Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Entropy in photography? Well, entropy is a concept in physics and chemistry, the second law of thermodynamics, and in information theory, the latter explained here. And the photo above? Well, two thoughts occurred to me when taking this photo. First, what the machine does, and second, what's the optimium way to get a photograph of it.

This machine runs along a line of tracks checking and redriving the spikes into the bed. It's kinda interesting to watch as all of sudden you hear and feel a loud "ping" which runs down the rail, a long reverberation you hear first then feel in your feet standing next to the tracks racing away down the track. That's a lot of energy to just do one thing, drive a spike into the ground, and a lot of energy just going into space for a simple act done a century ago by manual labor.

And photography? Well, a photographer has two choices with an image. He could take one to a few images and work them in Photoshop to do the bulk of the work, or he could take a lot of shots, called bracketing where you take the same image through the range of exposures and settings. The former is used by some who set their camera on automatic and hope it turns out, or if you're really good, by professionals who know what they're doing. The latter is used by most knowing one or a few will work, or also by professionals who know what they're doing but want insurance.

The thought of entropy here is simply where is the optimium work being done and where will you spend time and energy on the image to find you're past the point of diminishing returns, shown in concept here. In the field, it's a matter of thinking the scene and taking lots of shots. In the office, it's a matter of working to fix an image that wasn't quite right.

It is rare you take one image that works with little effort, not even in large format photography where you actually spend a lot of time and work on both ends because you usually only take 1-3 shots (sheets). You have to think through both ends and get it right. With digital cameras and photo editors, you have a lot of options, and where you want to put your energy, without passing the peak where you're caught in the entropy of your own work.

I personally opt for the field side, where I get a series of images at different exposures, setting, positions, etc., sometimes as many as 20 or more of the same scene where it's changing, like this guy and his machine rolling down the track. The digital file imported in and was processed into the size you see here. I was happy with the overall view and did no editing, thanks to bracketing with the camera and walking around to find different views.

Such is life in photography. Life, photography and the philosophy connectiing them in your mind.


So, after explaining what my photography is about and what I am as a photographer, what's the goal and plan? A goal, whew, that's a tough one, as I'm on the wandering road of life with my camera, so a goal is simply to continue. A plan is a hmmm..., since I don't have a definitive one except to think out loud as I wander.

I like to think about photography, my photography and the world, trying to connect the mental dots in my mind or just create new ones that lead somewhere else. Sometimes it's an idea, a word, a visual image, something I saw, someone, something I heard or read, a photograph, mine or another photographers, and so on. It's about where things fit, if they even do, or trying to find if a square pegs fits in a round hole (it can with some imagination or a big hammer).

The initial plan is to expand on a series of thoughts, using that one for the more spectific topics on photography and this one for things related to photography, relating life and the world to photography. If you carry a camera, you're doing both living and taking pictures so why separate the two? I can't, and there will be some overlap with the two columns, but I can make an effort.

And what are the topics which fit here? Gee, a list of words or ideas? How about entropy, complexity, chaos, randomness, simplicity, reality, time, Taoism, depression, people, and so on. I also plan to explore my life in photography here, so it may wander a bit when I put the camera down and just sit awhile pondering the space in front of me. So you're welcome to pick a chair and enjoy a discussion or suggest a topic.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Photographer

Ok, now that I've explained where the name came from, some background on my photography. The above image was taken at a Trans-Am race in 1970, just over a year after I bought my first camera and lenses. I started with a Minolta SRT-101 and 58mm f1.2 lens which I keep in working order and use occasionally. This was after the race when the track was opened and everyone in those days could walk around anywhere as the teams packed up and left.

For the most part, through my time in the Air Force (1969-73), undergraduate and graduate days, and the USGS, my equipment was Minolta's manual focus camera system, adding new bodies, lenses, flashes, macro and bellows equipment as my interests developed and finances afforded it. Because of work and life I took hiatuses from time to time so the body of work is in bunches. About 12 years ago I had a local professional review a sample set of slides and while being critical, he was positive to keep going and get serious.

After that I started the adventure I'm on now. About 7 years ago while hiking Mt. Rainier I came upon a scene I knew no 35mm camera, film or digital, could not do it justice, and I began to look at large format (4x5) photography. If you don't understand 4x5 photography, where the film is in sheets 4"x5", it's a whole different world that dates to the orign of photography and has continued with a lot of new equipment, techniques, technology, and so on, including complete digital cameras and lenses.

Anyway, after a few years of reading and research I put my money down on a camera and waited. And waited. And after finding it won't be produced for awhile yet (a small company), I bought a Horseman 45HD, seen here. It's worth the time and learning, and when I get the other camera, scheduled for later this spring-summer, it will get better. I hope to have scanned images on-line later this spring.

Add to that I finally bought a digital camera, a Canon 5D with a few lenses to replicate the most used lenses I still use with film. It's also a blast to use and learn. It's like taking a whole big box of all sorts of rolls of film around in one camera. It's funny this one camera costs more than all my 14 Minolta cameras. Bob Dylan knew the future in change.

