on the big island. In fact, the big island boasts 11 of the 13 climate zones on Earth. The big island is also the only place on Earth you can drive from sea level to over 13,000 feet in less than 2 hours. One other interesting fact is that it's not uncommon to see snow at the top of Mauna Kea and it was covered by a massive glacier during the last ice age too! My objective was to get Milky Way photos from the summit. I really lucked out as the skies above Mauna Kea were incredibly clear and I don't mean just cloudless. The humidity was quite low and sight was very crisp. After letting my eyes adjust to the dark I could begin to see the light from the Milky Way reflecting off the hood of the vehicle and even though it was a completely moonless night I could see quite easily even without any light sources around other than the night sky. Admittedly, I probably could have chosen something with better foreground for the shot but I was still amazed at how my shot turned out. It looks as though the Milky Way is a brilliant cloud of dust erupting from the summit of Mauna Loa! 

If you're not familiar with what you're looking at, I've annotated this photo. Starting at the top left, is Saturn right near the top edge of the frame. Going down toward the center of the frame is the galactic core which is actually dark due to all the gas and dust that is blocking all the light from the core. To the right, the super bright "star" is actually Jupiter. It was easily the brightest object in the sky even without this long exposure. Just below Jupiter is what I originally thought to be Saturn. That yellow star is actually Antares which is just over 600 light years away from us. Out of curiosity I did some searching and found that Antares doesn't even rank in the top 100 stars closest to our own Sun. This really kind of blows my mind for a few reasons. A) Look at how bright that thing is! Antares is a red supergiant star and is considered to be around the 15th brightest object in the night sky. B) I'm looking at light from a star that is 600 years old. For all we know Antares is not there anymore (probably unlikely though) C) The fact that at Antares doesn't even make the top 100 closest stars even though it's a mere 600 light years away (that's nothing given the size of the galaxy, never mind the universe) makes you appreciate just how many flippin' stars there are just in our Milky Way. D) Red supergiants aren't exactly the brightest stars, in fact they are the faintest stars which gives me appreciation for just how massive this star is. I read somewhere that if you were to drop Antares into our solar system where the Sun is, it's outer layer would reach somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. That's enormous!

One other thing to mention about that photo. While it may look like we are looking "down" to Mauna Loa in the photo (which we are) it's a little deceiving. Since I'm not at the summit proper of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa is only about 130 feet shorter than Mauna Kea; at this distance we are essentially eye level with the Mauna Loa summit (I'm roughly 90 or 95 feet higher than its peak). if you do plan to go to Mauna Loa altitude sickness is a real thing. People under 16 are strongly discouraged from going to the summit because their lungs are still not fully developed. I had a hell of a headache by the time I left the peak but that was my only side effect. Some people can be more adversely affected. Be extremely vigilant of your actions, move slowly and take slow deep breaths. You are getting somewhere between 35-40% less oxygen at this altitude.

I'll be posting some additional (and shorter) posts from the Iceland trip and in the meantime it's on to getting new photos and adventures! Keep an eye on my social media sites for updates on when new photos post.

Milky Way Over Mauna LoaAn annotated version of the Milky Way over Mauna Loa shot.



(DragonflyPhoto) Akaka Falls Big Island Hawaii Hilo Laupahoehoe Long Exposure Mauna Kea Milky Way Papakolea Photography South Point Travel Waikaloa Waipi'o https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/big-island-trip Sun, 21 Jul 2019 21:22:48 GMT
Moody Skies and Flies https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/moody-skies-and-flies Well I'm back after a bit of a hiatus! I've been traveling quite a bit over these couple of months and also really busy with the paying job. I was nearly out of photos to edit and post so the good news is that I have lots of new photos and some more blog material as well. I was in the Czech Republic on business as well as the Boston area and then I took a whirlwind tour of Iceland. Wow! What an incredible country. If you're into food and "culture" prepare to be disappointed but if you're into the outdoors and photography prepare to be amazed. Iceland is a landscape photographer's dream come true! I'm not saying you can't find good food or culture in Iceland but these would not be reasons for traveling to Iceland alone. As it is, I did have some very good meals and very much enjoyed the people I met but it seemed that everyone I met was from somewhere other than Iceland. Iceland's  actual population is quite small and it seemed that a lot of student age folks traveled for work at the height of tourist season.

Unfortunately, a day was lost on the trip due to severe storm activity in the NYC area which seriously delayed my flight; such that I missed my Reykjavik connection. I was SO upset and worried that I'd miss out on the whole trip since its entirety was to be four full days. Thankfully Delta took care of me and had me on a flight through Minneapolis the next night. Amazingly, even though my bags went on to NYC without me (didn't want to be stuck in NYC overnight), Delta made sure that my bags arrived in Reykjavik with me. Obviously, Delta couldn't help the weather in NYC but they certainly helped ensure that the rest of my trip did not worsen. It would have really sucked to finally arrived in Iceland only for my bag ending up lost in transit somewhere.


Skogafoss ("foss" means "falls" in Icelandic)Quick mobile phone shot of Skogafoss
On to the adventure! I achieved a decent amount of sleep on the flight from MSP to KEF (Reykjavik) enabling me to hit
the ground running once I landed. My buddy, Steve, who was meeting me there was able to pick me up at the airport and we started our adventures immediately. We caught a couple of sites in the Reykjavik area before heading into the southwestern portion of the island. One of our first stops outside of Reykjavik was Seljalandsfoss (which we would come back to later that evening). Man. We can't see shit!Our view driving into the sun with a bajillion dead bugs on the windshield. It was nearly impossible to see.

We went to Skogafoss and then continued east through the town of Vik before reaching the moss covered Eldraun lava field. From here we did a u-turn and headed back to Vik for a pint and some tasty food at a local pub. We hit Seljalandsfoss again just about the golden hour (23:30 local time) before we finally called it a "night". Despite only having two  full days left we covered quite a bit of ground; exploring Snæfelljökull peninsula where, among other things, we had a chance to see Iceland's iconic orange lighthouse that sits high atop inky black basalt sea cliffs.   Svörtuloft LighthouseIceland's iconic orange lighthouse. Along the way we stopped at another iconic waterfall and even discovered a waterfall not marked on any map and a beautiful river delta punctuated with old cinder cones. Sheep's WaterfallThis waterfall (according to Google Maps) has a surprising easy name to pronounce!








Our last full day in Iceland was the most physically demanding, particularly after getting back to our cabin at 3AM the "night" before. The reason I quote "night" is because it never became dark the entire time we were there which was something I'd never experienced before. I mean, I knew this going in but knowing it and actually experiencing it are two different things.

It's after 1AMSomething's wrong with this picture.



At any rate, we did a short hike to a really interesting waterfall that was actually a grouping of falls in a small canyon. A river is coming through a narrow gorge which offered spectacular views of white water rapids and steep cliffs after cascading over two falls. Downriver the current widens a bit but water is cascading from underground aquifers down the cliffs adding a long stretch of side falls into the river. It was amazing to me that virtually every river was some variation of aquamarine. From there we hit another amazing waterfall that we could see from a high cliff of a river double plunging into a
deep canyon and disappearing into a gorge somewhere below.


GullfossThe double plunge waterfall

While these were spectacular we hadn't even hit the highlight of the day, and for me, the highlight of the trip. After grabbing some lunch we set out for a roughly four mile (out-and-back) hike to see Bruarfoss. This hike isn't easy, especially if you're carrying camera gear, and the locals have made getting to the falls difficult. For reasons we didn't understand the "official" parking to get to the falls were public property but in order to get to the falls you have to cross private property which is clearly marked and fenced off. The trail goes from maintained to scattered and treacherous in places and at one point we were walking along the edge of the gorge with nothing but our wits separating us from a serious fall into rapids a good 50-75 feet below. If that wasn't enough the trail is a bushwhacking trail with plenty tree roots just waiting to reach out and trip you up. It makes for a bit of white-knuckle trekking in places. The hike was worth it just for the first falls we arrived at. I could have turned back there (I'm glad we didn't) but the first falls we came upon was just absolutely amazing. No name!We could not find a name for this falls on our way to Bruarfoss so we just named it StavidLowerFoss.
Huge chunks of the cliff had collapsed over time affording the opportunity climb out and get within feet of this falls to the point that you could feel the vibration of the massive amounts of water plunging over. If that wasn't enough the water was such a deep blue it was just mesmerizing and a joy to photograph. From there we continued on to Midfoss and finally Bruarfoss. The hike was absolutely worth it and it was definitely the highlight of the entire trip for me. In hindsight I wish we had done more hikes like that _but_ it wouldn't have allowed us time to take in so many other things given our short time there and I'm not sure what I would want to have sacrificed doing in order to do longer hikes with exception of having more time there. BruarfossThe fruits of our four mile hike

After our hike my buddy and I were thirsty, tired and starving. At one point Steve began chanting "beer" as we headed back to where our car was parked. We were both ready to call it a day after the hike and some hot food and a cold beverage was just about all we could think about. I'm sharing this part because the "worst" meal I had was also the most memorable. We found ourselves at a campsite that had a restaurant, bar, showers, etc. While we were trying to decide what to order for dinner and we enjoyed our first beer I spotted their nachos being delivered to a table nearby. They looked amazing. The nachos came in a roughly 9"x5" casserole dish and were buried in all sorts of goodness. Steve and I both ordered the nachos and we weren't disappointed but it turns out that the nachos were actually Dorito's covered with minced meat, two cheeses, pickled jalapeños, sour cream and jarred salsa. I couldn't help but think that this concoction was the result of a couple of stoned college students trying to figure out how to make nachos with whatever they could find at the local convenience store. That said, it was tasty as hell and we both found ourselves unable to stop eating it even though we were stuffed.

This post is really just a summary of the entire trip. There will be plenty of pictures to follow and probably another blog post about the trip as well to talk in more detail about a couple of the photos (probably short posts though).



If you plan to travel to Iceland a few tips:

  1. If you're going in June or around that timeframe bring insect repellent with you. Apparently insect repellent is not a thing in Iceland (we couldn't find any every time we tried) and the flies (small flies or gigantic gnats) are enough to make you crazy. They will get in your ears, your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  2. If you are renting a car, be prepared to spend an enormous amount of money on fuel. Our typical amount to fill the tank ran around $150 for a Mazda CX-5 (compact SUV).
  3. Everything, and I mean everything, is closed at or before 10PM with the exception of bars which close at 11PM. This may not be true in Reykjavik but if you're venturing outside the city plan ahead. 
  4. Euros are accepted in Iceland but they are on their own currency. You will get change back in the local currency.
  5. There are many waterfalls that are easily accessible and they are worth seeing; however, I do recommend planning for hikes to get to falls or other features that are more difficult to see. The more accessible the more people there will be.  Steve and I had Bruarfoss all to ourselves for nearly an hour before a couple arrived shortly before we were leaving.
  6. Take the time to drive out to Eldraun lava fields. It's an other worldly landscape and is one of the most interesting and beautiful things I've seen. I highly recommend it.


(DragonflyPhoto) Iceland photography travel waterfalls https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/7/moody-skies-and-flies Thu, 18 Jul 2019 21:19:28 GMT
Get into Manual! https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/4/get-into-manual Just like driving a car, being in manual is so much more fun and you have much more control over the experience than you do in auto. I drive a car that has a manual mode available to it and I can tell you that I enjoy driving my car in "manual mode" far more than just letting the car decide. I'd spent so many years driving a manual that for a while after dropping my car into manual my left foot instinctively wanted to push the clutch. I've manage to stop myself from doing that but I still allow myself to let off the gas as I shift the gears. It really adds to the experience of driving a manual. I'm sure with the way my car pitches during acceleration folks wonder if my car's brand actually sells that model in a full manual. It just makes driving fun again.

Do you remember learning to drive your first stick-shift? Or maybe you never have? Moving your camera out of auto and into manual is sort of a parallel to this. It can be a little nerve racking because you're out of your element. Unlike a car, you're not going to stall the engine or burn out the clutch or accidentally peel out from a stand still. Worst case, you're just going to have photos to delete from memory. It's a lot less scary than learning to drive a car in manual. You've got this. ;-)

I'm not going to teach you how to do it though. Instead, I'm going to refer you to the fine folks at Phlearn to do that because they have put together some really fine articles about this. I've read a number of articles about this; mainly because I always to double check that I'm not missing or forgetting something. I have to say, true to Phlearn's reputation, they have put together an engaging, informative, and fun collection of articles on the exposure triangle. The exposure triangle is ISO, shutter speed, and aperture (ƒ-stop). I threw together a quick example of what that triangle looks like if all you do is end up reading this post.


I caught the ISO portion of the series (the last instalment) but there are links to the other two in this article. If you are wanting a no-nonsense and informative way of learning how to conquer this with your camera I recommend Phlearn for this. Take a look at their articles and pass this along if you agree.


Exposure Triangle - ISO


In other news, I just returned from Asheville today and will be heading overseas tomorrow for another 6 days. I should be posting some new photos a day or two after I get back.

(DragonflyPhoto) manual mode Photography https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/4/get-into-manual Fri, 19 Apr 2019 20:51:39 GMT
Laser and smoke update https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/4/laser-and-smoke-update So few blog posts back I did a little piece on photographing smoke being "cut" by a flat laser beam. My experimentation with that was only partially successful. While the lenses (for the laser) I purchased did create a flat beam they also really weakened the output of the light and didn't create a nice clean flat beam. I presume that because the lenses are made of polycarbonate, are dirt cheap, and not designed to fit any of my lasers specifically that I'm getting suboptimal results with the beam.

I keep coming back to trying to find a better lens to put in my lasers to create the flat beam and I've now decided to abandon the idea of using a lens at all. There are a number of reasons for this.

1) Any lenses that I can buy in a small quantity seem to be of poor quality

2) Any lenses that are made of glass (or a higher quality of material than the ones I have) are not sold in small batches. I don't have the budget to spend $400-$600 on a hundred or more Powell lenses.

3) With the blue laser in particular, I'm worried about having a lens made of anything other than glass in the path of the beam. I already have a small scorch mark on the ceiling of my office (it's not noticeable unless you know exactly where to look for it) when I accidentally pressed the button on the laser and turned it on (probably why these things come with a lock!). The laser was on for a second, maybe, but it was long enough to heat the paint on the ceiling to slightly discolor it. In other words, I don't want to melt the lens inside the laser, start a fire, or permanently damage the laser itself (or all three).

4) I really need a nice clean, bright line to do these photographs.

A couple of days ago I came across polygon mirrors. If you have ever looked inside the barcode scanner housing at the grocery store you can see motors spinning something that generates a flat line. I always wondered what those motors were doing. They are spinning a polygon mirror at around (I think) 10,000 RPM which take a red laser point and create a very fine and clean red line. These mirrors are made from a metal. I'm assuming probably a highly polished aluminum. The metal doesn't matter though. My blue laser will never heat it enough to actually damage it. Just in case, I do plan to test this in my garage here in the near future just to make sure it won't mar or pit the surface of aluminum. The test won't be a true test but it will be extreme enough that I'll know if there's any chance of damaging aluminum. While I suppose I could figure out a way, I won't be spinning a soda can at 10,000 RPM. If I hold the beam on a static can for several minutes and there's no visible damage then I'll be satisfied that there is pretty much zero risk to damage an actual spinning mirror.

Now comes a new problem, though. It appears that I'm not going to be able to order a polygon mirror that I can just plug in and start using. More likely (and If I'm going to keep this on a budget), I'll have to find a polygon mirror, motor, circuit board assembly that I'll have to figure out how to power, put in some kind of protective housing, and give me an easy way to set it up for aligning it with the laser (like clamping it down). A soldering iron has always been on my list of things I should have in the house but I still haven't prioritized buying one. I suppose this would be a good excuse to do so but that leads to the next problem. I don't know what I'm doing. I need to connect a power source to the board, have the right power supply, figure out how to house it, etc. All things I could eventually figure out but that's also time I'm not spending on photography and I'm starting to run out of content to post as it is. I just don't have time to invest in creating the tools for this particular project. I need to be out creating new works; but that doesn't mean I have to give up on this idea either.

So now I'm looking for an accomplice that can help me with creating the solution now that I've found one. I've already reached out to one person but if you're reading this and you know someone (or you, yourself) are good with electrical engineering, electronics, etc. I'd love a hand at this.

(DragonflyPhoto) Flat Beam Lasers Mirror Polygon Polygon Mirror https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/4/laser-and-smoke-update Mon, 08 Apr 2019 20:10:00 GMT
Buyer Beware Always Applies https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/4/buyer-beware-always-applies If you have been keeping up with me and the site then you know I recently changed the logo for my "business" (I used that term really loosely).  I used an online service called "Fiverr.com". I did a lot of research on a potential graphical designer to help me with a new logo. I want to be really clear that I am beyond happy with what he produced and my experience with him. He was an absolute pleasure to work with and what he ended up providing was exactly what I wanted. I think as a graphical designer you have to do a little mind reading based on what you hear so I can only imagine how difficult a job it can be. I'm not sure I'll ever change the logo or design elements I have at this point. I'm that happy with them and it's something I want to "stick" as part of my brand when it comes to Dragonfly Photos.

So, what is Fiverr.com? Essentially it is an on line marketplace for graphic designers to get freelance work over the internet. The business model is pretty sound as many people would have a need for a graphic designer but they don't need one full time on their staff. They just have a particular task they need accomplished. That's where Fiverr comes in. Interestingly, I cannot find on their site what their mission is, but you can read more about the site here (on Wikipedia). I think, overall, they are doing a really positive thing for graphic designers and other talents in this digital era. There are many talented people in the world but landing a good job in the creative arena can be difficult and there is likely a huge market for small jobs that can provide a decent income to folks if they are good at what they do.

That said, I do have some advice to offer if you ever find yourself looking to work with a graphic designer. First and foremost, "buyer beware" is mandatory on this site. You will have to do research on any potential designer/talent you think you may be interested in hiring. I spent a couple of weeks looking at different designers and their work. I ended up searching for the businesses they were claiming they did work for and in several cases did "reverse" image searches to see if I could track down whether the work in their portfolio was actually being used. What I found, generally, was that I couldn't determine whether the work they had in their gallery was actually being used or if it was just conceptual (nothing wrong with that). Unfortunately, what I did find was people blatantly purporting other designers work as their own. I zeroed in on two profiles that I knew to be, without a doubt, stealing someone else's work. The designs they had also definitely stood out from the rest of their "portfolio". I ended up reaching out to Fiverr.com to report that these profiles were appropriating someone else's work. To Fiverr.com's credit both of those profiles were suspended immediately but within a few days those same two profiles were back on and there was no change. A couple of days later, one of the profiles dropped the lifted work. The other one is still purporting work in their profile that I know to be someone else's. Yes, I gave Fiverr.com a link to the original artist's work. 

