Monday, August 27, 2012

Spring Mill State Park, Part II:
An odd place to find a cemetery

The second line of the headline on today's post conveys my thinking when I came upon the Hamer family cemetery off the main access road while driving out of Spring Mill State Park on Thursday. I suppose that wouldn't have been the case if I'd done sufficient pre-trip research and studied a copy of the park map I'd printed out at home before leaving. (I guess the after-effects of  yesterday's "honesty" post is going to be hard to shake).

A lot of photographers gravitate to cemeteries to explore and indulge their creative sides. There are attractive compositional elements -- chiefly lines, shapes and patterns. Plus, there's the fact that cemeteries usually have low people traffic, which means you have the time and opportunity to set up photographic compositions without worrying about needing to pause for or interfere with others.  And even if there is someone else there, and they happen to emerge at a spot where you want to spend time to photograph, the larger cemeteries are expansive enough that you can find something elsewhere on the grounds to shoot while waiting for your prime spot to free up.

As for the smaller cemeteries, there is rarely any foot traffic. Still, when I arrived at the Hamer family cemetery at the park on Thursday, I knew there were other people in the park, that they eventually would leave the same way I came in, and that they, too, might react the way I did when I came upon the cemetery. So, I decided to act quickly.

It turned out to be a good move. I tried to compose and shoot quickly, and about a half-hour into my shoot, right about at the point when I was preparing to wrap up my time there, an elderly couple drove into the modest parking area on the opposite side of the access road then strolled in. I had just left through the stone-arched access and was shooting some closeups of the stone wall along the perimeter when they entered. So we each had sole access to the grounds for our visit.

And again, in the spirit of yesterday's cathartic "honesty" exercise, I admit that I neglected to take the time to appreciate the Hamer family history before deciding what pictures to compose. I learned a few things afterward that would have been nice to know at the time I did my picture-taking.

The cemetery is described as a resting place for descendants of Thomas Hamer Jr., who was born while his family -- which came to the New World from England -- was living in Pennsylvania. He  died in Lawrence County in 1829 and initially was interred in Jolly Cemetery in Lawrence County's Bono Township. His remains were moved to the Spring Mill site in 1937. Oddly, his wife, Hannah McNeal Hamer, died in Jamestown, N.Y., in 1811, and is buried in New York, not with her husband in Indiana. I couldn't find any information telling me when the Hamers moved to Indiana, so it's possible they were still living out East when she died.

Unfortunately, I didn't know the above to look for Thomas' grave spot while I was there. It would have been nice to have had that.

And oh, since the 1930s, Hamer's descendants have held a reunion every year ... at Spring Mill State Park.

You can find a gallery of my photos from the visit to Spring Mill State Park -- both the Pioneer Village and the cemetery -- at my site at SmugMug.

Above: This monument attempts to lay out the generational history of family members interred in the cemetery.

Above: The stoned-arch entrance to the grounds.

Above and below: Flags mark the graves of family members who served in the U.S. armed forces.

Above: One of the most striking plots in the cemetery was this large monument for a girl who died Oct. 26, 1877, at the age of 1 year, 5 days.

Above and below: Rear and front views of an oddity I don't recall ever noticing in a cemetery before -- stone-column supports for grave markers.

Above: I posted this photo at my photo page on Facebook the other day, rhetorically wondering what became of Sarah Cleveland. One person commented to the post, offering the only things I could think of, too; Sarah remarried and was buried alongside that husband, or ... there was some disharmony in this marriage, and her descendants elected to bury her elsewhere. 

Above: A photo to indicate that descendants with surnames other than Hamer are buried there, too.

Above: I took and included this image because of the landscaping invested at this plot.

A shot of the arched entrance from inside the cemetery ... and to offer perspective for the photo below. 

Above: I was taking photos of this wall, lining the perimeter at the entrance, when the elderly couple arrived.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

OK, just how bad is it?

I spent an hour or so yesterday perusing some literature that a gate attendant had handed me Thursday as I entered Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana. And yes, that means I didn't really take time to look at it thoroughly while I was actually in the park. Is that bad?

I'll often take hundreds (and, yes, in the case of sports events, even thousands) of pictures on a shoot, and then about halfway into the post-processing, I'll start rushing my edits so I can justify to myself afterward that I didn't spend more time editing than I did shooting. Is that bad?

Conversely, while in the throes of post-processing -- and the aforementioned rushing -- I'll often keep a picture I should have skipped over or tossed even though it's of marginal quality. Is that bad?

