Sad Stories – The Prequel

•October 20, 2019 • Leave a Comment

In my previous blog, Sad Stories on the Street, what was supposed to have been about street photography became more a story of how a photographer, me, can become personally involved and not just an observer. It was unintentional, but considering it a bit more deeply, what was I expecting differently?

This blog is more the prequel to Sad Stories…

I’m posting several of the original images from my walk and perhaps you can see how the story developed.

The images were taken with an A6000 I picked up used for a song. (Human Nature: We’re all guilty of thinking the next new thing will make us better or happier. Save a ton of money. Always, always look for used first. Thrift shops, pawn shops, and online markets are great.)

All images were in RAW or in Sony’s case “ARW”, processed in Adobe Lightroom, converted to high contrast black and white, and presented here. There’s no hocus pocus.

There are so-called purists of documentary photography, especially from the heyday of film, who would include the sprocket holes and maybe even the “Kodak Safety Film” logo in their photographs. I am not sure why, but maybe that was done to assure the viewer that he/she is seeing the entirety of the photographer’s vision. I always thought it was a distraction at best, or even a preening affectation.

Can’t do that now. Ain’t no sprocket holes in digital, but there are filters to add both sprocket holes and “grain.” I think there is even a Kodak Tri-X filter. Maybe better is to pull out the old film camera that Grandpa used and buy a roll of black and white film. It will slow you down to where you have to think and compose your photographs, as well as anticipate them. Mail the roll out for processing, wait a week for the negatives and scans and then go to Photoshop. How did we live back then?

I don’t think the original captured image could be my entire vision. Countless times I’ve started to work with a negative/slide or digital file only to decide to move in tighter, and cut the distractions.

What you include in the frame is already edited by you and the camera the moment you click the shutter release. You could have recorded a serene scene, say, a cow in a pasture or a mother and child, while the Apocalypse is exploding outside of the camera’s frame. You have that power, and responsibility.

However, even in the camera on the card or on the film, it may not be complete. It is just the original notation, the sketch. In my mind it’s not complete until the final photograph is a reality.

Eugene Smith is a photo hero of mine. He was a documentary photographer from the mid-1900’s. His iconic images of World War II in Life Magazine may be most recognizable. See W. Eugene Smith: Shadow and Substance, The Life and Work of an American Photographer by Jim Hughes, 1989.

I liked Eugene Smith’s idea about cropping an image: “[I crop ] for the benefit of the pictures. The world just does not fit conveniently into the format of a 35mm camera.” – W. Eugene Smith, Pictures on a page : photo-journalism, graphics and picture editing by Harold Evans , Page: 123

So if we take a photograph in RAW or Jpeg, that does not matter. If you want to switch your digital camera to record in monochrome, if that allows you to “see” better, then great. What I think matters is the final image. It is not successful unless it comes very close to what I intended to communicate.

Enough talk. Photographs. I hope you enjoy them and maybe they help you.


Sad Stories on the Street

•October 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Half the world will tell me, “You are exploiting these people.” The other half will say, “You need to publish this photograph.” In the end it is a matter of conscience and the agreement among J. H. pictured here seated, the folks with the signs, and me.

I had permission from each person present to make this photograph. I told them that I would not embarrass them or present them in a negative way.

Ambiguity already. What does “negative way” mean? Some kind of communication went on. But you do not know that for certain. You do not know the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey, radio commentator, used to say. The photographer does, from his point of view. Because of the ambiguity at this moment, you the viewer are free to make up your own story.

Obviously, there is some type of demonstration going on. There may be something about race relations, or the racial divide, or something more presented here. What is the story? Write down what you think it is before you read about it. Write it down and later consider what was in your mind that informed your initial response.

I was in the Marietta Square area photographing. I noticed on one of the corners a group of demonstrators carrying signs calling for peace and love. Sounds very 60’s but these folks do not look the part as presented by popular media.

I approached them and asked them all, directed at no one, “What’s this about.” One woman and one man spoke simultaneously and then the woman permitted the man to explain. I heard his testimony directly, so I am a witness. You read it second hand. To you it is hearsay. Now you have a question to answer: Am I , the photographer trustworthy?

The leader of the group explained, and the rest of the group agreed, that they were on this same street corner every Friday to proclaim peace, to denigrate war and those who profit from it. Large corporations were specifically mentioned.

