Tag Archives: novelties

Waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park

Roaring Forest WaterfallRicketts Glen State Park has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Pennsylvania. I had spent much of the summer traveling around many of the waterfall locations in the Finger Lakes in New York, and decided to travel around my own state to see how our selection of gushing wonders stacked up. I was not disappointed!


 

The journey begins at the very top of a very tall, forested hill.  The Forest Waterfall with Rockstop has some smaller waterfalls that bring their own brand of beauty.  I spent some time on these, but I had a long hike ahead of me and I wanted to see the big ones.  It didn’t take too long before they started to appear.

 


 

Waterfall FantasyThe Falls Trail can be quite treacherous sometimes.  There isn’t much to separate the photographer from the steep cliff in many places.  Carrying a tripod made my balance a bit lopsided as I edged my way down some of the trickier portions of the trail.  But what awaited around each corner was another astounding sight.  Ricketts Glen State Park boasts 22 named waterfalls, and each one is more dazzling than the last.  After traveling for a couple of miles down the gorge, I came to a loop that started to ascend back up the other side…


 

…or so I thought!  It turns out that the ascent has a completely new Waterfall Paradise with Stone Stairwayset of waterfalls!  I had already been more than impressed by the sights I had witnessed coming down the Falls trail, and I couldn’t believe that a whole new set of photo opportunities awaited me on the return trip!  But I must confess, I was out of shape and quite exhausted from my exertions.  Also, time was ticking and I didn’t really want to get caught in a perilous and unfamiliar spot after dark.  So I had to make haste back up to the parking lot.  I really didn’t cover the park thoroughly, which makes another adventure here is a must!  Although I would warn any travelers that caution and a good pair of hiking boots is advised (and possibly an aerobics class) it is definitely worth a little risk to see this splendid park and its wonders.

 

Audubon Adventure

Back to my roots

Butterfly on the Rocks
A butterfly suns itself on some white rocks.

It had been quite awhile since I journeyed to the Audubon.  Once a place I visited often, the Audubon took a backseat this summer as I explored the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and Acadia National Park in Maine.  But the time for journeying to distant lands was over for now, so it made sense to hit some places closer to home and see what new sights awaited me.

Blue-eyed Dragonfly
This blue-eyed dragonfly rests comfortably on a leaf.

One of the best things about the Audubon is that it’s never the same.  That log I captured a turtle on last time may be gone, but perhaps the water line has a revealed a rock to capture a brand new image.  So I spent the beginning of my journey surveying the insects around me.  There were many different kinds of dragonflies around, a monarch butterfly, and some odder insects that I wasn’t as familiar with.  I was using my telephoto lens, which presents a much different view of small creatures than a macro lens might.  The advantage, of course, is that I don’t have to get too close to my quarry to fire off a shot.  After spending an hour photographing the macro world, I realized that I had barely left the entrance!  Time to move on…

Snake!
A mother snake keeps close to her babies.

I moved along the path at just the right time!  I looked over to my right, and couldn’t believe what I saw…a snake!  I was a little closer than I wanted to be.  I’m sure the feeling was mutual.  And then I got even more of a surprise when I realized she wasn’t alone.  I say ‘she’, because wriggling beside her were several baby snakes!  Needless to say, that was a game changer for the situation.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to try to pass through, and she didn’t want to leave the babies alone with me.  But after staring each other down for several minutes, the snake decided she could head back into the brush, and the babies quickly followed.  It was turning out to be quite an exciting day!

SnapperTurtle in Blue
A gorgeous reflection of a snapper turtle.

For those who know the layout of the Audubon Society grounds, it may or may not surprise you to know that I hadn’t even gotten away from the building yet!  But I did want to start my expedition around Big Pond, so I forced my feet to keep moving.  I tried my luck crossing the bridge over to Spatterdock Pond, but the high grass proved to hide the wildlife from my camera.  I walked around the pond and over to the double-decker blind overlooking Big Pond.  I usually see a deer or two in my travels, but no such luck on this trip.

Reflecting Frog
A frog with an astounding reflection!

