Moving outside your comfort zone

Sometimes, it does one good to leave their comfort zone and try something different. Yesterday, I lead a Photowalk at Spring Mill State Park (my second year doing so). The 1800’s pioneer village provides a unique setting, except I focus on landscape and wildlife photography. I decided to step out of my comfort zone during the walk and try something different. My first stop was the woodwright’s shop where I decided to shoot with available light.

Woodwright's Tool Bench Spring Mill SP IN
Woodwright’s Tool Bench Spring Mill SP IN

As I was setting up my gear, the resident woodwright-blacksmith-assistant miller appeared. We talked for a minute and then I spotted a can of spray paint on the workbench. I asked him if he could remove it as it was “out of character.” He laughed, turned the label towards me and told me it would make a great Andy Warhol shot! He eventually removed it. He also fixed the barrier so that I could move inside the work area to shoot. However, I was happy with my location for the workbench. I did move inside the barrier to photograph the planes.

Woodwright's Planers Spring Mill SP IN
Woodwright’s Planers Spring Mill SP IN

As I was processing the image, I started to look more closely at the tools and discovered a few more items were out of character. I did like the Yankee drill as it looked exactly like the one my dad carried on his tool belt when he worked for the telephone company.

 

Later, a guy named “Doc” struck up a conversation. He was preparing for buck saw demonstration, but told me that since his wife was on one end of the saw, it was a “Buck and Doe” saw. We had a lively conversation as I waited for the woodwright who was morphing to blacksmith to arrive. I never got to photograph the blacksmith shop and my need to return someday to once again step outside my comfort zone.

Red-Tail Nature Preserve: A Prairie

On Friday, I ventured north to the flat lands with Steven Higgs. We visited three different nature preserves and two were wetlands with restored prairies. The first we visited was Red-Tail Nature Preserve in Delaware County.

I have not given much thought to prairies since I left Nebraska almost 40 years ago. Standing on a trail surrounded 8 foot prairie grass with the wind blowing is simply mesmerizing, but difficult to photograph! It is easy to forget the beauty of the prairie, especially a wide open prairie after being away for 40 years. The two wetland areas were dry and the two osprey platforms showed no signs of a recent nest.

On the ground, there were several wild flowers. The thistles and cone flowers were at or just beyond their prime. Thistle is quite common in many areas of Indiana and a fascinating wild flower. I discover hidden beauty every time I photograph one. The prairie grass provided a nice back ground for this image.

I am planning another trip to a different prairie area later this year when the Sandhill cranes first return to Indiana for the winter. Given that there are already a few reports of cranes in northern Indiana, we might be in for an early and cold winter. That will not be a problem as I never put my winter gear in storage last spring! In fact, my winter car survival kit is still on my workbench. Call me an optimist!

Turkey Run State Park and Falls Canyon Nature Preserve

A visit to Turkey Run State Park was on my list since last fall. Finally, I decided to go for a visit this spring. The first two or three times I planned my trip, I found the trails were closed due to heavy rains. We had a dry period in early June and I started my almost two-hour drive. Along the way, I spotted a few other locations to visit on a return trip after September.

Canyon Entrance Turkey Run SP Indiana
Canyon Entrance Turkey Run SP Indiana

The area I wanted to photograph was in the Falls Canyon Nature Preserve. Maybe I am old fashion, but I have always considered a nature preserve as a sacred place. These places should have the same respect as a libraries and places of worship; it is a place of worship for many. The trails are not a place for children to run wild or for high school students to scream at the top of their voices and then deface the trees or canyon walls. At least a large part of the folks visiting the preserve on the day I visited had a different perspective. My first setup was disturbed by a “supervised” group of 15-20 high school students running and yelling as loud as they could. Later, they were searching for rocks to scratch their names in the canyon walls. A few minutes later, I setup my gear on the far side of the trail to photograph the following scene. I am careful and respectful of others and keep my equipment orderly and out of the way at least when others are nearby. I was surprised when a young child jumped of a fallen log and almost landed on my camera bag. I quickly moved it even closer to me. Then, two other children from the same family jumped off the log and almost landed on my tripod and would have knocked if they failed to nail their landing. They were joined by their mother as they continued their walk. I was surprised when another, older couple stopped and told me they had witnessed the event and could not believe the families’ behavior. I gave up as I could not stand the noise, disrespect, and destruction of the preserve.

