The worst family photo you never took?

Here we are in the 2017 Holiday Season, and I’m thinking about the oft-dreaded family photos and family photography again.

This is the fourth time around for the main points of this post. I’m posting it early this year so you’ve got some time to let it sink in, or perhaps share it with “that” person.

I think that family photography relevant every holiday season, and you’ll probably see it every holiday season as long as this site is up.  It will change as I change throughout the years, no doubt.

Hopefully, maybe, possibly, it may inspire someone out there.

The topic of family photos is relevant not just during the holidays, but every day…  I’m reminded of that as Papa Frog is not here this Christmas.

It’s a bit of a history lesson, and a life lesson.  Enjoy.  Ponder.  Reflect…

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What’s the worst family photo you never took?

If you’re thinking about the worst family photos you ever took, go back and reread that last line and think about it.

It’s probably the time of year, besides wondering what to write about, that led me to this topic.  We have a “family photo wall” that’s set up something like a family tree.  All of the family photos are in black and white – as most of the originals were.  I have yet to find a good photo of my Great-Grandmother to put on our family photo wall.  That still bugs me.

And then, there’s a song I haven’t heard in a while that always puts me in one of those melancholy, reflective, contemplative moods – “Time Passages” by Al Stewart.  Take a ride on the Wayback Machine and check out this video on YouTube of Al and Shot in the Dark performing the song back in 1978 when it hit the radio waves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRKyGhgoNE8

So, where am I going with this?  Isn’t the topic family photos?

Well, way back when, some families were great with taking family photos during the holidays – or any time for that matter- and some weren’t.  Some stored their family pictures well, and some didn’t.

All things considered, if you go back let’s say 50 years ago – family photography was a lot more complicated than it is today.  There were flashbulbs to load in the flash gun, and then exposures to calculate and settings to set on the camera.  Fast forward to the Instamatic camera that took 126 roll film and flash cubes!  An absolutely (well, almost) people-proof system that while easy to use, unfortunately didn’t necessarily take great pictures – but preserved memories to stimulate the mental hard drive nonetheless.  And then the 110 roll film cameras became a brief rage because they were small.  Never mind that so were their negatives, which meant that their practical use was limited.

Fast forward a bit to 1976 and Canon’s AE-1 35mm film camera.  It was the first “camera with a brain” (a microprocessor) and it forever changed amateur photography.  Load it with film, put the lens on the automatic setting, put the flash on and set it to automatic, set the shutter speed to 1/60 of a second – and indoor family photography changed again.  (My AE-1, passed down from my Father, is a few feet away as I rewrite this.)

41 years later, we have digital cameras in our phones as well as DSLR cameras that represent the great-great grandchildren of the AE-1.  Most people are using digital instead of film these days.  The cameras have great metering systems, automatic flashes, flashes that adjust their brightness for the scene, red-eye reduction settings.  It’s actually pretty easy these days to take a good (great?) picture.  Maybe it’s not so good for professional portrait photographers, though.

In the old days, you had to wait days or hours to see if the pictures were good or not.  More often than not, if you weren’t happy with your results, you didn’t get a chance for a “do-over” until the next family gathering.  Even then, you may not have been able to catch the picture again.

Perhaps the best thing about digital photography is that you can look at your picture seconds later and see who had their eyes closed, or mouth open, or who was making a funny face or obscene gesture.  If you don’t like what you got – yell at everyone (politely, of course, because it is the holidays) and take the picture again.  And, repeat as necessary…

Filum is practically free in the form of memory cards.  No – that’s not a typo.  It’s film as my maternal Grandfather called it.  It’s Pittsburghese.  Don’t believe me?  Look it up!

And – no more having to spend $3.00 extra per roll for 1-Hour processing of your 4×6 prints.

So, where am I going with this?  Well, I’m almost there now.  Thanks for bearing with me.

OK, I’m there now.

Here goes:

Take pictures this family season.

Lots of them.

Get ‘em with their eyes closed, or with that glob of gravy on their chin.

Get ‘em when they’re groaning or while they’re sleeping.