In recent years, quite a few photographer friends have strongly endorsed a photo editing software program called Adobe Lightroom, touting its facility, logical workflow and "all in one" features. So, I acquired a copy of Lightroom 3 about a year and a half ago. After about a half-dozen or so stabs at trying to acclimate myself to this so-called facile program, I found it to be confounding and counterproductive. To me, it was hardly facile, compared to the way I had been handling my post-processing previously -- even though my process could involve up to three more steps and use three or four different software programs -- so I went back to my old ways. Is that bad?

I hear professional photographers tell how they back up all of their work in triplicate -- uploading copies to an online backup site (such as Carbonite), storing copies on an exterior hard drive and burning copies onto a high-quality medium (such as a CD or DVD). Because of cost and file-size issues, I back up my RAW files only on disc, although I do back up my JPGs in three places -- disc, online storage (Carbonite) and my online galleries. Is that bad?

A longtime Indianapolis photographer who teaches his craft, whose opinion I respect and whose instruction I truly value -- especially because he gives of his time freely and teaches with enthusiasm -- espouses the discipline of carefully metering for light, using gray cards or a hand-held light meter, to ascertain optimum exposure on every shot. He even shares shortcuts he's come to use to accomplish this when logistics prevent one from using the preferential methods. But I don't own a light meter, and rarely turn to my gray card, depending almost solely on my camera's built-in meter to compose my shots. Is that bad?

I sometimes err on the side of caution rather than aggression when it comes to pursuing some of my photographs, trying to use common sense and respect of privacy and sensitivity even though I know I have a much greater chance at a much better picture if I throw caution to the wind? Is that bad?

There is gear I would love to own and exploit in the name of enhancing my skills, and I feel frustrated that I can't obtain them because of cost. Things such as a camera with a full-frame sensor; a tilt-shift lens or two (to better exploit my interest in architectural photography); a quality, far-reaching telephoto lens (to do more and better quality outdoor and wildlife photography); a good strobe or two and a premier wireless trigger system to hone my portraiture skills; some backdrops to have at the ready, presuming the portraiture thing would actually develop into something substantive; carrying equipment to package and transport that portraiture gear; a video camera that would allow me to venture into videography. And so on. And yet, I periodically hear photography acquaintances pine for even half the gear I already possess, making me feel immediately humbled and guilty. Is that bad?

And is it bad that I cannot seem to resolve how I fiercely oppose photo contests (partly because of how I believe competition has no business in an art form such as photography, but more so because of how I've seen otherwise decent people resort to unseemly measures to give themselves an edge up on these things) ... and yet I truly appreciate genuine praise (outside the parameters of competition) about any of my pictures?

Is it bad that I expect my regular blog visitors to wade through this litany of text instead of viewing pictures with today's post?

OK, I know some of you may be wondering, "what's with today's post?" I credit the blog Blether (aka Jacqueline), via the blog two birds. My initial reaction when seeing stabs at "honesty" was "there's no way I can work this into my blog." But I gave it some thought over the next 24 hours, and came up with the above. In my version, I initially was going to also take time to respond to each of the rhetorical questions, but ... I hope we have an understanding that you and I both know the answers to most of these. And besides, to add responses would be counter to the two birds' concept, and that probably would be bad, right? Two birds asks that bloggers who do one of these should "link up," but I have no idea what that means or how to do it, even though I trust that it would not necessarily be a bad thing to do. I'm content on giving you all a little change of pace with this.

I promise that with the next post there will be pictures from Part II of my trip to Spring Mill State Park, as indicated in yesterday's post.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spring Mill State Park, Part I of two

I used Thursday to check off another item on my mental "photo destination" list when I visited Spring Mill State Park in Southern Indiana, about 3.5 miles east of Mitchell, hometown of the late U.S. astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom. But this park has so much to offer, I didn't spend nearly enough time to see and appreciate it all.

I'm chagrined to admit that I got a late start on my trip, which is about a two-hour drive from Indianapolis. I didn't arrive till after noon (pretty much the worst time of day to shoot outdoor photos) and spent nearly all of my time -- close to four hours -- in just the park's Pioneer Village. I used my tripod extensively, since I had decided beforehand to bracket virtually all of my shots for later high-dynamic range (HDR) processing.