The man wore a pin which read, “Pass the Amendment”. I asked him what it means. He said that corporations in America have too much power and influence over our government. Congress needs to pass laws to resend corporations’ treatment as entities with personal rights, same as people have.

We talked more.

Then J.H. strolled up supported by his walker. I had seen him before in the park. The people in the group know him by first name and they talked. They were familiar enough to know how he normally dresses, and they remarked how sharp he looked. He related sadly, “I just left a funeral… (pause)… for my son. For my son,” he emphasized. “He was killed by a stray bullet. He was only 19. He don’t do drugs or nothin’. He was helping his grandma out of the car and a bullet hit him in the temple and he dropped dead. Right in front o’ her.”

There was shock among the group and sympathy, maybe empathy. This same story is so common in Atlanta, way too common, almost daily. I heard two similar stories last week. One person died. Another person, a little four year old girl in bed, was hit in the foot. (I have a four year old granddaughter.) A bullet came through the wall of her house. She will recover, but the stupid, the hateful, the violent just grow more violent and evil every day. I was among the right people to hear J.H.’s story. This time his common story became personal.

Do you know how many people I know personally who have had family and friends murdered, and who were murdered themselves, here in Atlanta? Awful!

Condolences and prayers for J.H. and his family were said. This photographer became part of the sad story. J.H.’s story became my story because we were all sharing his grief. Time passed. More conversation, but it began to wain. What more can be said in response to such evil in the world? What could I do?

Then the thought: Do I photograph this man in his grief? How private is private? How would a photograph of him be perceived out of context. How can I tell even part of the story? Should I ask him? Should I impose? Should I insert myself when I just met the man? All these questions simultaneously swirled in my head.

My request came out of the blue, and it shocked me. It seemed like someone else was asking, “May I photograph you?” The mere question in my universe was an imposition. Like I said, probably half of you, or more, will say I exploited the situation and the people there. On the other hand, doesn’t this man deserve to have his story told in a sympathetic way that is perhaps part of the message in his soul?

He answered, “Yes, just let me turn this walker around.” He posed himself. Maybe he composed himself. I took two photographs. They were pretty much the same except the expression on the woman with the sign.

The image was birthed in RAW format, so it originated in color. Here.

For this photograph, for this story, color does NOT work at all. This color photograph is not right.

I converted the image to black and white. Black and white is THE medium. It supports J.H.’s grief. It sweeps away the distractions, it clears the air. In fact, it becomes part of the story itself. You are left with the essence of the message, the signs and the man.

We were all participants in the story; the demonstrators, J.H. who suffered the loss, and me, the photographer who just happened by and asked if I could make a photograph of people carrying signs and proclaiming peace.

Pray for J.H. and his family.


Here’s Lurking at You, Kid

•October 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment
Family Photos

There are inherent tensions within the art of street photography. Contradictory things. Internal conflicts. First, it is darn creepy. If you do not consider yourself to be a creepy person, the discovery that you might be good at it – both the photographic art and at being a creeper, will shake your comfortable self perception.

There was a recent period of time where I put down my camera for all serious work. I don’t want to get puffed up, take it too seriously, and be all oeuvre bearing. This is supposed to be fun. However, for about 10 years I set aside the camera and professional photography – my side gig. I still “took pictures” but there was no intensity and care in it, certainly no art.

I did the same thing with guitar years ago. I’m not certain the reasons for these decade long refrains. With guitar, growth followed abstinence. It may be the same here between me and photography. However, I have learned in the most pointed way that we are not promised decades to learn anything unless it pleases our Creator. That gets into another arena of topics like the nature of God, faith, religion, and the purpose of our lives. Dare I speak such words these days. For later.

Reviewing in my mind my favorite photographers, there were the great landscape and nature artists – Adams, Weston, Galen Rowell. I modeled myself after those guys. But the weight of numbers of photographers whose work I admired was more toward those who reacted to the situations of life around them, and who photographed the human condition.

Here’s a list of ones who made an impact on me: Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Lange, Eugene Smith, SebastiĆ£o Salgado, Lewis Hine, many women, such as Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Margaret Bourke-White, et al. Then there were the photographers in the Farm Services Administration, under Roy Stryker, who photographed during the Great Depression and World War II. The tradition continues.

