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Vacation Time

24th July 2014

Documenting the Memories

I have to admit that I like vacations.

I especially like the ones where we drive and see many different scenic parts of our vast country. Having just returned from another such jaunt, I’ve already recovered from being away from home these past few weeks. Here’s a look back to some of the photos that I took on the trip.

On this vacation we drove some 6300 miles and took in some wonderfully gorgeous areas including the Tetons, Yellowstone, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, San Diego, Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde and finally Rocky Mountain National Park.

My wife Kris and I left Grand Rapids and at this time in our lives, instead of traveling with our children we had four grandkids in tow. One of our goals was to drop off two of the grandkids in Reno. But these two also had a wish to see Yellowstone, so we set the GPS to guide us to Old Faithful. Afterwards we would meet up with several of our adult children and additional grandchildren as we made our way to additional destinations.

Naturally I had several cameras with me to record our travels. And while I thoroughly enjoy photographing the amazing mountains, canyons, monuments, waterways, forests, sites and scenery, more importantly are the photos that let me recall the precious time that we spent with our family.

Here’s some of the pictures that illustrate those moments.


Admiring Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton Nat’l Park
Waiting for Old Faithful in Yellowstone

In awe of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
cooling off in the Firehole River in Yellowstone

at the swimming pool in Reno
aggressive paddleboarding at Lake Tahoe

inspecting the tufa at Mono Lake
colorful wildflowers of Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite

surfing the Pacific in San Diego
catching a mermaid in San Diego

picking grapefruit in Phoenix
sitting on the edge of Grand Canyon

among the wonders of Monument Valley
straddling NM, AZ, UT and CO at Four Corners

As you can see, we visited some very gorgeous landscapes: incredible mountains, pristine wildernesses, jaw-dropping gorges, crystal clear lakes, raging rivers, enormous farmlands, five sensational national parks – just a vast array of features that make up our amazing country.

And while I have many more images that record these places that we visited, I’m just as content to see the faces of the grandkids, many of which we get to see but once a year.

house warming at Mesa Verde

How lucky we are to be able to capture the smiles on their faces like this.

above the snow and clouds at Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park

 

 
Photographs are certainly a powerful way to record memorable events.

Whether I’m on vacation or not, I try to keep the most meaningful memories as part of my photos.

 

 

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

A case against Stop Action

The usual “rule” for photography is to choose a shutter speed fast enough to eliminate the jitter or bluriness when the subject moves.

But sometimes ignoring the rule leads to more interesting photographs.

Here’s a few examples.


This little girl is practicing to become a major league baseball player. She’s winding up, ready to let ‘er rip.

By using a slower shutter speed, can’t you feel the breeze as she whips the ball towards the batter? Here the shutter speed was 1/50th second. Had I used a faster shutter speed, her left arm would have been frozen.

Here she’s enjoying the outdoor swingset. By itself, the photo shows no movement. But seeing her at the apogee (highest point) of the swing, doesn’t it conjure the feeling of motion? Recall that at the top of her swing, the velocity is zero – enabling you to use a relatively slow shutter speed to “capture” the motion.


Again we see a subject on a swingset but this time upside down. The relatively slow shutter speed of 1/100th second stops the action at the top of her swing.

In this case, the pose with her legs flailing about helps to introduce movement. And see how her hair is flying thereby adding to the feeling of action in the image.

A final example is this photo that lets me see the speed of the hoop and just about hear the air whirling around.

For this photo, I patiently waited for a moment when the young girl’s face was in a relatively fixed position while at the same time her arms were wildly gyrating within the hoop.

Then CLICK.


 
 
Use your camera’s shutter speed priority mode. Try setting the shutter speed to 1/100th of a second or slower – e.g. 1/25 or 1/50. If you use an even slower shutter speed, you may end up with blurry photos since you may not be able to hold the camera steady enough without introducing camera shake.

With just a little practice you can make your photos move.

 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 
 


 
 
 

Give a kid a camera . . .

