A Tilt-shift View of Eureka Springs

I have written a couple of posts about using my tilt-shift lens set up recently. I wrote about using the technique to give motion and focus to a country road, and used it to take some portraits of an old friend. I thought I would do a post how tilt-shift is typically used. The tilt-shift lens can be angled so that it is not parallel to your camera’s sensor – this gives you a slice of focus and changes the perspective of your shot slightly. It is mostly used to give a feel of miniaturized cityscapes. I don’t live in a city so I went to a scenic overlook in town. It’s a tree covered area that is about midway between the bottom of the hollow that is Main Street and the top of the ridge where the Crescent Hotel sits. Shooting through trees makes it tougher than the shots you typically see – classic tilt-shift is shot from high above and focuses on the tiny details below. It’s all manual – you tilt then focus by hand. You can set the shutter speed and ISO in camera, but the rest is all done by the photographer.

Here’s a little tour of the city I call home at just past the peak colors of autumn – Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one of America’s favorite SMALL towns. All of these shots were taken from the East Mountain Overlook, facing west.

So what do you think of tilt-shift photography – is it interesting or does it make you dizzy?

Chasing the Sunset

I love a colorful sunset. I live about 15 miles west of my place of employment. It’s a winding country drive. On a few special evenings a year I spot some color and chase it down as I drive westward towards home.

Standard Time sure limits my opportunities though. Late last week – on October 31st – I got the chance to capture the last sunset of October. It will likely be the last one I catch on my drive home until spring.

I shot these with my fast 50 portrait lens. I end to close down the aperture a bit shooting sunsets – I am not looking for blur or bokeh. I want color. These were all shot between f4-f6.3. Shutter speeds are slowed down a bit for detail around 1/60 sec – ISO at 200 except for the shot of the Crescent – it was at 800 because I was losing light fast.

Country Roads – a Tilt-shift View of Autumn in the Ozarks

My bird lens is on the fritz, 9 days at Olympus for repairs and counting. Arrrrgh! Peak fall color hit about 10 days ago so I have not been able to get my leaf shots – it’s something I look forward to all year. The last two weeks have been rainy off and on so shooting days are few and far between anyway. Last weekend a kind of panic hit me – shoot now or miss the whole season. I started by taking a couple of snaps on local roads with my portrait lens – not my favorite for these kinds of shots – but serviceable.

Shooting down roads has always been a mixed bag for me. I tend to shoot things that I can isolate like birds or leaves or objects. A scene can take me in, but capturing it effectively can often elude me. I had been playing around with a tilt-shift set up and wondered if I could use it to look into the distance on these country roads – to use it in a way that would help the viewer to get a better sense of what I feel when I am driving down one of these roads – crisp air, crunching swirling leaves, filtered sunlight. Can I take a photo that makes you feel these things?

I know I have explained this before, but just in case – a tilt-shift lens lets you move the lens at an angle so that the plane of focus is not parallel to the camera’s sensor – it gives you a “slice of focus” and lets you hone in on certain objects that you want to highlight. It is often used to distort an image to give it the feel of miniaturization.

Shooting gear that you are not completely comfortable with is often a good thing – it gives you a new perspective – it pushes you to try new things. Sometimes the distortion is unsettling, sometimes it’s almost painterly. For me, many of these shots give a better sense of the feel of the roads in the autumn.

These shots were all taken in the last few days, some from the same locations as the earlier shots.

OK – so no skyward leaves or birds amidst the color for me this year. Not having my favorite lens should limit me – but instead it’s forcing me outside of my happy place – and that’s a good thing.

An Old Friend and a Camera Lens

I recently saw an impressive tilt-shift image posted by a friend on Facebook. It was a long shot of the autumn color here in the Ozarks. It made me think about my neglected tilt-shift set up. Languishing in the old camera bag, I hadn’t touched it in over a year. Frankly, it intimidated me. I used it a couple of times and got 2-3 images that I liked – but it took more work. It was less intuitive. Getting good color was not as easy since the set-up only works in manual – you can set your shutter speed and ISO – but the rest is all you. I wrote briefly about using it ages ago in one of my early posts, and I got one shot from that afternoon that I regularly sell prints of.

This is an image I took last year with the tilt-shift lens at a local lake. The tilt lets me focus on a small portion of the image and lets the rest blur. It takes a boring angled shot of a dock and makes it pretty interesting to investigate visually.

This is an image I took last year with the tilt-shift lens at a local lake. The tilt lets me focus on a small portion of the image and lets the rest blur. It takes a boring angled shot of a dock and makes it pretty interesting to investigate visually.

