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My New Cell Phone

I have a new camera. It’s become my favorite camera. If not my favorite it is certainly the one that I’ve been using the most. It even makes phone calls.

If you haven’t figured it out already, I have reached the annual and inevitable point of obsolescence of my cell phone. I fight the thought of this being a ploy to sell me a new phone every four years, but if I’m being honest, it’s something that I always look forward to. It’s not because the manufacturers have improved reception or call quality on the phone. Both aspects seem to be no different than they were four years prior when I upgraded to my previous phone. What I always look forward to is how the latest camera upgrades perform. This go around I picked up a new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and I love it.

I’ve owned a cell phone for practically their whole existence. I then used a Motorola brick at work in the early 1990’s and then progressed through the flip phone era to the modern-day smartphones. I remember when the first camera came out as a feature in the better flip phones. It was a dreadful little camera that took very small, out of focus and grainy photos. It was completely impractical. It was more of a novelty than a practical camera. At that time point and shoot cameras were popular for taking snapshots. Today very few people have or need for a point and shoot camera as our phones have easily replaced them.

My first cell phone camera created an image that was a 484 pixel x 364 pixel 14 KB file which yielded a 1 ¼” x 1 ⅝ ” photo. My newest cell phone has a 9000 x 12000 pixel 14 MB image that will print a 30” x 40” photo. The device features a 108MP uncropped primary camera, a 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera, two 10MP telephoto cameras (3X and 10X optical zoom), and a 40MP selfie camera. This means that when you zoom in the image will be made using a lens to magnify the scene and not enlarged digitally which tends to break the image apart. This particular cell phone that I’m using has three separate lenses to pull this off.

Another feature that cell phones have these days is the ability to use what’s called Pro Mode. Pro Mode will allow you to switch the phone camera to manual which gives you the ability to adjust the settings – Primarily shutter speed, and ISO, and to save the file in a Raw format. When set on Automatic the camera will take the photo and process it according to presets that are programmed into your camera. When it’s set to Manual you can create and process your photo in the method that gives you the look that you want. There are programs/applications that you can use on your camera to process and save the photo.

 You might ask why you would need a camera if a cell phone can take such incredible photos? The answer is that it’s about sensor size and not about megapixels. The pixel size on the cell phone is .8 micrometers while the pixel size on my professional camera is 4.35 micrometers. Why is this important? It’s important in dim lighting. Larger pixels gather more light. A cell phone will do fine for photos in optimal light but once the lighting becomes a challenge the camera will be challenged. As a matter of fact when the cell phone camera is in night or low light mode it will use what’s called binning to merge nine pixels into one, effectively making it a 12 MP sensor. And furthermore, a larger sensor will be able to gather more information which will make a sharper and clearer image. The simple answer is that it’s not realistic to expect a sensor the size of 8mm to perform as well as a camera with one  that’s 35mm in size.

I haven’t mentioned the video capability of the cell phone. It could be a whole separate article. It boasts the ability to record 8K video. It can record 3840x x2160 at 30p but can also record 1920 x 1080 at up to 120p which can give you the ability to record super slow motion.

I’m finally excited about the camera on my cell phone. I have been having fun with it. In the past I would try but the image quality when I was through was discouraging. I relegated the cell phone to snap shots of friends and family and snaps of times that I wanted reminders of. Because the photos and the video from this camera are so good, I’m more willing to try to be creative with it. Will it replace my professional camera? Not at all but it will allow me to get rid of all of the point and shoot cameras as well as all of the various video cameras that I have accumulated over the last few years. Cell phone cameras are starting to stand on their own as a viable option for quality imagery. 

Working Through Creative Slumps

Nature Photographers Network

My latest blog post at my favorite Photography website, Nature Photographers Network.

In a creative slump? Perhaps you’re experiencing some discouragement because it seems like everyone else is creating brilliance, but your own worst critic, yourself, is telling you that your work is junk. Maybe you feel that you’re just not progressing as fast in your skill as you think you should. I’m here to tell you that it’s natural. We all get into a slump now and then. We have our good days and bad days. Sometimes we feel inspired and encouraged while on other days we feel uninspired and ready to take up another hobby like cultivating moss.