Through the Walls Turkey Run SP IN
Through the Walls Turkey Run SP IN

The park naturalist suggested another area where I could photograph that would have fewer people. There were fewer people and much more respectful, regardless of age!

Carving Out Nature Turkey Run State Park
Carving Out Nature Turkey Run State Park

During my discussion with the park naturalist, I mentioned that Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge requires every visitor to watch a video (once a year) before entering the preserve due to live ordinance in the area. I suggested that state parks require such training before allowing people to hike the trails. Some areas such as Falls Canyon Nature Preserve are very fragile and need to be protected for others to enjoy. Individuals visiting these preserves need to be informed of the area and respectful.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

John Burroughs

Wildflower Hike

Yesterday, I led a photography hike as part of the Spring Wildflower Foray at TC Steele with a great group of participants. The weather the last few days has been very rainy with some strong thunderstorms. On Friday and Saturday morning, I was beginning to wonder if we could hike. As an alternative, I spent time creating a PowerPoint presentation and demo. Linda left a single butter weed plant in the garden for me to uproot and use as a demo. I managed to find some of my lighting equipment, extension cords, and a software application to show my camera’s view on small monitor. However, as I was driving out to the location, the sky started to brighten and all looked well. We actually had a few glimpses of sunshine on the hike.

We decided to venture down the ridge into a beautiful holler to see if we could locate the showy orchid. The hike down the ridge was not too bad although the mud cover rocks were slippery and I almost lost my footing two or three times. We spotted some fresh 5-6 foot strips of wood that looked as though it had been stripped from a tree. My first reaction was that the black bear from Kentucky had ventured further north in Indiana and was tearing at a tree in search of food. Then, we saw the tree. It had been struck by lighting and had an open tear in the bark from the top all the way to the bottom. Several large 1×1 inch pieces of fresh tree were scatter on the forest floor. A reminder as to the power of lightning. Once in the holler, it was simply beautiful and a place I want to return to photograph. Unfortunately, the best time will be after some heavy rain like we had this past week that means the hike down and up will be slippery. The streams, however, will be full of water with several very small waterfalls and rapids.

Showy Orchid TC Steele State Historic Site
Showy Orchid TC Steele State Historic Site

Fortunately, one of the participants was on one of the earlier hikes and knew where the lone showy orchid was located. After photographing a few other wildflowers (I could not find most of the ones I scouted on Wednesday), we found the showy orchid. It is beside the trail and splattered with mud bits from the rain. As we walked on a few more feet, I found a much nicer flower that was a couple of feet off the trail. The showy orchid is small and just sits on top of the leaves. It made for a great photo opportunity as everyone very carefully stepped around the plant. We found a third plant a few feet away.

The hike out of the holler was up a very steep ridge. For the first 75 feet, the trail was flowing with runoff water from the storms. As we climbed higher, we found the lone prairie trillium on the walk and some squawroot. The climb up the ridge was one of the steepest I recall. But, the reward was worth it although my body says otherwise today!

In Search of Wildflowers on Waldrup Ridge, Monroe County, IN.

Steven Higgs suggested that Linda and I hike Waldrup Ridge in the Hoosier National Forest in search of wildflowers. I was not having a lot of luck finding wildflowers and after I returned home, Linda would show me the wildflowers in our backyard. Thus, I was eager to find almost any type of wildflower. We got a late start and headed to Waldrup Ridge with minimal directions—parking lot on right and take the fork to the left.

