Monday, August 31, 2009

Boxley Valley morning

During a recent photo scouting trip to Newton County in northwest Arkansas, I spent a couple mornings shooting the country scenes of Boxley Valley which is just south of Ponca along Highways 43 and 21.

I was using a Sony alpha 200 on auto setting to shoot in early morning fog, rising sun, and then normal light conditions.

Here are a few of the shots and some info about them.....

A lone bull elk feeds in a farmer's pasture along the Buffalo National River at daylight. Elk will be entering the rut season in a few weeks and bulls will be bugling to attract cows and challenge any young interlopers who might pose a threat to leadership.

The best times for viewing elk in the valley and near Ponca is at daylight and just before sunset.

PHOTO NOTE: For best photos of elk along the river, a 300 mm or better zoom lens is best. Sometimes the herds will drift close to the fence line and offer an easy shot, but not often.
With the low light of morning (or evening) the camera ISO setting can be raised to a higher number, but a tripod or padded fence post is recommended to prevent camera shake and blur.

Ducks of several species frequent a marshy area along Highway 21 in Boxley Valley. It is not unusual to see geese and even swans at daylight and late evening.
PHOTO NOTE: Watch out for sun glare when shooting across water. You may have to narrow your sight picture to crop out the harsh sun rays coming into the camera or the intense sunspot on the water.

This lone morning glory vine along a farmer's fence offered a few sparse spots of color in an otherwise sea of green foliage.

Large, older barns like this one are common in the Boxley Valley area. Many are close to the highway like this one and make for easy shots. However, many of them have a lot of farm clutter that can distract from the rustic beauty of the structure.
The view through the hay mow of this barn shows a herd of cattle grazing along the Buffalo River.
Cattle and elk share the same graze land without too much trouble, but seldom do you ever see them in the same fields.

What country farm scene would be complete without a cat? This youngster was curled up asleep at the base of a fence post and followed me for nearly a quarter mile up and down the roadway, sometimes stopping to poke around in tall grass for a field mouse.

PHOTO NOTE: Whenever possible, try to shoot animals in as natural type setting as possible. This cooperative little critter seemed to like the attention I was giving and even let me place it on top of the hay for what looks like a posed "look at me" shot.......NEVER TRY TO PICK UP A WILD ANIMAL, AND BE CAREFUL OF OTHERS YOU DON'T KNOW.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

USS Razorback

The stainless steel steps in the ladder-well of the aft hatch of the ancient diesel class World War II submarine are worn smooth by numerous feet on untold missions all over the world.

They lead down to a dim and once-ominous world of danger.

That feeling is enhanced when you add the faint odors of various oils and greases emanating from now silent engines, along with the sight of massive torpedoes filling the cramped space.

Welcome to the USS Razorback (SS 394).

A visit to this war sub from a bygone era was the highlight of a recent vacation trip to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in Little Rock, AR.

The decorated war sub (named after a species of whale, not hogs), served combat roles in World War II and Vietnam.

Launched in 1944, the USS Razorback entered Tokyo Harbor in 1945 and participated in the formal surrender of Japan at the end of WWII.

The Razorback was awarded five battle stars in the Pacific Theater in WWII and four stars during the Vietnam War where it participated in many covert operations with Special Forces troops, including Navy Seals. The vintage sub was also very active in the Cold War as well.

Many of the files regarding these special ops are still classified as “Top Secret,” though some files have been declassified and are available for public viewing on the Internet.

This honored veteran also served two nations, the U.S. and more recently Turkey, before it became a historical attraction at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock.

The sub is rated as 90 percent functional — international law required the removal of propellers and batteries since it is a weapon of war and owned by a city. The Razorback has an overall length of just over 311 feet with a beam of just 27 feet and boasts 10, 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Currently tied to the dock and manned only by tourists and occasional military veterans groups, in its day the Razorback routinely dove to its capable depth of 400 feet during combat maneuvers.

Its crew of 75-90 men lived in Spartan conditions, including sleeping in berths just inches above racks of live torpedoes, as well as sharing just two showers and four toilets.

Deployments at sea usually averaged 45 days during wartime.

As you make your way to the forward hatch along narrow passageways, a myriad of gauges and handles, most still bearing identification tags written in Turkish, are within inches of your face.

And as you learn how to maneuver through the sub’s many hatches, you also realize there were probably no tall, fat submariners on the Razorback.

The maritime museum boasts a large collection of artifacts from the Razorback, including the ship’s original bell donated by its last American captain.

Several souvenirs are also available, from caps and T-shirts to stamped dog tags for the kids.

Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children 12 and younger, for military (past or present) and seniors 62 plus.

The maritime group in charge of the sub is also in the process of restoring a section of berths to serviceable condition and offers special “sleep overs” on the sub for Boy Scout, church and veterans groups.