Not so much as a squirrel posed for me as I made my way through the forest.  But I still had high hopes for the back of the pond, and I wasn’t to be disappointed.  I could hear the carp trying to leap out of the water, but they didn’t quite have the oomph that day to get a good shot.  But soon enough, I spotted my target – two frogs were resting in the water on the far side of the path.  If only they would let me get close enough for a good shot…  So I crept slowly toward them, taking a picture every few steps in case they decided to flee.  But they didn’t run and hide, and I was able to get a very nice closeup before moving on.

Wasp Nest
This wasp nest wasn’t as empty as I thought.

I thought I had seen most of what nature was offering that day, and I started to head back around the other side of the pond.  I always make a point to stop at all of the blinds, and today was no different.  I didn’t see much going on outside the last blind, but I did happen to see that there was a wasp nest in the corner of the roof.  It was dark there, and it looked to me like there wasn’t any activity.  Imagine my surprise when I put the pictures in Lightroom, and discovered not one, not two, but three wasps hanging from the bottom of the nest!  You just never know what nature is going to throw your way sometimes.

So it turns out that I don’t need to travel to exotic places to get great shots.  Sometimes they are right there in your own backyard.  The Audubon is always an exciting place to visit, and I can’t wait to get back and see what is in store next!

An Outing with the Elk

The Natural Wonders of Benezette, PA

It was a slow Sunday when my parents contacted me.  They wanted to journey over to Benezette and see if the elk were around yet.  For those who don’t know, the elk come out in the fall, during their mating season.  It was early yet, but there was an off-chance we could get lucky.  After all, Benezette is the elk mecca of Pennsylvania!  So we decided to try our luck.

Town Elk
An elk visits the neighbors in Benezette

And luck out we did!  The elk enjoy walking around town just as much as the forest, and we were treated to some bull sightings the moment we arrived.  I wasn’t sure if I would get another chance to photograph a bull that day, so I decided to get a few shots in town.  It’s very strange to observe an elk weaving between parked cars and wandering around on people’s porches and backyards.   But in Benezette, that is just a typical day!

A fawn in the brush
This fawn saunters through the brush

Of course, I like to get more natural-looking photos, so we headed up to the nature center next.  There was some question whether or not it would even be open on Sunday, and they close the gate when the center is closed.  But we were in luck, and the center was open.  On the trail in front of the center, we didn’t see any elk.  But we did see a fawn making its way through the forest.  It stopped and posed for a few shots.

A mother and baby elk
A mother and baby elk stroll across the field

Next, we traveled to the giant field behind the nature center, and that’s where we found our quarry.  Not just one elk, but a whole herd!  There were many cows and small elk there.  There was one little guy that was particularly vocal the entire time.  It was very exciting, but the best was yet to come.

A bull elk nose to nose with a cow
The bull elk shares a moment with a potential mate

While I was busy trying to get some shots of mothers and babies, my parents excitedly informed me that there was a bull nearby!  And he was a lot closer than I thought he would be – he was standing maybe 20 yards from the trail!  He was quite a large one, and was a magnificent site to behold.  I should point out here that I had my telephoto lens on the camera.  Everyone else was trying to get closer to the bull, and I kept trying to back up!  I did manage to get a few shots of him filling up the frame imposingly.  I also got some neat shots of him interacting with the other elk.  Very cool.

After that, we drove up to the top of the hill and were treated to a vivid sunset with an elk herd grazing in the foreground.  All in all, it was quite a day.  I’m sure we’ll be back again when the leaves start to change colors and the rutting season is in full swing.

Posting your new Zazzle item directly to Facebook

Using IFTTT to autopost your Zazzle Items

So you just got done making an item in your Zazzle store.  The problem?  Nobody knows it’s there!  So you slog your way over to Facebook, navigate to your business page, type in the URL for the item, create a post…oh wait, we haven’t done Twitter yet!  Go to Twitter…blah blah blah, a long and boring process.  If only there was a way to autopost…

But wait, there is!  A free website called IFTTT (If This, Then That) can do it all for you!  And I am going to show you how.  You need two things to do this:

1) A Zazzle store with an item.  Any item.  Your favorite squirrel keychain.  I don’t care.