I think it was Dorothea Lange who said something to the effect, “Photography teaches us that we usually do not see what is going on around us.” What the street photographer, or documentary photographer does is stop the world for a moment and directs our eyes to observe and consider what is before us; fortunate juxtapositions, the expressive movement of hands, the casual and random relationships that occur simply by changing our point of view. I think these are important things to study.

Lewis Hine almost single-handedly brought to the public’s eye the abusive conditions endured by children in factories. It was his photographs that were the catalyst behind child labor laws passed in the United States in the early 1900’s.

The FSA under Roy Stryker documented the Great Depression. Those photographers, which even included Ansel Adams, brought to light the gross unemployment, mass migration, the destruction of farmland, even the lack of basic soil conservation methods, and other effects brought about by the financial collapse. Their influence on America today is much more than we realize. Photographs change things.

As part of my continuing education in the art, I decided to try my hand at Street Photography, not the capturing of crosswalks and traffic, but of people going about their daily activities.

Things to Consider

It is not illegal to photograph people in pubic places. It is not illegal to photograph children, even in this time of evil people. The law is well established and proven in the highest courts. It’s not illegal to present people here in this blog, editorially. Now, if I took an image and sold it to a tobacco company and they used it in an ad, that person could possibly have a case for legal action. I certainly intend nothing more here than education and celebration of life.

What equipment should I use? Something light, very portable, simple to operate. The best photographs I ever took were with a Leica M4-2 rangefinder camera. One of my great regrets in life is selling this camera. If you can find one, buy it. It is a film camera. I cannot afford them now. There are less expensive alternatives.

Any simple point and shoot camera will do. I love my little Canons. I shot with an old G11 for years. It still works very well. The newer G7x has a ton more pixels, but no viewfinder, just the screen. I think a viewfinder is important, but a screen will work fine. Lately the mirrorless cameras have hit the market. One very popular, really impressive, and relatively inexpensive camera is the Sony A6000.

So you don’t need to spend tons of money on equipment. Buy them used, too. No more equipment discussion, just take what you have available, even a clunky SLR. However…

The advantage of small point-and-shoot cameras is that you do not look like a professional. People take photos all the time with their smart phones and P-S cameras. A big honkin’ full-frame Canon or Nikon DSLR with a 20-400,000 f2.8 zoom lens, whatever, does not lend itself easily to the goal here. They are heavy. They are intimidating at best. You will be noticed, and you will kill the mood faster than ice water. It is not the best tool in my opinion. The SLR is not the popular method. Will it work? Of course it will!

Here’s some photographs. Tired of words. I want to come back to this subject in another blog. Enjoy them. Comments welcome.


The Reunion

•September 10, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This one is a bit more personal. I’ll only post one photograph. I thought this photo represents the idea of a family reunion. Even though the family site is public, in order to provide some privacy, I won’t post everything, especially of the children. We have to protect them. There is truly evil in the world.

The following story is sad.

Our family is close and extended. We have a large family reunion every year. There is a lot of very good food that most cardiologists will advise you not to eat. There is a lot of good conversation and fellowship, surprising in today’s culture. Get in touch with your roots if you can. Graft yourself into some roots if you don’t know where you came from.

Reunion food! I can stand anything except temptation, and I got trapped by banana pudding. It was not the boxed pudding mix plus bananas, only fit for emergency consumption, but the real egg custard, vanilla wafer, and ripe banana variety that will fulfill your wildest dreams. Ah! Still thinking of it, but I surely did feel it when I hit the gym yesterday.

Sidetracked as usual, so back to the story. We have a reading of the minutes and during the reading, we announce the ones who have died in the past year. We’re all generally pretty healthy, so the list usually is not long (thank you Lord). This year, one name hit me. I’ll just call her Cousin J.

Cousin J. died in January this year. She had a list of people to contact. My older brother was on the list, but for some reason the person responsible did not call him, so the first we heard of her passing was when her name was read aloud.

It is always a shock. It does not matter if it is expected. I heard this one time regarding a conversation, talking of someone who had died, “Was his death untimely?” “Aren’t they all,” was the response. Every death is untimely. Solomon said we have eternity written in our hearts. There is a sense we have of something more beyond this life. Death comes to us all, but it is always a scandal.

