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PHOTOGRAPHING THE KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL

Bourbon barrels aging at Woodford Reserve. 1/15 @ f2.0, ISO 400.

Bourbon barrels aging at Woodford Reserve. 1/15 @ f2.0, ISO 400.

Two weeks ago on my way to photograph the Great Smoky Mountains, I decided to spend a few days traveling the  Kentucky Bourbon Trail. What? Yes, there is such a thing as a bourbon trail. In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers' Association formed the bourbon trail to educate visitors about the rich history and traditions of bourbon, which in 1964 Congress declared a "distinctive product of the United States."

Okay, so now that we've determined that there is such a thing as the bourbon trail, what does it have to do with photography? And that's a fair question. Although I often enjoy a glass of bourbon following a day of shooting or while editing my photographs, it was really a decision to document my journey along the trail via social media which brings us closer to a photography theme. Like many of my trips I choose to shoot all the photos with my Fujifilm X100S 16.3 Megapixel Mirrorless Camera*, only this time, I used a 16 GB Eyefi Mobi SDHC Card** paired via WiFi to my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. Now I had a blog post.

So while you enjoy a few photos of my trip, this really is a blog post about using the Eyefi Mobi with the goal of posting on Instagram photo and a Tweet following each of the nine stops along the bourbon trail. Besides, can you think of a better way to test this setup?

Early morning light at the Brown-Forman distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. I always seem to be drawn to oversized versions of everyday items. 1/640 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Early morning light at the Brown-Forman distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. I always seem to be drawn to oversized versions of everyday items. 1/640 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Before I go any further, you might be wondering if my goal was to simply share photos on Instagram and Twitter, why didn't I just take the photos with my cell phone, which after all is capable of taking decent quality images. Yes, it is true that I could have just used my phone, but as a photographer who has a camera with me all the time, why sacrifice quality and future use of the photos beyond the immediacy of social. The best camera is still a camera.

What is the Eyefi Mobi and does it make sense for you?

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

From Eyefi website:

Add instant photo transfer to the camera you own. Eyefi Mobi sends pictures from your DSLR or point and shoot camera to your phone, tablet or desktop as soon as you take them so you can kiss the cords goodbye.

Sounds pretty simple and it is. Download and launch the Eyefi App, enter the 10-digit activation code located on the device, put the card in the camera and shoot a few jpeg images, then watch as they appear on your device. It really is that easy. I have the App running on both an Android phone and iPad 2 tablet.

All the ingredients to make bourbon are in these tanks at the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. 1/70 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

All the ingredients to make bourbon are in these tanks at the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. 1/70 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Advantages:

Provides instant backup.

It's nice to have an instant backup of your images without even having to think about it. As always with my Fuji, I have it configured to shoot jpeg+raw, so as the jpegs are backed up instantly and ready to share, I simply download the raw files (and jpegs) to my hard drive at the end of each day.

High quality images ready to share.

I can't emphasize enough how nice it is to not have to compromise quality just because you want to share your work over the internet quickly. I retain all the advantages of my Fujifilm X100S camera, including the ability to capture raw photos, while still being able to share almost instantly. You do have to leave your camera on.

Open fermentation tanks at the Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles, Kentucky. 1/320 @ f2.0, ISO 800.

Open fermentation tanks at the Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles, Kentucky. 1/320 @ f2.0, ISO 800.

Disadvantages:

Only transfers jpegs.

Not a big deal if you are using this as I do, transferring to a phone or tablet for quick sharing to social media. However if you using this as the only means of transferring photos from your camera to computer, it could be a problem.

Camera battery drain.

The biggest issue I have experienced when using the Eyefi is that my camera battery drains about twice as fast. Also, as the battery level gets low, photos will stop transferring. You will need a second battery for your camera.

Take note of the shutters at the Makers Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. 1/420 @ f8, ISO 400.

Take note of the shutters at the Makers Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. 1/420 @ f8, ISO 400.

Conclusion:

Even though once in a while I noticed that the WiFi connection had dropped and photos didn't transfer, it was very rare and easily remedied by turning the camera on and off or reconnecting the WiFi through the phone settings. Actually, the biggest problem was getting a decent phone signal in some of the remote Kentucky locations.

While this isn't my everyday SD card, it does serve a real purpose and combined with low cost and ease of use, should be an easy decision to make the purchase.

For those that may be wondering, my Tweets along the trail have been some of my most favorited and retweeted posts since I joined Twitter in 2008. And I have the high-resolution images to prove it.

The bottling line at Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky. None of the distilleries I visited placed any restrictions on still photography, although a few requested no video be recorded. 1/25 @ f5.6, ISO 800.

The bottling line at Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky. None of the distilleries I visited placed any restrictions on still photography, although a few requested no video be recorded. 1/25 @ f5.6, ISO 800.

The Fujifilm X100S is becoming harder to get and has been replaced by the Fujifilm X100T which I have not had the chance to try. The Fujifilm X-T1  has built-in WiFi.