Outside the museum are the large brass propellers from the sub, along with a large deck gun representative of the type that once adorned the deck of the Razorback and other submarines and warships.

PHOTO NOTES: Camera used for submarine shots, Sony Alpha 200 with 18-75 zoom lens and regular flash.Lighting inside sub, although dim by outdoor standards, was sufficient and a larger flash was not needed. Even a small point and shoot camera should take excellent shots inside the submarine and the museum.

Whether you are an Ark. native, or a visitor to our wonderful Natural State, make sure a tour of the Razorback is part of your agenda.

And as the sailors always say, "Fair winds and following seas!"

(published with permission from the Batesville Daily Guard)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cameras and eyeglasses

Anyone who doesn't have to wear eyeglasses should count their blessings, especially if they use a camera or computer very much.

As a wearer of eyeglasses since a youngster, I can tell you they are a hassle when trying to focus on a computer screen with small fonts and then look down at your key board.

A few years ago I started having trouble seeing my computer screen and the proofing pages at the newspaper where I work. This was a real problem.

I had my eyes checked, the eye doc gave me stronger bifocals, different size bifocals, triple focals, you name, he tried it. And even though I took samples of my newspaper proof pages, measured how far it was from my nose to the computer screen, what size font I had to work with, etc., nothing seemed to help. Until I voiced my frustration to Velvet Prewitt at Velvet's Optique in Batesville, AR.

With a just 20 minute visit to my desk on her way to work one morning, she took a few measurements, made a few notes and within just days I had a pair of mid-range computer glasses with bifocals that allow me to see the computer screen perfectly while retaining my reading ability of smaller print with the bifocals. My long distance vision is affected slightly, but inside an office setting I seldom notice the difference.

If you wear prescription sunglasses, you know the lens darkness can be so complete that peripheral light around the glasses can be so strong as to make you squint more than if you were wearing clear lenses in bright sun.

And the transitional lens that change in sunlight, and cold weather, can be a hassle too. In addition to staying dark on cloudy, cold days, you will often find yourself needing to take your glasses off when trying to use a camera's viewfinder because you can't be sure the exposure is right looking through dark lens.

These too were problems I had dealt with over the years all to no avail until again I talked to Velvet. Although her office doesn't do eye exams, she has been filling my optical prescriptions for years and has saved me lots of money on quality eye wear and knows what my day to day routine consists of.

The solution she found for this particular problem was to go to "tinted" prescription glasses with UV protection. I was able to choose the tint color and the darkness of the lens that serves me best. I chose a light to medium green tint and was able to put the new lens in an old frame, thus saving myself more big bucks.

This particular tint serves me well for everyday sunglasses, but when it comes time to take a photo, I still have enough clarity while focusing that I can pretty well tell what the exposure looks like without taking off my glasses.

I have found that eyeglasses, computers and cameras can coexist in a world of computers and cameras. Like a lot of things in life, it's just a matter of finding the right problem solver.

Monday, August 3, 2009

July 2009 is history! And what a busy month it was.
Working in a small town newspaper (Batesville Daily Guard) keeps everyone hopping to try to cover all the local events.

Of course July 4 was a big deal for everyone locally (Batesville, AR.) and culminated with a big fireworks show on the banks of the beautiful White River.

The explosions in the sky were great, and the reflections on the water, along with the smoke cloud that hung in the air added to the thrill of the event.

The 4th was my first opportunity to shoot fireworks with my digital SLR camera (Sony Alpha 200). But with a good advantage point and a decent lens I was able to get a few good shots. My biggest drawback was that the rockets weren't getting much altitude before exploding.

I used a tripod, slowed my camera shutter speed and used a 2 second timer delay to allow me to get my hands off the camera and prevent camera shake. To do this properly I needed a remote release, but that isn't in my arsenal yet as it is an infrequent need right now.

The next big event in July was the Independence County Fair which ran the week of July 21- 25.

Monday was fair booth set up day for the Guard staff, along with tieing up loose ends for sponsors. There were different events every day, including the traditional livestock, produce, crafts, photography judging, and of course a big midway full of rides! A fair goer registers for free gas at the GUARD booth.....note the special awards for achievements on the walls .......

The highlight of the fair for me was the first, and hopefully not last, Veterans Appreciation Day from 9-noon Saturday. Traveling Veterans Memorial displays 99 flags/photos, representing Arkansas soldiers that have died since 9-11-01.

Members of our local National Guard unit, Co. B were recognized for their service in the mid east and welcomed home. SSGT Jay Tipton addresses the gathered veterans.

Also recognized, or honored, were veterans from all branches of the services that served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and most recently Iraqi Freedom. Those who have served on home turf were also honored.

