Tag Archives: photography

Monday Musings: Giving Clueless Advice

This past week, I spent a good deal of time going through old magazines and books in my office trying to clear out some of the clutter. (More on that in Wednesday’s post.)

For years, I have subscribed to a nature photography magazine. Yes, it’s an actual paper magazine — I get an issue every month, and invariably each includes beautiful, glossy photographs — landscapes, portraits of wildlife, macro shots of plants or creatures — articles about different ways I might improve my craft (if only I had all the time in the world to devote to my cameras and lenses), and lots of advertisements for lots of equipment I can’t afford and don’t need. I look forward to every issue.

But one issue published a year or so ago had an article from a photographer who was trying to give advice to aspiring and amateur photographers about how they/we should deal with the pandemic. Since travel was hard just then, he said, we should concentrate on local sites, places we probably overlook on a day-to-day basis, but which might be beautiful in their own right, and thus might be worthy subjects for our next photographic outings. Great advice.

Except his example, based on where he lived, was Capitol Reef National Park, in Utah’s magnificent red rock country. THAT’S where he was going to take photos as a consolation for not being able to travel due to Covid restrictions. That’s a little like telling someone that since they can’t eat out in restaurants, they should settle for a home-cooked meal, like you do. And then revealing that your partner is a 3-star Michelin chef . . .

I somehow missed this article when the issue first appeared, and so got a good laugh out of it the other day.

But then I started thinking that for many people reading the advice I offer to budding writers, I might come off as equally out of touch.

Let me be clear. I don’t think ill of this writer, and I’m not sitting here thinking all the readers of my blog posts think ill of me. But I do think that for those of us who have achieved some success in a given field, it is often too easy to dispense advice, no matter how well-meaning, no matter how grounded in lived experience. I can suggest that writers experiment with this approach, or rethink that old habit, but the fact is sometimes the advice I give demands a commitment of time, or a certain amount of creative risk. And those sorts of practices are much easier for me to try than they might be for someone who doesn’t have a publishing history or a current contract for a book or trilogy.

Put another way, on some level I can’t help but write from a place of privilege and good fortune, and that may, at times, make me blind to the subtext of my advice and recommendations. So consider this a blanket apology for every time in the past I have given writing advice that I think sounds easy and basic, but that comes across as lacking in understanding or empathy for the experiences of writers at other levels. And consider it as well an apology for every time in the future when I do this again. Because I’m sure I will.

Don’t think for a moment I don’t know just how lucky I am to do what I do. And if in my eagerness to share advice or experience with you, I come across as clueless . . . well, as Nancy and the girls will tell you, it’s because sometimes I AM pretty clueless. But I love what I do. Twenty-five years-plus into this career, I still can’t quite believe I get to make up stories for a living. And I want that for others who have the same dreams I did when I typed “Chapter One” for the very first time.

I should also say that most of the advice I give in my writing posts is stuff I needed to hear in the early years of my career. I highlight mistakes I either used to make or still struggle with to this day. Sometimes I tell you to do things I am currently trying to make myself do. The wonderful thing about writing is that we can always improve. And the frustrating thing about writing is that we always need desperately to improve. We can start writing as young children and continue well into our dotage and still not learn all we need to about this magical craft.

And so I hope you will consider that when I offer advice and lessons on writing, I am there learning and striving right alongside you. Because I am certain I have yet to master beyond the capacity for further improvement any skill or practice about which I’ve written. We are, all of us, students of the written word, and we are still matriculating. How glorious is that?

Have a great week.

Monday Musings: Thoughts About My Upcoming Appearance at JordanCon

This coming weekend, I will be attending JordanCon in Atlanta. There I will see many friends — colleagues as well as fans. I will sell some books, talk about writing, both on panels and informally over drinks and meals, and catch up with people who have been out of my life for too long. We will all be masked, of course. The con organizers are taking no chances, and I’m grateful to them for that.

JordanCon will not be my first convention of the year — that was Boskone back in February. But somehow this one feels like the start of the convention season. It is the first of several appearances I’ll be making this summer and fall — JordanCon, ConCarolinas, LibertyCon, DragonCon, Hampton Roads Writers Conference, perhaps World Fantasy Convention.