If you don't believe me, you can check it all out below. If you are a start up or small business I would recommend using Fiverr.com BUT you have to do your research. Do reverse image searches. If you can tie the work back to the Fiverr.com profile then you've probably found a legit artist. Read the comments in their profile. Another thing that tipped me off after I found the possibility these two profiles were trying to pass off other people's work was that the comments were all glowing reviews (not necessarily a bad thing) but as I kept reading I started noticing patterns in the language, grammar, phrasing, etc. It was likely that they had enlisted a few friends to pump up their profile to get their rating higher. I'll give Fiverr.com credit, they have (as far as I can see) tried to create an equitable marketplace that's not too draconian on buyer or seller; on the other hand, they need to do more quality checking on potential artists. It was not at all difficult for me to spot frauds, it just took me investing the time. I get that if they are dealing with thousands of sellers it's not realistic to manually check everything submitted to a portfolio but it is most certainly something that can be automated to flag for human attention. Additionally, there are always going to be "those people" that try to game the system for a quick buck. In the end, there are ways that Fiverr.com could do a better job of ensuring they weed out the frauds.

End of story:
1) Fiverr.com can offer what you need
2) You have to do your research 
3) Read the reviews of each artist
4) It's disappointing that Fiverr.com ultimately puts the burden on you (I mean, this should be a core value for them)
5) If you're on a budget but have time to research it's worth it
6) I highly recommend Jago if you are looking for someone

I will share my evidence:

Exhibit A:
Look through their gallery until you find the line drawing of a male deer's head. It should be the first example in their gallery.

The real artist of exhibit A:

Exhibit B:
Look through their gallery until you see the "Elvire Sport" example

The real artist of exhibit B:
I did consider that this could be same person on two different sites; however, the Elvire Sport is the only work in common between the two profiles. 

Exhibit C:
Look for the Wineforest logo in their gallery. May be the very first one.

The real artist of exhibit C:

And lastly this profile is one that I reported after I found that they completely ripped off this guy who had an ingenious logo design and had won at least one award. By the way, that Fiverr profile is a total fraud. I noticed that they have updated their profile photo and it's now of a completely different woman.

Spotting a fraudThings to look for when shopping for a freelancer on Fiverr.com


(DragonflyPhoto) Fiverr Frauds Freelance Graphic Design Logo Plagiarism https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/4/buyer-beware-always-applies Sat, 06 Apr 2019 14:33:00 GMT
Forecasting -143ºF for the low tonight https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/4/forecasting--143-f-for-the-low-tonight Okay; not the forecast for anywhere here on Earth. In fact, that's colder than any recorded temperature on Earth in history. Although the former Soviet Union came close in 1983 with an astounding -128.6ºF at an Antarctic outpost toward the interior of Antarctica. The title forecast is the low on 28 March... on Mars. If you are unaware, you can get an Elysium Planitia forecast on Mars. Why would you care about that? Well, if you are not familiar, Elysium Planitia is the latest Mars lander site and is reporting back local weather and the forecast. You can actually check it out here , although it appears the forecast has been down for a few days.

Have you been keeping up with the latest Mars mission, called InSight? You were aware we just recently put a new lander on Mars, right? InSight's primary mission is to measure Mars' seismicity. Scientists can learn much regarding Mars' structure by "listening" to it. In a recent photo you can see where NASA have placed a seismometer nearby. The first seismometer placed on another planet!Mars Siesmometer! Image credit: NASA/JPL-CaltechThe first seismometer placed on another planet!

In the meantime, NASA have been busy drilling a hole (at least 10 meters deep) into the Martian soil but have hit a snag and paused drilling until they can ascertain the problem's nature. The most likely theory is a relatively large and hard rock is blocking the drill's path but mechanical failure cannot be ruled out either. If you haven't been following this latest mission, it is interesting and a little fun to check on it from time to time and it turns out, InSight has quite a chipper Twitter feed; she has some sass. ;-)

In other news, NASA formally said goodbye to Opportunity in February. I have to admit, I was sad to read this news. Opportunity was the rover that would not quit and when it finally succumbed it was like we had lost an explorer; maybe forever abandoned on Mars. If you do not recall, Opportunity was meant to be a 90 day mission (of Mars roving) over a total of 1,100 yards (1000M). That little rover traveled 28 miles (28!!) (or 45KM) over almost 15 years. Both Spirit and Opportunity vastly exceeded the original mission expectations but Opportunity lasted nearly three times longer than Spirit and transmitted back volumes of data scientists are still studying today. 
While that news was sad (to me), we have the InSight lander on Mars and the Curiosity rover in Gale crater, still going strong. Next year will also see the Mars 2020 mission. I cannot help but feel excited about the exploration of Mars and I really hope to see the day when humans first set foot on the planet. What we are doing today are barely baby steps in the exploration of our Solar System but they are progress and we learn so much from these missions and the technology involved helps us here back home too -- not to mention we learn more about our home in the process.

If you want to know more you can follow NASA on Facebook or Twitter or on their site or follow the Insight or Curiosity missions specifically. (Facebook and Twitter links are directly to their InSight pages, search their main site for other missions and news.)

By the way, how @#(^)@^&!@$@## incredible is that photo!? We're looking at a photo of another planet! I find it really cool that Mars, at least in this photo, has a similar pale blue sky I can see here on Earth.

(DragonflyPhoto) Exploration Mars NASA Space https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/4/forecasting--143-f-for-the-low-tonight Wed, 03 Apr 2019 23:37:00 GMT
Don't be an A-hole at the National Zoo https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/3/dont-be-an-a-hole-at-the-national-zoo Since I've been working on editing and posting photos from Yellowstone I also made a trip to DC this past November. I didn't really focus on any of the usual landmarks in DC this time. Instead, I wanted to get some good shots from the Smithsonian National Zoo. If you have never been to the National Zoo I highly recommend it. It's not a huge Zoo but it is pretty large and the exhibits are really well done. It's also a nice getaway from the bustle of DC.

Hence my title... don't be an asshole at the National Zoo. This is a place for Americans and foreigners alike to really enjoy something informative, engaging, and relaxing all at once. We had spent most of one day at the National Zoo and I kept gravitating back to the big cats space. The tigers were pacing and letting out the occasional reminder that they are very fierce. The Lions, right next door, were also alert and seemed to enjoying the crowd. I didn't get a decent shot of the tigers as I couldn't get a decent vantage point and are (seemed?) further back from our vantage point. The lions, on the other hand seemed much closer and were on a hill elevating them above the fence unlike the tiger enclosure.

I'd been focusing on trying to get a good shot of the tigers from any angle I could find. While I as doing that I noticed a boy, maybe 16, and his younger brother (maybe 11 or 12) acting like, well, boys. They were prancing around the exhibits trying to mock the big cats sounds. It was really annoying, I have to admit, but hey, they're enjoying the zoo in their own way. While I was focused on trying to capture the tigers and ignore the annoyers a woman came over to the call box next to where I was standing. I couldn't hear what she said because I had put my ear buds in to drown out the idiots still hanging around the exhibit (it's been nearly an hour at this point). I took an ear bud out and asked her if everything was okay and if I could help. She said that the older of the two boys had started throwing rocks at the lions. When I turned around I immediately noticed that both of the lions had gone from laying down and watching us as much as we were watching them to standing, fully alert, and their focus was clearly on the older of the two idiots. As he kept prancing around making "lion noises" I could see them tracking him. I have to admit, I found that fascinating. They knew exactly which moron had been throwing rocks and I would not be surprised (if we could glimpse into their minds) that they were trying to solve the puzzle of escaping their enclosure and making him dinner. They paid zero attention to anything else while this moron in blue sweatpants and sweatshirt continued to parade around making, what now became idiotic, noises.

I walked over to the edge of the lion enclosure at this point (there's a vantage point to both that's maybe 15 meters end-to-end). I hadn't actually see this "man" throw a rock at this point but I wasn't going to be surprised if he did it again. I have no idea where he was getting rocks from. I didn't see any readily available but maybe they were in the bushes somewhere near the exhibit. To my total dismay he produced a rock, with sharp angles on it, somewhere between the size of a golf ball and tennis ball from his pocket and hurled it at one of the lions.  In that moment I wasn't sure whether to be more disgusted by the fact that he did it or the men standing within two feet of him (and clearly knowing what he was about to do) not stopping him from throwing it. It took me the couple of seconds of what I just saw as the rock sailed to (and missed) it's target before it registered with me that he'd actually done what I just saw.

I was really dismayed. By the time I could walk over the two men were making it clear he needed to leave. I then realized that they were doing the same thing I'd done; confirming what was happening before they did something that could escalate things. The three of us began to escort him out of the exhibit area when the zoo security showed up. Once I understood the situation was under control I walked back to collect my gear and by the time I turned around there had been a new development. Before I turned around, zoo security was escorting "sweatpant douchebag" and "douchebag tag-a-long" down a hill. After I turned around "sweatpant douchebag" had taken off leaving his younger douchebag sibling with the authorities. The guy just bolted; leaving his 11-12 year old brother there to deal with security. Wow. Maybe an hour later, walking through the zoo, we saw security driving the younger brother to the main office and the poor kid was bawling.

I don't mean to sound selfish but that's my memory from what would have, otherwise, been a really nice day at the National Zoo. Fortunately, the lions weren't hurt and nothing came of it (other than the lions can't completely trust their habitat from jackasses) for the lions. I astound myself that I still believe, despite the evidence sometimes, the world isn't a giant blue'ish bag of assholes hurtling through space.

On a brighter note, I did manage to get a couple of shots of the lions looking more than disinterested along with a couple of other photos I'm not afraid to share. I'll post these over the next couple of weeks. For now... DC Duck

DC DuckI have no idea what species of duck this is but after looking on line I think she's a stow-a-way in the Amazonia exhibit. No matter, she was fun to photograph.

(DragonflyPhoto) amozonia asshole dc etiquette lions national zoo public etiquette smithsonian smithsonian national zoo washington washington dc zoo https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/3/dont-be-an-a-hole-at-the-national-zoo Thu, 28 Mar 2019 04:41:46 GMT
End of the Trip https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/3/end-of-the-trip This evening, with some regrets, I posted the last photo from a trip to Yellowstone. The regrets are twofold; that I don't have more to share and that I didn't complete two objectives while I was there. It just means I have to go back, I guess.

The last photo is the night before flying home. I arrived in Salt Lake City just before sunset and had an opportunity to capture the city, clouds, and mountains at just the right time to get the incredible sunset colors that Salt Lake City enjoys many nights every year. It really was a fantastic sight but getting a decent shot of the city, with the mountains in the background is, unfortunately, kind of difficult. There is only one spot that really offers the right view and there is a fence blocking it from the average person's point of view but you can hoist your camera to arm's length over the fence to get a shot. It makes getting a long exposure nearly impossible with conventional equipment. This shot was good enough for me and I think captured the incredible sunsets that Salt Lake City enjoys more evenings than not.

So, since this concludes all the photos (most likely) from the Yellowstone trip, what's next? Well, I have trips during this year for business but I plan to tack on some extra days for all of them. I'm hoping to squeeze in Budapest, Hong Kong, and a waterfall in India not far from where I have to go there. In addition to those places I have plans for Iceland and Hawaii this year. Hawaii and Iceland are definite this year and I'm pretty confident the extra hops/visits should be doable this year as well. I also plan to revisit the Grand Tetons this year in late August or early September (before the snow really starts) but that trip is less definite right now. The plan is to do a whirlwind four-day weekend trip to capture photos I missed last year in the Tetons and Idaho. I just need to pay for airfare, a rental car, and one night in a hotel. The other nights will be in the car or in a tent (preferably above 10,000' if all goes to plan). If all does go to plan then I have a really busy spring and summer ahead of me in terms of travel because by the time late September hits, the only place I plan to travel to is Boston a couple of times.

By the way, I recommend that everyone does this because it's kind of fun to look at once in a while. I keep a map on the wall in my home office with pins of all the places I've been in US and outside. Before the trip to Yellowstone, I'd never been to the interior west of the country. There was a giant bare spot between Dallas, Texas and pretty much all points west of there until the coast of California. After the trip to Yellowstone, I have to admit that I felt a great sense of satisfaction to stick pins in Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. If you don't have one I'd recommend doing it.


And for the latest post see:



Travel map.



(DragonflyPhoto) American West Grand Teton Nation Park Idaho Salt Lake City US Mountain Trip Utah Western US Wyoming Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/3/end-of-the-trip Tue, 19 Mar 2019 02:36:58 GMT
Goal for 2019 https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/2/goal-for-2019 The month of January really flew by as has most of February already. I had planned to post  sooner but with holidays, travel, work, and the person I was collaborating with things took a little longer than originally planned. If you follow me on social media you may notice things have a new look. This is the new logo for Dragonfly Photo. I'm really, really pleased with it. The original logo I did myself and it seemed a bit dated and not as professional as I would have liked. Let me know what you think of the new logo and look. I'd love the feedback!

Aside from an updated look and logo I have made myself a goal for this year. I haven't sold a print in almost four years now. So my goal for 2019 is to sell one print, *one print*, to someone I don't know. So that means if you're a friend of mine, a co-worker, a relative, etc. and you decided to buy a print it wouldn't count. But, if you are so inclined, you can help me out. Follow me on , , and/or follow my . The Facebook page would probably really help me out. If you want to help further I would certainly appreciate it (but you don't have to). Share my posts (blogs and/or photos) with your friends on social media. It will help me build a network and hopefully a following. Even if I end up selling a digital print for $15 that would be a win in terms of the goal. If I achieve my goal for this year, then I'll have to step it up for 2020 -- maybe something much more bold. I would truly appreciate the help and the boost in morale selling a print would provide. I haven't really put much effort into marketing the site and photos because I suck at it (if I'm going to be honest) and time has been at a premium anyway. In fact, if anyone helps me sell a photo through a referral I'm willing to give away a print, of your choice, up to a 24"x36" version. While I would like for it to be something "fancy", it would be a print only, I'm afraid. I don't have the funds to have it mounted, printed on steel, etc.

If you have experience with marketing and/or social media I'd be all ears as well. I do have a plan beyond asking for help through social media. Later this year (spring), I will be ordering work for a portfolio to take to local businesses in downtown Raleigh to see if they would be amenable to having some prints hung (for sale) in their place of business. If, later in the year, I don't seem to have traction then I will start looking at GroupOn (or other ads) for doing action shots of kids for their parents or discounts on prints if they use a GroupOn. There might be some other ideas I haven't considered so I'm open to feedback there. I just want to illustrate that my plan is a little more in depth than this blog post.

In other news, I'm about to wrap up the last of the Yellowstone photos and just have a few other photos to post before I really have to start working on new content (which will need to be soon). I'll have an upcoming blog post on working with graphic designers (logo related) and some other interesting things which may or may not be related directly to my photography but, I hope, still interesting.



(DragonflyPhoto) 2019 Logo plan recommendations https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/2/goal-for-2019 Tue, 19 Feb 2019 02:21:07 GMT
It's 2019! https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/1/its-2019 Happy New Year! I took a couple weeks off from posting photos and blogs but I wanted to make sure to post something before things became stale sooo, just a quick post. Someone recently asked me, I'll call this person "Shelly", when the next post of content might be. It was a good prompt to get back to business. A new photo

Things I Must FaceThings I Must FaceViewing the Grand Tetons across Jenny Lake really gives perspective on the grandeur of these mountains and the surrounding terrain. The view didn't take my breath away but it came very close to literally doing that. Few vantages give this sort of perspective that creates an appreciation for how beautiful our home (our planet) really is.

has been posted as of tonight and there are some upcoming blog posts I'm working on. Some of them won't have anything to do with photography at all. When I first started this blog I did describe it as a blog about photography and photography... might be time to get to the technology part?Primarily this blog is about photography at the end of the day.

The Yellowstone photos are winding down; I have a handful left to post and I'm working on new photos. I also have a number of blog topics to write on but I'm still waiting on some things to fall (or not fall) into place. We'll see where things take us.

In the meantime, enjoy (I hope) the latest photo from Wyoming. This one isn't from Yellowstone but from Grand Tetons National Park. I missed out on objective with this park so I will be going back. I have a certain photo, in a certain place I will get. "I'll be baack".

(DragonflyPhoto) alpine grand tetons jenny lake mountains national parks sky snowcaps water wyoming https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2019/1/its-2019 Thu, 10 Jan 2019 03:56:49 GMT
Gift Ideas for Your Photobug https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/12/gift-ideas-for-your-photobug If you have a photobug as your significant other or on your Christmas list I have a few ideas that I have put together to help. I have no affiliation with anyone and nothing on this list will get me rewarded for suggesting. Some of these products I do not own; they are just suggested gifts based on my own experience in photography, things I would like to have myself, or unique items only a photographer would appreciate. I have tried to keep the ideas around $50 or less and do not require you to know specifics about their type of gear.


Photo Vest

Hey. Nothing says "sexy" like a vest with a myriad of pockets, loops, zippers, and mesh. For the photographer in your life this may be really handy, though. Even if they are carrying their kit in a backpack it's still nice to have things handy without having to take the pack on and off. It can make storing things like lens and body caps easy allowing the photographer to keep their hands free to shoot and helps avoid lost caps. Extra memory, batteries, etc. can also be handily stored and readily accessible in the various pockets. Other gadgetry can be stored as well. Personally, when I'm out shooting I like to listen to music to keep my mind clear and focused on what I'm doing, this gives me a place to store (and protect) my devices, route my earbud wiring, etc. I also like to chew on sunflower seeds so the vest keeps a pouch of seeds pretty handy as well. A vest also works well for different seasons. It can be easily worn under a heavy coat for colder temperatures without adding excessive bulk, especially in the arms. For warmer temperatures it's lightweight enough that it doesn't exacerbate hot temperatures. Prices vary depending upon which one you choose but there are plenty for $50 and under. The more ability for storage and quick access the better. You really cannot go with "too many" pockets.

LED Flashlight

I own this model flashlight and I love it. I don't have the model as shown here with the clip but I have to admit I wish I did. I can't tell you how many times this flashlight ends up in my mouth so that I have both hands free. It's a little too large to be doing that with so it's usually just for a few seconds. What I also love about this flashlight is that it's one of the few flashlights I could find with a red LED included. For photographers who like to do night photography (particularly of the sky) the red light saves your night vision but prevents fumbling around in total darkness. The white light is brilliant and illuminates your path in the darkness easily. This model has a pre-focused beam so you may also want to consider a second flashlight with a focusable beam if they like to do any sort of light painting with night shots, which is the next item on the list. This flashlight sells direct from Coast for $30.

Tactical Flashlight

This flashlight has an insanely bright LED and can pretty much turn night into day wherever the beam points. The design of this flashlight is also clever. It comes with five modes of operation. A rear button functions as the on/off switch and slightly depressing the button changes it's modes through High, medium, and low output. What I would call a strobe mode and an SOS pattern mode round out the five total modes of the light. The rear of the flashlight also includes a pretty powerful magnet. I haven't tested to see, however, if it could support itself when attached to a metal surface. I use rechargeable triple A batteries in mine and I think I've had to change them once but I use this flashlight several times a year. I use this flashlight for light painting when I'm doing night shots and want to get more light on something. As you can see it also includes a red and green lens. I don't use these myself since I have the Coast flashlight with the built-in red LED. Both the Beiste and Coast flashlights are practical gift ideas for anyone on your list that might have a need for tactical lights (active duty, first responders, etc.) This two piece set is on Amazon for $17.99 which is less than I think I paid for the one I bought last year. That's a heck of a deal.

