Tagged: West Virginia

Gray Forest


This is a different way of processing one of my pictures taken in Cooper’s Rock State Forest in West Virginia (WV).  There is something about this particular treatment that brings back memories about WV and makes me think about the old days.

I initially rejected many pictures like the above when they were in color.  I found them boring and of no interest.  Now that I have converted some of them to B&W I am reconsidering.  Have you ever noticed how you can sit in front of a fireplace and watch the fire for hours on end?  I find something similar in this picture.  I just keep starting at it and don’t know why.

WV Power … Dirty & Clean



The power station is the Mt. Storm Power Station in WV.  That whole section of the Allegheny Front is a massive coal mine supplying the coal for this Dominion power station.  I use to love that section of WV, but no more.  The whole area is an ecological and visual mess now due to the coal mines and the new highway being built through that area.  The windmills are on the mountain over-looking Kaiser, WV.

Blackwater Falls State Park

Here are a few scenes from around Blackwater Falls State Park in WV just to let you know that I am back home.  I didn’t take many pictures during the last week but I got a few and identified a couple of places that I hope to return to later in better weather and light to make some pictures.

I did enjoy using and learning some more about my X-E1.  Mainly, I confirmed my feelings that I find the WB too blue with the X-E1 for outdoor images, but it is easily corrected since I record my images in raw format.

I will be back later in the coming week with some other images that I am working on.

Leaves are Turning Color in West Virginia

The U.S. Forest Service maintains some real-time cameras at several locations in the mountains.  There is one located in West Virginia that overlooks one of my favorite places … the Canaan Valley.  It is one of their air quality and meteorology stations.  They call this one the Dolly Sods station since you can see Dolly Sods in the far distance when it is clear.  You can see the real-time data by clicking here.

I took a look at the image (shown below) a little before noon today and noticed that it was quite dark and I could barely see the color of the leaves on the trees.

I then had a thought.  What if I downloaded the image and used Lightroom 4 to see if I could adjust the exposure, etc.  It worked.  You can see in the adjusted image below that the leaves have started turning and that it looked like it was also raining in the valley … probably why the original image was so dark.

For those who are interested in what I did in Lightroom 4, I used two graduated filters … one down from the top and one up from the bottom.  In both filters I primarily added a little clarity and contrast and used -0.75 exposure in the top filter and +1.79 in the bottom filter.

West Virginia in April with a Panasonic G3 Camera

The following are three pictures I made while traveling in West Virginia last week with my brother.  The first one was taken at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the other two were taken in Braxton County.

I used my Panasonic G3 with the Panasonic 20 mm lens.  I have a love-hate relationship with that camera.  I love the small size, low weight, and picture quality, but hate the handling of the camera.

Those of you who have followed my blog have seen me go from my Pentax DSLR cameras to my Olympus and Panasonic micro 4/3 cameras.  As my physical problems progressed due primarily to arthritis, I found it advantageous to sell my heavy DSLR cameras and switch to lighter micro 4/3 cameras.  As I acquired lighter cameras they also got smaller, and to a point I really like the smaller cameras since it is easier to pack and carry them especially while flying.  The downside is that as they got smaller, the ergonomics became worse.  The buttons and the space for my hand got smaller and I have found that I have been accidentally pushing the buttons on the G3 and thus changing the camera settings.  Sometimes I realized the changes and corrected them before I took the pictures and other times I didn’t realize that there was a problem until after I got home and looked at the pictures on the computer.

Because of the poor ergonomics with the G3 I have investigated other cameras.  Since I take the majority of my pictures with a single prime lens, I have thought about getting something like the Fujifilm X100 or maybe the X-Pro1 with one lens, but that is an expensive route to take and I would be lens-limited if I ever need a different focal length. 

I’m also looking into getting a small light-weight DSLR … maybe the new Nikon D3200 or the D5100.  Both of these DSLRs are lighter than any of my old Pentax DSLRs and they might be suitable for a large percentage of my pictures while using the Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 DX lens which is quite small and light in weight.

Some other alternatives are to wait and hope that a new micro 4/3 camera will be made that has better ergonomics.  Another alternative is to make-do with what I have and maybe learn to hold the G3 differently.

