Michael Melford – Inspirational & Instructional Video

I’m always looking for inspiration as well as ideas on creativity.  B&H Photo/Video is a primary resource for me, not only for equipment, but for ideas and inspiration, too.  Recently they posted a number of videos of sessions from the OPTIC 2015 Conference they co-sponsored with Linblad Expeditions.  Below, you will find a link to a video I found inspiring, instructional, inspirational, and as an added plus, highly enjoyable.  It’s from a session presented by Michael Melford, an outstanding professional landscape photographer.  I hope you will take the time to view it.

Time to Stop Planning and Start Doing

cre_150602_02582_3_4_es-1A couple dozen times a year for over a decade I have driven passed this elm tree, and the farmer’s field in which it’s stood for several decades.  I have driven by during different seasons, with different sunrises and sunsets in the background, different crops growing in the field, different weather conditions, e.g., rain, snow, drought, different times of the day, in different moods, and for different reasons.  Visions of a hundred different images have popped-up in my head, but I never stopped to capture any of them on film or sensor.  This time was no different.  I didn’t stop in passing.  No, on this particular morning, this was my destination, and perhaps my destiny.

Before retiring to bed the night before this was taken, I spoke to myself and said, “If you wake up on your own, not alarm clock assisted, anytime between 4:00 AM and 4:30 AM, you are going to get out of bed and drive to this elm tree in the hope of capturing an image worth the trouble”.  When I finally crawled into bed, my camera gear was loaded and ready to go.  What I was going to wear was already laid out.  The coffee maker was filled with coffee makings and waiting only to have the start button pushed at whatever time I should walk into the kitchen.  Yep, you can guess what happened; Yes, it really did!

Sixty minutes, three gallons gasoline, and $6.50 in tolls later, I found myself pulling off the turnpike, driving across the right-of-way, and parking alongside the fence separating the farmer’s private land from the public’s “hurry up and get their toll road.  Yes, I finally did it!  I’m glad I did it!

What…are you…waiting on?  Hmm?  Stop planning and go do it!  You’ll be glad you did.

Best of the Day

Waylen Knapp - Photographer
Sunset at Sandy Sanders’ WMA

Recently a friend and I traveled to the Sandy Sanders’ Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in far western Oklahoma on a photo safari.  It was following an unusually wet spring, following several years of exceptional drought.  Besides being a fun outing to see how the water had risen in lakes and streams along the way, we were hoping for an explosion of wildflowers in bloom throughout the WMA.  We also had the goal of staying late at Sandy Sanders’ and photographing the sunset.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a successful trip for fine art photography but it was hugely successful for a lot of fun and fellowship.  Fine art photographers are by nature, and choice, loners, so when I can spend the day with a good friend and fellow photographer, it’s a day worth remembering.

We had a lot of fun in my FJ Cruiser driving through mud and water and over washed out roads throughout the deserted Sandy Sanders’ WMA and I learned some important things about using 4-wheel drive.  These lessons may come in handy in the future; at least I’m hoping they do.  We were the only sign of humanity all day long and the first to drive over some of the rough and rugged dirt roads since the last rain.  We had a great time exploring and searching for opportunities that didn’t seem to be forthcoming and by sundown we had to choose the best of the worst.  We never found what we were looking for, and that sometimes happens.  The photo I took of my friend, above, is perhaps the best the picture I took all day.  I know it will be the one I cherish and remember.

Past Reflection

Tent Camping
Camping – Davis, OK Area

Nothing better to do on a dark rainy day than scan old negatives.  I came across this one and thought I’d share.  I took this picture on a camping trip in late autumn of 1977.  The campsite is somewhere in the Davis area but the exact location has long slipped from memory.

I was young, dumb, and poor and the only camera I owned back then was a Nikkormat FTN with a 50mm f2 Nikkor H-C lens.  The 50mm was the only lens I had at the time.  In fact, it and the Nikkormat FTN were the only Nikon equipment I’ve ever owned.  I still have them both.  The film was Kodak “Pan-X Plus 125”.  I never have used B/W much so this was a treat when I came across the negative.