20th February 2013

You May Be Pleasantly Surprised By What You See

 

One of our granddaughters has been interested in picturetaking for a several years. Ezra who is eight years old is now on her second camera – her first camera was a low-cost point-and-shoot model but it didn’t quite survive a washing machine cleaning. So now she’s using a “tough” model that claims to be shockproof, waterproof and freezeproof.

Not long ago, she asked me to copy the pictures from her camera and recharge the battery. As I was copying the images from the SD card, I realized that these were photos that she had taken months ago. The earliest ones dated back to last summer’s vacation, a few other road trips and other events since then.

I studied the more than three hundred of her thumbnails. Frankly, I came away quite impressed with many of her photos. They showed her ability to pick varied subjects, frame carefully from her lowered point of view (she’s about 40″ tall) and snap at an interesting time.

I thought it would be helpful if I picked a few dozen of her photos to show to you with an quick explanation of when and/or where they were taken (as far as I can remember). For the most part the photos are unretouched with some cropping.

Without further ado, here are some of the “Best of Ezra”


On one of the school outings, her class visited a nature preserve. Here’s some of the flora that she caught her attention.

It looks as if Ezra also caught this yellowjacket sucking nectar from the flowers.

At an art festival she apparently liked the metal horse sculpture racing in the river.

This is another display of artfully decorated eggshells

After viewing the eggshells, Ezra talked to and photographed the artist.

This artist was apparently tired after talking to Ezra and other patrons for hours on end. Ezra captured her stealing a little rest.

One of the stops on our summer vacation was in Yellowstone National Park. This is one of the bubbling geyers in the north end of the park.

And you can see that tiny details don’t escape her either.

I’m surprised that the squirrel allowed her to get so close to her. She took five other photos at this close range too.

During play, she stopped to take a picture of her younger sister’s bedroom.

Inside she wanted a closeup of the standing guitar.

Here’s one of Ezra’s schoolmates. She frequently takes her camera to school to records the class trips.

This is one way for her to record a drawing that she enjoyed creating.

It was fun for her to photograph her sister’s feet.

…Or the other way – keep your head pointed upward.

Sometimes it’s interesting to keep your head pointed downward.

This picture shows that she’s keenly aware of the change of seasons.

On a cross-country trip we first stopped in Mesa Verde where she saw this mule deer grazing by the roadside.

Bright flowers nearby in southwestern Colorado.

 


At the Native American museum in Tuba City, AZ.

 

As you can see below, Ezra really put her camera to work in the Grand Canyon.

Grandpa

Grandma

 

Ezra has promised to take good care of the camera. It’s an Olympus Model 6020 and is very rugged. It’s been dropped many times and just like the advertisements claim – it remains fully operational.

And as you can see, an eight year old is fully capable of capturing memorable images. Give the kid a camera!

 

Written by Arnie Lee

 

 

 

 

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Experiencing the Environment

03rd September 2012

and keeping the environment “a thing of importance”

Our family has been enjoying the outdoors for many years. Some of our adult children were mere babies when we trekked long distance to experience and camp in far away places like Mono Lake, Yellowstone and Acadia. We were attracted by tight knit forests, tumbling waterfalls, golden meadows, majestic mountains, winding hiking trails, abundant wildlife, trickling streams and shimmering nighttime skies.

The love of nature has been in my blood from childhood. At the University of Michigan I studied natural resource economics. The year was 1970 and the call for ecology had gone out with the first Earth Day and notable proponents such as author Rachel Carson, politician Senator Gaylord Nelson, futurist Buckminster Fuller, economist E.F. Schumacher. With my studies, I was counting on a future career that would revolve around conservation and ecology. But as often happens, this career plan didn’t come to pass. Nonetheless, I’ve been trying to keep nature and the environment close to my heart all the years since.

Wouldn’t you guess that photography has been one of my hobbies also since childhood? So it’s only natural that I would arm myself with a camera as our family traveled far and wide. And while family snapshots comprise an important part of my picture taking activities, the other part are the photos that I take to record the many amazing places that we visit.
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Simply put, my picturetaking falls into one of two categories: photos taken for “others” and photos taken for personal use.