There were two other vehicles in the parking lot, so there was ample space. After putting on our hiking boots (it looked muddy), we started down the trail. About 25 yards into the forest, we were greeted by a large tree that had fallen down and was blocking the trail. This tree was placed such that we could walk under it. An omen for things to come. As we hiked, we found signs of green, but no wildflowers. There were, however, many downed trees that we had to step over, stop on, climb over, or walk around. The hike was quite pretty and you could feel spring in the air. The red buds were in bloom and we noticed a few trees that had fallen but were still producing blooms.

Ferns First

Our first stop was to photograph some ferns that were waiting for warmth to unfurl. We met the first and only other hikers as I was finishing my photos. Back on the trail, we came to what might have been a fork in the trail, but no marking and the path appeared to have little use. We followed the right fork for a short distance. As it started down the ridge, we could see even more of a drop ahead. We decided we had taken the wrong fork as our directions said we would be hiking the ridge.

Early Ferns Waldrup Ridge Monroe County IN
Early Ferns Waldrup Ridge Monroe County IN

 

Is that a fork on the ridge?

We backtracked to the left fork and the going became rough with the number of down trees. Soon, we entered a pine forest that has some future potential for photography. The pine forest opens up to hardwood forest as the ridge moves closer to the lake. We spotted some Spring Beauties and I made a mental note of where to stop and shoot on the way back. Eventually, we came to the old log cabin that is in disrepair. We were greeted by a black vulture that lives in the attic. He kept a watchful or maybe a hopeful eye on us while we were near the cabin. Walking around the cabin, we found a large patch of Virginia Bluebells. In the 10+ years we lived in Virginia, we could not recall seeing any Virginia Bluebells. By the time I finished photographing the bluebells, it was time to head home.

Virginia Bluebell Waldrup Ridge Monroe County IN
Virginia Bluebell Waldrup Ridge Monroe County IN

Finding one in many

I needed to stop and photograph the patch of Spring Beauties I noticed on the way. As I looked around, I noticed many patches of Spring Beauties along the ridge, but not the original patch. I finally found a single plant with one bloom at the base of tree.

Spring Beauty Waldrup Ridge Monroe County IN
Spring Beauty Waldrup Ridge Monroe County IN

The hike on Waldrup Ridge was a great hike even with the downed trees. I am planning to return later to capture the area in different light and when the leaves are out.

Wild flowers or Lichens

The last two weeks have been spent watching the NCAA tournament, hearings, and the news, but not by choice. I got a sinus infection and flu about two weeks ago and my wife followed suit this past week. Fortunately, we ask about an anti-viral for that was prescribed after a positive test for the flu (type A) and she has a faster recovery.

Friday afternoon, I needed to go shoot something. Steven Higgs captured some nice wild flower shots last weekend, so I decided to head to Brown County. True to its name, it was brown. I did not see a single wild flower and nothing green other than last year’s ferns. I asked several people who were working, hiking, or riding in the areas and no one had seen any wild flowers. As I was returning to my car to head home, I found a log with lichens. I photographed lichens yesterday!

 

American kestrel

After too many weeks or maybe months of cloudy days, we had some sunshine that lasted all day! I had made plans earlier in the week to photograph Sandhill cranes and hopefully find the flock of snow geese (they apparently have left the area). It was around 22 degrees when I left yesterday morning. However, I had plenty of warm clothing including my photography gloves I have worn in zero weather with a strong wind.

I spent most of the morning in a corn field photographing thousands of Sandhill Cranes and nearly freezing my fingers beyond use! After my fingers said enough, I drove to Muscatatuck NWR as I heard there were some ring neck ducks (or maybe I was confusing reports). I stopped at the visitor center where another photograph had just finished photographing some eagles and everyone told me there were no ring neck ducks. I found nothing at Muscatatuck except this beautiful American kestrel having lunch. I was happy and headed home with the heater going full blast for a few minutes.

 

Snow Squalls?

