Guitars are another long-time fascination of mine. It began when my folks got a piano and my sister started lessons. I must have been jealous because Mom and Dad bought me a Harmony Guitar (but no lessons!). I learned a lot with it and kept it for over 30 years. I finally sold it at a garage sale sometime in the late 90s – wish I hadn’t.
When people ask, I usually say that I “play at” guitar. I think the small amount of natural talent I have comes to me from my Mom’s side of the family. Her father played in a band on the radio in the 1930s.
Granddad Harrison’s Band, about 1939. He’s the one in the middle with the fiddle.
Anyway, Martins are a sort of ‘holy grail’ for guitar players and I wanted to visit. Since we were already in Pennsylvania, I talked Lynn into stopping by the C. F. Martin & Co. Factory in Nazareth. They have a wonderful behind the scenes tour and I signed us both up.
Ed, outside the Martin Guitar Factory. Lynn said I looked like a kid in a candy store!
We got there a little early and spent some time in their museum. It’s interesting to see guitars that many of my favorite musicians played. Martin started in 1833 and their collection of memorabilia and more than 200 instruments show off the history and timeline of the company.
The factory tour itself was wonderful and lasted about two hours. Our tour guide (Ben) was the retired plant manager. He certainly knew a great deal about how they’re built.
Panorama from a walkway overlooking the factory
The first thing I noticed walking in to the factory was the delightful aroma. I won’t soon forget the smells of all the wood being worked.
I built a guitar (from a kit) once, so I’m familiar with how they go together. But seeing the factory in action, with its blend of hands-on craftsmanship and modern machinery / robots was spellbinding.
Robot Neck Carving
Using machines on some pieces (e.g. necks) increases the accuracy and precision of the parts and fit. And they can apply finish and polish without exposing humans to the fumes and dust.
Robot Body Polishing
There’s still a lot of hands on work, especially in their custom and Retro Series guitars.
Hand carving top braces
Custom back and fretboards
Almost done – these are waiting to be strung up and tested
They’re very photo friendly on the tour. They don’t want you making any video, but photography is fine, except for a couple of locations (they’ll let you know). The light is pretty good inside. I used ISO 400, f/1.8 – f/2.8, and my shutter speeds varied from 1/13 sec. to 1/200 sec. You’ll need to be careful if something’s in motion, but otherwise image stabilization should take care of the slower shutter speeds in dimmer light.
The 1833 shop is next to the museum and sells Martin branded items. And their “Guitar Maker’s Connection” is located in the old Martin Factor a little bit away from the main site. The behind the scenes tour is $25, requires a reservation and begins at 9:30. Highly recommended if you’re anywhere nearby. Check Martin’s site for more details.
Lynn and I went out to the Fort Christmas Historical Park this morning and met Nancy T. there for the 39th annual “Cracker Christmas”. There are craft vendors and historical demonstrations and it’s a great way to revisit some of our Florida history and maybe find a few unique gifts for friends and relatives.
The Union School – Originally established in 1906, it was expanded in the 1920s and used until 1969.
I was glad to go since I was hoping to make some photos for a blog post. I haven’t done any photography all week until today. Which is why this post is a bit late.
Victrola and RCA Victor record
One of the small buildings at Fort Christmas has a nice display of Victrolas and Edison phonograph machines. They have recordings too and it was a treat to listen to one of their wax cylinders from the late 1800s or early 1900s.
There was live music too:
Skeeter Creek band
Other things I enjoyed seeing were the tractor displays:
And even the old furniture, some of which was very ornate.
Dragonfly and flowers chair
There was plenty to eat, too – although we left before lunchtime.
This post is a first for me. All of the photos are from my iPhone (in JPG mode no less!) with a bit of Lightroom magic added. I also carried my micro 4/3 cameras, but for some reason ended up not using them. Curious.
Sarah Lee Guthrie (his daughter) opened for him and she’s a wonderful talent too.
Sara Lee Guthrie
“Alices Restaurant” is a favorite tune of mine and one of the first fingerstyle songs I learned to play on the guitar. It was a special treat to see and hear him perform this and many other songs. It was also special to hear him and Sarah Lee talk about their life, family, and friends. Here are a couple of things I learned:
In the Alice’s Restaurant movie, Arlo, Officer Obie, Judge James Hannon and his seeing eye dog all portray themselves. Relations between Arlo and Officer Obie were frosty at first, but they became good friends.
The Alice’s Restaurant song is 18 1/2 minutes long which is the same length as the famous gap in Nixon’s Watergate tapes. Arlo suggested that Nixon listened to the song and that’s why he had to erase that section.