Robert Hopper of Forrest City, AR. was present with his Traveling Memorial display. It consists of 99 American flags, posted with the names/photos of Arkansas soldiers who have died in service to their country since 9-11-01.

Robert lost a son in Iraq a few years ago and felt that our soldiers weren't being recognized properly and started the traveling memorial in honor of his son and others who have died.

In photo at right, Batesville Mayor
Rick Elumbaugh honors returning
soldiers from Iraq, (far right) soldiers close service.

*******Donations to the memorial may be made at.....
Arkansas Fallen Heroes Memorial
1588 S F C 340
Forrest City, AR. 72335

Each night also featured different musical entertainment, with the Saturday night headliner being country/pop singer Ronnie McDowell. He had a great show, still the same energetic, crowd pleasing entertainer I had the pleasure to MC for some 30 years ago in Clinton, IA. when I was a country DJ at KLNT.

Immediately after the Independence County Fair closed, the Sharp County Fair in nearby Ash Flat area began its run, leaning heavily towards livestock exhibition and competition.

Next it was time to gear up for the 66th annual White River Water Carnival, July 31-Aug.1, complete with golf tournament, beauty pageants, local "White River's Got Talent" contest....congratulations to winner Shane Sturdivant....and the biggest draw of all, A PARADE!

With a theme relating to famous U.S. Route 66, to keep with the 66th annual event, floats and entries paraded (no pun intended) down Main Street Saturday morning as thousands of people lined the streets.

For the second year in a row, and a huge success, the Guard sponsored a "Wet Zone" in an attempt to put the "water" back into the water carnival celebration.

The creativity of the newspaper's Ross Jones last year with the crazy water spraying van, was expanded on this year with air powered water canons, all to the delight of the crowds that lined the street in the "wet zone".

Being smarter that the average parade photographer, I positioned myself on a boom lift high above the parade (and any squirt gun that might get pointed my way) for some neat photos.

Just in case the threatening rains prevailed, or a lucky shot from a water canon came my way, I used a rain sleeve to protect my camera. If you ever shoot in wet conditions, rain, snow, water sports or wild parades, this little $8 (pack of 2) gadget is a must have.

Our idea of a wet zone was so popular that a photo of our company van got featured on the cover of our local/regional phone book! That's almost as good as the thrill of a picture on Rolling Stone!

Another big part of the water carnival is a carnival and water show at Riverside Park on the White River....among the talent there was CJ Robey (left in duo) and Mary Wood giving ski demonstrations and pro wake boarder Rusty Elumbaugh catching air.......

So, thankful that July is over, August should offer some R&R time, perhaps a camping/photo trip along a trout stream or a remote spot on the Buffalo National River valley......(fair and water carnival photos by Tony McGuffey, used with permission from Batesville Daily Guard newspaper)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to shoot and sell incident photos to local newspapers

It's evening rush hour, the aroma of pizza fills your car as you head home, you turn the corner and suddenly right in front of you is a three-car pileup with emergency workers swarming everywhere.

Looking around for an alternative route, you notice no one is taking pictures. This is where you grab your digital camera off the seat beside you and go to work!

Action shots from a wreck, fire, flood,
blizzard, etc. could put money in your pocket.
Although newspapers have their own staff, they are often stretched to the limit and can't be everywhere at once, or they re so far away they arrive too late to get all the good action shots. That's when being at the right place at the right time can pay off. But there's more to it than just being in the right place.

Contact the editors of your local papers ahead of time to see what their policy is for accepting submitted photos. If they are willing to accept your photos, find out what their pay scale is. Usually they pay for only what gets published. And until you establish a reputation as a good source of photos, don't look for much,
or photo credit on your work.

Chances are there are low key sporting and community events that aren't covered by the paper on a regular basis. These events are good place to improve your photography skills and perhaps sell a few shots to gain acceptance by a newspaper. Remember, action is key.

Once you know your photos have a chance of being used, stay alert to what's happening around you and keep your camera loaded with a large capacity memory card and fresh batteries.

It doesn't have to be an expensive camera, but a mega pixel value of 7 or better is recommended, along with a 12 power zoom lens. With these cameras the print quality is very good, even up to poster size, and the zoom ability allows you to make tight, close-up shots without getting in the way of emergency workers.

No matter how good your camera is, the final results rests with your ability to compose your shots. You need to develop an "eye" for good shots and remember, "action" is the key element for photos used by newspapers.
As you approach your (photo) target area, staying on public property, take wide angle shots, shooting everything you see, like accident debris strewn along a highway, victims sitting at the side of the street holding a bandage to their head or bystanders trying to console family members or victims at a fire. NEVER, I REPEAT, NEVER TAKE PHOTOS OF A DECEASED PERSON AT AN ACCIDENT SCENE! Not only is this in poor taste, it can get you sued in a heart beat!

