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The T3sk3y Defenestrator

4th of July Flowers

H3th3r, Wi11iam, 31izab3th and I spent the 4th of July on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound this year.  It was the classic ‘small town’ 4th with parades, three-legged races, and lots of fireworks.  I love fireworks.  I’m gradually getting the 600-odd photos I took during the trip sorted and edited (it’s quite a job) – so as a teaser, here’s a couple of fireworks shots that I took:

A Lovely Bouquet

A Lovely Bouquet

Photographically, I shot a 4-5 sec. exposure on f/11 at about a 50mm focal length.  I set the focus to Manual and focused at infinity.  When I heard the mortar, I clicked the shutter.

A daisy for you?

A daisy for you?

You can see the rest of my fireworks photos here: Fireworks Photos

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be continuously updating my gallery from the trip to Whidbey Island.  If you can’t wait until they are done, check back frequently on my SmugMug page.  The quick link to the photos is here: Whidbey Island 2008

Many new family photos online

For those checking here for Teskey family updates..

I’ve got a couple of new galleries online for your viewing pleasure.

Grandma Fran’s 90th Birthday in Waseca, MN

Jay and Chris’ wedding in Albert Lea, MN

Check out the entire 90th birthday party gallery here: (link)

The gallery from Jay and Chris’ wedding is here: (link)

Two books that’ll change your photography

I took the plunge and stocked up on Scott Kelby.  Last week, I got “The Digital Photography Book” and “The Digital Photography Book Vol. 2” from

After hearing about his #1 best selling book on digital photography (that’s of all time, mind you..) all over the pod-o-sphere, I was still somehow able to resist buying it.  When I heard that he came out with Vol. II – and that there was an entire section on home studio photography (something I’m about to give a whirl to), I took the plunge.

Wow, what a couple of great books.  It’s structured like Scott is your best friend, and he’s going out on a shoot with you.  When you run across that flower that you want to take a picture of – you glance over at Scott and he looks back at you and says “f/2.8 and get low to the ground”.  The whole book is set up like that – it’s a book full of one page tips and tricks.  Most are sheer genius.  On top of that, there’s a series of recipes that describe how to get a particular ‘look’ to your pictures.

I’d run out and buy both of ’em – and they can be had for about $15/ea. at Amazon.

Getting my portrait mode on

On Friday, I was able to cross work and hobbies in a really fun way.  I’m leading the effort to prepare for Minneathlon 2.0 – Logic’s twice a year version of The Amazing Race.  As part of the pre-race hype machine, we had to post all the team profiles along with a team picture.  I took the pictures – and I’m really happy with how they turned out.  In virtually all cases – they are natural light (near a window) with no flash.  I also applied the ‘300’ filter in Photoshop Lightroom for the cool grungy post-processing effect.

Anyway.. check ’em out:


Team C4

Team Lefty and Skinny

… and, my favorite of the bunch.  The pose was their idea, as was the ‘joke’:

Team XLR-99

More about the Minneathlon as the week goes on..

Three Days with Jon Cornforth – Part Three

Saturday morning started off well before dawn as we rolled out of bed, threw down a quick breakfast, and headed off for Second Beach to shoot the sunrise.  We made the mile hike back down to the beach in the dark and clamored over the beach logs just as the first streaks of dawn made their way across the sky.

Even before the sun rose enough to start shooting, we realized it wasn’t going to be a memorable day for photography.  The sky was nearly perfectly clear which just wasn’t going to make a spectacular sunrise.  We still went through the motions and shot the surf as we looked for anything interesting.  Even though there weren’t any suitable gallery shots from that morning – we still had fun exploring the beach.

Waves crashing between the sea stacks

By mid-morning, we made our way back to the camp to get cleaned up and have some actual breakfast.  After finishing my peanut butter and jelly bagel (my request), I set off for my shower in the campground shower facilities.  This was one of the more frustrating attempts at a shower – I found a shower that worked on my fourth attempt.  When I figured out that one didn’t work, I had to get completely dressed again, go outside, select another, then strip down again to try once again.

That afternoon, we headed for the Hoh rainforest after a short stop at Ruby Beach.  The Hoh is a beautiful spot with giant cedars and heavy moss.  if the weather and lighting conditions would have cooperated, we would have had lots of good photo opportunities.  This was not to be the case – the weather was the same bright sun and blue skies that doesn’t make for good rainforest photography.

Having fun in the Hoh when the weather isn’t cooperating

As we were pulling in to Forks on the way to the Hoh, Jon noticed a sound coming from one of his tires.  As we were stopped for gas, we noticed a rather large spike sticking out of one of his tires.  This meant trying to locate someone to fix the tire while we ate lunch sitting outside of the garage.  The cost of the repair?  $16.00

The Hoh was beautiful – and we saw lots of wildlife.  While we were there, we saw deer, Roosevelt elk, and other critters.  Jon did his best to continue the lesson – but it ended up being more of a discussion of photography topics rather than a lot of hands-on.