Arlo Guthrie and his band
Photography notes: These were all made with a Sony RX-100 III point and shoot camera. I took this one because I’m never sure what the camera policy will be at the Plaza – it seems to vary. The Sony only has a 24 – 70mm equivalent lens, but we had seats up front. I used it wide open (f/2.8) in aperture priority with the spot meter. I manually varied ISO between 800 and 1600. The shutter speeds varied between 1/60 and 1/200 seconds. I shot in RAW and used DXO Optics Pro to process the RAW files. This SW is excellent at removing noise and preserving sharpness – even with the smaller sensor in this camera. The camera’s auto white balance did OK, but I used the eyedropper to set it based on Arlo’s gray shirt.
Lynn and I really enjoyed the concert. And I like my new t-shirt too. We need more songs about social consciousness, activism, and protest. There’re certainly enough subjects to write about.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go support your favorite artists and make some photos!
Fort Christmas is holding its annual “Cracker Christmas” event this weekend (5 and 6 December). There’s a lot to do there today and tomorrow with pioneer homes, museums, live music, demonstrations, a civil war camp, crafts for sale, and plenty of food to eat.
There are also a few photo ops.
Skeeter Creek Band
Civil War Re-enactor
If you haven’t been, I recommend it. You should plan to get there early, since the traffic builds up as the day goes on.
You can read more about Fort Christmas on the blog here. And you can look at more photos from there in this album on Flickr.
If you want to get better at photography, you can find a lot of free advice on the inter webs. Buy a new camera or lens, use new software, travel to an exotic location, take a workshop or a course, read books, study the masters, etc.
My free advice isn’t any of the above and it won’t cost you as much money as some of those things will. And I don’t see it come up very often on-line. Take my advice and not only will you learn new things – you’ll be exposed to different genres of photography, and you’ll be able to practice what you’ve been exposed to. What’s the secret?
Join your local camera club.
The weather’s been gloomy around Central Florida recently. solid grey clouds, rain and drizzle, and not much light to make photographs with. So I was happy that there was a Still Life Event at the Orlando Camera Club meeting last Monday. They brought in interesting items to photograph and had tables, lighting, and backdrops to use for set up. I brought a camera, tripod and flash (although with my tripod, I ended up not needing the flash). It was a lot of fun to choose items and arrange compositions. It’s something I don’t usually do – but that’s a good thing. Here are three photos from that evening.
Keb Mo blues – Playing around with compositing: I made the foreground shot of the guitar & Blues sign at the Still Life event. I added the background photo of Keb Mo that I made at his concert in the Plaza Theater in Orlando on Feb. 1 2012.
Wrench, bolt, and lock
I belong to the Orlando Camera Club (http://orlandocameraclub.com). I’ve also attended meetings at the Port Orange Camera Club and the Oviedo Photo Club. Membership in any of these will benefit your photography. Some things most clubs offer:
Photo competitions in different genres with feedback
Events (like the still life one I went to)
Guest speakers on many related topics
Workshops (free or inexpensive) about many subjects
Field trips to local photo ops
Libraries of photo books that you can borrow for free
And other people with similar (and diverse) interests to share your passion with
I’m sure that wherever you are, there’s a camera club that you can join too.
Update on the blog hosting change: It does look like the transition’s been successful. The email subscriptions seemed to go out ok last week and I haven’t received any problem reports. One issue I’m aware of is that the move appears to have broken RSS subscriptions. So If you’ve come here directly to find out why your Central Florida Photo Ops RSS feed isn’t working – I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do anything about it. You’ll have to re-subscribe.
And finally, I’m sure you heard that Leonard Nimoy passed away on Friday and will be buried today. Of course I didn’t know him, but I felt I knew his famous Mr. Spock character that saved the day (and even the universe) so many times over the years. May he rest in peace.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And live long and prosper.
Lynn and I went to see James Taylor last Tuesday. He played at the arena downtown and the place was packed. I guess there’s still a lot of us old timers that like his music (and can still hear). He played a lot of his hits and a few newer songs too.
James Taylor and his All Star Band – In concert at the Amway in Orlando, Florida. November 18th, 2014. (ISO 800, f2.8 @ 1/80 sec., 70mm eq.)
Like any large sports type arena, the acoustics and sound mix weren’t the best, and the prices for this type of entertainment (along with parking and popcorn) are very high. But it was a very good show and we both enjoyed ourselves.
