Jim & Cindy Griggs: Blog https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) Jim & Cindy Griggs (Jim & Cindy Griggs) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:36:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:36:00 GMT https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/img/s/v-12/u41776239-o690571426-50.jpg Jim & Cindy Griggs: Blog https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog 120 84 Down to the Bare Essentials https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/5/down-to-the-bare-essentials Shooting Simple

Photography Takes a Back Seat



I had promised my wife that for her ??th birthday (you fill in the blanks) I would take her on a Viking Cruise on the Rhine with a couple of days prior in Amsterdam and a few days following in the Austrian Alps.  As part of the deal I also promised to travel unencumbered without my normal masses of photo gear.  I will admit to not being a street photographer, nor a city photographer.  My gig is wildlife and wild places.  With the goal in mind of making this a non-photo trip I parred down well below my normal comfort level.  One Olympus EM-1 Mark II body with four Olympus batteries, charger and only two lenses.  The lens thing bothered me.  I am used to taking two or three bodies, five or six lenses, tripod and support accessories on all of our trips.  A promise is a promise so I took the opportunity to acquire the new 12-200 Olympus lens.  I also wanted to take along the 7-14/2.8 PRO lens but then it was starting to look like my regular photo jaunts.  Instead I left the super wide zoom at home and brought along the 9mm fisheye body cap lens.  Tripod?  Nope!  The IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) on the Olympus gear is so good that this was a minimal risk, besides this was not a photo trip, a key point my wife kept reminding me as we started packing for two weeks in Europe.


Luckily for me the 12-200 lens  became available two weeks before the trip.  I ordered one before hand to be the first in line.  With minimal testing, a few shots inside and out, I packed up and we left.  I can honestly say the zoom was a little stiff when I first installed the lens on one of my camera bodies.  The initial images were sharp at 12mm and at 200mm shooting at f/8.  I really had so little time to find sweet spots on the lens I just went with instinct.  Since I figured this lens was aimed at amateurs looking for a "one travel lens" solution I would approach using it as a beginner.  I hoped to shoot most everything on Auto ISO and Auto White Balance.  That turned out to not be the case 100% of the time for certain situations.  I did manage to shoot in Aperture Priority the entire time, again with minor variances for special circumstances.  As originally intended I acquired the simple 9mm f/8 body cap lens as my "super wide" option.  I used that lens sparingly, in situations where the distortion didn't matter much and where I truly needed wider than 12mm.


How did things work out?  I was extremely pleased with the results even though this wasn't a photography trip. I spent time shooting things as they happened.  If you have been on a river cruise before, you know there are shore excursions where you follow a guide who explains in detail what you are seeing.  Those guides are not enamoured with photographers who seem to lag behind and spend too much time taking photos and wandering away from the group.  There were several times when my headset lost contact with the leader necessitating quick movements to find the signal then move in that direction!  I have been home barely two days and have yet to review all the images but can honestly say my keepers look to be on par with one of my normal trips.  The 12-200 lens performed extremely well.  If I could ask for anything different it would be to make it an 8-200!  Like all photographers I am still looking for the 8-400 f/2.8 zoom lens which weighs less than 400 grams and is tack sharp across the field with no distortion.


No need to talk about the superb Olympus EM-1 Mark II; it goes without saying that I consider it the most bang for your buck in digital photography, so on to the 12-200 lens!  For the most part I am an extremist when it comes to focal length.  I shot the 12-200 at mostly 12mm or 200mm.  I like to have the perspective talk to me and this lens lets me do that without fumbling with lens changes.  An example was our canal tour in Amsterdam on our first day.  Shooting from a moving platform, I was constantly switching focal lengths for composition and shooting before we passed the opportunity.  I loved having that lens on ONE body and not having to switch from camera to camera to cover the full range needed or swapping lenses and missing some great photo ops.  A few people on the trip had traditional DSLR's and bags full of lenses, trying to switch to cover ranges.  I felt sorry for them.  I had been there just three years ago before I went full steam ahead with my Olympus gear.  My biggest concern was interiors.  I knew we would be in some dark places, castles, cathedrals, etc. and I would miss my 7-14/2.8 PRO lens but a bit more ISO and solid bracing against walls combined with the superb IBIS of the EM-1 Mark II made things much easier.  I found that inside I never shot at 200mm so the f-stop at that end was never a problem.  


So many conversations online are concerned with noise at higher ISO's.  Having grown up in the film era (I started shooting professionally in 1970!), I don't get too concerned with noise/grain.  When I was shooting back then I had ISO 25, 64 and 100 as my options for color slide film.  The fact that I can shoot at ISO 3200 and get slight noise levels seems almost miraculous.  I did shoot a few times at ISO 6400.  Yes, there is some noise but using software to decrease the noise makes it less than an issue in my mind.  I think most of the "new to photography" crowd are spoiled and think any noise is objectionable.  Photography, like life, is a series of compromises.  You either shoot for content and make choices that work for your style or you sit on the sidelines worried about perfection.


A few comments about the little "body cap lens" are needed.  For one, the biggest issue for me was the size of the lens.  Several times I had to dig in my pockets, shoulder bag, wife's purse just to find it!  It is small to the point of being easy to misplace and hard to located without physically touching!  That is both a blessing and a curse.  I was outside my normal element shooting so unencumbered, with pockets filled with cell phone, passport, spare battery, radio receiving unit (to hear the tour leader), wallet, etc. finding a lens about the size of some European coins can be tough.  In using the lens I tried to limit myself to compositions where the distortions were not distracting to the subject matter.  This requires some pre-visualization on your part to find those situations.  I was able to do that quite successfully, or at least I thought so.  


I have included two galleries on this blog.  One is dedicated to the 12-200 while the other is for the 9mm fisheye lens.


Olympus 12-200 Lens



Olympus Body Cap Fisheye

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) 12-200 camera Cruise Europe Olympus photography Viking https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/5/down-to-the-bare-essentials Tue, 28 May 2019 16:07:27 GMT
Heroes and Leaders https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/4/heroes-and-leaders Heroes


Reading Michael Collins book, "Carrying the Flame" really brings back memories! WOW! My heroes in high school were a strange combination of astronauts and formula one drivers. Maybe not so different in dedication and shear bravery, but headed in different directions. In 1965, I met and spent maybe 15 minutes with Wally Schirra. He was dimunitive in size, a requirement to be an astronaut, but was a giant in my eyes. Not only had he been a test pilot but he had flown in space! I was totally in awe. Fast forward to 1976. I was working as an Engineer for Johns-Manville in a small plant in Denison, Texas. I was summoned to our Denver Headquarters to meet with the VP of operations about an assignment to turn a floundering project profitable. At that time I had heard that Johns-Manville had hired Wally Schirra as a Marketing VP working in the Denver Headquarters. During my meeting with the VP of Operations, Wally Schirra walked in. We were introduced. Wally immediately said, "Oh yes. We met once before didn't we? You were in high school? What was that, ten years ago?" I was floored. I am sure I must have made some sort of impression back then with my staccato delivery of questions! Heroes are really larger than life, except Wally Schirra was always so totally impressive. I always wanted to achieve greatness but I knew I would never be as great as the core group of early astronauts and as much as I was impressed by the Formula One drivers, I was more impressed with the design teams driving the forefront of Engineering in the pinnacle of both fields.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) astronauts heroes Schirra Wally https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/4/heroes-and-leaders Tue, 23 Apr 2019 13:00:37 GMT
Unfocus Your Photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/4/unfocus-your-photography Unfocus Your Photography


Have you ever gone out, camera in hand, with a preconceived idea of what you wanted to photograph?  I know I have.  Several times I went looking for what I thought was there only to be disappointed that I could not find it.  It happens all the time to all of us, like it or not.  Probably the worst case happens when we travel to some location that has been photographed many times.  we have seen the results in magazines and online so we know what to expect.  Or do we?  On our trips to East Africa's Tanzania we often have to remind people to photograph something other than the wildlife.  But when we look at the photographs in magazines from East Africa, we see animals, wildlife, so we are tuned to that expectation.   


On one of those trips, we were rolling out of our lodge on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater before sunrise in order to be on the crater floor as early as possible.  Walking to the vehicles I looked down into the crater and some 2000 feet below me and maybe a couple of miles away was this spectacular ground fog hugging the base of the trees in the Lerai Forest.  I grabbed my 100-400 lens and set about bracing the camera on the railing of the walkway.  Shooting away, I had almost every person in our group stop to look over my shoulder.  To a person they all asked,

"What is it?" - "The trees!" 

"What do you see?  Elephants?" - "The trees!"

"Are you shooting lions?" - "The trees!"

Every single person shrugged and walked on.  Africa = Animals was the mindset.  No animals, no photograph.  Later, at lunch in the crater I was looking at my images on the LCD of the camera and came to this one.  The person sitting next to me asked, "Wow!  Where was that?"  I said, "That's what I was shooting from the rail this morning."  Reply was , "Why didn't you tell me?"  Which I had but they were looking but not seeing.  Now on EVERY trip we urge people to photograph the landscapes as well as the wildlife.  We also tell people to put down the cameras now and then, gaze at what's before them, breath in the air, listen to the sounds.  When you get back home and start going thru your photos the sounds and feelings of East Africa will be alive in your brain.  Drop those preconceived ideas.  Be open to the experiences at hand.


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Africa camera photography Tanzania wildlife https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/4/unfocus-your-photography Fri, 12 Apr 2019 12:03:21 GMT
Lenses and Perspective Control https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/3/lenses-and-perspective-control Lenses and Perspective Control


One key topic we cover in our workshops in Wyoming is the use of different lenses to control perspective.  So many new photographers (as well as a few experienced ones!) use wide angle lenses to "get more in" the shot and telephotos simply to get closer to a subject without moving forward or where moving forward is not an option.  Those are obvious uses for these tools but misses their really strong points, perspective control.  Here is an example.  One of my photos is on the recent cover of Kansas Travel and shows a field of small flowers with Monument Rocks looming in the background.  The photo was taken with a Canon Rebel XTi several years ago using a, 11-18mm superwide lens at 12mm focal length.  The closest flower was almost touching the front element of the lens.  The rock wall is some thirty yards away.  What doesn't show from this low angle and the use of the superwide lens is the distance from the small field of flowers to the wall.

It appears that the flower field extends almost all the way to the rock wall.  The truth can be seen in the next photo taken by my wife, Cindy, as I was laying down shooting this image.  The field of flowers is maybe, maybe two feet in depth and at least 20-25 yards from the base of the rock wall.  I am using the wide angle lenses capability to make close objects appear larger than life and enhancing the feeling of space.

The low angle is one of the keys to getting the appearance in the top photo.


The use of telephotos lenses for perspective control is similar but just the opposite.  Below is a photograph taken in a field of sunflowers using a somewhat wide angle lens.  Shot at about 28mm the flowers are in rows but the line of flowers is not so distinct and the front flower really dominates simply by size compared to the others.  By using a small lens opening of f/16 I kept everything sharp in the image from the front flower to the extreme distant flowers.  The rows do show but are subordinated by the massive size of the front flower.

Nice photograph but it didn't show what I wanted to depict.  I backed up quite a ways from the front flower and selected a 400mm lens and a rather large lens opening of f/6.3 because I didn't want anything except the front flower to be in sharp focus.  This image below,

shows the row as an actual ROW!  By having only the front flower sharp I made it the subject. It was not necessary to make the other flowers sharp as your brain "knows" the rest of the row is just like the front flower.  This makes the front flower really stand out from the others in the row, dominating only in its sharpness.  If I had chosen a small lens opening there is a good chance that separation would have been lost between each individual flower.


This is only one of many topics we cover with in a classroom setting and out in the field at our workshop.  Love to have you join myself and Boyd Norton some September!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) lenses Perspective Control photography. Wyoming Workshop https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2019/3/lenses-and-perspective-control Sat, 23 Mar 2019 13:08:01 GMT
My Field Workflow https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/11/my-field-workflow I came from the simple times when there were only two chioces for ISO, 25 and 64, Kodachrome.  Also, other than interchangeable lenses, there were only f-stops and shutter speeds to worry about.  Maybe that is the reason I like to keep my digital workflow simple.  That said, I have developed two distinctly different avenues I use based on location and time.  At our workshops or on location for an extended period I use Lightroom to import images.  In Tanzania, with the limited amount of time for anything other than photography and sleep, I simply download my images to hard drives and get some sleep.  Let me explain in detail both of these methods.


On location with time for cataloging:  On trips to places like Oregon, Wyoming (at our workshops), etc.  I take along either my 13" Macbook Air or my 10.6" Macbook Air.  the 10.6" has a 128GB internal drive while the 13" has a 256GB internal hard drive.  I consider the laptop as only a tool and not a storage device.  I also carry two external hard drives, bus powered meaning they require no external power source but draw their power from the USB ports on the laptop.  Depending on the trip, these drives vary from 2TB traditional spinning drives to a pair of 500GB Solid State drives with no moving parts.  One of the drives becomes my primary while the other is used as the back up.