Click the link below to read more…

https://naturephotographers.network/articles/working-through-creative-slumps/

Lost In The Mossy Forest

Lost in The Mossy Forest.

Here’s a photo that I made yesterday while guiding my friends Al and Kathy Baca, from Long Island New York, around the Mount Hood National Forest. We spent a day in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and a day in the Mount Hood National Forest with a day of post processing between. It was a great time.

This photo was made while they were photographing bugs, flowers. lichen and moss with their macro lenses. I let them be for a few moments while I dove into the forest to get to this area. The roots captured my attention immediately. While I was there I felt as if I was in the realm of the forest sprites and gnomes.

This whole forest is in it’s Springtime best. All of the deciduous leaves are fresh green as well as the mosses. The forest is moist right now and emits a primordial essence and exudes an aura of primal simplicity. Life in its most primitive and its most beautiful.

I love the Pacific Northwest rain forests, especially in the Springtime. Consider a private Oregon photography exploration tour with Gary Randall Photography some day to explore some of the less visited places in this incredible state. I think that you’ll be glad that you did.

You can purchase prints of this photo at this link. https://gary-randall.com/product/deep-in-the-forest/ 

Dead Ox Ranch Perseids

Each year come August I start to look forward to the Perseid Meteor Shower. The Perseids are an annual event that comes each year as the Earth passes through the orbital path of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The debris from the comet’s path causes little pieces of the comet to fall through the Earth’s atmosphere at over 100,000 miles per hour causing an amazing amount of falling stars, sometimes from 100-200 per hour. The Perseid Meteor Shower of 2018 was helped by its occurrence during the dark skies of a New Moon.

Another occasion that’s becoming an annual August event is my Dead Ox Ranch Photographer’s Campout. Last year we dedicated the event to capturing photos of the Solar Eclipse. This year we were there to capture photos of the Perseid Meteor Shower.

The Dead Ox Ranch isn’t as morbid of a place as it sounds. The name was given to the ranch by the chance occurrence of there being a dead cow on the property when it changed hands in a sale in its past. The ranch is over 100 years old and is located east of Baker City near Virtue Flats and ruts from the old Oregon Trail. It’s just an hour drive from Hell’s Canyon and the Wallowa Mountains. It’s also the location for some of the darkest skies in the state.

Disregarding all of the above, the ranch itself is like going back in time to an era of outdoor group socials, picnics and sitting around in the yard in the summertime heat visiting and talking to friends and family with an ice-cold beverage. Once everyone arrives and we are all set up in our camps we mix and mingle and discuss our common purpose for being there, photography.

The only chance that we take is being there in the Summer during the peak wildfire season, and this years has been a bad one. The state was covered with smoke from fires originating not only in Oregon but from fires in both California and British Columbia. It’s been terrible indeed, but we somehow lucked out with clear skies with only traces of smoke that came and went for the whole three-day event. If we would have had smoky skies we would have somehow made the best of it anyway but that wasn’t the case.

Our mission for the workshop was to create what is called a composite image. One that is made from several photos to create one single image. Our goal was to make an image that included a group of meteors gathered over a three hour period of time. To do that we wanted to create the photo using a base layer taken at twilight so we can have focus and definition and yet still have dim and cool light like night time. Then a photo of the sky later at night when the Milky Way was filling the sky. After that we set up our cameras to take 30 second exposures one after the other for three hours to gather photos of as many meteors as possible. Once we gathered all of these photos we then went into our digital darkroom to blend them all together.

To composite the photos we made our basic adjustments in Adobe Lightroom and then opened all of the files into Adobe Photoshop as layers. Once we had them in Photoshop it was a matter of creating masks and selecting a blend mode to allow each layer to show through in its place and order. After some final adjustments the whole stack of layers was merged together into a single image. Although this is a general description I felt compelled to explain the process to those who aren’t aware of how these images are made. In today’s world of digital photography certain lines can be blurred between art and photography.