So, what does it all mean? Well, I use a mix of 35mm film and digital, and it's likely you might be able to guess and maybe not. It really doesn't matter, it's the image that matters. And 4x5 photography is a whole different world, something that ties you to history as the thought process hasn't changed in one hundred plus years of photography. It's in the eye and mind of the photographer, and their skill, knowledge, experience and talent.

So, what type of photographer am I? Plain and simple, I'm an ordinary photographer, I like taking pictures of the world I see, what I call walking around photography (or street/people photography to some). I love hiking and photographing Mt. Rainier National Park. And I occasionally do some studio work in my home. Nothing fancy or fine art, but images to make people smile, think, and see small things in life. I love capturing what I see and presenting that as I saw it, it's my philosophy on photography.

And I've long believed "scenes of the ordinary" are the images that survive time. They're not always brillant works, fine art, magnificant scenes, but simply scenes of ordinary life, the people, places and events going on around us. To that end I simply walk and photograph, and I hope to add more galleries to the Website and Website.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the images. You're welcome to comment or send e-mail.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Why WSR Photography

That's the most common question about my Website, is what, who or why is WSR. There's an explanation on the Website but it really started in August 1977 when friends and I hiked to the ice caves above Paradise. It would be another 10 years before I could return to the Northwest and resume hiking in Mt. Rainier NP.

The photo above was taken in the early 1990's at Longmire. I was done hiking for the day, and set up a camera and lens across the visitors center taking occasional shots while I walked around with another camera-lens taking other shots. I would watch the storm passing by in the late afternoon and run back to take a few shots in series. In the end I took nearly a whole roll of Agfa Scala film for this one. But it was awarded third overall in the US Department of Interior 150th Anniversary photo contest and hung in the main building in D.C. for two years before being returned where it sits on my wall.

The photography made me realize one thing I wanted to do after I left the USGS, and that was to explore and photograph Mt. Raininer NP. I haven't done near as much as I wanted, lots of reason and/or excuses, but describe it as life and work. To that end, a few years before I retired I explored the idea of a photography guide for the NP. I discovered the last one done in the 1950's, which I actually found a copy in the Tacoma Library.

Well, between the time I began thinking about it and I retired to actually start work I discovered there were several newer ones on the market, but all were general 12-15 page guides or fact books with the obvious turnout vista photo opportunities. Since then, however, there is a better one, linked to on my NP news Web page. It's an excellent guide for the southern half with the north half due later this year. I still plan to work on mine as an on-line one that is updated as I find new stuff or get out there with new experiences.

Anyway, one of the reasons I retired earlier than planned (others will be forthcoming topics, perhaps), was to work on this photography guide and get serious with my photography, adding a 4x5 camera system last year and a 35mm digital camera last December. It has totally surprised me to opening the doors to where it's a near-fulltime job taking me wherever I want to explore and whatever I want to learn.

What more could you ask in retirement, something new to learn new and anew, and somewhere to explore new and anew? I asked folks when I left the USGS, what could be better than hikng and photographing Mt. Rainier NP and exploring life?

And Onward

Ok, I've introduced myself, more or less (more elsewhere so why repeat myself). Why am I writing? Well for one, I've always been amazed by this image by N N Rimzon. There is simply too much in the world and in our lives to contemplate and sometimes all I can do is just like the person, sqaut down from the weight and hide my face from all the events going on around me. It's who I am.

I find writing relief, from the passing thought, comment or idea, to the basic framework of something I read, heard or saw while travelling through life, to the more, and hopefully, more coherent idea, observation or work. Please understand, these are simply my views of the world, no better or worse, neither right or wrong, just mine. We're all entitled to our views from our knowledge and experience. It's who we are.

So, I hope you enjoy the short essays, and as stated in the introduction, you're welcome to comment. Please just follow the few simple rules about respect for each other. And in passing, don't forget my favorite Webcam at Paradise, Mt. Rainier National Park.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Ok, I'm starting here, and you're reading this, perhaps thinking, "Why I am here and what can this person tell me to make my time useful, if only the occasional thought or smile?" That I can't answer, but I can try, and you're welcome to send me e-mail or comment about my posts. I will say, however, I prefer criticism with humor, honestly, and suggestions, meaning be nice and courteous, and I'll listen, otherwise, who knows. It depends on the day and events in the day how well I listen.

So, onward with the introduction. You can find a lot about me on my Website. What can you say about one life in 6-plus billion people that's different or unique? It's just a life amongst the many, just mine as yours is yours. While we are individuals and we're just people sharing a planet spinning, rotating, and hurling through the universe. Ok, enough of the hype?

I hope to use this for some longer thoughts on photography, geography and life. I post a lot of smaller thoughts, mostly reactions, on my MySpace, and some longer thoughts on My Website. I'm always open to opposing views, and like diversity in perspectives, just follow the rule your grandmother told you.

This should do it for now, and I'll add posts as ideas cross my senses to compose something worthwhile. Thanks for the ear.