Foggy Beginnings

Morning mist or fog, is a gift just made for photographers. Depending on whether the atmosphere directly above the fog is clear or cloudy, or whether the rising sun is in back of, or in front of your subject, the type of image you create, and the mood it produces have endless possibilities.

I have done justice to fog/mist scenes maybe 20 times in my life as a photographer. That means I’ve failed a fair share of the time. Exposure, composition (always), and the position of any light (sun), mean everything in this form of photography.

As the sun began to rise in back of a very misty Sand Lake, I hoped that those noisy geese that I was hearing out on the water, would position themselves somewhere that allowed me to use the sunrise light, the mist, and the geese together for a pleasing image. When you’ve made the decision to capture the geese as a silhouette, the exposure is easy. Without any direct memory of my calculating an exposure, I can tell you from years of photography, that I looked for an area within the picture frame to place as mid tone, adjusted my camera and fired away.1aHorIbeachSR 023

I drove through the fog and darkness towards what must have been my one thousandth foggy sunrise at Bong State Rec. Area. At times my car speed was around 10 mph. It seemed as though there was no road at all. I have many foggy sunrises over Bong’s Wolf Lake, and some of the most blazing prairie sunrises you have ever seen. Just the same, I wanted something different. I searched for a location, in the opposite direction of the rising sun, in an effort to produce a cool, simple image. After the sun reached the horizon there was a distant patch of forest that escaped the sun’s rays as they at first laid below the earth shadow, and then were sheltered from the sun by trees in the opposite direction.  I had maybe 60 seconds. I found this group of trees with the fog only covering their feet. Perfect. I used the repeating patterns of the tree trunks with the fog to make the cool, simple picture I hoped for.bongfoggy-047

I have photographed one patch of conifer trees and their unusual shapes, at least ten times over the years. They live about seven miles from my home, near the shores of Lake Michigan. They make great sunrise silhouettes.  Of course shape is what silhouettes are all about.  Of course when it comes to the skies at sunrise, some mornings are just better than others. There is nothing like starting a day of photography, with the sunrise. Everything after that, is just gravy.DSC_0015

Originally this post was meant to be without wildlife, but I just happened to come across this old picture of a Sanderling. This bird is in non-breeding plumage but really, the white and black plumage is just as pretty as their summer colors. Sanderlings are sort of the “plain janes” of the shorebird world.

I was working a group of these birds along the shores of Lake Michigan, when this one came close as it searched for invertebrates in the small tidal pools that form along the beach edge. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not get myself and my tripod in a position to get a perfect mirror image of this busy little bird as it darted around. I wound up with some pleasing pictures, but I could never get myself, the bird, and a pool in the right position for that perfect mirror image. When it comes to wildlife, I consider my subjects to be the artists, and I the medium that shares that art with the public. Sometimes they refuse to produce art, sometimes they create fine art of the highest order, and other times, like on this day, they feel just a “little artsy”, leaving me with the job of sharing what they gave me.WindPointWaxWShoreB 140

In celebration of spring as well as the celebration of dramatic light, we’ll end our photos with a shot of some Tulips.  This pictures pushes the use of spotty light, and makes use of carefully selected depth of field. I wanted to find a single flower to place at the front of these tulips, where I could exploit both the dramatic light, and limited depth of field. I wanted the front tulip to be crisp and clear. I found what I wanted, created my image(s), thanked my subjects and moved on.dsc_9172


The things photographers do to remain in photography.

Professional photographers, especially nature oriented photographers, whether stock, art prints, teaching workshops or a combination of all three (me) is what you’re about, is financially one of the hardest occupations to produce a living income from, that exists. I once wrote an entire post on how most photographers were “really” earning their living. The most common way is, they have a spouse or some other such person who actually earns the living at something else, or pension + government checks, or they have a lot of money in the bank from some other source, or they themselves actually do something else to earn money. In 2005 when I quit my day job to take another crack at full-time stock photography + workshops, I knew I had to do something else to help myself along. Preferably something where I could at least somewhat name my own hours or which days I would work. I didn’t need a lot of extra income at the time. I discovered mystery shopping.

I actually worked for three different mystery shopping companies. Everything is done through the internet, and you are of course paid by direct deposit.. You never meet these people nor do you know where the company actually resides, if there is one such place. The pay is incredibly low, but you take the jobs you want, and leave the rest. You work only when you want to.

What is mystery shopping?

You are presented with a series of jobs/scenarios in your area, where a company, usually a corporation, has hired the company you work for to go into one of their businesses and pretend to be a customer. Some jobs are very simple, and some are so complex that there should really be some training to do this. You electronically fill out and email what is a sometimes complicated form, that includes things like what signage you found, what the name of the clerks were and how they treated you. You have to remember what everyone looked like, and how they were dressed. Oft times you need to buy something, and return it the next day and report on that experience as well. Yes, you buy it out of your own money, but I never had a problem with a return,

I know this might not seem like me, but I hated making bad reports on businesses, and rarely did. I found most of those people to be hard-working, honest and nice. I only gave two truly bad reports in my time as a mystery shopper and trust me, they really deserved it.