You could even get ‘em when their smiling. (Hopefully that’s with an image you got from Laughing Frog Images 2017 holiday sale!)

Just get ‘em.

That way, you can always talk about the worst family photo you took.

It’s better than lamenting about the photo you never took.

That could well be the worst one…

Oh – I almost forgot – this post could be a great pre-holiday gift for someone you know.  Don’t be afraid to share it.

 

Still croaking!

Yes, I know, the blog has been neglected this year. I hope you’re all still out there!

It’s been a very busy year with a lot happening in the day job and life in general.  For those of you that are on Instagram / Facebook and Google+, I’ve been posting there often @laughingfrogimages simply because it’s simple to do it from my phone wherever I am.

I’ve been working on some new galleries for a while.  One is of an epic trip to Manitoba to see polar bears and beluga whales while they’re still visiting Churchill.  I hope that continues for a long time, but things are changing and we opted to go while the getting is good.  Another is of night shots of trains dating back to the late 1970s.

It’s my goal to get back to blogging, if only once a week.  There are stories to tell of Churchill and of Manitoba, let alone individual images.

Just need some time and some life in my work-life balance.

Until next time, be well.

Thanks, and Peace this holiday season!

Well, here we are in the midst of the 2016 holiday season.

I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do on this blog or at Laughing Frog Images this year.  The “day job” was simply too busy, and it was hard to find a couple of hours a week when I wasn’t working or commuting to spend time on images and writing.

On the other hand, as I sit here today, I’m thankful and humbled.

I just looked at the only demographics I can find for Laughing Frog Images, and that tells me that people like and follow the Frog in seventeen (17) different countries in seven (7) different languages.  I can’t tell how many other countries would be counted if I could tell who has viewed the Laughing Frog on our website, Google + page, Facebook page and our fairly new Instagram page.  Hence, I’m humbled that these words and images touch so many people in so many places.  I hope you enjoy the images and the little photography lessons that pop up along the way.

I know that a simple “Merry Christmas” doesn’t properly cover my holiday wishes for all.  The challenge and problem that I have beyond that is I simply don’t know how to properly convey my holiday wishes and greetings to all of you and yours out there somewhere on the internet (and I’m not going to embarrass myself trying!).

When you read or watch the news these days, it certainly does seem that we could all use a little more peace – whether that’s personal, familial, political or otherwise, it just seems that the world could use a little more peace (in the broadest sense of the word).

So, my peace to you and yours.  May you pass your peace on to others this holiday season.

Every year for the past 25-plus years, I’ve done a Christmas card with a train picture.  This is I believe the first year I’ve posted it for all of you.

 

Guilford Rail System (Maine Central) train SDPO is heading west through Danville Junction, ME. The train originated at the S. D. Warren paper mill in Hinckley, ME and is headed to Rigby Yard in Portland, ME. It's February of 1994. GP-9 51 is the youngster here at 37 years old, while GP-7 10 is a proud 41!

Guilford Rail System (Maine Central) train SDPO is heading west through Danville Junction, ME. The train originated at the S. D. Warren paper mill in Hinckley, ME and is headed to Rigby Yard in Portland, ME. It’s February of 1994. GP-9 51 is the youngster here at 37 years old, while GP-7 10 is a proud 41!

 

If you are so inclined, please take a minute to comment on the post and share with us your “local” holiday greeting wherever this finds you.

Holiday Sale!

2016 Holiday Sale

It’s the holidays, and everyone is having sales or so it seems.

At Laughing Frog Images, we waited until everyone’s media barrage was over to tell you about our sale!

We know we have great images.

We know we have good product.

We know we can help you decorate that wall, or make you look great when you give a gift.

We know we can make your holiday shopping easier!

You can order a paper print, or you can order that same print framed and ready to hang.

Showcase products arrive ready to hang or display.

Save 33% on all products through December 23, 2016*.

Use Coupon Code Holidays2016 to take advantage of this sale.

Click here to be taken to the galleries to start shopping.

Or, if you want to drop a not so subtle hint, share this post!

Scroll down for ideas…

The last Pittsburgh & Lake Erie commuter train form Pittsburgh arrives in College, PA on July 12, 1985.

