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Author Archives: Dan Welihan
These classes introduce newcomers to digital photography and cameras. It can also be helpful to long-time photographers who want to brush up on their skills. I hope you will join me at one of these two upcoming programs.
The class will be held at the Cheboygan Area Public Library, 100 S. Bailey St. Classes start May 2, 2017, each session runs from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM.
There will be four sessions and a separate afternoon or early evening photo shoot. Each session covers a different area of digital photography and is loaded with tips and useful information to improve your photo technique.
Here is a synopsis of the program:
Class #1 Digital Photography Basics – May 2, 2017
As the title states, in this class we explore the basics you need to know about digital cameras and photography. Topics start with photo terminology, digital camera features and functions. Then we explore how the digital sensor, shutter speed, aperture size and light work together to make a photo image. I discuss how color temperature and white balance affect your images; how and when to use auto modes or preset scene modes and the most important items to have in your camera bag. If you have a digital camera, bring it and the instruction manual to class.
Class #2 Photo Composition & Creativity – May 16, 2017
The second class begins with a discussion on six photo characteristics that add visual appeal to your images. Then I show how to place the subject in way that adds additional interest in your photos. Next we discuss how to frame, balance and simplify your images; steady the shot; change camera settings that change the look of your photo and when and where to use flash. We look at some “bad” photos and discuss how to improve them. We look at many more “good” photos to inspire your creativity. If you want to learn how to create photos that impress your family and friends, this is your class.
Class #3 Camera to Computer – Image Organization and Storage – May 23, 2017
People have told me this is the class they wish they attended before downloading their first images. Why? Because they have no idea where images are stored in their computer and, worst of all, where to find them. That problem is fixed with this class. You will learn how to move images from camera to computer and how to effectively set up a system for photo storage and retrieval. I discuss why keywords and tags are important and demonstrate an easy-to-use and free photo management program. If you have images in your camera or computer and don’t know what to do next, this class is for you.
Class #4 Presentations, Prints, Smartphone Use and a Friendly Critique – May 30, 2017
I will show how to create photo presentations that can be set to music, photo books for gifts or to display on your coffee table and the best way to make your own prints. (Remember prints?) It’s said the best camera is the one that’s with you and for most people that is a smartphone. And while the average person take 150 photos a month with a smartphone, most of those images are just… average. Learn tips and tricks that improve your smartphone photos. We end the class with a slide show of images made by class participants. You do not have to submit photos to attend, but it will be more fun if you do.
During the first class, we will schedule an afternoon or early evening photo shoot to be held between the second and fourth classes. This will give students the opportunity to practice newfound techniques. There is no charge for the photo shoot, but you must enroll in the first or second class to attend.
Each digital photography class is limited to twenty students and pre-registration is required There is a modest cost for each class that is paid to the library. Attendance at all four classes is not required, but each class builds on information covered in previous classes and so I strongly recommend students attend all four classes.
To register for the Cheboygan library class call: (231) 627-2381.
Hope to see you there… Dan
The sun has been shining and temperatures hovered in the mid-forties for the past few days. Not bad for December in northern Michigan. Even so, this late in the year the pickings are sparse, and the birds appreciate the seed we put in the feeders. I appreciate them stopping by during the day so I can make some images.
So as part of the deal with the birds, I took photos as they pecked at the seed. I used my 200 – 500mm lens on my Sony A77 (Factoring in the crop factor, I effectively have a 300 – 750mm of lens.) and from the comfort of our kitchen made these shots over the past couple of days. I adjusted my shutter speed between 1/500 and 1/1000, set the aperture at f11 and (because the birds were fluttering in and out of the sun and shade) set ISO on auto.
Here are handful of the shots I liked.
December 8, 2015
If you are under thirty years old, the name Carl Sagan may not ring a bell. But if you watched the 1980 original Cosmos TV series hosted and co-written by Dr. Sagan, you would likely remember him as America’s premiere astronomer, astrophysicist and popular science author of the seventies, eighties and into the 1990’s. I met Dr. Sagan several years before his untimely death in 1996. One thing I’m pretty sure of, that meeting would never have happened if I didn’t have a camera with me.
