Monday, January 16, 2017

Why I'm Not a Wildlife Photographer

If I were a wildlife photographer, I'd be very good at it.  However, I'm not a wildlife photographer, and I'm also not particularly good at it.

I think every photographer has something he or she does best:  maybe wildlife, maybe portraits or street photography or landscapes.  That doesn't mean that if street photography is your thing, you can't also do wildlife.  You may be a generalist and can shoot pretty much anything, but you'll be better at some things than others.

In my past couple of blog entries, I posted images from the ice storm of a few days ago.  All it took was going out into my yard and pointing the camera at some tree limbs.  I came up with what I thought were a few outstanding images.

Yesterday, as I was making out a grocery list, I noticed a red-tailed hawk swoop by the window and land in the branches of the ice-covered tree you see in my blog post of a couple of days ago.  My first thought was to grab my camera (which I did) and get some images (which I did).  My second thought was that my lens isn't long or fast enough.  I don't have time to pull out a tripod, and I'll scare the creature away if I I get anywhere near it. My images were obtained by holding the camera to the glass of the window and shooting from indoors.  I was aware that the images would not be professional quality wildlife photography, but I still felt I had to do the best with what I had.  I think my images were okay considering the limitations, but that's it -- certainly not anything special.

The hawk was in the tree for maybe 60 or 70 seconds. (You can click on images in this blog for a closer view.)

Here's the difference.  If I were a wildlife photographer, the hawk would be sharp and well-defined.  You would see fine details in the feathers and reflections in the eyes; and it might even be an action shot with the bird, wings outstretched, landing on the icy branches.  Here's another difference. I would have had the proper equipment, and I'd have spent hours out in the cold, first scoping out the location, then in a wildlife blind waiting for the proper second to obtain the exposure. 

My equipment and efforts are devoted to the type of photography I do best:  street and candid people photography.  If I were a wildlife photographer my work flow would be different, my time would be spent differently, and I'd have a bag of different camera equipment.

Below are some images of the type of photography I do best.

The Textile Merchant (Guatemala)  I won my first major photography award (the Versace Award) with this image.


Mayan Beauty (Guatemala).  This is one of my favorite images.

Old Woman of Chichicastenango (Guatemala)


Man Enjoying a Soda (Guatemala)

Venetian Violinist (Italy)

Walking After Midnight (León, Spain)

Tapas Bar (León, Spain)

I think the message here is:  don't worry that you can't do it all perfectly.  Shoot what you enjoy shooting and if you care and take it seriously, you'll probably be good at it because you'll do what it takes to be good at it.

You can see lots more of my images on my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com. While you will find the images above on my website, you won't find the hawk.  Sorry, hawk!  Maybe a real wildlife photographer will give you the treatment you deserve.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

More from the Ice Storm

Yesterday, I presented some images from the local ice storm.  Here are a couple of more:



My mailbox.  You can click on images for a larger view.

Limbs from a tree in my front yard.
Images of ice always seem to work well in B&W.

You can see my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.

Friday, January 13, 2017

An Ice Storm

An ice storm has the power to keep most people indoors, especially if they don't have to be out and about.  However, it can also offer opportunities for photography.

Here in Makanda, it's a cold, miserable day.  But a few minutes ago, I stepped outside with my camera and captured some images only a few feet from my house.

I processed the images in b&w for a dramatic look. A bit of vignetting around the edges completed the look and feel of the photo. You can click on images in my blog for a larger view.

I can certainly see that any of these images would look great as a large print framed and matted on almost any wall.

These are the first three images I processed.  I still have plenty more to keep me busy when the weather is not cooperating.

You can view my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Old Nashville House in the Snow


If you've been following my blog, you know that I've found an old abandoned farmhouse near Nashville, Illinois that cries out to be photographed.  It appears in my blog every few months. Every time I'm in the area, I take a small detour to see how it has changed since the last visit.  Since I'd never photographed it in the snow, my visit this last weekend offered a totally different view.  The snowfall was very light, just a cover, and already melting.  But it was enough to give me a new perspective on a very old building.