Next, narrow your focus to close-in action shots of paramedics loading patients onto ambulances or helicopters. Firefighters, using the "jaws of life" to pry open doors to free trapped victims, always makes a good shot.

Look at the faces, expressions of strain, concentration, pain or anxiety can say volumes. But, be careful not to let your enthusiasm get you into trouble or hurt.

Stay out of harms way, whether from a burning building, gun fire, fights, speeding traffic or a limp fire hose that suddenly whips about when instantly charged with hundreds of pounds of water pressure per square inch (it can snap a leg like a toothpick).

Also, stay on public property, sidewalks, streets, city parking lots, etc. Don't go onto private property without permission. Get the name of the person giving you permission to enter private property and make a note of it somewhere, along with the time and location.

Get to know as many firefighters, policemen, rescue workers, paramedics and utility workers as possible. Don't expect them to bend the rules for you, but if they know you and you mind your P's and Q's, they are less likely to run you off and may give you an on-scene tip once in awhile.

At first you might want to make available to the editor a copy (burn a CD/DVD) of every photo you have and let them pick and choose. Then as you gain more experience, you do the picking and choosing, giving you more control of your work.

As you improve, start looking to larger newspapers when you come across a story that is worthy of state-wide attention.
Occasionally, insurance companies may to come to you willing to pay good money for photos that can help their case. Especially in wrongful-death suits resulting from auto accidents, etc. These prices sometimes are negotiable, but don't get greedy. In a large city there could be repeat business from these agents.

Warning, being in the right place at the right time is one thing, and chasing police cars, fire trucks and ambulances with a police scanner is something else.
If you employ a scanner to alert you to a nearby incident, remember to obey all traffic laws while en route. You are a private citizen and don't have special privileges that allow you to run red lights, bust stop signs and drive 90 miles an hour in city traffic.

Once near the scene, park away from the incident and walk in, don't add to the traffic congestion. Follow directions and orders of emergency workers on the scene, they are in charge. If they need you to hold the end of a roll of caution tape, do it. Learn to take photos with one hand.

Since you are at a scene in no official capacity, you might want to try this little trick to give you some breathing room. Wear a ball cap or reflective utility vest bearing the word PHOTOGRAPHER.

Remember, determine if there is a market, submit as much as you can, perfect your technique (take photography classes if necessary), and always look for another market that will allow you to expand.

Good fire photos, showing flames and action, are always in demand. In daytime these are fairly easy to obtain, just concentrate on composition.

But at night, well that's another story. Here lighting/exposure is critical. This means you will have to have a stronger flash than just the pop-up, strong light from another source or putting your camera on a tripod (recommended ) and bumping up the ISO setting to 800 or better.

Once you have stabilized the camera and increased ISO, set your camera's self timer to 2 to 10 seconds, focus, push the button and immediately remove your hands to avoid camera shake which results in blurry photos.

Another technique that often works with a tripod mounted camera is to simply turn the flash off and use what light is available.

Notice the reflective strips and letters on firefighters turnout gear, too much flash and they will wash out your shot, a lot if it is trial and error, so take lots of pics with different settings.

And remember......Keep your batteries hot and pack a big card.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

T Mac Photos

Welcome to the first posting at T Mac Photos, the site all about photography, the outdoors, travel, and people who love to do them all.

On this blog I hope to share some of the photos and information about trips that my number one assistant (wife Roberta) and I have had the fun of making over the past couple of years. Trips include many in the Natural State of Arkansas, like Pedestal Rock at Pulsar, the bluffs at Calico Rock along the White River, (shown above) as well as cross country road trips into places like South Dakota and Wyoming.
(moose in Snake River, Teton National Park)

I've recently had the privilege of passing on my love of photography and the outdoors by teaching "basic beginning photography" classes at the Batesville Area Arts Council.

Students in every class are great to work with, and it's really rewarding when someone finds the answer to a photo problem they have been dealing with or discover one of the "neat" settings on their camera for the first time, or learn how to overcome lighting problems by simply chan
ging a camera setting or using the reflective sun shield from their car.

One recent student was ecstatic when she learned how to slow water flow to obtain a silky effect. And, during the class field trip, it was hard to get her away from the gushing Blanchard Spring Cave and nearby Mirror Lake waterfalls (shown here).

Other students have told me that just learning how to find and use their camera's menu settings has given them a whole new perspective on photography, and freed them from the "auto" setting forever.

From time-to-time, we will be sharing with you some of the photo tips and techniques used in those classes, I hope some of them will help you take better pictures.

Also, watch for a schedule of guided fall (2009) photo tours coming up in the
Ozarks around Batesville, and the Boxley Valley area (including Hawksbill Crag-right) along the Buffalo National River in Newton County, AR.

Thanks for visiting us and come back often, Tony.