Thursday, October 29, 2009


Many thanks to Mr. Roger Ebert, expert film critic and Journalist extraordinaire, for choosing my photos to illustrate this week's article "The autumn leaves of red and gold" on Roger Ebert's Journal!

I'm honored.

My first photo credit!

I love Autumn...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Charleston - Part 1 of 3: The Tourist Photos

I was thinking today as I was looking through my photos at Lick Creek Photography about a particular fondness that I have for Charleston, South Carolina. It has an attractive combination of history and beauty and Southern charm. And it was formative in my travel photography interests.

I did a lot of travel with previous employers, and Charleston came up early in the rotation. I had just picked up the Canon Powershot and was looking for a place to use it, when my boss called me in the office. He needed me short notice in Charleston for a month-long project. I'm there!

Charleston has a beautiful historic district nestled down against Charleston Bay. In my first week or two there I settled in as an evening photo-tourist, learning my way around. Heading down the main drag - Meeting Street - and running into Battery Park, which looks out over Fort Sumter. Here's a house right at that intersection - my "big tree" picture:

I went downtown every evening, learning my way around town, joining many others on the sidewalks - taking shots of the same scenes, but trying to get an interesting angle on them. I came back several times to this wall, for example, trying to capture it:

Up and down Meeting St:

to a theater on a side street:

To the charming pastel-colored houses on the "rainbow" drive along the bay:

to the many churches in the historic district:

up close and far away:

I got to know and love the historic district of Charleston.

The first weekend there I stayed over instead of flying home to save the company money. (Why did I do that?) The weather was nice, so it was out to the beach! Out to the Isle of Palms:

I caught this picture in one of the harbor towns - where I must have disturbed the pelican! - on the way back from the beach:

Next, Part 2, getting closer....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yellow and Green

I drove by a small park today, on the way to meeting at a remote office. I couldn't help looking over at the back of the park at a particular tree. I remember the tree, and the pictures that I got at that tree, from last year. The light was bad today, but I remember how spectacular it was on that day.

I had been out looking for fire in the fall trees. Orange and Red. Fire. And it was all around in that area, like in this tree across the street from the little park:

I was getting back in my car, when I saw the yellow. One bare tree stood out in the bright sun, surrounded by yellow. So I headed over and investigated it:

I took a few establishing shots as I looked around the area, then started to focus on the dropped leaves themselves:

Wow, that's quite a pattern, I thought. Is it yellow on green, or green on yellow?

I got in closer...

I liked that rip in the leaf in the lower left.

I had some fun playing with close-up composition and with color...

I spent about an hour playing with various compositions in that yellow and green pile at the foot of that one unique tree in that park.

Then it was back to the orange...

So, I looked over at my yellow and green tree today as I drove by. It's a little early for the dropped leaves - plus the lighting was grey and depressing. Do I want to go back to that tree next week when the time is right, or go find something new? Decisions...

Monday, October 12, 2009

My First Lesson in China

"So, are you ready to go to China?" Those words from my boss quickened my pulse.

Time was short and plans were quickly set in motion. I would be travelling with a client to an inland city, with a day layover in Bejing each way. Passports in hand, our hosts notified, and reservations made we boarded a plane headed over the pole, over Russia, to Bejing.

We arrived at one of the world's largest airport buildings, Terminal 3, an experience in itself...

Negotiating a taxi ride downtown was both my first chance to use the Mandarin that I had quickly learned - Learn in your Car CD's - and my first clue that it might be difficult to get around on our own. My English-language travel iteniary stumped the driver, but we managed the hour ride to our hotel - taking in views of the city on our way:

We were checked in by 5pm on that Saturday night, and I had a plan to entertain my client with some sightseeing. "How far to Tianamen Square", I asked the nice young lady at the desk. "Fifteen minute walk, that way", she said - pointing west. We headed west down the street, taking in the sights.

"Tianamen!", a smiling rickshaw driver shouted. Cool!

