Small Business Saturday

On this Small Business Saturday, please remember to support the small businesses in your area.  Actually, please remember to do that all of the time.

It’s not all about the big box stores, shopping malls, and chains intent on conquering and controlling the earth.

It’s about the people in your neighborhoods that have the stores and restaurants in your neighborhoods.  Without them, everything would look, see, and taste the same.  And that’s not fun.

The four hobby shops that I patronized the most throughout my life are gone.  Demographic and economic change had a role in that, as did the internet.

The three camera shops that I patronized the most throughout my life are gone as well, for the same reasons.

It’s strange that people today will go out of their way to a hobby shop or camera store to see, touch, feel and try “stuff” in person, and then leave empty -handed to try and find a better deal on the internet.  These are some of the same people to complain when the local store isn’t there anymore…  ‘Nuff said.

So, when you’re out and about tomorrow, don’t forget to support your local Small Businesses.  We need them.  They need us.

And, whether or not you’re out and about, Laughing Frog Images would certainly like to be a part of your Small Business Saturday.  We are definitely a small business!  It’s pretty much me and Ella when she’s in the mood to help.  Or just walk over my keyboard.  Or just sleep on my hand and mouse.  We don’t have a physical presence yet, as we’re just trying to break even on this endeavor.  We do have a small part in the economy, from the people who make the media our images end up on , to those who print and check the images, to those who deliver our products to you.  So, so, we’re a small part of the big picture.

We bring you hundreds of ways to give someone special (which could be yourself) something unique, and we’d appreciate your consideration this Small Business Saturday.  Everything at Laughing Frog Images (except our books) is 25% off through December 15, 2015.  Please check out our offerings and shop easy, shop Laughing Frog!

Lastly, a small business shoutout for Visceral Concepts, our website guru.

Worst family photo you never took?

Here we are in the 2015 Holiday Season.

This is the third time for this post (I played with it a bit this year). I’m posting it on a Sunday so you’ve got some time to let it sink in, or perhaps share it with “that” person.

I think that it’s relevant every holiday season, and you’ll probably see it every holiday season as long as this site is up.

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

It’s relevant not just during the holidays, but every day…

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


What’s the worst family photo you never took?

If you’re thinking about the worst family photo you ever took, go back and read the title and think about it.

It’s probably the time of year, in addition to 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 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’s been bugging me for a while.

And then, there’s a song I heard the other day 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 was released:

So, where am I going with this?

Well, way back when, some families were great with taking family pictures 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 – it 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 the introduction of the Canon AE-1 35mm film camera.  It was the first “camera with a brain” (a microprocessor) and it began the transformation of 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 holiday photography was transformed again.  (My AE-1, passed down from my Father, is a few feet away as I rewrite this.)

39 years later, we have digital cameras in our phones as well as DSLR cameras that represent the great-great grandchildren of the AE-1.  A majority of 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 replicate the picture.

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 virtually 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.  Get ‘em with that glob of gravy on their chin.  Get ‘em when they’re groaning.  Get ‘em when their smiling.  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 – almost forgot – this post could be a great pre-holiday gift for someone you know.  Don’t be afraid to share it.

C&O 614, Akron to Pittsburgh

On June 28, 1981, the Chessie Safety Express pulled by C&O 614 made a round trip from Akron, OH to Pittsburgh, PA via the Baltimore and Ohio main line.

I didn’t realize how harsh the lighting was for many of these images until I started to work on them. The gray sky for most of the day wasn’t helping things either.

I’m going to guess that when you’re fairly young, still learning photography by trial and error, and excited to be photographing a steam engine running at track speed, you tend to overlook things like sun angles and shadows.  Just a guess…

So, this became a black and white gallery for the most part. The black and whites mimic the profile for Kodak Panatomic X film.  And, there’s nothing wrong with images of a steam engine in black and white.  Some would argue that it’s only right and proper.

As I put the gallery together, it hit me that this isn’t just a train gallery, it’s also a history gallery, as much has changed and much is gone in 35 years.

JO Tower in Akron is gone. The tracks to the left of the train at JO are the former Erie / Erie Lackawanna mainline to Chicago. I believe they’re gone now.