In the mid-1980’s my wife, Joanne, made plans to attend a conference where Dr. Sagan was the keynote speaker. As a long-time Carl Sagan fan, I begged to tag along, Joanne agreed and we made our way to St. Louis. I was thrilled with the opportunity to hear Dr. Sagan speak. As it turned out, so were a couple thousand other people who got to the auditorium before us. We got in, but just barely. Our balcony seats were in the very last row.
Dr. Sagan spoke for about forty-five minutes. He told stories of NASA, how he helped Apollo astronauts prepare for extended space flight and, of course, the Cosmos as in the universe around us and his TV series. It was great.
After the talk most people filed out and headed to meetings. A few dozen moved to the edge of the stage where Dr. Sagan took questions. Joanne headed to her next meeting and I headed to the stage floor. It took several minutes, but I made it to the stage area where Dr. Sagan was still on the stage talking.
But, I was at the back of the pack, barely able to hear his comments. The crowd had grown in numbers and my prospects of getting closer were not likely to improve. To my right at the side of the theater, I spotted steps that led onto the stage and I got an idea. As I headed for the steps, I pulled my Minolta XD-11 from my camera bag. Bounding up the steps I flicked on the camera and walked out onto the stage. Just like I knew what I was doing.
At the center of the stage, crouched on one knee, was Dr. Sagan. I walked to within five feet of him and also dropped down. He looked at me, apparently thought nothing of it and continued his conversation with the people below us on the auditorium floor. From my new vantage point I could see and hear Dr. Sagan much better.
Unfortunately, the stage lights had been turned off, the auditorium lights were dim and my camera was loaded with Kodachrome 64 slide film. Not a good combination. I knew my prospects for a good picture in such low light were slim, so I faked it. I raised the camera to my eye, framed, focused, steadied the camera as best I could and began taking his picture. At any moment, I expected a beefy stage hand would grab me by the collar, haul me backstage and deposit me in a trash bin. It was a risk worth taking, because there I was on the stage with Carl Sagan.
To my surprise, nobody tried to haul me away. After about five minutes, a woman walked out on stage. She also ignored me and instead told Dr. Sagan it was time for him to leave. The crowd on the auditorium floor gave a collective groan as Sagan stood. He gave an apologetic shrug and turned to walk off stage… in my direction. I stood, began to walk with Dr. Sagan and asked him a question about his speech. Unbelievably, he gave me an answer. At the side of the stage a security person joined our walk. He directed Sagan, and me, out the stage door and into a hallway that led to Sagan’s car.
It was thirty feet or so down the hallway and I knew that short walk was all the time I had left. Quickly, I asked another question and Sagan gave me an answer. It was like we were two pals in a regular conversation. (I wish remembered my questions and his answers, but I have no recollection. I’m sure we were both great.)
A few steps from the door, I dropped my photojournalist shtick and blurted out how much I enjoyed his Cosmos TV show and books. Then, like the Sagan junkie I was, I pulled a small notebook from my back pocket, flipped it to a blank page and asked for his autograph. His escort, in full security mode, scowled.
Dr. Sagan stopped, signed the page, handed back my notebook, then reached out and shook my hand. The escort stepped ahead and opened the door to the outside. Sagan walked toward the door. Waived off by the security officer, I stopped. When Sagan reached the door, he turned back toward, raisied his hand said, “I wish you good luck.”
Those last seconds are crystal clear in my mind. The light in the hallway was much better than the light on the stage and there was Carl Sagan smiling and waving at me. A really good photographer would have seized the moment and snapped off a couple of shots. Instead, I smiled and waved back.
(I rummaged through several old photo boxes to find the “best” bad shot I took that day. Dr. Sagan’s autograph is framed and kept on the bookshelf next to my desk.)
November 5, 2015
I have been thinking about getting back to this blog for a few weeks. This morning I woke up with the Willie Nelson song, “Funny How Time Slips Away” rolling around in my head. I figured something inside me was saying “Get busy!” So here I am again.
It’s not like I have been lazy, procrastinating or easily distracted. (All which, in my case, are good possibilities.) The reason has been “health issues.” I use that term because I haven’t considered myself sick, but in a long state of recovery. Let me give you the short version. (Trust me, you don’t want the long version.)