Whichever alternative I choose, I will probably keep the G3 or another micro 4/3 camera to use with my long zoom lenses since that is the only way to keep the size and weight of the long lenses down to a manageable size.  My problems have driven me to learn that I can use a single prime lens for most of my travel photography and that is what has opened up the possibility of using a larger, but light-weight DSLR camera with a prime lens for the majority of my photography.  The added advantage of a DSLR would be a larger sensor and better low light capability while shooting at high ISOs.

Since I prefer a smaller camera that I can easily always take with me and since I have several lenses for micro 4/3 and since I have expressed a desire to end up with one camera for the majority of my work, it seems that the logical thing is to wait and hope that someone will produce a micro 4/3 camera with a larger hand grip and better ergonomics.  But being realistic, it is unlikely that I will ever find one camera that satisfies all of my desires and I will likely always have more than one camera.

I haven’t decided what to do yet but I’m sure you will be reading about it one of these days.  If anyone has any recommendations relative to a light-weight but large enough camera to easily hold and use and that has good image quality in low-light situations let me know.

As Time Passes

Time is passing by while I have experimented with B&W.  As I have stated in earlier articles, I have been on a mission to downsize my photography gear and to try other types in addition to travel photography.

You may have seen some of the following already within my blog but I have used them as well as some new shots to experiment in different styles of B&W photography.  The first is a shot taken with my Canon S95, at relatively close range. You can click on any of the pictures, and then click on the size at the top to see any of them in a larger size.

The next three are scenes from close to the border of WV and VA that I took in the summer of 2009.

And the last one is one of my pictures from Tunisia that I showed previously as Three Generations in Tunisia.  In this version I emphasized the youngest.

In the above, I tried some different styles, different frames, etc. to see how they looked in my blog.  As I progress, or digress, depending upon your perceptions, I seem to be gravitating to 28 and 35 mm (effective 35 mm) focal lengths, prime lenses, and black and white.  I don’t know where I’m going with my photography but I hope to keep seeking and developing my vision.

Changes in “My Vision” for 2011

Street scene in Tunisia

Photography Opportunities

In the past I have mostly taken pictures while traveling but since I probably won’t be doing as much international traveling as in some of the past years, I hope to expand my shooting to other venues and subjects closer to home.  The changes are still a plan-in-progress and I hope to be showing you and telling you more in later articles.

Camera Gear

I have decided to continue with my photographic preferences and that is to keep my gear small and light using equipment and techniques suitable for traveling light … whether internationally or locally.  In addition, I plan to try to always have a camera with me and move towards simpler solutions and approaches as I make changes in the future.    I have recently been using my time to analyze whether I needed to upgrade or expand my cameras and lenses.  Since my cameras aren’t that old and are still more capable than I am in using them, I have decided to not get any different cameras at this time … but that is dependent upon future changes in subjects and travels.

The issue relative to lenses wasn’t as easy to resolve since it depends a lot on where and what I will be shooting in the future.  One of the things that I did was to analyze what focal lengths I used the most in the past.  Since I have used different cameras over the years and locations, all the focal lengths quoted in my review are shown as effective (e) 35mm lengths.  In Tunisia I took over 61% of my pictures at 28 to 40mm (e) and a little over 19% at 80 – 84 mm (e).  In Costa Rica in 2007, 35% were taken at 40mm (e) (the widest I had with me) and 32% were taken at 440mm (e) (the longest that I had).  In West Virginia in October, 35% were at 28mm (e) and the rest were all over the spectrum between 28 and 375mm (e).  Basically all that I learned was that if taking outdoor landscapes I mostly have used a wide lens of 28 mm (e), if taking a mix of street scenes, ruins, people, etc. I have mostly used focal lengths of 40 mm (e) and below, and if taking wildlife shots, I mostly used 375 to 440 mm (e).   That was helpful, but only if I know the type of shots I will be taking in the future.

Basically the above told me that for a good part of my shooting I have tended to use the two extremes of the focal lengths I had available … either as wide or zoomed in as tight as I could.  What it didn’t tell me is “What would I have used if I hadn’t been limited by what I had?” nor did it tell me “What focal lengths would I have used if I had taken more time to compose the scene?”  Most importantly, since I am not sure as to what kinds of shooting I will be doing this year, I have decided to proceed with the following equipment until I develop my vision and techniques some more.