Here’s how tilt-shift works – the lens is offset at an angle from the sensor – so your plane of focus is not parallel. That angle lets you selectively focus on a single portion of the image and lets the rest blur. If you have seen images of city shots where the people and cars look like dioramas – those images are tilt shift. That plane of focus shifts the perspective creating the illusion that things are smaller than they really are in proportion to the overall image. The gear it takes to do this is pretty cool. It kind of looks like a mix between Frankenstein and Steampunk –

This is my tilt-shift set up - note the aperture ring in the center - its a coated metal disc held in place by magnets. To change the aperture you change out the ring. f22 is like a pinhole. f1.4 is no ring at all.

This is my tilt-shift set up – note the aperture ring in the center – its a coated metal disc held in place by magnets. To change the aperture you change out the ring. f22 is like a pinhole. f1.4 is no ring at all.

A side view of the tilt-shift set up on my tripod. Each of the threaded rods help you to fine tune the shift. For the shots in this post I went with a more casual approach - point, focus, shoot, try again.

A side view of the tilt-shift set up on my tripod. Each of the threaded rods help you to fine tune the shift. For the shots in this post I went with a more casual approach – point, focus, shoot, try again.

You compress the outer ring towards the camera body at an angle until you see something that you think is interesting. Once you get a sense of the image you lock that ring and then you can focus using a slide on the ring. I find that it works best to find a sweet spot and then look for things to focus on within your field of vision. At this point it becomes more intuitive.

I’ve been shooting some landscapes this way and will probably write a post about them soon, but last night on my way home from work I had a chance meeting on my road – an old friend approached me as I was checking my mail box. All of the shots that follow were taken shortly after sunset. I removed the aperture ring altogether to let in as much light as possible.

My road at sunset - by choosing that one spot of brighter color in the distance to bring into focus, I make your eye look down the road and into the photo.

My road at sunset – by choosing that one spot of brighter color in the distance to bring into focus, I make your eye look down the road and into the photo.

Ben is a wonderful old friend. Every time I see him at the mail box I roll down the window and say hi. At first he was much more interested in some petting than in being the subject of a blog post, but he rolled with it. The wonderful thing about tilt-shift is that it lets you look at something you see all the time and see it with new eyes – a fresh perspective.As I shot I thought about his noble look, his curious and kind eyes, his friendly posture. It’s always good to look at an old friend with new eyes.

Stuck in a Rut

Not me silly – I’m as busy and curious as ever. I honestly don’t have time to find a rut, let alone time to get stuck in one unless we are talking about “The Rut”. The Rut is the magical dance that male elk enter into each fall. Massive bull elk bugle and pose to attract or steal a harem from another massive bull. Sometimes there is a street fight with a clash of antlers – to the victor go the spoils.

The stages of the rut were described to be by wildlife photographer, Michael Dougherty, last week – it’s like a bell curve. The cows are not ready to mate yet, but the bulls are posturing so the bugling and fighting has begun. We are on the front side of the bell curve – rising but no final victors.

I made a trip to the Boxley Valley early last week hoping to see the big bulls and to hear some bugling. The elk are most active an hour before sunset or an hour after sunrise – this was an evening visit, so I was loosing light as time passed. What I saw was a massive harem with a single bull lording over them.

This low field was filled with 35 cows that we could count plus all their calves and some adolescents.

This low field was filled with 35 cows that we could count plus all their calves and some adolescents. I didn’t have a wide enough lens to capture the whole harem. The bull, known as Pretty Boy moves about the harem keeping his girls together.

This is Pretty Boy - he is a 6X6 Bull - about 6-7 years old.

This is Pretty Boy – he is a 6X6 Bull – 6 spikes on each antler. He’s about 6-7 years old.

Pretty Boy defends his harem from intruders…

Pretty Boy sees a threat and moves into action.

Pretty Boy sees a threat and moves into action.

Pretty Boy is serious about his harem - he is chasing off a young male yearling. This young bull is possibly his offspring. It's like telling your teen that it's time to pay his own car insurance and do his own laundry. Soon the youngster will be kicked out and will join a bachelor herd for the rest of the season.

Pretty Boy is serious about his harem – he is chasing off a young male yearling. This young bull is possibly his offspring. It’s like telling your teen that it’s time to pay his own car insurance and do his own laundry. Soon the youngster will be kicked out and will join a bachelor herd for the rest of the season.

Once the threat is addressed Pretty Boy will make is move on the ladies. They express no interest.

Once the threat is addressed Pretty Boy will make is move on the ladies. They express no interest.

With the threat passed, Pretty Boy will sit down for dinner with his leading ladies.

With the threat passed, Pretty Boy will sit down for dinner with his leading ladies. Note that our teenager is eating clearly outside the family circle.

After watching Pretty Boy I made a run down to the other end of the valley and noticed that most of the other bulls were doing their own thing or hanging out with the boys…

This Big Boy is a 6X7 and was hanging out alone in a pasture. He's not wasting his energy waiting on 35 ladies.

