A Fresh Beginning
Editor’s Note: More photos at bottom of newsletter
Why Am I Doing This?
I’ve done this before. I’m doing it again. I feel good about it. Like I did before. This time it’s on a computer instead of a typewriter.
I do not remember the first photo column I wrote for the Ft. Lauderdale News when I was “StaffPhoto by Gary Gardiner.” Not sure it’s important to know the first subject I wrote about. What’s matters is that after almost 50 years I’m doing it again.
This is the new first.
Subject matter is unlimited. You might read about a recent My Final Photo and how I made it (see below). You might read about the latest book, tv series, movie, poetry, success, and/or failure I’ve experienced. Maybe some about family and friends. Maybe about other photographers or poets, or sociology professors.
I’ve been a photographer for all of my adult life. It is my only skill set. Well, my only marketable skill set. It is the way I clothed, housed, and fed my family.
A Lesson To Remember
I’ve never had a formal photography lesson. That’s important.
Never took a college course in photography, not in junior college, no weekend seminars, no matchbook cover or back page of a comic book photo class, didn’t earn a Boy Scout photography merit badge, and didn’t work on the yearbook staff. I was co-editor of Veritas, the Santa Fe Junior College newspaper, a publication with few editions, few pages, and an eager staff of two, both editors and no photos. Remember mimeograph machines?
Instead, I studied. That doesn’t mean I got great grades as my children will tell you after they found my old report cards in a crumbling, desiccated, yellowed box in the attic.
I studied life and its inhabitants.
The college professor who lived two houses away and walked four miles to and from the campus every day, rain or shine.
Uncle Ed, who grew delicate orchids in a greenhouse hand-built from neighborhood detritus and wood scraps from the post-war building boom. He died young, an alcoholic.
The men’s clothing salesman who paid more attention to my inseam than fashion sense.
The school janitor whose gymnastic flexibility impressed students more than the teachers.
The theater owner who allowed kids to spend the entire Saturday watching cowboy and space serials in the morning and full-length movies in the afternoon and go to the What-A-Burger just down the street for a carry-out meal, return to their air-conditioned padded seat in the theater to consume burger, fires, and Coke and never pay more than the 50 cents at the beginning of the outing.
The librarian who, though puzzled at the inquiry by a 12-year-old boy asking about ”monsters from the Id”, found a book that helped explain the ending of “Forbidden Planet”.
A curator for the Florida State Museum in the Seagle Building who appeared eager to answer questions from an inquisitive young boy about how the dioramas were designed, built, maintained, and who possibly could have enough knowledge to build them.
The Senior Master Sergeant who put in for retirement immediately after attaining Chief Master Sergeant.
The Staff Sergeant who refused to loan me money after having taken my paycheck in a game of poker telling me that I wasn’t a good poker player and should never play again and he wasn’t going to help me survive because I’d lost.
This list of what we now call influencers could go on to the point that you’d become bored, stop reading the newsletter, and never return. I’ll stop here, for now.
Stay With Me
However, if you stay with me through this series of newsletter explanations of what I think you need to do to make better photos or be a better photographer you’ll see that expressive, story-telling photos are more than technical expertise.
Better photos come from what I first mentioned.
Study life, its inhabitants, and their reaction to it. This will be a common theme for my newsletters.
Now for something technical.
Last week a My Final Photo was of fireflies in the soybean field at the Braun farm on Cleveland Ave, and Cooper Road. Here’s how it was made.
Used a tripod because it was dark and the exposures would be too long for handheld.
Fireflies were everywhere. In all the fields. Near the road, around the barn, and in the nearby woods.
I wanted more than just the streaks of fireflies. I wanted a scene that the viewer could recognize, that was dark, and filled with the yellow streaks of fireflies.
I decided looking east from a raised position would give me a larger, darker background for contrast with the fireflies, and the senior living facility in the background would establish location.
I took several test exposures relying on the camera to make automatic suggestions that I could override. I checked the screen on my Panasonic mirrorless camera to see the intensity of the streaks.
Way too dark for doing anything automatic, especially focus. Selected manual focus.
Made my first exposure at 8:32 p.m. Last exposure at 8:39 for a total of 13 frames. Three were test frames.
Selected three frames for editing in Photoshop. Created a single object layering the three frames over each other. Changed the top two frames to Lighten blending so the streaks from the fireflies in them would show in the final output. The Lighten blend mode only shows what is brighter than the darker objects. In this case, the dark green background was so large that it was easy to show three frames of bright firefly streaks in one frame.
It would have been near impossible to make a single exposure with this many streaks and keep the exposure correct in the senior housing. A longer exposure to get more firefly streaks would overexpose the building. Changing the f-stop to darken the building would result in the fireflies being underexposed.
I settled on 5 seconds at f10 and three frames.
What I’ve been reading
Just finished “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. It was suggested by “Station Eleven” author Emily St. John Mandel. Both are available at the Westerville Public Library.
Don’t go to the library to get “Syllabus” by Lynda Barry. I have it and plan on keeping it as long as I can. There is way too much to learn in a short period of time. Put it on reserve and I’ll return my copy and buy myself a copy.
What I’ve been watching
“Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel on HBOMax. It is slightly different than the book as most tv and movie adaptations are. Still, a great story told well. Casting, screenplay, staging, director, and cinematography are great.
From the archive
Alum Creek Park - 1983
From Last Week
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Loved the Newsletter and the photos.