At Edinburg, you can see the four-track signal bridge of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie spanning the two remaining tracks. Centralized Traffic Control made the other two redundant. The downfall of the domestic steel industry later made the P&LE itself redundant.

At Eidenau, you’ll see that the block signal is sitting in the middle of the former eastbound mainline. CTC had just been installed on the Pittsburgh and Western Subdivision.

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The station at Bakerstown wasn’t long for the world at that point in time. Bakerstown Hill was a pain to the B&O – heavy trains in either direction (particularly westbound freight trains out of Glenwood Yard) required helpers. The P&W is now split between the Allegheny Valley Railroad and the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad.

C&O 614 hasn’t turned a wheel in a while.

A look back?  Memories?  Times past?  History…

You can visit the C&O 614 Akron to Pittsburgh gallery on Laughing Frog Images by clicking here.

There are a couple more C&O 614 galleries to come in time for you to order for the holidays, and they include perhaps my favorite images of her.

Getting any gift ideas yet?

C&O 614, Pittsburgh to Rockwood

On September 27, 1980 C&O 614 powered a public passenger excursion from B&O’s Grant Street Station in Pittsburgh, PA to Rockwood, PA and return via the mainline of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  As I recall, a seat in an open window coach car was about $36, cinders included!

It was steam!  I was able to borrow the car (a 1978 Volkswagen Dasher station wagon with a 4-speed manual that did a fantastic job in the hills along the B&O), and I was the chauffeur for friends from New York and Ohio.  This was a Saturday trip – Sunday would bring a trip over the Wheeling Pike to New Martinsville, WV.  Of course, there was a Vinnie Pie to be had in between (that’s another post in itself).   Quite the weekend indeed!

This excursion was part of the Chessie System’s Safety Express trips, and the cars were staffed by volunteers from the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and the Pittsburgh Transportation Museum Society.  In a couple of years, I was no longer photographing many of these trips as I was working on the train as a volunteer.

The original images were made on Kodachrome 64 slide film. I was still in my formative days, and some have been rescued by virtue of modern technology and onOne Perfect Photo Suite.  As I’ve been scanning and processing, it has occurred to me that my exposures were either dead-on.  Or not.  Not much in between!  Overall, the Kodachromes have held up marvelously.  Many of the color news films you’ve seen from the 1940’s and 1950’s were shot on Kodachrome movie film.  They’re 35 years old, and still have that Kodachrome smell.  (Somewhere out there, some of you are smiling and nodding your head in agreement!)

Being a steam engine and all, I also created some black and white images in Perfect Photo Suite that emulate the profile of Kodak Panatomic X film.  Some folks prefer their steam in black and white, so I’m trying to accommodate those folks as well.  And, some images of steam are simply timeless in black and white.

That said, I couldn’t resist removing the Exxon sign from one of the images at CF Tower…  I’m not one to modify images beyond exposure and color corrections – but I simply couldn’t resist in this case.  The tower with its’ shingle siding spoke of an earlier time.  The steam engine spoke of an earlier time.  And that Exxon sign – yes, it gave a time perspective to the picture, but it also was just begging to be removed for a view of what things were once like in the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains.

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C&O 614 never operated here in regular service – she stayed on the Chesapeake and Ohio rails to the south – but it’s the scene that allows one to drift back in time.  For some it’s a memory, and for others it’s a state of imaging what it would have been like to grow up with steam engines.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the series at CF Tower almost weren’t – look at where the cloud shadow is!  We were sweating it out, and every possible finger and appendage was crossed as we heard the 614 whistling her way east through the Narrows.  As she got closer, we could hear her working against the grade.  And we looked at the cloud.  And the sun.  And the shadow.

And, it all worked out…

You may notice that I didn’t crop all of the images – I left them as scanned so that you can determine the most appropriate crop for what you’d like to do with the image.  I don’t want to be “the decider” of how you get to enjoy an image.  You can crop the image however you want to make it yours on the product you want – and through December 15, you can do that for 25% off!

On a somber note, CF Tower was destroyed in a derailment in 1987 that also killed the Operator.  I watched many a train from that tower…  RIP Mr. Leonberger.