"Duo shao qian", I asked. (How much does it cost). "Si", he replied holding out 4 fingers. Hmm. 4 Yuan - about 65 cents American, I'm thinking. Cool! We'll take two.

Off we went, heading South! South? Yes, south. I know this is not right, but am not yet alarmed.

"I'm not sure this is right.", I said worriedly to my client. But we kept going, South. Into some worse areas than our hotel was in...

We rode for about 20 minutes, with right turns and left turns down narrower streets...

So, how does this lesson end. In a narrow alley. With a brick wall at the end. Us, the two cyclists, and a few of their friends. Uh oh!

Time to pay. I fished 4 single Yuan from my wallet (from the currency exchange at the airport) and held them out. Now he's angry. No, not "si". Now it's "sibai". 400 Yuan! Each!. Now we're in trouble. This may not end well.

Forunately, I had gotten 10 hundred Yuan bills at the currency exchange, so I could pay. But not yet. I have to figure a way to get out of here. So, as I'm arguing back loudly, I'm looking around. I see hope. I see a break at the end of the wall, maybe big enough for a man to squeeze through. "You're following me, now!" I tell my friend. I grab 4 hundred Yuan bills and hand them to my driver and head straight for the hole in the wall. I push my client through and quickly follow behind him. We're out on the street, with shouting on the other side of the wall. Down the street we run, North! - not slowing until we know that they are not following. We're safe. That could have ended badly - we could have disappeared an hour in country and no one would have known where we went. But, we're safe.

"That was our first lesson in China", I tell my client. "Don't go down any alley". Cost of the lesson? About $65. A bargain, I felt.

We had no choice at this point but to set off in the best general direction we could guess to find Tianamen Square. Was this it, we wondered?

Close, but not it. Still heading Northwest, maybe this guy knows?

No more rides! We found it on foot though, eventually.

These guys didn't look happy that I was taking their picture. No one told me that it was bad form (illegal?) to take pictures of the military in the square!

But, there were families having fun there too...

And standard historical photo ops...

Olympic pride was high, a month before the Olympics...

More troops, passing through the square at regular intervals...

We saw a lot in a short time. I bought some trinkets for the kids, and had vendors swarming all over me until I got firm. "Wa bu yao!" (I don't want..)

I was ready to call it a day...

and we headed back to the hotel for the night.

Or, so I thought. My client looked really ragged in the morning.

"Didn't you sleep well", I asked.

"Didn't sleep at all", he answered with a wry smile. "I went back out. I was up all night hanging out with some Swedes in a Russian mafia bar. Almost got beat up for taking a picture inside. They didn't like that."

That was a lot for Day One. Our first lessons in China.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Leaves are Turning

There is a day of awareness for me every fall. That day when my peripheral vision catches a glimpse of color that wasn't there the day before. The day that I realize that the leaves are turning. Fall is here.

Now, the Holy Grail of turning leaf travel photography, fall in New England, is a "get" that has eluded me thus far. My business travel schedule never really matched up to that window of time and that geography. I came close one day. I was driving in New Hampshire to get back to a hotel late in the evening. The light almost gone, probably just past. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a brief glimpse of lake through the trees, and some yellow. Wheeling around, I saw this:

For the most part, I celebrate Fall each year with a 10 minute drive to the park in my city. I have a certain tree staked out. A tree which reliably drops a set of colorful leaves year after year.

I watch that tree. Checked on it today, in fact - a few days yet to go. I watch the light - evening light is best, shade better. You'll find me there each year, walking around and looking at the ground with my macro setting on and an eye on composition.

Color. I'm playing with color and framing.

Single leaves. Groups. Both.

I can spend the whole day in the park if I'm not watching my time!

Don't forget the water...leaves fall in our Lagoon as well.

My senses are heightened this week now. I'm watching trees and color. I'm chasing the light...

You'll find more in the "Flowers and Leaves" gallery on my photo website.

Enjoy the Fall.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Belated Welcome

Welcome to Lick Creek Photography - the blog. A companion site to LCP - the photo website.