This Big Boy is a 6X7 and was hanging out alone in a pasture. He’s not wasting his energy waiting on 35 ladies.

This big fella is killing two birds with one stone. He is eating and polishing his antlers by digging into the grass and brush. He's gearing up for a fight.

This big fella is killing two birds with one stone. He is eating and polishing his antlers by digging into the grass and brush. He’s gearing up for a fight.

Before I left the valley I spotted at least 4 bulls larger than Pretty Boy. None of them were taking care of a harem. There was a lot of bugling away from the harem – boys calling each other across the highway – it was like they were calling each other out, staking their claims.

I returned to the valley on Saturday at dawn with some friends. We saw a few adolescents as we checked out both ends of the valley. As we headed north we saw a lot of parked cars alongside the highway – always a good sign. We parked just in time to see Pretty Boy moving his harem into the river cane. The size of his group was markedly smaller – maybe 20 cows. We saw him at the corner of the meadow, he bugled and all those cows bolted and followed him behind the curtain.

This line of river cane separates the elk's public and private spaces. After feeding they bed down on the other side for the day.

This line of river cane separates the elk’s public and private spaces. After feeding they bed down on the other side for the day. Pretty Boy guides them to a more secure area.

Michael, the photographer I mentioned earlier, told me that he moved the harem because he knew there was a rival in the area.

We cruised the valley hoping for another siting and were about to call it a day when we saw the same harem emerge in another meadow downstream.

Pretty Boy positioned himself between the cows and the line of river cane - clearly he was concerned about a rival beyond the cane.

Pretty Boy positioned himself between the cows and the line of river cane – clearly he was concerned about a rival beyond the cane.

He gradually moved the cows away from the river and they came very close to the road where we were watching.

He gradually moved the cows away from the river and they came very close to the road where we were watching.

We were standing along a treeline - shooting through it - when the cows started checking us out.

We were standing along a treeline – shooting through it – when the cows started checking us out.

The harem was getting restless - wanting to move away from the road...

The harem was getting restless – wanting to move away from the road…

But Pretty Boy was holding his ground - barring them from the cane.

But Pretty Boy was holding his ground – barring them from the cane.

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Even our young teenager is moved along with the cows.

Pretty Boy moves even closer to the road - barring the harem from the cane.

Pretty Boy moves even closer to the road – barring the harem from the cane. He bugles to let the girls know that he is the man in charge.

In chaos, the cows turn as they hear another voice in the distance...

In chaos, the cows turn as they hear another voice in the distance…

Pretty Boy looks on as the cows start to move.

Pretty Boy looks on as the cows start to move.

Pretty Boy Bugles in an attempt to stop the cows from running towards the cane.

Pretty Boy Bugles in an attempt to stop the cows from running towards the cane.

The cows break for it and run to the cane. They hear a new voice calling from the river.

The cows break for it and run to the cane. They hear a new voice calling from the river.

Pretty boy sings his heart out as the girls run for the river.

Pretty boy sings his heart out as the girls run for the river.

Calling the cows is not working, Pretty Boy heads for the river.

Calling the cows is not working, Pretty Boy heads for the river.

As the cows leave, we hear chirping from the cows, calling to their calves. This youngster ran with the lead pack of cows only to discover his mother wasn't there - he seemed caught in no-man's-land, not sure which group he belonged with.

As the cows leave, we hear them chirping, calling their calves. This youngster ran with the lead pack of cows only to discover his mother wasn’t there – he seemed caught in no-man’s-land, not sure which group he belonged with.

Pretty Boy drops his head and moves towards the cane. We hear bugling from him and from the river as the cows leave him.

Pretty Boy drops his head and moves towards the cane. We hear bugling from him and from the river as the cows leave him.

Pretty Boy looks crestfallen as he moves towards the cane - but he has a plan...

Pretty Boy looks crestfallen as he moves towards the cane – but he has a plan…

Pretty Boy shows his stuff - he digs those antlers into the ground and calls to the girls...

Pretty Boy shows his stuff – he digs those antlers into the ground and calls to the girls…

They are not impressed. He loses all but 4 cows in less than 5 minutes.

“Don’t go!” They are not impressed. He loses all but 4 cows in less than 5 minutes.

Michael told us to watch for a potential fight, but the rival beyond the cane never appeared. Pretty Boy had put in so much work and lost it all in moments. According to Micheal, this is the third year he has lost his harem – he’s had his pocket picked three times now. He’s just not big enough to take on the big boys yet. His strategy was to start with a large harem and try his best to hang onto them, meanwhile his rivals rest and eat and wait for their opportunity to steal the cows. The good news for Pretty Boy is that the big boys will tire out before the rut is over. There are 4 cycles of mating and by the end of the third they are spent. That’s when the fellas like Pretty Boy take over. Between now and then he will likely spar as he tries for a piece of the harem, but the truth is that he only really has a shot at the last cycle.

