Reception

Sometimes I hear that cameras “get in the way” of real experience. Some say that photographers should “put the camera down” more often and remove the barrier between ourselves and the world around us. After several years of keeping the camera close at hand, however, I’ve never found it a hindrance. Rather, the camera has enhanced my vision and brought me closer, sometimes literally, to my environment. A camera in hand reminds me to notice the world and to explore it.

In her book Eyes of the Heart: Photography as Christian Contemplative Practice, Christine Paintner talks about “receiving” photos as opposed to “taking” or “making” them. She offers several exercises throughout the book. At the end of her second chapter, she suggests a contemplative walk with an emphasis on reception. She writes, “Photography is simply a tool to cultivate our ability to be present to the world” (p. 40). My “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts” class is reading through Paintner’s book as we explore biblical themes related to our environment. In preparation for this class, I took a contemplative photo walk around our campus. In these walks, I’m challenging myself to explore areas of the campus that I rarely visit, and I discover some beauty along the way. On my last walkabout, I encountered these colorful daylilies.

DSC05367

The theme of “reception” was on my mind as I approached the lilies. I immediately thought they resembled little satellite dishes receiving life-giving solar transmissions.

DSC05385

In the first chapter of her book, Paintner suggests an exercise of taking images from 50 various angles or perspectives. While I didn’t quite make it to 50, I did explore various angles of the lilies. This is another example of the “satellite” pose. (Print Available)

DSC05358

Of course, I always want to get closer …

DSC05362

… and closer. (Print Available)

DSC05393

As I was walking back to my office, I was still in a receptive spirit and happened upon this crack in the sidewalk. Dr. Ian Malcolm’s chaos theory from Jurassic Park came to mind, as I heard him saying, “life … um … will find a way.” I’m interested in capturing more of these tiny urban landscapes in the future. (Print Available)

What’s in Her Bag: Michelle’s New Camera Purse

It’s been a while since I’ve done any serious leatherwork, but with Michelle picking up her photography and wanting a daily solution for carrying a good camera, I decided to create a custom camera purse for her. We designed the purse to be small enough for everyday use, but large enough to hold the Tenba BYOB 7 (Bring Your Own Bag) with a little room for her phone, wallet, keys, etc. The Tenba bag insert is just big enough to carry the Sony a6000 with two smallish lenses. Currently she is carrying a small 35mm and Sony’s 55-210mm tiny telephoto lens, but we have a few other lenses that could work, depending on her mood.

We went for a vintage-y look, so we were able to get some good leather with a few flaws for a good price at Tandy Leather. We looked for some hardware that fit the bill at Tandy, as well. Of course, we both love the steampunk look, so I used some Tandy steampunk conchos for the strap. They did not have any antique brass D-rings or Trigger Snaps, so I bought the regular brass and distressed them by soaking them in apple cider vinegar and then baking them. It was kind of a fun process! I also had a good time experimenting with dip-dyeing the leather and using some new stitching and burnishing techniques.

DSC02432

The finished product.

DSC02446

DSC02448

A fun little propeller for some character on the strap. Our macro lens really brought out the texture in this, which is about twice the size of a U.S. quarter.

DSC02455

DSC02457

DSC02469

What’s in your bag?

Time to Put the Wheel back on the Wagon

We know. It’s been a while since a good, content-heavy post. Between our work and travels in 2015, we got a little bogged down like this farm equipment. But it’s time to put the wheel back on this wagon and start sharing more from our 2015 adventures as we look forward to even more exciting photography in 2016. This first batch is from our October trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stayed in the Cade’s Cove campground so we could be close to the action and the light. I think I had just finished some binge sessions playing Witcher III. The virtual explorations looking for herbs in farmhouses might have influenced my perspective and tone. At one point, we even saw a bulletin board and went looking for quests. 🙂

DSC00366_HDR-Edit-Edit

I loved the mix of textures in the wood, the puddles after the rain, and the bits of metal on the hub. Print Available.

DSC09719

Michelle loves texture, too, but she likes to get in closer than I do. 🙂

DSC00223-Edit

Another mystical fantasy image. This was from our first night in Cade’s cove. I liked the cool gray clouds, but I went for a more other-worldly approach, adding some texture and purply-ness to the scene. Print Available.