Sensor Cleaning Kit

I do not own this kit but it is on my short list of gear to buy. The sensors on my cameras are desperately in need of a good cleaning. I selected this particular kit because of the rating and reviews on B&H's website and the reasonable price. This includes everything (except cleaning solution) that someone would need to do their own sensor cleaning. It's certainly more convenient than taking it to a local camera store (which are getting hard to find these days) or sending it to the manufacturer for cleaning. $49.99 on B&H, currently.


Every photographer should have at least a small library of books. Some should be technical books for learning techniques and methods. Others should be inspirational. Periodically, I like to get a couple books out to browse through for ideas or inspiration. It's especially helpful if I am in a funk. A couple suggested books are in my library and a couple are on my own list. I'm willing to bet that your photographer has a source of inspiration and there is likely a book about that person. If they don't already own it, consider getting them a book. For me, it's Ansel Adams. I have 3 or 4 Adams books and also watched at least a couple Ansel Adams documentaries. We also have a couple of prints in the house which I like to looking at and admiring.


The Photo Ark ($19.95)

Penguin Book: National Geographic - The Photo Ark: One Man's Quest to Document the World's Animals (Hardcover)

Simply Beautiful Photographs($19.99)









Light Science and Magic($30.96)


Dawn to Dark($40.00)











While it may seem like a "cheap" gift, this ingeniously designed light reflector is super handy. I've used mine countless times and it is extremely lightweight. You are getting several different light reflectors in one. If your photographer does portraiture then I highly recommend this; it comes in handy for other photography as well. Currently selling on Amazon for $14.99.

Flash Gels

I've been meaning to get myself a decent set of flash gels for a long time now and it's just something that keeps slipping my mind. This set has a lot of positive reviews and ratings on Amazon and the prices seems pretty reasonable. ($29.95) In case you are wondering what the heck these are for, they tint the flash to a desired color for artistic or white balancing reasons.


So, this is the one item on the list that is not $50 or less. Although there are options to achieve that I am recommending gifting a full year subscription. I cannot recommend Phlearn enough. In their own words they "make learning fun". They actually accomplish that mantra. Almost all tutorials are hosted by Aaron Nace and he is superb at what he does. If you have a photographer that wants to achieve advanced skills in Lightroom and/or Photoshop then Phlearn is the best place to go. Tutorials are high quality, instructive, and engaging. Phlearn make a ton of free videos but the pro tutorials dive deep into the guts of Photoshop and Lightroom and teach the advanced skills needed for powerful post-processing. A one year subscription is $100 but you can do a gift card to get them started on a subscription for as little as $10.

Stocking stuffer ideas

Power Adapter

If the photographer on your list travels overseas this power adapter ($18.99) will come in handy. It offers power connections no matter where they may find themselves in the world and it also offers four USB ports for charging devices. I have a similar adapter myself but I really wish it had the USB ports for charging. Small enough to put in a stocking!

B&H Gift Card

If you are not familiar with B&H, they are the equivalent of a toy store for photographers. I once went to their New York store (their headquarters) and it was like I had found a photographer's utopia. Shipping is always speedy, prices are reasonable, and their support is outstanding. I have never had a bad experience ordering gear from B&H and are my first choice when ordering photography gear.


When a product has a five-star rating after nearly 1100 reviews you know it has to be good. If you don't buy the sensor cleaning kit, consider putting this blower in their stocking. At $9.99 it's an inexpensive item for their stocking and they'll love it for having a high quality blower for keeping the gear dust free.

Bug repellant (seriously)

If the person on your list does any sort of outdoor photography, especially where it involves hiking, camping, etc. then I recommend giving them insect repellant. There is almost nothing more annoying than trying to focus on your photography while you are being swarmed by mosquitoes and gnats; it is maddening. A good bug repellant strategy should involve more than just repellant on the skin, especially if they are going to be in back-country and/or around bodies of water. Repellants like Off! definitely work and should be used but this repellant is meant to go on clothing and gear (it's not meant for direct skin coverage). The combination of the two will do a better job at keeping the pests away, allowing nuisance-free photography. $16.00 at REI but may be a little tough stuffing a stocking depending on the size. ;-)


Yep. I definitely suggest putting a pack of Carmex in their stocking. I prefer the stick form of Carmex since it includes sunblock in it. Carmex is exceptional for protecting your lips when out in the elements. I have ended up with chapped lips in the middle of summer while spending a long day on a beach shooting. I don't know if anyone else has this experience but if I have chapped lips I can put Carmex on when I go to bed and the next morning my lips are virtually healed. At any rate, it's good for lip protection no matter what time of year when you're out in the elements.



(DragonflyPhoto) Gift Ideas Gifts for Photographers Holidays https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/12/gift-ideas-for-your-photobug Sun, 09 Dec 2018 00:48:01 GMT
Old Post on Kilauea https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/12/old-post-on-kilaeua If you're as interested in volcanoes as I am you might find this post interesting. It doesn't look like the author is posting any longer and most of the links in the blog seem broken now but it's still an interesting read with some insight into Kilauea that's in more layman's terms than I've read elsewhere. I'm not sure where the author got their information but I'd say it's reasonably accurate.

Worth a read if you're a volcano freak and some interesting tidbits on Kilauea's eruptive history.

(DragonflyPhoto) Big Island Hawaii Kilauea Volcano https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/12/old-post-on-kilaeua Thu, 06 Dec 2018 04:26:55 GMT
Wildlife in Charleston https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/12/wildlife-in-charleston You may not think "wildlife" when you visit Charleston, South Carolina, but wildlife flourishes in and around the Charleston area. While most experiences staying in Charleston have been at Seabrook Island I have seen quite a bit of wildlife all around the area. Alligators, hawks, snakes and, of course, lots of deer; there is so much to see. Seabrook Island is probably 20 minutes outside of downtown Charleston (depending on traffic) and faces, generally, southeast on the Atlantic Ocean. I am still wanting to visit the Caw Caw Interpretive Center which I understand provides fascinating opportunities to see native wildlife.

My last trip to Seabrook was a buffet of wildlife. Despite having spent four vacations at Seabrook, it was this year that I finally spotted an alligator on the island. This particular specimen looked relatively young but definitely interested in my proximity to the shoreline when I approached to get a closer look. While I know alligators are incredibly dangerous I find them clock-like predictable (if you understand what they do). This particular adversary was not any different. As I approached the pond it was floating in it seemed to pay me no attention whatsoever; however, it did move. Typically, no rippled water, no sudden movements -- just the snout and the crown of the head moving though not toward or retreating from me. Once I reached the edge of the pond it was obvious it was paying me more attention. Instead of remaining perpendicular to me it turned so that we were on the same line of eyesight. Still, no obvious sign of movement otherwise. If I had poor vision, not only would I perhaps not know of an alligator there, I probably would not have seen the subtle changes. Playing along, I crouched down into a squat along the edge of the pond. Now the alligator was clearly moving toward me but again... zero signs of movement other than its visible parts becoming larger. Somewhere around 40 or 50 feet away it vanished. Okay, time to step back away from the edge of the pond to a safe distance. I waited for several minutes and there was not another sign of it. I had the feeling it was somewhere right at the edge of the pond out of sight, just waiting. These bastards are highly skilled and stealthy predators and I have a huge amount of respect. I would say they are beautiful creatures but who am I kidding? They are hideous killing machines -- but, perhaps, this is the beauty. Alligators have reached the apex of predatory skill and stealth for their kind and they are something to respect.

I Pieblock deer on Seabrook Island, SCWhite StagI Pieblock deer on Seabrook Island, SC On to other encounters! Coming back from dinner one evening we came across something I did not know existed. A white deer with brown spots (bare with me for second). I am aware of the odd albino in any given species but this beautiful buck was not albino. He was just predominately white with a smattering of brown. After a few moments outside the car his acclimation to humans was obvious. In the sense that he was confident so long as you stayed out of his personal space. The first night I saw him resulted in a quick snapshot from a respectful distance.

I craved to see this beautiful creature again, though. I kept an eye out for him at the same spot (I know deer tend to frequent the same spots to browse the vegetation). A couple of evenings later my vigilance was paid off as he was in the same spot. Unfortunately, I didn't have my proper camera with me this time but I decided to get closer this time and be a little more deliberate with my phone's camera to take a few more shots. I even held out my hand to see if he'd take sniff at me. His personal space seemed to be about six feet. It was about there that he showed a sign that he was going to bolt if I got any closer. The fact that he let me get that close was astounding to me. But I managed to get a couple blog-worthy shots with my phone. Next year will yield better results with a proper camera.

A Pieblock deer on Seabrook IslandWhite Stag 2A Pieblock deer on Seabrook Island












A number of birds call Seabrook Island home as well. I have seen hawks, skimmers, and pelicans, among many others. Seabrook's birds are a great way to take in the island and let time wash away like a sand castle in the tide. The pelicans can be a good indicator of where dolphins are and seem to be omnipresent on the beach. Seabrook Island is my happy place, I have to admit, and the pelicans help bring utopia to reality. The last two visits I have sat at the beach club bar, reading; drinking coffee in the mornings and watching the ocean for a break from reading. Lunch. Then reading more, maybe doing some email and having some adult beverages in the afternoon. "Relaxing", is a criminal understatement. Just my music, a fantastic view, my books, and a good beverage -- mixology for near utopia. Over two weeks I saw the same (I presume the same) dolphin pod swim by probably a half dozen times. The diving pelicans were a dead giveaway and it was just amazing to see this huge pod dolphins swimming past so close to shore. I could have waded out to them on one of the days.

On the morning of departure I crossed an interesting snake straddling the main road that circles the island. Granted, we are not talking Los Angeles traffic but at peak times it does see enough tires that a snake should have concern. I felt compelled to stop and remove this serpent from imminent danger. I'm sure s/he was warming itself on the asphalt but, given it was the approach to the beach club, death was certain by car tire. As I drove past I noticed that this particular snake seemed curiously "fatter" than any other snake I had seen (in the wild). After pulling off, I approached the snake and instantly realized, "Wow. Not your garden variety snake.". It was a juvenile Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake. It still hadn't developed rattles but that definitely did not prevent it from beating its tail against the pavement letting me know that it did not like me approaching. About the time I realized what I was into, it lunged -- even though I was well outside striking distance (it wasn't more than a meter long and I was well over two meters away still). Definitely a juvenile in all senses of the word. Even though it was a rattler I decided that if it was going to die it should be due to nature and not a car tire. I first tried making myself as big as possible and herd it toward the side of the road. Let me tell you, I should have known when it first lunged despite my distance, this wasn't going to work. I think all I succeeded in doing was agitating it more. We spent a few minutes in a weird sort of dance with me waving my arms and doing the box step (trying to stay out of range). Clearly, that wasn't going to work and each time this little SOB coiled up a little tighter -- like I was teaching it how to lunge further. I backed off and about that time the first car (aside from mine) approached and as I suspected they didn't see it so I made sure I positioned myself so they'd go around. After the car passed I went found myself a stick about a meter long. Not quite long enough for my comfort but it would have to do. I briefly considered trapping this snake, Jeff Corwin style (without the fancy "snake catcher"), and just picking it up and tossing it into bush off the road. Just as quickly, I realized, "Dave. Dumbass. You've never actually done that. Maybe an agitated, impetuous, venomous snake isn't the right time to try it for the first time." I agreed with myself.  Instead what ensued was a weird sort of street hockey with a very short hockey stick and a really pissed off snake for the puck. As this "game" began another car passed and this time they decided to stop for photos. Sigh. By the time they decided to move on I'd lost almost all the ground I'd gained moving it off the road. Keep in mind, I really didn't know which side of the road this dude wanted to be on but I thought it was a safe assumption it didn't want to head to the beach. That seems logical, right? I wish I had a photo of this at some point but having both hands occupied probably would have been a bad idea. I'm glad I didn't think of this as a "photo op". At one point I managed to get this critter wrapped on to my "hockey stick" and tried to fling him to the side of the road. I got him just short of the curb with a meaty splat. Now he's really pissed. The last few inches felt like an epic battle of will that lasted for hours but I'm sure only took a minute or two and probably looked comical from a distance. I succeeded in getting this critter into the short grass alongside the road and in the exposure of the Sun. For all I know, it slithered back out into the road and is now part of the pavement but I like to think that it lived to be angry and contemptuous another day. Perhaps a day I'm back on the island.

2018 has been a year of wildlife and I am very beholden to it. Ever since being a young child I have had an appreciation for wildlife this year has been a gift in terms of seeing wildlife in its natural habitat and I've been able to photograph much of it. It is a year I won't soon forget and I hope to have many more years with at least half the wildlife experience I had this year -- it is something we should all treasure and help to protect.




(DragonflyPhoto) Alligators Atlantic Coast Beach Coast Deer Eastern Diamondback Hawks Rattle Snakes Seabrook Island Snakes South Carolina Travel Vacation Wildlife https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/12/wildlife-in-charleston Wed, 05 Dec 2018 00:33:00 GMT
Cameras with Friggin' Lasers! (part duh) https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/cameras-with-friggin-lasers-part-duh A couple of blog posts ago I was talking about what my next project will be. It is actually more of a mini project. I was definitely not expecting success the first time around. I'll stop short of saying that nothing worked but, as I suspected, things definitely did not work out the way I was envisioning. I did get a couple of shots but I think they are only worthy of blog post shots. Probably not abstract shots worthy of trying to sell, though. It's going to take some continued experimenting.

The set up.

The smoke (before it became a fog bank so dense that San Francisco was calling asking me to give their fog back).

If you have zero idea what I'm talking about and don't want to go back to read the other post; I'll summarize quickly. Take a laser with a special lens that flattens the beam into a line. Take one smoke machine. Turn out the lights. Photograph smoke passing through a thin line of light. You can get some pretty trippy looking abstract images. Bonus! You get a vibrant duotone photo too!

So. Problems? Well, the combination of a lousy flat beam lens and 200mw laser made photographing tricky. The camera was struggling mightily with focusing. I had to crank up the ISO (light sensitivity) to just about the max which made for some rather grainy shots. The smoke machine puts out copious amounts of smoke; to the point that my glasses were fogging up and I could not see squat, even with the lights on. Despite it being near freezing outside the garage became rainforest humid... and hot. I had to open the garage door a couple of times to let the smoke evacuate -- creating the effect my house being on fire as smoke billowed out the garage in huge clouds. Thankfully no one called the fire services.

For next time I'll be making the following changes:
1) Go with the tighter beam spread 45º instead of 60º.
2) Use the blue laser
3) Find a way to mount the blue laser to one of my light stands (couldn't do that with the green laser due to how the power switch works)
4) Crack a window in the garage ;-)
5) Put the camera on a tripod and lock the focus to the beam
6) Go with either the 100mm macro lens or the 70-200mm lens (instead of 24-70mm)
7) Experiment with the 1.4ƒ 50mm lens as well (2.8ƒ may not be fast enough) I can afford the narrow focus plane given the thin beam
8) Keep searching for a properly made Powell Lens (a decent one is not cheap)

Better shots will happen.

Flat green laser beam through smokeFlat green laser beam through smoke Flat green laser beam through smokeFlat green laser beam through smoke




(DragonflyPhoto) duotone experimenting green lasers laser photography lasers smoke https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/cameras-with-friggin-lasers-part-duh Fri, 30 Nov 2018 01:09:31 GMT
Volcano Update November 2018 https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/volcano-update-november-2018 I imagine most folks lost interest in the Kilauea eruption since the lava stopped flowing back on (or around) 28 Aug 2018. Since then, Kilauea has been relatively quiet; at least on the surface. Activity around the volcano has not stopped but the level of activity seems as though the southeast rift zone has run its course for the time being. 

Halema'uma'u (Kilauea's caldera crater) has seen its share of earthquakes both relatively shallow and down deeper. These are likely due to continued settling at the caldera proper. Overall activity has drastically dropped and catastrophic collapse events have stopped. As a result, Volcano National Park has reopened with both the USGS and National Park Services deeming the park safe enough for visitors to return (Yay!). A large section of Crater Rim Drive is inside Halema'uma'u rather than atop its rim. No word, yet, on renaming it Crater Drive (haha!). Sulfur dioxide gas is at a lower level than it has been for decades as well. Does that mean Kilauea is about to take a rest? Well, no one knows the answer to that question but one thing is for certain, the geological activity has only slowed but not stopped. Minor earthquakes continue though overall deflation of the crater seems to have halted. Steam and low gas emissions continue at the main crater, Pu'u 'Ō'ō and the southeast rift zone. Gas levels, remain low to non-existent at all locations.

Okay, so what? Well, Hawai'i (proper) is a system of volcanoes. Let us take a quick review of its volcanoes. Hawai'i consists of five different volcanoes (perhaps six someday*), only one is considered extinct. Starting at the northern end is Kohala which forms a peninsula at the island's northern tip (and is the extinct volcano -- last erupting 120,000 years ago). The hills and valleys of Kohala offer some of the most spectacular views Hawai'i has to offer. Incidentally, there is a fantastic view of Haleakala when cresting Kohala on Highway 250. The vista helps one appreciate the size of Haleakala given that you are seeing it from approximately 45 miles away and across the Maui Channel.  Then we have Mauna Kea measuring in at a mere 124 feet (38 M) taller than Mauna Loa.  Mauna Kea, dormant for 4500 years now, forms the bulk of northern and northeastern Hawai'i. To the northwest, Mauna Kea essentially overlaps with Mauna Loa. She poses no immediate threat and it could be several thousand more years before another eruption, or maybe never.  Next, we have the less predictable Hualalai volcano sandwiched between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the western coast. Hualalai is the third most active Hawaiian volcano (in recorded history) and has contributed to Hawai'i's western land mass, particularly in the Kailua-Kona area. This volcano has remained quiet since 1801. Moving on, we have Mauna Loa. Yeah. Mauna Loa means long mountain in Hawaiian and this girl definitely lives up to that name. She makes up half of the island of Hawai'i. Half. The distance from southern shore, across the summit, to northeastern shore (near Hilo) is a staggering 120 Km! This massive shield volcano has an estimated 18,000 cubic miles of volume. If my math is correct, that volume is the equivalent of just over 70,000 Empire State buildings in cubic feet.** From base to summit she rises 17 Km (55,700') from the ocean floor -- easily dwarfing Mt Everest -- and her immense girth causes the ocean floor to sink an approximated 8 Km below the surrounding ocean bed. The 17 Km is accounting for the 8 Km dip she's causing, by the way. Were the ocean floor not sinking, Mauna Loa would be another (roughly) 8000 meters above sea level -- putting her at over 12,000 meters above sea level (4000 meters taller than Mount Everest).  She is a big girl and she is not dormant but not actively erupting either. Lastly, we have Kilauea, the youngest and most active volcano that makes up Hawai'i. This "young" lady forms most of the southern and southeastern end of the island. Kilauea has been actively erupting for 35 years and she is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Now that we have an overview of the Hawaiian volcanoes we will dive into the current situation.