I wish I still had that tent, too.  It’s an 8×10 Coleman “American Heritage”.  Having straight sides there really was a lot of room in it.  I recall once, we had four cots setup inside.  Speaking of cots, I have no explanation why my cot is outside; I can’t remember a thing.  I wish I still had it because it would make a good cold weather tent for me.  It’s canvas and because it didn’t have a rain fly, the windows on the side zipped up tight.  It wouldn’t carry much of a load of snow, but it’d be warmer than the tent I have now.

Please excuse the scratches on the negative.  Back then, I kept negatives in the original paper envelopes in which they were shipped from the labs.  Again, I was young, dumb, and poor and didn’t preserve them properly.  It was years later when I finally bought sleeves and began to keep my negatives in them.  Of course, the damage was already done.

Fresh Start

Sunrise behind Mt. Scott
Longhorn cattle graze as sun rises over Mt. Scott.

I went camping this past weekend.  I needed to get away from people, get closer to myself and nature, and reconnect with my photography.  The part about getting closer to nature and reconnecting with my photography was true enough, but getting away from people was anything but that!  I think everyone who owned, or could borrow, a tent had the same idea and showed up at the same campground.  Heck, some didn’t even have a tent.  They slept in their car.  It reminded me of camping at Catfish Bay, Lake Texoma over 40 years ago:  leaving an overcrowded urban trailer park to stay in an even more overcrowded tent city.  It was fun back then;  it ain’t today!  So my intention for a weekend of gritting my teeth through the pain in solitude while pursuing a great photograph was blown first rattle out of the box.

I still had the gritting and gnashing of teeth in response to pain, but I also had the irritation of people to deal with:  people who don’t even bring a flashlight to camp, people who use charcoal lighter fluid to start a campfire, people who bring large screen TVs to keep their kids occupied, and a divorced dad trying to impress their kid and wind up being a total jerk.  However, I was determined to put myself in the right place at the right time for the best opportunity to make a good image.  Since I barely slept a wink, waiting for sunrise was not big deal, and after spending the afternoon observing the loonies around camp, it was real easy to leave camp early enough to be set up for sunset.  All I really wanted was GOD to paint the sky in magic.

Sweet Morning Smells

Honeysuckle Flower
“Honeysuckle growing on a honeysuckle vine”, Bill Haley

Last night was not good for sleep; It was not due to pain.  I couldn’t sleep more than 45 minutes at a time.  Every 45 minutes I would awaken, look at the clock, lie awake for 30 minutes and then sleep for another 45.  Finally, at 4:30 AM, I arose, took a shower, shaved, drank a cup of “Taster’s Choice”, and drove to Walgreen’s to pick up some Q-Tips and coffee filters.

Back home I brewed a pot of coffee and ate a banana while thinking about what I was going to do this early in the morning.  When the coffee was finished brewing and I had poured myself a cup, I went out into the backyard to hear the birds and enjoy my fresh brew.  It was already light but it would be about 30 minutes before sunrise:  not enough time to get anywhere for a sunrise photo.  As I sat enjoying the cool morning air, I caught the scent of something sweet and fresh.  I turned and spied the source, my honeysuckle vine in full bloom.  The closer I got to it the stronger the wonderful aroma became.  Standing beside this vine profuse with whiter and yellow flowers, my nose leading the way, I lowered my head into the thickness of the flowers and inhaled deeply:  pure heaven.

I hadn’t tried the Manfrotto XPRO Geared 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head so I went back in the house to gather equipment to photograph this beautiful flower.  For a lens I chose the Sigma 105mm EX 2.8 Macro.  This is an old lens I’ve had for many years.  It is not the newer DG model.  With Sony Alpha a7r and tripod in hand, I sat up just inches away.  Maneuvering to get just the composition I wanted was easy using the XPRO Geared Head.  It was very responsive and smooth.  I expecially like the fact it has three leveling bubbles.  Added to the leveling bubble on the Manfrotto 55XPRO3 tripod, keeping everything in line was a breeze.  When I began, the air was perfectly still and keeping focus was simple.  However, this being Oklahoma, it wasn’t but a few minutes after sunrise before the air began to stir and the vines began to sway.  A few more shots and I was done.

