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Smile, Santa!

Holiday photo tips from a “been-there-done-that” photographer.

These days, everyone has a digital camera, whether it is a camera phone, point and shoot or a DSLR. Unfortunately for my wallet, I am a hard-core SLR photographer with a large quantity of expensive equipment. Fortunately for me, I have learned how to use it to my advantage. During the Holidays, an invitation to me is usually accompanied by the words “and don’t forget to bring your camera.”

There are millions of rules for photography, but only a few really make a difference to the casual photographer. Note:

Make a list! Before you head off to Grandma’s House, make sure you have all the gear you will need. If you are going “point and shoot” it’s pretty simple – a spare charged battery, and a spare memory card, in addition (!) to the camera. If you are shooting DSLR, make sure you have your lenses, flash unit and other accessories, in addition to the items mentioned. Before you leave home, make sure your gear is cleaned and functional.

KISS! No, don’t hang out under the mistletoe, but “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”  The typical “snap shot” photographer tries to get too much into too little space. Limit your subject matter to just two or three people, a shot of the Christmas Tree or a child opening a present – don’t try to cram all of it into one shot.

Don’t pose your shots, people tend to look goofy when trying to pose for the camera. Think casual, and your pictures will look more natural. One trick is to set up and be ready and only then let your subject know that you are going to take their picture, just don’t sneak up on the elderly.

Naturally, Aunt Jane will yell out something like “everybody get together for a picture!” Now, you are stuck and all you can do is make the most of it. Pick a background that is as uncluttered and plain as possible. Have your subjects/victims line up as best you can. What I do to get around “posing” is to tell the group that I am “going to take a few test shots.” Your subjects will still be relaxed and usually those turn out to be the best pictures.

Don’t have whine with your cheese.  Never have your subjects say “cheese!” Pronouncing the word pulls the lips into an unnatural looking position – have them say “me!” instead. Saying that gives a much more relaxed and natural look. If your camera does not have a “red-eye” elimination function, have your subjects look towards a bright light for a second before shooting the picture. Red eye is a reflection off  of the  fundus at the back of the eye – looking into a light will cause pupils to contract, eliminating the sinister “glowing eye” effect.

If you absolutely, positively have to take formal pictures, do it right. That means studio lights, backdrops, scrims, tripod, remote shutter release, stands, reflectors, portrait lens. Shooting portraits is not easy in a non-studio setting, especially if you seldom take that kind of picture.

Fire away! You are shooting digitally, so you don’t have to worry about running out of film, processing costs, etc. Check your “work” periodically on your LCD screen, deleting really bad shots as you go. Adjust your settings as necessary. When you get home, you can process your haul with Photo Shop or another computer software program. Even the most basic program can crop, light and color correct and touch up. I regularly remove zits, stains and mud from photos. Recently, I put my granddaughter’s missing tooth back in using PS.

If you are at the office Christmas Party, try to get a shot of your Boss hitting on the lady from Accounting – it may come in handy during your next performance review.

If you are interested, I will be “hanging out” today and tomorrow if you have a specific question. I’ll try to answer promptly to the best of my ability .

 

 

William Stephenson Clark

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Filed under Celebration

What a Wonderful World

“I hear babies cry, I watch them grow.

You know they’re gonna learn,

a whole lot more than I’ll ever know.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

(“What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong – Thiele/Weiss – 1968)

Last night, I went to sleep watching images, from thousands of miles away, of a man hugging his young sons and wife after having been rescued from 70 days trapped in a rocky tomb. This morning, similar images flashed across the screen, as men that were thought dead emerged from the Earth, back to the loving arms of their families and their country, and the world united in joy at their safe return to this wonderful world.

This wonderful world – to read through pages of blogs on numerous websites, both left and right, you would think that life in this world is about to collapse in ruin, the blame assigned, of course, to the other side.

There is no doubt that this world of ours has issues to address, from economic stagnation to war, famine and a lack of human rights. There is no doubt, also, that this world has faced far worse in the recent past, genocide and world war, depression and the displacement of millions throughout the world.

In my little world, there are issues to address, just as there is in the world at large. There is never enough money, of course, our health could always be a bit better and the tank still needs to be filled if I want to drive. That is life, but there are still the smiles of my grandchildren and the love of my dog and cats to smooth the road. There are hugs to share with my children and my friends and the wonder of the natural world that I love to capture in photographs.

The looks on the faces of the rescued miners, their families and the rescue teams tell all that this is truly a wonderful world – a world that we inhabit with some that share our views and some that are vehemently opposed to us. The Chilean people and their international neighbors managed to set aside differences to united to save the lives of 33 brave and determined friends.