Linked is a PDF file which you can download and print.  It has the basic things I do in the field with getting images onto drives and getting them home.  If I am in a place where I have the time (usually not in Tanzania!) I create a Lightroom Catalog but that is really not necessary.  Most important is to get your images onto a couple of reliable hard drives so you can format your cards and go shoot the next day.


My Procedure PDF

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/11/my-field-workflow Tue, 06 Nov 2018 01:22:11 GMT
Going Light - Micro Four-Thirds in Africa https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/4/going-light---micro-four-thirds-in-africa Shooting with Small Gear in the Field

How Well Did the M4/3 Equipment Perform in Tanzania?


My timing seems to be perfect.  About 20 years ago my eyes started needing glasses.  Along came really capable autofocus.  Shortly after that, good slide film was getting expensive to shoot.  Along came good digital.  Last year, my shoulders were getting tired of hauling around big boy cameras and the lenses that go with them plus there were restrictions starting to surface on international flights with carry on size and weight being enforced.  Along came the Micro 4/3 systems from Panasonic and Olympus.  Other mirrorless equipment was also taking a chunk of the weight away, Sony, Fuji and Canon were all in the game.  I bit early and bought a Canon “M” mirrorless.  It was the same crop sensor as my Canon 7DII.  I was not happy with the original version.  No eye level viewfinder primarily made this a non-winner.

I rented a Panasonic Lumix GX-7 and a couple of lenses to try out.  A day into the 5 day rental, I went online and ordered my own GX-7 camera and lenses.  I was totally intrigued with the size weight and performance of the little camera.  With a sensor one half the size of 35mm film, the camera had some drawbacks.  High ISO noise was worse than my full frame Canon 5DIII.  The software for noise control has come a long way since the introduction of digital cameras and this was seen only as a mild issue.  Built into the camera was a very simple to understand, set of menus.  In only a few minutes I was shooting time lapse video, panoramas and other interesting effects.  Several months later I bought an Olympus EM-10, the low end version of the Olympus Micro 4/3 camera.  It seems the Micro 4/3 standard was established by Olympus and Panasonic to promote a common lens mount and agreed upon standard for operation.  All the lenses interchange and work with the other companies cameras.

I acquired the amazingly sharp Olympus 7-14/2.8 PRO lens for its great wide angle range, equivalent to a 14-28/2.8 on my Canon 5DIII.  It is one sharp lens and my “go to” wide angle.  Shortly after that I bought the Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO lens and matched 1.4X teleconverter.  That lens is another marvel of precision.  At the long end it is equivalent to my fixed Canon 300/2.8 but is easily to hand hold and weighs a lot less that 1/4 the weight of the large Canon lens.  Armed with the two bodies, the two top end lenses and the “kit” lens of 14-42mm, I left for Scotland.  My camera bag weighed about as much as my 5DIII and 300/2.8 lens but held a range of optics I only dreamed of prior to buying my Micro 4/3 gear.  The rather small backpack also held my 13” Macbook Air and a couple of hard drives for backing up photos.  Still, it was lighter than the single Canon full frame body with vertical gip and the 300/2.8!

If you are out to impress people with the size of your lens, forget buying any of the Micro 4/3 gear.  It is not impressive in scale and will not turn heads.  I did find that getting into places with restrictions on professional photography was easier when carrying what was perceived as amateur gear.  The trip to Scotland was a breeze!  No longer did I have to worry about fitting my camera bag into the overhead space of the commuter jets in use today plus putting it up there didn’t require a lot of back strain!

Once in Scotland, I discovered that I felt a freedom I had not felt with the more massive full frame gear.  I was able to downsize the tripod I normally would have carried and was not concerned about carrying my complete range of gear on a hike.  My old knee loved me for it.  At the end of the day I was not in pain and the images delivered were nothing short of superb.  Downloading and working thru the images in Lightroom proved that the gear was perfect for almost all my shooting situations.  What didn’t works well?   Tracking focus was the largest gap in performance between the Micro4/3 and my Canon gear.  It just flat would not work.  OK, so if I were going to Bosque del Apache to photograph the cranes or other locations to capture birds in flight I would take the Canon gear.  That was all with the M10 and GX-7.

I also discovered one major difference between the two M4/3 platforms.  Panasonic has moved in the direction if “in lens” stabilization while Olympus has decided on “in body” stabilization.  Based on this I needed to make a decision.  I decided that the in camera stabilization fit my needs a little better so Olympus was the route I was planning.

Let me interject that I looked at other mirrorless options.  Sony gets a lot of press with their full frame versions but that seemed to negate to weight issue requiring the same large lenses.  Fuji had a terrific system with a 1.6 crop factor versus the 2 crop factor of the M4/3 equipment.  Again, the lenses would be larger but not prohibitively so.  I decided to gamble that the noise issue of the smaller sensor would be less of an issue with the growth of the technology.  Four year old full frame cameras are about the same as the newest M4/3 bodies for noise at equivalent ISO’s.  I figure that my newest Olympus EM1 Mark II is about one stop noisier than my Canon 5DIII.  Not enough to concern myself with considering the weight and space savings in the camera bag.  It is a small gamble to take considering how much the technology has done to alleviate the noise issues over the years.


Where the rubber meets the road!  The GX-7 and the M10 are both 16 megapixel cameras while the M1 Mark II is 20 megapixels.  Not much difference in my opinion so that doesn’t make much difference to me.  Anything at 16 or better will work for just about any photography I want to do.

A few months before the trip to Tanzania, Panasonic, working with Leica, introduced a new lens.  The range on that lens intrigued me, a 100-400mm.  In 35mm camera terms that is equivalent to a 200-800mm zoom!!!  I waited to see test reports on the lens.  SLRGEAR.COM showed it to be quite sharp all the way out with only a slight loss of sharpness wide open at 800mm equivalent.  I jumped all over that lens.  Here is where the Stabilization game gets tricky.  If I use the lens on the GX-7, i need to turn on the lens stabilization.  If I use it on the M1 Mark II I need to turn off the lens stabilization and let the camera body do the job.  I learned quickly that I could hardly use the lens on the M10 at the full 800mm equivalent for one main reason.  Olympus, for some reason has a noise maker and a vibrator so that when you shoot with the M10 it sounds like a traditional DSLR with mirror slap, etc.  That vibration is enough to play havoc with images made at the long end of the lens.  I tried bean bags, tripods, everything I could, but was unable to get sharp images at the longest zoom of the lens.  The M1 Mark II has a silent shooting mode and it handled the long end of the lens VERY well with very sharp images.  That meant that in Africa I used the M1 Mark II with the Leica 100-400, the M10 had the 40-150/2.8 and the GX-7 was fitted with the 7-14/2.8, a workable solution.

As for the different camera bodies, let me say that the GX-7 is nice, the M10 is OK but the M1 Mark II is a workhorse.  It does just about everything right.  I did have some issues (more on those later) but for almost all my shooting it was in my hands.  Because the camera and lens combo is so small and light you forget that you are shooting at 800mm equivalent.  At that level of magnification you need to be rock steady and use a fast shutter speed.  I shot mostly at ISO 400-1200 during the day to minimize and shake at the long focal length.  For the most part, the images were tack sharp.  Most of the unsharp images were directly traceable to screw ups on my part.

There are two silent mode shooting speeds on the M1 Mark II (M1MII).  You can custom set the top speed in each mode.  I was shooting the low speed and set the top speed for only 8 frames per second. The high speed silent mode will shoot at 60 frames per second!!!  I tried that a couple of times but was eating up SD card real estate at an alarming rate and knew that it would just result in lots of deleted photos later anyway.  

Bad photos from the M1MII were basically my own screw ups.  I was not totally familiar with controls and made a few mistakes along the way.  Canon controls are very familiar to me since they have only changed minimally over the past 7 to 8 years.  This is like a whole new ball game.  I will say that by the end of the trip, I was making changes on the fly without having to look closely at what I was doing.

I had one issue with the M1MII that is still not resolved.  When turning the camera on, sometimes it hangs up and never finishes “booting”.  If I turn it off and back on again it turns on completely.  The “Hang Up” position does not allow the focus to work or to make changes to settings, it just shows an image on the screen and viewfinder but nothing else works.  I tried wiggling the switch and sometimes that worked to get the boot routine to finish.  Other times it came on normally and other times it was slow to boot completely.  I am not sure if this is a serious defect or some mode I selected accidentally or dust in the switch.  Not sure but I need to contact Olympus to find out quickly.  Leaving for the Galapagos in a couple of weeks.  (Update to the above.   Not sure what the deal was but maybe a little dirty contacts but it seems to have gone away.)

I will say that I didn’t really get to use tracking focus on still images much but did use it on video mode.  I am bit confused by the tracking system in video mode.  I would be shooting video of a zebra (excellent contrast and a simple thing for digital tracking to follow or so you would think) walking along with tall grass in the background.  For a few seconds the tracking would be spot on, following the zebra, then it would get distracted and lock up on some nebulous spot on the grass.  As I panned it would stick to that goofy spot on the grass until it went out of frame then hunt and find the zebra again.  During that hunting period the camera would go out of focus and back in again.  I was really getting frustrated with it by the end of the trip.  Maybe there is something I was doing wrong in video mode but it seems to me black and white stripes should be a no-brainer for tracking.

Other than that, I had no issues that were a deal breaker.  I leave for the Galapagos Islands in less than 12 days and I am only taking Olympus gear plus a GoPro Hero4 for underwater shooting.  OMD-EM1 Mark II and OMD-EM10; 7-14/2.8Pro; 14-42 Kit Lens; 40-150/4-5.6; Leica 100-400.  The 40-150/2.8Pro and 1.4X are staying home in the interest of being even lighter.

Long term, my plans are to sell the M10 and either buy another M1MII or an M5MII but those investments will have to wait until the cash pipeline fills up again.


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/4/going-light---micro-four-thirds-in-africa Sun, 30 Apr 2017 18:31:34 GMT
Visiting East Africa https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/7/visiting-east-africa East Africa - Photographers Paradise

Whether you are going there for the abundant, exotic wildlife or the magnificent landscapes, East Africa is there to offer you the most superlative of experiences!

Selecting a trip can be both confusing and difficult.  Best place to visit?  Safest? Which company to go with?  Leader?


For most first time visitors this is also a ONE TIME visit, a trip of a lifetime.  That makes choosing a big gamble.  After doing some thorough reading and research we decided that we must see two places, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.  It just so happens that both of these are in Tanzania.  Our other research told us that Tanzania has both a stable and reliable government, great news as well.  Our first trip, we deferred to the leader to chose the tour company as he had been leading trips to East Africa for several years.  We were so pleased with the tour company, that we have been with them since 2001.


There are several different types of safaris, each varying in price and services offered.  

What we normally call a "sight-seeing" safari consists of the typical Land Rover/Cruiser with room for seven passengers plus driver/guide and every seat filled.  These tours stay in lodges/camps until mid-morning (9am) and then spend a few of hours in the bush, return for lunch, then go back out in the afternoon for a few more hours, returning to the lodge/camp in time for cocktails before dinner.  They range from 6 days to usually 12 days in length.  These are OK for families with small children and offer highlights of the parks visited and are the cheapest way to go if you are not a serious photographer.

In depth safaris usually last 10-12 days and spend more time out in the bush, usually not returning for lunch, but stopping with boxed lunches at one or more designated spots for picnics.  These generally are a little more expensive, a little less crowded and offer more time in the bush than the simple sight seeing trips.

True Photo Safari's utilize the same vehicles but limit the number of passengers in each vehicle.  The reason being that when there is action, it usually happens on one side of the vehicle.  With three to four photographers per vehicle, all have access to shooting space.  Try that with seven people on board and it is chaos!  The tours also leave the lodges/camps at or before sunrise to be out in the bush at first light, enjoy lunch out and return around sunset, maximizing time out in the wilds.


For us, we have never been on anything but Photo Safaris in East Africa.  We have seen plenty of the other groups, showing up at a location with wildlife just as the light got harsh, grabbing a few snapshots and hurrying away to see what other animals they can see.  Most of the budget groups have limitations on miles per day that the driver can use.  The top tour companies are open ended, meaning that the drivers are free to spend the maximum amount of time and miles making sure the photographers get great images, great angles and pleasing backgrounds.

​Choosing a leader is more difficult.  Ask for references, read reviews if available.  You don't want to be with a someone who is more interested in filing up their own portfolio rather than giving you the opportunity for the best shots.  It also helps to have a leader who has been there a few times before and understands and communicates with the driver/guides about expectations.  Almost all the driver/guides are good, having attended very intensive training at specific schools for their trade.  The differences are the best guides move up to the top companies and are not restricted in miles they can drive per day by the tour company owners.  We see many of the less well managed companies with poorly maintained vehicles, worn or even slick tires.  These are not good situations.