In my twenties, I was part of a quartet, The City Folk, which was sort of a Peter, Paul, and Mary – esque singing group. Cousin J. sang with us in the group. She had a beautiful voice, an alto. She was an Elvis fan. Elvis was her Number 1 Number 1, and she left behind a lot of Elvis memorabilia. She was a member of a women’s singing group, The Sweet Adelines.

I think you may be able to open this. It may be set to private. I can’t recall. Around the 2:30 minute mark on the vid, you’ll be able to hear Cousin J. in the chorus. We recorded it in the basement of my best friend’s then future wife. It’s not a great recording, not our best sound, a private tape to be shared strictly among friends. However, it presents about two minutes of a life, now gone. I have hope of seeing her again one day.

I played this recording for my cousin, who is handling Cousin J.’s estate. We talked at the reunion about Cousin J. She said to me, “I didn’t even know she could sing.”

The point of all this is the obvious: Life is short. There is not enough time in the world. There is not enough time to love. Not enough time to learn about someone. Not enough time to share stories. Yet we all want to be known intimately.

We have stories hidden by years, covered over and buried deeply by life, hidden even from the people closest to us. The person from way back when is so different from the person now. None of us are given the opportunity to tell the story of who we are and how we became that person.

Like I said, this is a sad story. If you have a real “hope” then at least your story will be known one day.


I Went for a Walk: Derelict Amusement Park

•September 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

They say you won’t die until your work on earth is finished. I am so behind now, I may live forever.

I have so many projects going on. The time consuming one is finding negatives and slides to “scan” to convert them from analog to digital. I have several hundred, maybe a thousand slides, mostly Kodachrome with just a few Ektachrome.

If you are not familiar with either, Kodachrome was THE standard in color film for decades. Believe it or not, the Kodachrome you have in Technicolor movies and photographs was invented in the early 1930’s by two professional musicians,  Leopold Godowsky Jr. and Leopold Mannes. Imagine that and think about trying to do something similar today. You’d have teams of people, millions of dollars in R&D and marketing. Yet these two guys did it just sort of fiddling around. (Pun. There was a pun.)

Anyway, so I have a ton of slides and I am copying them. I ran across photos I took of a derelict amusement park, located somewhere on the Carolina Beach Road between Wilmington and Kure Beach, NC. The property and the abandoned rides are long gone. I said derelict and not abandoned at first because there was water being pumped from somewhere into one of the kiddie pools.

The place fascinated me, and I took several shots just to record it. To me, it symbolized the kind of decay our amusements enjoy over time. They become old, battered, and worn out. We hold onto them too long when it would be better to abandon them. Ooh. Deep thoughts.

I thought I might return to explore it more, but for whatever reason, I did not.

Instead, you get to view these digital copies of the Kodachrome slides, and I want to show you some digital artifacts that occurred when I photographed the slides with my trusty Nikon D7500, with an advanced APS-C sensor, yielding about a 20 mb file full of information, and then processed the files in Photoshop Elements RAW processor.

Here is the gallery. Click on the images to enlarge them.

First take a look at the first image of the water slide. My comment. Eastman Kodak had a monopoly on processing Kodachrome film until about 1954, I believe. Before then, you purchased the film and processing together. So after you shot a roll, you mailed it off to Kodak, and a week later or so, you got your processed slides returned. That is correct, it took a week or longer by mail. I happen to live on the East Coast, so my film went to New York. Those closer to the West Coast had their film processed in Los Angeles. Go ahead and laugh.

Well Kodak lost a court case, and competition to process the film came about. Kodak was hurting. Then there were the E6 labs all over the place (think Ektachrome). Agfa, Ilford, Fuji, and others were eating Kodak’s lunch. Eventually this great film was discontinued after 74 years in production. Imagine any technology today lasting more than a couple years. It is still considered an archival standard for color photographs. Of course jpeg and tiff have a handle on digital images.

With the downturn of the product and the changes in photography, processing just was not up to the old Kodak standard. Slides were many times covered in trash from the chemistry. I guess it was cost cutting. Here is an example from the first photograph, a section of the sky in the upper left of the image. Notice the black blotches. Those are on the slide, folks. It came from processor like that. Yuk. Try to sell that to a customer.

In Photoshop you have two handy tools to clean up this junk. One is the Clone Stamp tool, and the other is the Healing Brush tool. They do similar things.