Mauna Loa has been slowly and consistently building up energy since her last eruption in 1984 which was coincidental to Kilauea's 1983 eruption. In fact, it is possible Kilauea has been "stealing" energy from Mauna Loa all these years -- acting as a sort of release valve. A fault system exists between the two volcanoes and no concrete evidence exists to prove the two connect; however, circumstantial data suggest a possible relationship. We are still in early stages of a possible quiet period for Kilauea but, interestingly, Mauna Loa started to show increased activity, if only for a brief period, shortly after the Halema'uma'u collapse and the southeast rift zone eruption ceased. Check out Discover's Rocky Planet blog for a really well written post which includes a time-lapse of Halema'uma'u collapsing. Personally, I think it's a suggestion (again, not evidence) of linkage between the two volcanoes -- somewhere deep down in the plumbing. I'm not the only person to wonder this; in fact, I don't even have an original idea here.  It's also interesting to note that historically the island's volcanoes have typically not erupted concurrently with a couple of exceptions. And since 1924, with the exception of 1984, Kilauea and Mauna Loa have alternated in active eruptions. That may not sound like very long but historical records of Hawaiian volcano eruptions only go back maybe 100 years before that. Either way, not a definitive data set.

Meanwhile, Kilauea is "quiet" BUT, the southeast rift zone has been showing signs of inflation for several weeks. Nothing like what we saw prior to the eruption during the summer of 2018; just a slow, steady increase. Pu'u 'Ō'ō continues to steam heavily (particularly after rain) but has minimal outgassing. The crater also still experiences minor collapse events one of which occurred today. Halema'uma'u also shows similar signs of steam and little outgassing; but no apparent inflation.  

Dust from a minor collapse event at Pu'u O'o crater is captured on the webcam overwatching the main crater.Minor Collapse Event DustDust from a minor collapse event at Pu'u O'o crater is captured on the webcam overwatching the main crater.

I am NOT suggesting an imminent eruption of Mauna Loa. There is absolutely no evidence to support such a claim. I am suggesting, however, that if Kilauea remains quiet for a period of time -- many, many months to years -- then we should expect to see a resurgence of Mauna Loa. Kilauea is not really showing signs of taking a nap at the moment though. Seismicity remains slightly elevated and as mentioned inflation is occurring along the rift zone but minimally. That said, my money is on Mauna Loa releasing some pressure before Kilauea does anything significant; assuming activity stays at current levels or declines. Kilauea, just released significant volumes of lava and it will take some time for that pressure to rebuild. Not to mention that the collapse events at the caldera may be significantly impeding further magma flow anywhere else within Kilauea's plumbing. This also does NOT suggest that Mauna Loa will have some sort cataclysmic eruption. More likely, she relieves pressure through vents resulting in outgassing of  SO2, steam, and some non-trivial amount of lava. In the meantime, Kilauea keeps building pressure. My, long game, theory is that Kilauea is the next star in the show of the multi-millennial dance we have been able to understand on the Hawaiian Islands. Kilauea continues to build the island and, perhaps, eventually she gives way to Lō'ihi. For the short game, Mauna Loa increases in activity with some sort of eruption before Kilauea returns to the spotlight.

Just so no one thinks I'm some conspiracy nut job I am including some seismic maps during the latest Kilauea eruption and then seismic activity from 29 Aug to today. You can replicate these maps by going to this site at the USGS.

Seismic activity on Hawai'i during the 2018 Kilauea eruption.03-May-03-JunSeismic activity on Hawai'i during the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

The first month of the 2018 eruption activity on LERZ. This is about 13,000 earthquakes of 1.1 or greater magnitude. Note that Mauna Loa shows some activity but pretty limited. Date range is 03 May to 03 June.


Seismic activity during the month of July -- 04 through 30 July during the 2018 Kilauea eruption even of Kilauea.04-Jul-30-JulSeismic activity during the month of July -- 04 through 30 July during the 2018 Kilauea eruption even of Kilauea.

Seismic activity during the month of July which does show some activity on Mauna Loa; however, there were nearly 17,000 earthquakes that month. Note the cluster of earthquakes outside the national park on Mauna Loa's northwest slope. This is about the time that the LERZ is starting to stabilize (also not the drop in seismic activity along the LERZ compared to May). I skipped June because it showed almost no activity around Mauna Loa and a similar map around Kilauea as May.


Last 90 days (end of August to 25 Nov) of seismic activity.Last 90 daysLast 90 days (end of August to 25 Nov) of seismic activity.

The last 90 days of seismic activity on Hawaii. Granted, this is a larger sample set (in terms of time) but notice the clusters of earthquakes at Mauna Loa's summit and northwest face. It is slightly higher activity than normal background activity. The (slightly) elevated activity coincides with the stoppage of activity at Kilauea. This data set contains about 900 earthquakes compared to almost 17,000 in the previous map. (M1+)

*There is currently a submerged volcano called Loihi which is about 21 miles south of Hawaii. It's possible that Loihi, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea expand enough that Loihi will become the sixth volcano on the island. Or it may become its own distinct island or fail to break the surface of the ocean at all. It will likely take tens of thousands of years for the answer to reveal itself.

**Figuring the 18,000 cubic miles for Kilauea and then taking the volume of the Empire state building -- converting Kilauea to cubic feet (an astronomical number) and then dividing that number by the volume of the Empire State building arrives at about 71,000 buildings to equate to Mauna Loa. Even if I''ve screwed up my math and I'm off by some order of magnitude -- that's still a crap ton of Empire State buildings. Wow.




(DragonflyPhoto) big island earthquake eruption forecast hawaii kilauea mauna loa science speculation volcano https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/volcano-update-november-2018 Sun, 25 Nov 2018 13:23:00 GMT
What's next? https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/whats-next So, while I am taking my time uploading photos from Yellowstone (Lord knows I took my time editing them!); I have been thinking about what my next project will be. I won't be traveling anywhere anytime soon so, this is the perfect time for a studio project. Without going too far off topic here, I spent virtually every weekend last summer (and into autumn) working on overhauling the garage. The point was two-fold: a) make it possible to park cars, b) ready it to double as a photo studio for projects.

I have the lighting gear, backdrops, and everything else I need but, I wound up either having too little space inside to set up or, making a huge mess of the house. The garage provides plenty of space and if I make a mess (aside from the lights, stands, cables, etc.), I can just sweep or hose it out when finished. Last year, I ordered a couple of lasers for which I have several plans. First and foremost, I wanted a laser powerful enough to burn through things, particularly balloons, I also wanted a laser that was slightly less dangerous.

The more dangerous of the two is my 10W blue model. This thing bursts balloons, ignites cardboard, cuts plastic, maybe even punch a hole through the house if I'm careless. It's also an amazing brilliant blue.

I know. It looks more purple in this photo but it actually is stunning electric blue. The other laser is a more docile 200mW green model. Perhaps if one waited long enough it could burn balloons but that could take some time -- especially, if say, the balloon is full of liquid dissipating any heat build up.



A quick snapshot of both. The larger, lightsaber looking one, is my blue laser.


To give you some idea of scale. The smaller one (the green laser) is about the size of a dry erase marker. The larger one weighs about two pounds and is about 15" long. Fortunately, the blue laser also has a low power mode. That feature means I can reasonably expect not to burn a hole through my house when it's in use which will be ideal for this first project I'm going to tackle. Cameras with friggin' lasers!

Drevil million dollars.jpg

So, earlier this week I ordered myself decent fog/smoke machine for less than $30. For another $25 I also ordered a gallon of recommended juice
for the fogger. What I am currently lacking is a lens that will turn my laser pointer into a flat beam. I'm awaiting lenses in both 45º and 60º spreads.

Okay. What's this all about? Well if you look at smoke going through a flat beam of light you can get some pretty trippy looking abstracts. It's like a Star Trek version of a lava lamp (just don't look directly at the light). Wicked lasers has a pretty decent YouTube video of smoke going through one of their arctic blue lasers. The video is kind of mesmerizing (especially if you go full HD, turn off the lame background music and go full screen).

So now you can gather where I'm going with this. I was hoping to start experimenting this weekend but my lenses aren't due in until later in the week so I'll have to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to play around. Maybe I'll post a quick follow up with some candid snaps from my phone. So that's the plan for the first bona fide studio project since I (mostly) finished the space.

Disclaimer: I'm well aware of the dangers, laws, regulations, etc. of using lasers. In fact, the blue laser will never be leaving the confines of my house. 

I am curious if folks have other ideas, tips, etc. for what lasers can be used for in photography. If you have some ideas leave a comment or drop a note.

(DragonflyPhoto) Abstract Conceptual Lasers Smoke Machine Trippy https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/whats-next Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:48:00 GMT
Quick Post https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/quick-post Really learned quite a bit reading this article from Phlearn Magazine and made some much needed tweaks to the site.




(DragonflyPhoto) Phlearn SEO Site Optimization https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/quick-post Tue, 13 Nov 2018 22:47:58 GMT
Wildlife in Yellowstone https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/wildlife-in-yellowstone Recently, I posted the third photo (of a couple dozen, in all) from a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Those that know me, know that I'm something of a volcano freak so this trip was all about the hydrothermal features of the park. Even though you don't have actual flowing lava, Yellowstone is a tremendously active volcanic site. The actual caldera is approximately 45 miles by 35 miles and is one of the world's largest calderas. There are more than 10,000 hydrothermal features. 10,000! And there are, at least, 500 active geysers in the park. If that's not enough, the park experiences anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 earthquakes per year. Granted, most of those are never felt as they are microquakes, but it's evidence that the area is very geologically active. Yellowstone is also considered a "supervolcano" -- a volcano capable of incredible power and potential for 1,000 cubic kilometers of lava or greater. Depending upon where you read, Yellowstone is one of three to a half dozen supervolcanoes in North America. The volcano has had at least two incredibly powerful eruptions that would be devastating to us today, but then, that's been over the last couple of million years. She has also had minor eruptions. It's unlikely we have anything to worry about in the near future. Pronghorn resting in a meadow of the Lamar River Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY.Woke Up From Where She LayPronghorn resting in a meadow of the Lamar River Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

So while I was really excited to see all of the features of a living and (almost literally) breathing supervolcano, I was decidedly surprised by all the wildlife. By the end of the week I was really over seeing all the Bison -- with the exception of having to stop for a Bison crossing directly in front the car just a few yards ahead. These are referred to locally as "bison jams". By the end of the week a list of featured animals were crossed off. Bison. Elk. Eagle. Prairie Dog. Black Bear. Moose. Deer. Osprey. Mountain Goat. And a few creatures we couldn't identify. I'm not even sure I'm remembering everything. The one that really stood out to me, though, was the Pronghorn, or Pronghorn Antelope. These creatures are gorgeous to me and don't appear to be very skittish, unlike deer. What is interesting about Pronghorns (or Antilocapra americana) is that they are their own unique species here in North America. In fact, their closest relative is the Giraffe. Huh. Sure wouldn't have expected that! But looking at the snout of Pronghorn there is some similarity with a Giraffe. If you're really curious about these gorgeous but slightly odd creatures PBS has a page that has a lot more detail than I'll cover here. It also includes a map of their range which appears to be a huge swath of the North American interior from southern Canada down to Mexico including the Baja Peninsula.


What I learned while I was there (there's hearing/reading things and then there's witnessing things to really drive the point home) is that Yellowstone really does have a vibrant and varying wildlife ecosystem. She boasts 67 species of mammals, 285 species of birds, 16 species of fish, 6 species of reptiles, and 5 species of amphibians. You could easily spend a lifetime trying to spot them all. If you're planning a trip to Yellowstone (which I highly recommend), I suggest making a list of the animals you want to spot and make a game of it. Also, while you can spot many animals from the comforts of your car you have a much greater chance of seeing things by getting out and hiking some of the trails. Even some of the easier trails are more than worth the time. 

(DragonflyPhoto) Antelope Deer National National Parks Parks Pronghorn Wildlife Wildlife Photography Wyoming Yellowstone https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/11/wildlife-in-yellowstone Mon, 05 Nov 2018 23:37:00 GMT
5 months and Wow! Yellowstone! https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/10/5-months-and-wow-yellowstone I'm a little embarrassed it's been five months since my last post. I suck. LOL I had every intention of following up my last post with some cool photos and posts about Yellowstone National Park but the window between that trip and taking a completely unplugged holiday, plus work, just didn't allow it. By the time I got back to work in mid-August I was completely underwater and I hadn't edited a single photo still. Work also got in the way which meant that by the weekends I was just trying to rest up for the week that was coming and then by September I realized that I was hosting a work party In October and the few weekends I had to get ready were rapidly diminishing. Somehow I managed to not only get ready for the party (I had a "honey do this or die list") and finished editing the photos. I may or may not have spent capital I don't have in the process. ;-)  

At any rate. Party is done and photos are edited so I'm finally able to get to a blog post. So.... Yellowstone...


Holy #@#$@%!!! Yellowstone is an amazing place! I was very interested in seeing the geological features there and figured the wildlife would be an interesting distraction between sites. Clearly. I was wrong. The wildlife at Yellowstone is the main attraction. I was thinking it would be nice to see a few species but managed to check off almost all of the major animals without even trying. Big Horn Sheep (check). Moose (Check. Check). Bison (Check-x-20). Elk (Elk-x-ad nauseum). Prairie Dogs (check). Black Bear (check!!!!). Pronghorn (check). Deer (check). Eagle (check). Jeep (check). Unidentified snake (check). Vulture (check). Wolf (nope). Osprey (check). Mountain Goat (check). Elephant (Nope, wrong continent ;-) ). Volcano (check, check, check). I'm sure I'm forgetting something -- there were animals I wasn't even expecting to see there. Just amazing.

While I was just amazed at how much wildlife could be seen each day. I also ate some of the best Bison tenderloin (or tenderloin of anything for that matter) at Buck's T-4 Lodge (note I'm not getting paid squat for mentioning them and I highly doubt they'll ever know I did). I only mention it specifically because if you ever find yourself in Big Sky, Montana and you want a good steak, mac and cheese, or Bison tenderloin, this is your place. I liked it so much that I went twice. The service is outstanding and the food is stupid good. Then there's the atmosphere; it feels local, and just like a place you'd hang out in. When I go back (and I will), I'll be stopping by again.

Okay, so more about the trip to Yellowstone. Outside of Hawaii it is, by far, the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. The changes in geography, the interest in geography, the wildlife, the opportunities for photography and the overall scenery are endless. On top of that, you have the Grand Tetons not that far away as well. I count myself lucky to have been able to visit both during that week. Over the next few days to couple of weeks I'll start posting photos from Yellowstone, one or two from the Tetons and one of Salt Lake City. This trip was a personal triumph, of sorts. I finally had the chance to visit my home country's interior. I keep a physical map on the wall of my office with push pins marking all of the places that I have visited or lived. There was an enormous gap between the midwest (west of Dallas) and the west coast. I'd never been to Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho or other states in the region. I still have unfinished business out there and I intend to go back; particularly to the Tetons. But in one week I was able to check off Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. There are many places in the world to visit and see but Yellowstone and the Tetons should be on your bucket list. I particularly enjoyed photographing at the mud pots where Artists's Paintpots is located. Every photo is a unique opportunity for an abstract photo of some type. I could have spent an entire day there alone and there will be several photos just from that location coming.

The first photo I have to share is of a black bear feasting on a deer. Perhaps macabre but its something you'd never see in a zoo. This is wildlife being wild and it was absolutely incredible to see.

Black bear feeding in the wild


(DragonflyPhoto) black bear Exploring Hiking national parks Photography Travel wildlife Wildlife Photography Wyoming Yellowstone https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/10/5-months-and-wow-yellowstone Tue, 30 Oct 2018 04:11:29 GMT
In Your Honor https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/5/in-your-honor If you know me you know I have something of an obsession with volcanoes and lava so it won't come as a shock if this post is about volcanoes.

Unless you've been living under a rock (Ha! Get it?) you no doubt know that Kilauea has entered a new phase of eruption. Magma has found it's way further down rift and it is putting on a fantastic show. It's unfortunate that Kilauea caused the loss of several homes but given only one injury has occurred it is testament to Kilauea's tameness. One. And no deaths. While it seems the show she is putting on is both fantastic and frightening, if you compare her to other volcanoes (in the 20th century to present) such as Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Pinatubo, Nevado del Ruiz, and El Chichón; Kilauea has largely claimed structures, not lives. In fact, in the nearly 40 years of continuous eruption (since 1983) Kilauea has claimed exactly zero lives (directly). Zero. Kilauea is dangerous but given that she's more prone to actual lava outbreaks and (so far) mild ash plumes as opposed to explosive eruptions involving pyroclastic flows and lahars, she's relatively tame. That tameness allows us to study the science of how the Earth works. She also provides us a National Park in her honor because she's safe enough to observe from a distance; but a distance that's good enough to appreciate the power of Earth's dynamics, even on a small scale.

I've saved one last photo for editing from my trip almost two years ago to edit and publish for some special occasion and I suppose this latest outbreak is as good as any. I hope to go back and document (hopefully artistically) this latest outbreak. It's almost physically painful to watch all this coverage and not be there to see it and photograph it in person but then I can't tear myself away from watching it. I'm like a moth to flame (only metaphorically though!).


Still molten lava can be seen through the cracks. This is the last in my series of lava shots from Hawaii.In Your HonorStill molten lava can be seen through the cracks. This is the last in my series of lava shots from Hawaii.

(DragonflyPhoto) Ash Big Island Editing Eruption Hawaii Kilauea Lava Lava Photography National Parks Volcano Volcano National Park https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/5/in-your-honor Wed, 23 May 2018 01:36:25 GMT
She's Dead, Jim https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/5/shes-dead-jim Geological activity at Kilauea Volcano has definitely taken a new direction. If you have been following the news you should be aware of the recent outbreaks of fissures on her southeastern rift zone. Unfortunately, the outbreaks have occurred in populated areas and many people have lost their homes and also forced to evacuate.

Personally, I have been watching Kilauea and Mauna Loa pretty much constantly for the last three years. The USGS provides a site which you can check (and I do daily) on the latest activity at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. I've been following particularly closely over the last month as both Kilauea proper and the massive Pu'u O'o crater (down the southeastern rift) began swelling in late March. While lava entry into the ocean had stopped a few months ago, lava outbreaks around Pu'u O'o were frequent and the inflation just added constant pressure for outbreaks. This activity was exciting to see as this year's travel plans included Hawaii in November 2018 and I had planned for much more up close and personal lava flow experiences. On 30 April Kilauea experienced a massive swarm of relatively shallow earthquakes both at the caldera and along her southeast rift zone. I had a sinking feeling that something was about to happen and I was missing it.

On 1 May, Pu'u O'o's crater floor collapsed and seismicity indicated activity further down-rift (southeast). Below you can see what Pu'u O'o looked like during clear weather earlier in April 2018.

Pu'u O'o CraterPu'u O'o Crater on 18 April 2018

You can clearly see a lava pond (bottom-center) and, image-left, you can make out USGS gear monitoring Pu'u O'o. From late March up to this point I had watched Pu'u O'o's crater floor go from a concave configuration to a convex, almost dome-like, structure. In fact, the reddish-beige formation, image-right, once loomed high above the crater immediately to the left (north). Apparently, the magma causing Pu'u O'o to swell (as well as Kilauea) had found a path further down-rift and the sudden evacuation of magma and severe drop in pressure caused Pu'u O'o to fail completely. A couple of days later, Hawaii experienced three 5+ magnitude earthquakes including one not far from Pu'u O'o and a fourth earthquake registering 6.9 just off the south shore of the island.