Perhaps, we can learn a desperately needed lesson from the events on the desolate landscape of the Atacama Desert, regardless of our perceived view, we still live in a wonderful world.

 

 

William Stephenson Clark

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Filed under World Politics

Get Up!

(Thread photo is of a Kodak Pocket No. 1 – circa 1927. My youngest daughter, Julia, has her grandfather’s example hanging on her family room wall. It is non-functional, unfortunately.)

This is being written on Thursday morning, from the comfort of an office chair, but when you read this column, I will be out in the wild with my daughter on a photo expedition to the wilderness of Western Wichita. The best time for landscape photos – and most others – is early morning or late night when the shadows and light are softer.

I am looking forward to spending some time with Dee, pursuing our mutual love of fine photography. Taking a great picture is a pleasure, especially if the experience can be shared. We will be heading out about 6:30 AM, an hour before sunrise, to be able to set up and wait for the perfect light. Thanks to the technology of digital photography, our “mistakes” can easily be forgiven and we won’t have to worry about having enough film with us.

I began my fascination with photography in the old days, with a 35mm Minolta rangefinder. Soon after, I graduated to a SLR. It took a while, but I belatedly went digital. I still shoot like a film photographer, but I appreciate the flexibility of digital. Now, I carry a King’s ransom of photography gear with me – no excuses for poor work these days!

In the real old days, Ansel Adams shot with a huge view camera with 8 x 10 sheet film and massive lenses. Every shot was a pricey event and there was little room for error. Today, I real off six or eight shots of the same scene to get my pix. Adam’s most famous photo, “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome,”  was a three shot wonder, each shot with a different filter, when Ansel was just 25 years old. Today, I won’t be shooting a similar picture – no mountains in Kansas – but I can take as many shots as I want, with all the effects I could imagine, without taking my Canon DSLR off the tripod.

Photography is my passion. I can’t sing. I can’t play an instrument. I can’t draw. Photography is my creative outlet.

Fnord paints rocks. Wicked is a writer. Free is addicted to Southern Rock. We all need a place of our own to express ourselves to remain remotely (?) sane. What is your passion?


William Stephenson Clark


(Photos will be published Monday.)

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Filed under Addiction

Inflatable female toads thwart sex.

Well, I have been told, “Thank’s, but no thank’s!”  That’s all good – I never push it too far, but, so far,  this has never happened to me:

“When grasped by a male they do not want to have sex with, female cane toads will inflate their bodies so rival males can dislodge the unwanted suitor.”

So, what is it about men and women and sex?

Sex is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. I often say that “sex” is a little taste of Heaven so that we stay on the right track.

But why is there so much focus on sex? We are all human (well, except me) so sex comes naturally to most of us. We are attracted to the opposite sex (or the same sex) and we pursue sexual encounters. We buy flowers, candy, dinners and movies, all in pursuit of that “moment.”

Our airways and media are filled with sex. Movies, television, music, advertisements, magazines, bathroom stalls are all dedicated to the pursuit of sex.

In my not so humble opinion, there is no such thing as “bad sex,” so long as it is consensual among adults. “Doin’ it” is as natural as breathing. In fact, many would just as soon “do it” as breath.

So, why the goofy, puritanical views of sex in America?

Americans are fascinated by “who is doin’ whom.” At the same time, we are quick to condemn “who” for “doin’ whom.” What sort of hypocrisy leads us to condemn while secretly (or not so secretly) playing the numbers game?

Tiger? Bad boy. Bill? Dumbass. Wilt? Serial exaggerator.

George Clooney? Yeah! What a stud!

Come on! We can’t celebrate the bachelor without celebrating the bachelorette. If “he” is a stud, how is it that “she” is a slut?

It’s just “sex” boys and girls – or boys and boys or girls and girls.

Ease back on the hypocrisy and celebrate it for what it is.

Sex.


William Stephenson Clark

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Filed under Sexual Relationships

What am I going to write about?

“I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh”

“A Day in the Life” – Lennon/McCartney – from “Sgt. Peppers” – 1967

There is so much going on in the world today that it is hard to pick a topic.

The passing of Senator Byrd and the posthumous right wing attacks on him? (Expected.) The situation with North Korea and demands, after sixty years that we withdraw our troops. (Where have you been for the last six decades?) Panetta’s comments about Iran. (Let’s start another war!) McChrystal? (No, he doesn’t have “freedom of speech.”) Jobs? (No kidding, it’s bad, but “we messed up, so vote for us!” doesn’t seem like a real good idea.) Kagan? (Dang, just confirm her and STFU!) Congress? (Yeah, they suck, but they are all we have.) Biden calls someone a smartass? (Damn, who wudda thunk it?) World Cup Soccer? (Beat that one to death already.)

