Horse Peeking Through Barn Window
Originally uploaded by Jason Means
This horse was checking me out as I was checking him out. With the framing and lines, I thought it made a pretty interesting shot.
This horse was checking me out as I was checking him out. With the framing and lines, I thought it made a pretty interesting shot.
I've walked past this door more times than I can count over the past thirty years, and have never photographed it until today. I don't know whether it was the lighting, my mood, or a combination of the two, but it struck my as a very interesting opportunity for a still life shot as I examined it more. The textures, color and lines really draw the eye around the image and let your mind wonder as to what's happened to this old crusty door over the decades.
It may still be summer, at least on the calendar, but I think fall will be here sooner versus later. Most of the critters that I've came across as of late seem to be in a bit of a fluster, and I think they know cooler temps and darker days are just around the corner.
I decided to swing down to Magic Island this evening and snap a few pics of the hot air balloon display. I've only ridden in a hot air balloon once, and that was many, many moons ago. I must confess though - if it wasn't for my expensive photography addiction, I think I'd have to buy a hot air balloon for myself.
The butterflies were out in full force today pounding the thistle. Just about every plant that I came across had numerous butterflies and a flurry of other insects competing for some of the last blooming flowers of summer.
I always like sharing a little piece of my day with everyone, which is one of the big reasons why I enjoy photography so much. It gives me a terrific opportunity to condense two hours of butt numbing shooting into 1/1000 of a second worth of joy and satisfaction.
I'm also very stubborn, which paid big dividends today. I watched a patch of Cardinal Flowers for well over two hours today, firmly convinced that eventually a hummingbird would come within range and give me a great pose. After more than a handful of blurry images, I finally had this little fella cooperate, giving me what I think is the strongest image from today's shoot.
Naturally, another one of my evenings has went to the birds. Shooting opportunities today were a little less than to be desired. However, I can always rely on Dad's bird feeders and sunflowers to bring in all sorts of birds.
I caught this brightly colored fellow munching on some sunflowers seeds near my Dad's house.
Every picture does tell a story, and this particular image from this year's Cheat Mountain Challenge is by far my favorite.
A few miles after the race started and the pack thinned out, I decided to snap off a few shots from the motorcycle. Just as I picked up my camera, the early morning sun started beaming through the trees. I took a few shots, figuring that most likely the images would be unusable - but naturally couldn't resist the opportunity with such unique lighting.
Most of the time when I'm shooting, I know I've got a good shot the instant that my shutter snaps. But, in situations such as this, it's a terrific surprise when I get home.
Thumbs up is right. This years Cheat Mountain Challenge was a blast. Great course, good attendance and fantastic weather - what more could be desired.
Thanks to the West Virginia Cycling Foundation, Dave Pray, Craig Slaughter, the Mountain State Wheelers and all the other volunteers that made this years ride a blast.
I was doing a little more touch-up work on some of my Black Bear photos, and this particular image really caught my eye. It's probably one of the better pan blurs I've taken in a while, and a really strong image overall.
With most of the other images that I took during the race (and in most other races as well), there's so many factors that can screw up a good picture. If I get just the right rider in front of me, someone who's lean, mean and focused on the task at hand, I screw up on my end, by not panning at the right speed, not using enough fill light, to fast/slow shutter speed - the list is endless. The way my luck usually runs, I get the all of the stars in the heavens lined up, snap the shot and it's a less than interesting rider who looks like they'd rather be mowing the grass than racing a bicycle.
Regardless, I'm happy that this young lad was riding down the trail when I did everything right. He looks intent, and very animated - focused on kicking ass and putting in the best time possible.
The annual Black Bear mountain bike race at Kanawha State Forest is typically one of the biggest bike races each year in this part of the state. Naturally, with our strapped economy and rising fuel costs, the field was a bit smaller than in years past, but several riders showed up to ride one of the toughest bike races in the state.
Kanawha State Forest has more single track in it that most other state forests in West Virginia combined, making it a very technical course with lots and lots of roots and rocks.
A true die-hard for the event is my brother Steve, who's never missed a start since the race began over two decades ago. I haven't raced it in several years, but always make it a point to go shoot some pics since it's right in our back yard.
Most other photographers that go to the Bear typically pick one of a handful of locations that have good lighting for shots - or they'll pick one of several locations that is sure to produce a rider doing a face plant. Regardless, I've always been a sucker for pan blur shots, and try to find that perfect pan blur amongst the dimly lit single track, alone and isolated from the masses. There, I can concentrate a bit better on the job at hand, and usually catch the riders in a more natural and focused state.
In years past I used only a single on-camera flash, with marginal results. To get anything that even vaguely resembles a good shot, you've got to use lots of fill light, which can often look really fake, and produce lots of hard shadows. So, to mitigate this, the last few races that I've done I've used a second slave flash on the other side of the trail, ranging from about half to one quarter power of my on-camera unit. This way, I can cast a bit more light on the subject, and well as achieve a slightly more desirable image and wash out a lot of the hard shadows.
I've been on a bird kick as of late, and I'm not exactly sure why. I've had a fascination with birds from an early age, starting all the way back when I used to bird with Harvey and Anne Shreve. But only in the last few years have I started "birding" and paying more attention to the details and mannerisms that make each species unique. I can at least contribute that to my photography, because I realize how important the details are to my success.