I pushed my Canon 7D pretty hard; in addition to the bracketing, I leaned heavily on the camera's live-view feature, which comes in very handy for HDR work, not to mention off-tripod low- and high-perspective shots where angles are such that you physically cannot use the viewfinder to compose. But live view uses a lot of battery power, which is a key factor in high temperatures. Extreme heat (definition: prolonged direct sunlight) plus high-battery stress leads to overheating in the camera circuitry. Sure enough, about two and a half hours into the shoot, the 7D's "overheating" warning started flashing. Even though I tried to spend as much time as I could in shade after that, about a half-hour later, the 7D shut down. I turned to my backup, a Canon 30D, to finish my shots in the village (A reminder to photographers reading this: This is why all photographers should own and carry a second or backup body). The 30D does not have live view, and for the remainder of my use of the 30D, this left me appreciating that 7D feature more than I had previously.

Another piece of equipment that turned out to be very handy Thursday was my Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 wide-angle lens. I used my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens for the early shots, including the panoramas. But when it came time to do the building and interior shots, the Sigma clearly was the "go to" lens for pictures.

During my departure -- but before exiting the park -- I noticed a small cemetery off on a knoll on the side of the park road and was compelled to check it out. By this time, it had been about an hour since I turned off the 7D to allow it to cool, so I used it for another half-hour to 45 minutes of picture-taking in the Hamer pioneer family cemetery.

I'll do posts on this visit in two installments. Today's will be devoted to the Pioneer Village; the second post will entail shots in the cemetery.

One other thing of note from my trip Thursday. It marked the first time I attempted to compose a panorama -- the process of taking multiple, overlapping frames and stitching them together afterward in post-processing photo editing software.

As it turned out, "the stitching together" was pretty simple -- and magical, using Photoshop Elements 10. I was motivated to take a stab at it after attending, the previous evening, a "how to" presentation on panoramas at a meeting of the Indiana Photographic Society. Donna Adams, a club member and University of Indianapolis associate professor of photography and printmaking, was the presenter. So thank you for that, Donna! A word of credit, too, to Marty Benson, assistant director of communications for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and managing editor of Outdoor Indiana magazine, whose suggestion earlier this month prompted me to put this park on my "photo destination" list.

I tried two panoramas at Spring Mill Park -- one landscape (horizontal) and one portrait (vertical) orientation; each involved three total frames. The photo leading off today's post is the landscape orientation panorama; it also was among the first compositions I attempted after arriving at the park. The portrait orientation of a tree appears immediately below. In a bit of self-editing, I should have used a fourth frame with the shot of the tree below to catch the tree tops. But, I figured I was just experimenting with these anyway; they weren't designed to be prize winners.

To view a gallery of my full shoot from the trip to Spring Mill State Park, visit my site at

Above: The mid-day sun was such that I wasn't happy with most of my "full view" color shots of the familiar grist mill in the Pioneer Village, even though I turned to HDR to hopefully make something work. But I do like this "antique" tint monochrome conversion of the mill from this angle, which also depicts the flume that diverts creek water to the mill for use in powering the mill operation.

Above: A detail shot of the mill (see image below for perspective). Initial HDR processing rendered a heavy and deep magenta sheen on this that I didn't like. So for the color version, I went to the color sliders and lowered the magenta register then slightly reduced the full saturation to effect this muted color look. I was somewhat satisfied with the result.

Above: The above is my favorite of the full view shots of the grist mill.

Above and below: Mill Creek dissects the Pioneer Village property near the grist mill. The milky stream in the mini-rapids section of the detail shot below was made possible by using shutter speeds as slow as 1/5. 

Above: This is the first photo I took with the Sigma 10-20mm lens. From this angle, these barrels look like artful landscape decorations, not the trash holders that they really are. 

Above: A view of the elevated flume from an angle only a few feet from Mill Creek. 

Above: Another detail shot from the front of the grist mill. The original HDR rendering for this also had heavy elements of magenta, that I fought to diminish in post-processing. 

Above and below: Two views of the Leather Shop exterior in the village. 

Above: The village distillery, a stone's throw from the grist mill and flume.

Above: The first in a series of shots taken inside the various log structures on the grounds. Foot traffic (other visitors) was almost nil while I was there, so I had the needed time (and, therefore, patience) to set up my shots and maneuver the tripod to where I wanted (or needed) it. Because I was bracketing for HDR processing, I didn't feel daunted by the back lighting presented by the window light that I knew would distort my metering if shooting single frames.