The whole group of photographers had a great time. I’m convinced that when we were out playing at sunset and into the dark we reverted back to kids again. And when we gathered to process our photos, we were all amazed at the results. I included the image that I created as an example of the composite image that the class came to create for themselves.

Even if you don’t create a complex composite image in Photoshop, a beautiful single image of a meteor is reward enough for a night under the stars. Keep this in mind next August when the stars start falling during the Perseid Meteor Shower. Perhaps you can join us at the Dead Ox Ranch for a workshop.

Shaniko Oregon

Shaniko Oregon

Shaniko Oregon Ghost Town Photo Clinic – July 28, 2018 – Gary Randall Photography announces a day exploring the central Oregon ghost town of Shaniko.

This will be a 1 day field trip photo clinic. Although Gary will cover the basics, this will be a great class for intermediate or advanced photographers who want insight into how I create my photos.

The workshop will be held at Shaniko just north of Madras in Central Oregon. The group will meet at 10am in front of the Shaniko Hotel. We will have a lesson and then we will put into practice the techniques explained by Gary during his talk. Gary will be available throughout the workshop to answer questions, give tips and advice.

The price is only $150. !!!

Class size is very limited so sign up right away to reserve your spot. CLICK HERE to sign up.

Finding Your Artistic Vision

Old Timer. A moss covered vine maple

Finding Your Artistic Vision – I’m asked at times, typically by another artist, about my personal artistic vision. At first I had no idea at all what artistic vision was. And if I didn’t know what it was, how would I know if I even had one? And, to be honest, at the time I was asked I’m not sure that I did possess an artistic vision when it came to my photography. All of my life I had considered myself an artist, but I never thought that I had to have a reason to be, or a purpose beyond my own happiness.

Since the first time that I was asked I’ve had this little thought of curiosity or wonder about it in the back of my mind. To be an artist should I have an awareness of a vision, direction or purpose for my art. A curiosity of whether I was to purposely develop one or if it was something that would develop in time, because at the time I had hardly developed any kind of mastery of the skill that it takes to use my artistic voice, not to be confused with artistic vision, so was not especially happy with the level of my work in the present, but I enjoyed doing it.

Inside those of us who are creative is a want for our work to touch others in some way. Most artists create their art to be judged beautiful or even offensive, at times, by those that experience it. We create our work to express ourselves in a way that conversation never could. Perhaps we don’t have those words, or perhaps we’re too timid to vocalize them. We must use our artistic voice to express our artistic vision, to express ourselves.

Our artistic vision is the reason and the purpose that we create. It’s what makes us fulfilled so we naturally want to share with others. We all have our own conscious reason for creating our art, but ultimately our artistic vision is comprised of every aspect of who we are and what we believe in, not just conscious decisions applied during the creative process or the application of the skill that we possess. It’s the part that comes naturally when it’s allowed.

Our artistic vision affects and drives our work. It creates an individuality in our work that will allow it to stand out from other work similar. It starts to express itself in the style of your art. Once you recognize that style you can refine it and make it all your own. You can also start to use it to envision a new future for the growth of your work. A plan for future experiments or projects to push the bounds of your skill and creativity.

It took me a while to understand this. It’s just a simple process of creating more art. The more that we create the more the process becomes second nature, and the more we’re able to let our artistic vision take control of more of our natural thought processes.

The best example of this that I can think of is how a master musician is able operate their instrument to a point that playing the music becomes second nature, hardly a thought is made while they perform their song. In my case being able to go out into the field and create a photo without wondering what button to push or dial to twist allows me to perform my song, figuratively speaking. It simply takes doing what we love to do a lot to get there.

I have been doing what I do now for about 15 years and I’m just now realizing that I can now start to consciously consider my own personal artistic vision for my work, but the best part about it all is that while I was working at overcoming technical obstacles and obtaining news skills, I was also developing that artistic voice that drove me to pick up a camera to express my artistic vision in the first place.

