Saturday, December 20, 2014

SOLD OUT! Book Signing at 2nd & Charles

Manager Kim from 2nd & Charles stopped by for a photo op with the few remaining books.

It was a busy day at the 2nd & Charles Book Store in Woodbridge, VA, for both me and the employees. Again, I had a wonderful time talking to the patrons and selling my books. All gone until the next shipment arrives on Monday. Still time to get one or two as Christmas gifts.

Pop Collectibles drew heavy traffic. I have no clue what this fad is about.

I found it a bit of a challenge competing with the table of Pop Culture collectible figures just three feet away. I've never heard of them, but apparently they're popular among some. So it was books versus bobbleheads!

Even this did not faze the ardent collectors. Within minutes it was buried behind shifting Pop boxes. 

I think we both won at the end of the night. If they had one of an author sitting at a table, or writing a book, I'm sure I would have purchased it. All in good fun!

See ya next time. Thank you 2nd & Charles and staff! Vic


Subscribe to my blog for Book Prizes and Blog Updates!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

'Beautiful Nature' in the Making

Tentative cover design for "Beautiful Nature." I'll probably change it before the book is completed.
It's been seven long years of trekking through the trails of Northern Virginia--from Prince William Forest Park to Conway Robinson State Park--and now I'm ready to complete the photo tabletop book, which I am simply titling, "Beautiful Nature."

Full-page images of a few of the many beautiful trails I've walked along several times.
I've seen a lot of interesting things along the way, and I've had some incredible experiences that I hope I can convey in the captions for the photos. That's been the biggest challenge. I'm not a fan of photo books with no captions at all. But I also don't want to just state the name of the creature or plant or the location where a shot was taken. Instead, I am going to write about why I like each photo, and what was going on at the time that I took it. Like, how did I stumble upon these lizards and turtle? Creatures that hide so well you're lucky if you spot any in an entire summer.


And what was it like discovering these unique mushrooms? If you're a fan of fungi, you're going to love this book. To walk through miles of green and brown and then discover one tiny spot where a single bright-red mushroom has made its home is quite exciting. At least to a nature photographer. It's like an alien to the surroundings.


Remember the seventeen-year-cicada orgy of 2013? From the moment the millions hatched to a single ant carrying away the wing of a deceased adult, I was there to document it all.


And the seasons. The wonderful seasons. They're all covered in the book. Many are displayed in two-page spreads where you can immerse yourself into the beauty of it all.


Finally, what held the completion of the book back by two years: the lack of cumulative snow in Virginia. It wasn't until the winter of 2013 when there was enough to obtain some truly awesome shots. And then it seemed as if  the snow would never stop! My wish for snow came true a few too many times.

Brown leaves interspersed among dark trunks in a peaceful winter scene at the Brentsville Nature Trail.
I'm hoping to complete the book by the summer of 2015. Until then, enjoy hundreds of these nature photos on your TV along with relaxing music in my DVD, "Calmness of Woods." Your purchase helps cover the cost of making these images possible. Vic

Subscribe to my blog for Book Prizes and Blog Updates!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Only Dumbasses Buy Expensive Cameras


I recently overheard an acquaintance talk about how she wished she would have added more lens attachments for her costly DSLR camera to her Christmas wishlist, and I thought, you only take pictures of your baby. And you choose to do that with your iPhone. So it got me thinking about all the people I see, mostly amateur photographers who really have no need for a DSLR, walking around with these $1500-$3000 monstrosities. If you're one of those people, or you are thinking of becoming one of those people, I'm here to tell you...you're an idiot. Seriously, though, you can be reformed.

I have been photographing subjects, nature, and landscapes from the moment the first Epson digital camera debuted back in like 1997. I believe Casio was the first one on the market. These took low-resolution, 640 x 480 images. It wasn't long before pixel counts doubled, then tripled, and quadrupled. Today, almost any digital camera you purchase has the ability to take photos large enough to print decent 8" x 10" prints.

Shot with an old two-megapixel digital camera. Good enough for the web, yes?
The problem is the mindset, the belief that you must buy an expensive camera to achieve top quality. And some manufacturers have suckered people into that way of thinking. Here, buy this shell camera for $1200, then add a $700 telephoto lens so you can shoot maybe 8x or 12x. Then buy another expensive attachment so you can achieve wide-angle shots. Oh, you'll need a large accessory bag for all those components, too. Have fun hauling all that weight around.

