flowers

Springtime in Sweden

This past May, I had the opportunity to visit Sweden to make a presentation about my photographic research at the international Geomedia 2017 conference. The conference was held at Karlstad University in the town of Karlstad. Lovely city located about halfway between Stockholm and Oslo, Norway. We had the opportunity to ride both high-speed trains and slower, vintage Cold War era trains between Karlstad and Stockholm. While in Stockholm, we did get to visit Gamla Stan or the old Stockholm. This portion of the city dates back to the 13th century, around 1252 CE. Just as a side note, my ancestral family name originates in this part of Scandinavia. Maybe there’s some deep genetic root that made me feel so comfortable and “at home” in Sweden!

Is there a difference between Micro and Macro photography?

Lately on Friday afternoons after my grading is finished (most of the time), I’ve been trying to head out on short photo safaris with my colleague Wilson Hurst and the occasional student. Last week the lighting and weather conditions were great, so we took off to the northeast from campus, about a half-hour drive, to a beautiful reservoir just outside of Concordia—Edwin A. Pape Lake.

The low angle of the sun was creating interesting light patterns throughout the well-manicured wooded park and I found some interesting fungi to do some macro work. I pulled out my trusty Nikkor 55mm f2.8 MICRO lens and proceeded to lie on the ground for the extreme close-ups.

Sometimes photographers wonder what’s the difference between lenses that have Micro or Macro stamped on their lens barrels. At the university’s photography equipment check-out gage, we have a number of Canon and Nikon lenses, with the former stating MACRO and the latter stating MICRO. Turns out, both verbiage is correct, provided of course the lens is capable of photographing an object at a 1:1 ratio. In other words: life-size.  If the lens isn’t capable of this type of rendering, then you are simply doing close-up shots and not life-size. So what’s the difference between the terms? It’s just marketing ploys between camera manufacturers.

The great thing about these types of lenses is that it allows the photographer to explore intimate, miniature worlds that commingle with our perceived “normal” world of human beings.

© 2010 Terry Ownby

© 2010 Terry Ownby

© 2010 Terry Ownby

Return to the Flint Hills

Amazingly, I never tire of photographing the Flint Hills and the Tall Grass Prairie in Kansas. Wilson Hurst and I returned last week, sans students, and set up our base of operations at Emporia. Friday morning we hiked a portion of the prairie that was new to us, the Two Section Pasture, just east of Strong City. Basically it was just a very large pasture with several young beeves, which kept following Wilson! We did encounter one Horny Toad lizard along the trail and that provided some entertainment.

After working up an appetite, we headed down to Cottonwood Falls, where we had massive burgers at the Grand Central Hotel. From there, we did a driving tour heading south through Chase County, wondering back roads until arriving at an interesting ghost of a town called Bazaar. We happened across a unique looking cemetery from the 19th century, aptly named, Bazaar Cemetery. Something about the name just sounds bizarre! Anyway, that was the beginning of a new joint photo project on oddly named cemeteries and the following day we were fortunate to come across two more for the series: Welcome Cemetery and Pleasant Valley Cemetery! What are the odds?!

Around dinner time, we headed back into Emporia, checked into our room and then headed to one of the few chain restaurants we’ll eat at while on the road: Montana Mike’s Steakhouse. Fast service, good steaks, and reasonable prices, what else does one need! Since the days are getting longer, we decided to go back out to the Tall Grass Prairie to photograph the sunset and to await the night sky for some star trail shooting.

Being out in that sea of green at twilight is incredible and we were rewarded with great light, nighthawks, deer, coyotes, Evening Primroses, stars, and an incredible red full moon. It takes patience to do this type of shooting, something my students struggle with; but we were there in one spot from 7:30pm until almost 10:30pm, before calling it a day.

The next day started with a great breakfast at the Flint Hills Restaurant and then we headed north for the Konza Prairie. En route, we detoured off the highway and found Pillsbury Crossing and spent time photographing the waterfalls at the fording in Deep Creek. While there, we spotted what appeared to be a Cottonmouth snake, sunning itself on a flat stone in the river, not far from where we had been shooting. Then we were off to the Konza. Springtime flowers were abundant and we captured several images along the trail up to the summit of the ridge.

Although we covered a lot of miles in two days, it was incredibly relaxing and great to get away from urban life. Great photography, great food, and great landscapes: the Flint Hills is my favorite for all of these!

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Sunset at Tall Grass Prairie

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Looking North from Tall Grass

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Pillsbury Crossing

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Bazaar, Kansas

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Evening Primrose on the prairie

© 2010 Terry Ownby, Annual Fleabane, Erigeron annuus L. & Blue Hearts, Buchnera americana  L.

Photographer Harassment

I have been professionally photographing more than three decades and during the past two years since moving to west-central Missouri I have never seen or experienced photographer harassment as I have here. When I first moved here, I started going on short, local photo trips with some of my university colleagues and noticed while we were out, usually someone from the local community would stop us (typically my friend) and begin to aggressively question what we were doing. We could be photographing something entirely mundane, such as the side of an old weathered building, yet people around here seem compelled to take it upon themselves to function as some kind of “photo police”, as though the act of photographing public spaces is a crime. I truly don’t understand this mentality! Sadly, this is not only happening in the USA. Here’s a link to Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection, and watch this video of this craziness in the UK!

Today while I was riding my bike to the university to teach a morning studio class, I stopped on the neighboring street to create the image below. Just a simple close-up shot of a flowering American Tulip Tree. How benign can this subject matter be? Regardless, I’m minding my own business trying to get my little point & shoot (Nikon Coolpix S210) focused when I noticed one of the locals sitting in his sedan in the middle of the street staring at me. I consider myself to be a very open, accepting person of others’ chosen lifestyles so I don’t want to sound bigoted, but this guy fit the stereotypical rendition of a “redneck”, of which there are plenty around here.

At any rate, I finished my shooting and was getting ready to get back on my bike and he yells at me wanting to know if I was just photographing the “flower”. I’ve seen this episode play out too often with my photo buddies, so I was in no mood to go down this road. I put on a stern face, mustered up my old Army master sergeant voice and challenged him by asking him “was there a problem”? He smartly rolled up his window and sped off!

What is going on here? Why is that people think they have some kind of obligation to interfere with photographers working in public spaces? Certainly there’s no national secrets to safe guard near the campus of UCM! My personal theory is they must confuse everyone with a camera as being “paparazzi” and maybe they think they’re going to save the next Princess Diana!

© 2008 Terry Ownby, Flower from an American Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).