I live in a rundown town.
I’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog how I don’t live in a particularly photogenic place. I live in a small town in Pennsylvania that had its day a number of years ago. Once the steel and glass industry disappeared the town began to fade, not unlike most rust belt cities. It was a slow fade but fade it did.
Being only a 30 minute drive to Pittsburgh, which is still doing quite well, amazingly for a steel town, and is having a bit of a renaissance with the young hipster/tech crowd, I still get to enjoy some of the perks of a larger city when I decide to venture over. Happily crime hasn’t grown too rapidly in my town and it is still somewhat of a safe city. Drugs, especially heroin are always a problem and are on the rise. Almost every day I read of an overdosing heroin user being found in a parked car or a store restroom. Pretty sad.
All that being said there still is money around. Not so much in the city proper but the outskirts of the city limits is littered with nice high income neighborhoods. There are home offices of a number of global companies within a few miles in nearby towns and the medical field is quite present throughout the southwest Pennsylvania area. So were not entirely poor and there should be plenty of tax money in the city coffers. That is what makes me angry most of all. The local government has done practically nothing to try to change the downward direction of the city. They do nothing with the streets except the bare minimum random pothole patching. The storm drains are always clogged and filth is everywhere. A street cleaner goes past my house ONCE in early spring and that’s it.
But the biggest lapse has to be what happened to our downtown area. As the county seat most of the downtown business is courthouse related and the area around it is sort of okay. But go a few hundred feet away from the courthouse and things go downhill real quick. They like to tout the Historic nature of the city to entice tourist but I can imagine any tourist would be sorely disappointed upon visiting.
I did happen to be driving through town a few months back and found the late afternoon sunlight to be fantastic. The light would have been beautiful for a nice landscape but all I had were some rundown storefronts in front of me. I always try to make the best with what I have in front of me.
These were all shot with a Fujifilm X-T10 with 18-55 and 14mm Fujinon lenses.
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a fantastic camera and the more I use it the more I like using it. But the XP2 is clearly marketed towards street and typical “rangefinder” type users. A modern Leica, if you will. And I purchased the camera to use it as such. I wanted a “rangefinder” style camera so I would purposely stick to shooting moderate wide to normal prime lenses in the “Leica” style (I know, I’m quickly using up my quotation mark quota). Plus I wanted to try more street style shooting but I can’t seem to get started with it.
However I am finding it difficult to change from my old DSLR ways of shooting any and all subjects that interest me. I still like to shoot nature and macro photos on occasion. For that the Fujifilm X-T2/1 would probably have been the better camera for me. An X-T2 with some of Fujifilm’s great zoom lenses would be an ideal setup for an “everything” camera and I may purchase one in the near future for that exact reason.
But I still like holding my XP2, it just fits me well. It has it’s drawbacks for sure – the EVF is a little too contrasty in some bright outdoor situations and some of the controls could be arranged slightly better to prevent accidental changes- but there’s not really anything that I can’t get used to or work around. I do, on occasion, wonder if I should move on to a different camera but I always come back to thinking that the XP2 is a good fit for me.
So here are a few tree 9and apple) photos from the other day when I visited the Dawes Arboretum in Newark Ohio. I know, I need to get out of the woods!
I decided to finally visit the Palace of Gold in Moundsville, West Virginia after putting it off for decades. I don’t live too far from there yet I almost never even think about going. But it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I was wondering what I could photograph that would be different and I though it would be a nice time to make the trip to see what I could find.
I had visions of shooting the building and gardens in the golden light of sunset and as the clouds started to break up during our trip I thought everything would be perfect. My plan was if we got there a little early I would just shoot some details and maybe some interior shots and then shoot the exterior and gardens as the light got just right.
Of course you know how plans go. We barely got on the premises when we were told that they were closing. When I Googled the hours it said they were open until 8:00 PM but they said they closed at 5:00 PM after Labor Day. Bummer. No sunset shots. No interior shots. I hurriedly shot some environmental shots but didn’t get to look for, or focus on, too many details. I did what I could with what I had.
Although it is a colorful place I found a number of the photos worked well in black and white. All shot with my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and XF 14, 35 and 55-200 lenses.
I am not squiggly.
Just some plants reflecting in a wavy pond/.
I know, it’s a ho-hum photo but I did want to post something since I’ve been away for a while. It’s generally not a good idea to post ones crappy photos but I felt like I had to do something.
I’ll be back soon with some black and white, to get the groove back.
Oh heck, since I’m here I may as well throw in a couple more.
A bee. While in the local park, my wife insisted I catch a bee in flight around the flowers. I tried for a while but with not much luck. The light was getting too dim for a decent shutter speed. Focus tracking a random flying bee was bit too tough for my camera (or me, since I don’t usually do that type of thing), so I am glad I at least got some shots while it was stationary on the flowers.