The truth is, you don't need any of that. There are mid-range-priced digital cameras that will get the job done above and beyond what you would expect. Some are referred to as "bridge" cameras—cameras that have more bells and whistles than your typical point-and-shoot, but, apparently, less than a DSLR. But many have more capabilities than their expensive counterparts. Like my new Panasonic Lumix FZ200, which has the ability to shoot optical 24x zoom (not digital zoom) and maintain an aperture of F2.8 all the way through. That means it lets in more light through the entire zoom range so the shutter speed can be faster. This results in sharper images at full zoom. Like the one below.

24x zoom on the Panasonic Lumix FZ200. Notice the wide-angle shot in the top left corner.
Typically a manufacturer will release three models each year: a low-end, a mid-range, and a high-end. I always go for the mid-range model because it's usually several hundred dollars less than the high-end model, and has more manual controls than I'll ever need for my photographs. And I've never been disappointed.

Your best choice for a camera should match your usage. If you're only going to take photos for the web, any camera will do. Seriously. Even that near twenty-year-old Epson is sufficient enough for the web. But if you want to experiment a little further with your photography, just make sure the camera has manual overrides on Aperture and Shutter and Exposure. Look at the dial on top of the camera. If you see an A, S, and M, that means you can set the aperture (the F-stop) and the shutter speed at whatever you want. Invariably, those cameras will also allow you adjust the exposure as well. Then look for zoom capabilities. Ignore the digital zoom number (unless you like pixelated pictures) and only pay attention to the optical zoom number. It's not hard to find cameras that will take excellent photos at 10x-12x zoom in good lighting.

Cameras with manual Aperture and Shutter Speed controls allow you to take more creative shots.
As with any device, it's how well you use it that will determine the quality of your outcome. You can't expect to shoot handheld in near darkness and achieve sharp images without a flash or tripod. This even goes for the expensive models. So take some time to learn how to compose and light your subjects, or how to adjust the controls for the various lighting situations you will encounter. Digital photography is cheap. Just take multiple photos to get it right, and soon you will be able to predict what manual adjustments you'll need to make for various scenarios. Some cameras, like my new Lumix (which I got on sale for $297 on Black Friday), allow you to store those settings for future use, or already have "scene" settings dedicated to them. I have stored settings for nighttime photography, action photography, and everyday shots. Then I can just concentrate on composing and shooting.

I know some of you will be holdouts. You'll continue to believe that you need to spend several thousand dollars to achieve the finest, most exquisite shots of your dog, your flowers, or those tree-covered mountain ranges on your trip to the Amazon. You'll make comments that allude that you can "tell the difference" in the photo quality. Let me guess, you own a mac, too? You purchased a $2000 mac so you can type words for a document, search the Internet, and occasionally edit a video, perhaps. My eight-year-old $700 HP PC has produced two broadcast-quality videos (one aired on PBS), edited hundreds of thousands of photos, produced three published books, designed websites, and has paid for itself quite sufficiently. But, that's another story.

Save your money, do your research, and enjoy taking pictures!

Order the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Subscribe to my blog for Book Prizes and Blog Updates!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Washington Post covers 'People Who Need To Die'

Washington Post, Dec. 7, 2014, Prince William Extra section

Wipe that smirk off my face. Ha ha. Sarah Lane from the Washington Post covered my new book with an excellent feature story for the Prince William Extra section. I had waited a couple of weeks after the interview to see if they'd run it, then I noticed a spike in Kindle sales for the book this morning. It pretty much told me to haul down to the gas station and grab some papers, 'cause something must be causing it! Special thanks to Cindy Brookshire and Kathy Moya from the Write By The Rails group for helping me for the piece. Read the full piece here.

I also had a wonderful time signing books at the Deja Brew Coffeehouse in Haymarket last night, where I had great conversations with some terrifically talented people. Special thanks to Tom Nichols for plastering the shop with large posters of my scruffy face all over. When I saw the one above the men's toilet, I knew I had arrived.

Deja Brew Coffeehouse Men's Room (which is super clean!)

Next book signing is Dec. 20, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the 2nd and Charles Book Store in Woodbridge, VA. See ya there! Vic

Awesome folks who came to Deja Brew just to get copies of my book. We'll be in touch!


Subscribe to my blog for Book Prizes and Blog Updates!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas in Old Town Manassas


Every year Manassas recreates its Old Town Christmas charm with lights, banners, and window displays. Check out and share the gallery of photos I've started for the festivities.

Subscribe to my blog for Book Prizes and Blog Updates!