The last Pittsburgh & Lake Erie commuter train form Pittsburgh arrives in College, PA on July 12, 1985.

Tehachapi Loop is timeless, and on the Bucket List for many a photographer and railfan.

Tehachapi Loop is timeless, and on the Bucket List for many a photographer and railfan.

White Pass & Yukon GE #100, Skagway AK.

White Pass & Yukon GE #100, Skagway AK.

It's partly cloudy in Terra Alta as Chessie System GP40-2 4162 leads an eastbound coal drag on 2/21/1988.

It’s partly cloudy in Terra Alta as Chessie System GP40-2 4162 leads an eastbound coal drag on 2/21/1988.

Petroglyphs photographed in Rock Art Canyon outside of St. Joseph, AZ. Rock Art Ranch should be on your list of places to see near the Painted Desert and Grand Canyon.

happy dancer or surrender?

Evinrude Outboard Motors neon sign. Florence, OR.

Evinrude Outboard Motors neon sign. Florence, OR.

A classic Arby's neon sign on 24th Street in Port Huron, MI.

A classic Arby’s neon sign on 24th Street in Port Huron, MI.

A wild horse pauses to ponder its' next move on Assateague.

A wild horse pauses to ponder its’ next move on Assateague.

1980_09_27_0017 copy 1x1 320 wm

C&O 614, Confluence PA.  1980

PH&D

PH&D, Port Huron, MI.  1984

DSCF5195 copy 480 wm

Mount Washington Cog Railway.

DSC_6943 lgb 600h

Green Bucket.  Kauai, HI.

 DSCF6859 1-3 acd LF

Lower Manhattan, 2011.

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Fireworks.

DSCF2854 LF

Driftwood, rocks and sand.  Kauai, HI.

Tunnel View Panorama Composite

Tunnel View two ways.  Yosemite National Park.

DSCF5529 LF

Ellis River, NH.

DSC_1291_D80 LF

Grand Canyon National Park.

DSCF5544 LFI fb

Silver Cascade, Crawford Notch, NH.

CIMG0282 adj LF (2)

Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle.DSC_5663 LF

Steamboat Natchez and the moon.DSC_8167 LF

Tail Breach.CIMG0839 4x5 320w

Why are you waking me up?2015_10_10_DSC_1837 2h1v copy 420 wm

Heceta Head Lighthouse, OR.

Puukumu Stream meets the Pacific Ocean on the north side of Kauai, Hi.

Puukumu Stream meets the Pacific Ocean on the north side of Kauai, Hi.

 

* This coupon is not applicable to shipping costs or books.  No donations will be made to non-profit groups as identified in the galleries when this Coupon is used.

TLRs reborn in Instagram?

TLRs reborn in Instagram?

As if I didn’t already have enough going on, my Marketing Advisor (Mike at Visceral Concepts) has finally convinced me to take on more things to do.

The Frog has taken another leap – and we’re now on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/laughingfrogimages/

While I don’t completely understand it, you can also find Laughing Frog Images by searching @laughingfrogimages as well.  Modern stuff…

Why did the Frog take the leap?  (Go ahead and groan, but I couldn’t resist that!)  Simple.  I can post from an Ipad or from my phone in a minute or less, and it’s about getting the word out about Laughing Frog Images and the great images and products we offer for sale.  I’m aiming for a post a day, and the same dry humor will be there, along with the stories and photography tips you’ve become accustomed to.

So, what’s with Instagram and TLRs?

It’s actually been fun preparing images in square format for Instagram – it’s like shooting with a TLR again!

Someone out there is saying “what’s a TLR?”

A TLR is a Twin Lens Reflex camera that most commonly made film images in a square format – typically 2.25″ x 2.25″.

mamiya-c220

I have two TLRs that I haven’t used in a long time – a Mamiyaflex and a Mamiya C220.  As I sit here and type this, I’m wondering why I haven’t.  They’re not convenient.  They’re best used on a tripod.  They have no exposure meter.  You have to focus manually.  The image is backwards on the focusing screen.  There are no zoom lenses.  You have to wind the film – there’s no such thing as burst mode.  Frames per second isn’t relevant – it’s frames per minute.  And, you have to think!