Photographically, this is a very tough assignment. Unless you have a stage or press pass, your camera gear and access will be limited. For these events, the Amway has a very restrictive camera policy: Your camera has to “fit in your pocket”. Even though we had good seats, we were still pretty far from the stage. My Sony point-and-shoot camera does fit in my pocket and I thought the photo above was worth keeping. But I still wish the lens was longer than 24-70mm equivalent.
Back when I was in the Navy, I had to go to sea for months at a time and leave Lynn behind in Charleston, South Carolina. We missed each other terribly. One of my favorite songs from then was James Taylor’s “Carolina in my mind”. It was wonderful to hear him play it live – with Lynn in the seat right beside me.
Keb Mo (Kevin Moore) made a return visit to the Plaza Theatre in downtown Orlando last night. This time he left the band home and performed solo.
The man has a lot of talent. I enjoyed this show every bit as much as his last one here. He sang and played four different instruments – including three guitars and a harmonica. The place was full of his fans and they obviously enjoyed the show too. He interacted quite a bit with the audience and most of the songs he played were based on requests. There was even one funny part where he played a montage of several cover tunes while waiting for an audience member to return – since she had requested the next song.
Once again Lynn and I had excellent seats (this time on the left) and I was able to get a couple nice photos of him.
I highly recommend both Keb Mo’s music and the Plaza. If you get a chance, check ’em out.
Happy Holidays! Once again the season has snuck up on us. I hope that all of you, your families, and your friends have a joyful and happy season!
Photographer Jim Goldstein has an annual tradition of organizing a “best photos of the year” listing. I’m very glad he started this, since it’s a good reminder for each of us to take time to review results and contemplate how to improve our photography. And also to put together an annual “Favorite photos of the year” post.
2012 was another good year for me photographically. The 2012 folder on my hard drive takes up about 284 GB of space – almost double 2011. There are 80 folders, and each one represents a separate “photo-op”, with a total of over 6200 photos, so it does look like I’m trying! I had a lot of opportunity to make good images this year, and I’m pleased with the results I achieved. But it doesn’t seem like my ability and skills have grown as much this year as in the past. Perhaps I’ve plateaued. Maybe I don’t know what I don’t know about getting better. Maybe I’m just getting more picky and critical. Regardless, I think I need to make a stronger effort in 2013.
I’m still using the following system to rate my photos. The numbers in parentheses are the counts for 2012.
1 star – The photo is interesting (174)
2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others (396)
3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot (68)
4 stars – My favorite photo of a year (1)
5 stars – My favorite photo ever (still none, I’m not finished making photos yet!)
The rest of the photos don’t have stars and are seconds or not so good versions. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. This system seems to work for me and I’ve reviewed my 2012 photos and selected my favorites. This is a hard process for any photographer. It’s difficult to separate my opinion about a photograph from any emotional connections that I might have with the scene or situation. But making this effort is important and part of the learning process. Still, at the end of the day, I don’t claim to be objective about my photography. These photos are the ones that I like best, so feel free to disagree – but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve picked.
You can click on each of these to go to Flickr and see a larger version. Or you can click on this link to go to the complete set on Flickr.
I have 1 miscellaneous subject, 1 mammal, 1 bird, 3 people photos, 7 landscapes, 3 sunrises, 0 sunsets, 6 color, 4 Black and White, and 4 Infra-Red photos. Definitely a trend away from wildlife and toward landscapes and infra-red. Here we go…
My number 1 favorite photo of 2012:
Many cypress trees, Blue Cypress Lake, near Vero Beach, Florida, June.
I have a thing for Cypress trees anyway and when I made my first and only visit to Blue Cypress Lake this year, the natural beauty of this place overwhelmed me. I’m planning to return early next year when I can also see many nesting Ospreys and other birds. See this post for more info.
My number 2 favorite photo of 2012:
Pre-dawn Jetty, Jetty Park, Cocoa, Florida, October.
When I saw this scene, I really liked the way the light on the walk drew my eye to the bottom left and then the rail and the jetty lead to the sun rays coming up from below the horizon. So I straddled the rail with my tripod and made this photo. See this post for more info.
My number 3 favorite photo of 2012:
Keb’ Mo’ in concert, Plaza Theatre, Orlando, Florida, February.
I like The Plaza and they often bring in acts that I like too. We were lucky to get seats up front and when the spotlights lit up the smoke, I made this photo. See this post for more info.
My number 4 favorite photo of 2012:
Water Dragon Sunrise, on board the Carnival Paridise in the Gulf of Mexico, April.
I stalked this sunrise for about 45 minutes before this scene developed. I’m happy I waited for it – sometimes patience pays off! See this post for more info.
My number 5 favorite photo of 2012:
Submarine sunrise: The British Trident ballistic missile submarine HMS Vigilant leaving Port Canaveral, Florida just after dawn, October.