2) A Facebook page of some sort.  I’ll be posting to my Nature Novelties Facebook Page as an example.

So now that we have the basics, let’s head over to IFTTT.

Creating your first ‘recipe’

So go ahead and sign up for an account. It’s ok, I’ll wait. Got it? Good. If you know something about macros, then this will be cake. If you don’t…it will still be cake.. Back in the old days, ancient coders used an obscure language called BASIC which had many lines like:

IF x=My birthday GOTO Sing copyrighted song

It’s the same sort of thing here. Except BASIC (also known as ‘spaghetti code’) took a million lines of code to do really simple things. IFTTT can do really complicated things with just a couple of mouse clicks from you!

So let’s get started with a recipe. The one I’m going to show you is from Zazzle to Facebook.  After you make an IFTTT account, I believe they make you run through a sample recipe. Just quickly suffer through that, so we can do our own thing.  Throughout these steps, IFTTT will ask you for permission to set things up.   Just go ahead and say yes, and get back to the steps outlined here.

Making Zazzle Play Nice with Facebook

1) Create a Recipe in IFTTT.  Hit the blue button.

Create a Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) You’ll see the words, ‘If this then that.  This is a completely unnecessary screen, but it’s telling you that we are going to put in the first ‘ingredient’ for our recipe.  Click on ‘this.’

3) Whoa!  Now we have a ton of choices.  Zazzle isn’t in there (yet) so we have to cheat a bit.  Locate ‘Feed’ in the list.  (They are in alphabetical order.)  If you know what an RSS feed is, then you’ve seen this symbol before.  You might not know it, but your Zazzle store has an RSS feed.

Feed icon on IFTTT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Add a New Feed Item.

Feed Item Trigger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) Next, we need to enter the RSS feed for your store.  What is it?  I’m so glad you asked!  If you already know the URL of your zazzle store, then you can create your RSS feed.  If you don’t, then navigate to your store and copy the URL.  Mine is http://www.zazzle.com/naturenovelties.

We are going to change one part of this URL, and add one part.  We are going to change ‘www’ to ‘feed’.  Then we are going to add /rss at the end of the URL.  Your Zazzle store URL should now look like this:

http://feed.zazzle.com/whateveryourstoreis/rss

Make sense?  Ok, put this in the trigger box in IFTTT now.  Create Trigger.

Zazzle RSS Feed
My Zazzle store URL changed to RSS

 

6) So now we see our macro again, which is another fairly useless screen saying ‘If RSS Feed then that.  Click on ‘that’.

7) There are several Facebook icons here.  We want ‘Facebook pages’.

FB pages icon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8)  You have several options here.  We want to ‘Create a Link Post.’

FB Page Link Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

9) This next part is a little weird, but let me explain.  In the Link URL box, we don’t simply want the URL.  We want the item picture, description, etc. to show up.  So we are going to delete EntryURL.  It will stick little protective brackets around itself when you click the box.  Just delete those suckers and make a blank box.

Now we are going to add an ingredient there.  Click on the cross at the end of the Link URL box.  Select ‘Entry Content’ from the dropdown list and click ‘Add Ingredient.’  We are done with that box.

The Message Box is going to display the post that everybody sees on Facebook.  I’ll show you what mine looks like in both places.  First in IFTTT:

Entry Action

Here’s what I put in the message box.  ‘Brand new in #NatureNovelties – ‘  Then I added an ingredient, EntryTitle.  After that, I put an exclamation mark.  Then on the second line, I added the ingredient EntryURL.

Let’s say I just posted an Elk in Field Postcard.   Facebook will post all of that like this:

Elk Postcard
Zazzle item as seen on Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create Action and you’re done.  I renamed my action ‘ Zazzle to Facebook.’

That’s it!

So now you can add an item to Zazzle and see if your IFTTT recipe works.  It can take quite awhile for FB to post (sometimes several hours) but it WILL post if you did it right.

Good luck and let me know if you have questions.  I have also made a recipe to post to Twitter.  Zazzle posts to both Twitter and Facebook automatically every time I create a new story item.  Best of luck, and let me know about your own creations!