Recently, I also had a friend share with me a really great birding magazine called Living Bird, which is published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It's a quarterly publication that has not only some really wonderful articles, but fantastic photography.
One of their contributors and photographers is Marie Read, who's work I'm just fascinated by. She's been photographing and documenting birds for over twenty years, and her images are just unbelievable.
Seeing work like hers is just a big reminder to me that I've got a long way to go, and a whole lot left to learn.
Wow - I've seen lots of deer this year. I think I'm going to have to push up my efforts to get some decent shots of some bucks later on this fall. I've been looking all over my dad's property trying to find the perfect spot, where lighting will be good during the early morning and late evening hours, but secluded enough that the local hillbillies won't shark my camouflage blind.
Every once in a blue moon, you score a real winner, and today I was very proud to get this great shot of a Hummingbird feeding on a Cardinal Flower.
I've taken several Hummingbird shots this summer, some pretty decent, most only so-so. It's a chore to catch the little rascals while they're at the feeder, but a bigger task lies ahead if you actually want to catch one feeding in its natural environment.
Anyhow, I decided to stack the deck in my favor and head over to Nelle Chilton's pond. She's been feeding Hummingbirds for years, and has an unbelievable flower garden and pond that just keeps them coming back for more.
As summer has progressed, there's only a handful of flowers left in bloom around her pond, so I decided that I'd stalk one of the last remaining patches of Cardinal flowers in hopes of getting a few shots. Within minutes of finding a comfortable seat in the grass, I spotted this female feeding all by her lonesome. Most of the other Hummingbirds chose to fight each other at the feeders, but this one chose to feed all by herself and avoid the chaos only about fifty meters away.
About every ten to fifteen minutes she'd do a fly-by the flowers and perch in a shrub only a few meters away at the west end of the pond. After a couple of minutes of thorough observation, she'd fly over and feed at the tallest Cardinal flower on the right side of the patch, then lit over to the tallest flower on the left side of the patch.
After a few iterations of this flight path, I nudged my way into a slightly better position so that I could cover both tall flowers at either end of the patch. After a few more minutes, she returned and I was able to get this sweet shot.
Although she is heavily lit from the right side of the frame due to the setting sun, I was able to compensate with a marginal amount of fill flash, and diffused it through my handy-dandy Gary Fong flash diffuser.
This is one of those shots I've been waiting all summer for - and I'm so glad that I finally got it.
I came across this handsomely colored fella on my way back from Nelle Chilton's pond. I was able to snag several images before placing him back in the weeds, but this particular shot really stood out to me. The lines of my palm and fingers gently pull the eye back towards our brightly orange colored friend, and gives the image a particularly nice sense of scale.
I caught this little fawn today peering through the brush, in a very dimly lit area. Although the image is a bit noisy due to the high ISO and heavily back lit, I still kinda like it.
I was flipping through some of my images this afternoon, and I couldn't believe that I had forgotten to post this picture of Sherman Spurlock and his new pup, Nikki.
Spurlock lives a mile or so around the hill from my dad's house. My father often goes over to visit with him and "shoot the shit" as they like to say. A couple of days ago I decided to go as well, because I'd heard that he had a new pup, and naturally couldn't resist taking some shots.
Bill wasn't all that satisfied with the last group of photos that I took for him, and frankly, I wasn't either. The lighting was crappy, and I had loaned one of my flashes to a friend who was vacationing, so overall, the first shoot was a bust. A cook is only as good as his ingredients, and I had set myself up for failure before even leaving the house.
I don't do a lot of portrait photography, and for good reason. The shots that I was happy with, Bill didn't like, and naturally the ones he liked, I thought were crap. Regardless, it was up to me to calm his lawyer nerves and present a photograph that he would be happy with, and fit his needs.
Anyhow, I decided to run by his office again this morning and take a few more shots, this time with a bit more success.
Not everyone gets to be the astronaut, and in my case, not the professional photographer. I stalked this hawk for several minutes, trying to position myself close enough to get a decent shot, and not so close that I spook it before snapping at least a few frames.
Stealthily, I made way towards my quarry, angling myself for proper lighting. Just as the lens was pulling into focus, it leaped from its branch, leaving me with nothing but a shot of its ass.
This one got away, but there's always tomorrow....
I decided to take Thursday off this week and go fishing with my buddy Joe Lewis. Big Joe and I hadn't fished together in a long time because he moved to Missoula, Montana several years ago, and has only recently moved back to West Virginia.
Summer fishing is never an easy task (at least here in WV), but it was great to spend a day on the water and unwind. I ended up catching one nice Rainbow Trout, and missed several others. Joe caught six because an absolute fishing machine. So, if I infer a little Bill Murray arithmetic on the equation, we caught seven "between us" - and that just sounds a whole lot better.
Now that Joe's back in town, I can't wait for Fall to come so we can hit some more of our favorite fishing spots.
I noticed an insulated package sitting on my back porch the other day after I got home from work. Vaguely, I remembered that my wife Andrea had ordered some frozen mice to feed our pet corn snake. As I was getting ready to pitch it out in the trash, I noticed that there were several blocks of dry ice that were still in the box, and hadn't yet melted. Naturally, one thing led to another, and I decided to have a little fun and try to get some high speed frozen (no pun intended) images of the dry ice reacting with water. This isn't exactly the image that I had in mind when I started this madness, but it's still a pretty cool shot regardless.