This old house deserves to be seen in every season, including winter. You can click on the image for a larger view.  You can see my original post with photographs of this building from August of 2015 by clicking here.

You can see my fine art website at:  www.tombellart.com.

Friday, January 6, 2017

My Photography Year in Review - 2016

2016 was a good year for me, photographically and generally.

On January 1, I retired from my position as a College administrator.  This gives me more time for photography.

In March I traveled to Spain to photograph the Holy Week traditions in León.  I also had the opportunity to eat lots of tapas, and blog about my experiences during my stay.

In the Fall, I had a photography show with a number of my works on display at the Yellow Moon Cafe, through the Anthill Gallery.

Below are some to the highlights from this year.

The Eyes of Santa Nonia is an image from my coverage of the Holy Week in León.  This photo was selected as a finalist in the prestigious Black & White Spider Awards. It was also part of my Fall exhibition.

If you're interested in the traditions of the Spanish Holy Week, check out the 10 blog entries I wrote in March and April of 2016, starting here.
I also wrote about and photographed Spanish tapas.
Spanish street scenes are always fun.
I also photographed scenes closer to home.  This is from my hometown just before the 4th of July.
Another Illinois scene not too far from home.

I found this while checking out local back roads.
The Headrest Barbershop on Michigan Avenue in Chicago was a street photography find as I was walking with my family.
Please feel free to check out posting from my blog from 2016 or any of the past years.  You might also enjoy viewing my website at:  www.tombellart.com.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Mystery of the Mirace Frisbee

Happy 2017! This is a true story that happened on New Year's Eve of 2011. I originally published it in January of 2012.  I've republished it the first of the New Year over the past several years because it's true, possibly inspirational, and I think you'll find it amazing.

The story below is absolutely true.  My family and I were there and experienced this first-hand.  It is not the type of material you find in my typical blog entry.  However, it is too good not to share.  Please post your thoughts at the bottom of this page.  Share this with anyone you think might enjoy it or get caught up in the mystery.

What do you call it when something beyond understanding occurs -- something that defies all odds? Is it a paranormal event?  A coincidence of unimaginable proportions?  Magic?  Or is it a miracle? And what if you can prove to yourself and others that it really happened because you were there and you took photographs!  This incident concerns nothing more elaborate than a Frisbee, but it is mystifying, nevertheless.

My wife’s family is from Guatemala.  My wife, our two children, and I live in Illinois and sometimes visit her family in Central America over the holidays.  This year, we, along with most of my wife’s large family, spent the week after Christmas at my sister-in-law’s beach house on the Pacific coast of Guatemala.

My daughter practicing her gymnastics on the black sand beach.
Every day, my wife’s younger brother, Gonzalo, would run out to the volcanic black sand with his Frisbee and toss it along the beach or over the waves and let the wind return it to him.  Two days before New Year’s, as my children and some of the cousins played on the beach, I took my camera and photographed him exercising with the white disc.
My brother-in-law, Gonzalo, running on the beach with his Frisbee.  Notice the design of the Frisbee on the inset.
Later in the evening, my wife, Maria, and I; Gonzalo and his wife, Marta Yolanda; and the children went down to the beach to catch the sunset.  The children built a castle in the sand.  Maria, Marta Yolanda, and I stood and watched the progress of the castle building activities, while Gonzalo launched his Frisbee toward the waves.  I took several photographs.  Several times, the Frisbee landed on the water and was returned in the waves.  Everyone was having a great time, until my brother-in-law made a bad toss.  He groaned as the Frisbee went into the waves and was not immediately returned on the surf.

The children made a sand castle, while my brother-in-law (far right) played with his Frisbee.


“It’s gone,” he said.

“Give it a minute, and maybe the waves will bring it back,” I suggested.

“No, Tom, I don’t think it’s coming back,” he sighed, as we all peered into the dark waves, hoping that he might be wrong.