In November of last year I had a colonoscopy. (Yup. It’s one of those stories.) A tumor was discovered and in mid-December I had surgery that removed the tumor and the cancer cells it contained. After the operation my surgeon stopped to tell me how well the surgery went and that I was, to the best of his ability, cancer free. We talked for a while and just before he left he said. “While I was in there, I saw something on your pancreas that you need to have checked.” So I did.
It took a few months and several trips to meet with a surgical oncologist in Detroit before a second surgery was performed in June to remove a growth on my pancreas. The arduous surgery removed the lesion along with a third of the pancreas. The ducts that supply insulin and enzymes to the small intestine were also removed and subsequently rebuilt. The abnormal cells growing in the lesion turned out to be pre-cancerous. In layman’s term, that means the lesion wasn’t cancerous… yet. Given a couple years or so to fester it would have become pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is generally asymptomatic and not often detected until long term survival is unlikely.
I had been told to expect a long and difficult recovery from the second surgery, but it turned out to be much more than we expected. I was released from the hospital, twice, and relapsed, twice. Both times requiring emergency room and Intensive Care Unit intervention to ensure my survival. By the time I made it home I had lost thirty pounds, had no appetite, was still on antibiotics and unable to walk more ten steps without needing a rest.
It definitely took a while, but since August I have been recovering nicely. I gained back my usual more than healthy appetite and gained back half of the weight I lost. By September I was able to walk around the neighborhood on my own and eventually could walk two to three miles per outing. In mid-September, four months after the pancreatic surgery and with surgeon’s approval, I rejoined our local fitness club and workout there three days a week. I feel fine and am getting stronger every day. For the record, I am very grateful to the surgical team and nurses for their medical expertise, my family for their love and support and most of all my wife Joanne for getting me through the ordeal.
Since returning home, I have spent many hours reflecting on what my situation might be, or soon would become, had I not gotten the colonoscopy. The procedure started difficult wheels in motion, but in the long run saved my life twice and I wake up each morning with the score, Dan: 2, cancer: 0. So, in my mind, the moral of this story is this… Talk with your doctor and if recommended, get a colonoscopy.
(Sorry, but all the above was just the set-up for perhaps the worst segue ever.) Speaking of reflecting…
Joanne and I were in Frankenmuth, Michigan a few weeks ago and while walking the covered bridge that crosses the Cass River, we looked back at the Bavarian Inn and saw the makings of a nice photo. (Photographer, Chase Jarvis couldn’t have been the first person to say it, but he did write the book titled “The Best Camera Is the One You Have With You,” so he gets the credit, even though it’s going cause some people to grind their teeth in disdain.) The only camera I had with me was my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone and with that I took the image of the hotel, trees and a great reflection on the river.
I like the image better with the reflection on top. But I’m funny like that sometimes…
November 2, 2015
It’s been a week and a half since the July 4th and I finally found the USA t-shirt I wanted to wear on the holiday. It’s the one shirt I keep in a special place so I can easily find it on the one day a year I wear it. Couldn’t lay my hands on it July 4th, but stumbled right onto it yesterday. It was in a pretty good spot at the bottom of a box where I keep my old t-shirts. Had I looked in the box I am sure I would have found it. I just tucked the box away too well. So I put it back in the box and have every hope of finding it next summer. (Somebody remind me about July 1 next year, where I put it.)
We had a lot of fun with family and friends over the holiday. We went to the local parade, the grandkids did some fishing -and catching too. We ate a lot of good food, toasted marshmallows in our fire pit and, in the evening, drove back into to town to watch a terrific fireworks display.
The 4th of July is a colorful holiday with all the reds, whites and blues and I took a lot of pictures. But my favorite image (below) was close to my last shot of the day as the fireworks was winding down. It was okay in color, but when I stripped out the color, I found something different… blacks and whites instead of the rocket’s red glare.
It was the end of a good day for our country and with our family.
An Easter highlights at our home has always been homemade sweet bread. There may be another name for it, but Joanne follows an old family recipe and that’s all the family has ever called it. If there’s another name, we don’t know it.
Joanne use to make the bread a few days before Easter. But, now the kids are grown. Most are living downstate with kids of their own and there’s not the same rush to get bread made. So yesterday afternoon she pulled out her mixer and baking pans and started the annual bread making process.
Once the dough is mixed, kneaded and placed in pans the loaves begin to rise and our home fills with that unmistakable yeasty aroma. It’s second only to the smell of the bread baking in the oven.