** The list of cameras that this device works with is long, however, you should still check for camera compatibility on their site.

5 TIPS TO GET YOU OUT TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS

This sun flare photo was featured on  Flickr's blog  as part of a Flickr Friday project and now is one of my most popular photographs on the service with over 2,000 views and favorited 47 times.

This sun flare photo was featured on Flickr's blog as part of a Flickr Friday project and now is one of my most popular photographs on the service with over 2,000 views and favorited 47 times.

Do you find yourself with a desire to head out shooting but are really stuck for inspiration? Maybe you have a new camera or lens and want to put them through the paces and make wonderful photographs but can't think of anything compelling to shoot. Or worse, maybe you have a mental block and just can't visualize yourself taking photos.

First, let's understand that this happens to everyone, professionals, amateurs and all levels in between. There are some days you just aren't feeling it. And it's easy to think just pick up the camera, get out there and shoot, but that really isn't an answer or you would not have to read any further.

Professional photographers can normally push through those thoughts and so can you with these helpful tips to get your creative photographic juices flowing.

1. The reason professional photographers push through those thoughts is because the fear of returning from an assignment without a usable image forces them to. So why not start by simply giving yourself an assignment. It can be anything from pretending you are a National Geographic photographer sent to document a location or making a commitment to show others your results. How would a Geographic photographer approach a subject? And nothing motivates a professional more than having to show images to their editor following an assignment so think who could play the role of editor in your life.

I was looking for a reason to get out of the house, so I headed to  Glen Echo Park  in Maryland, a location I've been wanting to photograph for some time. Once there I decided my theme would be the Victorian architecture and while I don't think I captured any particularly compelling images, I know it is a location I will return to again.

I was looking for a reason to get out of the house, so I headed to Glen Echo Park in Maryland, a location I've been wanting to photograph for some time. Once there I decided my theme would be the Victorian architecture and while I don't think I captured any particularly compelling images, I know it is a location I will return to again.

2. Pick a theme. It could be anything from shadows, color, texture or something broader like weather, love, aging. This theme allows you to begin really observing the environment around you. And maybe while searching for photographs to fit that theme, you begin to see something else that catches your eye. Keep an open mind, but if you can stick to your original theme it really forces you to "see."

3. Participate in an online photo community and look for assignments there such as Flickr Friday or Instagram's Weekend Hashtag Project. In this case you don't even have to pick a theme yourself. For instance, every Friday Instagram's community team picks a theme and provides a hashtag so you just shoot and post the photos. Find out if there is a Google Plus Drink & Click photo walk in your area or any photo walk for that matter. Or just find a friend who also is looking for a reason to get out and shoot and get together.

Photograph taken with my cell phone at the U.S. Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. as part of an Instagram Hashtag Project. #WHPsentbymail. I don't have a big presence on Instagram, but this photo drew eight likes and I picked up followers.

Photograph taken with my cell phone at the U.S. Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. as part of an Instagram Hashtag Project. #WHPsentbymail. I don't have a big presence on Instagram, but this photo drew eight likes and I picked up followers.

4. Think beyond that one day with your camera and look for longer term projects. Is there something in the news that sparks your interest or are you a member of a group or club that is looking for someone to document their activities. These projects keep you thinking long term and will have you looking forward to shooting every chance you get. It is still helpful to set goals along the way and sharing your work will help you refine the project.

5. Think about a technique you want to get better at and develop a photo shoot around that. You can watch tutorials on the web all day long, but if you never attempt to try them, then nothing is gained. Say you just watched a video on shooting portraits with off camera flash, then grab a friend and get out there and try it. Both Adorama and B & H have YouTube channels that offer great tips for photographers at all levels. Additionally, websites such as Creative Live, Kelbyone and a whole host of other free and paid sites are available to find both instruction and inspiration.

I find myself returning often to Rosslyn in Arlington, Va., where i'm drawn by the shadows, shapes and architecture. This photo was taken during the 2013 Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk I led and subsequently was featured on  Ibaroinex Perello's   YouTube channel on finding the  extraordinary in the ordinary  .

I find myself returning often to Rosslyn in Arlington, Va., where i'm drawn by the shadows, shapes and architecture. This photo was taken during the 2013 Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk I led and subsequently was featured on Ibaroinex Perello's  YouTube channel on finding the extraordinary in the ordinary .

So even if you find yourself going to the same location over and over again, I hope that following some of the tips I've offered will force you to get out and shoot, force you to dust off that camera and most importantly force you see differently.

Anything that gets you out of the house with a camera in hand means that there is a potential for wonderful photographs and the potential for you to improve.

Remember that even if you don't take any photographs that thrill you each time you are out shooting, you've lost nothing, except the guilt of not trying.

INSTAGRAM - IT'S HIP TO BE SQUARE

My first Instagram photo. It would be 17 months until I posted again. #CellPhone #Filter #Frame
My first Instagram photo. It would be 17 months until I posted again. #CellPhone #Filter #Frame
I admit I'm late to the Instagram party and think I've figured out why.