The tour company we use is locally owned, meaning that the profits stay in Tanzania and do not get sent to foreign owners in Germany, England, the USA or other places.  They are also in the top tier of tour companies in East Africa, offering the best experience, more versatility and have excellent reviews.  It is always delightful to hear our clients brag, saying, "Those had to be the best guides you ever had!"  We just agree knowing that we have had only great guides in all our years of working with our tour company.


​The differences in price among the various tours is substantial.  The more people you cram into a vehicle the less the cost in use of vehicles and driver/guides.  If you limit the miles a driver can maneuver per day, that contains cost somewhat as well.  Doing less maintenance and running tires to the ragged end saves money.  

On a good Photo Safari you can expect the costs to be 25-30% more per day than the lower end sight-seeing safaris.  So much depends on your expectations of a trip.


2017 will likely be the last trip we lead to Tanzania.  For those who have gone with us in the past, we hope it was a terrific experience.  Those going with us in 2017, it will be a great trip!  And for those planning to go after we stop leading these trips, we will have recommendations on the best experience for photographers.


For information on the 2017 Trip click HERE








(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Africa Tanzania camera photography safari wildlife https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/7/visiting-east-africa Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:47:16 GMT
What Was That? https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/11/what-was-that Earthquake! the movie, came out with rave reviews.  Something new had been added to the theaters showing the film, giant speakers with something called Sensurround.  This was 1974 and I could hardly wait to see it.  These giant speakers were supposed to give the same sensation as an actual earthquake.  Once in the theater I was almost delirious with anticipation.  When the first shakes hit the screen and the weird vibration started and ran thru my chest with a deep rumbling sound, nothing remotely seemed realistic, at least not to me.  It all seemed so fake, so Hollywood.  I was extremely disappointed in both the film and the supposedly super effects added via Sensurround.  Later that year the movie received an Academy Award for the Sensurround effect.  It was then that I decided that the Academy Awards were nothing more than a popularity contest.


Fast forward six years.  On vacation in California and in a small motel along a boulder choked river in the Sierra's with massive peaks all around us.  Sound asleep, I was awakened but a weird shaking of the bed that grew in intensity.  I woke up Cindy, or rather she worked up, too.  I watched the lamp on the night stand start walking toward the edge and grabbed it.  My change, wallet and keys had already walked off the same nightstand and had fallen to the floor.  We looked at each other and both asked, "What the heck is going on?"  I blurted out that the sound was really weird, just like in that movie, uh, Earthquake!  Then I almost yelled out loud, "Those guys did deserve that Academy Award!"  It is an EARTHQUAKE!!!!  My mind was thinking, "OK, we are in a canyon along a river with boulders all in the river and those boulders came DOWN from the walls of the canyon into the river from some outside influence, like maybe an earthquake???  What does one do?  I laid there and waited for a rock the size of a large truck to come rolling thru our room.  Nothing happened.


Later that morning we found out the epicenter was some 50 miles away and that it was a relatively small earthquake by California standards, only 5.8 but exciting enough for this cowboy.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) earthquake sensurround https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/11/what-was-that Thu, 19 Nov 2015 14:34:30 GMT
Just a Book? https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/10/just-a-book

When is a book more than just its cover and content?  Read on...

1977 and I was a neophyte photography, lover of wilderness and living in New Jersey, a temporary assignment for a couple of years.  I was absorbing everything I could find about photography.  Our local camera store in Bound Brook, had a nice collection of books.  One title caught my eye.  Wilderness Photography by Boyd Norton.  Wilderness AND Photography in one title?  Perfect.  Boyd Norton?  Never heard of him but the book looked good on the shelf.  I parted with the $7+ and turned a corner in my life.  The book was perfect, perfect for me.  I read it, maybe three times in about two weeks.  "This guy, Norton, knows what he is talking about", kept running thru my head.  I told my wife, "I will meet this guy somehow."  That was 1977.  Fast forward to late 1978.  The company sold the business I was running in New Jersey, moved us to Denver and set me up in the R&D group doing development on new products.  I was putting up photos in my office when my secretary commented that my images were very nice and that the lady who ran the R&D library was married to a photographer.  I didn't give it a second thought except that I knew Boyd Norton lived near Denver.  Could it be?  No, not a chance.  Two days later I was in the library.  I did notice that the lady discussed earlier had a name plate on her desk but it was out of view.  I had to maneuver around the stacks on her desk to get a good look and DAMN!  It said "Barbara Norton"!  NORTON!  Could it be?  I walked up, introduced myself and asked, "Is your husbands name Boyd?"  "Why yes!  Do you know him?"  "No, but I have one of his books and it is absolutely the best book on photography I have ever read and I want to meet him and could we have dinner some time and where do you live and what type of food do you guys like and does he do any teaching and would he even talk to me?"  I am certain I didn't ask all those questions but they were running rampant in my head.  We did eventually meet for dinner at my house a few weeks later.  The following year, I attended one of Boyd's workshops and absolutely grew leaps and bounds in my photographic skills.  That workshop was a true turning point in my life.  I was in tears when the week was over.  I begged my wife to let me go again the following year.  Two kids, a mortgage, cars needing work and tires and I wanted to spend money on a photo workshop?!?!?  Two weeks after the workshop and my wife and I were in the process of figuring out how we could afford another one.  Boyd called.  He actually commented on how much he enjoyed having me work with some of the beginners.  Then, not missing a beat, he asked me to be an assistant at his workshop in Wyoming the following year.  I was floored, almost didn't say anything.  The next year, I joined Boyd in the Snowy Range for a week long workshop.  For the next 12 years we did workshops together in both Wyoming and Colorado catering to clients such as Smithsonian Tours. During those twelve years, Boyd became very busy with international assignments and he really didn't have time for devote to workshops.  Boyd reluctantly had to drop them from his schedule.  I was rather sad but also very busy as my own photo business was quite busy in addition to holding a full time position in tech sales.


What's in a book you ask?  In my case, it was a monumental change in my photographic skills and a switch in my outlook on conservation and life.  Today?  Boyd and I are great friends and are doing workshops together again on an exceptional ranch in Wyoming.  Check us out....

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Boyd Norton camera photography wilderness workshops https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/10/just-a-book Mon, 12 Oct 2015 13:34:49 GMT
Micro 4/3rd's, Second Trip Completed - Scotland https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/9/micro-4/3rds-second-trip-completed It was inevitable!  The world of photography has changed once again.  I made my second trip with only the little Panasonic GX-7 and Olympus OMD-E-M10 plus four lenses.  The whole deal with spare batteries, chargers and a few other staples for digital photography weighed less than my Canon 5DIII, Vertical Grip and 70-200/2.8L IS lens combined.  The weight savings is amazing.  For lenses I carried the AMAZING Olympus 7-14/2.8 Pro lens, the Olympus 14-42, Panasonic 14-42 and the Olympus 40-150/4-5.6 plus a set of cute little extension tubes.  For those who do not know about the M4/3 cameras, the lenses are interchangeable as are the strobes.  Both Panasonic and Olympus make the bodies as well as lenses and you can mix and match as you please, sort of.  The big difference is the Image Stabilization process of the two companies is quite different.  Panasonic has a simple body IS system and a remarkable lens IS system.  Olympus relies on a very robust and functional body IS system.  Given a choice, I prefer the Olympus system.  Of the 3000+ images I shot during the nine days on the ground in Scotland, 75% were shot with the Olympus.  There are other things I liked about the Olympus body versus the Panasonic but are more just a personal preference for the interface than an actual difference in performance.  I will say that the Olympus performs much better at high ISO, working well all the way up to 6400.  With the Panasonic, I stuck to shooting at ISO 1000 or less.


The sensors in M4/3's cameras are half the size of what is in my Canon 5DIII so the crop factor is 2X.  This is a good thing on telephotos and not so good on wide angle.  At 2X, the lenses I carried were the equivalent in focal length from 14mm at the wide end to 300 mm at the long end.  I found this range adequate but sometimes wished for a little more reach, not badly enough to carry the heavy Canon gear for some of the treks we were on.  The great news is that the lighter equipment let me carry my Sirui carbon fiber tripod, a smaller and much lighter version of the tripod I use for the Canon equipment.  It is nice to have a small backpack with that much shooting power and be able to carry it so easily.  I will be expanding this system a little with the addition of more telephoto capability but not adding much to the weight as well as a newer body (once the newest version is released).


One of the beauties of the two camera systems is their ability to shoot HD video.  The newer Panasonic bodies are moving into 4K video, a plus for some people but not for me just yet.  What was really impressive was the Image Stabilization on the Olympus when shooting video.  It is almost like shooting with a full blown steady cam!!!  Hand holding is just unheard of in the world of video without some sort of steadying device.  I could hand hold with either system but the Olympus was just better.  


What did I miss?  Neither system does active focus very well.  While the Canon system can lock onto a bird in flight and keep it in focus as you shoot, the M4/3's equipment I own is just not there yet.  I have read that the latest versions have been improved drastically in this regard but have not tested them yet.  If they ever do reach that point, I might seriously look at selling my larger Canon gear!


How well did the equipment perform?  Take a look at the images and you decide.


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/9/micro-4/3rds-second-trip-completed Thu, 10 Sep 2015 02:02:14 GMT
Shutter Speed and a Waterfall https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/shutter-speed-and-a-waterfall I shot a sequence of photos of a waterfall in Wyoming last week to demonstrate the changes in appearance of the flowing water at various shutter speeds.


1/250th - 1/125th - 1/60th - 1/30th - 1/15th - 1/8th and 1/4 second respectfully  


With my camera firmly mounted on a tripod I varied the aperture value to give me single step shutter speed changes from 1/250th second to 1/4 of a second.  The changes in appearance are quite easy to see and should help you pick a combination you want to use for moving water and waterfalls.





1/250th of a secondBrooklyn Waterfall in the Absaroka Range of Wyoming. Canon 5DIII and Canon 70-200/2.8L IS lens on a Feisol Tripod and Feisol Ballhead





1/125th of a second




1/60th of a second



















1/4 second

1/4 second



(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/shutter-speed-and-a-waterfall Sun, 26 Jul 2015 14:52:13 GMT
Mirrorless Cameras - The Standing 8 Count is On https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/mirrorless-cameras---the-standing-8-count-is-on At a little over 18 months of experimenting with various mirrorless cameras, things are shaking out well.  My first attempt at mirrorless was the Canon "M", a little guy that required an adapter to use my existing line of Canon lenses.  Not a big deal but the camera was somewhat disappointing for its intended use.  I had high hopes to use the camera for video.  The focus controls were less than stellar.  Turns out that Canon has released a new line of lenses called STM, to use for continuous focussing in video mode.  That sort of defeated my original intent of not having to have a second set of lenses for a different brand (I was thinking specifically of Sony).  About a year ago, I rented a Panasonic GX-7 for five days.  On day three, I ordered my own and a couple of lenses.  Turns out that the little thing had numerous features that were easy to access, time lapse as well as regular HD video, panorama and some other artistic modes that I didn't really bother to explore much, preferring to do those in post processing, but it performed extremely well except in low light and high ISO (above 1000).

Panasonic GX-7



This year I added an Olympus-D E-M10 for its unique built in camera body stabilization.  More on that later in comparisons.

Olympus E-M10


The nice thing about the Olympus and the Panasonic is they share a common lens mount and electrical connections, Micro 4/3rds.  Sounds impressive but there is more to it than that.  Impressively the lenses from Olympus work on the Panasonic and vice versa.  There is one hitch.  Panasonic relies heavily on lenses with stabilization while the Olympus line prefers to use camera body stabilization.  The Olympus 40-150 lens on the Olympus allows video use, basically hand held.  On the Panasonic?  You need a tripod or the videos are very shaky.  OK, so the lenses physically fit each others bodies and autofocus as well as respond to all the normal aperture settings but they are not what I would call "Totally Compatible".  For still images, they both perform quite well no matter which body is used.

In some instances I prefer manual focus, shooting grandkids baseball games thru the chainlink fence for example.  On the Panasonic there is a simple switch to select manual or autofocus.  On the Olympus, it is in a menu; a plus for the Olympus.  As long as we are discussing menus, I will say that the Panasonic menu items are larger in the screen and easier to read for my "Old Man Eyes" while the Olympus font is smaller.  This has not really been an issue as long as I have my glasses which I hopefully always do!

Both cameras have access to a touch screen which works well for setting up ISO, Shutter Speeds, etc.  The Panasonic seems little more intuitive but maybe it that is because I have had it for a year!

Both cameras have eye-level EVF's (electronic viewfinders).  The Panasonic viewfinder tilts up to 90 degrees to act as a sort of low level finder.  Both cameras have tilt out screens, not swivel but tilting on one plane.

As a test, I just returned from a couple of weeks on the Oregon Coast using only my mirrorless cameras.  I did bring along my Canon 5DIII and several big boy "L" lenses as a security blanket but these never came out of the pack.  How well did the little guys perform?  Below is a slide show of a lot of images done with the cameras.  Are these cameras everything I want in a camera?  Almost but not quite.  I wish they had better active focus systems to follow action better and focused faster.  My guess is that they will work for 95% of what I shoot and maybe even all of what I shoot if I invest in the top-of-the-line camera bodies instead of the mid-range equipment.