Just Getting Started, It Seems

Okay, so I went to my physician and explained my aches and pains.  He thought it sounded like sciatica and gave me a shot in the spot I identified as most painful.  That was on a Monday.  For the next couple days I thought the “shot” was the panacea for all that ailed me.  Then on Thursday, some tell-tale sensations started me thinking, “Maybe not”.  By Friday, I was taking Tramadol again for pain; The weekend was back to “horrible as usual”!  By Sunday evening I was ready to try anything.  After consulting my “most trusted authority”, I began thinking seriously about inflammation as the most likely cause of the pain.  I had reached the point I was willing to do almost anything to ease the pain even at the risk of serious side effects.

Sunday evening I took four 200mg ibuprofen tablets (800mg).  On Monday I began a regimen of taking three 200mg ibuprofen tablets, three times a day.  By Monday afternoon I was pain-free and remained that way until Friday when I cut back to one tablet three times a day; The pain began to return until I was convinced it was going to take higher doses than that.  I returned to taking three at a time and the pain left again.  I have not needed to supplement the ibuprofen with Tramadol.

I know this is risky and I don’t plan on doing this long-term.  Of course, I admit that long-term may be relative, but I am considering safer and permanent solutions as well.  I’m trying to find out how to proceed to identify the source of the inflammation and pursue a course that brings healing at that point.  I don’t have a lot of confidence in allowing my personal physician to direct this pursuit but I don’t know what sort of physician I should seek out, first.


I’m no expert on pain.  I don’t have any information or answers on what to do to get rid of pain; I wish I did.  I have pain:  physical pain.  Mine is caused my arthritis.  It keeps me from doing a lot of the things I want to do most.  It steals the joy away when I’m doing the things I can.  It saps my energy until I’m tired and don’t feel like doing much, at all.  It prevents any restful sleep at night and causes me to wish for the sounding alarm on the clock.  Medication helps, sometimes:  meloxicam, Tramadol, acetaminophen, ibuprofen.  Topical pain relief creams and moist heat give relief, at times.  Even Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has a place in my self-therapy.  But when the sciatic nerve on my left side erupts pain courses across past my artificial hip, runs down my leg and explodes into my arthritis destroyed left knee.  It quickly becomes crippling agony.  What to do?  What to do?

I have no answers.  I’ve already had a total replacement of my right knee and left hip.  I anticipate future replacements of my left knee and left shoulder.  Will replacements stop there?  I don’t know.  And then, what do I do about the sciatic nerve?  Tomorrow, after a regular monthly visit to my chiropractor, I have a “not regular” appointment with my physician to discuss options.  I’m hoping there are some.

I know there are many out there who have it much worse than I and their pain is greater.  Some will think I’m whining.  Perhaps some will understand.  My hope is that writing about it will help me feel better.  That’s all!

Thoughts on this Easter Sunday

This morning I watched a program on OETA about the individual childhood lives of Ruth Bell and Billy Graham.  The story went on to tell how they met, married, and lived as a couple, as parents, and as crusaders for Jesus Christ.  At the end of the show, I switched the channel and was reminded by the Pope, during Easter Mass, of the recent murder of 147 young people, in Kenya, because of their faith in Jesus Christ at the hands of followers of another faith.  I flipped the channel again to hear a news report that, in the USA, we will spend 2.2 billion dollars on Easter candy this year.  I tuned the remote to another channel where I watched a news report and video of a group of people, somewhere in the USA, carrying signs and posters protesting religious rights in the USA:  a country founded on the free exercise of religion and not the right to be free from religion.

I can’t help but wonder what this all means.

I Like This Barn

Barn in Snow
Old Wooden Barn

I don’t remember if there was a house standing on this place the first time I saw this barn; a stem-wall outlines the location.  That was over 50 years ago, and the best my memory will serve, I don’t believe there was.  That’s a long time for a farmhouse to be gone, even for Oklahoma.  Most rotted away within the last fifty years, not the first fifty since settlers settled on this plot of prairie.  This barn still stands though, a testimony to the fact barns are more useful than houses out here.  Even so, there aren’t many of the old wooden barns around anymore.  They aren’t used for storing hay, feed, shelter for livestock, or the imagination of children acting out adventures in imaginary lands:  all replaced by round bales, metal equipment sheds, grocery stores, and video games.

I like this barn.  There’s no telling when it last sheltered anything more than an owl and an assortment of rodents and vermin.  I like this barn.  It’s defined its own purpose.  Hmm, I like this barn.