And I have to say, I am more excited for this set of conventions and workshops than I have been in several years. I think part of it is my pent up need to interact with people, to be in a professional setting (as opposed to on a professional Zoom call). Another part of it is the simple fact that I miss my friends. For instance, I haven’t hung out with Faith Hunter in ages. And for those of you who don’t know, Faith is this year’s Literary Guest of Honor at JordanCon. I will be “interviewing” her at the Guest of Honor event Saturday morning of the convention. It should be tremendous fun. (11:30 AM — be there!)

I am, generally speaking, an outgoing person. I enjoy conventions. I enjoy talking to fans and discussing craft and business issues on panels. Since the pandemic began, I have struggled more than ever with my anxiety, and have found myself shying from contact with large groups. I’ve had to force myself to be social and I’ve battled nerves before the few events I have done.

In other words, I haven’t felt like myself, and I’ve hated it. I’m ready to be out in the world again, among people I know and care about and respect. I look at these upcoming conventions and such as more than professional obligations, more than promotional opportunities. They’re a step toward renewed emotional health.

Yes, that’s a lot to ask of a speculative fiction convention, and maybe I’m loading too many expectations onto JordanCon and other events. But really, I’m placing those expectations on myself. As I have said in other posts recently, this spring has been a time for me to come out of my emotional bunker. Life remains complicated for my family and me. On the other hand, as I look around, I see a world filled with people coping with issues of one sort or another. It used to be, when I found myself in the midst of trying times, I would look forward to “normal life” when the difficulties subsided.

I have come to realize there is no such beast. “Normal” as I envisioned it was a time without problems, without stuff going wrong. And that’s not realistic. “Normal life” is complicated in one way or another. Pretty much always. I don’t mean to sound grim. I’m not being Eeyore. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m finding that the hard stuff is a little easier to deal with when I understand that all of us struggle, that no matter how bad one part of life might seem at any given moment, I am not alone, and there is almost invariably another part of life that is good, great even.

This coming weekend, I will begin in earnest to put this perspective into practice.

For those of you who will be at the convention — and I hope to see many of you there — I will be on the following panels (with times and hotel venues):

“Economics of Publishing: How Does It All work?” — Friday, 8:30pm, Conference Center

“I’ve Written Something. Now What?” — Saturday, 10:00am, Conference Center

“Author Guest of Honor Spotlight: With GoH Faith Hunter” — Saturday, 11:30am, Dunwoody

“Outlining vs. Pantsing: What are the Benefits and Drawbacks?” — Sunday, 10:00am, Conference Center

“Pro-Tip: What I Wish I’d Known” — Sunday 1:00pm — Conference Center

Southern Red Trillium, by David B. CoeWhen I am not in these panels, I will be at my table in Author’s Alley, signing and selling books. I also plan to have with me some of the new photographic cards I wrote about recently. Please feel free to come by and say hello. Yes, I’ll be working, but I also welcome the chance to catch up. And maybe I’ll convince you to buy a book or two!

In the meantime, have a great week!

Creative Friday: My New Toy!

I have a new toy.

Sony RX10 Mk IVAnyone who has met me and/or read this blog knows I am an avid photographer. And I have a very nice camera, a digital SLR with several interchangeable lenses that I use for landscapes, portraits, macro, travel photography, and pretty much everything else. Pretty much.

The one thing I don’t do much with that camera, because I don’t have the appropriate lens, is bird photography. Now, the other thing readers of this blog know is that I am a dedicated (read: fanatical) birdwatcher and have been for most of my life. So I have long been frustrated with my inability to take good photos of birds.

In the past, I have balked at buying a big lens, capable of taking decent bird photos, for my DSLR. There have been several reasons for this. One, such lenses are expensive. Even the lens with the minimum focal length I would need (a zoom lens of 100-400mm) costs well over $2,000. There are off-brand versions that are decent but not great. These would run closer to $800.00. But they do not solve the second issue: Big lenses tend to be, well, big. They’re heavy and bulky, as is my DSLR, actually. Combine the big lens with the hefty camera, and you have something weighing about five pounds hanging around your neck or off your shoulder. I know myself well enough to question how often I would actually take such a rig out in the field.