As I practiced, without realizing it, I was actually starting to understand my artistic vision, because when I started all I knew was that photography made me happy, and I wanted to share my happiness with others. Perhaps that’s the best way to voice my artistic vision. I want to develop the skills to create the kind of art that speaks for me. I want to create the kind of art that makes others as happy as it makes me. 

Alaska Winter Bush Plane Glacier Adventure

Knik Glacier Alaska
Ice Columns of the Knik Glacier on an Alaska Winter Bush Plane Glacier Adventure. 
 
This photo is of the huge ice face of the Knik Glacier in Alaska. I was able to photograph this miraculous location due to my good friend Bill Nafus and his amazing new hand built Super Cub bush plane. Bill built the airplane from the ground up and it’s perfect in every detail.
 
Our plan was to fly up the Knik River and then back down, not expecting to land. We flew across the face of the glacier, very near the surface below us when I noticed that Bill was throttling back and dragging the huge balloon tires across the snow. He then pushed into the gas and we lifted back up again, circled tight and then returned again to drag the tires through the same grooves made by the first pass. And we lifted off again, circled back and this time we dropped into the tire tracks and stopped.
 
I was stoked. Was this actually happening??
 
Bill and I hopped out of the airplane and we walked out across the snow covered Knik River braided riverbed, not knowing what was under it, testing it along the way. It could be sand, ice, overflow ice or even open water. As we walked we watched for anomalies in the surface that may indicate danger, we got closer to the big ice wall.
 
The light at the glacier was amazing in its smooth even forgiving nature. I was easily able to take the photos by hand without the need of a tripod. This allowed me to be able to keep walking and taking photos as I saw them. It also allowed me to keep walking to keep warm in the -5F cold. The moon would peek out from behind the top of the glacier as i walked. The ice walls were a deep blue and transparent and as shiny as glass with a web of cracks lacing it giving it texture and depth.
 
In about an hour we made our way back to the plane, got back inside and flew back to Bill’s home in Palmer.
 
I was so excited! As we flew that day we saw moose, Dahl sheep as well as a Jeep Caravan that had made its way up the frozen river to a spot not far from glacier and was returning back to civilization. We flew above deep blue crevices, ice canyons and ice fields of no less than four glaciers. We flew through and past the jutting granite peaks of the Chugach Mountains.
 
Just the action of taking off from a frozen lake and flying around Alaska is sensational on a bucket list level, but to add the landing at a glacier to the trip made this day one that I will never, ever forget. I can’t thank my friend Bill enough. He’s a man that makes things happen.
 

I love Alaska, but I love her people even more.

 

Organizing Priorities

Panther Creek Falls Washington

Preparing for a trip, even a simple day trip, should be pretty basic when it come to packing your camera gear, or so it would seem. It’s easy to throw your gear in the backpack, grab it and go.

You must know that photographers take their backpacks pretty serious. For those who aren’t aware, I should explain that a photography backpack is very much like a typical rucksack but they have little padded dividers that are fastened with velcro in an arrangement decided upon by the owner of the backpack to hold their various camera bodies, lenses and other assorted accoutrement. With these dividers it’s easy to take a quick inventory of your gear prior to heading out into the field. Zip open a panel, look inside and zip the panel back up and off you go.

Taking quick inventory in this way is typically pretty straight forward. It’s easy to see if you have your camera and your lenses, but there are always those little details that will trip you up as this little story will show.

After taking my quick inventory on one particular day, I grabbed my gear for a hike to a waterfall that I had been meaning to photograph for a while. The hike was going to be about a five mile trip, ten miles altogether. A good day hike but still a bit more laborious due to my backpack full of gear. It’s usually like me to pull my camera from my backpack at the trailhead and carry it separately and take snaps along the way, but on this day the hike was familiar and I figured that I would just wait until I arrived at the spot that I had in mind. Besides, it would make the hike easier without carrying something in my hands.