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Olympus Panasonic mirrorless photography review https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/mirrorless-cameras---the-standing-8-count-is-on Tue, 07 Jul 2015 21:50:11 GMT
Travel - The Genetics of Packing https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/4/travel---the-genetics-of-packing Genetically, I came from some part of the human tree that traveled light and moved swiftly.  My wife came from a different branch, let's just call it the "Noah Branch" for it involves bringing two of almost everything.  I am not sure which is right or wrong but I can tell you that for a two week trip, I can be ready to go in about 40 minutes, tops.  Others, not so quickly.  My wife is one of those, not so quickly types.  Her genetic line made lists and then lists of the lists.  I need to slow down and make lists as well but I can't seem to bring myself to do it.  For a trip to Tanzania, I need certain drugs, clothes and camera gear.  If I am short on clothes?  The places we go have sinks, water and soap and I can wash in the evenings, no big deal.  Where do I make a list? Camera Gear.  That is what seems to me to be my focus, if you will allow that term.  Drugs?  We need certain things to stay healthy, keep the foreign critters from invading and doing harm so those should be on a list.  Back to clothes for a minute; I am quite certain that my shirts and pants do not match; never have; never will.  So far, no lion, cheetah, elephant or other wildlife has noticed OR complained.  Maybe it is this way with most ladies, but my wife worries about such things.  Thankfully she has learned not to point out that my socks are blue and my shoes are brown.  She knows it is insignificant to me.  The fact that I have socks and shoes on is enough for me.  She always looks great, and for that I am glad.  In many years of marriage none of her style and attention to detail has rubbed off.


My better half does a superb job of packing, bringing large varieties of stuff in small batch quantities so that they are not noticed until I need something that I forgot.  Then there she is, Johnny on the spot, helping me with whatever I left out of my travel gear.  I am envious.  Will I change?  Doubt it.  Can I change?  Doubt it.  You see, I am genetically preprogrammed to not get too carried away with packing.  If I had been in charge of packing for the moon landing in 1969, they might have arrived without oxygen or toilet paper or something like that.  What's really odd is that admittedly, I am a packrat.  I find stuff that people are throwing out and I grab it "just in case".  Why doesn't that carry over to travel and packing?  I am no psychologist.  I have no idea.  The two afflictions seem perfectly normal to me and should operate independently of each other.  Having a garage or basement full of others castaways seems perfectly normal.  Having a list of things to remember for a trip?  Well, this may sound odd, but that concept seems almost absurd.


We depart in less than two days.  My bag has been closed for two days.  My wife's?  Maybe things will start going into her bag tonight but probably not finished until late tomorrow.  


Thank goodness she covers for my shortcomings...

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/4/travel---the-genetics-of-packing Wed, 08 Apr 2015 21:39:13 GMT
NANPA Summit https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/2/nanpa-summit I just got back from the NANPA Summit in San Diego last night.  It was a grueling drive out there and back punctuated by some exceptional scenery along the way. I was a member of NANPA years ago but never did anything with the group.  Nothing, nada, zero, zip.  Last year I decided to join again and attend the meeting in San Diego.  I posted various things on Facebook about the meeting and the experience but nothing that really explained what the experience really felt like.  Was it expensive?  Yes and no.  I found it hard to justify many years ago when I first joined, not financially but time wise.  I was working full time, had limited vacation and was going to Tanzania with my time off.  NANPA and the summit seemed out of reach.


Now with sufficient time, the funds are somewhat limited.  First, let me say that this was a superb experience.  Although I felt like I was on the outside, there were many there with us that I spoke to who felt the same way.  Attending a meeting of a group doesn't necessarily get you "involved".  I really liked what I saw and heard at the summit.  Will I go again?  A lot depends on what happens over the next two years, as the summit is held every-other-year.  If I have the funds, yes, I will go.  Will I have the funds?  Who knows??  Being retired does have some serious drawbacks on the financial side but not on the time side!  I have had some questions about the "value" and "justification" for the cost to attend versus using the money to purchase more equipment.  I have no way of answering that for anyone.  I will say that after listening to Dewitt Jones' program the first night, that I am probably encumbered with too much equipment.  There are times I might need to upgrade to get better processing speed but I literally have too much to carry with me on most trips.  We all go through lulls in creativity.  There are times I wonder what the heck am I doing with all this stuff and spending my money on cameras, lenses, tripods and trips. Then I snap out of it and keep on creating.  I reached one of those lulls where I felt brain dead when it came to photography.  Half way to San Diego I was wondering "Why a I doing this?"  Two hours of sitting and listening to Dewitt answered that question for me; I love to create, I feel at home in the natural world and I need an artistic outlet.  


I know the expense of attending this meeting was fairly high but I also know the expense of sitting at home and always wondering, "Should I have gone?"  As for involvement? I have committed to run a NANPA Meet-up Group in the Great Plains.  The group will meet once a month to do photo outings, dinner, lunch, a photo walk, etc.  What else?  It depends on what the group wants to do together.  I also committed to one other part of the "team" that I will work into later this year after Tanzania.


Who were the speakers?

Dewitt Jones

Flip Nicklin

Steve Winter

Nevada Wier

Frans Lanting


These were the Keynote Speakers!  In addition, there were numerous sessions put on by both photographers and equipment suppliers.  I was able to attend seven of these and found them to be mostly brilliant and VERY informative.  The topics were varied from video production to book manufacturing.  Krysta Schlyer, Suzi Esterhas, Ellen Anon, Kathy Adams Clark, Ron Rosentstock, Jennifer Wu and many others!  I also bought a couple of books, one form Suzi Esterhas and one from Frans Lanting:









































How do you decide whether it is worth it or not?  I have no idea.  For me, I needed this spark of creativity and to be around so many exceptional people AND photographers at one time is simply amazing.  The exhibit hall was filled almost wall to wall with:


Acratech, Inc.
Arizona Highway Photo Workshops
Astro Hutech
B&H Photo, Video, Pro Audio
Cognisys, Inc.
Daymen (Lowepro/Joby)
Holbrook Travel
Hunt’s Photo and Video
KEH Camera
LEE Filters
Lens Flipper by GoWing
Magna Chrome
Midwest Camera Repair
MindShift Gear
Mix – Camerawerx



My wife made me give her my credit card before I could go in!  Not on the list was Canon and Nikon.  Loved to see the new 11-24L lens from Canon as well as the 5Ds.

More Photos
MK Controls, Inc
Piper Mackay Photography
Red River Paper
Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours
Samy’s Camera
Strabo Photo Tour Collection
Swarovski Optik
Tamron, Inc. 
Tandayapa Bird Lodge
Tropical Birding Tours




Will I go back?  Hard to say but I sure want to if for no other reason than to get inspired again.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/2/nanpa-summit Wed, 25 Feb 2015 19:56:53 GMT
Shoot a LOT! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/shoot-a-lot I keep hearing that shooting a lot of photos will improve your abilities.  I am not sure I buy that as a way to improve.  Maybe if you wrote down all the settings or at least reviewed them when looking at your images, maybe, but who is going to do that?  Not many people, that's for sure.  With film you could not afford to just go out and "shoot a bunch" of photos.  You had to learn another way, the right way.  Go way back to hand held meters that I started with and see what decisions you are faced with just to take your first exposure.

A hand held meter shows many choices.  It is up to the photographer to figure out which combination works the best for the situation you are facing.   The meter here is offering several choices, f/2.8 @ 1/500 or maybe f/8 @ 1/60 or even f/16 @ 1/15.  All of those choices deliver the same amount of light to your sensor.  Which one is the correct setting?  They all are but they are ALL dependent on the subject, too!  To me, learning to shoot using a hand held meter was the real key to understanding photography but it still didn't improve my images.  I still lumbered along with good exposures and the death of field I wanted but the images were still lacking.  


My mom thought my photos were great but as anyone understands, your own mom always thinks what you do is great.  I kept shooting away thinking that the difference between my photos and those I was seeing in the magazines was some secret filter or special film, some trick that those of us on the outside would never understand.  After almost 5 years of shooting and doing self evaluations I was convinced that no amount of anything was going to improve my photos.  Then I met Boyd Norton.  I had read a book of his, Wilderness Photography, and set a goal of meeting him.  By chance I moved to a new job in a new state and into a new office.  Across the hall in the Research Library was a lady named Barbara Norton who's husband was rumored to be a photographer.  I introduced myself and set the machinery in motion.  Boyd and Barb came to my house, he looked at my images, commented that they were good but just needed some polishing then suggested I attend one of his workshops.  I did just that about 9 months later.  I was amazed at what changes took place.  I started looking at things differently.  All of a sudden the world was a different place to me.  I understood the differences in how we perceive what is in front of us versus how the camera freezes it into submission.  If there was a "lightbulb" day, it was the second day of the workshop.  The choice of lenses AND position made such a huge difference in how perspective was rendered.  Understanding near-far relationships became obvious, something I had not considered as a control point in my images.


At some point I went home, the week was over, and I was upset.  Upset that I had spent almost 7 years shooting snapshots and not doing photography (there is a difference).  I wanted to go back to some of those places and reshoot with my new vision.  That will probably never happen and even if I did go back, the scene, mood and lighting would be different.  I vowed to move forward, concentrating on using what I had learned at the workshop, to open my eyes AND my brain when setting up a photograph.  I read as much as I could about composition.  I tore pages out of magazines of images that I really loved and spent hours looking at them and analyzing where the light was coming from, what lens was used, the position of the elements in the images; all of those things that attracted me to the photograph in the first place.  Some 35 years later, I still have a file folder with those images, the ones that I poured over to see how the photographer worked to turn them into magic.  I suppose I will throw them out or my kids will someday but they represent part of my learning curve.


When I see someone suggest that to improve your photos just go out and shoot a lot more, I cringe.  If shear volume were the only magic, then all semi-serious digital photographers would be superb.  Just like in golf, "Practice doesn't make perfect; only perfect practice makes PERFECT!"

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) camera lenses meters photography training workshop https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/shoot-a-lot Sat, 10 Jan 2015 03:49:10 GMT
Albert Casel Feemster https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/albert-casel-feemster Albert Casel Feemster

Born 28th of May 1889 in Mineral Springs, Arkansas

Died 16th of June 1972 in Shawnee, Oklahoma

My maternal grandfather was named Albert Casel Feemster.  I distinctly remember getting to the farm in Oklahoma when I was about 6 and running out into the field to walk with him while he plowed behind his team of horses.  That was in the early 1950's, a long time ago but way past the point that most farmers were using tractors to plow.  Albert never owned a tractor that I am aware of.  I also remember a photo hanging on the wall of the old farmhouse.  Inside the oval frame was a photo of him in his World War One uniform.  I was so proud of having a grandpa who was a war hero.  I asked him several times about what he did in the war.  He would only lower his head, shake it and say, "Nothing."  He never talked about it, never elaborated on it at all.  He told my grandmother, whom he married after returning from France and being Honorably Discharged, a few stories about it.  My mom knew, too, probably from grandma.  Mom told me about his unit from Arkansas arriving in England, doing some rudimentary training then leaving for France and the front lines.  Once ashore in France, he came down with the Measles, a devastating disease back in 1918.  He was loaded back onto a ship and sent back to a hospital in England.  A couple of weeks later he was shipped back to France only to find out that most of his outfit had been killed in a poisonous gas attack.  Mom told me about this several years after he had passed away.  Mom also gave me a group photo of my grandpa and his outfit in Arkansas before they shipped out.

Third from the right - Middle RowAlbert Casel Feemster It is really painful to think that all those guys around him never came back to the USA after the war.  I scanned the large 10" x 36" panorama image in sections, recombined it in Photoshop and cleaned up some stains and deterioration it had seen over the years.  I put one small scanned section on here so that it is easier to find grandpa in his position in the group, third from the right in the middle section in the blow up.  The photo has his unit name and information about them.  I also have other photos of him before they left for England, but none grab me like this group photo.  I find it hard to deal with the cruelty of that war and the true lack of information about it.  I did spend several hours at the World War One Museum in Kansas City learning more about the tragedy of those who served there in absolutely horrid conditions.  I highly recommend a trip to Kansas City and a visit to that museum for anyone with even the slightest interest.  And if you are in Kansas City, by all means go see it. Below are other images of my grandpa before he shipped out.

In the photo of the fake train, my grandpa was standing in the center.  The two photos below that are of him overseas posing for a photo before heading to the front as well as him with his best friend at a studio for a photo before shipping out to France.  His best friend was killed at the front.  Before departing for Europe he married my grandmother who's maiden name was Baber (for this who are into genealogy).  I attended one Baber reunion with my mom and dad several years ago shortly after mom had her stroke.
























