Friday, April 17, 2009

Printing Frustrations

I've been thinking about doing some volunteer work for the local parks department. My physical limitations prevent me from working a regular schedule. I have limited endurance and after a day of photography it typically takes me two or three days to recover. But I've had this burning desire to teach basic photography to kids. I figured doing it as a volunteer, I could pretty much call the shots.

Why do I want to teach children to take better pictures?

Because I see them taking pictures of everything in sight, their parents shell out the dough to have the images printed which are mostly garbage. One of my nieces has developed a keen interest in photography and now has her own camera. During my last visit, her mom let me take her out of school for a few hours in the morning so we could go to a local pond and take pictures. We had a wonderful time and she enjoyed learning a few tips and tricks.

But printing photos is not what my frustration is all about.

Recently when I took a small portfolio over to a local park office in need of volunteers to lead classes and nature walks, I was asked for my business card. I felt like a complete moron for having none with me, and realized later that my current cards have outdated information anyway. My phone number has changed, website is down for revamping and I wasn't thrilled with the design to begin with.

So I've spent the past few days working on new designs and finally got ready to submit for print when...

OMW! Have your tried to order printing online lately? Darn, I really wish I could start my own printing company. Somebody needs to take that bull by the horns and shake it!

The first place I go to, my artwork imports way too small and I can't get it to fit the layout. I know the size and resolution are right-on, so I move on and try site number two in the google list. No preview, can't see what I'm getting. Screw these guys. Onto number three. I go through all the set up process which takes me about thirty minutes because I had two different cards to print and some labels as well. I get to the end and they want to charge me $20 for shipping for two little boxes of business cards (100 in one set and 250 in the other) and a roll of labels. That was only a couple bucks shy of my whole order total. Forget them.

Okay, so by now I'm really steamed up because I've wasted half my day trying to get a print order going and nothing's happening. So I say to myself, "self, you're a member of NAPP and you get a discount at Office Depot which you've never used. Let's go to Office Depot online and start our print order there." Easy enough, right? Well, you'd think.

After I signed up for the NAPP OD account many months ago, I promplty forgot which email address I'd used for the log in and my password. Most websites are pretty forgiving and you get several tries to get it right. Worse comes to worst, you say, I forgot my password and they send it to you, no problem. Right? You'd think.

No, I get an ugly red notice that says I've violated protocol and they're confiscating my birthright and reporting me to the OAORMP (Online Association of Really Mean Programmers.) Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. Actually, it said something more like, "Sorry, you're an imbicile and must contact customer service at... "

Okay fine, whatever. I call the 800 number and I get Tamika. Have you ever spoken with Tamika? I swear, I get her every time I call an 800 number for any business you can think of. I know her name, her voice - hell by now I ought to know her whole family. You know her. She's the one who puts you on hold for ten minutes and then comes back to appologize, she's still checking on that for you, and puts you on hold for another twenty minutes.

Finally she comes back on the line, really appologetic this time, and says she can't help me, I'll have to call this other number and talk to my account manager. So I call this other number and ask for the lady she told me to talk to, and guess who's on the line? You got it, Tamika. She puts me on hold again for five minutes and comes back to tell me that person no longer works there, she'll put me through to the new account manager, Gerald. I wait again for several minutes and sweet little Tamka comes back on (I'll bet her Boca Raton complexion is beet red by now) and tells me he's out, she'll have him call me back.

Gerald calls me back and keeps me on the phone for another ten minutes to tell me he can't help me, I have to call the National Accounts office at another number. Well, imagine who I get on the phone when I call the national office. No it wasn't Tamika, I just wanted to be dramatic. I got Maureen this time, who tells me NAPP has no account with them.

You know what? I won't be printing with Office Depot any time soon. Sorry Tamika, you may be out of a job if OD can't get their customer service act together.

So, back to square one, I still have no cards printed. Sigh...

All this because I'd like to help kids learn how to take better pictures. Go figure.

And my husband is sick to boot.

Hope you're having a better day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Welcome to My World

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Whether I'm out on a weekend camping with my husband or off on a day designated for photography, my camera is my ever present companion. I never leave home without it. And no matter where I am, there is always something I'm excited to photograph.

On the sunny morning I came across these lovely balsamroot arrowleaf blooms, my intention was to photograph the Grand Teton at sunrise. Things don't always go as I plan and the drive from Yellowstone National Park over to Grand Teton National Park took longer than we'd anticipated. That didn't stop me from finding lots of wonderful images to capture on my memory card!

One overcast day I headed over to a favorite local park to take pictures of ducks and geese. The weather could have sent me packing home empty carded. It began to snow like crazy - big white, very wet, fluffy stuff. I decided that since I was there, I might as well fire off a couple of shots for kicks and grins. Some four hours later I departed wet and cold. I managed to capture several memory cards full of images of ducks and geese playing in the snow and sliding in for a landing on the ice that remained on the pond.