DSC09783

Michelle had everyone fooled. The whole park was full of people searching for bears. The people in the line of cars saw Michelle with a longish 90mm macro stalking this caterpillar. Everyone stopped and asked where the bear was. Print Available.

DSC00410-Edit

Towards the end of the trip we decided to go chasing waterfalls. We decided to hike up to Laurel Falls in the rain (thank goodness for panchos). When we got there, we watched a couple climb the falls followed by a proposal. We ended up taking a couple of shots for the family who was watching from below (no pressure!). When they left we decided to play with some long exposures.

Sacred Color: Some In Progress Shots of the Sand Painting Mandala

Here is an in progress gallery of the Sand Painting Mandala created by the Drepung Loseling monks. I am enthralled with the entire process, but I will just let the images speak for themselves. I did learn today that the sand is actually crushed marble. There is still time left to view the process on the top floor of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The closing ceremony will take place on Saturday, March 28, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

See the beginning of the process in my previous blog post: Sacred Geometry.

A monk refills his Chak-pur with white sand and tests the flow.

A monk refills his Chak-pur with white sand and tests the flow.

DSC02494-Edit-Edit

Yes, I know this is not color, but I like how the monochrome brings out the intricacy of the design. The communal nature of the art also moved me.

DSC02499-Edit DSC02497-Edit DSC02466-Edit

A monk traces guidelines for the next image in the yellow sand with a stylus.

A monk traces guidelines for the next image in the yellow sand with a stylus.

DSC02462-Edit-2

A close-up of the above photo, showing the delicacy of the process.

DSC02419-Edit

DSC02419-Edit-2

Another close-up of the above process. I cannot fathom the patience it takes to do this kind of work!

DSC02448-Edit DSC02444-Edit

A monk demonstrates the process to a young visitor on the community sand painting.

A monk demonstrates the process to a young visitor on the community sand painting.

All images ©2015 Garber Geektography. They are not for sale or commercial use.

Run Away to Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

A boardwalk over the salt marsh in Edisto Beach State Park. This was on the Scott Creek Trail.

A boardwalk over the salt marsh in Edisto Beach State Park. This was on the Scott Creek Trail.

In early March we took our inaugural camper trip to Edisto Beach, SC. We chose Edisto Beach (pronounced EH-dis-toe) because it was relatively close, the campground was only about half-full and had received good reviews, and the surrounding area seemed to present some interesting opportunities for photography. It was a terrific choice!  I’ll write in more detail about the camper experience in a future blog post, but for now, I’ll focus on reviewing the Edisto Beach State Park campground.  We chose to stay in the Live Oak Campground section as opposed to the beach front campground section because we wanted space and privacy—and I think we’ve been spoiled for future campgrounds!

Looking up from our campsite into the trees covered in moss with a blue sky background.

Looking up from our campsite into the trees covered in moss with a blue sky background.

Our site was lovely and shaded and HUGE! It was almost perfectly level and overlooked the salt marsh, giving us a beautiful view of the sunset each night. The site was surrounded by palm trees and vegetation making it feel like our own private oasis.  And we could still hear the ocean!  We stayed in site 118, but there were several near us that looked nearly as private—117, 122, and 124, especially.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we needed to rely on their bathhouse facilities, and thankfully they were very clean and just a short walk away.  The garbage and recycling were on the way to the bathhouse and the dump station was just a short drive from the campground.  The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful and surrounded by nature.

Cardinal

A cardinal that I kept stalking on the trails around out campsite.

We took advantage of some of the trails from the campground that took us through the marshes and out to a boardwalk along the river.  We only passed two people on bikes and a number of cardinals, bluejays, and other birds. We explored the salt marshes and the beach and the park via quiet, well-maintained, and serene paths—most of which took us through or near the campground.  There was not a lot of activity or people—just the way we like it.  For a few days, life moved along at a different time, perfect if you are looking for a relaxed, slow-paced time away from it all.  We also explored Botany Bay Plantation and the beach there—just gorgeous.  See Dave’s blog on Botany-Bay for more on that magical, pristine, other-worldly location!

Michelle being spooky in one of the trees at Botany Bay Plantation, SC.

Michelle being spooky in one of the trees at Botany Bay Plantation, SC.

Our eldest Brittany, Marduk taking advantage of some off leash time at the beach. The sign said dogs could not be off leash in peak season: yet another reason to plan trips in the off season!

