Sketching Class

Deciding to take the bull by the proverbial horns, I enrolled in a few online classes.  I have used them for a number of other courses, such as sewing or photography, and really enjoy their format.  Demonstrations which are practical, well presented, and make sense are worthwhile.  Online streaming format, without limitation (once bought), is another advantage – you can watch, play, replay, go away, and revisit.

For my online sketching class, I sit out on the patio surrounded by pencils and paper, my chrome book, headphones, coffee, and dogs.  I listen and watch the demonstrations, and replay, and practice the exercises for sketching.  I’ve doodled with drawing throughout the years, but never really focused on drawing as presented by the online teacher.  She uses 3 pencils – 6H, 4B, and HB and also explains the differences between willow and vine charcoal, which I never thought about.  Contrast and value are considered, gestural drawing, shading and how to do it.  I’ve learned a lot.

 

My problem is a lack of time.  Work and life get in the way.  Still, it’s wonderful to feel the focus of drawing and think I could possibly get good at it.  I like some of my other drawings I’ve done while listening to an audiobook or just chillaxing.

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The Southwest in Black & White

The last few days of July 2017 and the first few weeks of August 2017 were devoted to a family trip, leaving California and thence traveling through Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and home.  In that time period we covered about 4000 miles, spending 2-3 days in each place.  There were four of us – my husband’s parents, my husband, and myself.  It was a family trip, to see places never before seen, as well as to see places where family ancestors lived and worked – specifically, Ft. Laramie, Wyoming.

On this trip, there were two photographers – my FIL and myself.  Tom has a Nikon D810 and D610; he brought the D610 along and shot numerous images, which I hope to see soon!  Myself, I brought along more toys than I should confess to, but enjoyed using all of them.  In particular, I brought along a new-to-me Olympus OM-1n, an OM 50mm f1.8 MC, and the OM 35-70mm f3.5-4.5.  Each has a 49mm diameter, so I also brought along UV, polarizing, orange and red filters, and used the latter two to see how JCH StreetPan 400 would work as landscape film.

It was gorgeous!  Combined with the Oly, I was incredibly pleased.  StreetPan comes in both 35mm and 120mm, so a lot of people will be really happy.

What I like about the StreetPan is that it is contrasty, yet has a good, long grey scale.  The orange and red filters helped to make the skies pop, and the landscape.  I didn’t have to do too much in post, perhaps modifying highlights and blacks to meet my own (artistic?) desires.  Detail was good, too.

The image at the top is a panorama I stitched together in CS6; below are individual images which can give you a good idea about the beauty of this film for landscape.  These scenes were shot in the Mesa Verde National Park and the Grand Canyon National Park, both in Arizona.

 

 

Too often, black and white landscapes don’t interest me, and the reason is the difficulty in differentiating small details.  Dramatic landscapes don’t have to look dramatic, but they need something to make them dramatic.  This can mean contrast, composition, and a number of other elements.  In all honesty, I do not consider myself to be a good black-and-white photographer simply because I find it difficult to think in terms of value.  I see color before I see anything else, and certainly my gaudy photos show this tendency.  Therefore, using the filters and an already contrasty film produced a number of photos that pleased me no end.  This experience is whetting my appetite for more!

 

The Grand Grand Canyon

Needing to travel light, I took only my Chrome Book, my Nikon V3, the Olympus OM-1n, and the Olympus XA4.  I used up 3 out of 10 rolls of film, and probably blew one of those.  I thought I had used a 4th roll, and maybe I did, but cannot seem to find it.  I used a Chrome-OS based editor called Polarr, but found the Chrome Book a bit too small to do much editing.  I backed up all my images onto an external HD, a 1.5 TB “My Passport.”

The first stop on our trip was Flagstaff, Arizona, for two nights.  We stayed at the England House B&B to use as our jumping-off points for the Grand Canyon and Sedona.  Our hosts, Richard and Laurel, were full of great information, and sent us out to the Grand Canyon to a very specific spot from which we could peer into the depths of the Grand Canyon.  We made a few stops as we drove into the Grand Canyon National Park.