Last Thursday morning, I checked the National Weather Service forecast and learned that snow squalls were predicted for my area. It seemed strange since the sky was a beautiful Indiana winter blue. I went to a late lunch meeting with a friend and the sky was still clear and blue. When we left the restaurant, there were a few snowflakes and dark clouds. On my drive home, I noticed all the cloud formations and decided to grab my gear and find a spot to photograph the clouds. My first stop was Brown County State Park. I found one location, but was not happy with the view as it was looking too far south. As I was leaving the park, the cloud formations grew in intensity and I knew I had to find a better location. Driving towards Bloomington, I started going through my checklist of possible places to photograph a sunset as the view to the west with the late afternoon sun accentuated the cloud formations. After going through my list, I decided to head to Stillwater Marsh. I managed to miss my turn as I was focusing more on the clouds and a Sycamore Land Trust location that I also missed. After turning around, I made my turn to Stillwater Marsh.

There was a lone bird watcher on the deck when I arrived giving me plenty of space to setup with options. A few minutes later another photographer arrived who I had met a few weeks ago photographing river otters. For the next 45 minutes, we were in awe as the cloud formations and colors change. It was a good day!

2016 Holiday List

I decided to make a holiday shopping list for landscape and wildlife photographers. I did not include any cameras, lenses, tripods, bags, etc. as there are multiple websites with thorough reviews to help you choose. Rather, I have created an eclectic list of items that I have and use. Some are unique to photographers while other items are not found in most if any photography stores. I hope you enjoy and my recommendations improve your photography!

Aquatech Sensory Gloves

I was a little hesitant when I purchased these gloves a few years ago. However, I am a big fan. I have photographed in very cold weather and my hands never felt cold. The first time I used them it was near zero degrees with what felt like a 40 mph wind blowing on shore and off shore. The glove have a nice a nice silicon grip on the palm so that your equipment will not slip out of your hands. If you are looking for something to keep your hands warm, these are great.

Lens Cleanse Natural Cleaning Kit

I found these and have been very pleased in the past with Hoodman products. I have a variety of lens cleaning wipes, drops, clothes, and brushes. However, this is the only one that includes a wet wipe and dry wipe.

Bug X Insect Repellent Towelette

If it is warm, there are probably ticks around. I purchased a box of these last year and never saw a tick! The individual wipes are great. I also carry a spray in my car, but never used it this past year. I have already ordered a box for next year.

Clic XXL Magnetic Reading Glasses

One of my children gave me a pair of these last year for Christmas. I really like them. I have two pairs of bifocals. One is my every day pair on that has a leather glasses holder or keeper and clip-on sunglasses. It is a real hassle to keep taking of the sunglasses every time I want to check something on my camera. Thus, I have two pairs of glasses on my neck! It may not be a fashion statement, but it works. Now, if I could just find a way to keep from mangling my bifocals in my camera and backpack straps (that is why I have two pairs of bifocals).

Photography Blind

If you are photographing birds, then a blind is essential. I have two types of blinds. The first one is similar to a rain poncho. You cover yourself and then sit on a five gallon buck with a seat pad. Your tripod and camera fit inside the blind and there is an opening for you camera. It works well. But, sitting on a five gallon bucket for three hours is hard on my back and other body parts. My wife took me to the doctor two days later and I was given a shot of something in the hip for the pain and stiffness.

On my second trip, I decided that comfort was important. I purchased a larger blind often called a dog house blind. I cannot stand up in it, but I could put my recliner, a small table, cooler, television, and all my camera gear inside if I could just drive my car to the location! The dog house blind allows me to use a more comfortable and supporting camping chair. Plus, there is room for my camera backpack. I would guess I will use both blinds this year. The poncho version fits nicely in the five-gallon buck making it easy to carry. The dog house is quite light, but the camp chair is bulky.