Until next year, Pretty Boy really is stuck in a rut.

Trying Something a Bit Flashy

I’ve been working getting a good library of photos built for stock photography sites and it’s been a humbling experience. The sites critique your work and the issues are very plainly stated. The artistic quality of a photo is not considered. It’s all about fundamentals.

Here on this blog I have been talking about pushing my photography in order to accomplish tasks like stopping the motion of a hummingbird’s wings or capturing the joy of an OCD dog in swimming pool. These exercises have pushed me to capture things I never really thought my micro 4/3 system was capable of. This has been great for me as a technician and I feel more capable of shooting things that I had not even considered before. The down side is that it has pointed out the flaws in the give-and-take when you trade shutter speed for ISO – the end result is more noise. Although this might be great for a photo that I would publish here or even one that I would sell a print of, it doesn’t cut it in the stock photography world. Noise is a no-no.

I’m also finding that my artistic leaning towards a very shallow DOF is not what these sites are looking for either – so I have culled my archives to find the best shots where the focus on the main subject is deeper – all-in-all I am starting to find the right mix. My autumn leaves seem to be hitting the mark as well as some wildlife and some flowers.

This whole process got me thinking – is there a way to get a very sharp image of a hummingbird (or any bird) in less than perfect lighting conditions? In motion? Without a lot of noise? I recently attended a family wedding and I brought my portrait lens. As the ceremony moved from a lakeside sunlit venue to a rather dark reception hall I was forced to take out my least favorite piece of photographic equipment – my flash.

I have never liked shooting with a flash. I don’t like the way it can change skin tones and the shadows it can cast. I prefer a fast lens and available light, but as the days start to get shorter, that means I might have to shoot only on weekends with great weather. The hummingbirds are here now – and they’ll be headed south by mid October. Although I find the flash intimidating, the time has come for me to give it a try.

All of the shots that follow were shot in overcast conditions after 6:00pm. Some were shot on the west side of my home where the house casts shadows on my shooting area after 4:00pm.

I’ll start with a hummingbird on a limb. I was concerned that once I fired the flash that my subject would bolt, but my worries were unfounded. I shout about 10 frames of this fellow and he was unconcerned with me. He was in the shadow of the house, backed by a cedar beam.

There is the problem of the flash needing to recharge between shots – so I have to go back to my process of stalking and waiting for a good moment rather than firing off dozens of frames – but I kind of like that.

Of course, there is still the issue of hoping to stop the action of a hummingbird in flight. The flash certainly helps…

This shot was taken at about 6:00 in the evening - I had to get a focus on the bird and wait for it to flutter backwards from the feeder to make the capture. Since a bird does this about 5-6 times when feeding you are lucky to get two chances while a bird is at the feeder with the flash recharging between shots.

This shot was taken at about 6:00 in the evening – I had to get a focus on the bird and wait for it to flutter backwards from the feeder to make the capture. Since a bird does this about 5-6 times when feeding you are lucky to get two chances while a bird is at the feeder with the flash recharging between shots.

There is something else the flash does that I hadn’t really considered. All that extra light assists the camera in getting some pretty tight focus…

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I can see the veins of individual feathers in this shot, but the beak is what really got me. I have never gotten a shot this sharp of a hummer. The flash makes the wings transparent so that you can see her body through it. A shadow is cast of the wing on her left by the one in front.

This whole process has made me think about using a flash when I have plenty of sunlight. Can I get a really sharp image by adding just a bit more light into the mix? Or is that just too flashy?

Naked Ladies in the Rain

Don’t be silly, I’m not THAT kind of photographer.

Naked ladies are a much-loved variety of Amaryllis that bloom in the first week of August. They have no leaves to cover them – hence, they are naked. Some people call them surprise lilies. My neighbor Mary Jane introduced them to me several years ago when she called me to come over to her place and to bring my camera. The lovely pink and yellow flowers stood towering over the dead leaves in her woods. I go back every year and take photos of them. I prefer to shoot macro and explore the parts of the flower. The stamens are really stunning and the buds are such a great color too.

This year I lucked out. We have been getting an unusual amount of rain so it was the perfect opportunity to indulge in my love of raindrops. I took my new weather sealed macro lens out into the woods and braved the storm.

It’s that color so late in the summer, I think that intrigues me. Without leaves to hide them, the naked ladies are all about color. Those, the blackberry lilies,  and the crepe myrtles are the last blast of summer color. The ladies will be here for a week or two, and then anticipation for fall color takes root in me. For now, I’ll just enjoy them while they linger.

Shutter Speed – on the Road

I’ve written five posts about migrating to Shutter Mode – most of them featured shots taken right here at the Stone House. It’s one thing to put something into practice in a semi controlled environment – it’s quite another to risk the uncertainty of a new skill out on the road when you are shooting subjects that you rarely see.