Our eldest Brittany, Marduk taking advantage of some off leash time at the beach. The sign said dogs could not be off leash in peak season: yet another reason to plan trips in the off season!

I should add the disclaimer that we like the beach best when it is deserted and a little chilly! Edisto Beach, SC is a lovely little area and we appreciated the general lack of commercialization.  Our dogs were able to run off-leash on the beach and had a blast (dogs must be on-leash May-October)! Most of the time we had the place to ourselves, except for the occasional kayaker or sea gull. We even had one night out for seafood at a fun little restaurant called Seacow Eatery—great pie and friendly staff!

Golden Hour at the Big Bay Creek at Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina. This was taken on the boardwalk that crosses the salt marsh.

Golden Hour at the Big Bay Creek at Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina. This was taken on the boardwalk that crosses the salt marsh. Print Available.

Botany Bay? Botany Bay! … Oh no!

On our first trip in the camper to Edisto Beach, SC, Michelle mentioned going to Botany Bay Plantation. I knew I had heard that name somewhere before, and I kept racking my brain to figure it out. Turns out, that SS Botany Bay is the name of Kahn’s ship in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (and later in Star Trek: Into Darkness). Of course that name came from the original Botany Bay in Australia, which was a penal colony. After discovering the geeky nature of my recollection, I repeatedly quoted this line from Pavel Chekov when he discovers the identity of the mysterious marooned ship.

When Michelle showed me pictures of the old trees on the beach, I couldn’t wait to get there to capture the sunrise. Of course, the weather didn’t cooperate very well … or maybe it did. A dense layer of fog blanketed the sun. This gave a certain mystical and lonely quality to the shots that I had not anticipated, but that I thoroughly enjoyed. The fog was like a giant softbox, giving even lighting over the trees and lightly shrouding the other objects in a distance. This really helped me isolate my subjects and also gave me an interesting canvas in the background to use various processing techniques and textures. I processed all of the following shots with a combination of MacPhun’s Tonality Pro and Karen Hutton‘s and Tanya Wallis’ forthcoming texture pack.

We have several more images from the Botany Bay Plantation shoot on the way, but I am grouping them in different blog posts. The area has so many types of landscapes: bogs, marshes, ponds, streams, dense forest, farmland, and beaches. It really was a great place to practice a variety of landscape and nature shots.

This was one of my telephoto images with the a6000. I used a basic black and white conversion in Tonality Pro and added the Bursty Blur texture from the texture pack.

This was one of my telephoto images with the a6000. I used a basic black and white conversion in Tonality Pro and added the Bursty Blur texture from the texture pack. Print Available.

i had some fun with the wide angle distortion on this one! I liked the effect that the Sandy Cool texture had on it. It seemed to fit the beach theme.

i had some fun with the wide angle distortion on this one! I liked the effect that the Sandy Cool texture had on it. It seemed to fit the beach theme. Print Available.

I went for an authentic Ceti Alpha 5 look to this one, with the reddish goodness. To add texture, I used "Face it - Scratched" from the texture pack.

I went for a Ceti Alpha 5 look to this one, with the reddish goodness. To add texture, I used “Face it – Scratched” from the texture pack. Print Available.

Since I saw the name "Alien Skin Burn" in the texture pack, I've always wanted to use it. It seemed to fit the mood of this photo very well.

Since I saw the name “Alien Skin Burn” in the texture pack, I’ve always wanted to use it. It seemed to fit the mood of this photo well. Print Available.

After the split tone processing in Tonality Pro, I added the "Cold Skin" texture to this photo. It enhanced the blue tones and added a cool vignette.

After the split tone processing in Tonality Pro, I added the “Cold Skin” texture to this photo. It enhanced the blue tones and added a cool vignette. Print Available.

One of my favorite split-tone presets in Tonality Pro is "Blue Morning." Split-toning involves taking a black and white image and adding two different tints to the shadows and the highlights. In this case, the shadows get a blue tint, and the highlights get a golden tint. I decided not to use a texture on this one.

One of my favorite split-tone presets in Tonality Pro is “Blue Morning.” Split-toning involves taking a black and white image and adding two different tints to the shadows and the highlights. In this case, the shadows get a blue tint, and the highlights get a golden tint. I decided not to use a texture on this one because I liked the contrast between the textured ocean and the smooth sky. Print Available.

All images © 2015 Garber Geektography