You set the Clone Stamp tool over an area of the image to copy. You select the area by doing an alt+left click. Then you place the tool over the trashy spot and click again, and the spot disappears. You can adjust the pixel dimensions of the tool with a slider to cover larger or smaller areas.

The Healing Brush is similar. Instead you just select the pixel size of the tool, maybe a little wider than the Clone Stamp. You then place it over the area to fix, and click. Photoshop interpolates what you want to happen and does it. It is very handy for sky, clouds, and water. You can fix blemishes in portraits too. If you are not satisfied, then try the Clone Stamp.

Here is about the same area of sky and clouds after I applied the clone and healing brush. It’s not perfect, and I may return to smooth it all out.

I thought I might sell some of my slides as stock images, but sadly, there is just too much trash like the specks and grunge.

If you are going to sell stock photos you better have technically superb photographs. This is my rookie season. Never sold stock before. Right now I am batting about 750. I think that may be pretty good. I am learning what they want. I am learning what sells. At least, I sure hope I am learning what sells.

Micro-stock agencies like Shutterstock do not want to see an image in a 1 mb file. Neither do their customers. They do not want to see digital artifacts like color compression, posterization, and grain. Posterization is common especially with jpegs, in oversaturated areas of color. It helps to shoot your original image in RAW and adjust your exposures, contrast, saturation, etc. before converting the image to its final jpeg format. Make sure your flower petal has detail and is more than just a big blob of color.

Even if my original photos of the park were near perfect, even if the grunge was not present, and the skies were clear blue and smooth, there is something else that disqualifies the images above. Take a look at the elephant holding the golf ball with its trunk. Click to enlarge it. What do you see?

Below is an enlarged section of the image showing the elephant trunk. What do you notice outlining the trunk, top and bottom? See that reddish outline on top and the blue outline on the bottom? It is called fringing. You may not even notice it in a casual view, but I guarantee the eagle eyes at the stock agencies will. It is not good enough to sell.

It was most likely introduced by my zoom lens that I use in macro mode to make the copies. Or it could be the processor in the D7500 itself. Don’t get all touchy. I am not saying bad things about Nikon. I love Nikon. But digital is digital. You ought to have seen this kind of thing when digital was a brand new technology.

Anyway, I have not figured out a way to easily remove it. For grins I converted the image to monochrome. Take a look below. There is still a fringe, less noticeable, but still present in the gray tones. These photographs were all about color. I do not think I want black and white here. I’ll have to consider it.

My best advice is make sure this kind of garbage is not in the original. Maybe I ought to spend more on the lens. Yeah. All I need is a new lens. Or maybe Adobe Lightroom has tools specifically created to de-fringe. I have seen a couple YouTube videos I may try. If they work, I will let you know.

Correcting these kinds of digital problems are tediously time consuming, and they drive me crazy. The return on my time invested is too small, and I need to move past this to other images.

Thank God for rejection notices. They really do help you improve. Seriously. No, I mean they really do. Really.


UPDATE: Yay! Found that there is a lens aberration tool both in Photoshop and Lightroom. Sadly, not out of the box in Photoshop Elements. BUT, there is and independent plugin. Here is video #1. And here is video #2. They show how to get rid of the fringe using the lens aberration tool. As I said, Elements does not have the tool available. This is where Elements + comes in. I am reviewing it now.

Good luck.

Ducks and Tree Scarves

•August 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I went for a walk.

I have a wedding to photograph coming up soon. This is the first one since restarting my photography business. So I have been retesting equipment.

When I photograph a wedding I carry backups for the backups. For the one coming up, I will have 3 Nikon cameras, four lenses, 3 flash units. I checked out the Nikon stuff yesterday, especially my old reliable SB-800 and the much less expensive but equally impressive Yongnuo YN685.

I used to shoot with the Vivitar 283. I miss them. They were simple, light, consistent and reliable. Seems in many reviews, the Yongnuo 685 has replaced them. My opinion of them so far is they are good to excellent. I have trouble with their menu screen and selections. They are not intuitive in my opinon, but they are very inexpensive and they work on manual settings with an umbrella very well for casual portraits. Disclaimer so you won’t consider me some gear curmudgeon: I am still learning about the flash.