Some nice color, while I was trying to capture the bee:
My photography output has been awfully low these past few months. I think I have shot less than I have in years. Why? Just a combination of things – first the usual suspects such as work and home, followed by the total lack of anything to shoot. I know, I have pretty much created my “style” around shooting anything and everything I come across but the anything and everything I have come across lately just aren’t yelling out to me, “shoot me!”. No amount of “good light’ can help around these parts.
I desperately need to take a vacation and get out of my usual environment to find some fresh perspectives. It won’t take much, I’m not asking for Paris or Venice, although those places would be sweet, I’m think more like somewhere that’s just not here. Heck, Cleveland could work for me! I could happily walk down some strange cities streets and shoot away at anything I see. New lines, new angles, new light, everything is new – to me.
We’ll see how the vacation goes. In the mean time I have been clicking the shutter but my subjects are usually weeds and cows, with the occasional wild turkey. Not too exciting and far from what I want to photograph. Not only in the sense of subject matter but even more so in the sense of creativity. I’ve always liked shooting somewhat ordinary things in new ways and I haven’t been doing much of that at all. My creativity is on hold for some reason.
In the mean time I have been enjoying the work of others, I’m finding inspiration out there and it helps. There’s lots of great work floating around the web. But every time I see a photo that I like and think that it’s similar to what I would have shot I just want to be out there shooting instead. Time to get out of town!
As I mentioned in past posts I am going to occasionally critique my own work on this site. I am critiquing to not only confirm what I already know what is wrong with some of my photos but hopefully to help you better understand how photos can be improved through thought and composition.
My first photo is a simple tropical plant photo. I took the shot at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and I liked how it resembled fireworks in the sky. A classic looking up perspective shot. Nothing fancy. Exposure and focus seem to be spot on, so no problem there.. Where I could have improved the shot was in composition. Although subtle, if I rotated the camera slightly to the right and zoomed out a bit I could have better fit both plants in the photo and that would have eliminated a lot of the blue sky on the left which would have balanced the photo a little better.
I can’t even rotate the image to better balance it because I shot it too tight. Which brings me to another rule (for me) that I broke. I only took a single photo. If I shot a number of photos at different focal lengths (or in this case, orientations) I would have had more to work with in post-processing. If I am shooting a still subject I almost always try to shoot varied compositions . I’m usually correct in my first shot but it cant hurt to have backups just in case!
In my last post that I titled a whirlwind of activity I found that I failed to mention any activity. Since the post before that one, my old computer died and I had to get a new one and start all over with installing programs, getting used to Windows 10, reinstalling programs, getting aggravated with windows 10, finding workarounds to the new “helpful” operating system, reinstalling programs again, and taking a break from it all.
My photos, of course, are on separate hard drives but I have to start my Lightroom library all over again, I think. I still haven’t transferred data from my old hard drive that will hopefully bring back some familiar items, such as my browser favorites, my Rhapsody catalog, and, fingers crossed, my Lightroom library. And the computer broke down the weekend that my home central air conditioner threw a fan blade and I had to wait four hot days before it could be repaired.
I have also been changing around some camera gear. I’m still using Fujifilm though I did spend considerable time checking out other systems. I seriously though about “full frame” (I dislike that term, by the way) but the sheer size of those monsters turned me off. I know the Sony A7 cameras are small but the lenses are still big. Besides I just don’t like the feel of them. I do like Canon and thought about the 6D but in the end I still found Fuji offered me the best all around image quality coupled with a smallish system and great lenses. It just works for me! I ended up selling my XF10-24 zoom and in turn purchased the XF 14mm 2.8 prime. The zoom was great and I kind of miss it even though since I sold it I haven’t had a scenario where I actually needed it. But I found on a recent trip that the 14mm is a stellar lens. It’s small, sharp, focuses pretty close, and in most cases is wide enough for me with that classic 90° angle of view. Plus the 14 has a marked aperture ring and that works for me as the readout of the aperture on the LCD is too small for quick glances.
Finally, as of last week, I purchased the Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera body. Although I was getting used to my X-T10 I still had some handling issues with it due to its diminutive size. I had to turn off just about every function button on the body so I wouldn’t accidently hit them while shooting. So I made a 2.5 hour drive to a store in Columbus just to hold the X-Pro2 to see if it was a better fit for my hands. It was. The larger body coupled with the left side viewfinder gave my right hand a lot of room to work with and it just nailed it for me ergonomically. The focus point toggle was icing on the cake and I bought it them and there. I’ll give a user review on it in the near future.