Above: This was one of the few frames where back lighting conquered, despite my bracketing. You can probably guess where the color version had trouble -- near the floor with the front-and-center object. But I do like the monochrome conversion, particularly this antique tint. 

Above: A crop to detail these objects. 

Above: A sort of courtyard, as seen from the doorway of the log structure I was preparing to exit. The color version of this came out fine, but I like the Old World sheen of this antique-tint monochrome.

Above: Another Old World look in the gardens area. 

Above: One of the first shots I took with the 30D after the 7D overheated and timed-out. Turns out the 30D delivered marvelously, even though I had to work harder because it was not equipped with a live-view feature, which made composition easy using the 7D.

Above and below: Shots inside the grist mill.

Above: Inside the garden.

Above: This shot, and the two below, also taken with the 30D, came during a trip down a small portion of Trail 4 near the Pioneer Village parking lot. 

Above: The finale in today's post is a fun shot ... deliberately including a shadow of the 30D atop the tripod. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fountain Square Grand Prix debuts

It's fun to be able to say I was on hand for the inaugural running of something that turns out, years later, to be a popular event. In 1991, I participated in the inaugural Shamrock 4-mile run held on St. Patrick's Day in downtown Indianapolis. I ran it for three years more before I broke my streak. But the race is still going strong, and marked its 21st observance last March.

In June, I photographed my second annual Hendricks County (Ind.) Park2Park Relay. I had also shot the ground-level staging of the fundraising event for the Hendricks County Parks Foundation in 2011.

It's more poignant if the "first-ever" event you attend turns out also to be the last. In 1995, I went to an outdoor blues festival in Crawfordsville, Ind., in the height of my blues-clubbing years. I remember thinking not only how wonderful it was that a community the size of Crawfordsville would attempt to stage something like this, but also how neat it would be to drop in on this every year thereafter. It was sparsely attended, but I figured that was normal for a fledgling wannabe. But apparently attendance was way too sparse. The event T-shirt I have from that day -- an artsy one that remains one of my favorites -- is the only one of its kind. There was no second Crawfordsville Blues Festival. I just did a Google search to see if I could even come up with any references at all to the fact that it ever existed, and had no luck. The Gate2Gate 5K Run, which started and finished at the gated entrances to Garfield Park Sunken Garden in Indianapolis near where I live, fared only marginally better. I registered for both the inaugural, in 2010, and the one last year and have T-shirts from each. But both had sparse participation, and there was no Gate2Gate this year.

The above, I admit, is a long-winded transition to today's post about Saturday's inaugural Fountain Square Grand Prix cycling criterium, an interesting competition over a figure 8 course that with luck could materialize as a key third leg in a "Big Three" of Indianapolis summer cycling criteriums, joining the Mass Ave Crit and Indy Crit. I missed the inaugural Mass Ave in 2008, but made it to the past two. I made it to the inaugural Indy Crit in 2010, but almost missed the Fountain Square debut Saturday. That's because I wasn't even aware of it until less than a week before it was held.

I asked someone at Saturday's criterium whether the FSGP was pulled together at the last minute, and he said that no, it had been planned for the past year. But he acknowledged that publicity really didn't begin until three weeks ago. At first, I was incredulous. But then I realized that it should be expected that a first-time event ... with limited resources and budget (and without its own website, as best as I can determine, although Joe's Cycles (run by Joe Cox, who also lives in the Fountain Square area) is a good place to start to find out information) ... might have to pick its spots to spend on publicity and to raise awareness.

Attendance was sparse in the early morning hours at the FSGB; there was probably a handful or so people around to see off racers in the first competition, the Men's Category 5, which was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. but really didn't get off till almost a half-hour later. And the one and only women's competition -- a women's open -- had all of seven riders in it, not a very encouraging statement. (A quick note: Last week's Mass Ave Crit Women's 1/2/3 winner Sierra Siebenlist also won Saturday's inaugural FSGP Women's Open. Combined with her fourth-place finish in the 2012 Indy Crit in July, Siebenlist stands heads above other cyclists -- men or women -- in this first summer of three Indianapolis cycling criteriums.). The good news for the FSGP is that attendance picked up in the early afternoon, and there were 20+ riders in each of the men's competitions, topping off with 40 who registered for the main event on the bill, the Men's Category 1/2/3.