Joanne doesn’t make as many loaves as when the kids were home, but she makes enough for us to enjoy for several days. She freezes a few loaves, so we can have it for another month or so by raiding the freezer. She also gave a couple loaves to neighbors, so she still makes quite a bit.
The bread is great warm and just a few minutes out of the oven. It makes great toast for breakfast slathered with strawberry-rhubarb jam and is actually just great any time. Like right now!
I’m done here and heading for the kitchen for a slice… maybe two.
The temperature outside is only 21 f., but the sun is shining, ice is melting off the roof and it sure seems a lot better than last week. We are taking it all (especially the melting ice) as a sign. I’m not saying what that sign is just yet (I don’t want to jinx anything), but this could be “it.”
With as long as winter has lasted here, they’ve had more of it farther north in Paradise, Michigan. We drove to Paradise on Thursday and talked with a few locals. The folks we talked with were all two or three feet more tired of winter than us. And it shows.
The reason for our trip was not just to check the stamina for the good people of Paradise, but to see the Tahquamenon Falls in winter. We turned west at the north end of town and followed M-123 about ten miles farther west to the Upper Falls. It was well worth the drive. Lunch at the brewpub was good too.
In our previous life, I held fast to a philosophy of never shoveling snow after March 1.
It just didn’t make sense. Downstate, when it snows in March, it melts fast and is gone in a day or two. And, to the best of my recollection I only had to compromise my rationalization a couple of times.
There was St. Patrick’s Day 1973 when more than a foot of snow fell overnight. It was still snowing when I woke up that morning to the roar of a snow mobile in front of the duplex. Not a normal street sounds inside the city limits where I lived. It was a day before the street was plowed and it took me about that long to clear the driveway.
The other time was in the mid-nineties. I don’t recall the exact depth, but the snow was piled high enough that my neighbor, a good fifteen years my senior, offered me the use of his snow blower. “My cardiologist says every man over fifty ought to use a snow blower.” he told me, “Just bring it back when you’re done.”
I was only forty-eight at the time, but saw no advantage in putting too fine a point on the issue and accepted his offer.
Of course, things are different here north of the 45th parallel. I know I must remove snow from the driveway in March. But, it was difficult for me, on March 1, to consider removing snow from the roof of our home. I balked at first, but in the end took into account the near record snow fall this winter; the lack of any mid-winter thaw that would have reduced the snow load on the roof; daily temperatures still hovering in the single digits and, of course, the always wise counsel of my wife.
So we hired a couple of guys for the job.
No, I did not attempt the task myself; I am well over fifty and know better. Plus, there was no way I could get my snow blower on the roof. Here a few images of what the process looked like at both houses…
(And I don’t care what happens, I am not shoveling snow in April!)
This past Sunday, I was invited to tag along with a handful of Audubon Society members for an impromptu photo shoot along the Cheboygan River. Led by local birding “phenom,” Steve Baker, the group met at Washington Park where we took shots of several varieties of ducks and a few swans. From there we worked our way south along the river stopping at a half dozen other riverside sites ending near the M-33 bridge. It was great fun and I was pleased to have been invited.
The shoot started with overcast skies, but the clouds soon dissipated giving us a mostly sunny afternoon. The sunshine not only brought out the plumage on some of the birds, but also perked up winter-weary photographers.
From the start, I struggled with my Sony a7. I bought the camera just a couple days before and this was my first adventure in the field. In bright sunlight, I had difficulty seeing images on the LCD screen. (Which is standard with an LCD screen in bright sun.) What really bothered me was the minimal visibility through the electronic viewfinder.
I knew there had to be a camera setting to fix the situation, but while in the hunt I just couldn’t find it. (Can I say “hunt” around my Audubon friends?)
So, I faked it, tried not to complain too much in front of the others and managed to get a few usable shots. (Thank you back-button focus…)
Once home, indoors and out of the sun, I located the camera set-up page and a “monitor brightness” setting called “sunny weather” (Check ON) and a “Viewfinder Brightness” manual adjustment. (Increase +2)
I ventured out in the sunshine yesterday and discovered when properly adjusted for sun and snow I could see images on the LCD -pretty much- and EVF work well… and that was a big relief.
Tom Cadwalader (L) and Steve Baker “focused” on their photos