Roosevelt Elk in the parking lot at the Hoh rainforest

After returning to our campsite, we had just enough time to prepare for our sunset shot at First Beach.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so there was no chance of majestic sunset shots.  Instead, we tried to capture the surf and the warm setting sunlight against the cliffs of First Beach.

Jon suggested that I get right up to the advancing surf and try to catch it as it was receding.  I set my camera for a high f-stop (22, I think) and about a quarter of a second exposure and waited for the right wave.  I didn’t have to wait long – because one of the first big waves went crashing right over my boot tops soaking me from the knee down.  As it turned out, it was just what the shot needed – even though I spent the rest of the night with about a cup of water in my boot.

Waves receding from around my boots on First Beach

Before packing it in for the night, we took some still life rock shots and snapped a few shots of the setting sun as it ducked behind a cloud bank.  We headed back to the trailer for a tasty dinner of ground turkey and vegetables in a spicy thai peanut sauce.  While we waited for dinner, we took a few moments to review and edit our pictures from the day and pick our favorites.

That night, Ross was able to score one of the luxury condos right on the beach and he invited us to crash there for the night.  We stayed up for a few moments and talked before turning in early since we were getting up to shoot the sunrise the next morning.

Check out the rest of my shots from the weekend at SmugMug here: (link)

More crazy weather!

It’s been a strange week for weather in Minnesota.  On Friday, we had 50+ mph winds, on Saturday – we had some rare Cumulo Mammatus clouds go overhead.  These usually appear around very severe weather – and there was tornado activity about 10 miles from where I was.

Cumulo Mammatus clouds over Albert Lea, MN

Here’s another look at the sky directly overhead:

The sky really was this orange!

Saturday Thunderstorms

Saturday afternoon and evening had some pretty crazy weather.  I was at a lakeside bachelor party for my brother and had to take refuge under the picnic table to avoid bouts of torrential downpour and some pea sized hail.  At one point, the thunder was one continuous rumble for about 15 minutes.

During a break in the action, I pulled my car over as I was driving home and snapped a couple of pictures of the sky because it looked pretty cool.  Here’s what I saw..

Moments before the downpour – Montgomery, MN

Here’s one looking the other way..

Stormy Saturday in the country

Shameless plug to try to win a Drobo

No, not a Dobro (see below):

… a DROBO (see below):

What’s a Drobo?  Well, according the manufacturer.. it’s “The World’s First Storage Robot”.  Basically, it’s a really cool really big RAID array thingy.

Basically, I’m not afraid to shill for schwag – so I’m trying to win the weekly contest from the “This Week In Photography (TWiP)” podcast.   The contest is for a free Drobo – and to enter the drawing, you have to link to the TWiP site.

It’s actually a really good podcast, and one I just stumbled upon.  They do a pretty good job of keeping it fun and informative – though I wish they’d talk about Aperture (from Apple) a little less.  Not being an Apple user, I’m not real interested.  The other 95% is great, though..

So – here’s my link in a post, and my link in the sidebar: This Week In Photography

Three Days with Jon Cornforth – Part Two

(NOTE: Part two in a three part travelogue/review of my private photo seminar with Jon Cornforth)

In the weeks leading up to the trip, I found out that I would have to squeeze a business trip to Edmonton in right before my photo seminar. I had originally planned to fly in to Seattle directly from Minneapolis on the night of Thursday, April 10th. Instead, I had to fly to Edmonton late at night on the 9th, have my meeting during the day, then fly from Edmonton to Seattle by way of Vancouver on the night of the 10th. I met my friend Ross (who I was supposed to fly with) at the airport.

This also meant that I had to bring a lot more stuff than I planned. In addition to my photo and camping gear, I needed all my stuff and some nice clothes to visit a potential client. My bag slipped in right at the 50 pound weight limit!

After having a nice dinner and a good night’s sleep at my friend Beth’s house, Jon arrived right on time to pick Ross and I up. He arrived in his truck towing his camper – our home for the weekend. We threw our gear in the back of the truck and headed towards the peninsula.

The trip out to the peninsula went by very quickly – the conversation was pretty lively, and the teaching began almost immediately. Right off the bat it was obvious that even if we didn’t learn anything – it would still be a fun weekend.

Stopped in the Sol Duc for lunch and our first lesson

Our first stop of the trip was the Sol Duc rainforest. We stopped near a nice stream and went to the camper for some sandwiches before starting to shoot. Jon (who I think was still trying to probe our capabilities) talked to us about framing, depth of field, shutter speed for water movement, and eliminating distracting elements. We also learned the art of ‘Cornforthing’ the scene – or how to make sure that distracting twig isn’t so distracting.

Jon checking out a scene in the Sol Duc

When you shoot in a rainforest, you really WANT rain – or at least clouds. In bright sun, you get nasty hard shadows and really washed out colors. Within a short period of time, the clouds broke revealing bright sunlight which would stick with us for the remainder of the trip. Fortunately, we were able to get some keepers before the sun got too strong.