Further down-rift USGS continued to monitor increased seismic activity and tilting of the rift zone. On about 5 May USGS were able to inspect Pu'u O'o since the weather had cleared enough to allow flights and visibility was good. It became obvious that Pu'u O'o had suffered a devastating collapse. Additionally, a one kilometer-long crack had opened directly west of the crater and had seeped lava at some point overnight. Sulphur dioxide and steam were still outgassing during the over flight.

Pu'u O'o after the collapse.Pu'u O'o after the collapse of the crater floor. Note that the USGS equipment miraculously still sits to the left of the crater. You can still see the USGS equipment to the left which miraculously survived the collapse. You can also see the structure of rock I mentioned above to the right but it, and everything around it is now covered in a layer of reddish-brown ash and dust. Another look at Pu'u O'o a few days later looking straight down into the crater.

Pu'u O'o post collapse - May 2018A perfectly straight down shot of the crater after the collapse. This shot (above), taken several days after the initial collapse, you can see that additional collapse and rock slide activity has occurred since the walls of the crater have significantly steepened. Additional slides and collapses are expected to occur before things finally settle. Overnight web cam images show absolutely no sign of incandescence, likely meaning that magma is now bypassing the crater. Additionally, all lava activity on the surface has stopped and the usual glow of skylights (areas where lava tubes are partially exposed) at night have all stopped as well. This leads me to believe that Pu'u O'o is now a dead crater like many of the other craters further up-rift (to the northwest). Assuming I am correct, she put on quite a show for an extended time and it is saddening that I will not get to experience her activity first hand. She menaced nearby communities for over 30 years and utterly destroyed the Royal Gardens subdivision in the late 80s and early 90s. Pu'u O'o recently threatened the Pahoa community with lava flows just meters from structures outside town-central before halting. The vent then gave us one final fantastic show of lava entering the ocean in 2017 which lasted several months on-and-off. Who knows what is next for Kilauea and her southeast rift zone. As of today, 18 fissures have appeared in, and around, the Leilani Estates subdivision, destroying almost 40 structures to this date. Given all her activity, it is unlikely that Pu'u O'o will play a part in the next chapter of Kilaueua's nearly 40 years of continuous eruptive activity as it appears that a new vent will be opening up somewhere much further down-rift from the Volcano. Kilaueua herself also threatens the island's southside with lava being lower than ever recorded since Halema'u ma'u vent opened in the crater floor. Vent wall collapses and steam explosions are highly likely which could change the structure of the vent. It will be interesting to see what happens next and I hope that I'll be able to get some fascinating photos of the activity when I am next there.


(All photos are copyright USGS)

(DragonflyPhoto) Ash Big Island Cone Crater Earthquake Eruption Fissures Hawaii Kilauea Lava Leilani Estates Magma Pu'u O'o Royal Gardens Southeast Rift Zone USGS Vent Volcano https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/5/shes-dead-jim Sun, 13 May 2018 19:23:38 GMT
My admission of guilt... https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/5/way-way-too-long I have felt inspired recently. I realized that I developed a romance.. an affair if you will. She is my mistress but she is dying. Riddled with a cancer and I am powerless to help; all I can do is document this slow death when I can visit her. It makes me wish I had met her at least before the cancer set in but I'm very late; too late. She has probably had many suitors before and I cannot blame her for having them. There will probably be more like her but I do not know if that will be in my life time or not. I hope so.

I cannot say I "discovered" her but we met about a year ago. When first we met I felt sorry and remained distant. Seeing her again this year I realized she is my girl, we just never had any time together; save a couple of absolutely gorgeous days on the beach. But then, that's where she lives. She is a beach. In fact, a beach off South Carolina and she has a forest slowly dying off as the coast shifts and trees die back. Given we are talking about an island, honestly, the forest is doomed either way. Even as she dies back and her forest goes with her, she still offers haunting beauty, solitude, and moments of just, "yeah". 

Unfortunately, the hurricane season of 2017 really took a toll on her and while she is still there in body her compliments of trees were just devastated. I could only find one dead tree still standing on the north side and I suspect (while I have not been there) the island's south side fared much worse. If you ever find yourself along coastal South Carolina, go to Hunting Island and pay your respects to a natural diva. She'll appreciate and love you back, even if it isn't obvious in the moment. You'll know it later when you remember her. I promise.


P.S. - she's worth a weekend affair. ;-)




The root of an old maritime forest tree snakes its way through the sand; resembling an ancient sea serpent of folklore.The Sand SerpentThe root of an old maritime forest tree snakes its way through the sand; resembling an ancient sea serpent of folklore.

(DragonflyPhoto) Beach Dying Ghost Forest Hunting Island Island Landscape Landscape Photography Maritime Forest South Carolina Trees https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2018/5/way-way-too-long Wed, 02 May 2018 06:25:05 GMT
Witnessing Creation https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/7/witnessing-creation Recently, a chance was given to me to observe the Earth creating new land. What a thrilling and magnificent spectacle to witness! I was unequivocally hooked, and found myself wishing we could set down. As exciting as the tour was, viewing lava flows from a helicopter wasn’t enough, I wanted more. Taking shots at ground level must be an incredible thrill and is an experience I must have! Aside from being eye-level, which would be incredible, the absence of a chopper would allow for appreciation of it all; the heat, the sound, the smell and the rush of some danger in trying to get “the shot”. In a previous post, I mentioned I couldn’t wait to go back to shoot lava again. I decided that setting aside an “emergency fund” is a logical way to achieve that goal. An emergency fund will allow for booking travel on short notice and achieve my goal in capturing ocean entry lava when it starts again, which looks to be sooner than later. Who doesn’t like seeing photos of volcanoes and lava?! The current (May 24th) breakout is tantalizingly close to the ocean, just over a half mile, but the small coastal plain has a shallow grade and the terrain is quite rough. The flow is slowing according to HVO observations. The HVO reported the flow front had advanced 90 meters on 8 July, which is a huge difference from the previous pace. Earlier in the breakout the flow was averaging 400-500 meter advances per day. You never know what a lava stream will do, or what direction it will take. Here’s to hoping that lava continues its slow march to the ocean, and makes it there. I have heard that every time Chain of Craters road is rebuilt, Kilauea decides she likes her paving jobs better. If lava continues to the ocean, it will cross a newly reconstructed portion of the road, again. If there’s truth to that rumour about CoC Rd., I hope they keep rebuilding it. :-)

I’ve posted several landscapes from the trip, and will also post a lava shot per week. However, a couple shots I believe are finished I’m going to preview in this blog post. Publishing the larger full-res versions to the gallery and 500px will come later, but I like to sit on shots for a bit to make sure I’m satisfied with the final image. These photos may not end up posted anywhere else or these photos may have some final changes made before posting.

This first image, taken toward the end of our visit at the flow field, shows the incredibly rugged terrain.  The location is approximately a mile from Pu’u O’o crater and the surrounding landscape is just, surreal.

I cannot help myself if reminded of something one might see in Lord of the Rings involving Mordor. If you are like me and have ever wondered how early, primordial, pre-life Earth appeared, this landscape cannot be much different. The skylight you see in the foreground of the image revealed a river of lava a good 20 feet below. The river was flowing at least 20MPH, perhaps even 30MPH; certainly the same speed you would expect to see a car  traveling on a residential side-street. There also appeared to be a massive underground cavern. This cavern gave an impression there is an extensive lava tube network and this particular river runs deep and swift. I could scarcely believe I was witnessing this incredible scene with my own eyes. As I scanned my view for more potential photos I could not help but notice a massive lava tube northeast of the skylight (upper-right corner of the image). To give you an idea of scale, the defunct lava tube is easily spacious enough to drive a Cooper Mini inside. Assuming you desired, you could walk inside without having to duck, but that might be the least of your worries in this terrain. This scene caused me to think about what a dangerous proposition it would be to walk around out there. You just don’t know what you’re stepping on, what might give way, what spots are safe, or which step could be your last. Sitting here in my comfy chair, writing this blog, the danger seems daunting; but then, being there in that moment, with a chance to capture something amazing could completely change things.

Next up, we have a more wide-angle shot looking roughly straight down on a flow field that appears to be relatively recent. Hard to say how recent from a photo, but certainly not from this breakout. The lava rock is covered in sulfur and perhaps another element or two that has vented from hot rock or magma underneath. I am not a geologist, however, if I had to guess my guess would be that this field has cooled slowly. Sulfuric gasses (and other gasses?) built up pressure, and then vented out through cracks. There is probably no flowing lava underneath,  unless there is a discreet tube. This photo isn’t especially exciting, but intrigues me. If you study this image, you can follow how lava behaved as it moved down-slope; you can begin to understand how magma changed directions, popped out here, and built up there. It is fascinating to me. Visible massive cracks are signs of lava building up underneath, and lifting the surface as pressure mounted. I have to wonder if rock racking would make any sound or not (in this situation). Does it happen so slowly that there’s no perceptible noise or is  it sudden and startling, like pyrotechnics, as new rock succumbs to escalating pressure? Some of the cracks are likely from rock settling as pressure subsided. The yellow deposits are sulfur, but the white residue is a bit mysterious. Perhaps it is a salt of some sort. Perhaps, it’s due to rain water mixing with sulfur, forming sulphuric acid, and then reacting with the rock surface. I’m more partial to the latter theory. How unfortunate a job in geologic sciences typically doesn’t pay that well; seems like it would be fascinating work. If you look at the photo a little more abstractly, I find it sort of resembles what you might see in a massive roiling river — water rushing through huge rapids, but in this case, frozen in time.

In this last shot, you’ll see an active flow that looks more like molten metal than it does rock. I’m not sure why this particular stream of lava took on a more silvery appearance., but it would be really interesting to understand what forces are at work. Regardless, it makes for some incredible contrast. Looking at it I think I may have played up the contrast too much; I may still need to perform minor adjustments. :-)

Once lava starts making ocean entry or something else equally or more dramatic occurs, I’ll be going back. I could easily see myself spending an entire day out on the coast, shooting lava making contact with water. I’ll be sure to bring plenty of batteries, memory cards, water, and protein bars. :-) I’m looking forward to it.





(DragonflyPhoto) Aerial Photography Big Island Hawaii Island Lava Lava Field Lava Flow National Park Rock Volcano Volcano National Park https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/7/witnessing-creation Sun, 10 Jul 2016 14:47:00 GMT
Back From Paradise https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/6/back-from-paradise I recently took some time off from the day job and spent 9 days on the big island of Hawaii. It was time off I really needed and I enjoyed spending all that uninterrupted time with my family and getting some time behind the camera are more artistic endeavours.  It had been four years since my last visit to our tropic state of Hawaii and when we were finally on our way the excitement set in. I was looking forward to the reactions of the girls as they experienced and saw things that they just can't here on the mainland. It's also nice to be someplace where things are way more relaxed and leisurely.

One shot I didn't get was Kilauea at night since the weather just wouldn't cooperate while we were out on that side of the island. But that was pretty much the only thing I didn't get to capture or do the entire trip. We took a long hike through Volcano National Park, and got really, really rain soaked.

Kiluea Iki CraterKiluea Iki Crater on a very windy and rainy day.

I know it looks bright and not raining in this photo but trust me on this one. It was windy and rainy. In fact, out in the middle of this crater the rain was pretty much blowing straight in your face, unless you were walking the opposite direction (which we weren't). Unfortunately we also discovered that we were not on the loop trail which added another 2 miles (for me to go fetch the car) to our 3.5 mile hike. Needless to say, we were exhausted wet and cold by the end of the day. But we hiked through a crater on an active volcano and it still had steam vents all over the place. It was a foreign looking terrain, I have to say.

Our second day on the east side of the island involved my catching a helicopter flight at 5AM to tag along a with a film and photo crew to capture actual flowing lava coming from Pu'u O'o crater on Kilauea's southeast rift zone. It was definitely the experience of a lifetime and I'm also hooked. While it was my first time actually riding in a helicopter (I'd been inside military choppers a few times, on the ground) it was actually seeing flowing lava, feeling the heat from it, and smelling molten rock that just blew me away. In some spots we were just a few feet off the ground. My fellow passengers go out once a week to document what's going on with the lava flows as a public service. While I was a paying passenger on their weekly documentation flight, I most certainly had an experience you wouldn't get on a regular helicopter tour. Many, many thanks to Bruce from Extreme Exposure for helping set this up! A huge thanks to Colin, our pilot, from Paradise Helicopters; what a great job of piloting in less than ideal weather.

The photos above are just a teaser for the many, many photos I have to edit and will start putting up on the site and on my 500px.com gallery.

In late May the June 27th (2014) flow came to an end but new break outs started on May 24th moving east-southeast of Pu'u O'o crater. The first photo in this blog shows a view (east to west) of Kilauea Iki crater which last erupted 56 years ago and has been "quiet" since. Pu'u O'o is where most (if not all) of the action has been over the last few years and was the reason for the state to begin re-building Chain of Craters road as a 1.5 lane gravel road in case communities like Pahoa were cut off in the event that highway 130 was breached by lava flows. If you're going to Volcano National Park and plan to go down to the "end" of Chain of Craters road to see where the lava crossed it and entered the ocean you'll be in for a disappointing surprise. The new gravel road has been built by crushing and levelling the lava into gravel (and probably adding more gravel) over top of where the original road was. There's no iconic spot to see any longer including the road sign buried in lava rock declaring the road was closed. Instead you'd have at least a 6-7 mile walk to see the old flow and any sign of the original road is completely gone now (at least within the park). I'm not sure if construction of a new gravel road was being done simultaneously from the Kalapana side or not. The new gravel road does not (yet) show up on any satellite images (e.g., Google Earth, etc.) and until I asked some locals I couldn't find out when the heck construction on it started. Honestly, unless you are going to specifically see the sea arch or petroplyphs there's pretty much no reason to bother driving down Chain of Craters Road anymore; at least not until they finish constructing the gravel road and actually reconnect it with Kalapana (which I doubt unless there's another imminent emergency).

In the meantime, Pu'u O'o is still venting lava and sulfur dioxide gas. In the second photo is a shot looking upslope generally in a northwest direction toward the crater (which is too far away to see). If you look closely you can see lava breaking out over a wide area (wider area than I could capture in a single shot) and moving downhill. The breakouts are covering ground already covered in flows from the 1983 and onward flows and thus pose no danger to anything other than the plant life that has, unfortunately, begun calling the area home again. We saw plenty of ferns get vaporised and many of the trees that had scratched out a place to root were on fire or surrounded and doomed. Further uphill is too inhospitable for plant life due to the concentration of gases, acid rain, and I suspect the extreme heat not far underground. As we moved uphill there seemed to be evidence of numerous lava tubes feeding the breakouts further downhill. In the final picture of this blog post we see, closer up, some Pahoehoe (pe-hoy-hoy) lava moving across older A'a lava flows. A'a lava isn't particularly photogenic so I'm glad it was the Pahoehoe variety due its more sculptural billowing, braiding, and pillowy "toes" that it forms. But as I learned over breakfast it's the ocean entry that everyone craves. Ocean entry completely stopped (for the time being) 3 or 4 years ago; but it's ocean entry that provides the most action due to the sometimes explosive reactions of lava hitting the water and the massive amounts of steam and gases.

To see lava freely flowing like this fulfilled a childhood dream and I was able to (finally) cross something off my bucket list. But as I said earlier, I'm hooked; I'm now a lava junky and I will be very eagerly looking forward to the next time I can shoot lava again. There will be much more to come in terms of photos for quite some time. In fact, if I only did one lava photo a month I'd have enough photos to edit and publish for over thirty years. So, yeah, lots more to come. I'm thinking about doing a couple new lava photos each month for a while -- we'll see.

(DragonflyPhoto) Abstract Big Island Eruption Extreme Exposure Hawaii Hawaii Big Island HI Kilauea Landscape Lava Magma National Park National Parks Nature Paradise Helicopters Volcano Volcano National Park Volcanoes https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/6/back-from-paradise Mon, 20 Jun 2016 03:13:21 GMT
Never Give Up https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/6/never-give-up Two years ago, almost to the day, I happened upon a photo location that presented me a type of scene I'd been wanting to capture for some time. It was completely by accident that I'd found it and I happened to arrive at a time that seemed serendipitous.  I was giddy with excitement; a gorgeous sunset seemed imminent, I had a great foreground, waters were calm, and I had plenty of time to set up. In fact, I had enough time to go grab something to eat beforehand so that I could set up and then just wait.

I did just that. I went and grabbed an early dinner and then returned to my spot. The entire time I was eating, my mind was twirling with potential images I might capture. I went through the settings I'd want to start out with on my camera and I tried to visualise where I'd set up for my shots. I was even envisioning what my shots might look like and what I'd want to do in post-process.

Returning back to the scene I gathered up my equipment and walked over to where I wanted to set up. I soaked up the scene and the fresh salt-water air, sans low tide "funk". Slightly to my chagrin a couple of other photographers had shown up and were setting up as well. My spot wasn't my spot. I started to unpack my gear and set up when I discovered that I was missing the adapter for my tripod. What I had envisioned involved a long exposure and thus required a tripod. Perhaps it was the frustration, and anger with myself, that clouded my thoughts but despite thinking about it for a few minutes I couldn't figure out a hack to still get the shot. I had to have my tripod and with no way to mount my camera on my tripod... well... no shot. I cannot tell you how pissed and frustrated I was. It's quite possible, had I been alone on that beach, there would be an expensive piece of equipment sitting at the bottom of the bay -- I've inherited my grandfather's temper.

Dejected, angry with myself, and thoroughly disappointed, I re-packed my gear and started the three plus hour drive back home. I don't think I spoke for quite a while in the car, and by the time I'd squared things with myself the rest of the family had drifted off for most of the rest of the ride home. "I'll come back. I have to come back.", I thought to myself.

After a year I started to worry that that might be the scene that got away. It would be another year before I had a chance to return. The weather, however, was looking particularly awful. A stream of storms and clouds was sitting over the mid-atlantic and we weren't expecting to see the Sun for at least a couple of days, maybe longer. Still, I decided I was going to return to the scene, weather and $30 in bridge/road tolls notwithstanding. Only rains of biblical scale were going to prevent me from getting at least one shot. I wasn't going to make the sunset shot I wanted but that was okay; maybe I'd get something more interesting, more moody, or just different.


An abandoned pier on the Chesapeake Bay near Cape Charles.A PierAn abandoned pier on the Chesapeake Bay near Cape Charles.

At this point I plan to go back again, and maybe return over the years as well. But I am happy to have my shots.

In the process of thinking about this blog post and actually writing it, I thought, "I have my shot. I persevered." Actually, that is true. I did get the shot. I didn't give up on it despite waiting two years almost to the day. But I did get more out of it than that -- and no it's not a lesson on try, try again. I asked a fellow soccer Dad, who also has an interest in photography, if he'd be interested in joining me and he accepted. While I didn't know what sort of shots I'd get I knew I was going to get something that would be worth my time going out there and also to edit. What I didn't expect, and made the trip way more worth it, was making a friend. A friend, by the way, who has a photo of one of my wife's shoes (it was in the car) as his contact photo for me on his phone. Don't ask, I dunno either. :-)

(DragonflyPhoto) Abandoned Bay Chesapeak Decay Forgotten Landscape Photography Long Exposure Photography Pier Virginia Water https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/6/never-give-up Sat, 04 Jun 2016 02:27:22 GMT
I hear you knockin' but... https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/3/i-hear-you-knockin-but You can't come in.