After another half minute, I pointed into the surf as a white object came into view. 
“There it is,” I yelled.  The Frisbee washed directly to my wife’s feet and hit her on the shins.  She walked over and handed it to her brother.

He took the disc happily, but after only a moment said, “This isn’t my Frisbee.”

We all looked at him. 

“My Frisbee was red on top.   This one’s black.”

“That has to be your Frisbee,” I said.

“Maybe it had a sticker on it that came off in the water,” my wife suggested.

“No,” Gonzalo insisted.  “Mine was a pure white.  This is pearl colored.”

“That has to be your Frisbee,” I said.   “If it’s not, whose is it?  And how is it possible that it washed up at our feet just as we were looking for a Frisbee?  How many times have you ever had a Frisbee wash up at your feet, let alone when you’re looking for one?”

“Never,” he answered.

“And how many times have you ever just found a Frisbee on the beach?”

“Never.”

“Then how is it possible that this isn’t your Frisbee?

“I don’t know,” he answered.  “It just doesn’t look like my Frisbee.”  It was obvious that my logic had convinced him to give up his argument.

We watched another dramatic Pacific sunset, and then returned to the house to have dinner and rest for New Year’s Eve.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I was looking at some of my photos on the LCD screen of my camera that I realized I had shots from before the Frisbee was lost.  I quickly found the photos and zoomed in on one where the design on the Frisbee was plainly visible.

There was no doubt.  It was not the same Frisbee.  The photographs plainly show a Frisbee with a very different graphic design.  If not for the photographs, we all would have given up on the notion that one disc had been thrown into the ocean and a different disc returned.  It was just too difficult to believe.  But that’s exactly what happened:  one Frisbee was thrown into the ocean, only to be replaced by a different one a moment later.

The Frisbee that returned in the waves (center) and the Frisbee that was thrown into the ocean (inset).
I have no explanation.  Something very strange happened.  I don’t know how or why.  Maybe it was nature’s way of assuring us that miracles can and do happen.  If something with odds this impossible can take place, it can happen again.  And maybe next time, the miracle will be something that will change someone’s life for the better.  Maybe next time we’ll believe the impossible really can happen.  It’s already happened once.  It can happen again.


You can view my fine art photography website at:  http://www.tombellart.com.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A NIGHTHAWKS for the 21st Century

Last week, my wife and I took our daughter, a high school senior, to Chicago to visit a couple of colleges.  We stayed in the historic Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Avenue, putting us within walking distance of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and literally hundreds of other attractions.

As our time was limited, we did a quick run-through of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, then crossed the street to head North on Michigan Avenue.  Almost immediately, my daughter pointed to the barber shop inside the old Congress Hotel and said, "That would make a good photo." Sure enough, the Headrest Barbershop was the perfect subject for an early evening photograph. Because of the glass windows and its corner location, you could see the activity of a typical big-city barbershop inside.  I took several images before we moved on.


The Headrest Barbershop is at 520 South Michigan Avenue. (You can click on images in this blog for a larger view.)

Later in the evening, we spent several hours at the Art Institute of Chicago.  One of the many impressive paintings we saw was Edward Hopper's Nighthawks (Click here to view the painting in another window) from 1942.  It's the nighttime scene of a diner at an intersection of two streets, with three patrons at a counter and an employee standing behind it.

Later, as I was looking at my photos on the computer, it occurred to me that my photograph of the barbershop, while very different from Hopper's Nighthawks, has much in common.  We're viewing ordinary people doing ordinary things through the very public glass window of a corner shop.  My photo certainly doesn't portray the loneliness of Hopper's image, but it does capture real people living their lives in 2016.  For me, that's what street photography is all about.


Despite the bright colors of the scene, I also decided to do a black and white image.

We also found time to visit Millennium Park, where my daughter got friendly with the famous "Bean" sculpture.

Cristina and the Bean.
You can view my fine art photography website at:  www.tombellart.com.