This was a bonus photo when the sub turned south after leaving the inlet and posed for us under the rising sun. See this post for more info.
My number 6 favorite photo of 2012:
Cocoa Sunrise, North of the Hubert Humphrey Causeway in Cocoa, Florida, August.
This is an infra-red, fish-eye photo (an “IRFE”). It’s a really good combination to shake up your photography and inspire some creativity.
My number 7 favorite photo of 2012:
Play time at Union Station, Cincinnati, Ohio, December 2011
This photo missed the deadline for last year’s favorites – so I included it here. I usually wait for people to clear out when I’m trying to make a photo. This time I went ahead and made it while these two girls played around the fountain. Since this is a stitched panorama, they show up multiple times, which I think adds to the image. See this post for more info.
My number 8 favorite photo of 2012:
Cruising White Pelican, Black Point Wildlife Drive, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida, December.
White Pelicans are winter migrants to our area, so we don’t get to see them very often. This one cruised right in and posed in the middle of my viewfinder. I couldn’t have arranged it better! See this post for more info.
My number 9 favorite photo of 2012:
On the beach, Venice Beach, Florida, September.
We were wandering around exploring the area near the Venice Pier. Since it was close to mid-day, I didn’t expect the light to be good, but I took my IR camera in case something came up. I think the IR characteristics add a lot of interest to the photo. And it makes a great example of how “playing around” can lead to good things. See this post for more info.
My number 10 favorite photo of 2012:
Late night?, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida, May.
This photo was difficult to make since the lighting was challenging and I had to photograph the Gorilla through glass. But it’s a great pose and expression and I was able to clean the image up considerably in post processing. He looks like I’ve felt a few times. See this post for more info.
And here is one last photo that I care a lot about:
The “Senator” – a 3500 year old Bald Cypress tree, Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida.
I made this image in September of 2011, so it doesn’t officially qualify for a 2012 favorite. The reason I put it in this post is because in January of 2012, the tree caught fire, burned and collapsed. The fire was at first thought to have been caused by lightning, but later was determined to have been started by a woman inside the hollow tree so she could see the illegal drugs she was using. Now no one else will ever make a photo of this, so it became a lot more important to me in 2012. What a crazy, sad event. For more info see this post and this post.
If you’d like to see my favorite photos from earlier years, you can click on these links: 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Queen Extravaganza performed at Orlando’s Plaza Theater on Fathers Day to a sold out, enthusiastic crowd.
Queen Extravaganza at the Plaza: Yvan Pedneault, Francois-Olivier Doyon, Tyler Warren, Brian Gresh, Tristan Avakian
QE as we’ll call them, is a tribute band backed by Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. The show ‘celebrates the music and live experience of Queen’. They’re on their summer tour and stopped for one night in Orlando.
Brian Gresh solo
This very talented group of musicians put on a wonderful show and performed many of Queen’s greatest hits. I’m not a proper Queen super fan, but to my uninitiated ears, QE were really good. The very loud sound mix and very annoying lighting (which occasionally flashed strobes directly into the eyes of the audience) bothered me a bit. I suspect that the sound level and lights are purposeful and similar to a live Queen show, but I have to admit I never saw them live, so I don’t know.
Brandon Ethridge, Brian Gresh, Tristan Avakian, Francois-Olivier Doyon and Yvan Pedneault
The Plaza has been one of my favorite venues for concert photography. I think their policy used to be “no professional cameras”, but at this show their sign said “no interchangeable lens cameras” and “no flash or video”. They didn’t give me any hassle at all, but they were stopping people making videos with their phones. I’m not sure if this is a permanent change or was specific to this event. It would be a shame if it’s permanent. I really enjoy the acts at the Plaza, but one of the key draws for me is the opportunity to make some photos. If it becomes too hard to carry my camera in, I’ll probably go there less.
Another wonderful concert at Orlando’s Plaza Theater last night! Keb’ Mo’ was in town – if you like the blues you probably already know about him. If not, you should.
Lynn and I had excellent seats which made for great listening as well as a great photo vantage point.
He and his band seemed to really enjoy themselves. They played a combination of older tunes and some off of his new album (The Reflection). The audience enjoyed it too.
… And the band
If you live in or near Orlando, pay attention to the Plaza. There might be some shows you’d be interested in. It’s a great venue. If you go and want to take a camera, bring a smaller one. They don’t allow “professional cameras or flash photography”. I’ve posted a couple other photos from last night in this set on Flickr. And you can read a blog entry I wrote about Hot Tuna at the Plaza here.