My backup backup that I will take, and the one for the party shots will be a Sony A6000 with the 16-50 f3.5, kit lens, and the 19mm f2.8 Sigma DN “Art” lens. The Art lens is Sigma’s best glass. Sigma competes with Canon L and other quality lenses, but for a whole lot less money, especially if you buy used from the good folks at KEH Camera Brokers right here in my hometown. I have not been paid by KEH for the plug (maybe they will). It’s that I have been dealing with them since they opened their first location on Spring Street, in Atlanta 40 something years ago. I have never had a problem with them. I understand business is business, things happen, and your opinion may be different.

There are much better, more complete reviews on All I am showing here are some images I got in testing/retesting equipment. I will say the camera is a joy to use. Eventually, I will tire of even the weight of the Nikon. Travel light and fast. The Sony A6000 (and others in their line) might be a good switch.

I love my town, Smyrna, Georgia. It is known as one of the top 50 cities in the country, according to Money Magazine. It is a suburb of Atlanta, provides excellent services for the taxes they collect from us, it has good schools, and it is “incoveniently” located close to top destinations in metro Atlanta. It is home of the Smyrna Braves, also known as the Atlanta Braves too. Traffic is horrific in Atlanta. We’re full now, so don’t move here until someone dies or otherwise moves out.

I tested equipment in the park around the Smyrna Community Center. I saw these scarves on the trees… I am not sure why you put scarves on trees, but the sign says it was a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of trees. Cool. I love trees. Here we have a Firey Skipper butterfly, a grand duck with flaming red face, the tree scarves, and an old piano that they keep on the front porch of the community center for folks to play. There is another one inside a gazebo around the corner as well. Tell me, where else can you find a town with even one piano available for folks to bang on. We have two! Love this place.


The Need for Less

•August 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

When I started photographing, it was all about friends and fun. My gear was a Kodak Instamatic 126. Photography was all about friends and fun. It was about the moment, what we were doing. It was about girls I liked, too.

I remember a cold wet November Saturday. We were all students. Us guys were all Georgia Tech students, except my younger brother who I invited along, and girls were from Georgia Baptist School of Nursing (now part of Mercer University), and from Georgia State. We all hung out together almost every weekend.

So Tech was playing football out of town, getting slaughtered by Southern Cal, or UCLA, I cannot recall. It was a dismal day, so someone had an epiphany: ROAD TRIP! We grabbed some food and drinks, and my younger brother, we all piled into someone’s car, and off to north Georgia we drove.

We stopped along the side of the road several times. I took pictures. We ate under the cover of a an abandoned drive through. The food was cold, everyone was cold, but it was great. I took pictures. Then we explored other abandoned buildings nearby. I took pictures.

I don’t recall what town it was or used to be, but the buildings were old, abandoned, wooden, weathered from elemental decay, and almost fully consumed by kudzu.

Kudzu originated in Japan as arrowroot. It was brought to the States during the Depression to stop erosion. No one knows if that worked or not, because no one has seen the ground since, says Lewis Grizzard. I cannot find the citation for this quote. I just know he said it.

In Japan it is a fine looking ivy. In Georgia, kudzu has no natural enemies except goats. It is edible and it actually has a sweet smelling flower that blooms in September. Do not bend too closely to smell it. Kudzu will grab you, and you will not be found until many centuries distant, when some archeologist ponders your remains entangled in petrified vines.

Kudzu can be used to treat alcoholism with its accompanying hangovers. This is a great blessing. If you happen to be from places where kudzu grows – hard to imagine a place where it does not, you can distill your moonshine, with your factory all hidden away within the same kudzu patch from which you gather your healing tonic for the next morning, after a bender in the woods. Keep it handy.

Kudzu can relieve the symptoms of menopause. You can make clothing, lotions, and paper from it, and cook it like greens! With cornbread. Slap ya mama! Yum. …They say.

They also say it is disappearing from Georgia. Hard to tell, and sad if it is. I cannot imagine a Georgia landscape or an abandoned lot without it.

Back to the road trip. We made our last stop of the day at Etowah, where the Native American ceremonial mounds are located. A couple of us pulled out our guitars. Being true to the customs of college students in the late 60s and early 70s, and to their social gatherings and rituals, yes, we played and sang folk songs! I took pictures of that, too. Today, take a vid on your smart phone.

