Trouble with Tripods – Finale: So Long Old Friend

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We’ve been having an odd winter here in New England – lots of snow over a very short period of time. We’ve had about 80 inches (or ~ 2 m) of snow in the last 20 days with more coming down as I write this. During the last storm I made the misguided decision to head out to photograph in the nearby woods. Misguided because the visibility was poor and the snow plows were not managing to keep up with the snow which made driving interesting. Once at the woods the snow was quite deep even on the normally well trodden paths which made for slow going.

Increasingly I will explore ideas with my iPhone before pursuing them further with my DSLR. A couple of the images from my iPhone are above, I was at least thigh deep in the snow in this part of the woods. As I maneuvered my tripod around in the deep snow I heard a funny creaking noise. At first I thought that was the wind blowing the trees, but there wasn’t any wind. Then I thought it must be someone else out and about, but I could see anyone. Very weird. I picked my tripod up out of the snow to get it into a better position and and two of the tree legs came up, the third stayed in the snow. It had come detached where it joined the metal frame. That was pretty much the end of my photography for the day.

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I’m not sure if you can tell from the images above but the carbon fiber leg where it joined the frame had delaminated and was soft. It was also crinkled which explained why the tripod leg did not fully close – there was always just a tiny fraction of leg extended. The metal also looks like it is badly corroded. While I may send this old tripod back to Gitzo I’m not holding my breath that they would be able to help me out.

I do have a new tripod that I’ve been using as a travel tripod – a Really Right Stuff 24L. I may now supplement this with the 34L, a beefier version of the 24L. The 24L to me seems a bit weedy, the lower sections of the legs are particularly thin and make me wonder how solid the tripod can really be. I guess time will tell.

On the Road Again

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I’m traveling again this week which is unfortunate on a number of levels. I’ve been pursuing a winter tress project over the last couple of years and have been looking forward to extending that project this winter. Unfortunately we’ve had very little snow so far this winter. It looks like that is about to change in spectacular fashion when Juno passes through the area later today and tomorrow.

We’ll see what that does to my travel plans!

Future Shots – Cataloging Locations

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Most people that I know, and who know me, always seem to be a little nervous when they’re in the car with me. I consider myself to me a ‘generally safe’ driver, other than a few minor hiccups there’s nothing to see here keep moving along. What I think people realize quickly is that while I’m watching the road I’m also watching everything else that’s going on around the periphery. I’m looking for photos. I do this so much in fact that I had stopped realizing that I was doing it until I almost ran off the road last week.

For the image above I originally saw from the car what you see below.

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This mental cataloging process works well for me when I’m driving around locally when I have a chance to come back when the lights better or the weather’s different but doesn’t work so well when I most likely won’t have the chance to return or it may be a year or more until I’m able to stop by again. In those cases I’m trying harder to stop and take the shot even if it only serves as a sketch or record of a location that I should return to.

None of my cameras have built in GPS, although I know that is a feature in some, but my phone certainly does and so I’ll be making more sketches and record shots with my phone just so that I know where I want to come back.

What about you? Do you have a system for cataloging places that you want to take photographs? I’d love to hear about it if you do. How would you manage locations that you’ve got GPS tags for in photos?

Friday Inspiration: Jim Denevan

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Jim Denevan is a chef and an artist. As a chef he is the founder and driving force behind the ‘Outstanding in the Field‘ farm dinners. The aim for the meals is to reconnect the diner to the land, to showcase the talents of the farmers who grow the food and the chefs who prepare it. Here’s a link to the companion book. They were in Boston this week visiting Island Creek Oysters but unfortunately I missed them!

As an artist Denevan creates some of the largest drawings on the planet. Working most often with sand on California beaches, but also in other parts of the world including Siberia (!), working quickly to beat the incoming tide he creates geometric patterns that because of their scale are best viewed from the air. Very impressive. Who ever said that crop circles couldn’t be man made has never seen a Denevan drawing. Check out some videos of Jim at work below.

Jim Denevan: Sand Drawings, Spanish Banks from Michael Cox on Vimeo.

Shooting at Home as Though it Were Away

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In writing about getting ready to photograph on the road I realized that I don’t bring that level of rigor to shooting close to home and I should. Home for me is Boston’s South Shore, a region that many people, perhaps most people, zip through on their way to Cape Cod, or Martha’s Vineyard and yet there are lots of great places Hingham, Cohasset, and Scituate among them.

In looking for local photographers that fueled the fire for me I realized that the south shore is underserved by the kind of photographers and photography that I like. The Focus Gallery does a great job of highlighting Boston area photographers with perhaps Cindy Vallino and Mike Sleeper being the most local of the locals.

I do have one book on my shelves that has been good for getting ideas about potential locations – Boston’s South Shore and a quick search on amazon shows another couple of books that I ought to have on my shelves. My major tool for researching potential locations has been a combination of the satellite view tool in google maps, the photographers ephemeris and of course doing the leg work of driving to check places out. I’ve written about this kind of virtual scouting before and you can see the process that I use by clicking here.

If you do live in a location like I do, where there is relatively little in the way of resources to draw on you’re in a great position to explore the area both virtually and in person and find unique locations that few others are photographing. Go for it!

Friday Inspiration: Arno Rafael Minkkinen

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Arno Rafael Minkkinen is a Finnish photographer who has lived in the US since 1951 and currently is a Professor of Art at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I first came across Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s work through a documentary on PBS. I can’t find this program online but it is worth checking out to watch Arno in action. His photography has a sense of whimsy to it and is often slightly surreal, reminding me a little of Jerry Uelsmann’s work. His photographs are largely self-portraits: A naked Arno (or at least the part you can see is) integrated into the landscape. What is quite interesting to me is that all of his images are captured in camera on a single frame of film. No digital hanky panky here! In looking at his work I find myself trying to work out the ‘trick’ to how he pulled it off. His camera has a cable release and a 9 second timer, which allows him to get in position before tripping the shutter and throwing the cable release out of the frame. Even so, some still leave me wondering.

Check out the video at this link to hear Arno talking about his work.

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