It wasn't because I don't dig the square format, I do. I don't mind filters and frames don't scare me.

And it wasn't the fact that four of the top ten followed accounts are either Kardasians or Jenners, half sisters to the Kardasians, female pop stars Beyonce, Rhianna and Taylor Swift, then Justin Beiber and finally Ariana Grande, someone I've never heard off. *

I think the real reason I was late is that I could never choose a side in the debate about what type of photos get posted to the site.

This photo was taken with a FujiX100s, processed in Instagram. #Camera #Filter
This photo was taken with a FujiX100s, processed in Instagram. #Camera #Filter
Not the photograph's genre, but do you post photos taken with a professional DSLR camera and post processed, or as the instant in Instagram suggests, do you post photos taken with a mobile device only. Don't think that is a hot topic? A quick search of the Internet will open your eyes. **

I joined the service and posted my first photo taken with my cell phone on April 11, 2012. The next photo taken 17 months later (yes almost a year-and-a-half later), again with my cell phone, came on November 23, 2013.

Then for reasons I can't explain, the next 11 photos, the last of which was posted on December 31, were all re purposed photographs taken with either a DSLR or my Fuji X100s and post processed.

Then came a bit of self examination. Is this how I wanted to use Instagram? Did I want to join photographers that shared photos this way. After all I reasoned that I'm already sharing my camera photos on Flickr and additionally sharing my favorites on 500px.

The start of a New Year and the start of becoming a regular Instagram contributor. #CellPhone #NoFilter
The start of a New Year and the start of becoming a regular Instagram contributor. #CellPhone #NoFilter
So for my next two photos I returned to using my cell phone. The first of these taken on January 1st while covering the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia was a disaster for several reasons, mostly due to my cell phone and a crashing app. For the other reason you can read about in a previous blog post.

The most recent image before I started writing this post was taken again with my cell phone on January 9th, and is of a donut. More typical of photos on Instagram? Now it was a maple glazed bourbon bacon donut, but was I now fully committed to using only a cell phone and was this how I was going to start off the New Year as an Instagramer?

Finally if I told you I just upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S4then you know I've answered my own question. Yes, I'm going to only post photos taken with my cell phone. Does that make me an Instagram purest? Does anyone really care? After all I only have 12 followers and only posted 15 photos in nearly two years.

Final photo before this blog post. #CellPhone #NoFilter
Final photo before this blog post, but not the last. #CellPhone #NoFilter
I enjoy seeing creative photography, so if I see a cool photo on Instagram that clearly was taken with a DSLR it really doesn't matter to me. And I won't take the radical move of unfollowing these Instagram "impostors" either. Just know that if you post in this fashion there is a Hipster with an iPhone somewhere shedding a tear.

* The 10 Most Followed People on Inastagram: Should You Follow Them Too? By Joshua Lockhart.
** Should You Post Photos on Instagram that Were Shoot on a Digital SLR? By Dan Havlik.

HIPSHOTS

STAIRWELL - Nikon 70-200 at 116mm, f3.2, 1/100, ISO 2000.
What are Hipshots? You know that unmistakable sound of the shutter releasing when the camera is no where near your eye; well that is what I am calling a Hipshot*.

This normally happens to me when I'm carrying two cameras and the one hanging over my shoulder knocks against my side, or Think Tank belt system, etc., causing the shutter to release and giving me a wonderful photograph of the ground beneath my feet.

OUTFIELD - Nikon 70-200 at 200mm, f2.8, 1/2500, ISO 400.
This isn't a new phenomenon, however a few months ago when downloading photos from a corporate kickball game a few of these Hipshots caught my eye. So instead of deleting them and moving on, I decided to save them to a folder and make a point of saving others from my assignments.

INFIELD - Nikon 70-200 at 190mm, f3.2, 1/2500, ISO 400.
I also started looking at them closely and thought they weren't half bad. Art? I'll let others be the judge of that.

Five tips on avoiding Hipshots:

1. Turn your camera off when not actively shooting.

2. Don't carry your camera over your shoulder, but instead leave it around your neck.

3. Use an across the chest strap such as one from BlackRapid to reduce the risk of the shutter knocking against your side since the top of the camera is facing down.

4. If you don't want to turn your camera off or carry it around your neck, be aware that it might occasionally go off without your knowledge. Could be embarrassing in some situations, especially if you are shooting in continuous high shutter mode. Nothing draws attention to you like firing six frames per second at the wrong time.

5. Ask yourself if you really want to avoid them? Don't sweat it and just accept the results. Modern painter and artist Bob Ross was famous for saying, "We don't make mistakes; we just have happy accidents".

PAVEMENT - Nikon 24-70 at 52mm, f2.8, 1/3200, ISO 200.
Don't be afraid to have a few "happy accidents" today and if you do, feel free to share them with me. And besides, I believe most of these photographs are as good as anything I see on Instagram.


*All the Hipshots in this post are shown just as they came out of the camera.