Thursday a friend texted me at work asking me if I would be up to a drive over to the Boxley valley after work. These long summer days have afforded me more late day opportunities to shoot and I was totally excited about ending a very busy work day with a drive out to elk country. We left at 6 and had about 45 minutes of decent light once we arrived. We spotted an elk coming out of the woods into the meadow, it was followed by another, and another, and another until there were about a dozen young elk. This appeared to be a colony of teenagers – a mix of young bulls and cows. The meadow was their hangout and they were there to feed. I quickly snapped up several pastoral scenes.

So you may be asking what this series has to do with shutter speed – I had the shutter set at 1/640 second with the ISO at 2500. The meadow was in the shade of the mountains to the west – so although we were shooting before sunset, we were doing it in the shade – shooting with that higher ISO in low light can result in lots of grain, but if there was some action a reasonably fast speed would be required to capture it. I was just about to lower the speed and ISO when something happened.

A pair of young elk decided that a pastoral evening dining on grass what not what they were looking for. A young cow taunted a young bull with amazing results…

It was the equivalent of overturning all the tables at Denny’s – the other elk weren’t sure if they should react or finish their dinner. None of them decided to join our happy pranksters, but none of them reacted negatively either – what a great society!

I was losing light during this series and the shots are noticeably grainy as the scene comes to an end – but there’s the dilemma. Do you catch the action and live with the grain, or do you lower the ISO and shutter speeds and deal with blur and darkness? I chose to capture.

I’ve been shooting the elk for a couple of years now and have been admiring the work of other local photogs shooting in the valley for far longer and this is something I have never seen – so capturing it, even a bit grainy was a thrill. Who knew that a Thursday could end so perfectly!

Related Posts:

Shutter Speed Part 1

Shutter Speed Part 2

Shutter Speed Part 3

Shutter Speed Part 4

Shutter Speed Part 5

June on Film Roll #5 – 1974 Olympus Om-1n

I am attempting to shoot a roll of film a month this year – I’m about a month behind, but I’m catching up. My niece, Laura, came for a visit at the end of June. She is an avid shutterbug and has been interested in learning to operate a film camera. She picked up a Pentax kit and brought it with her on her trip. Once we got the pieces out and looked them over I found that my mother’s Vivitar Cosina from the late 70s was also a Pentax mount. Score! I was able to add a doubler, a fast 50, and a telephoto to her kit. More importantly, I was able to hook her up with a very cool vintage strap…

Couple of shutterbugs – Jasper, Arkansas

In preparation for her visit I had purchased us each a roll of T-Max 400 and a roll of 100 speed film. We covered the basics and she was off and shooting in no time. I started with the 400 – that’s what this roll is. Having Laura here got me out and about, so most of these shots are taken away from the house and I shot very few still lives. I actually only had a couple of chances to shoot indoors at all. I shot exclusively with the 50mm 1.4. This gave me a very shallow DOF, but also allowed some areas of sky to blow out.

Shooting outdoors I had a chance to play with sunlight – sometimes with better results than others. I’m finding that instead of seeking out high contrast subjects, that I need to make sure a black and white image has lots of mid tones.

Backlit Sunflower - Historic District - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Backlit Sunflower – Historic District – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

While the shot above shot worked exactly as I imagined it – the next shot I’m not completely sold on – I like the bokeh and the light on the leaves – even the sunspots, but I wish I had more detail in the sky.

Soaking up the Sun - Historic DIstrict - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Soaking up the Sun – Historic District – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

There is a spot I love to shoot – I’ve never really mastered it but I know that someday I will get the shot I’m imagining there. It’s an underground grotto that surrounds a natural spring. I want to get a shot from inside the grotto in the fall capturing all the color in the distant hills – these are not those shots, but I kind of like them. The feel historic to me.

The View from Inside the Grotto - Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The View from Inside the Grotto – Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The shot above is from the center of the grotto – on most days sunlight overwhelms this view, but the detail before you leave the stairs works fairly well. The blown out sky does give you the sense of sunlight pouring in.

Shooting into the Sunlight at Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Shooting into the Sunlight at Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Next I tried an angle – it lets the texture of the limestone stairwell come alive, this one feels more like the experience of being underground and looking up into the light.

While I was inside the grotto, a small circle on the ground caught my eye – it’s a perfectly round hole in the surface of the limestone step – a stair railing must have been here at some time…

Rail Base - Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Rail Base – Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The surface of the stone gave me some of those mid tones I have been searching for. The deep shadow and the highlight on the water give me the full tonal range I have been hoping to achieve with my black and whites.