Below are two photos of my grandparents together in a buggy a week before they got married and one from their wedding day.  There is a formal photo of them with their first two children, my mom, Alberta and my aunt, Pauline.  Below that is a photo of the entire family, L to R, Irving, Pauline, Grandma, Grandpa and my mom, Alberta.  Also included is a photo of them on their 50th Wedding Anniversary at the Dale Methodist Church in Dale, Oklahoma.  Below that, Albert Casel Feemster's Honorable Discharge Papers following the end of World War One.  Grandma and Grandma Feemster and their two daughtersMy mom, Alberta, is the oldest and tallest of the four children followed by Pauline, sitting on grandpa's lap. The Whole FamilyL to R, Irving, Pauline, Grandma, Grandpa, Arvel and my mom, Alberta Grandpa and Grandma50th Wedding Anniversary Dale Methodist Church Dale, Oklahoma

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Baber Family Feemster History One WWI War World https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/albert-casel-feemster Wed, 07 Jan 2015 04:02:56 GMT
First Lion https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/first-lion  

I think everyone who goes to East Africa on a Photo Safari remembers their first lion in the wild.  I certainly do!  It is burned deep into my memory banks and exists as a series of slides exposed in the early dawn light.


We had flown for what seems like several days to get to Arusha, spent the night and then boarded a small aircraft to make the 90 minute flight to Seronera Airstrip in Central Serengeti.  Tanzania is a wild landscape viewed from above for the first time but the features were largely unrecognizable, this being our first trip.  We were met at the airstrip, loaded up into our vehicles and headed out on a game drive while our luggage was delivered to camp at a place called Naabi Hill.  We saw a variety of wildlife right at the "terminal"; zebra, gazelles, an odd little rat-like thing called a hyrax and a pile of pygmy mongoose rolling and tumbling along an abandoned termite mound.  In less than 30 minutes we were in close proximity to a number of elephants, several hippos and giraffes.  We got to camp in the late afternoon where the ground rules were explained.

The camp at Naabi Hill was down on the flats but backed up to the hillside.  The hillside was shrouded in acacia trees that escaped down the hill and filled in some voids in and around the tents.  The rules were simple:  "After dinner and our time around the campfire, we would be escorted to our tents by one of the camp staff. Do not come out of your tent at night without calling for a staff person to meet you in front of the tent.  We would be awakened the next morning for breakfast and escorted to the dining tent.  This is Africa, after all and the wildlife has the right-of-way.

I was good with the rules.  Seemed simple enough but so far I had not seen anything that looked like it could harm a person.  Promptly at 5:30 AM we were awakened as planned and headed to breakfast.  Afterwards we loaded up our camera gear and headed out from the camp just as the sun was coming up.  The sun was just glinting thru the trees as we pulled away.

After driving for at least 200 yards our driver stopped and asked if we wanted photos of a lion.  I jumped up and asked, "Where?"  The driver pointed back to the left side of the Rover and there he was, a magnificent male nestled back into the foliage with perfect light.  My first LION!

Do I remember that morning?  Absolutely!  I had figured that lions and other predators would not come near Naabi Hill with all the human activity going on with our camp and the HQ buildings located on top.  I figured WRONG!  Glad I wasn't interested in a morning walk.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Colorado Hill Naabi Tanzania antique camp lion photography rover tents https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/first-lion Tue, 23 Dec 2014 03:22:31 GMT
Which One? https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/which-one I must have inherited the gene, you know, the story telling gene.  My paternal grandfather had it.  My maternal grandmother had it.  My dad had it and so does his brother, my uncle.  There is one good thing about that gene, it keeps family stories alive.


When our son was just a baby, still in diapers, we took him to meet my maternal grandmother, Grandma Feemster.  She was anxious to meet her first great-grandson and we lived about 5 hours away.  As soon as things settled down with such a small baby, we made the drive from North Texas to Central Oklahoma.  Grandma was elated to have her photo taken with him and to hold and rock him in her favorite chair.  After a few hours together, the room took on a certain aroma not unlike an outhouse.  Yep, time for a diaper change.  As Cindy was doing the diaper change, Grandma Feemster told one of her funniest stories.


"Once we were driving from the farm here in Oklahoma back to Mena, Arkansas in our Model "A".  Of course the roads were just dirt and wound around all thru the  hills in Southeastern Oklahoma.  That old car was loaded with all four kids plus me and your Grandpa.  Somewhere along the way, your Uncle Irving, who was just a baby, did number two in his diaper.  Your Grandpa stopped along a creek so I could wash out the diaper.  When I unfolded the diaper, I was looking at the messiest number two I had ever seen.  I looked at your Grandpa and asked, 'Should I just throw it away?' and without hesitation he looked back at me and said, "Which one? The baby or the diaper?  You know that kid will do that again.""


We both broke up laughing.  What a funny story.  I just had to pass this one along.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/which-one Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:37:46 GMT
Need for Photography - Part 2 https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-photography---part-2 With several weddings and a few portraits under my belt working for Allen Crenshaw at his studio in Denison, Texas, I felt fairly confident in photographing more people.  Allen and I had also done some amazing things with the historic side of photography but my full time job was calling.  We pulled up stakes and moved to New Jersey, of all places.  It was a two year assignment and I figured my only chance to visit the Northeast US.  Our little town was a short train ride away from New York City.  My wife was thinking about Broadway, plays, museums and sites to see.   I was thinking B&H Photo, Adorama and all the other camera stores!  We spent many Sundays cruising to the various camera stores and buying used equipment to grow my arsenal.


I was thinking I wanted to teach basic photography classes but was not sure I knew the correct flow, the lesson plan to keep it organized.  Cindy and I signed up for a basic photography course being taught by a local professional there in New Jersey.  I took extensive notes, learned a few things, but my goal was to get a good outline so I could do the same.  My job in New Jersey was very time intensive so I had very little free time but we did manage to get out and visit the states in the area, all except Rhode Island.  Missed that one for a few years.  We put a darkroom in the basement of the old house we bought there and I get to get my hands in the soup again.  I found a local camera store to keep my darkroom supplied giving me a pastime between long work hours.  One day, while at the local camera shop, I stumbled across a new book, "Wilderness Photography" by Boyd Norton.  I had never heard of him but flipping thru it, I was intrigued.  Bought it and read it.  I read it several times.  Seemed strange to read an instructional book more than once but this was a special book, an outline for field photography far from the comfort of your vehicle and an overlook.  I loved that book and have to admit that I read it maybe 4 times while living in New Jersey.  I wanted to meet Boyd.  He seemed like the type of person I would understand and get along with but he lived in Colorado.  I was in New Jersey.  At the end of that two year assignment the business in New Jersey was sold and I was offered a position in Denver.  Having lived in Colorado once before, we jumped at the chance to move back west and to the Rockies.


To make extra money for new camera gear, we shot weddings and portraits.  I also started teaching basic photography, doing small workshops and leading photo outings.  I had a fairly good following among several camera clubs in the Denver area and usually filled the classes.   I also got paid to do classes for some of the clubs at their meetings, basic 90 minute sessions.  Things were going well and I had my new office out in the foothills west of Denver working in a research center. 


My office at work had bare walls.  It needed photographs, my photographs.  I put up 5 or 6 images and got some nice compliments.  I was also told by the office manager that there was a lady working in the Research Library who's husband was a photographer.  I didn't think much of it but the next time I was in the library I looked around and found a name plate on the desk of Barbara NORTON!  I walked up to her and introduced myself and asked if her husband's name was Boyd?  She said, "Why, Yes!  Do you know him?"  I answered, "No, but I would love to meet him."  We made arrangements to have dinner together sometime soon.  WOW!  What kind of luck was that?  We invited Boyd and Barb to our house for dinner one Saturday evening.  I had forgotten that Cindy had to work that Saturday and would not be home until about 6.  Boyd and Barb were going to be at our house about 6:30 so I would have to cook.  I really wanted to make a great first impression with a superb dinner, so about two that afternoon, I started on the cooking.  The area we lived in had a lot of new construction going on with houses springing up all over the place.  About 2:15 the power went off.  The range and oven were electric.  I figured it would be OK, the power would come back on any minute; this had happened before.  About 5 with still no power, I went out onto our deck and fired up the gas grill.  Eventually, I cooked the entire meal on the gas grill including baking bread in a cast iron dutch oven set inside the grill.  I met Boyd and Barb out in the front yard with a camping lantern.  We ate by candlelight, flashlight and whatever else we had that could put off light.  Boyd walked around the inside of the house with a lantern looking at my images.  About 9 pm, the power came back on.  Great first impression!  Boyd made several comments about my photos then recommended that I attend one of his workshops.  I really wanted to do that.  I got info on his workshops and found the one I wanted.  It was held in Colorado at a ranch near Steamboat Springs.  The price was $1200 (1983 dollars). That was a lot for our growing family of four.  I signed up anyway at the urging of Cindy.


The workshop was scheduled for May, Springtime in the Rockies.  Boyd said I could ride up and back with him.  With a couple of six packs on ice we started the three hour drive up to the ranch.  We had also laid in provisions of jerky but that was gone by the time we got to Granby.  Had to stop for gas anyway and the convenience store sold some great elk jerky.  We were on our way.  Boyd had an "assistant" at the workshop, Les Line, editor of Audubon magazine.  I was totally impressed.  About a year earlier I had bought a very old 500mm lens, a 1968 vintage Soligor 500 f/5 with a massive lens cap, sort of like a medium sized dog dish.  I had tested that lens and it was sharp, very sharp.  I took it along.  The first day of the workshop, we were given an assignment, "Photograph Spring", and told to turn in our images by Friday afternoon, 10 - 12 slides depicting the subject.  I brought out my lenses and F-1's.  Les looked at the 500 and said, "You just haul that around to show off.  You don't really use it do you?" I said, "Les, I am going to shoot my assignment with three lenses, the 500, my 20mm and a 50 macro."  We made a little side bet that I could not do the assignment with only three lenses and definitely not the 500mm monster.  We had overnight service on slide developing by a lab in Denver.  Every morning someone from the ranch drove the film to the Steamboat airport where it was put into a courier bag and flown to be picked up in Denver.  Every afternoon, the processed film was returned to Steamboat the same way.  That was speedy!  See what you are missing shooting digital?


Friday afternoon came and we turned in our images.  Each person had slots to put their slides into in a tray.  Not knowing who's images he was reviewing, Les ran thru all the images a couple of times, once fast and the second time more slowly.  He finally said, "If I were picking a group of slides for the magazine, it would be this set.  Who's are these?"  I raised my hand.  He looked at me and said, "Uh oh.  We had a side bet didn't we?"  I said, "Yep!"  He went thru the images one at a time and said, "500, 50, 500, 20, 20, 500..." until he had seen them all.  Then he looked at me and said, "You shot the entire assignment with those three lenses."  I replied, "That's what I said I was going to do."  He just shook his head and said, "Great job."  I was elated.  Not only had he liked my images the best but I had done what I told him I was going to do that first day.


Saturday was "Light Table day".  We had been told to bring slide sheets from home, representative of our photography for review on the light table with Les.  Les Line was a hardened editor.  He had seen so many images that unless it struck him between the eyes, he would pass over some good images.  He also was very frank about his comments, sometimes almost cruel.  Several people were almost in tears coming out of the sessions on Saturday.  After about 6 people came thru the process and emerged, we looked at their faces  and were all afraid to go in, fearing that we would be told to take up knitting or worse.  My time came.  I walked in with my folder full of slide sheets, laid them on the table next to Les.  He looked at me and said, "I don't need to look at yours."  I was shocked and afraid of what was next.  Geeze, should I sell my gear and find another hobby?  What the heck was he saying?  I looked at Les inquisitively and he said, "Your images are excellent.  Too bad you live in Colorado.  I get tons of photographs of Colorado, the Rockies, the mountains and the west and if I see another image taken in Yosemite I am going to scream!"  I asked what he meant about me living in Colorado.  He replied, "There is so much going on in the plains, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and I can't find a good photographer there.  They all want to shoot in Colorado.  If you lived in the plains, I would give you an assignment today!"  I was really floored.  Me?  An assignment from Audubon magazine?  I had a new lease on life and on photography.


The workshop ended.  I was really down.  I had just spent one of the greatest weeks of my life at that workshop and it was over.  I wanted to go back.  How to come up with the money?  I needed more photo equipment.  The car needed new tires.  The kids needed new shoes, clothes, school supplies.  Cindy and I decided to set aside some money every month for Boyd's Wyoming workshop the next year.  The Wyoming workshop was held in a much more rustic setting and was much cheaper, less than $800 for the weeklong event.  About three weeks after getting home from the Steamboat workshop, Boyd called me and said, "I really liked the way you helped some of the less experienced photographers at the workshop."  I replied, "It was fun.  I like teaching the basic stuff."  He replied, "I want you to go to my Wyoming workshop next year."  I said, "We were just discussing it and how to save money so I could go."  Boyd said, "I want you to be my assistant."  Wow!  Now that was an honor but I still wondered if I could afford it so I asked, "How much will it cost?"  Boyd replied, "Maybe you don't understand, but I am going to pay you."  That didn't immediately sink in.  Getting paid to do something you love?  How weird is that???  I would have paid part of my way just to be there but here is a strange deal, getting paid to go to a workshop.  I was both shocked and honored.  To be really honest, I didn't want to scream out loud but this was just too good to be true.  Boyd and I talked it over and made a deal!