Photos that I take for others are usually jobs in which the style of the photos is dictated by the needs and desires of the client. These may be a paying client or a freebie client such as a daughter’s birthday party or a sister’s passport photo. She may need a business head shot or he may want an illustrative photo of his industrial machine. A group may want me to photograph an evening event, a restaurant desires closeups of prepared dishes for its new menu or a school a recording of the championship basketball game. Regardless of whether it is a paying or a free transaction, the client generally has a lot of input as to how the completed photos will serve the end goal.

On the other hand, when I take photos for personal use I’m the client. I am free to shoot however, whereever and whatever I like. And as you might expect, this is where I feel the greatest freedom.

While it’s exciting to go on a special outing dedicated to photography, it’s not often that I can squeeze the time into my somewhat hectic schedule. But by keeping a camera nearby, I make it a habit of looking for quick opportunities to sneak in a picture of two.

I get a lot of pleasure photographing “everyday” things such as kids, pets, garden and the like. These are subjects that are close by so I don’t have to make special arrangements to shoot them.


I get a big kick taking pictures of the grandkids.

Here’s one that’s learning to eat her spaghetti elegantly.


This pet is part of the family.

I caught him as he was taking a breather after running his head off for the past 30 minutes.


Sometimes it pays to look up(ward).

This is a majestic sycamore tree at a nearby home. It looks naked because it sheds it bark regularly.


These colorful day lilies arrive each Spring in our front yard.

I shot this one soon after an early morning shower left a few drops.


From a distance the furrows in the field look boringly straight and parallel.

Closer up I can see that the terrain isn’t flat as a pancake and makes for a nice visual.


You may be surprised by the things that you can spot around the neighborhood.

This vintage auto was sitting in an empty lot. Great color and great restoration.


I’ll leave you with this reminder: When you’re the client, you have the freedom to shoot whenever and whatever you’d like. Don’t fall into the “no time today” trap. Nor should you believe that the camera is only for special occasions. With a little preparation (i.e. keeping your camera close by), you can surely find a few everyday subjects to photograph.

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed photography since I was a youngster. This in turn is the reason that my picturetaking has spanned more than five decades.

I categorize the photos that I take into one of two “camps” – the snapshots and the memorable photos. This article is the first in a series of articles that I’ve called “About this photo” to draw attention to a few of those memorable photos that may be hiding in a shoebox or on your hard drive.

Unlike some people who have photographic memories, I instead have memories about certain photographs.

Most of these special photographs were taken long, long ago. They are indelible and remain riveted in my mind. And so, in this “About this photo” series, I’d like to key in on one of these unforgettable photographs to bring you back to the time and circumstances under which it was taken.

Taken late summer 1970, this is a photo of my girlfriend along Lake Michigan. We spent many weekends at this beach that summer.

Usually the beach was very crowded, but on this cloudy and windy day, we had the run of the sand and shore to ourselves.

The red lighthouse was a familiar site to anyone who knows this area and remains a key attraction to the beach today. It’s a lucky coincidence that my girlfriend’s jacket was about the same shade of red as the lighthouse.

The reason that this photo is etched in my mind is that I’ve been married to this lovely lady for some 40 years now.


Now let’s skip forward some 40+ years.

This photo was taken this past summer, barely two months ago. Here we have two young girls having fun at the same location on Lake Michigan.

You can see the same red lighthouse along the water albeit at a slightly different angle.

These are two of our young grandchildren. As we were walking along the beach I was reminded of the 1970 photograph when we approached the red lighthouse.

I asked the two girls to pose on the bench in the foreground. This photo captures the familiar feelings of warmth and affection that has somehow remained with me for 40 years.


Along the way, I’ve taken a huge number of snapshots. However, the number of memorable photos that I’ve taken is far smaller. Yet it’s the memorable ones that have a magical ability to steer emotions, feelings and pleasure into our minds, even years later. Simply amazing.

 

Written by Arnie Lee

Don’t Just Stand There

05th August 2011

a case for more activity

 

With fourteen grandkids, I feel very lucky to have ample opportunity to catch them on film.

And while I enjoy taking portraits of them – conventional static pictures of them at rest – I also like to capture them as they’re going about their youthful business.

Below are a few examples of each.



