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Kurt's Photo's

Best Photos of 2009


When I was stationed in Okinawa in the early '80's, I bought a Minolta XG-1 35 mm SLR.  I also bought a Minolta Weathermatic.  I still have both.

At that time my favorite subject was - you guessed it - military aircraft.  Shooting subjects other than aircraft provide a chance to pick up some experience with framing subjects, position of the sun and the benefits of a polarizer.  (Reading up on photography never entered my mind.)  I still have many of the pictures and have digitized them to prevent the aging process to the prints.  My mind does enough of that for me, I don't need any help.

During the Military phase of my life, I was able to take many pictures.  The Weathermatic was a world traveler with me.  For a 110 - it was phenomenal.  The Weathermatic was with me through the winter survival AF training program through the first Persian Excursion and many placed in between.  For 12 years it performed without a problem.

Among the lenses I have for the XG-1  are a 18mm fisheye and a 600mm hand held telephoto.  Along the way I picked up a Vivitar lens that covers most everything else in between.  (The Vivitar has a long history on the Leib side of the family - starting from my grandfather Spike through Julie and then to me.)  

I fell away from the hobby for a number of years during my transition from Military life to the corporate world and move to Michigan.  I tried to do something with aerial photography for a while, but that although fun did not work out.

My first camera in the digit photography age was a Sony Mavica.  Great camera for the time.  Images were stored directly to a 3.5 disk.  I still have it and other than a quickly deteriorating battery it still works great.  With the FINE settings, it will take a very good 4x6 picture.  Anything larger is a crap shoot.  For taking pictures to publish on the web, it is perfect.  Truth be known, that is the real reason for the start the website.  (Plus, if your last name hasn't been taken as a domain, it is a rush.)

Subjects of interest to me are fall scenery and the Great Lakes subjects such as lighthouses and freighters.  Combine that with a hobby of off-road motorcycle riding and the possibilities for great pictures is greatly increased.  A few years ago, while riding in the Michigan farmlands around us, I was riding at the very peak of the fall scenery and took some great pictures.  The only problem was to do anything to enhance the pictures digitally didn't do the final product any favors.  The format just wasn't dense enough to hold the picture together.  I had to go bigger and better.  (If you know me, that is what I do best.)

Digital SLRs at that time were just becoming affordable.  I looked at the Minolta A-10.  I was familiar with the Minolta brand as my 35mm camera and I never had a problem.   I was just about to take the plunge when I picked up the Nikon D80 - just for comparison.  My Dad shoots with a Nikon and is very happy with it.  So back to research on the web and finally decided to go with the Nikon.  I haven't looked back.  (My friend Kenny (www.lemieuxphotography.com) shoots with a Canon.  He thinks I'm nuts for not even looking at one, but he started with that opinion so it doesn't count.)

So now my bike travels always include the Nikon.  I have a nifty backpack carrying case that is very comfortable while riding.  I shoot in RAW.  For the most part the only enhancements I make is an auto-fix feature in Adobe Elements.  I use an online gallery feature in Photoshop to display the photos on a web page.

Update:  December 2009 - I'm currently using Elements 6.  I've been playing with HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing using  Photomatix.  I haven't done any creations yet, although I've come close with the GRUNGE setting.  For photos that will go out for public viewing, at the lower end I use the Exposure Fusion.  Realistically, I could use Elements for any of this work, but with Fusion I can get whites, darks and midtones done quicker and much more consistent.  For processing RAW files to me this is a must have.  For HDR I have yet to really dive in as for now I'm using one RAW file to create the image.  (Frankly, that is all I have!)  The process has help out quite a bit with the flat skies that are prevalent in Michigan.  The GRUNGE setting morphs the image to what looks like a painting.  For many of the shots that I took this past fall - it really worked out well.