I have many vivid memories of those workshops in Wyoming.  They were, quite simply, a BLAST.  We, Boyd and I, worked together well as a team.  I did a lot of the field stuff and some classroom and Boyd did the serious classroom and some of the field instruction.  We built on each others strengths and gave not only first rate photo instruction but also a great experience.  The Wyoming Workshops were held at a place called the University of the Wilderness in the Snowy Range.  Back then, the Snowy Range was a little know place that thousands of people drove right past on their way to Yellowstone and the Tetons.  Most people had no clue what they were missing.  Only a few hours from Denver, it was almost the private playground of the folks in Laramie and the University of Wyoming.  The road across the Snowy Range is closed in the winter and for good reason!  The place gets pounded with feet of snow.  The road really suffers and is worked on almost annually which brings up a really funny moment.  The lodge we used had no real plumbing except for the kitchen.  There was a central bathhouse with 6 showers.  On the door outside was a holder with a sign marked "Men" on one side and "Women" on the other.  if no one was inside, the sign was in a pocket on the door.  If a man went inside, you just pulled out the sign and hung it with "Men" showing.  When you left, you put the sign back.  One evening about 5pm one of our male workshop participants went to take a shower, set up the sign and got undressed and into the huge open shower area.  A few minutes into his shower he heard other showers turning on and knew he had been joined.  Washing the soap out of his hair, he opened his eyes and there were four nice looking young ladies in there showering with him.  OH GEEZE!  He turned away from them, rinsed off and got out.  He checked the door and sure enough it said, "Men".


That evening at dinner he told about what had happened to him in the shower.  The lodge manager started laughing.  It seems the road crew sign girls (Slow signs) were all coeds at the University of Wyoming up working on the highway that summer and wanted to shower before going to a party down in Laramie.  The lodge manager had sent them to the shower house without thinking that one of us would be in there.  He also failed to explain the sign protocol.  We all thought it was funny but you could see the envy in every man's eye in the room.  The next night precisely at 5pm the shower was full of guys, waiting for the road crew.  No show.


On one excursion into the wilds of the Snowy Range, we had hiked into a remote lake and were photographing the wildflowers on the hillside adjacent to the shallow alpine lake.  Boyd had a brand new Nikon F2 with a motor drive sent to him by Nikon to test and keep.  He had just finished shooting a bunch of Columbine flowers and sat the camera down, turned away and heard a thump, thump, thump.  He turned to watch as the brand new Nikon F2 and motor drive rolled down the hillside and into the shallow water.  We scrambled down to get it.  It was drowned.  The lens was totally flooded and ruined.  We took the camera back and dried it best we could, blowing it with a hairdryer.  The camera finally had one shutter speed that worked but nothing else worked.  The motor drive was dried but not functional.  Boyd sent it back to Nikon and said it quit working.  They never questioned anything and sent him another new camera and motor drive.  That lake was henceforth known as Nikon Lake.  I marked it as such on my maps.


For eleven years, Boyd and I did workshops together.  Those were fun times.  Photography was still something difficult to understand.  Automatic was a transmission choice in cars but not in cameras; yet.  At the end of the eleven year run we both decided that the automatic trend in cameras was going to be the end of our workshops.  We had people at our last workshop who said they didn't care about f-stops and shutter speeds because they had automatic Minolta's.  Those same Minolta's had autofocus.  We could hear them whining away in the field trying to find something to focus on.  I despised Minolta and their slogan, "Only from the Mind of Minolta."  Those Minolta shooters attending the workshops fought focus issues, exposure issues yet the mind of Minolta was going to save their bacon.  Yeah, RIGHT!   During those eleven years, Boyd and I became great friends and we did a workshop for Smithsonian Tours out of Washington, D. C.  We were treated like royalty and it was a fun workshop.  But, the automatic world of photography was on the upswing.  Canon and Nikon had jumped on the bandwagon as well.  It was time to move on.  Boyd did one more workshop without me then stopped doing them altogether.  He started leading trips across the pond, to various places that seemed strange and out of reach for me.  I had never been out of the US except to Canada and brief excursions into Mexico along the border.

Next - More moves, more photography

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-photography---part-2 Fri, 12 Dec 2014 01:08:11 GMT
Need for Photography - Part 1 https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-photography---part-1 I started drawing and painting when I was three according to my mom.  I always liked art; no, I loved art.  My first watercolor painting was of a forest scene with birds, a rabbit, a skunk and who knows what else.  I was three years old.   I always wanted realism in the stuff I drew.  None of it every made me proud.  My mom kept a load of my paintings and drawings and even a few of my notebooks from high school with very few if any notes in them, just sketches.  I took art classes until I decided to go into Engineering.  That was about the 8th grade.  Living near the planned NASA Manned Spacecraft Center just outside of Houston influenced the techie side of me.


I made a few oil paintings but only one I really liked, of a pheasant in the snow, I gave it away to a girl I liked.  After graduation from High School, I bought my first 35mm camera.  It was a non-coupled rangefinder 35mm made in Germany.  Felt very precise and did amazingly well for the weird shortcomings it had.  I gave exactly $7 for it.  Bought it from a guy in the Navy at the Houston Bus Depot who needed some cash.  It was a Regula, 

built by King with an extinction meter, something I had no idea how to use or even what it did until sometime in college.  I shot a load of Kodachrome thru that thing using a small handheld meter I bought for $12 at a discount store.  Starting with that simple meter really helped me understand the choices there are to make in photography plus having a non-coupled rangefinder did slow things down a lot, almost like using a View Camera.  


While I was in college the school newspaper was looking for a darkroom technician so I applied.  I had been in several dark rooms but not really in a darkroom but they trained me; taught me how to load and develop film then make prints.  That was cool and really sold me the farm when it came to photography.  A couple of hours with my hands in the "soup" and I was hooked.  Developing other people's film taught me the value of a great exposure, in the camera.  I still only had the little King but I was now shooting B&W with it.  Fun to process and print your own stuff plus I had access to the darkroom and it was essentially free!  I did get to use a Nikon F sometimes that belonged to the school.  I loved that thing except for loading film.  The back and bottom of the camera were one piece and had to be removed to load a roll of film.  What a pain that thing was to use in the field.  If it was raining or the wind was howling (West Texas, remember?) then you could count on having issues.  I promised myself I would not own a Nikon F when I could afford my own cameras.


After graduation, I went and priced cameras and delayed any purchase!  I was newly married and my wife had two more years of college to complete on my dime and I had a school loan to pay off.  Big time income stream though!  Engineers were in demand in 1969 and I was making a whopping $10,000 a year.  Doesn't sound like much now but the average graduate in 1969 was being offered jobs in the $5,000 to $6,000 a year range.  I felt wealthy but I hate debt so we were on a cash only program credit cards not being a big deal back then.  After six months of income stream we had put enough aside to buy a Miranda Sensorex and a 50/1.8 lens or we could wait a  couple more months and buy a better SLR.  The Miranda was rated fairly high in the magazines so rather than wait, I parted with what we had saved and took home the Miranda.  During that first six months of ownership it was in the shop twice.  The third time I got rid of it.  It was one of the worst cameras I had ever been around.  I had a friend headed to Vietnam for 6 weeks so I asked him to buy me a camera.  I gave him a budget of $200 which would land you a good Pentax or Canon SLR back then.  Instead he came home with a lens, a 28mm f/3.5 wide angle lens.  It was a Canon but rather useless without a body to put it on.  I think it cost me $35.


I went to the local camera store and handed the guy my lens and said "I need a camera to fit this."  He must have thought I was nuts.  Off the shelf came a brand new Canon FT-QL SLR body.  It was $150, about what I had paid for the Miranda with a lens.  The store owner told me he would stand behind it for 18 months.  SOLD.  My funds were depleted but I had a good quality SLR and a great wide angle lens.  I shot with that combo for many months before I could buy another lens.  Next I found a great used 200mm f/3.5 telephoto. and again, blew my funds.  Now I had a wide angle and a telephoto to use.  I put them thru the wringer.  Loved the perspective choices I had!  About then Canon announced their new professional model, the F-1.  Sounded cool, much like the race series I liked so how could I go wrong?  I was working at Texas Instruments in Dallas where several people in our group were making trips to Tokyo almost monthly.  One guy I knew well did me a huge favor and brought back a Canon F-1 with a  50mm f/1.4 lens that he bought for me in Tokyo for $225. They were selling here in the USA for almost $300.  That thing was rock solid, felt like the old Nikon F that I used in college but had a regular back on it.  I still own that original F-1 and the 28mm lens.  Both still work, by the way.


Cindy and I both took a photography class from Bob Smith in Dallas.  Bob was a magazine and assignment editorial photographer and a great teacher.  I really got to understand the demands of shooting what an editor wanted during that semester.  We also joined the Sierra Club and started going on outings to West Texas, mainly Big Bend National Park.  Backpacking in the desert wilderness of that park opened my eyes to conservation and shooting nature photos.  I carried my F-1 on every trip as well as all three of my lenses!  After every trip there was a slide show gathering of the Dallas Sierra Club group to relive the trip thru images.  Mine always seemed to be the best exposed thanks to my training in college with the newspaper and to the extremely tight tolerance on the shutter speeds of that F-1.  I checked the speeds on a device at the camera store religiously and my F-1 was always, always as close to perfection as any camera they had seen.  The F-1 had one meter system, a spot meter.  I grew to love having a spot meter.  This allowed me to get precise metering on a subject then recompose and shoot.  Years later when I switched to the EOS line of Canon SLR's I was lost.  I didn't trust anything that said the meter was "intelligent" such as Minolta claimed on their cameras and Canon's new line of cameras had several meter modes but none of them were spots!  I had to learn a new meter pattern before I trusted it.  A light meter is dumb as a load of rocks.  You had better know what it is telling you or you are setting yourself up for failure.


I great thing happened in 1973!  I moved to Denison, Texas and eventually met Allen Crenshaw.  Allen owned a photo studio in Denison and was without a doubt the best portrait photographer I had ever met.  He was also capable of making astounding photos in nature.  His compositional skills were what really set his images apart from everything else I had seen.  I started working with Allen, at first doing a catalog shoot for a peanut distribution company.  I distinctly remember; well sort of remember; OK, it is a bit fuzzy but you will understand once I explain.  We were going to shoot some ad pages for their catalog with peanuts in various still life layouts.  Included in each shot would be a mug, glass or stein of beer with a good head on it.  We collected all the beer steins and glasses, etc. we could find; put those in the freezer and put a bunch of beer in the refrigerator at the studio.  We did the first set up, grabbed an icy stein and poured a beer in to get just the right head, started shooting and within a couple of minutes the head was essentially gone.  The only thing to do was to pour another beer; but what to do with the one we had just shot?  Simple, we took turns drinking them as they lost their head.  I know the shooting session last 3 maybe 12 hours; honestly I don't remember but I do know my wife had to come pick me up.  Allen lived close to the studio so he was able to crawl home easily.


I wound up doing weddings for Allen as well as a few portraits and some commercial stuff.  Allen was working on an Masters of Fine Arts in photography at Austin College nearby and decided to recreate as many of the historic photographic process as was possible starting with a Daguerrotype.  He asked me to help him with the chemistry side of things as well as the process procedures.  We spent many hours making our first Daguerrotype plate and sensitizing it.  A cooper sheet was polished to a high sheen then electroplated with silver and again polished to a mirror finish.  Next, to sensitize it we had to go into a dark room and expose the plate to the fumes of Bromine, then Iodine and then back to Bromine.  All were heated by a small candle to get the fumes really rolling and ALL those chemicals were marked as poisonous and to avoid breathing their fumes.  Oh, GEEZE!  We were locked up in a darkroom with these wicked things sitting over a candle in a small beaker.  We figured, anything for ART!  Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead.  We exposed the plate then came the development process.  Suspend the plate over a beaker of Mercury that is heated and let the fumes of the Mercury develop the image, then run the plate thru stop bath and fixer to stabilize the image.  Mercury?  That stuff is known to cause brain defects and issues.  We both sort of figured we were half nuts to be doing this in the first place so we might as well complete the process and be totally nuts when the semester was over.


For more on the craziness of the old process and to learn about the Great Tintype Conglomerate, read my early blogs concerning that topic.

Part 2 Coming Up Shortly!