I have been reading a lot about leading lines in hopes of improving my landscape skills – this historic bridge gave me some lines to work with…

The Beaver "Golden Gate" Bridge - Beaver, Arkansas

The Beaver “Golden Gate” Bridge – Beaver, Arkansas

This is the Ozarks very own “Golden Gate” bridge – the towers are actually painted yellow – it’s a one-lane bridge so you have to take turns crossing it. I have shot it many times in color and have a photo by a local artist in my home – I resisted the temptation to shoot it straight on and vertical – I see that done a lot here. For the second view I decided to make the diagonally striped sign the focal point – I have never known what that sign means…

Diagonal Stripes - Beaver Bridge - Beaver, Arkansas

Diagonal Stripes – Beaver Bridge – Beaver, Arkansas

The “fast fifty” lens lets me get sweet details in the foreground, like the bolts to the right of the signs – and lets the details in the distance soften.

Shooting the manual camera has been a challenge – you need longer exposures in many cases to capture detail, but it is very difficult to keep the camera still enough. In college I shot my moms Vivitar Cosina – the one I gave Laura. It has an Auto setting that is basically a primitive Aperture Mode. You set the aperture and the light meter tells you the shutter speed. I would adjust the aperture until the shutter speed was about 125. The Olympus is completely manual with a built-in light meter. You have to adjust both the shutter and the aperture until you get the needle centered on the light meter. In some cases there is just no room to shoot at 125 – there isn’t enough light.

Solar Lanterns - Sweet Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Solar Lanterns – Sweet Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

More good mid tones – I shot this with the aperture close mid way down – this let me capture details in the balloons and in the limestone behind them – it was bright enough to still get a decent shutter speed at about f/11.

Laura Focusing her Pentax - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Laura Focusing her Pentax – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This shot of Laura was taken with the aperture wide open – I focused on her camera. The DOF is very shallow. I love the bokeh created by the picket fence behind her.

Lavender flowers at Sweet Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Lavender flowers at Sweet Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I used the same setting to capture these flowers, Laura was actually shooting these when I was shooting her.

Log Cabin with Cedar Log Rails - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Log Cabin with Cedar Log Rails – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This log cabin is on Spring Street in Eureka Springs. It hangs out over a hollow in the middle of town. There are trees near the sidewalk, so you have to find a way to peek through them to get a shot of it with the hollow visible. My first instinct was to shoot it straight on from the street – but I thought about the leading lines and decided to get a view at an angle.

Crystal Spring Seen Through a Curved Window - Crystal Bridges - Bentonville, Arkansas

Crystal Spring Seen Through a Curved Window – Crystal Bridges – Bentonville, Arkansas

Now for something a bit more modern – this is a view of the Spring at Crystal Bridges Museum – through a curved glass window. I was curious to see how the curved reflections would play on the image. I close the aperture down to about f/11 in this shot – the DOF is pretty deep.

Brushes at the Norberta Filbert Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Brushes at the Norberta Philbert Gallery – Bentonville, Arkansas

When I had a chance to shoot still life, I tried to shoot with the aperture wide open – aiming for a very shallow DOF.

Steampunk Balloons by Tangled Metal - Norberta Philbrook Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Steampunk Balloons by Tangled Metal – Norberta Philbrook Gallery – Bentonville, Arkansas

I loved these – I also like the shallow DOF – but think I could have closed the aperture down a stop. A local artist creates these from repurposed lightbulbs and clock parts. I shot several of these shots at a great gallery in Bentonville Arkansas located very close to Crystal Bridges.

Rademacher Leaf Vase - Norberta Philbrook Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Rademacher Leaf Vase – Norberta Philbrook Gallery – Bentonville, Arkansas

This vase is by a local artist – he fires pieces with leaves pressed into the clay – I have one of his bird feeders and love the look of it.

Rockwell's Rosie - Crystal Bridges - Bentonville, Arkansas

Rockwell’s Rosie – Crystal Bridges – Bentonville, Arkansas

I can’t go to Bentonville without checking in with Rosie – my goal with this shot was to capture a bit of the sheen of the paint on the canvas – it’s subtle but it’s there. It’s very interesting to look at something known for its color in black and white.

Newspaper Machines - Jasper, Arkansas

Newspaper Machines – Jasper, Arkansas

These old newspaper machines gave me another chance to play with leading lines – the diagonals draw you into the image. I like the surfaces on these – they were a vivid blue.

Kayaks Loaded - The Stone House - Oak Hill, Arkansas

Kayaks Loaded – The Stone House – Oak Hill, Arkansas

I shot this image of the jeep with the aperture fairly wide – the DOF is shallow enough to isolate the subject, but not so shallow that you lose the depth of the image.

So – my thoughts on this project 5 rolls in? Well, I’m getting more keepers per roll and I’m taking a lot fewer shots of each subject – on this roll I only shot a few subjects more than once. Showing Laura the area kept me moving so I shot lots of variety. I also took my film camera everywhere except kayaking. Having it with me gave me lots of opportunities. I stared the next roll at Crystal Bridges in the gardens – I am anxious to see how those worked out. I’m shooting 100 speed now, so maybe I’ll get some sharper images in the mix.