You Can't Come InYou Can't Come InAs much as I wanted to, entry was not possible.

As much as I wanted to go inside this old house, entry wasn't possible without making a spectacle of myself and trespassing in broad daylight at a busy intersection. The inside of this old plantation style beauty was really intriguing but the doors had all had planking hammered over them to prevent entry. While there were other ways to gain access I had to restrain my curiosity and sense of adventure. I have no idea what the story is behind this old place but I'd love to find out. She sits alongside US17 about two-thirds of the way between Georgetown and McClellanville, SC. Judging by the mail box she's not been empty that long either; undergrowth had not yet covered up the postal carrier vehicle's usual path to and from the mail box. I'm betting she's been empty for less than two years which really says a lot about the state of disrepair of the house before it was finally vacated. There is barely a straight line on the old girl as she starts to collapse in on herself. It's particularly obvious looking at the back end of the house where you can see the chimney and back wall leaning in toward the center. That made ensuring that my photo was straight pretty hard. I did my level best to make the picture appear straight. (Get it? Level best?)

I have more photos of the house but none of them really inspired me to do post-processing. I'm going to hang on to them for future reference though.

Aside from this photo there is also some more new work posted to the fine art portfolio if you're interested in cruising through there. It's been a few weeks since I've posted new work but the day job has kept me plenty busy as has travel and other commitments. The spring sports season is here now though and that means baseball and lacrosse. Yay! I'll take another stab at trying to make some forward progress with sports photography and selling some photos there again this year.

Despite my interest in photographing abandoned and forgotten places I have to admit that despite finding this gem the photograph below is, by far, my favorite from a recent trip to SC. It is not what I envisioned when I decided I was going to do a pier shot like this but I played the hand I was dealt and I like the result.


Pier 14Pier 14Underneath Pier 14 in Myrtle Beach, SC during the blue hour.

(DragonflyPhoto) Myrtle Beach SC Spring Break Urban Exploration UrbEx Photography https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/3/i-hear-you-knockin-but Sat, 26 Mar 2016 03:45:17 GMT
Visiting an old friend https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/2/visiting-an-old-friend Been a while since I posted a blog. The holidays are long gone now and I've gotten back to working on photos again since things at work are starting to settle down a bit and I've gotten a handle on completing some personal development goals with photography. I spent most of the month of January getting ready for my next challenge in photography. Lots of photos, some creative energy, an odd idea or two, tons and tons of editing; all in order to finish some goals before the baseball season kicks off. Very soon. I'm actually really looking forward to baseball season kicking off and getting out to take some photos of baseball again. Listening to the sounds of the game, a mouthful of salty sunflower seeds, and trying to capture some great shots on the field; I honestly relish it. Here's hoping for a warm March!

But I've had a bit of lull between personal goals and the start of the season so I had a chance to go out and visit what I consider an old friend now. Sometime last year I visited a place I call the Clark House. It sits about a quarter mile off the road due east of a historical marker declaring the spot where the Walter Clark house stood. I honestly don't know for certain that the house I've visited is actually the Walter Clark house or if it's a neighbor or perhaps someone else from the family. It fits the time period and given the lack of any other evidence that a house from that period stood in the vicinity of the sign it's pretty certain this was the house. I took a number of photos of the house on my first visit but reflecting on those photos a few months later I wanted to go back again to try some different shots or re-take some shots with the right equipment on hand. My last visit also didn't allow for a complete tour of the house due to the enormous number of hornets and wasps that now call her home. In fact a hallway was completely impassable due to a nest of what I shall refer to as hornets the size of something you'd find on an aircraft carrier. I don't fancy the idea of myself running out of an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere screaming like a school girl so I agreed with the hornets that the back half of the upstairs was theirs.... for the summer. I silently declared to myself (all in my head, of course) and absolutely nothing like what MacArthur probably sounded like, "I shall return.". 

Returning in winter it was clear that my naval aviator friends were all dead and frozen solid or were enjoying a long winter's nap. Either way, not posing a threat to my ego. I re-toured the house and it was clear the house had had visitors since I'd last been there. Objects had been moved, an old record my buddy and I had found was nowhere to be found, doors that were open before were now closed (and in one case, locked -- what the ??) but whomever the visitor(s) was there was no obvious new damage to the house. My hope that the approach to the house would be easier was dashed quickly. I got hung up in the same stupid aluminum wire, ripped my shirt on thorns,  and the tripod on my pack got hung up on overgrowth near the front porch.... again. #@$#@!! Damn kudzu or whatever evil viny devil plant that it is. For a moment, just a moment, I wanted a flamethrower and imagined myself laughing maniacally as I watched my deciduous enemy melt and burn in the heat of my flaming wrath.

<ahem> But I digress. Because of the overgrowth it's not really possible to get a good photograph of the outside of the house. It's shrouded in overgrowth until you get onto what's left of the porch. In fact, even if you have a clear line of site to the house, from the road (especially in winter) or anywhere else, you cannot see the house at all unless you catch a bit of the roof sticking out.

Being able to go through the entire house I realized just how big of a house that she is. There were an additional two bedrooms upstairs that I didn't get to see before and they were both decent sized bedrooms, even by modern standards. They even shared a chimney for a fireplace on either side. The back bedroom was over the kitchen and at one point must have boasted a balcony judging by the doorway on the rear wall. But there was no sign of a balcony at all. I also noticed on the tin roof, outside one of the bedroom windows what appeared to be bear scat (even after looking at photos of verified black bear scat I'm pretty sure it was). I have to admit I thought it was human at first and thought to myself, "Well, when you gotta go, you gotta go." but then I noticed that unless I was staring at the poo of a human vegan it likely wasn't human. I suppose it's possible but I'm sort of doubtful that there's a vegan abandoned house explorer out there that decides s/he can't hold it, "#%# it! I'll just #@% on the roof!" That said, it's a rather interesting place for bear scat. I tried to imagine what it would look like to see a decent sized black bear taking a big dump on the roof. Honestly, I couldn't picture it. What? I didn't put the scat there! It got there somehow! Right?

After looking around and being satisfied that there wasn't anything particularly photogenic in either of these rooms I started to head back toward the front of the house. As I returned down the hallway I noticed an old and bleached bone on the floor. I'm sure it wasn't, but it did look an awful lot like part of a human humerus bone (the upper arm) that had been broken off about 3/4 of the way down to the elbow. There was no other evidence of skeletal remains anywhere else and it was certainly a very old bone. There even appeared to be bits of dried something stuck to the bone. Creepy. It was while I was standing here and looking out the hall window that I noticed daffodil sprouts coming up through the ground clutter in places that seemed very logical to plant them. Evidence, still, that the house was once a vibrant family home.

I returned to one of the bedrooms on the front of the house and noticed that from that bedroom the occupant would have had a great view of an Oak or perhaps a Pecan tree on what would have been the front lawn across the drive.

View of an OakView from one of the front rooms of the Walter Clark house.

This window looks pretty much due west and I imagine probably offered some great views of sunsets. I'd love to be able to wake up and look out my window to have a view of such an Oak (or maybe a Pecan -- I'm really not sure but I'm going with Oak). You can see the front of the house below which is the roof over the front porch. The tattered window shade at the top of the window and the off-kilter screen in the window I thought also added interest to the scene. I'd have really liked to shoot straight out the window but in order get a view of that tree you cannot look straight out. The tree seems to be centered on the front of the house. I didn't notice while I was shooting but I had to chuckle at how the wallpaper in the lower right appears like a hand flipping me the bird. Back at 'ya Clark house -- you kinda creep me out. Except for the occasional passing car or truck and a barking dog in the distance it was really, really quiet in this house.

From here I went back downstairs to re-take a shot I'd done from my previous visit. There's an interesting part of the house that sits behind the staircase. It's an interesting confluence of doors; one leading outside, another into a closet and a third leading to the home's dining room. Behind me is the house's only bathroom and to the left two more rooms that could have served as an office, parlour, living room or bedroom. The sheer curtains on the door leading out really got my attention the first time I came and again on this visit. I've tried to imagine what this part of the house might have looked like when it was furnished. I've pictured a telephone sitting somewhere in this hall that leads to the front door and then around the stairs to this side door and the dining room. Today this would probably seem like wasted space but it's a large hallway and feels like the heart of the house; you can't get to another part of the house without coming through here.

Satisfied that I'd gotten the shot I wanted I moved into the dining room which is the room to the right. I imagine that large door probably stayed open most of the time but what solid door it is and it's quite a massive door considering the rest of the house.

For the dining room I had imagined a specific shot and I'd packed something with me in order to get the shot. The dining room is a pretty good sized room and would have afforded a large table and other furniture. I imagine many family gatherings and holiday feasts that took place in this room. It must have been an inviting room with the large fireplace and I imagine a sizeable table. Off of the dining room to the left is a closet I suppose was used as a pantry judging by all the shelves. To the right a door leads to a modest kitchen. From the kitchen there's access to a back porch and another storage area that may have served as an ice box or storage for perishables. To the immediate right of the dining room is another door with access to the back porch that seems to have been used by her last occupants as a sort of den. Still complete with a 1960s era console television and deep seat leather lounger chairs -- though only one chair remains (mostly) in tact. I've taken photos of the old TV before but it was not on the list for this trip and is really not all that remarkable. The back porch is also in pretty bad shape due to a tree growing out from underneath of it and seriously warping the structure. The floorboards also seemed to have deteriorated much more than I recalled from my last visit. This was also the door that was open on the last visit but this time was closed and locked (from the inside).

In the photo above (if looking in the crystal ball) the kitchen is on the left and the pantry on the right which is opposite of the actual layout.

At this point I'd been in the house for a couple of hours and it was probably time to move on since I'd left my car sitting on the side of the road in a rather conspicuous spot. As I left the house I decided to take a different way back to my car. I followed the old drive up to the house instead of the power line path directly from the road (and thus avoiding the pesky aluminum wire I'd been caught up in twice now). As I proceeded down the drive to the south I noticed a clearing that led back to the house toward the rear of it. I decided to investigate and I was not disappointed for detouring. I was hoping for a clear view of at least the south elevation of the house but the over and undergrowth had different ideas. However, I spotted what appeared to be the remains of a smokehouse or an outhouse (or something else) and then noticed some ancient rusting farm implements. There were two old and massive horse drawn rakes and if I'd investigated a little further maybe some other equipment but everything was covered in so much overgrowth it was hard to see. That, and something very blue, out of the corner of my right eye caught my attention. Surrounded by viney thorn bushes and trees sat, on her keels, an old 1950s or 1960s motor boat. I'm not an expert but I'm guessing by the placement of the inboard/outboard motor, the obvious design to indicate "I'm built for speed", and the relatively shallow draft, a ski boat. Maybe she's just a general pleasure boat but something about her said, "Come ski with me!". I have absolutely no interest in owning a boat but something about the scene made me feel as though that old boat wanted to be rescued and restored to her former glory as a craft that mastered a lake and gave a water skier a thrill or two on a hot Saturday afternoon. 

She's not much to look at now but imagining this design back in the 50s or 60s I can't help but think she was meant for water skiing. I couldn't see any obvious brand markings on her and trying to walk around her (thought not apparent in this photo) was rather difficult with all the shrubby growth. I also really didn't want to disturb any of the moss on the boat or anything about the scene at all. I'm still okay to let my imagination go with it -- it was really a cool find -- right or wrong. 

By the time I finished getting my photos of the boat the sun was starting to get low and I wanted to allow myself time to shoot something else if I came across anything else on my way back home. I never did come across anything else on my way back -- at least nothing that I felt worthy of stopping for. My mind kept going back to the Clark house, her boat, what else I might want to try and do. I'll be back there I suspect.

Full resolution photos from this blog will be posted in the next few days from this posting and available in the gallery.

(DragonflyPhoto) Airlie Clark House Confederate Veteran Halifax County North Carolina State Supreme Court Justice Walter Clark https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2016/2/visiting-an-old-friend Wed, 10 Feb 2016 06:21:31 GMT
Holiday Photos https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/12/holiday-photos Okay, so these are probably not your typical holiday photos. Over the last couple of weeks, though, I've been unable to get any football photos in due to the holidays and business travel. In fact I completely missed the state championship games this year which was sort of a bummer. On the other hand, I did get to visit the Smoky Mountain National Park during the Thanksgiving Holiday. I've been in/through the park before but this was my first time to have a chance to get out of the car and actually do some exploring.

If you're into abandoned and forgotten places you may have read about a "discovered" summer cottage town in the Smokies called Elkmont. This little village was never really lost, in fact, it sits right next to an often used campground bearing the same name. Still, visiting this little summer retreat today, as nature reclaims the grounds, is interesting. It's worth the short uphill walk from the Elkmont campground road. The village now belongs to the park and the park authorities seem content to let nature do it's job even though the village has been designated a historical site. I suspect most of the buildings will be all but gone over the next decade. The park service has restored a handful of buildings related to the village but the cottages and some other buildings have been left to fend for themselves.

Not far from Elkmont is Laurel Falls which, according to most trail guides, has an "easy" rating to hike. I presume because the trail is paved virtually the entire way to the falls the guides rate it as easy. I'd personally rate this trail as moderate because the hike up to the falls is uphill the entire way and the incline in most places is steep enough that if it were an interstate there would be that third lane for trucks to merge into as they inch their way up the hill and the trail is about 1.25 miles one-way. If you're packing gear or pushing a stroller be prepared for a strenuous walk and bring water with you. The falls are still definitely worth the walk especially if you are there on a day when the park is less crowded.

Laurel Falls

Another area certainly worth visiting is the Cades Cove area. You can do a car tour here except when the road is closed during the winter months. We did the car tour because of the hour in the day but this is really a good place to park the car and explore on foot if you have the time. The open pastures give you an opportunity to spot wildlife such as deer, turkey, and bear. We did see deer and turkey but no bears made an appearance. I wonder if we'd had the time and just sat somewhere away from the road if we might have seen one cross our path. Also in Cades Cove is a working mill and farmstead used by the park service to demonstrate pioneer life in the mountains. They were demonstrating the processing of sorghum when we stopped by there. The mill is really a beautiful old mill and they occasionally have it operating.

Cades Cove Mill

I also managed to get down to Australia (after two false starts on the trip) for business. Sadly the time I had planned to spend with my friend Norm was cut short due to travel issues but I did get to spend a Sunday with him. We drove to his new house so he could show me the property and the work that had begun on the house before he moved in. He's on an absolutely gorgeous tract of property with stunning views in several directions and even has a view of a waterfall tumbling over a sheer cliff on a ridge across a small valley from his house. The house also boasts a fantastic deck which we sat on and listened to the birds. Had we not been talking I'd have certainly drifted off into a nap on his ridiculously comfortable deck chairs. About 20 minutes from his front door is another waterfall which we hiked to. It's a waterfall I'd visited before but this was the first time in daylight. The last time I visited it we arrived there just in time for it to get dark and we got to see the hundreds or maybe thousands of glow worms on the roof of the cave. The falls spill through an opening in the cave ceiling before heading downstream which creates a really unique place to photograph, if the glow worms weren't already enough to witness. :-)

After taking the hike we came back to his house and sat on the deck again to have a snack and some refreshments. Before we got too settled we decided to do some work on the property so I helped him clear some brush and shred some of the other branches he'd already cleared the week before. We had dinner plans back in the city that evening but after we finished shredding the last of the dried brush it was clear I wasn't going to make dinner. I was beat and the jet lag was starting to catch up with me. We hung around his house a bit to see what the sunset would do on the cliffs within view from his house but clouds had moved in from the west and the sunset was masked. We packed it up to head back to the city and I must admit I was sad that my time with my friend was almost over. On the drive back we did stop long enough for me to get a shot of the sun just peaking over a ridge into Nimunbah Valley as it set.

Nimunbah Valley

If you look closely there is a large building on the far ridge line which most certainly has some fantastic views of the valley and surrounding areas. Apparently this is a hotel of sorts. Hmm. Maybe next time I go to Australia I'll book a couple nights here. :-)

(DragonflyPhoto) Australia Cades Cove Elkmont Smoky Mountain National Park Travel Photography https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/12/holiday-photos Wed, 16 Dec 2015 10:54:31 GMT
So I Went to our zoo and all I got were these lousy photos https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/9/so-i-went-to-our-zoo-and-all-i-got-were-these-lousy-photos I recently experienced this exact outcome myself. Even though I consider myself, at the very least, a semi-professional photographer -- not everything is going to go your way when it comes to photography. In fact, it's more likely not going to go your way. But my most recent trip to the zoo was basically a complete bust (photographically speaking). My prior (to this trip) trip to the zoo yielded some of my better photos of "wildlife"* and other photos so my expectations were pretty high for this trip. It was a relatively cool day, there was a nice breeze, the zoo was not at all crowded (it was a Thursday), and the coolness was a welcome relief from the typical North Carolina summer heat. I was expecting active animals, low difficulty in obtaining shots due to weather, lighting or people. I had imagined, during the 2.5 hour drive almost the ultimate zoo photography experienced. I was very pumped and didn't mind at all carrying all this gear with me. I remembered everything I needed -- even my earbuds and my sunflower seeds. It was going to be a perfect day.

I wish I could insert a turntable needle scratching hideously off of an LP right now.

Not one of the animals I was planning to photograph that day were up and about. Every single one of them was lazing about in whatever shade they could find, practically comatose. The lone elephant actually near enough to photograph (and on all four legs) turned out to be all that not interesting though he seemed to be rather interested in me. Despite him coming fairly close I just wasn't able to get a photo that captured that. Instead what I had was fantastic snapshots, at best. The lions were all napping in semi-tall grass and when any one of the showed the slightest sign of movement by excitement told me I was reaching for something that wasn't there. Is it getting up???!?!? (ready the camera!!).  Oh. It's dreaming about something -- muscle twitch -- yawn? -- rolling over -- Oh My God! Don't you at least have to pee or something??!?  I moved on.

At this point I'd spent over two hours watching animals doing what I should have been doing. Enjoying the gorgeous weather -- though in my case; on a hammock with a nice adult beverage, preferably on a beach, with girls in bikinis playing volleyball -- but I digress. On to the next objective.

Inevitably, walking the paths at the zoo between exhibits people would see me hauling my gear, and exclaim something along the lines of, "Now that's a camera!". Well, yeah. You're holding a phone. Which brings me to my point. If you are going to the zoo and thinking you are going to get great shots of the animals and all you are armed with is the latest SamApp version 23 phablet -- you're going to be disappointed.  You can and likely will get some fantastic snapshots of your loved ones at the zoo. My wife had some really great photos of our girls as a matter of fact. But if you're thinking you are going to get killer photos of the animals -- think again. Even if you are bringing an actual camera with you, the mere fact that you have it doesn't guarantee great photos. Nor does the size of your lens or how many cameras you have. There's a need to learn how to use it and I don't mean just how to operate it. It it was as simple as buying the biggest lens on the market then the richest people in the world would have all the best photos possible.