(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-photography---part-1 Tue, 09 Dec 2014 01:01:00 GMT
Need for Speed - Part 7 Rutherford https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed---part-7-heroes The church I grew up in had a "mentor program".  If there was some adult in the church who worked in a field you were interested in, then that person would become a mentor for you thru High School.  My mentor was Bill Brooks, a degreed Engineer who worked in metallurgy.  He offered me assistance with geometry, algebra, physics and other tech areas my senior year at South Houston High School.  He knew I loved racing and invited me to go with him to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Banquet in Houston in January 1965.  The guest speaker was going to be AJ Foyt, not my favorite but a driver with a great record of wins in a lot of vehicles.


The evening of the banquet, Mr. Brooks picked me up and we headed to downtown Houston.  He asked me if I liked AJ Foyt.  I said, "He will not be here.  He broke his back in a stock car crash at Riverside over the weekend."  Mr. Brooks was worried that no one would be there of interest.  We walked in and got seated at our table.  Up front on a platform was a long table with all the SAE leaders in the area and in the middle sat Johnny Rutherford!  I was elated.  Johnny drove more sports cars than AJ and was a real hero of mine.  I told Mr. Brooks, "That's Johnny Rutherford."  He asked if that was a good stand in.  I said, "Definitely!"  Things got rolling with the usual Pledge of Allegiance and an opening prayer and then they introduced Johnny Rutherford, explaining about AJ Foyt's mishap in California.  We watched a movie about racing at the Brickyard that lasted about 15 minutes, then Johnny told a few stories about his racing career.  Shortly after that the floor was opened for questions.


I was almost embarrassed by the questions I heard.  

Q)  "What is the fastest you have ever driven?"  A)  "Speed is a relative thing.  I have driven upside down and backwards faster than anyone in this room."  Bunch of laughter followed that one.

The questions kept rolling in, none technical, none that I would have expected from Automotive Engineers.  Finally the questions died down and I wanted to ask a question.


I asked Mr. Brooks if I could ask a question and he said go ahead.  I raised my hand and Johnny looked at me and said, "Yes?"  My question was rather straightforward; "Do you see any advantage to the independent rear suspensions on the mid engine Lotus cars over the De Dion rear axles of the traditional front engine roadsters at Indy?"  He looked at me and said, "Yes.  They keep a larger contact patch thru the corners.  That lets them carry a little more speed onto the straights."

No other questions so I raised my hand again.  "Do you see any difference in the current F-1 drivers style at the oval track versus the traditional Roadster drivers who are used to driving on ovals?"  

"Well, I decided to follow Jim Clark in his Lotus to see what line he was taking in the corners.  After two laps, he was too far ahead for me to follow."  People laughed.  Again, no more questions.

I raised my hand.  "The higher revving, short stroke DOHC Ford V8's seem to turn out more horsepower than the long stroke Offenhauser four cylinder power plants in the front engine roadsters.   What are the advantages of the V8 versus the 4?"  

"Great question", he said.  "The higher the RPM the more horsepower you can generate.  The Offy's have a bunch of torque, great for exiting the pits but for shear speed down the straights you need horsepower.  What isn't known is the reliability of those engines"  

I remember asking several more questions, all technical in nature, to which Johnny gave brilliant answers. The Q&A session was closed and the banquet adjourned.  We were getting up to leave and Mr. Brooks looked around and saw Johnny pushing his way thru to our table.  Johnny got to me and stuck out his hand and said, "Johnny Rutherford.  What's your name?"  I shook his hand and answered, almost in shock.  Then he said something to me that I will never forget. "I wanted to meet you.  I figure that one of these days I will either be driving against you or driving your cars!"  He laughed and asked for my address which I printed out on a piece of paper for him.  We shook again and left.  I was a High School Senior and I was elated to meet and talk to Johnny Rutherford in person.


During the month of May, Johnny sent me a daily subscription to the Indianapolis newspaper so I could follow all that was going on.  He also sent me an 11 X 14 photo of his car and the team parked at the start/finish line with the bricks and a cool letter.  Sadly, all that stuff is gone.  Probably tossed when my parents moved back to Oklahoma after retirement.


That was not to be my final contact with Mr. Rutherford.  During my senior year at Texas Tech, the Ford Cavalcade of Speed came to Lubbock at the Ford dealer downtown.  I went there to see the Ford GT-40 on display.  This was the car from LeMans with the bubble on the roof to allow Dan Gurney to fit inside.  There were also several Ford powered dragsters and a couple of stack cars back when stock cars were built from real cars.  Johnny Rutherford was scheduled to be there on Sunday afternoon talking to visitors.  I scheduled myself back there on Sunday and got in line to shake hands again with one of my heroes.  When I got up to him I said, "I met you in Houston four years ago at a banquet.  I asked a load of questions and you came and shook my hand."  He remembered and asked what I was doing here.  I told him I was getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He asked me to hang around so I stood aside then as people left he took me on a tour of the GT-40.  I sat in it, sort of.  Not a great fit but it did have the Gurney bubble on the roof so I could have closed the door.  The interior was nothing short of cramped.  It was really cool to have him remember me and to get me inside my dream car even though it was another car I could not fit very well.

In 1986, I was living in Indiana and went to Carburetor Day with a pass into Gasoline Alley.  I met Johnny there and had him sign my hat.  I mentioned the Houston thing but he was in his driving suit and headed to the track so he only said, "Sure, I remember."  That was asking a lot!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed---part-7-heroes Mon, 08 Dec 2014 04:29:31 GMT
Need for Speed Part 6 - Wheels https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-6---wheels Those who have been following this blog know that I was and really still am a "Car Guy" of sorts.  With the kart, I learned a ton about what really interested me, chassis set up, engines, driving and a host of other vehicle dynamics topics.


I was really excited to get my learners permit, allowing me to drive on the road as long as an adult with a valid drivers license was in the front seat with me.  To be honest, I had driven all over the farm in Oklahoma in dad's old pick up as well as my grandparents cars.  All were stick shift.  I knew clutches and smooth starts so when I finally could drive on the street, I felt at home behind the wheel.  Nothing exciting to report about street driving in our old 1958 Chevy except for one trip home from Oklahoma!  We had left the farm about 8pm and dad was driving.  I was riding shotgun to read signs and watch for traffic.  About 10pm dad said he was tired and needed to rest.  He was going to stop in a roadside park and sleep for an hour or two then go on.  I offered to drive and he could relax.  Dad was reluctant since I had not driven much at night and never on a highway.  He agreed, pulled over and I slipped into the drivers seat.  Dad hated Dallas, literally hated that town.  I don't think we ever drove thru Dallas without getting lost or in a traffic jam.  Dad had tried ever route conceivable; Loop 12 was his favorite but seemed crazy to me compared to just driving thru on US 75.  Within minutes of me taking the wheel, everybody in the car was asleep with the exception of me.  Dad was really knocked out.  He woke up about 3am, looked around and asked where we were?  I said we were near Centerville, Texas and needed gas.  He asked, "What about Dallas?"  I said, "We went thru there a long time ago."  He couldn't believe it.  I had driven all those hours and even thru that most evil of towns, Dallas, practically all alone.  I can tell you that from that day forward it was my job to drive us thru Dallas both going to Oklahoma and coming home.


 How about my own real world wheels?  In high school a lot of my friends had cars.  I figured they were either from wealthy families or were owned by their cars; meaning every cent they had went into insurance, gas, etc.  I worked at a local grocery store, wanted to go to college so owning a car was not a good option.  I was saving for an education.  Some of you may find it weird that I didn't own a car until the middle of my sophomore year at Texas Tech, but it was one interesting car.  Dad had said he would buy me a car if it was cheap enough and was an economy version AND made in the USA.  We hunted around Houston during Thanksgiving break; found nothing that we could agree on.  Over Christmas break, we found a 1965 Corvair; economy car - check; made in the USA - check; under $1000 - check.  In fact it was $900 even.  I really wanted that car.  Four wheel independent suspension like the F-1 cars I loved so much and lurking under the, uh, trunk lid was a four carburetor, 140 hp flat opposed, air cooled six cylinder engine.  Same engine layout as Dan Gurney's F-1 Porsche's but of course it was a street car and had no pizzaz whatsoever.  That last part appealed to dad although he thought the four carbs would be a pain.  



I had read enough to know that the four carb version of the Corvair engine had larger valves than the single carb 110hp version and some cam tweaks.  I didn't tell dad about the differences.  He would have bought me a Buick had I mentioned any of this about the sleeper.  Most of the 140hp versions of this car were the top of the line body style.  Mine?  The "500" version, cheapest body style offered, two door hardtop with nothing to make anyone get excited.  In fact most of my friends felt sorry for me because I had a "plain jane" car.  I loved that thing.  There were so many complaints about the handling on Corvairs.  The ones built prior to 1965 had swing arm rear axles, probably one of the worst designs ever for car stability and handling.  Mine?  Starting in 1965 all Corvairs had true independent suspension rear ends.  It was rear heavy and handled like a go kart.  That was perfect in my book.  Lubbock had a lot of brick streets downtown.  If you have ever driven on wet brick streets, you know how slick they become.  Every time it rained, which was not that often in West Texas, me and the Corvair headed downtown to do some slithering on those streets. That car seemed to love to slide a little on ever corner.  Of course, I never took any real chances but I did get sideways a few times when there was no traffic.  If I got stopped by the cops I figured I could blame it on the "stupid Corvair" and get away with it.  Shortly after graduation from Tech and about a year into married life, the Corvair died.  100,000 miles of fun came to a halt.  I sold the car to some Corvair guys who wanted the heads and cam for other cars.  It was a bittersweet good-bye but by then I had another love affair going with my Morgan.  


The Morgan was a hand built British sports car.  Like any true sports car, when it rained, you got wet.  When it was cold, you froze. When it was hot, you burned up.  Morgan's were considered exotic sports cars.  After owning it for about a year, it seemed less exotic and more classic.  The lines were simply those of a by-gone era.  The long hood with the leather strap was just pure auto history.  Even though my "Moog", as the purists called them, was built in 1964, it still looked like something from the 1930's.  British sports cars all shared some weird characteristics.  One, stiff suspension.  We nicknamed our Moog, "Teddy Roosevelt" and even had a name tag made for it which was stuck to the solid wood dash.  The name come from our feelings that this car was one "Rough Riding, SOB!"  Two, to make up for the stiff suspension, the chassis flexed.  Driving across a dip at an angle you could feel the whole car twist and squirm under your butt.   This was unsettling at first but became second nature to me after a few weeks.  Three, all British sports cars had SU carbs, meaning you needed to spend as much time working on them as driving them.  BINGO!  Whoever owned this Moog had torn off the SU's and put on a Lotus log manifold and twin Weber 40DCOE sidedraft carbs.  The Webers were highly tune-able, a blessing and a curse.  I carried a small fishing tackle divided case in the glove box filled with fuel and air correction jets for changes in the weather.  Webers were just so cool.  You could change the jets in about a minute per carb, AND they were the same brand of carb used by Ferrari and most of the F-1 teams!!!  It was not unusual for me to drive the Moog to work in the morning and then change the jets in the afternoon before I drove home.

When I rode around in my friends Austin Healy Sprite, before I owned the Moog, we would wave at other people in sports cars much the way Harley riders wave today.  The other British car owners waved back.  The Porsche owners?  No way would they acknowledge a lowly Sprite with a wave.  Same with Jaguars.  I said if I ever owned a sports car I would wave to every other sports car owner I saw.  Once I owned the Moog, I tried to uphold that promise.  It paid off one morning when I met a guy in a deTomaso Pantera, an exotic Italian sports car with a mid mounted Ford 351 V8 running thru a ZF transaxle.  We waved and the driver motioned me into a parking lot.  We took turns looking at each others rides.  Then we swapped keys for a few minutes.  We took each other around a few blocks.  The Pantera was pure genius in design and stability plus it had the deep throated roar of huge American iron sitting inched behind your head.  The suspension was agile like a cat.  The chassis was stiff; the opposite of British sports cars.  I really wanted that car but it was even less practical on the street than my Moog plus my head rubbed against the roof.  Within a week of owning and driving one I would probably be bald!  After that, the only cars I lusted after were Ferrari's and Ford GT-40's.

After a few years of owning the Morgan I had a very solid job offer from a company in Denver.  I could not bring myself to take the Morgan to Colorado and not have a good solid garage to put it in so I sold it.  It was the ONLY car I ever bought and sold and made a profit.  I sold it for $4500 having parted with $3000 two years earlier.  Today, that Morgan would fetch $35,000 or more.  I sometimes wonder if I would have enjoyed it as much with kids around.  Probably not.  Not much room in them for sure.  I will say that it will hold me and two young ladies quite well!  One evening, my wife sent me to the grocery store to buy some milk.  As I got to the corner of our street one of my neighbors college age daughters and her friend were in the yard and waved for me to stop.  They wanted to go for a ride.  I said I would take them one at a time but they insisted they could both fit although it would be crowded.  With flip flops, shorts and tee shirts on they scrunched in and off we went.  Shifting was rather dicey.  First and second were OK and third was way up against one of their thighs.  I never went for fourth.  I (OK, we) were gone about an hour.  I dropped them off at the corner and drove home and into the garage, walked into the house and my wife asked, "Where is the milk?"  I just said, "What milk?"  Somehow I had been distracted.  I don't think my wife is reading these blogs so I should be OK.  If you don't see any more from me; well, she read this one.