If you would like to catch up with my project, here are the links for the other posts in the series:

Roll #1

Roll #2

Roll #4

Where is Roll 3? Well, it’s in the trash because I didn’t pay attention to the light meter.

Life Lessons From Mary Jane

Today is my friend’s birthday – it’s not just any birthday, today Mary Jane turns 100! I have known her for over a decade, and have learned so much from her about life and what really matters. Today I thought I would share some of the things I have learned from her with you.
This is Mary Jane on the last day of her first century.

This is Mary Jane on the last day of her first century.

The land matters.
One of the first things I learned about Mary Jane was that her family had once owned a great deal of land. She inherited land from her parents, and in the 1950s sold a section to a developer. Today that section is a golf course community with over 1500 residents. Listening to her talk about the land, I don’t hear regret in her voice, I hear astonishment that those who purchased it did not value the caves, the dogwood forests, the springs. One day we were driving on that land and she asked what I thought it would take to buy it all back and tear it all down. She said she liked it better when it was wild.
Mary Jane - queen of the woods - seated on her throne with her scepter.

Mary Jane – queen of the woods – seated on her throne with her scepter.

It’s easy to talk about land preservation, but Mary Jane has actually done it. She has placed the entire hollow between her home and the development into a land trust -157 acres that will never be developed, land rich with springs, and caves, and wildlife. A hollow that has never seen a permanent structure apart from the rock formations it contains, the land is filled with amazing creatures like flying squirrels, tortoises, deer, and even the occasional big cat. This land is an amazing gift to her community and to the future.
A 93-year-old Mary Jane blazes a path through the hollow.

A 93-year-old Mary Jane blazes a path through the hollow.

Recently a major electric company announced plans to take a high voltage line across the southern end of the hollow. They want to cut a swath 156 feet wide, install 150 foot tall towers, and permanently treat the land with dangerous herbicides. Our small county has been pulling together to oppose the project. Mary Jane was one of the first in line to speak at a public hearing about the project. Although she is not comfortable speaking to a crowd and didn’t have sufficient light to read her notes she told the judge about rare cave fish, springs, and wonders at risk. It was moving to hear her, and to know that her greatest wish is for that land to forever stay as it is today, wild.
Here Mary Jane reviews the scope of the Oak Hill Wildlife Preserve Land Trust with a surveyor.

Here Mary Jane reviews the scope of the Oak Hill Wildlife Preserve Land Trust with a surveyor.

Take care with water.
When I first moved into my house, Mary Jane dropped by while I was having a new dishwasher installed. She saw that and asked me why I would ever want one. To her this was like throwing water over the side of the hollow. You see, when she lived in this house they had a “windless” pump, basically it’s a pump that you crank by hand to bring water up the mountain from the spring below in the hollow. There was no tap to turn on, water was work. Until a few years ago Mary Jane still carried her drinking and washing water from a cistern at a local Grange hall. She was the last resident still using it when they suspended the water testing. Last year she finally installed a cistern and a pump at her home so she can use rainwater for non-drinking uses. She still carries her drinking water each week from a neighbor’s well. She’s spent a century knowing the value of water. Throwing it down the drain seems such a waste.
Mary Jane on the land above her springs.

Mary Jane on the land above her springs.

Enjoy the flowers.
You should never mow down flowers, not even wildflowers. Mary Jane’s lawn is not a lawn at all, it’s a field of wildflowers that she selectively mows after the blossoms are gone. It’s been a challenge for those who help with the lawn to know what is a flower and what is a weed. In the back she lets the sweet rocket grow so that the swallowtails can feed on the nectar. It creates a solid field of color about four feet tall. Recently she had the area alongside her driveway mowed, but she made sure that they left the blackberry lilies – she told me that she knew I would want to take pictures of them. For the last few years I have had a “garden fairy” – mysteriously flowers show up in places where Mary Jane has told me that they would grow well. Irises, daffodils, hyacinths, lilies – all planted in areas like the dip where a cistern used to be or along the patio. I’ve got a 100-year-old friend with a green thumb, so I’m pretty sure the mystery is solved.
A tiger swallowtail lights on the sweet rocket behind Mary Jane's house.

A tiger swallowtail lights on the sweet rocket behind Mary Jane’s house.