If you’d like to learn more about C&O 614, click here  Yes, she has her own website.  Thank you Ross Rowland!

Thanks for looking!

New images coming!

Well, it was a beautiful weekend.  If you weren’t sick, that is.  So, in order to maximize your shopping potential, I spent the weekend working on scanned slides so that I can post new images that will either interest you, hook you, speak to you, or give you an escape for a while.  This weekend’s focus was steam passenger excursion trains and other passenger and excursion trains of the 1980s.

A while back, you might remember that I said that scanning was the easy part and cleaning/adjusting/optimizing the images was the hard part.  It’s still true.

Prior to scanning, you use a very soft (and expensive) brush to do a rough cleaning of the slide, and then you blow the dust off with air.  You hope.  And then, you scan the slide at 5000 dpi (dots per inch).

And all that dust and all those specks and nasty ugly things you couldn’t see with the naked eye are jumping up and down saying “nya-nya you missed me!” when you pull the slide up on the monitor!  So, you clean the specks off one by one.  You remove the uglies carefully and patiently.

You adjust the colors to compensate for 30+ years of storage – but fortunately, not much shift, as for the most part you shot Kodachrome, which is one of the most stable films there ever was.

You wonder why it seemed that when you managed to get a day off to go photograph, the sun took the day off as well – and you stare at that gray sky…  And you wonder why you shot Kodachrome…  Seriously, it seems like special trains and steam engines were magnets for gray days in the 1980s.  I’ve been away for a while, so I wonder if it’s still like that, or if the decline of som many industries from Chicago on east has made any difference.

So, when you can’t get the colors quite right – or you can, but the sky starts to do strange things, you think “hey – that might make a great image in black and white…”  So, you take a trip to Perfect Photo Suite and pull up the profile that mimics Kodak’s Panatomic X black and white film, and you find that not only did you salvage the image, but that it looks pretty darned good in black and white.

And then, there was harsh lighting.  From the front.  From the side.  From the top.  From the back.  As if the gray skies weren’t bad enough, it also seemed like the trains ran contrary to good light quite often.  So, that bred many a trip to the black and white work space as well.

After all of this work, there are so far two galleries of new images on Laughing Frog Images, and I’ve added another main gallery.

More to follow…

Here’s a sneak peak at some of what’s coming:

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Going in for a swim.

This image is part of the OBX sunrise series.

However, this image spoke to me and said that it was worthy of a post all its’ own.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I see things in images that not everyone else does…  And, yes, I do believe that a picture can say a thousand words.

When you’re shooting (well, at least this happens to me), you don’t always notice everything that’s happening in an image at the time you’re making it.  It’s also likely that not every happening and every detail stands out to you when you look at it on your camera screen.  And sometimes, you really don’t see everything the first time you see it on your monitor.

Somewhere along the way – it hits you!  “It” can be a lot of things.

“It” hit me in this case as I was preparing the OBX sunrise post.

Going in for a swim isn’t always just going in for a swim.  Have you ever sat on a beach and seen a young child run towards the water, arms raised in excitement and anticipation?  Or seen someone on their first visit to the ocean doing the same thing?  If you take a breath and pause to savor the moment, it is a special moment to share, if only from a distance.

As I was going through the images, I noticed something in the lower left corner of this image that had eluded me before.  Yes, there are the “big things” in this image.  There’s the golden glow of the sun.  The nuanced textures of the water and the waves.  Footprints in the sand.  There’s a lot going on here if you take the time to ponder the image, and not just look at it.

And, there’s what appears to be a sea gull in silhouette from the rising sun, it’s wings casting soft shadows.  He or she is in mid-stride heading towards the water, wings outstretched like a child.  Was it the anticipation of the morning swim?  The excitement to catch a wave?  The awe and energy of a new day?

I’d prefer to think that it was one of those instead of an early morning stretch!

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What do you think was happening here?

The full image can be viewed by clicking here.  You can find the sunrise gallery by clicking here.