When the weather is bad, I hardly ever even notice because I'm so captivated by my subjects.

It was Thanksgiving day when I drove up to Tibble Fork Reservoir in Utah. We were visiting family for the holidays and I needed a break from all the noise and commotion that goes with six wonderful nephews and nieces. Another formidable day but not too intimdating for me. We love our Avalanche which does well just about anywhere any time. No mud or snow keeps me away for long. I found this wonderful placid scene and peace to boot!

While a friend and I were visiting Washington, DC to participate in a march for the 10th Anniversary of the Women's Military Memorial, I found more wonderful subjects than I had memory cards to keep them! Fortunately, I take my laptop with me everywhere so I was able to download photos and reformat my memory cards daily. Besides wonderful nature and wildlife, buildings with wonderful architechtural details abound in this historic city.

Not all my images come out perfect but most are redeemable. Editing and creating art from photographs is almost as much fun as taking the pictures.

Because this image was a bit on the soft side, I did some post work and made it even softer, enhancing the warm tone. I then used it to create a bookmark.

The entire image itself held little interest as it was, but the long narrow design of the bookmark enabled me to use the best portion of the image to create something really lovely - and useful :-)

Most photo processing companies today, whether in a local shop or online, offer a wide array of items on which to print your images. Have another look at a not-so-good photo and see if there isn't something you can do to salvage it as a painting or to create a luggage tag or bookmark.

Shoooting wildlife poses it's own set of problems. Often shy and uncooperative, maintaining some distance is usually required. That's when a longer zoom or telephoto lens comes in handy. You might find yourself out on a walk without the longer lens in tow. Or perhaps you don't have a telephoto lens at all. With modern digital cameras that capture high resoultion images, one can also crop a photo to make it look like a closer shot and still print an 8x10 or larger with no loss of qualilty. Try experimenting with your photos, cropping in different ways, to see how you might improve an image before printing.

Make the most of Color, lighting and elements. The day I stumbled onto this scene was like a moment in heaven for me. When I came across an idyllic little bridge over a creek, I spent several hours wandering around this neck of the woods capturing everything. The aspens were in full golden splendor, and when the clouds hid the sun for brief periods I was able to slow my shutter speed to soften the water flow. With patience, all the elements will come together to produce a satisfying image.

I enjoy using my images to create greeting cards and positive messages. By adding Scripture verses (you could use any kind of proverbs or positive sayings) to an uninteresting area of the image, you can merge the feeling of an image with a statement from your heart. This is one of my favorite verses combined with a favorite image.

I love the world of photography. The possibilities are endless. I hope this journey through my world has given you some creative ideas to use or improve your own images.

Happy shooting,

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What Does it Take to Get Great Pictures?

If you take a look at the images in my posted slide show, you might think they were easy to get. So let's talk about that.

When do you usually take pictures? When you're on vacation? Out with friends? At a family gathering?

Most people take their camera with them to record specific events or milestones. These are personal images that have no meaning to anyone except you and perhaps your family members.

Serious photographers on the other hand, don't wait for events. Like the postman who braves rain, hail, sleet and snow, the avid photographer goes out into all kinds of weather in order to capture eye-popping images.
My Grandfather, E J Cour, a photo journalist for Chicago news, captured this image in the 30's.

Let's take for instance, a day like today. It's windy, cold and snowing on and off. There is ice on my windows. It was a day similar to this (actually worse - it was snowing quite heavily) when I photographed "Cold Duck." Would you go out on such a day just to photograph geese and ducks?

To capture the "Doe and Fawn" in Rocky Mountain National Park last summer, I was awake and out of my tent well before dawn and followed this pair for over a mile. They led me through thorny shrubs, thick forest, and over trecherous rocky terrain.

These little ventures often find me having wandered quite a distance without a clue, having to pray for the strength to carry on and find my way back.

I'm not an able bodied person. A nicked nerve during back surgery some years ago left me with little strength in my left thigh muscle and almost total loss of the muscle that controls my right ankle. My left thigh is dependent on the strength of my glut and calf muscle to ambulate. My right foot drops because of the ankle problem being a major tripping hazard and wearing me out quickly. In addition, I'm in chronic fiery pain which will never improve. This also zaps my energy. I don't write this seeking pity but to emphasize the lengths a photographe will go to for "that shot." It's just the way things are for me. I feel blessed and amazed that I can walk at all. But I'm still waithing for that one image that takes my breath away. There are many I'm happy with but not the "one." Brokenness be damned, I'll keep truckin' until I fall off the mountain...

I give what many aren't willing to find for themselves. Enjoy the views.