I have mystery shopped for clothing up to and including $900 suits. I have eaten in restaurants (you are reimbursed), bought or pretended I was going to buy expensive electronics. I have shopped for home mortgage/loans at five banks in one day, and gone through a three-day scenario pretending to be interested in buying a Harley Davidson motorcycle. I wish it was true.  We did everything but sign the final papers.

You are graded on every shop you do. Often it is a typical ABCDF system, or a 0-100 system. I prided myself on good grades and once had perfect scores ( A or 100), for almost a month with all three companies for which I worked. I finally quit one company when they graded me poorly because my initial approach at a bank was deemed to be different from the scenario provided to me by my company. After much electronic arguing that resulted in me resending the original email that I received to prove myself right, I was given a B. I left the company.

Eventually I left mystery shopping all together because it barely covered the cost of gas on the more distant shops. I did however actually enjoy seeing how much I could observe and remember in a brief visit to a place of business.  The powers of observation that are needed to mystery shop, serve you well in life, including in nature photography.

Mystery shopping is just one example of what photographers do to remain a “professional” photographer.  I have known photographers who do everything from selling real estate part time, to doing janitorial work.

As an aside, if you work in a store, office or other business that sells to the general public, you might just want to treat that next customer very well. Your job could rest on a report he/she files with a company, that exists mainly in cyberspace, with employees including management, who have never met one another, and some cases do not even know what country they reside in. It’s a sneaky world.


Those kids today!!!

I think that every generation looks at the newest one to come along, and finds fault. It’s been going on forever.  I am sure most of you, are guilty of convicting the children of each new generation of lower moral values, selfishness, and above all, of having it too easy. Me too. It is true that many things change over time, making life seem easier, but do they really have it easy?

I am forever grateful that I grew up when I did. I never had to experience what it was like to have adults invading the sanctity of every childhood activity that I took part in. Never once in my youth, did an adult get involved with or even watch, one of our sandlot baseball or football games. We picked teams, agreed on rules, played and officiated our own games. We played to win and would have been stunned if somebody would have suggested that we shouldn’t keep score. We spent entire summer days with absolutely zero adult supervision. We had to come home and check in every so often, but there were no cell phones and using a friend’s home telephone was reserved for emergencies. We never had or needed an escort to walk a block to a friend’s house. In fact we didn’t have escorts to walk three miles to a friend’s house. There were limits, and if we got caught breaking them, we were punished. We did watch our share of television, but spent way more time outside, even in the winter. The television we did watch, wasn’t vulgar, mean and full of perversion. It amazes me, in a society that is as (supposedly) protective of children as it is today, we seem to think it is okay to lay all of societies sickness and psychosis, graphically at the door steps of six-year olds, on a daily basis.

The examples we were given from adults, clearly indicated that when they or we did wrong, it was their/our responsibility to make good. Our own failings weren’t perpetually given as being the fault of someone else. We were not presented a society where somebody else was “always” to blame for our misdeeds. In fact when we were young, we received a consistent message of right and wrong. It was generally the same message whether it came from our parents, our teachers, other adults, or even on television and in society in general. There was no reason to be confused. There were absolutes. Some things are not rendered in shades of gray. Today’s youth are forever being sent a mixed message. Saying that it’s always somebody else’s fault tells impressionable young minds, that everybody is innocent, but then everybody must also be guilty. I’m pretty sure that most children can quickly ascertain, that there has to be somebody who’s wrong, for ever person who’s right under the scenario that’s given to them. If everybody’s right, at some point everybody must be wrong?  If that sounds convoluted, it is. Even the simplest of messages become complex.

Children today have the easiest……and the hardest life imaginable. In a world where most of the adults haven’t yet figured out how to grow up themselves, we often ask our small children to digest and shoulder the information that a 20-year-old shouldn’t yet have to deal with. Then they are expected to grow up decent, and productive, while being given precious few examples to learn from.

Awe kids today have it easy…….you say. The coddling that most kids receive today does not make life easier, but instead, much, much harder. They will indeed become adults, and find bosses and other authority figures that will look at right and wrong in a completely different vain, if only because their job forces them to. Those children (now adults) will suddenly learn that some people (bosses, police, occasionally courts ) will hold them responsible for their actions. The lessons they learned, or perhaps better said didn’t learn, in their youth, will leave them either impudent in their youth, or in jail in adulthood.

As for myself, I am privileged to remember a time when I was allowed to be a kid, but was given preparation to be an adult. It made my childhood special, and made being an adult much easier as well.


Galatians Chapter 2

20: I am crucified with Christ, never the less I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the Faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.

21: I do not frustrate the Grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

This is Paul, telling the Galatians, that Christ is the New Covenant, and you cannot live in righteousness, and walk with God, under Old Covenant laws any longer, or by any laws made up by man or religions, but only by faith, and the Grace (love and acceptance) of God, less the Sacrifice of Christ be in vain. It is impossible to earn that which is a gift. That would be tantamont to saying that Christ failed on the Cross, but we can find a better way by our own efforts.

God Bless,                                                                                                                                         Wayne






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