It could look great on your wall.  Or on a mug.  Or a water bottle…

OBX Sunrise

On a clear morning, there are few things like an OBX sunrise.  OBX is the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Don’t know where it originated or when, but it’s saves keystrokes so I’ll take it.

(And yes, to those of you who’ve seen it up and down the east coast, it’s beautiful everywhere!)

If there is no haze or clouds, it’s a pure unadultered and unobstructed sunrise – the sky lights up and the sun edges its’ way above the horizon.  It doesn’t take all that long to happen either – all of the OBX sunrise photos added to the sunrises gallery on Laughing Frog Images were taken within a span of 15 minutes.

If you’re lucky like I was, pelicans, sea gulls and other shore birds will fly through your viewfinder and you’ll end up with the birds in silhouette.

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Making your own sunrise over the water images like this is fairly easy.  First, take the rule about not shooting into the sun and ignore it.  Second, select a low ISO,  Third, select a high shutter speed.  Fourth, select a medium to high aperture.  Then, shoot away!  Vary your exposures by a stop or two up and down so that you get a broad selection of images to choose from.

The image above was made at ISO 100, 1/1000 second, and f8.

If you’re shooting with a smartphone, tablet, or point and shoot, and you can select the exposure point – pick right in the enter of the sun streak on the water.  Then, move the selection point up, down, left and right so that you’ve got several different exposures to choose from.

If you like sunrises, check out the sunrise gallery.

If you like OBX sunrises, or any sunrises for that matter, but can’t get to the shore to photograph them yourself – well, we’ve got you covered – and covered for 25% off of sunrises and everything else on Laughing Frog Images through December 15, 2015.

Pelican Perception Put to Rest

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d always thought that when waterborne birds of prey entered the water, they did so in a sleek and streamlined manner.

That was until I was able to photograph a pelican purposely pursuing breakfast one morning at the Outer Banks.

Naturally, the pelican couldn’t cooperate by being close enough to shore so that I could end up with images good enough to post in the galleries, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

So there I was, shooting away as the purposeful plunge progressed (notice that for some reason I’ve decided it’s time use the letter “P” a lot?) towards the water.

It wasn’t until I was able to see everything on a computer screen that I realized that I managed to catch a pelican at the point of surface penetration…

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At first I thought this was a speck on the lens, or worse, my sensor. Surely it wasn’t a bird, because, well, it looks like it’s going to crash, and crash bad.

But that wasn’t the case at all…

As I zoomed in, I realized that my timing was fantastic – its’ beak is just breaking the water.

And I realized that all of my perceptions about grace and aerodynamics and a sleek entry were, well, quite simply, pelican poop…

This isn’t anything close to graceful…

It’s not sleek.  It’s not aerodynamic.

I’m sure there’s a purposeful reason behind pelican posture at the point of aquatic entry – but it escapes me.

I can’t help but wonder how in the world this entry goes for the pelican.  Logic makes me wonder why this doesn’t tear the poor pelican to pieces.

Maybe it helps with rapid deceleration?

Maybe I saw a mutant band of pelicans that pursues an alternate form of dives?

Maybe these birds are just rugged and strong and virtually indestructible?

Maybe they’ve purposely pursued physics in an alternate perspective that places prodigious force over grace and aerodynamics?

And maybe I’m simply amazed that this is just how a pelican works, because within a few seconds, this bird popped up to the surface and rode the waves until it took off in pursuit of its’ next course.

Did this picture perhaps prompt a change of your perceptions about pelicans?

Do tell…


Holiday Sale Starts 11/01/15!

It’s here!

25% off everything except books on Laughing Frog Images!

The sale starts on November 1 and runs through December 15, 2015.

We can’t make your holiday shopping any more convenient or fun. Shop at home.  Shop at work (but don’t get in trouble).  Shop from your phone or tablet.

And, we can say with certainty that the odds of one person receiving the same gift from anyone else are pretty slim.  Don’t you hate when that happens?

Not in the gift giving mood?  Here’s you chance to treat yourself and save!

To check out our available products, just click here.

Below is just some of what you’ll find on Laughing Frog Images.

There really is something for everyone.

Use coupon code LFI2015sale at checkout for your savings.

Thanks for visiting!

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