Here I’ve asked Logan to give up a few seconds from playing in the sandbox and “hold still”.

In this shot I’ve caught Eden in the air just as she jumped onto the pavement as she emerged from the back door.

Both are pleasant enough pictures of each.

But let’s look at a couple of other snapshots to see if there’s a different way to capture the kids.


Can you feel their joy as they slurp down the cold ice cream on a warm summer evening? For me, this is a more memorable picture.

Instead of another “smile please” snapshot, I was able to shoot Ezzie practicing her longboarding skills.

 


You have a many choices when capturing kids. If you haven’t done so already, try shooting the young ones as they’re involved with their activities.

 

 

Written by Arnie Lee

 


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Beyond the Faces

06th May 2011

Adding Action to Portraits

 

As a grandfather with a camera, I’m very often snapping away when the grandchildren are nearby. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos of these kids in my collection.

Yesterday, three of them were out playing in our backyard. Here’s a few snapshots that I took. I’m a big fan of trying to incorporate action into these portraits. You be the judge of whether the action helps to make the picture.


My favorites are the candids. These are shots where the subject is totally unaware. When they’re preoccupied with having a fun experience, they may not know that you’re “spying” with your camera.

 


Obviously this is not a candid. Eden
knows that I’m taking her photo

But here she is unaware that
I’m snapping away

When it’s not possible to be totally candid you can use a semi-posed action shot. The action helps to avoid a face that’s preoccupied with the picturetaker.

 


This full length portrait of Logan
shows little motion

Here the angle of the shot
emphasizes his action on the slide

With a little patience, you can turn a static shot into a live action photo. A few minutes after taking the photo on the left below, she was being doing calisthenics – making the photo on the right much more exciting.

 


Here Ezra is clutching the wooden
post that’s supporting the swing set

Here she’s showing me the
agility that I wish I could still muster.

 


While each of the left-hand photos are OK, I’ve learned that adding a little action to the mix can turn my snapshots into real “keepers”.

Do you agree?

 

 

Written by Arnie Lee

 


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Enjoy those Winter Brights

24th January 2011

In my last article Fight those Winter Blahs, I pleaded that you not put your camera away for the winter. In our part of the universe (western Michigan), December through March are known to bring day after day of heavy, blanketed overcast. Along with these dark clouds come lots of dull lighting that tends to stifle the picture taking mood of many of us. I suggested that despite the dark skies, there’s plenty of opportunities to find ways to make your subjects “shine”.

So it was a very pleasant surprise to see today’s sterling bright sunshine. As I looked out the window, I could see a crystal clear blue sky and blinding reflections coming from our snow-covered lawn. But as I opened the front door to fetch the Sunday newspaper, the bone-chilling winds reminded me that a 10-degree temperature makes Grand Rapids feel like the Arctic.

After enjoying a cup of hot tea, a couple of the grandkids were prodding me to play outside in the snow with them. Despite the icy cold, I decided that I wouldn’t miss this chance to have some outdoor fun and maybe take a few winter photos too. So I tracked down my trusty ski jacket and soon followed the grandkids outdoors.
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Portrait Tip # 3

10th December 2010

Portraits are one the most common type of photographs. We’d like to share some tips for taking better people pictures.

The “Eyes” Have It

When taking pictures of people, most viewers will tell you that it’s the eyes that catch and hold their attention. Here’s a few examples of how the eyes make a difference.

Here we have filled the viewfinder with the infant’s face. However her eyes are focused downward – pointing away from the photo.


Here the young girl is looking directly at the photographer. While she sports a serious visage, her eyes draw me into the photo.


This young lady is also looking directly at the photographer. Her large eyes become the center of attention and help “make the photo work”.


Here we’ve decided to move in and eliminate the forehead and the chin. The result is a photo that totally emphasizes the child’s bright, compelling eyes.

 

I think you’ll be rewarded if you are patient and wait for the subject’s eyes to meet the lens.

A complimentary tip – long ago my mentor taught me that before pressing the shutter button, I should make sure that the lens was carefully focused on the eyes. This has been remained essential words of advice since.

Written by: Arnie Lee

 


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