Those were simple fun times. What I have determined after years of photography and carrying pounds of camera gear, keep it simple and light. I used to spend all my time photographing what was going on. Oh, I was such a serious artist! That is not the same as making memories. I was an observer and not a participant in the event. That is not to say take lousy photos, but that equipment and technique should not interfere with life. Be aware of what you are there for. Reduce your fiddle time. Set the darn gadget on auto if needed and enjoy the moment.

I’ve gone too far now talking about kudzu and long lost memories. I’ll shorten the technical discussions.

Today, I usually carry no more than one quality point and shoot camera, unless I am trying to earn some money. I aim my creativity, the objects of my love and attention, toward my family and friends. Time is short, and I have realized time has become the only currency I really have left. I think David Crosby said that or something similar. I think it is true regardless who gets credit for the quote.

I spent intentional time with my granddaughter the other day. I took several informal portraits and snapshots, which I then sent to my wife, my daughter her mom, and to my other kids.

She tilts her head when photographed. My daughters did the same thing when they were this age. I do not know where head tilting comes from. It may have been poorly posed on my part. Actually I did not pose her at all. I did not intend to pose her more than she would tolerate.

Of course, I could not resist photographing what was going on, and I managed a decent shot of the musicians, below. I liked the other world looks on their faces as they played. I put some money in his open mandolin case, also. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t grab a photograph without paying due respect.

Musicians in the park

Here are the technical details: I took one small, quality point and shoot camera, a Canon G7x Mark II. I set the camera to aperture priority, ISO to 250, and f-stop to f8. In aperture priority mode, the camera sets the shutter speed for you. In sunlight I usually don’t worry about a slow shutter speed introducing motion blur. I wish I had shot it about f2.8 or f4 to have less depth of focus. I captured the images in RAW (Canon CR), as well as in jpeg for a quick post. I processed several of the RAW images in Photoshop Elements.

Let me discuss a tool in Photoshop RAW processing, both in Elements and in regular Photoshop; the luminance noise reduction tool.

If you sharpen an image at all, you’ll introduce “noise”, or what I like to call “digital grain”. It is not grain like silver based film had, but more like static. As you bump up the ISO, you increase “gain” and your images will appear grainy. Perhaps use this as a cute reminder: The higher the ISO, the higher the Gain, the greater the Grain. “Grain” is another anachronism, a throw back to simpler times and silver based processes.

Use the magnify tool and enlarge the image over an area of skin. Apply sharpening and notice the “grain” appear. Go to the luminance noise reduction tool and slide it from zero toward the right just enough to clear the skin tones of the noise, or digital grain as I call it. No need to apply more than you see in the preview. You will see the skin get more smooth.

Here are examples from the photograph of my granddaughter. Check the difference between skin smoothness in the first and second images.

In the first image, I had set overall sharpness to around 50, and the luminance noise reduction is set at zero. Can you see the skin looks bumpy. That is the noise that sharpening introduces to the image. The area shown is probably no more than a couple percentage points of the entire photograph.

Next take a look at the second image. I took the luminance noise reduction slider, moved it to the right to around 40, and the skin smoothed out.

Couple of things here. First, the skin is noticeably smoother than at the zero setting. Check the eyelashes in both images. The smoothing also reduced detail in the eyelashes. So we have a trade-off to consider. For me personally, especially in portraits of children and women, I opt for smoother skin over sharpness. For a man, I usually opt for sharpness and maybe a bit more micro-contrast. There are other considerations, but I think our conditioning and visual expectations lead us there. You may disagree. Go for it.

The effects of adjustment are more noticeable, given the same settings, in images with less pixel information than with more pixel information. To say it simply, your sharpness and noise reduction settings for your 20mp camera will be higher than for your 10mp camera, to get the same result. Check the preview closely and you should see the difference.

A digital Leica would be grand for such images as this. I could channel Cartier-Bresson and others. However in my opinion, Leica M ceased to be professional tools of almost decent prices years ago. Photographic wonders, built like an anvil, outlast most of us, but sadly more like a big chunk of bling. You may want that. A digital Leica M-E (entry to the club) with a standard lens, built in Wetzlar, new, will be nine or ten grand.

A Leica M. Ten grand. Really. I need it. No. What I really, really need is contentment. I need less.

The Canon does exceptionally well. I dropped it onto the sidewalk. No damage.