I am passionate about photography as a hobby. I have been since I bought my first camera in 1979. Even more so since I was stationed in Fairbanks Alaska with the Air Force in 1984, where I took a photography course at UAF in lieu of hunting. Hunting with a camera in one of the most beautiful states.

I had a great instructor in that course. A bit of a photo snob actually, who made it a point to compose the picture well in the camera and not in the darkroom (or Photo Shop!). He liked a "full frame" print, and taught us to love it too.

As my header says, I travelled extensively on business trips in the last several years. I spent my off hours chasing light and structure. Trying to get that one interesting picture that no one else got - even in the most travelled tourist spots. It's a challenge, and one I'm up for.

I've found that I have a lot of good stories to tell about the various shots that I've taken. The adventures that I've had. The risks that I've taken to get the elusive shot. I'll tell those stories here.

What I won't talk about a lot is equipment: camera bodies, lenses, flashes, filters, and the like. That's because I have none! I have in the past but, alas, not now. I use one camera, which had the principal feature of fitting in my laptop bag. It's this:

A Canon A550. $149 at Walmart! It's not about the camera, people. It's about the photographer.

I did spend a fair amount of my airplane rides reading the operator's manual. I do know what all of the settings are, and there are a lot of them to master in this little camera. I use them all at various times to get the picture that I want, in the camera if possible.

On to the stories.

The first one, Five Hours in Boston, was posted yesterday. I was a little eager...

Five Hours in Boston - 2007

Boston. A great town, I'm sure. I hadn't really had much of a chance to see it. That changed one day in July of 2007 when my phone rang and I suddenly had a sales appointment there.

Well, in Cambridge to be accurate. An engineer at MIT who prototyped for the aerospace industry heard of my company's product and wanted a demo. Glad to oblige, I headed east. An easy flight into Manchester, a short drive down, and I was in his office doing my day-job thing. He was impressed. Two hours later, with no other prospects in the area, my sales day was done for the day.

Camera in hand, I set off silently to see what I could see of the city through my lens. Starting on the MIT camus, where I took this shot at 1:29 pm:

What a crazy building!

Over to the Cambridge bank of the Charles River to get my look at the Boston skyline and the ubiquitous boats lining the various docks. The light was good, so I focused on various compositions of sailboats and skylines, like these:

You'll recognize this last one as an untinted version of the picture that opens this post. Photoshop? Yes.

The clouds caught my eye. When I first spotted them, I thought "the city is on fire!" The clouds were very dramatic in person, let me assure you. When I looked at the picture later, I didn't get that same feeling. I liked the composition of the sailboats against the skyline and clouds, sure. Not quite the rule of thirds, but close enough to be interesting.

I showed this to a friend later - a professional shooter and a Photoshop whiz. He spent five minutes on it and Viola!, the sky was on fire. Wow. It's an eye catcher now.

Uncharacteristically, I broke my silent reverie and accosted a passerby who seemed local. Pointing over at Boston, I asked him "if you had an hour to take pictures there, where would you go?" Picking out a church spire for me, he said "Find that church and you'll be in Copley Square. You should enjoy yourself there."

Right he was. Not only did I love the church, historically and photgraphically:

But, I also loved the fountain in Copley Square and spent quite a bit of time covering it (bracketing, so to speak) from all angles. In the end, I liked this picture both because of the composition and the because I like the playfullness of people playing in the fountain.

On my way back to my car, I walked through the Back Bay area - enjoying the architecture of a lifestyle that I could never afford...

My final shot of my 3 hours of adventure photography in Bean Town was spontaneity at it's best. As I entered the tunnel for I-90 West out of town at 4:09 pm, I had the sunroof in my rental car open. Grabbing my camera off the seat next to me, I stuck it up through the sunroof and snapped my version of a tunnel pic - blindly. I kind of like this one.

Five hours in Boston. I haven't been back since. But, I captured memories - through my lens.