Since I'm writing this I'll also mention that if you really want to get a good photo, particularly of animals, then patience is a must. I waited for a total of over two hours to get the shot I wanted of a male gorilla. Granted, I have a thing for gorillas I cannot explain so your wait time may vary. Additionally, while the park was not that crowded the gorilla exhibit (much to my personal annoyance) attracts fellow hominids like a pile of dog poo on a hot summer day does to flies. So there were some missed opportunities to fellow hominids being somewhat "unaware" of their immediate surroundings due to the "monkey"** being so close to the glass. I did eventually get the shot I wanted but it didn't turn out the way I would have liked.. mainly because of the fact that it looked like I shot a close up of a gorilla's corpse through some really thick glass.

So shooting through glass is yet another challenge at any sort of institution that houses animals. After this latest experience, though it breaks my heart, I have decided not to try any longer to photograph the gorillas because it will only end in frustration. Getting a clear, glass free, view is important since you will avoid reflections, and other abnormalities the glass will present. If you live somewhere that you have gorillas or other primates you can observe, free of glass, I truly envy you. My next trip to the zoo I plan to just spend time enjoying watching my black-furred cousins for what they are, and actually allow myself to enjoy watching them do what they do, even if it is just sleeping. If I ever am able to come back to this Earth as anything I choose, I choose gorilla. I can't tell you how many times over the years I've made direct contact with a gorilla (through glass, of course) and he or she has looked straight back at me; not breaking eye contact. It's not like looking at a dog (though I love them) or a cat, or a fish or anything else. There are thoughts behind those eyes and they seem to be evaluating me just as much as I am them. I love it.

So, to bring this diatribe (?) to a close. If you plan to get great photos at a zoo don't judge what your camera can do by the size of your kit. Know how to operate it. There are plenty of resources out there on the web to learn how and likely hands on resources locally you can take advantage of.  Be patient. You will almost certainly not walk up on an animal at the zoo doing something worthy of a photo.  Avoid glass if you can. If you cannot, put your lens directly up against the glass trying to create a seal between your lens and the glass -- letting no light in other than what the lens allows.  Visit the zoo on off days. Days when the weather is less than optimal for two reasons 1) You will have to deal with less people 2) if it's a cool and cloudy day the animals are likely to be more active.  Contact your zoo ahead of time to find out good times to capture your favorite subjects. Some zoos do feedings or can tell you the habits of the animals on exhibit so you can try to do some planning. Don't bother with a flash. Any situation where a flash is necessary likely means glass is also involved -- you'll end up getting a fantastic shot of your flash bouncing off the glass. This goes back to learning how to operate your camera as well.

What other tips can folks share? While it would be great to go on safari to actually capture these animals in their natural habitat, for many of us photographing them at our local zoo is the most realistic option.


* There is, I guess, some understandable debate as to whether photographs of zoo animals are truly wildlife photos. True, they are in captivity and they are most likely not in their natural habitat. My counter-argument to that is a) they are not domesticated b) okay, go ahead and get in there with them. I'll re-evaluate my belief then. ;-)

** Seriously people, please, PLEASE, learn the difference between an ape and a monkey. Monkeys have tails, apes do not. If you show me a monkey the size of a six year old male gorilla I promise I will properly soil my pants and scream like a seven year old girl shoved into a room full of spiders, all at once.

(DragonflyPhoto) Zoo Zoo photography Zoo photos advice patience photography technique photos technique https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/9/so-i-went-to-our-zoo-and-all-i-got-were-these-lousy-photos Fri, 25 Sep 2015 02:09:12 GMT
Landscape in daylight https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/9/landscape-in-daylight I've read both in books and on-line that the best time to do landscape photos is during the gold or blue hours of the day (early morning or late afternoon/evening). In fact in one book I ready the author seemed to imply that landscape photography in broad daylight was a waste of time and a better time to catch up on sleep or get editing or other stuff to be taken care of -- and I quote "Midday brings welcome relief to landscape photographers suffering from 4am alarm clock shock. During the summer months, the light is typically poor for two or three hours either side of midday. Use this time to download and review images, scout locations, travel or eat something other than energy bars – do just about anything other than make photos. Personally I tend to sneak in a power nap."

I get the premise that those hours certainly are ideal but I wouldn't agree with those being the only hours of the day worth taking photographs of landscape or other outdoor scenes. And I certainly wouldn't agree that mid-day hours should not be used for photography (landscape or otherwise) and instead other activities. Again, I understand the premise; however, I'm a firm believer in using light whenever I have it. Mid-day can offer an opportunity to capture great shadows (or even minimal to no shadows) and stark contrasts, particularly for black-and-white. It's also an opportune time to take advantage of shooting in areas of deep shade such as a waterfall I recently shot. I still crave to capture images that have that soft, glowing, low angle sunlight but if I'm out on a shoot I'm going to maximize my time.

Over the Labor Day weekend I had a chance to go check out Hanging Rock State Park; which is now on my short list of parks to go back and re-visit during cooler (and wetter) weather. 

In wetter weather this cascade would clearly be larger and more photogenic. The scene was still inviting and I was pleasantly surprised by the large spiderweb in the lower center-right of the photo which I didn't notice until I started my editing. I was actually surprised I hadn't walked through it -- I think that's the only web I didn't have stuck to me when I finally settled on my spot to set up. Interestingly this particular falls barely even gets a mention in guidebooks and on-line maps. Upstream (about 40 yards or so) this creeks spills over a vertical drop into a very shallow pool and then continues down several cascades hidden under heavy brush. It opens up at this spot before continuing down even more rugged terrain covered in Rhododendron and other thick foliage.

The area was in deep shade with pockets of sunlight streaming in here and there. In lower angle and softer light this would likely have been a much more difficult shot and probably not quite as colorful and well lit. Admittedly, I'd love to give this scene a try when the sun is low though.

I plan a trip back to Hanging Rock later this year or in the early spring of 2016 when the weather is cool and I know the water will be flowing more. It's a beautiful park with plenty of great hiking and views and given its relative proximity to the triangle area it's worth multiple trips for more exploration.

Other falls in the area include Window Falls, Tory Falls, and the Upper and Lower Cascades. Window Falls looks like it would be much prettier in wetter weather and with less crowds. Getting a shot of it was not possible given the throng of people standing around. Tory Falls is also in the park but unless there's been a recent (and probably heavy rain) it's not a large flow but would have to be a magnificent sight if it ever had a large flow. Given the crowds around the other two smaller falls I didn't even bother with the lower and upper cascades and decided to save those for a time when I figured no sane person would be out there.


(DragonflyPhoto) Landscape Long Exposure Mountains NC https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/9/landscape-in-daylight Wed, 09 Sep 2015 01:46:24 GMT
New Site! https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/8/new-site New DragonflyPhoto site!

I'm really please to announce the launch of a new site for dragonflyphoto.org.  It's been almost a month in coming but the new site is here. Aside from a new look and feel, this new site now allows for purchasing of prints and other merchandise directly. Your orders can be shipped directly to you or can choose to have me deliver them to you and we'll look at the final result together! Choose to pay via credit/debit or Paypal. Gift certificates will also be coming later this year.

I'm also pleased to announce the availability of a product called "WallRs"! WallRs are high quality, dye-cut photos that can be printed in various sizes up to nearly life-size. They mount to a clean flat surface and can be moved, stored and rehung again. I've seen, first-hand, the quality of this product and it really is amazing. A great gift for the star athlete in your family or even other photographs for wall art to fill in empty space at your office or home.

Lastly, I'm making available two new services for sports photography. Photographs of the athlete in your family doing what they love most with your input on what you'd like to see in the end result. The service starts at $125 and goes up from there depending upon what digital and print options you want. You design your own package or I'll work with you to put something together. I'm also offering a college recruitment package designed specifically for getting great digital action shots to upload to any and all of your college recruitment profiles. In the case of either package, I'm there to photograph your athlete and not the game so you can be assured of plenty of high quality shots to choose from.

Thanks for checking out the blog and browse around a bit in the new site!

(DragonflyPhoto) announcement Blog website https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/8/new-site Fri, 21 Aug 2015 04:37:13 GMT
Something new… https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/8/Something-new Something new, this way comes. Later this month something new will be coming to dragonflyphoto.org.


(DragonflyPhoto) Blog store website https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/8/Something-new Tue, 04 Aug 2015 20:02:15 GMT
UrbEx of a Farm House https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/5/UrbEx-of-a-Farm-House Yep, you read that correctly. Urban exploration of a farm house.

A farm house now surrounded by development. The residential development bears the name of the farm that once occupied the land.

A farm house now surrounded by development. The residential development bears the name of the farm that once occupied the land.

When we first moved to the area I’m pretty sure this house was still occupied. It was just a few months ago that I realized the house was completely abandoned and had been clearly looted and vandalized.  To my surprise the house was in serious decay; especially, if I remember correctly that, the house was occupied less than 10 years ago.

While the house was posted it was clear that others had been ignoring the no trespassing signs and I had no other intention than photographing what I could before the house was in worse shape — little did I know — I felt comfortable entering anyway. I gained entry through the rear of the house, even though the front door is ajar. I was greeted by what looked like an image of the Egyptian God, Anubis. (Can you see it?)

Apparently Anubis is guarding the back door to the house. :-)

Apparently Anubis is guarding the back door to the house. :-)

Of course I didn’t know exactly what I was looking at when I came in. I just realized there was the shape of something in the peeling paint on the wall. What initially caught my eye, though, was the small web in the lower left area being illuminated by the early morning sun coming through the windows.  I had to step very carefully in this house as the water damage was significant, floor boards were missing, and rot was everywhere. In fact, in this back room, floor boards to the left and right were missing and the flooring leading into the house felt mushy. Once I entered the main house, the kitchen was to my left and what I presume to be the formal dining room to my right. The kitchen had been cleared of pretty much anything of value. Only some of the cabinets remained and, of course, the obligatory unmatched shoes.

I’ve never seen a ceiling fan do that before.

This was the first time I’d ever seen a ceiling fan do that trick but it wouldn’t be the last before I left this house. I was surprised that the hood over the where the stove would have been was still there given that everything else had been removed. When I walked across the property there were some very deep dual-wheeled ruts in the earth that had been there for some time. I suspect that they were likely made be people looting the house for any scrap that could be used to sell;  given that the house had been stripped of anything that could be taken, including (I think) part of the roof. After observing the kitchen but not trusting the floor I moved to the dining room. It was here I discovered the true decay of the house.

Looking from the dining room to the front of the house, and upstairs.. all at once.

Looking from the dining room to the front of the house, and upstairs.. all at once.

As I entered the dining room I immediately noticed a gaping hole in the floor in which many boards were laying in ramshackle fashion along with a faded green leather chair which appeared to have been pushed in.  The only thing to take my attention away from this hole was the even larger hole in the ceiling leading to an even larger hole in the roof.  It appears that the metal roofing on the back side of the house is missing; either blown off (doubtful) or stolen (likely). The chimney used by the fireplace in this room and the bedroom above eventually collapsed; crashing through the roof, the second floor, and then through the dining room floor and into the cellar. Two inch by ten or twelve inch joists looked to be snapped like twigs in the ceiling above (another photo from a different perspective is on Flickr). The water damage around the fireplace and chimney structure was obvious, even to the legally blind. There was barely a straight line anywhere in this room. In fact, the picture above had to be corrected to give proper perspective. Even though I used the levelling capability in my camera to make sure my shot was straight the picture looked crooked. Turns out that my camera was straight and the house was crooked. In reality that first door should be leaning to the left and forward slightly. This room was certainly a surprise to me but the next room was even more interesting.

Probably the most bizarre scene I

Probably the most bizarre scene I’ve come across…. so far.

Okay, I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this room except for the graffiti. Thankfully this room hadn’t suffered the water damage the back half of the house had so I felt more comfortable walking around. That said, the sheer oddness of the graffiti on the walls had my attention. Who was Katy? Did she say yes? Um. What sort of girl would come to this place and say yes to prom in the first place? I didn’t move the mirror in the right-hand corner but I find myself wishing I had. I want to finish that phrase. “(sorry this is”. This is what?  So creepy? This is all I could afford? This is your end? This is a prank? This isn’t more romantic? This isn’t a house with power? This isn’t somewhere with food? This is a place full of critters? This is all I could think of? My poking fun aside, clearly our courter had romance in mind. Perhaps the house was in far better shape at the time. The ceiling fan and stair banister were decorated with ribbons and obviously our beau was trying to impress his belle. I hope he succeeded, just for sake of originality.  From here I proceed upstairs which were immediately to my left, though I didn’t get far. The water damage and rot made upstairs exploration risky.

The house has become eco-friendly with a huge amount of natural light coming through the ceilings.

The house has become eco-friendly with a huge amount of natural light coming through the ceilings.

As you can see, there’s virtually no roof above the ceiling of the second floor. The floor was very “soft” upstairs and I had to be very sure of my footing. I was able to at least look into each of the four bedrooms upstairs but couldn’t enter any of them either due to flooring being untrustworthy or just plain missing. In one bedroom I couldn’t enter because of a large pile of debris in front of the door. I’d have liked to have seen more as it seemed like the one room I could enter otherwise. If you look closely you can see the water is following any and all paths that gravity takes it. I fear the house doesn’t have much longer to be standing. I think a good summer thunderstorm will compromise the structural integrity that is left before long — there’s just too much rotted wood and gaping holes.  On another note I have to admit that I was quite pleased to see that the upper and lower banisters (along with all the fireplace mantles) were still in the house. You don’t see that often anymore. While I loathe those that steal them, I suppose it’s better that they are reused somewhere and restored to their previous prestige as opposed to be left to rot or burn. The upstairs also reminded that this was once home to someone as well.

It was home to someone once..

It was home to someone once..

It’s these sorts of finds that remind me that these old places were once home to a family. I didn’t inspect the envelope. I didn’t even touch it to see if a card was still inside. Instead, I like to think that there was a card in there for a birthday or Mother’s Day. I noticed this envelope amongst the litter of various other things that had been ransacked — clothes, magazines, business paraphernalia, newspapers, curtains, etc. To my left were a bunch of sheets of music, which led me to believe that the house once had a piano in her, and music could be heard in every corner. Also among the litter here were invoices and other papers that dealt with the business of the farm. I’m not sure what all the farm produced but one sheet was a copy of an invoice for pure quality and fresh eggs. Given the size of the development that’s named after the farm, I suspect that eggs were not the only business though. Maybe an orchard, cattle, tobacco or something else. From this point I moved back downstairs to take shots of specific things that caught my interest and to get my final shot of the house from across the street. Traffic was picking up on the street that was just 30 yards from the front door and I was losing the golden light. I was very glad to have been able to photograph this old house, it was once a part of the greater Raleigh community but I believe is all but forgotten now.

More shots on Flickr as well as full resolution versions of some of the shots included in this blog.


(DragonflyPhoto) Abandoned Farmhouse Raleigh UrbEx https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/5/UrbEx-of-a-Farm-House Mon, 25 May 2015 21:57:26 GMT
Amazon Cloud Drive — Read the Fine Print, Then Verify https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/5/Amazon-Cloud-Drive-Read-the-Fine-Print-Then-Verify A little over a month ago I heard about Amazon’s new Cloud Drive offering. Reading the explanation of what it is from Amazon was tantalising. Talking with some folks who were checking it out made me even more excited. Unlimited photo storage for a mere $12/year (US) seemed too good to be true. The good news is that if you are looking for somewhere to store your photos this is an incredibly cheap deal. I’ve read around the web (do a search) that Amazon’s tools to work with the storage leave something to be desired at the moment but I imagine that will improve with time.

In the “things that make you go ‘hmmm'” news — if you are a photographer running a business you need to read the fine print carefully. In Amazon’s own terms of use they state very clearly and unclearly at the same time,

You may not use the Service to store, transfer or distribute content of or on behalf of third parties, to operate your own file storage application or service, to operate a photography business or other commercial service, or to resell any part of the Service.”  

The key words in this sentence are “.. to operate a photography business..” if you are a professional photographer. On my first read I assumed that meant that I can’t use the storage as a backend to my commercial photography site or something along those lines — but here’s where the unclear part comes in. What constitutes operating a photography business in the eyes of Amazon? And further, how will Amazon make that determination? They don’t go on to explain that anywhere in the terms of use. A couple of friends pointed this out to me and were pretty adamant that if you’re using the service to store photos as part of your photography business  (i.e., you’re selling photos, no matter how small an operation you are) then you’re technically violating their terms of use. Good point. I should add that I I’ve known both of them for quite a long time, and I trust their opinions quite a bit.  So I started a conversation within a group I belonged to at the time about this and I received a very adamant counter argument and my attempt at discussion about it was effectively completely shut down — I was even threatened with being booted out at one point. I was even accused of intentionally spreading misinformation! Sheesh! Clearly there are some strong opinions about what Amazon’s intent are with the service — evidently there’s more at stake here than mere photo storage but I’ve yet to figure out what that is. Maybe it’s physical space to store all those home NAS devices? ;-) You know you have several if you’re a photographer.

I decided that the only way to figure out for certain was to actually ask Amazon rather than relying upon interpretations of the terms of use by people, while well intentioned, aren’t lawyers and don’t work for Amazon. First I tried searching the interwebs for someone who may already have a credible response from Amazon and I came very close (read the comments). Unfortunately the person claiming that Amazon said all is good failed to produce the entire e-mail thread with headers. It took me nearly a month of back-and-forth with Amazon’s customer service over e-mail to get a clear response (well, as clear as I was going to get anyway) but here it is (below).. headers and all. My apologies for all the HTML but I wanted to show the complete source of the e-mail; the only thing altered is my personal e-mail address.

Even this answer isn’t entirely clear; however, it’s clear enough for me given that a) they do say “personal use only” b) specifically state “photography business” c) (the clincher for me) refer to “commercial offerings” that if you are a professional photographer the service is NOT for you. What do you risk by using it anyway? Who knows. Clearly you should not rely upon Amazon’s cloud drive as your single source of storage for your photography business’ needs. Will Amazon ever know or do you run a great risk if you’re just backing up a single copy of your digital assets to their service? Who knows. It’s tempting to use the service but then I think about how much I’d like it if someone used one of my photographs for their business despite my copyright and the answer becomes pretty clear.

For reference here are the questions I asked:

I’m specifically interested in what “to operate a photography business” means to Amazon as set forth in the document.  I could see this potentially being interpreted more than one way. For example, if I use cloud drive to store photos as a backend storage for my commercial photography web site, that would certainly be operating a photography business. Would making a backup (second) copy (to Amazon Cloud Drive) of photos that I have sold, intend to sell, or already have available for sale be considered part of operating a photography business? Another example would be if I archive photos that I may try to sell at a later date instead of using my primary business storage; could that be considered part of operating a photography business? 


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Your Account Amazon.com
Message From Customer Service

Please accept my sincere apologies for the delayed response and the confusion created. Thank you for your continued patience.

Please understand that we refer you to the Terms of Use so that you can make the best decision for yourself, based on how you plan to use the Cloud Drive service. I'm sorry that I caused further confusion.