Vanguard SB-100 Stone Bag

It seems you never have enough pockets and when you do, what you want to put in them is too large. I use this stone bag to place my lens hood while adjusting the polarizing filter. It is also a great place to put extra filters or filter cases while shooting. I always to remove things before moving my tripod….

Altura Photo Thick Protective Neoprene Pouch Set for DSLR Camera Lens

I do not keep my lenses in these cases. Rather, I purchased one for the ball head on my tripod and one for the ball head on my monopod. They do a great job of protecting the ball heads when traveling and in storage.

Gitzo G1586B3 Snow Shoes for Tripods

I got really frustrated one day last summer when I was shooting on a grated bridge. It took me too long to find the right spots to balance three tripod legs through the slots in the grate. I came to the conclusion that the bridge designers did not consider photographers when they designed the bridge! These shoes are great for cover bridges as well as shooting in creek bed that is sandy or muddy.

Quickie 8.5-Inch Palmyra Gong Brush

Have you ever noticed that the best location for a photograph is typically in mud or requires you to walk through mud? I have high quality rubber mats throughout my SUV, but somedays it helps to have a way to clean your boots. I keep this brush in the back of my car for those days. My wife will usually let me in the house if I clean my boots before coming inside.

Uncle Mike’s Law Enforcement Side-Armor Standard Car Seat Organizer

I carry a lot of maps, a few books, and some printed information on the locations I will be exploring for the day. I also keep extra pens and notepads with me. I found this organizer to be a great addition. I keep all my standard materials in it and add printouts each day. I can remove it from the car with hand making it easy to carry inside to wait for the next trip. It hangs by the garage door with a few extra jackets I take.

Indiana Atlas & Gazetteer

A friend of mine introduced me to Delorme maps a few years ago. I now have a collection of most Midwestern states. They are great for doing research and planning trips. I still use Google maps and my phone for navigation. However, I generally check my Delorme map before leaving home.

Tim Grey Learning

Tim Grey is one of the very best photographer teachers. He has a number of products that range from free to bargain prices. I would encourage you to sign up for his Ask Tim Grey Newsletter that is free. You receive a daily email on a single topic that covers Lightroom, Photoshop, or a camera technique. Tim is an excellent writer and always includes topics of interest to a wide range of photographers. He publishes a monthly e-magazine, Pixology, that requires an annual subscription. Last, is GreyLearning. He has produced a number of courses on Lightroom and photography techniques. I wish I had more time to watch more of them! They are all very informative and well done.

Either you have lost images or you will lose images

In my driver education class, the instructor stated that if you ride a motorcycle either you have crashed or you are going to crash. If you use memory cards in your camera, either you have lost images, or you are going to lose images!

Last week, I became one of those who lost images. I was importing my photos from one of my 16GB CF card. I told Lightroom how to rename the files, the keywords, and where to copy the files and where to make a backup. I thought I clicked IMPORT and then left to get some ice tea. When I returned, the images were displayed. There was no indication the files were being copied or that previews were being generated. I removed the card and reformatted it.

That Sinking Feeling

It was not until I was ready to import images from my second card that I realized my mistake! I began to understand that feeling the folks on Wall Street felt during the stock market crash of 1929. It really is a sinking feeling. Fortunately, attempting to jump out of the skylight in my office seemed futile.

A Hazy Memory

I took some deep breaths and tried to figure out how to undelete. There are undelete programs for Windows. But wait, I did not delete the files, I formatted the card. I believe there is a difference as formatting removes the directory that tells the camera/computer the location of the files.

I remember buying some San Disk USB memory sticks a few years ago and some advertisements that came with some of my memory cards. They all offered software to recover your files. I should have kept a copy….

Google to the Rescue

A Google search found several applications to recover lost files. I found San Disk’s RescuePro. It would seem that the card manufacturer would have some experience to help me recover my files. You can download various versions and try the application before buying.