Mossy Tree and Rushing Stream

After leaving the Sol Duc, we headed for La Push to set up camp on the beach for the weekend. We pulled in late afternoon, got the camper set up, and headed off for Second Beach for a sunset shoot. It was about a mile hike through the woods to get to Second Beach – and a real pretty hike at that. Once we hit the beach we had to scramble over a very large pile of logs that had washed ashore. There were numerous warnings to stay away from the logs during a high tide – I can’t imagine them all bumping around!

The piled up driftwood on Second Beach

After scouting the beach a little, we set up to shoot the sea stacks. While we were setting up, we got a primer on shooting sunsets. We talked about spot metering and how to use it to determine which graduated neutral density filter to use, we talked about the use of hyperfocal charts to set focus, and we learned the importance of a bubble level.

I set up with my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens and a HiTech 3-stop hard line GND being held in a Cokin holder. I got everything balanced, set my camera for f/22 to get maximum depth of field, waited for the light to get just right, and started firing.

Sand patterns made from receding tides

One other interesting lesson I picked up was that you could judge the quality of the light and the scene by whether or not Jon was setting up to shoot. This was a real consideration for him since he’s shooting medium format film – and it’s about a dollar every time he hits the trigger.

It was interesting to see how important Jon’s preaching about preparation and composition turned out to be – the magic light lasted for only a few short minutes. It was short enough that if you weren’t ready to go when you saw it – it was too late!

Second Beach at Sunset

Once the sun went down, we hiked back to the car in the dark and went back for dinner. Once back, Jon made us a great pasta & meat sauce dinner in the camper and we washed it down with some good wine. We spending a little time editing pictures before turning in for the evening.

It was as we were turning in that we discovered that we got our wires crossed during planning – we had no bedding! When we were setting the trip up, we mentioned that we might bring sleeping bags if we needed to – and we never went back and straightened it out. Jon naturally assumed we were bringing bedding so he didn’t bring any. I ended up sleeping under Jon’s daughter’s pink Dora the Explorer sleeping bag – and Ross bundled up in fleece. Fortunately it was going to be a short night.. we had a 5 AM wakeup!

Coming up soon – Part Three!  Until then.. all of my pictures from the trip are here: (link)

Three Days with Jon Cornforth – the Prelude

We can sleep and eat when we get home – Jon’s Travel Photography Philosophy

Both of these quotes (supplied by Jon Cornforth in the days leading up to our photo adventure) proved prophetic during my three day private nature photography expedition to the Olympic Peninsula.

My wife decided to give me a trip to a photography seminar after listening to me talk for months about how I’d like to go on one. I roped my friend Ross Simpson – another pinball and photography nut – into joining me on the trip.

We started looking for seminars and got a little disappointed to find that most of the spring seminars were either too long (a full week) or already full. My problem was that I had a very narrow window of opportunity between when the weather improved for the spring and the birth of my second child (forecast for May 5th). After doing a lot of digging, Ross found Jon Cornforth‘s advertisement for private lessons on – and he was able to accommodate our desires and our time frame.

I was specifically looking for a very hands-on trip where most of the time was spent out shooting and learning. I didn’t want one where we spent the morning in a classroom learning technique before going out for an hour or two on a field trip where we’d get dumped off and picked up later. I also wanted something that was a little more advanced – I know how to use my camera and understand basic photographic principles.

After an initial “get to know you” phone call, we were convinced that a private lesson was worth the additional cost over a group seminar and that Jon was the right guy. I think it was his philosophy of focusing our efforts to get one perfect image rather than a bunch of average images that hooked me.

Jon gave us a shopping list as well as a reading assignment to complete prior to arriving. Our reading list was:

I bought all but the large format book – being a digital shooter, I couldn’t quite see the point. All the books were pretty good – but I think the Hill & Wolfe book was the best.

For a gear list, we had to be sure to have the following gear in addition to our camera:

  • A wide angle lens (check!)
  • A sturdy tripod and ballhead
  • Polarizing filters
  • Graduated neutral density filters

Of those items, I only had the wide angle lens. I had to do a lot of research to figure out what gear to get.  I ended up getting a Bogen 190XPROB tripod with a Manfrotto 486RC2 ballhead, a B+W 77mm Slim MRC polarizer, and a set of HiTech GND filters.

Jon gave us a few possible destinations to choose from – and we chose to go to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.  Since we wanted to have power to recharge our laptops and our cameras, we elected to stay in Jon’s camper in a campground with electricity rather than roughing it camping or staying in a hotel.  Jon made us reservations in the campground in La Push – right on first beach.

Jon also handled all food arrangements.  This is when I started to see Jon’s Travel Philosophy in motion.  Instead of wasting time in restaurants, Jon did all the grocery shopping so we could eat on the road or in the campground.  Aside from banning “Super-Fruity-Choco-Sugar-Bombs” from the breakfast menu – he took our food requests and lined up lots of yummy things of his own.

In the next installment – the trip begins!

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