Yes, I love my digital SLRs, and my Icon – but the TLR – well, that’s photography!

So where’s the fun in Instagram?

Well, for starters, I have to reimagine image as a square image.  That means cropping about one third of the image and tossing it.  Sometimes,  the image is reborn with new meaning or context in the process.  Sometime, square is better.  It’s like looking at the shot all over again, despite the fact that I may have made the original image over 30 years ago.  Refreshing.  Provocative.  Fun!

Well I can’t say that the TLR camera has in fact been reborn via Instagram, I can say that its’ spirit has been rekindled.  It’s OK to think square again!

Sadly, not all is good.  There’s one drawback to all of this.  Instagram cross-posts to the Laughing Frog Images Facebook page, but it doesn’t cross-post to our Google + page.  I invite our followers and viewers on Google + to follow us on Instagram.

 

 

Union Pacific Derrick 903045

Union Pacific Derrick 903045

This one is for the train and crane folks!

Once upon a time, railroads had their own big cranes.  They were used for maintenance work on track and bridges, locomotive and car repairs, and perhaps most notably, to clean up derailments.  They were expensive to buy and expensive to operate, yet they spent a lot of their time sitting.

Over time, as derailments have decreased and maintenance practices have changed, the big cranes such as the 903045 have gone away.  Nowadays, most crane services are contracted out, as is derailment cleanup.

Today, many (most) of the big railroad cranes have been scrapped.  Few  remain in service.  And at least one big one – the 903045 – is in a museum.

Union Pacific Derrick 903045 is a 250 ton capacity crane built by the American Ohio Locomotive Crane Company. She now lives at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, CA.

Union Pacific American Crane W-250 Wreck Derrick 903045, Portola, CA.

Union Pacific American Crane W-250 Wreck Derrick 903045, Portola, CA.

There’s now a gallery on Laughing Frog Images devoted to the 903045.  This gallery is a photographic dissection of the 903045 for the curious, for the modelers, and the crane geeks.  She was basking in the sun during Portola Railroad Days in 2014.  Modelers and rivet counters: I didn’t cross the tracks to capture the other side – so the photo study is of her right side only.

If you think about the fact that she’s capable of lifting 250 tons, this is a photographic study of brute force that’s different from past locomotive photo studies I’ve done.  She was designed in the days before computer aided design – slide rules and math, paper and pencil.  No apps or programs.  Thick steel plate. Heavy welds.  Large diameter wire rope.  The smell of grease and oil.  Even if you’re not into trains or cranes, she’s something to behold.

Is she a relic of the past?  A testament to those who designed and built her?  Both?

Check out the gallery and decide for yourself…

 

Tehachapi Loop: Photo Accomplished

Tehachapi Loop: Photo Accomplished.

Two simple words that said to a railfan or train enthusiast mean for some a familiar place, for some a quest akin to the Holy Grain, and for some, just a unique, timeless and special place.

I was first introduced to Tehachapi Loop by the January 1977 issue of Trains Magazine.  Back then, it was the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads battling the hills and the curves.

It was… well, it was captivating.  Inspiring.  A place I had to see for myself.  A place I (naively) dreamed about fitting on a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood in HO scale.

Tehachapi Loop is timeless, and on the Bucket List for many a photographer and railfan.

Tehachapi Loop is timeless, and on the Bucket List for many a photographer and railfan.

It took over 22 years for me to get to Tehachapi Loop.  Mrs. Frog was there with me, and once she was over the Loop, she politely tolerated my excitement.

The Southern Pacific was in the process of being assimilated by the great yellow borg (a.k.a. the Union Pacific).

The Santa Fe was disappearing into the BNSF.

And the Loop was magnificent.

To describe the loop is kind of hard.  The reality is that the twists and turns are a result of the railroad needing to gain elevation in its’ climb from Bakersfield to the summit at Tehachapi.

I’ve seen it explained as what would happen if you gave a youngster too much track for a small layout with instructions to use it all up.

You just have to see it to appreciate it.