Okay, that’s it for the activities, now a photo. I shot this photo of an old water fountain while walking around Pittsburgh one evening. I thought it “had something” when I shot it and I tried a few different angles and perspectives to bring out something abstract. In the end I don’t think it worked out. I do like the reflections of the “cubes” in the water and the textures, but that’s about it. Maybe it’s too balanced or maybe too close. I don’t know, do you?
I know it’s been over a month since my last post and honestly I never realized how fast time was flying by. I surprised I still have a few visitors every day because it would appear that I abandoned this site. But I’m still here! Well, for the time being at least. I have an idea for another site more geared to my photography and gear and with a more serious, less stupid, name than whatipic.
I originally started his site as a showcase for my 365 photo project back in 2011 and I figured I could also use the site to talk about my other passion, guitars. The name was derived form “pic” as in picture and “pic” as in picking a guitar. What-I-pic. Get it? Yes, I am that brilliant! At first I was posting every day and developed somewhat of a following during that time but as the years rolled on I got a little more lapse in posting and the photos maybe not as creative. I’m not too concerned about the posting regularity but I am having a difficult time getting back the creativity.
I find my current photography to be technically sound but lacking in a certain, to use the cliché, x-factor. It may be missing because I am not sure what that “x-factor” is but I think I know it when I see it. I’m just not seeing it. The thing that keeps me chugging along is thinking back to my early film era days of photography and remembering the photography that inspired me. Back in those pre-social media days you never really saw too many photographs from any one photographer. You saw their best work and that was it. No websites, no blogs, no Instagrams or Facebooks, just whatever some magazine decided to show. If you wanted to see more you bought that photographers book, if they had one, or visited the library to research them. In most cases you only came across the same photo that you were already aware of. If I only end up with a few good photos that people like, then I should be okay.
But I find myself these days seeing a gazillion photos almost every day and most of them are really just peoples snapshots. I see more photos of complete strangers families than I have ever seen of my own family. Somebody will post photos of their kid on a camera forum and, although it may be technically perfect because he shot with a $3,000 camera outfit, it’s still just a basic picture of his kid. And that goes on and on and on. Plus I feel like I’m obligated to respond and say “hey, great shot!”. Self editing goes a long way in my book.
Please don’t get me wrong, I do see a lot of truly great work out there and a lot of it does inspire me. Inspire me not to copy but to free my mind think in different ways. I am not a street photographer but a good street photograph can inspire me to view urban scenes from a different perspective than I would normally. I am not a landscape photographer but a wonderful landscape photo can inspire me to think about and wait for that perfect light, instead of snapping away in the moment.
Anyhow, if you got this far you probably realized that I am not a writer so I’ll attach a picture and shut up. I got carried away this post so my next post I am going to put up a few of my recent photos and critique them. Yes, I am my own worst critic.
The real Havana has been in the news a lot these days but I, being a mere normal working American, can only come as close as the Miami neighborhood of Little Havana. Not quite the same but a pleasurable place nonetheless.
My wife and I enjoyed a few days in Miami Beach, just kicking back and trying to escape the dull Pennsylvania weather for some sun and warmth. We generally just stick around our South Beach hotel and just travel on foot but sometimes we get a car for at least one day, just to stretch out a little and explore. I wanted to visit the Leica Store in Boca Raton, so we took the short drive down and did some window shopping around the Miracle Mile, visited the Leica store, had a nice late lunch and then headed back towards South Beach for the evening.
Since we practically drove right through Little Havana on our way back to the hotel and there were plenty of parking spaces available along the streets during the late weekday afternoon, I thought it would be a great time to walk around and grab some photos. The place is colorful and lively and I had no problem exploring and taking photos. Most folks were accommodating and are probably used to tourists anyhow, so the camera wasn’t a threat. Since I’m generally not a “people” photographer, I prefer architecture and details, I focused more on the colorful facades and signs then waiting out perfect subjects to walk by. I know, I know….people are the favorite subjects in travel photography, but I just can’t get around to shooting them yet. Someday I’ll be comfortable in shooting people.
I traveled light, using only the Fujinon XF14mm 2.8 lens for all of these shots. I had my XF35mm lens with me also but I didn’t use it as the 14 proved quite to be versatile as a street lens.
As I have been traveling along rural roads I have been noticing some nice wild flowers and how they contrast so nicely with the surrounding greenery. The colors are beautiful and some of the flowers are incredibly tiny. Whenever I had the opportunity I tried to grab a quick few shots of the flowers. Although I loved the colors I knew the contrast of the flowers against the green grass and leaves would make for nice strong black and white images. During processing I pushed the envelope a hair more to really accentuate the contrasts.
I know I have been slow in posting but I’ll be on holiday the coming week and I’ll try to post some different subject matter to keep things interesting around here. Later.