I will be continuing to stick with my Pentax K-7 while using three lenses:  the 18-250mm zoom, the 18-55mm weather resistant zoom for inclement weather, and the 40mm for light weight and compactness while using the K-7.  This camera has a 1.5 crop factor which means that the effective focal lengths are 1.5 times the actual focal lengths of the lenses.   This system is just about the smallest, versatile, economical DSLR package which is weather resistant that I can put together.  Depending on whether I will be shooting wildlife in the future, I might replace the 18-250mm zoom (which tends to creep quite a lot) with a 50-300mm zoom of a little higher quality.  My previous article showed you my new preferred small bag-carry system for carrying my K-7 camera and lenses.

In addition, I will be using my Olympus E-P1 micro 4/3 camera as my small, easier to always have with me camera.  I have two lenses, the 17mm and the 14-42mm, both of which I used for the trip to Tunisia.  This camera has a 2.0 crop factor which means that the effective length of the lenses is 2 times the actual focal length of the lenses.  If I need to travel as light as possible I will probably continue to use this system.  But, I have decided to make one change and that is to get and use the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens with the E-P1 rather than the 17mm F2.8 lens.  I like my compact package with the 17mm Olympus lens, but I wanted something equally compact but with a faster lens and a little better quality for low light shots as my small, always take with me system, especially since it doesn’t have a flash.  At this time, that is the only change that I have planned in equipment.  I’ll be telling you my impression of the 20mm (effective 40mm) lens for my future uses in later articles.  A lot of its’ utility for me will depend on the type of shooting I will be doing with it.


You may see changes in my photography in the future (maybe this spring when it warms up), but for now I just wanted to let you know my current views.  The only thing that is definite is that there will be changes but to what degree I’m still not sure.  Hopefully you will start to notice positive changes in my pictures and my blog.  This year I expect to make changes in my photographic style, techniques, and subjects while working on perfecting and expressing my vision.

Photos … the Record of Places, Times, Cultures, & Events

I wrote an earlier article about why we take pictures and how they influence the views of the past as well as potentially affect the future.  But, to a major degree the influence or effect strongly depends on what we take pictures of.

The above is a picture that I took of a small snowman that my youngest granddaughter made for me a few days ago.  I don’t suppose that this picture will be one of those that get preserved for posterity but I suppose that someday it will remind me of a day and a time in my past.  It’s odd, but often times it’s the snapshots that we take that have the greatest influence.  Today’s snapshots record a place, time, landscape, culture, calamities, etc.

Marcia bought me a picture book of Historic Photos of West Virginia.  One only has to glance through it to see that they are “just snapshots”.  I don’t say that in a derogatory way, I just want to make the point that they were someone’s photos that recorded the events of the past.  I’m sure that the photographers probably never knew how, or if, they would be used in the future.  We should keep that fact in mind as we take pictures.

While I’m not as active, and the time of year is not the best for taking the kinds of pictures that I have mostly taken in the past, I have been spending some time thinking about what I will be taking pictures of in the future.  In the past I have been mostly a travel photographer.  I have enjoyed recording places and cultures that are different from my home experiences, but what will I be shooting in the future?  Will I be taking pictures in a sandy desert, in a rain forest, on market streets, of wildlife, or of what?

Since I like taking pictures and would like to take a lot more, I have thought quite a bit about my future subjects.  This isn’t just an academic process for me since I have also been thinking about what, if any, additional lenses I should acquire and if I should make any changes in the cameras that I own.  As you should realize, what photographic gear will work best for you depends on what you will be shooting in the future.   The past is past and what worked best for you in the past is past.  If only we knew what the future was going to look like, we could make changes to better prepare ourselves.

I suppose I’ll have more to say about changes in my photographic gear as I continue this long process of evaluation relative to what I’ll most likely be taking pictures of in the future.  But for now, all indications are that I will continue taking pictures of whatever I see around me … in their natural environment.  I don’t think I will be taking studio pictures, or staged shots, or artsy shots just for the sake of making an artistic impression.  I plan on “just taking snapshots.”

Canaan Valley, West Virginia

For those of you who have enjoyed my pictures taken in Oct. 2010 in West Virginia, I want to give you a word, or picture, of caution if you choose to visit West Virginia in the fall.

In the following, the first three shots were taken from within the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the rest were shot within the Canaan Valley State Park.  Click on one of them to see it larger, and then keep clicking on each picture to advance to the next.