 

Why your vivid photos appear lifeless on the internet

Embrace your inner sRGB

Do you spend hours creating vibrant, colorful photos in Photoshop or Lightroom, only to have them appear dingy and lifeless when you post them online? If this is a problem for you, it may be your color space. Read on!

 

A vivid Lightroom Deer
A stunningly rendered Lightroom Deer. Notice the bright whites and colors.
A drab Zazzle Deer
A dismal looking Zazzle Deer. Notice the faded whites and colors.

 

 

Misunderstanding Photography Advice

Like you, after I’ve spent a ton of time and effort on my master works of art, I like to share them online. Maybe I’ll post them at my Facebook page for my friends and family to ogle, or post them as products at my Zazzle store. But every time, I am disappointed at the drabness I see. The colors I worked so hard to create simply wink out of existence. What’s wrong? Is it my internet personality? (I assure you, no amount of counseling will cure my photo editing problems.)

So I started thinking about my childhood. Ok, my photography childhood, which began when I was 35. Back then, I read everything I could from the best photography websites and took it all as gospel. Everyone said the same thing – if you want to print great photos, you should save your files in the Adobe RGB color space.   (Note that the operative word is PRINT.)  Thou shalt not use sRGB. Ever.  I dutifully set both Lightroom and Photoshop to work in Adobe RGB, snobbily gloating at all of the poor fools who were still using sRGB.  My mistake!

Fast-forward to a few years later, after I posted countless glorious photos that appeared more faded than my stone-washed jeans from the ’80s. As I was perusing the rules of Zazzle, a strange thing caught my eye. It said they preferred sRGB for submissions. And I said to myself, “What? Don’t they know anything about colorspace? sRGB has like 8 colors! And Adobe RGB has 10 billion zillion colors! I know, because I read that somewhere!” But I wanted to give Zazzle what they wanted, so I took one of my Adobe RGB photos and changed it sRGB. And an amazing thing happened.

Adobe RGB Turkey
This turkey is using the almighty Adobe RGB color space
sRGB Turkey
This turkey is using the lowly sRGB color space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First of all, I want to remind you how to do that if you’ve forgotten. I’m using Photoshop CS5, so you may have to do something slightly different.

1. Open a file in Photoshop
2. Edit->Assign Profile
3. Switch back and forth from Adobe RGB to sRGB

Note that the sRGB looks quite different than the Adobe RGB version. If you’ve been working in Adobe RGB, then sRGB will definitely work worse. I believe this is exactly what happens when I post a picture to the internet. I send it out in breathtaking Adobe RGB, and it ends up as mind-numbingly dull sRGB.

But…wait a minute…you said…

So why on Earth am I telling you to ’embrace your inner sRGB?’ Because this is exactly what the internet EXPECTS when you post a picture. Adobe RGB is simply too fancy for some internet sites. Notably Facebook, Zazzle, and Pixoto to name a few. There are other ways to get around this problem, but I have found it is simply easier to work in the sRGB color space to begin with. Then no conversion takes place, and the picture looks exactly the way I intended for it to look. Maybe some people will argue that the Adobe RGB color space (or even better, ProPhoto) will give you a better looking picture when you print. That may be true if you own a much more expensive printer than mine. And on the rare occasion I do print, I can flip back to the Adobe RGB space. But currently my work is completely internet based, so I am going to stick with sRGB.

So how do YOU do it?

I want to leave you with my workflow, so you can see one way to make sure you are working in sRGB. I import all my photos into Lightroom 4 first. When I am happy with how they look, I go to File->Export. Under File Settings, I make sure it is set to sRGB. Then my files will always end up in the sRGB colorspace when I open them in Photoshop.

When Photoshop opens the file, it may give you a choice:

Embedded Profile
Translation: I do not understand this crummy color space you are sending me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you choose ‘Use the embedded color profile’ then you can continue to edit the photo as an sRGB file.  If you convert the document’s colors to the working space, it will put you in whatever Photoshop is set up to do, perhaps Adobe RGB.  This is what we don’t want, at least if you are doing what I am recommending.

So I hope that clears up a few things about color space on the internet.  Please feel free to ask questions or correct my faux pases.  I don’t know everything, but if you ask the right question, I might just know something!