I've consulted my technical team once again for this and according to them, "Commercial" is defined as "in connection with a business". What you describe sounds like you intend to use the service in connection with a business and not technically for personal use; however, if our understanding is incorrect and you do not plan to use Cloud Drive in connection with a business, you are welcome to use the service.

Alternatively, if it sounds like Cloud Drive is not the right fit for storage of your professional photography, you may be interested in Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is intended for commercial use.

Please visit the below link to have a detailed idea of Amazon Web Services.


Whatever route you decide to take, I hope you'll continue using Cloud Drive to store your personal photos, videos, and files. Once again, please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience you've experienced in this matter.

If you still have any further queries on this, please contact us back and we'd be glad to help resolve them right away.

We can be reached via phone, chat or email by clicking the following link:


If you can't access this feature, here are our customer service phone numbers:

- U.S. and Canada: 1-866-216-1072
- International: 1-206-266-2992

We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you again in the future.

Best regards,
Thank you.




(DragonflyPhoto) Amazon Cloud Drive Photographers https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/5/Amazon-Cloud-Drive-Read-the-Fine-Print-Then-Verify Tue, 12 May 2015 21:36:53 GMT
Finding your site.. probably not #squarespace https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/4/Finding-your-site-probably-not-squarespace I hadn’t posted for a while, to the blog, anyway because I was waiting for #squarespace to fix some annoying things. I’m guessing that their marketing arm has the company so busy working on signing people on they can’t afford for engineers to work on problems. Ironically, I’m posting this on my #squarespace backed site but I’m now in search of another alternative.. or at least sizing one up for when I decide I’m ready to move.


  • Posting a blog from anything other than Chrome fails pretty consistently. I haven’t had an update in close to 90 days on that issue now and I don’t expect to get one any time soon either. The last time I asked for an update I got an apology and a pretty abbreviated version of “we’re working on it” type of explanation.
  • You want to sort (a gallery, for instance)? Sure! Just do it by dragging and dropping… because that’s efficient; especially when you have lots of photos in a gallery. That’s sarcasm, by the way, just in case it wasn’t *really* obvious.
  • Set up commerce? Squarespace has it but unlike other sites they sure don’t make it easy to do and other than making sure you are tied to a commerce engine (for payments) you’re pretty much on your own with everything else. Want to sell a photo? Well, that’s up to you to figure out exactly how you get your customers their content, digital or printed.
  • Want to do other things with your site that Squarespace doesn’t provide out of the box? You can certainly do that but you then assume the risk of supporting your site on your own. Squarespace makes this pretty clear when you start delve into customising beyond the fairly simple knobs and buttons they provide.

Squarespace does offer a very easy way to setup a very nice, and consistent, looking site and you can do it pretty quickly. I was able to have my site up and running in (far) less than an eight hour’s day work and I was quite happy with the appearance of the site. I wasn’t stitching other services together to try and make it look like on seamless site, it offered (or at least I thought) all the services I was going to need and I could wash my hands of the overhead and concentrate on the original intent of the site — photography — instead of managing the site. I’d say that they are ideal if you are looking to quickly market something with a minimal to moderate amount of information and other content. Beyond that, it’s not the engine of a full blow web presence — at least not yet.

If you are looking for a site to host you then think about what you want to do with the site. What are your objectives with it? Blogging? Photo galleries? Commerce? Social networking? Building a community? In fact, I’d suggest thinking about what your immediate objectives are and then what your objectives are immediately after first. Chances are, you may achieve you initial goals pretty quickly and if you’ve planned poorly you’ll be looking for another solution before long — stealing time from what you want to actually be doing.

All this said, I’m not aware of a service that exists, yet, that offers everything I want to achieve. I’ve been down the “do it yourself” road several times now. SmugMug is a great service but lacks the integrated blogging capability — requiring a second service to be integrated to it. I’m on Squarespace now which is lacking in fundamental features such as sorting objects by something as simple as newest-to-oldest, to the more complicated features such as commerce integration for photography (which SmugMug seems to do quite well, right out of the box). Of course, there are ways, and services, that can help you accomplish all of this but I’ve found that instead of the headaches of managing a server and making sure all the working parts are working together; you trade that in for managing a bunch of services and service accounts and trying to make sure they all work together — in some cases you’re trying to make competing sites work with each other. I want a single, elegant solution, that allows me to blog and sell photos buy download or print and I want to do it by paying a single bill to a single service.

I don’t know of any such service right now but I know of  few that almost get you there. I’m certainly open to suggestions though.


I forgot, I’m testing right now to see if I can actually tie some other stuff together.. what was I saying about trading headaches?


(DragonflyPhoto) Photography Photography Services Photography Sites SquareSpace https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/4/Finding-your-site-probably-not-squarespace Sun, 05 Apr 2015 19:03:41 GMT
Essential Gear – Updated https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/1/Essential-Gear-Updated Up until this past weekend I’ve been working off of a 24″ HD (1080p) monitor on the system I do all my photo editing. It’s a traditional LCD (non-LED, IPS, etc.).  It’s been on my list to upgrade the monitor to something slightly larger. I also wanted to do a little research on what monitor or type of monitor would be best for photo editing or if I should just invest in a calibration kit or what. I knew my previous monitor was probably lacking in some way when it came to photo editing. After doing some research I learned that IPS (in-plane switching) monitors are really the best for editing graphics such as photos and video. I won’t get into the technical details on what the differences are here as you can easily do a search on-line for that. In fact, BestBuy’s site had a decent enough write-up on what monitors are best for which purpose. At any rate, I settled on going with an IPS monitor that was LED backlit and easy on the energy consumption (and didn’t have a huge bevel around the viewable area). I eventually settled on a 27″ IPS monitor that has a much thinner bevel than my previous monitor, a very high contrast ratio and wasn’t too hard on the wallet.  By the way the bevel is important to me because my previous 24″ monitor is roughly the same overall size as my new 27″ monitor since it lacks the (useless) plastic housing and bevel around the screen edges. A larger screen in the same amount of physical space.

Wow. What a difference switching from a traditional LCD monitor to this IPS LCD monitor. There are details in my photos I just wasn’t seeing before, especially in the blacks. The difference wasn’t as startling as going from standard definition to high definition back in the day. It was still a noticeable difference though and I did notice that some of the photos I’d previously edited (and thought looked decent) didn’t look all that great — most of them still looked decent and some looked even better. I also noticed that the banding I’ve been fighting while editing was not nearly as big an issue. I wonder how much time I’ve wasted “fixing” banding that was due to my monitor and not the photo itself. One photo in particular that I recently edited and spent a lot of time trying to correct for banding looked far better on the IPS. There was significantly less banding in the original RAW file compared to what I recalled seeing on the old LCD. I probably wound up over-editing that photo to compensate for a lower quality screen.

If you’re really getting into photography and are spending time editing them with your favorite editor then I would add an IPS LCD monitor to your wish-list. I certainly wouldn’t put at the top of your list though. There’s other essential gear that should have a higher priority, such as a decent array of lenses, a good (off-body) flash for starters. I can probably cover more on those in future posts. That said, once you have your basic kit you may want to think about getting a decent monitor for the system you do your editing with. IPS LCD monitors didn’t seem to cost that much more than other LCD monitors, at least not significantly. In fact, I picked up my new monitor for under $300. Not bad at all.

If you’re reading this and wondering what specs you should be looking for I have to be honest and say I don’t know. I was more concerned about size, price and the bevel. The things like contrast ratio and refresh rate weren’t quite as important. The monitor I have boasts an 80,000,000:1 contrast ratio. That seems ridiculously high to me and I’m not sure if the human eye can even tell the difference between that and one that has 1,000,000:1. It May be worth doing some research. Unless you’re (also) doing video editing or the system doubles as a gaming platform then the refresh rate shouldn’t be a high priority either. 7ms or less should be good enough — and by high priority I mean I wouldn’t spend any significantly extra money to go for something with a very fast refresh rate just for photo editing since your images are static. My basic point is that I would focus on size and budget first. Same deal with the contrast ratio in my opinion. If it’s marginal then treat yourself to top of the line. :-)

Update: I have noticed an annoying moire-like effect on this new monitor.  I occasionally have to look at a solid color for a few seconds or close my eyes and then look back. Otherwise there’s an occasional weird pattern on the display similar to your window blinds reflecting off the screen on a bright sunny day. Weird. Still love this monitor though.

Banding examples:


Image with banding. I practically had to destroy this image to re-create an approximation of the banding I saw with the old monitor. The banding wasn

Image with banding. I practically had to destroy this image to re-create an approximation of the banding I saw with the old monitor. The banding wasn’t quite this bad but it was pretty close.

The same image. There is still some banding present but it

The same image. There is still some banding present but it’s not anywhere near as bad. If I open the original RAW file there’s no banding evident whatsoever. So while my monitor was certainly a big part of the problem the JPG format is most definitely a source of the problem as well.


(DragonflyPhoto) Editing Equipment Essential Gear Gear Monitors Photo Editing https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/1/Essential-Gear-Updated Mon, 19 Jan 2015 17:18:00 GMT
Photography and Research https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/1/Photography-and-Research After taking a break for the holiday season I’m back to writing posts and picking the camera up. I hadn’t really used my camera since finishing shooting some of the High School football state championships in Winston-Salem back on 13 December.

About a year ago I saw some amazing shots in a book I picked up of birds and waterfowl wintering at lakes in the south.  I was excited to learn that these photos were taken at lakes right here in North Carolina. Tens, maybe even hundreds, of thousands of snow geese, tundra swans, red wing blackbirds and countless other types call the lakes in central- and north-eastern North Carolina their winter home. I decided that this year I was going to get shots of these creatures. I couldn’t fathom seeing tens of thousands of geese on a single lake. It also happened that the weather for the day I was planning was absolutely perfect for some astro-photography. Bonus! I tried talking a friend of mine to go with me but he (smartly) said, “It’s too frickin’ cold man. Let me know when it’s warm and we can drink beer.”  You’re on buddy. ;-)

I won’t delve into the specifics of the swans and geese in this post. Honestly I know next to nothing right now anyway. It didn’t even occur to me that they have to eat and wouldn’t be at the lakes during the day. Duh. Anywho.. this post is about doing your research BEFORE you commit time to doing something. If you plan to go somewhere just to photograph it that’s one thing but if you’re going somewhere to photograph something specific, it pays off to do some leg work in advance. Otherwise you may walk away disappointed. I write this based on my experience this past weekend. I wouldn’t say that I walked away disappointed but my intent feels unfinished to say the least. I had fun, it was cold but I came prepared for that and for the first time in my life I saw a black bear in the wild. Granted he was about a 1/4 mile away, but still. That was pretty damn cool.

Thinking I’d done all my research I was satisfied. Aside from checking and re-checking the weather, my research amounted to calling the ranger station at the state park and asking, “Are the birds there?”  Yeah. I’m pretty sure I sounded like an idiot. One might say, even a redneck, but I lack the proper accent for that so we’ll settle on idiot. At any rate, the ranger informed me that if I meant the geese and swans, yes they were at Phelps Lake but typically left the lake during the day to eat and returned in the evenings to sleep. Perfect! Sunset shots! Given the weather I figured I’d fit in some shots of the Milky Way too and then call it a day. Below are some questions I probably should have asked and sought the answers. Again I share this to get people thinking about what they should ask themselves before going somewhere to get shots of something specific. To illustrate why I should have answered these questions I’ve provided the answers that I’ve learned (so far).

  1. What are the typical habits of swans or geese? They leave mid-morning to feed in nearby fields and return to a lake (not necessarily the same lake) to rest and do whatever they do when not eating.
  2. How big, exactly, is the lake I’m going to? In the case of Phelps Lake it’s 5×7 miles. Soooo… not possible to see them on the opposite side of the lake no matter how many of them there are. Phelps certainly doesn’t look that big on a map but it’s deceiving.  
  3. When would be the best time to get photos of said water fowl? Well, according to the ranger, I should have been at the lake about 9-10 hours earlier. Apparently they like to sleep in and have a leisurely morning before going off to seek food. That sounds a lot like a 13 year-old girl, I may or may not know.
  4. Which lake would be the best to see them at? While they were at Phelps Lake, Pungo Lake is the more popular spot for many of the water fowl. Dammit.
  5. Is the Milky Way decent to shoot this time of year? Well, I already knew the answer to this question but had forgotten. No. No it’s not really decent to shoot this time of year given that the galactic core (i.e., the brightest part) is not visible during the night hours. Ugh! Why did I not remember this? I’m quite glad I didn’t drag my friend three hours away to say, “Oops. Did you bring the beer?”
  6. What else might be interesting to photograph at the lake if things don’t work out? Well, probably lots of things and I know that the Cypress trees (I think that’s what they are) would’ve made some really cool photos (had I brought my waders with me). If I’d asked the rangers, they probably would have gladly given me some suggestions as well. Something to follow up on.

There are probably some other questions I haven’t thought of as well. On the bright side, like I said above I still had fun. I got to see stars reflecting off water which I haven’t seen since I was a kid. I saw a black bear in the wild. My kids had fun. I taught my girls how to use their night vision and I did have a reason to actually use my new “lens muff” though I didn’t actually use it. Thanks, Jackie! I’ve also decided that the Pocosin wildlife area is somewhere I plan to return to much more often. It’s a very cool place, not many people around and it’s dark as hell at night. One of these days I’m going to drag my telescope out there and do some proper astro-photography.

So before you head out somewhere regardless of how close or far away it might be try to plan ahead. If you’re just doing general landscape you may not need to do much planning other than accounting for the weather. On the other hand, if you’re going somewhere to photograph an event or something more specific than just general landscape then doing a little more planning will be worth your while. What questions should you get answers to? What about access? Is there an ideal time of day? Will you need to hike very far and then need to bring some food and water? Just some thoughts on questions you may want ask yourself and of course every situation is unique.  Hopefully this is helpful to others!

Where are the !#@&amp;#$!! Snow Geese??

Where are the !#@&#$!! Snow Geese??


(DragonflyPhoto) Astro-photography Geese Landscape Landscapes Long Exposure NC Night North Carolina Pettigrew State Park Swans Wildlife https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2015/1/Photography-and-Research Tue, 13 Jan 2015 07:49:03 GMT
When to “save” a photo… https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2014/12/When-to-save-a-photo I hope everyone in the US had a nice Thanksgiving holiday, I sure did. I even managed to get in a few photos over the break.

A few weeks back I bought a second Nikon D800 camera body from B&H, though this time it was a used body. I’ve already taken a couple or three thousand images with it but hadn’t noticed any problems whatsoever. All of the images, however, were high shutter speed and/or high ISO or were in daylight conditions. While in KY we spent a day in Louisville and before we left I wanted to make sure that I got some shots of the Louisville skyline from the Indiana side. I was really excited about doing this because I’ve always wanted to get shots like that since living there almost 20 years ago. Secondly, it was a great evening to get shots as there were low dense clouds with small breaks in them over the city. The wind was also blowing pretty stiffly which meant any long exposures should show some dramatic cloud movement as they reflected city light back. After taking about a dozen exposures I checked my shots and was pretty pleased with a couple. It wasn’t until I got home to NC and looked at them on a large screen that I noticed a problem.

Original shot of Louisville

Original shot of Louisville

As you can see there’s some funky streakiness and dust in the image. In fact, I’d noticed the dust before I started doing my post processing in earnest but still didn’t get all of it. It wasn’t until I inspected the photo closer that I noticed something wasn’t quite right. I checked all of my shots and all of them had this weird streakiness and a lot of dust spots. It turns out that the sensor on this camera body was filthy. It looked like a lot of dust and maybe a drop of oil or something. What to do? Should I “save” it?  I decided I’d give it a try, at least it would be a learning opportunity for editing. Could I remove the remaining dust and correct the oily streaks without the photo looking overcooked?

The “saved” image

You can decide for yourself but I don’t think that I was really able to save the image. Will I put this in my portfolio? Probably not. But I did learn some editing tricks and a valuable lesson; make sure your kit is clean.

Have you ever “saved” a photo? If so, why did you decide to save it? What did you have to do?


(DragonflyPhoto) Dirty Sensor Long Exposure Louisville KY Night shots Sensor Cleaning https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2014/12/When-to-save-a-photo Wed, 03 Dec 2014 19:56:00 GMT
When Does A Photo Stop Being A Photo? https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2014/11/When-Does-A-Photo-Stop-Being-A-Photo The other day I was doing a search on Flickr to see if I could find some groups to join that I could submit some of my recent high school football photos to. I came across a photo that was really quite an amazing image but there was so much post-processing on it I had to wonder; what did the actual out of camera shot look like? Did it look anything like the image posted on Flickr?

Colonial high school football team by commercial photographer Rich Johnson of Spectacle Photo


First off, I’m in NO way criticizing the artist or his work. It really is an amazing image. There was clearly a lot of work put into this image and it certainly made me stop and take notice.

Like I said, though, it did make me wonder when does a photo stop being a photo and become something else? In this age of digital cameras and the power software gives us to manipulate images you can take a photograph and use it as a canvas to create something else entirely. Perhaps this is digital illustration or artistry. What would one call it? I’ve seen some other amazing images that were a mash up of an actual photo and digital illustration. There’s definitely an art and creative skill involved. Are there purists that draw a line between photography and at some point too much manipulation makes the photograph something else. I’m probably in this camp myself but I don’t know where that magic line is. I’m reminded of a quote by Justice Potter Stewart, “But I know it when I see it…”

I’d be interested in what others think. When does a photo stop being a photo? When it stops being a photo what is it?


(DragonflyPhoto) Action Commercial Photography Digital Art Digital Illustration Football High School Football HS Football Photo Photo Editing Post Processing https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2014/11/When-Does-A-Photo-Stop-Being-A-Photo Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:16:37 GMT
When do you use flash? https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2014/11/When-do-you-use-flash It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. I’ve switched sites twice after accidentally blowing away the original site.

I thought I’d get the initial blog post on the new site kicked off with a question. When is it appropriate to use flash? I ask that question with sports photography in mind specifically. I recently applied to a high school athletics site to be a part of their professional photographer network (I’ll not name the site). My application was turned down. I don’t have a problem with being turned down and in fact the response provided a list of reasons why I was turned down. Some of it seemed like someone just went through a checklist to make it seem thorough; on the other hand I’m almost always appreciative of feedback since it tells me where I need to improve.

One of the items, however, I found curious. They explicitly stated in the application process and in the application feedback that they strongly prefer flash photos. For portraits or non-action photos I could understand using a flash. On the field; however, I consider flash to be an off-limits tool. For one, it’s my job to capture the action not be a distraction to it or become a part of it. Another reason is that while flash photography may not be unilaterally banned at the high school level it is at the collegiate and professional levels. I need to learn to not depend upon flash then, in my opinion — no matter how crappy the stadium lighting.

Anyone else shooting high school football or other sports under outdoor lighting? Do you use flash? Why or why not?


(DragonflyPhoto) Action Flash Football Sports Sports Photography Stadium Lighting https://www.dragonflyphoto.org/blog/2014/11/When-do-you-use-flash Mon, 24 Nov 2014 20:23:49 GMT