It's possible that some of the attendance pick-up was attributable to people straying from the nearby second annual Cataracts Music Festival, a two-day staging of live outdoor entertainment. The Cataracts Fest began Friday with a modest lineup at the Murphy Arts Center in the heart of Fountain Square. On Saturday, the musicians yielded the merchants' district to cyclists, and performances featuring more than 30 bands moved to house shows along Morris Street, south and west of the Murphy Arts Center building.

So here's a salute to Joe's Cycles/Cardinal Bicycling Co., 1060 Viriginia Ave., in Fountain Square, the major driver of Saturday's inaugural Grand Prix ... and a toast that this thing grows in future years. And, oh yeah, I picked up an event T-shirt. There's no date on it, and I asked about that when I purchased my copy. The person who sold me the shirt outside Joe's said they were aware of that, but that a date stamp will be considered in future years. She then smiled and mentioned that my newly acquired shirt would be one of a kind.

One of the impressive experiences I had while shooting Saturday's FSGB were the shots of riders coming down Virginia Avenue in each of the two directions on the figure-8 course. On the north end, you had the downtown skyline, including the Chase building (Indiana's tallest skyscraper), to compose as a backdrop. Two examples of that are the muted approach seen in the photo leading off this post and the more inclusive shot immediately below. On the south end of Virginia Ave., there was the heart of Fountain Square -- the fountain and theater marquee -- in the background, such as the second image below.

One big difference between the FSGP and the two other criteriums is that aside from Virginia Avenue, the FSGP is run on small, neighborhood streets. The Indy and Mass Ave crits use relatively wide downtown streets. And oh, the FSGP was run with hardly any construction signage to dart around. As many Indy residents know, the heart of the Fountain Square merchants' district has been under siege by construction for three years as its infrastructure is upgraded for integration into the new Indianapolis Cultural Trail. I don't think the work is 100% done just yet, but the light at the end of the tunnel can be seen.

Like at the Mass Ave Crit, I didn't stay for all of Saturday's races. Photos of what competitions I did shoot, as well as a gallery devoted just to the event's atmosphere, can be found at my SmugMug site.

Above: The exterior of Joe's Cycles, 1060 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis, a driver of this year's inaugural Fountain Square Grand Prix.

Above and below: Cycling as artforms.

Above: The figure-8 course took riders like this participant in the Men's Category 5 off the beaten path, such as this area along Leonard street flanking I-65, a section that served as the left upper loop of the "8."

Above: Indianapolis residents Sierra Siebenlist and Sydney Hatten were 1-2 at this point of the Women's Open category, and they would finish in that order as well. Placing third was Luanne Murray of London, Ohio.

Above: I used the Fountain Square Grand Prix to explore some monochrome conversions, such as the shot above which has Sieblenist drafting behind the lead rider here.

Above: I also tried a straight-on leg-shoe-wheel crop for the first time. I'm not sure this is a remarkable success, but I do think it's worth exploring more. 

Above: More of the Fountain Square business center in the background.

Above: Jeffrey Meade of Carmel celebrated early before crossing the finish line first in the Men's Category 3-4 race. He and Joe's Cycles team member Benjamin Weber of Indianapolis broke away relatively early in the race and were still together at the start of the last lap. Meade has more gas in the tank at the end, however; he won with room to spare. 

Above: Because of trees and spotty shade, the portion of the course traversing neighborhood streets presented an interesting -- and difficult -- challenge: dealing with dramatic difference in lighting in the same scene. That's what the shot above illustrates. I did very little in post-processing to resolve the radical difference in exposure between the rider in open sunlight and the foreground cyclists in shade. But the blown-out highlights on the former were impossible to remove, so ... I decided simply to work with it. This isn't noteworthy artistically, but I do like the contrast.  

Above: Leading off a series of atmosphere shots is this image of a toddler with a "window" to the action through the bars of the street rails along Virginia Avene. 

Above and below: Jeff C. Williams said he came from Springfield, Ill., to display his bicycle paintings and prints. He set up along Virginia Avenue, not far from Joe's Cycles and the race staging area. Check out more at

Above: Bright colors are what motivated me to take this photo of a man preparing to cross Morris Street on the west side of Shelby Street. His finger gesture, intended for a volunteer cross guard, was to confirm that it was safe to cross the street.

Above: Because Fountain Square is known for its art galleries and influences, I tried to compose something for my contribution to the inaugural (and unofficial, in the sense that I just made it up) Fountain Square Grand Prix Art Fair.

Above: A nod to one of the wall murals that can be found within the district.