While I am not a fan of double-stack container trains, they are a reality of railroading today.  The often bright colors of the containers make it easier to see the train as it twists and turns heading east from Keene and Woodford.

It took me another six years to get back to the Loop again.  There were still vestiges of the Santa Fe left on that trip, but not much of the Southern Pacific.

I left somewhat unfulfilled, as I didn’t have a wide angle lens that could capture the whole Loop in one shot.

Fast forward to 2016.  I finally had a lens that could capture the Loop – a Tamron 10-24mm zoom.  I left the night before so that I could be at the Loop at first light – which, in my humble opinion, is the best time to capture the Loop.  The air had a chill as I walked to the overlook and waited.  And waited.  And wished I had a jacket.  And waited.

Modern locomotives are much quieter than they were in 1999.  I didn’t hear the train climb through Keene, and I barely heard it at Woodford.  The white and orange containers stuck out like a worm squirming uphill.  And it was finally time…

I caught three trains that morning before the sun angle became too stark for my tastes.

Mission accomplished, I left satisfied, checking one thing off of my list… (which isn’t to say I won’t go back!).

Those images are now in the Tehachapi Gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

I don’t normally do this – but all of the images in the gallery are cropped to accentuate the Loop in formats from 1h:2w to 1h:6w.  They’re different, that’s for sure.  They’d make a great gift for someone, or a conversation piece on your own wall.  And, even if you’re not in a buying mode, just go in and check out the images of something you can only see just west of the great little town of Tehachapi, CA.

The images from 1999 and 2006 are yet to be scanned, but they’ll be in the gallery some day as well.

If you find yourself on California Highway 58 between Mojave and Bakersfield, I invite you to make two stops: one in the town of Tehachapi – some interesting museums and things to see, and, of course, the Loop itself west of town.

 

The Canadian / le Canadien Gallery

The Canadian / le Canadian.

Sacred words to some.

For me, they’ve been on my Bucket List for most of my life.

I first saw the Budd stainless steel cars of The Canadian in Toronto in the late 1970’s.  Nothing against Amtrak, whose fleet was also largely stainless steel at the time, but The Canadian’s cars looked different.  Polished.  Cleaned.  Loved?

A Park car (that’s the dome-observation-lounge car at the end of the train in the image below) being switched is an image that was etched in my mind – no, maybe stamped, and the desire to take The Canadian across Canada was imprinted.

VIA Rail Canada Train #1, The Canadian / le Canadien, east of Oba, ON.

VIA Rail Canada Train #1, The Canadian / le Canadien, east of Oba, ON.

Fast forward about 35 years or so, and the time and elements finally came together to make it happen.

As VIA Rail Canada Train #1 The Canadian pulled out of Toronto Union Station, the train silently began to move at 2200h on the dot.  I was in the Park car with Mrs. Frog, and it was finally happening!

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey that matters, and every train trip is a journey unto itself.  This was no exception.

From the fine (yes, fine) food to the 1954 vintage Budd stainless steel equipment, from the friendly and professional train crew to the stories and the conversations of and with our fellow travelers, it was a journey.

Many “top train trip” lists put The Canadian in the Top 10 – and I found no reason to dispute that.

Waking in Capreol, ON the first morning, it was -2 degrees F – and we were snug as bugs in a rug.

At one dinner seating, I agonized over the choice I had to make – veal chop, pan roasted duck, or fresh trout.  There was a vegan option – but that wasn’t a choice!

The image above was taken from the Skyline dome at the front of the train for coach passengers – as a matter of fact, it was the 8500 – the first Skyline.  Try finding a view like that in coach on a 737!  The Park car brings up the rear.  Either car is perhaps the best way to travel – at least in the Frog’s eyes.