The first stop was the Desert View Watchtower designed by Mary Colter, who was quite an amazing woman.  If you have a chance to visit the Desert View Tower, take the time to do so.  Not only is the Tower a piece of fascinating architectural design and execution, the views are worthwhile.  Take the time to walk around it, find the little corners, and stop for a moment to appreciate the grandeur of the view and the vision of Ms. Colter.

From the Desert View Watchtower, we drove deeper into the park, following the specific directions from Richard and Laurel.  It is a pullout leading to a fire road, and about a 20 minute walk through a pine wood.  The air is aromatic, redolent with the spices of high desert plants – resinous and sweet.

Flowers and grasses grow between the pine trees, and old, dead trees have become architectural designs created by nature, with the details of their structure revealed in their craggy lines and intimate remains.

Finally, at the end of the road, a picnic area opens up at the very edge of the Grand Canyon, which drops below you a mile.  No fences protect you.  No one tells you not to jump.  You find a place to stop, and look, to hold on to.  Birds such as ravens and raptors fly above you, only to drop down into the Canyon.  The Colorado river, a deep muddy red, flows at the very bottom.  As the sun shifts and clouds move, the colors of the Canyon change.  It’s a mesmerizing, enchanting, and magical place – far too big and grand to be seen in one day.

I used the Nikon V3 with the 1 Nikon  10-100mm lens for most – if not all – of these images, with post in Lightroom and On1.

A Stop Along the Way

We are actually in the Jackson Lake Lodge in the Teton National Park.  Today will be the first day out – we had a long drive from Laramie.  Without a laptop, much less good internet connections in the Wild West, it’s been difficult to edit pictures or make an entry to a blog here or there.

I’ve been using Polarr editing software with my Chrome Book, and I have rather mixed feelings about it but that is just because I am not sure how things look in the final edit.  Still, it is an easy-to-use editor, and given that, I am not going to complain.  I just need to master it, and when home, compare the images I see on the screen of the Chrome Book to my 27″ monitors at home.

We have really been enjoying the trip!  We started out in California, and the first stop was in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I really like Flag – as we are known to call it – and we stayed at a wonderful B&B.  Knowledgeable hosts are one of the draws of a good B&B, along with great breakfasts.  We had both.  We were in Flagstaff for two full days, taking in Shoshone Point in the Grand Canyon, and a drive through Oak Creek Canyon to see Sedona.  The Grand Canyon is truly grand, and unfathomable, so to speak, until you are on the edge, looking down and across from the rim.  Sedona is a tourist town surrounded by incredible red rocks, buttes, mesas and cliffs.  To get there, one drives through a lovely canyon, and it is worthwhile to stop at Oak Canyon to wander through it.

Oak Creek Canyon is a deep, narrow canyon, complete with creek, old buildings, and a former apple orchard put in by some of the original families who settled there.  It was my favorite part of the day out to Sedona, other than fantastic food at a restaurant – Mariposa – which has 360 degree views of the rocks surrounding Sedona.  The canyon is surrounded by red cliffs and traversed by a winding road.  The drive is one to take slowly, stopping, hiking, gawking.  It’s a wonderful corner of the world to see.

 

Tripod or Not?

I rummaged through the pile of camera gear cluttering the studio.  And then I discovered a tripod I had bought some time ago:  The Manfrotto MKC3-H01.  It will fit in my suitcase!  And, with small cameras, it should be just fine.

Image result for manfrotto mkc3-h01

It’s really small and lightweight.  I like the lever clamps, instead of twisty ones.  It’s got nice features, such as a swivel head, thumb thingies, and can handle up to 3.3 lbs (2.5 kilos) of camera.  Given I am bringing only small and light – except when the V3 has the 70-300 on it – it should work out really well.

Image result for manfrotto mkc3-h01

A tripod is honestly something I have been wanting to bring as I want to get the long exposures you can get with ND filters.  The smoothness of water can make for great photographs – and I want to do this with both film and digital.  Maybe I will even do a video, just for grins, but they aren’t things I really ever do.  So, problem solved, eh?  At least, I think it is!!  An 18-inch-tall-when-compacted tripod is a pretty cool thing.