So I have finally decided to go in a slightly different direction. I recently purchased a rather pricey new toy, the Sony RX10 Mk IV. This is a mirrorless “bridge” camera, meaning that it sort of straddles the line between a DSLR and a point and shoot camera. It weighs far less than my DSLR would with a telephoto lens. But it has a very good, very powerful, built-in lens, made by Zeiss, an excellent German optics company. This lens zooms from 24mm to 600mm, making it actually more powerful than the big, expensive lens I’d been considering. It also costs a good deal less.

The digital sensor in the camera is not as good as my DSLR, and I will likely never use this lens for landscapes. I am very picky about image quality, and am particularly uncompromising when it comes to my landscape photography. Birds, though, are tough to photograph to begin with, and I understand that I would likely get precious few razor sharp images with any camera and lens combination. And because this camera is so light and easy to carry, because it has a very strong stabilizing mechanism that keeps the image still and clear even when the camera is handheld, and because the sensor and lens are, while not perfect, very, very good, this is the perfect solution for me when it comes to birds. I take it with me on walks all the time, without hesitation. And I have gotten some very good photos already.

Below find some images I captured in Florida, around my birthday, when I was first learning to use the camera. As you can see, the quality of the images is quite good. They are sharp and the color is excellent. And I am having so much fun! I can finally take pictures of my feathered buddies, and I don’t have to carry the equivalent of an anchor around my neck. I’m very happy with my purchase. I do love my toys . . . .

Have a great weekend!

Least Bittern, by David B. Coe
Least Bittern, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida, by David B. Coe
Pied-billed Grebe, by David B. Coe
Pied-billed Grebe, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida, by David B. Coe
Green Heron, by David B. Coe
Green Heron, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida, by David B. Coe
Red-shouldered Hawk, by David B. Coe
Red-shouldered Hawk, Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands, Florida, by David B. Coe
Great Egret, by David B. Coe
Great Egret, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida, by David B. Coe
Red-winged Blackbird, by David B. Coe
Red-winged Blackbird, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida, by David B. Coe
Wood Duck Pair, by David B. Coe
Wood Ducks, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, by David B. Coe

Professional Wednesday: A New Venture In a Different Medium

The title for today’s post actually should be “Semi-Professional Wednesday…”

Spring Beauty, by David B. CoeAs many of you know, I am a fairly serious photographer and have been for some time. I have shown in local galleries, sold photos out of those galleries, and had a few photographs published in magazines. The walls of our house are sprinkled generously with enlargements of my images.

Winter Light Lake Cheston, by David B. CoeAnd now I have a new side hustle I’m working on, to go along with my book sales at conventions and such.

I am having sets of notecards made from some of my photographs to sell in collections. There will be eight cards per set, two copies of a total of four different images. They will, of course, come with envelopes. And my plan is to have the first sets available for sale at JordanCon in April.

Southern Red Trillium, by David B. CoeThe sets are themed. There are two sets of macro (close-up) images of wildflowers and other flora from the area where I live, on the Cumberland Plateau. Another set features images of butterflies, also from around my home. (Actually, thinking about it now, I think every butterfly image was taken in Nancy’s flower garden.) And finally, a set I call “Reflections” features images of the various lakes around our little town.

I don’t know yet exactly what I will charge for each set of eight cards. I have been checking prices in local shops around our town, where people charge as much as $5.00 per card! (More often $2.50-3.00 per card.) My rates will be lower than that, although the exact price will depend on exactly how much my cost per set is for printing, envelopes, packaging, etc. Eventually — sooner rather than later — I hope to offer sets for sale in the online bookstore on my websites.

Great Spangled Fritillary, by David B. CoeFor some of you, I know, this venture will be of little or no interest. I totally understand. But I also know that for others among you, you might think these sets are pretty cool. I hope you enjoy them.

Keep creating!!

Monday Musings: My Favorite Things!

We are in the midst of a rainy-soon-to-be-snowy weekend here, and I am thinking about my Monday Musings post, looking for something fun and cheery to write about. There are always world issues to address, and I have been up front about emotional matters in recent months. But the truth is, I am tired of being Mr. Serious-Guy. So for today, something completely different.