And the people…  A couple from Australia.  A couple from Scotland.  Honeymooners from the UK.  People traveling for business, family visits, vacations, and necessity, as The Canadian serves many remote towns along her journey.  A lawyer.  A writer.  Active railroaders.  Retired railroaders.  A family with their young daughter on their first train trip (she was so cute looking out the window hoping to see a bear as we left Jasper).  Those on their first train trip.  Those with more than 20 trips on The Canadian.  Conversations in the dome and lounge about life, perspectives, world views, and, commonly (for better or worse) – the U.S. Presidential campaign.  It’s the journey…

The snow and ice covered lakes and rivers in northern Ontario gave way to the fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which gave way to the Rockies and then the canyons of British Columbia.  And then, we backed in to Pacific Station toward the modern skyline of Vancouver.  It’s the journey…

As I sit here and review this post, I’ve wrestled with not going off on this tangent or that tangent and ending up with a 1000 word post.

There’s so much that could be written, whether inspired by the beauty of a scene, something learned in or inspired by a conversation, releasing the inner train geek and talking about the train, or musing about what life would be like in a quiet small town somewhere along the line.

I may revisit bits and pieces over time.  But, for now, I’m going to let you check out The Canadian / le Canadien gallery, and see some of what we saw along the way.

If you find inspiration to make the journey as a result of this gallery, or anything I’ve written – don’t wait too long.  Unfortunately, The Canadian, and VIA Rail Canada itself, exists to a great extent at the mercy of the politicians – much like Amtrak here in the U.S.  Logic and politics are often mutually exclusive, and much of Canada’s rail passenger system has been gutted in the last 26 years.  Every year, there are new worries about The Canadian, and this year is no different.

Photographing Fireworks Tutorial

Well, it’s almost that time of the year again – too much food, sunburn, mosquitoes, flies and photographing fireworks!

And then, go to work the next day!

(Yay!)

Follow the photographing fireworks tutorial to make images like this!

Follow the photographing fireworks tutorial to make images like this!

So, for those of you who will be out photographing fireworks this year – either intentionally or as an escape from the madness of the day, I’m recycling some posts that can help you process your images and impress friends and family with your work.

At the very least, this will give you some great images to display on your wall, smartphone or tablet.

Click on “Continue reading” in the snippet below and enjoy!

Photographing Fireworks

This tutorial is easy to follow and uses free software – it can’t get much better than that.

If you’re not inclined to make your own images, or not willing to fight the crowds, we’ve got some images for you to look at here on Laughing Frog Images.

Enjoy friends and family, and be safe.

 

Back and better!

Well, I can’t promise that there won’t be any more breaks due to life and work, but we’re back and better!

During this latest period of life’s business, the Frog and Michael McNew of Visceral Concepts redesigned the Laughing Frog Images website.  It’s cleaner, crisper, and more contemporary.  Oh, and it’s easier to see the images and make purchases.  The story of how I came upon the name is still there, but it’s in the “About” section and not on the home page.  It’s about the images, and now, so is the home page.

Here’s the new home page:

Laughing Frog Images new home page - back and better!

Laughing Frog Images new home page – back and better!

I’m not ready to bite the bullet and put conventional names on my galleries – one has to have some fun!  However, the Galleries page is now much cleaner, and it’s more apparent than before what’s in there when you click.  The galleries themselves are “crisp” and clean, and the images are able to stand on their own.  It’s actually difficult to find the right words – you simply have to check them out for yourself and see what I mean.

The products have been cleaned up as well.  When I started the store, I had the vision that Laughing Frog Images could be everything to everyone in that we’d have such a wide variety of products available that everyone could find what they wanted.  Well, in reality, it ended up being more than a little confusing to folks.  So, there was a period (actually, several periods) of reflection as to what this site and store is really about.  I came to the conclusion that it’s all about the images – and that there should be a focus on the images.  The focus should be simple and concise and reflect what the vast majority of people do with an image – and that’s hang it on a wall.  So, that’s what we’re doing.

All of this had a small price… in the reconfiguration of the site, it looks like we’ve lost the magic codes and text that linked the images to the blog posts on Facebook and Google+.  They’re still in there on the Blog via the Laughing Frog Images home page though!  If that’s all that happened, well, I can live with it.  Not saying I’m happy, but as I understand things as a non-techie, there’s a reason for what happened, and the fix is not practical.

So, I welcome you to check out the new Laughing Frog Images now that we’re back and better!

Laughing Frog Images' logo, www.laughingfrogimages.com