After installing RescuePro, it ran for several minutes and the window displayed multiple images that it found. But, you have to pay to actually recover the images. Funny, the application quit when I clicked on any button. I thought maybe that was feature of the trial version. I purchased the Deluxe version and ran the recovery again. A number of images appeared. When I tried to save the images to my hard drive, the software quit. I tried several times with the same results. Another Google search provided no information on a solution.

A Free Lunch?

I returned to my Google search and found a free application that was highly rated. Recuva is an easy to use application for recovering files “from damaged or newly formatted drives.”  Ok, someone understands that sinking feeling. Recuva is easy to use. After a short scan, it found about 10 image files on the card. Unfortunately, they were all old images I had already imported into Lightroom.

A Miracle!

Once again, I returned to my Google search. I found a solid review of Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery. You can download a trial version. After installing the application, it scanned my card for about five minutes. The results displayed almost 300 deleted images! And, 40 or so of those were the ones I wanted. Each of the applications I tested creates a new filename as the old names no longer exist. With Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery, it displays the date the file was created to help locate your images. You can select a filename and it will display a thumbnail of the image to verify you have selected the correct files.

You must purchase a copy of the application to recover your files. You can purchase online with a credit card. They will send you a Username and Registration key. However, be careful when copying. Their layout of the email and the online receipt are deceptive. You will need to study the key carefully to make sure you only copy the key and not additional words (think Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury). They do provide support on the weekend and one of the technicians was able to help me figure out what to copy. I would recommend copying the whole “passage” to a notepad and edit to make it readable. Remove extra spaces before and after each piece.

Once I registered the software, it took a few minutes to recover my files and save them to my hard drive. Then, I discovered another problem. My filenames are created so that they read D300-2234.NEF in the camera. That is, the camera and then the file number. I needed the file number for both tracking and so that Lightroom would know if the file had been imported. The filenames Stellar creates are lengthy.

Another Miracle

Another Google search helped me find AdvancedRenamer. This nifty free application allowed me to create new filenames in numerical sequence. First, I figured out the last number imported for this camera. Second, I renamed the files starting with the next number, 2245. The files were all incremented with the last being 2287. Then, I renamed the files to GRM810 to indicate the camera I used—the same format I have after importing to Lightroom. AdvanceRenamer is very powerful and you will need to spend a couple (3-5 minutes) reading the help section to rename your files.

No Free Lunch, But Free Desert

After renaming the files, I was able to import them into Lightroom. There were no corrupt images and I could tell no difference from an image I had imported directly from a card. Once I had the Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery software, the whole recovery and renaming process took about 20 minutes. The initial scan was about five minutes, then about 10 minutes to save the files to my hard drive. It took me about five minutes to figure out how to rename the files.

I will keep Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery and AdvancedRenamer installed. The next time I reformat a card before importing the images, I will turn to Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery and then AdvancedRenamer.

The Backup Failed: Human Error?

I always keep a 32GB SD card in my camera where a second copy of my images is stored while shooting. I do not reformat the SD card until after multiple shoots and I am sure the most recent images are on my hard drives. When I opened the camera door to remove my CF card, I noticed the SD card was not engaged in the slot. I must have bumped it when I changed cards. I will now check the SD card on a regular basis, hopefully before shooting.

System Engineers—They Prevent Failures

I skipped one simple step that I have been doing for several years after my files failed to import one time (they were not in Lightroom, but they were on my backup drive). Before formatting a drive, I always either try to edit a new image or check one of my drives to see if the files were copied. The process becomes a bit cumbersome when you have multiple cards. However, checking is easier than trying to recover your files from a formatted drive.

A Footnote

If RescuePro quits in the trial version, I would recommend finding another application. The company will not refund your money once you activate the software—even if it does not work. They did offer to trouble shoot the problem, but that was about 36+ hours after the purchase. I had already recovered my data. If I purchase a product, then I expect it to work. Recovery software is something you need ASAP, not 48 hours later when they open on Monday morning.

Mill Creek Spring Mill SP Lawrence County IN

South of the Glacier