I’ve thought of writing posts about a few of my favorite things (cue Sound of Music soundtrack), but none of them would actually fill a full post. Well, most wouldn’t. But how about a list of my favorite things from random categories? Kind of a Favorite Things Lightning Round. Sound fun? Here we go:

Favorite Single Malt Scotch: Starting with the hootch! Yeah, I love single malt, and we have several different kinds. I sometimes enjoy a peaty Scotch, and will also drink some specialty Scotches aged in port or rum casks (Balvenie has a great one, as does Glenmorangie). But mostly I like Speysides, which tend to be less smoky and somewhat sweeter. For my money, the best of these is the Dalwhinnie 15 year-old “Highland” Scotch. They call it a Highland, but it is technically a Speyside, and it is just lovely. I drink it neat, with just a splash of cool water. In fact, I’m feeling a little parched right now…

Favorite Jazz Album: This one is easy, and I’m really not going out on a limb at all. Miles Davis’s 1959 classic Kind of Blue, is an entry point for many who are just getting into jazz, and it was exactly that for me some 40+ years ago. Thing is, this is an album of which I never tire. Each time I listen to it I love it more. By turns haunting, toe-tapping, introspective, and dynamic, it features a who’s who of jazz superstars: Davis on trumpet, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley on saxophone, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. It is brilliant. If you’ve always wanted to listen to jazz, but didn’t know where to start, this is your answer.

Favorite Jazz Album You’ve Never Heard Of: This one is a little harder, but I have to go with Sphere’s Flight Plan. Sphere is a jazz quartet that originally included Kenny Barron on piano, Charlie Rouse on saxophone, Buster Williams on bass, and Ben Riley on drums. They released Flight Plan, their second album, in 1983. It has since gone out of print, and is very hard to find. But my God, it is SO good. Like Kind of Blue, it covers a range of moods, but it is consistently excellent and utterly addictive.

Favorite Sport to Watch: I’m a lifetime baseball fan, and I still count baseball as my favorite sport, though mostly for sentimental reasons. A great baseball game remains a joy-inducing treat, and I love watching games live, at spring training venues or at the nearby Double A stadium in Chattanooga. But the truth is, today’s iteration of baseball bugs the hell out of me. Too many strikeouts and home runs, not enough nuance and strategy. Few games, even during the postseason, rise to the level of “great.” Which is why my favorite sport to watch is now soccer, specifically Premier League soccer on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Nancy and I watch a lot of soccer. It is a beautiful sport to watch. It has nearly nonstop action, and demands tremendous athleticism of its players, but it is also precise, thoughtful, steeped in strategy, and mindful of both defense and offense. Nancy roots for Tottenham. I root for Chelsea.

The Outlanders, by David B. Coe (jacket art by Romas Kukalis)Favorite of My Books: The most recent one I’ve written, almost always. Which is a copout, I know. Invasives, the second Radiants book, comes out in February, so it is the most recent I’ve written, and it is my current favorite. But in another way, my favorite is probably The Outlanders, the second book in my LonTobyn Chronicle, and my second novel overall. Why? Simple. When I began my career, I knew I had one book in me, but I didn’t know if I could write for a living. Upon finishing The Outlanders, I realized it was better than my first book, Children of Amarid, a book of which I was quite proud. It was much better, in fact. And I understood then that I was not just a guy who wrote a book. I was an author. I could make a career of this.

Favorite Bird: I’ve seen close to a thousand species of bird worldwide, and I love so many of them. But one bird is what my brother Jim, who got me into birding in the first place, calls my trigger bird, the one that made me fall in love with bird watching. As it happens, he and I have the same trigger bird. Canada Warbler. Google it. I’ll wait… Beautiful, right? Sure, there are others that are even more striking, more majestic, fiercer, cooler. Whatever. This is the one that opened up the world of birds to me. I see it nearly every spring during migration. And each time the sighting leaves me smiling for the rest of the day.

Favorite TV Show We’re Binging Right Now: You have to understand, Nancy and I only got decent internet — decent enough to stream — about six months ago. So we are new to the binging thing and we love it. We are currently in the middle of The Great British Baking Show, The Crown, Madame Secretary, and our favorite, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It’s funny and smart, the performances are excellent, and the writing is great. What’s not to love?