My allergies? (Pfffffft! Ah-choo!) Cookie? (Doing better, groomed her myself so she is a bit cooler, too.) Weird pets? (The tubes aren’t big enough to tell all the stories about my weird pets!)

The weather? (Like that is a story?) Kansas? (It’s red and kinda flat.)

The SCOTUS gun decision yesterday? (Nope, saw that one coming a mile away.) Brownback, Tiahrt, Moran, Hartman, et al? (We have the loons by the bushel and peck.) Wichita? (Shoot, we are doing just okay despite ourselves.)

So, what should I write about today?

There is definitely a great surplus of topics that are on my mind and the minds of many others today.  Our warp-speed communication systems put everything on the table before we can even recognize that there is a table to put it on.  Dang, if you are bored, you can watch a live stream of the oil gushing on the floor of the Gulf. There is even a link available to watch the entire Isner – Mahut Wimbledon match on video – all eleven hours and five minutes of it.

The world, as we know it all to well, is a crazy place. What’s on your mind today?


William Stephenson Clark

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Filed under Media

Holy Crap! We Lost the Match!

The United States World Cup team lost 2-1 to Ghana on Saturday, eliminating the US from the World Cup tournament.


So, who is “we?”

The United States is a nearly unique collection of people, diverse, a melting pot of many ethnic groups, influenced by many cultures.

In our midst, we have a broad (as if that description is sufficient) range of political and social views. Our geography varies from “purple mountain’s majesty” to “oceans, white with foam.”

(Black with oil doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.)

If you think about it, we Americans are a fairly weird bunch. We have produced greatness, like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., yet we still have people that think that the State of New Mexico is a foreign country.

Our country is divided sharply by Red and Blue, and the incessant volleys of fire between the two camps constantly rises to a deafening roar.

So, who is “we?”

On December 7, 1941, the American people rose as one, defiant and united, dedicated to defeating Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. On September 11, 2001, we rose once again, dedicated to defeating an unseen enemy that had attacked us without provocation.

Absent those eras, we are not much of a united citizenry. The truth is, we are much more likely to unite over a sporting event than we are over any other issue. The flags waved after the “Miracle on Ice” and even after the victory of the “Dream Team.”

So, who is “we?”

I ponder our future. Will we, as a people, rise up once again to address the issues that face our society or has the partisan divide and social issues divided us to the breaking point?

We are a great people. America has been a shining example of the good in a society in many regards.

We are also burdened with shame for some of our past actions, the genocide of Native Americans, slavery and segregation, the bigotry of anti-gay  attitudes and the marginalizing of women.

So, who is “we?”



William Stephenson Clark

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Filed under American Society

Are these the worst of times?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

“A Tale of Two Cities” – the opening line – Charles Dickens – 1859

Two wars. A fired commanding General. An economy that is stubbornly refusing to recover fast enough. A massive oil spill that threatens our Gulf. Illegal immigration. No progress on Gay Rights to speak of. Conflicts in the Middle East. Tin-pot dictators run amok. Global financial crisis. Congress in perpetual gridlock. Fred Phelps and the Phelp Tone-Deaf’s. Drug wars in Jamaica and Mexico. Global freakin’ warming. Sandra and Jesse back on speaking terms.

Are these the worst of times?

Hell, no!

Absolutely not. Yes, the world has more than it’s fair share of problems right about now, but these are far from the worst of times. It is human nature to look at today and be dissatisfied. It is also human nature to look at yesterday with a certain fondness for times that “were better.”

I wrote a column published yesterday with that very topic.

No, despite the troubles of the world, we have a bright future. We may not get there soon, but it is there. Collectively, we need to move beyond pessimism and consider the optimistic signs that point the way to a “best of times” scenario.

The wars that we are engaged in will end. We will recover from the global financial  crisis. The oil gushing in the Gulf will be stopped and we will find away to clean up the mess. The tin-pot dictators will die off and be replaced by slightly more sane alternatives. The slow progress of Gay Rights will accelerate as the more bigoted generation dies off. The illegal immigration problem will continue, but better solutions will come to the fore. Fred will die. Eventually, a saner approach to drugs will be adopted. And Jesse will screw up again and America’s Sweetheart will be back on the market.

Progress has been made, abet slowly. A historic, but flawed, Health Care bill has been passed. Medical science has moved to the point now that living to one hundred will be commonplace. The world will grow tired of perpetual conflicts in the Middle East and the white-hot hatred will cool. The world will change for the better.

The best of times – maybe not in our lifetimes – but they are coming.


William Stephenson Clark

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Filed under Psychological Disorders, World Politics