I hiked with certain urgency as I was on a mission. I walked the five miles with no break for rest as I knew that where I was going would be a great spot to snack on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the apple that I had brought along with me. How perfect. A beautiful waterfall to photograph and a nice little picnic all at the same time.
After the morning hike I arrived at my destination. The spot that I had in mind for the photograph that I had imagined since my last hike there. I walked to the creekside, peeled off my backpack, set up my tripod, unpacked my camera, set it up on the tripod, turned it on to check my settings. As I look at the digital display, which shows me everything that I need to know to adjust my camera, I notice the available exposure count. It reads 0. Zero??? What?

As I stand there looking at the display the cold realization that I forgot to check that I had put the memory cards back in after I had pulled them out to reformat and clear them to prepare for more photos of this trip. I was literally standing there with a camera without “film” in it. All at once I felt emotions welling up inside. I’m not sure if they were feelings of frustration, anger or dismay or a combination of them all. It really didn’t matter as they weren’t good. I dug through my pack to see if I had stashed a spare card, but found nothing. I felt pretty dumb.

Without much more than a thought or two about what more that I could do, I packed my gear back into the backpack and sat down to eat my sandwich.
As I sat there I lectured myself. I berated myself for forgetting to reinstall the card, and agan for not checking when I packed the backpack, but in time I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to take a single photograph, and that I was in an incredibly amazingly beautiful place in a terrible state of mind and that I just needed to realize how my priorities were out of order.

I had to ask myself how taking the photo became more important than the experience of being there and experiencing the tangible part of the experience that a photo can never capture. At that moment I closed my eyes and paid attention to those non visual components of this beautiful location that make the experience complete. I listened to the water as it tumbled over rocks. I listened to the breeze in the trees above my head. I felt the moss under me. Once I did this I started to pay attention to things that I may have ignored. I heard birds singing and squirrels quarreling. I smelled the fresh fragrance of a forest in the morning. I felt the mist from the falls on my face. I could feel the stress leave as I concentrated. My feeling of frustration changed to resignation and then to a feeling of satisfaction as I realized the complete beauty of my surroundings.

In time I stood back up, grabbed my backpack and started back down the trail with the thought in my mind about lessons learned. Practical thoughts about how to prevent forgetting memory cards or batteries, but even more the thoughts and wonder if I would have taken the time to enjoy the experience of the waterfall if I had remembered to bring them.

To this day when I head out to hike to a waterfall I will check everything, including the details. I haven’t left a card or a battery at home since, but more importantly after this experience the first thing that I do when I arrive at a location is to close my eyes and experience everything that being there has to offer, and I think that it shows through the photos that I take afterward.

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska 9/3/16 – 2:28 am

On this particular night Darlene and I were driving back toward Wasilla through Anchorage when I decided that I wanted to drive up to the Glen Alps to see if we could see the aurora over the city. Darlene wasn’t feeling so well but agreed that it would be fun. I was driving and Darlene wasn’t paying much attention to where I was driving so I ended up driving to the end of a road that I never intended to drive to. Whatever the road, it had a trailhead and a turnaround, so I turned around, which oriented my windshield directly north toward the lights of Anchorage so I pulled to the side of the road to take some photos. This is the result.

I may have got turned around but I ended up with some pretty cool photos. It’s not often that I’ve seen a nnive aurora over city lights.

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon.

My friend Matt Payne and I were talking about this photo of The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon and how it’s such a prominent in a sea of city lights, making it an obvious composition for a photographer with an eye for detail. I think that some who have photographed this overpass intersection have done it intentionally due to seeing the photo but others who may not have seen this previously just see it and do it.

I took this photo back in 2011 with my friend Bruce. He had seen this intersection in another photograph, perhaps not this exact composition, and wanted to try to get the shot. I was glad to come along, and am honest that I did not create this comp. I was unaware of it until Bruce talked to me about it.

in 2011 not many had photographed this intentionally but since then I’ve seen it pop up in a lot of photographer’s portfolios, and rightfully so. The photos are certainly striking, especially if you’ve never seen it before.

I shot this at 300mm from the top of “Pill Hill at the OHSU Tram upper terminal. It was windier than the halls of hell, but it’s a great place to view the city.