Bloodroot and Dew Drop, by David B. CoeFavorite of My Photos: This is a hard one — even harder than choosing my favorite of my books, if for no other reason than sheer numbers: I’ve written about 26 books. I’ve taken thousands of photos. And as with my books, my favorite photo changes as I capture new images and add them to my collection. But one in particular has stood out for some time now, because with it I accomplished in a technical sense precisely what I wanted to. The photo is a macro shot of a single drop of water hanging from a Bloodroot leaf. And it works because I managed to position the drop in the optimal spot in the image, and I got the depth of field (the balance between what is in focus and what is blurred) just right. Here it is (click on the image for a larger version). Enjoy!

I might return to this “Favorites” theme again this year. I have lots of possible categories left.

For now, though, have a great week!

Creative Friday: Images of Late Fall

Part of my journey back toward normal life and emotional health has been my rediscovery of my love of photography. For reasons I am still trying to understand fully, the difficulties of the past several months caused me to give up certain things. I continued to play music, but I stopped taking photos almost entirely. I missed it, but I stayed away from it. As I say, I’m not yet sure why.

Recently, Nancy and I traveled to the coast for some much needed time away, and while there I got back to using my camera, and in fact, I took photos every day. Upon our return, I continued to take photo walks. This past week, I hiked on two separate afternoons to places where I could enjoy the colors and deep blue skies of late fall.

Here are two of the images I captured. Enjoy. Have a wonderful weekend. Be kind to one another.

Morgan's Steep Falls, by David B. Coe Jackson Lake, November, by David B. Coe

From the Archives: A Photo I Took Several Birthdays Ago

Yeah, today’s my birthday. I’m a year older, but, I assure you, no more mature.

I have a lot going on today — work stuff. So I don’t have time to for much of a post. But I thought I would share this photo from a few birthday’s ago — seven actually. Nancy and I went to Chicago for my birthday week and had a wonderful visit. In the middle of the week, a beautiful snowfall transformed the city. This photo, taken along Michigan Avenue, was probably my favorite from the whole trip. I hope you like it.

Have a wonderful weekend. Stay safe, be kind to one another.Chicago Snow, March 2014, by David B. Coe

 

Creative Friday: Rime and Mist

Late last week, after days of snow and freezing temperatures, we finally had a much needed thaw. But before the thaw began, I took a Friday morning walk out to Jackson Lake, a spot I have visited often in the past year. I hadn’t planned to go, but something in the light, and in the scent of the air, told me I had to. I grabbed my camera and monopod, and hurried through the woods behind our house. I am so very glad I did.

The trees around the lake were rimed with frost, and a mist drifted through the surrounding forest and across the water’s surface, lending a ghostly cast to the entire scene. I was in photographer’s heaven. I took a lot of photos, some okay, some pretty memorable. Here are a couple of the best.

I don’t expect that we’re quite done with winter here on the Cumberland Plateau. But this past week had a springlike feel, and it may be that magically frosty mornings like this one are finished, at least for a number of months. I suppose we’ll see.

I wish you a magical weekend. Stay safe. Be kind to one another.

Jackson Lake with Frost and Mist, by David B. CoeJackson Lake with Frost and Mist II, by David B. Coe

Creative Friday: More Snow Photos!

This has been an unusual winter for us. We’ve had several snowfalls, none of them huge, but almost all of them significant enough to turn our pretty little town into a wonderland. This past weekend was no exception. A snowfall Saturday night into Sunday morning frosted tree limbs and houses, and then lasted for a couple of days before melting away.

The first morning, Nancy and I got up early and walked around our neighborhood, enjoying the fresh snow. The second morning dawned sunny and cold, but warmed quickly. As I took my walk on our rails-to-trails path, a fine mist seeped into the forest, hazing the sun and lending a mystical quality to the light and shadows.

These are just a few of the images I captured on those morning walks. I hope you enjoy them. We have more snow in our forecast, so maybe I’ll have more images for you next week.

Have a safe, wonderful weekend. Be kind to one another.

Winter Reflections, by David B. Coe Snow and Morning Sun, by David B. Coe Snow and Mist I, by David B. Coe Snow and Mist II, by David B. Coe