Several years ago Mary Jane asked if I would like to go on a hike with her. She told me she’d like to go into the hollow to show me something – she took me down to the bottom where there was a horseshoe-shaped waterfall. I thought that was the destination, but it was just a stop along the way. We bushwhacked up the other side of the hollow, she climbed up that hillside so nimbly – and she took me to a barren spot. The power company had clear-cut a 30-foot-wide power line easement and she had been able to see the bare spot from the other side of the hollow. She took several envelopes out of her pocket and told me to open them – they were filled with seeds that she had gathered from wildflowers. We scattered them all over the right-of-way. Thistles, sweet rocket, matrimonial vine – she envisioned that spot alive and brimming with color again. All it took was an afternoon and a few miles up and down the hollow to reclaim a spot in the woods that only she knew about.
Mary Jane is a firm believer in flower power.

Mary Jane is a firm believer in flower power.

Be kind to animals.
Mary Jane keeps a photo of a raccoon pinned up on her living room wall. It’s one of the many coons she has fed over the years. I’ve seen her feed them peanut butter sandwiches by hand. Most evenings they come to her door looking for dinner. Before she stopped driving I saw her parked on a pull-out next to a creek. I pulled over to see if she was ok, she was fine, she was just relocating a king snake that made its way into her house. She didn’t want her cats to harm it. Recently she called me, terribly concerned over a wren that had been hurt at her house. We wrapped it up and put it in a kennel cage and headed out to meet a wildlife rehabber. It didn’t survive the trip, and Mary Jane couldn’t bring herself to speak on the ride home. I sometimes look on her in awe for the childlike way she approaches and treasures wildlife, whether it’s a bug, or a snake, or a rabbit.
One of Mary Jane's many forest friends.

One of Mary Jane’s many forest friends.

Walk.
When Mary Jane’s last car threw a rod I offered to help her find a replacement. She told me that she was pretty sure that this was a sign from God that it was time for her to stop driving. She could be seen walking the mile between her house and the grocery a couple of times a week – even in the heat of summer she would rarely accept a ride. She would make a day of it – walking, visiting, shopping, and walking back home. She told me once that she believed the secret to staying flexible and strong was walking. The first time I hiked with her she was 89 and we did 5 miles in the hollow. Today her vision keeps her from walking as much, but she recently told me her greatest pleasure in life has been to walk upon the earth. I think she’s on to something.
On this day we set out to find Mary Jane's great uncle's homestead in a neighboring hollow. Her memory was amazing - we put in several miles that day and she was able to crawl over logs to cross the creek.

On this day we set out to find Mary Jane’s great uncle’s homestead in a neighboring hollow. Her memory was amazing – we put in several miles that day and she was able to crawl over logs to cross the creek.

Stay connected.
Mary Jane has a network of caring cousins and a couple of grown great-grandchildren. Sadly, she lost her only child a few years ago. She has lots of friends and continues to make new ones. At 100, most of her friends are younger than she is! In the 1970s a group of young people settled into the hollow – she allowed many of them to stay in what is now my house, others camped deep in the hollow or slept on her porch as payment for helping out around the place. This area is filled with people who came to the Ozarks in that era and stayed – many of whom bought or traded for land from her. As twenty-somethings she was the one older person who put a roof over their heads and was a part of their circle. I have seen photos of her at weddings at my place, in a field filled with flower children, Mary Jane could be seen in a smart polyester dress she made herself holding her patent leather pocket-book. Today the tables are turned and they take care of her. They drive her to the laundromat or grocery store, they help with her water, they care for her animals if she is sick. Mary Jane has a family – but she also has this family, her “Hippie Family” as she described them to me once. She looks at them as the children and grandchildren she never had. They are integral to her daily life. Thinking in those terms, Mary Jane is like family to me too.
Last years birthday celebration took up over half the restaurant - people who stay connected to Mary Jane.

Last years birthday celebration took up over half the restaurant – people who stay connected to Mary Jane.

Time matters.
I never manage to just pop in to Mary Jane’s place, I’m always there a minimum of an hour or two – we have spent hours listening to bird calls on my iPhone or looking at old photos. She tells me the most amazing stories and I get a bit more of a window into her life. She listens to my life stories with wonder about the lands west of the Rockies. Sometimes we will spend a whole day out on an adventure – a trip to a museum or just a country drive. She has a goal to drive on every road in Carroll County, I think she may have already covered them all, but she enjoys showing me the hidden treasures that you often find down a dirt road.
A conversation with Mary Jane

A conversation with Mary Jane

Yesterday I stopped by to see Mary Jane, we almost always connect on the weekends. If I haven’t heard from her I will pop by in the afternoons. We are having a big celebration for her next week, but I wondered what her plans were for today – THE day.  She told me she had no plans and that she would love to have dinner with me, but more importantly she would like to spend time with me – she wants me to stay and visit. You know, I want that too.
Mary Jane blows out the candles on her 99th birthday surrounded by family and friends.

Mary Jane blows out the candles on her 99th birthday surrounded by family and friends.

Next week Mary Jane will show up at her favorite restaurant filled to overflowing with her family, friends and neighbors. Tonight we’ll have dinner and good conversation. Maybe I’ll learn something new.