I went thru the usual family cars except for a 1962 Chevrolet pickup, 1/2 ton short/wide bed.  Car guys will know what I am talking about.  I helped a friend rebuild it and put in new "stuff".  His wife got pregnant and he needed to sell it.  I gave him $650 for it.  The stuff we had added was a short list:  350 V8, Twin Holley four barrel double pumpers, custom exhaust with headers, a mild street cam, power steering, a close ratio 4 speed out of a Camaro and a Hurst shifter.   I later added aluminum wheels and wide tires.  It looked like Sanford and Son with colors not exactly matching on the fenders but it went FAST.   I owned and drove that truck for several years then parted with it to move on to other projects.  Evidently my son liked it, too.  He drove it to Prom in High School.  I wanted to add disk brakes.  Stopping was not a forte on that truck!!


Currently I have my grand parents 1955 Chevy which they bought in 1955.  It is not a show car but in nice shape and with the help of a good friend, Rob Pike, it is a solid car to drive.  It was recently featured on "Sunflower Journeys" on Kansas Public Television.  It has a little over 100,000 miles on it with the engine overhauled at 90,000 miles.  Rob and I put a lot of new stuff on that car including springs, shocks, brakes, brake lines, Master and slave cylinders, gas tank, fuel pump and electric windshield wipers.  The carb was overhauled, too.  We drove it in the Great White Way car run in May 2014 putting over 400 miles on it that day.  I can say that if I drove it everyday, my shoulders and arms would be much more muscular!  The steering wheel looks huge when you first get in it but once you start driving you know why it is so large.




This is me being interviewed on PBS about the car and the run that day.  Lucky me!  I found a shirt that was 1955 Chevy Camo Green!!


Video of the Sunflowers Journey Episode


Time to close this and get busy on some photography work I have hanging over me!  Keep it between the ditches!



(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-6---wheels Mon, 08 Dec 2014 00:03:27 GMT
Need for Speed Part 5 https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-5 In 1977 we were living in New Jersey.  I was plant manager of a small plant, we had one child and we had tickets to the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, NY for the September race.  I was finally going to see my favorite cars and drivers in action.  I have to explain that there is nothing to compare an F-1 car to in the real world of transportation.  We watched a demo on the front straight at Watkins Glen where a Ferrari F-1 car accelerated from a standing start to 100 and back to a full stop in under 5 seconds.  These things looked quick on television but they were terrifying to watch live.  And the noise!  When we first got to the track there was a practice session for a support race of other sports cars.  A pack of them could drive past the grandstands where we were seated and we could talk to each other, loudly but audible.  That session ended.  They cleared the pits, right across from our seats, and rolled at a JPS Lotus with a Cosworth V8.  This was Mario Andretti's car.  When they fired it up, the noise was deafening.   We literally had to use sign language.  Our two year old son was along.  We had brought along ear plugs for us and complete ear covers for him.  We were wishing we had full ear covers as well.  I was so impressed.  F-1 was way different back then.  We bought passes to walk thru the garage areas.  I was seeing the cars of my dreams and my heroes.  The motel we stayed in was also the home to the Warsteiner Team.  We met several of the mechanics.  It was like the old days at SCCA racing except the cars and budgets were on steroids.  A typical team budget in F-1 for one race would pay for a single teams whole season in Indy Car racing.  These were cars designed and tweaked as far as things could go for that period.  F-1 is and always has been an Engineers race series.   The team with the best Engineers is always slightly better than the rest.  NASCAR racing is about the drivers personalities, Indy Car racing is about spec engines and chassis and ends up being a crew and driver racing series but F-1 is strictly who has the most clever design team.  Most clever at the time was Lotus, headed by Colin Chapman.  He was my idea of the ultimate Engineer and his innovations are still at the forefront of racing some 30 years later. Believe it or not, me and my friend Gary White, both Engineers working for the same company tried to run our company with F-1 precision and cutting edge designs.  Our efforts paid off in a big way when the company was sold and we got rewarded for our efforts; but that is a different story....



Fast forward to 1985.  Two kids and starting on my third job, this time in South Bend, Indiana, I was close enough to go to the Indy 500.  And we did.  It was exciting to be there and see the massive crowds, hear the cars and watch the speeds but it was no match for Watkins Glen and the F-1 cars, not even close, but I did get to check that one off the list.  We stumbled across an ad for the "World's Largest Go Kart Street Race", the Elkhart Grand Prix, run thru the streets of Elkhart, Indiana.  We lived about 10 miles from Elkhart and the race was sponsored by a magazine, National Kart News located in Mishawaka, Indiana, just a few miles from our house.  I called the magazine and asked if they had a photographer covering the race.  Curt Paluzzi, the editor and brains behind the magazine said, "No.  Can you write a story to go with it?"  I said, "Sure!"  Then he asked if I had a portfolio of racing photos.  Zing!  "Of course", I said, but explained that they were go kart race photos from several years ago.  I printed out a bunch of the photos from that first kart race in Dallas and took those to Curt.  He looked them over and said, "Perfect.  I will get you the necessary pass and other things you will need."  I asked for two passes.  I wanted to take my son along and give him an automatic camera and let him shoot in one corner while I roamed around the track shooting other things.  Race day arrived and it was maddening.  The local police had no idea what a go kart was, thinking maybe a bunch of Briggs & Stratton lawnmower motors on some frames putting around at 25-30 mph.  The shifter karts, outfitted with 125cc motocross engines and transmissions, four wheel brakes and radiators were capable of hitting 125 mph on the straights and could out corner  almost anything on any race track.  There were about 1/2 the number of hay bales needed and NO fencing to restrain crowds.  During practice I saw people stroll across the street and karts spinning to avoid hitting those idiots.  It was pure mayhem.  I found Curt and asked him if there was anything I could do to help.  He replied, "Pray for rain", turned and went looking for the police chief.  The races had their moments but everyone survived and the racers were delighted at the layout and the chance to race thru city streets; Monaco comes to Indiana!  My son and I got almost the whole next issue with photos and the story I wrote.  A week after the race my son said, "Dad, that looked like fun."  I didn't need any more encouragement than that.  I called Curt and asked what it cost to get into this at the junior level.  He had a son just moving up from the junior classes and wanted to sell everything for $1200.  We bought it, signed Jesse (our son) up for a drivers school at the racetrack in South Bend and went racing.  This time I would be wrenching for my own kid.   Awesome.


The drivers school was interesting in that they had karts for those who signed up.  Since we had our own kart, they encouraged us to bring it.  Our chassis was from Denmark and was extremely neutral in handling.  The engine?  A Briggs & Stratton 5hp lawnmower engine and with a few exceptions, stock.  First, it was "blueprinted" meaning that the bore and stroke were at the top end of the tolerance maximizing displacement and the head was ground down to the minimum bumping up compression.  It was running on 100% Methanol with the jets modified for more fuel flow.  We ran synthetic oil.  I am not sure about RPM but it turned much faster than any lawnmower I ever owned.  After following an instructor around the track, each driver would pass the instructor and then he would follow them.  Meetings were held detailing correct lines thru corners and how to maximize the speed at the end of a straight.  Our kart had instrumentation!  The display mounted in the center of the steering wheel read out cylinder head temperature, RPM and Miles Per Hour.  Each was used in a different way.  Cylinder head temp would tell you how well the fuel flow was adjusted.  Too hot, add more fuel; too cold, reduce fuel flow.  RPM was used to check  sprocket ratios.  Ideally the RPM of the engine would hit maximum close to the end of any straightaway.  The speedometer, while probably not extremely accurate, ran off an inductor and a toothed gear on the rear axle.  By trying different lines thru a corner, the driver could watch the speed at the end of the straight and determine which way around a bend would give him the fastest speed down the straight thus allowing for a better chance of passing someone, or a bunch of someones.


At the end of the drivers school there was a 10 lap race.  The drivers drew for starting positions.  Jesse was starting on row three.  At then end of the first lap he was in second place.  During lap two he passed for the lead and pulled out a 3/4 lap lead by the end of the race despite a few bobbles.  He got a trophy for winning that race although they forgot the trophies and it took some reminding from me to finally get it from the organizers of the school many months later.


Our first club race was a true learning experience.  There is a minimum weight requirement for driver AND kart.  Both are placed on a scale.  We were about 25 pounds light.  The guy pitted next to us came over and loaned us some lead sheets to go under the drivers seat.  This brought us up to minimum and lowered the center of gravity.  He also mentioned we probably needed new tires, told me where to get the correct "spec" tires for the junior class.  Not only were the tires spec'd, we also ran a restrictor plate between the carb and the intake port of the engine.  During any drivers first three race weekends a large black "X" is taped to the back of his helmet to inform those who are passing that this is a rookie.  We really celebrated removing those rookie stripes a few weeks later.  The new tires came in and we needed to get them on.  One piece mag wheels that wide?  How do you do this?  I called Curt.  He said, "Great idea!  Bring the kart, stand, camera and some lights over and we will do a How-to article on changing tires."  We loaded everything up and went to the magazine, changed the tires, took a lot of photos of the process and wrote up the procedure.   It was in the next issue.  From then on, anything we did to the kart, we documented and wrote articles.  Everything from simply setting up weight balance with scales to chasing handling issues with track set up.  We must have written a dozen articles that first year, maybe more.  Curt called me several times to photograph testing of new equipment at a local track.  Seems we had articles in almost every issue of the magazine.  Like those old kart photos from Dallas, this, too, would pay off later at a place called Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterrey, California.


At the end of the first year, we moved up to the KT100 class, ditching the Briggs & Stratton and installing a Yamaha 100cc two stroke engine.  This little power plant turned some 14,000 rpm, had no flywheel and cranked out around 12 horsepower.  The new clutch was adjustable for stall speed. We had a long learning curve ahead of us but that meant more articles.  We raced until Jesse finished high school then sold everything to a friend in McPherson, Kansas.  Six months later, we moved to McPherson.  Small world.


Laguna Seca Raceway has a very famous series of corners called "The Corkscrew", a descending series of switchbacks that drop over 100 feet.  I was in Monterrey playing golf and took off to find the track and to see the corner.  It was a Thursday.  No races, no practice.  The visitors center in the infield was open but they told me there was no access to the corkscrew except on race days BUT, if I walked next door to the Skip Barber Racing School I could get a glimpse of the famous corner from their garage area.  I walked next door and inquired about seeing the corkscrew.  I was handed a waiver to sign and a young guy walked out and said, "So you want to see the Corkscrew?"  I said, "Yes."  He asked, "What do you know about racing?"  I responded, "I had a twin engined kart when I was a kid, had crewed on an SCCA team out of Dallas and that my son had raced in the CIKA series and we had done articles for National Kart News."  He asked, "What is your name?"  I told him, then he said, "Wow.  We have read your articles!"  Stuck out his hand and said, "Great to meet you.  Come with me" and led me out into the garage area where he introduced me to all the driving instructors and mechanics explaining that I was a writer/photographer for National Kart News.  Celebrity status without being a celebrity.  Weird but accepted.  He asked me if I had a camera, I nodded and he said, "Go get it."  I went back to my rental car and grabbed my Canon A-1 with the motor drive, some film and two lenses, a 20mm and a 300mm.  We walked out onto the paddock area to one of the school cars and he said, "Get in and strap in tight.  I will show you the Corkscrew."  I loaded film, put on the 20mm lens and stuffed the 300 into a corner of the seat securely.  I tightened the seat belt and shoulder harness as tight as I thought it needed to be.  Wrong.  I soon found out that if you have your lungs compressed and can hardly breath, that is about tight enough.  We pulled out onto the front straight and nailed it.  Up thru the gears and we came screaming down on the first corner.  I thought, he is going to kill us both, but he grabbed some brakes, downshifted and threw the car around the corner.  The tires were screaming, I was jammed against the side window and he looked over at me and nonchalantly said, "A squealing tire is a happy tire!"  We continued on this first lap thru several corners and up a long hill.  He asked if I recognized anything.  I said, "Corkscrew, coming up."  He just smiled and turned the wheel slightly as we rocketed over the edge and the bottom dropped out.  I was shooting away, banging the camera against my forehead and eyeball and feeling my stomach crawl up into my throat while being slammed from one side of the seat to the other.  I kept telling myself, it would not be nice for a race enthusiast and celebrity to puke all over the inside of this car.  I relaxed and held on for the wildest ride I had ever been on.  We made two hot laps around the track at what he described as "Fast enough to qualify near the front" speed.  When we stepped out of the car in the pits, my legs were Jello and the rest of me was shaking with adrenaline.  I was pumped.  We talked for about 30 minutes while I got the rest of the tour.  I went back out to my rental car and promptly called my friend Gary White.  The conversation went something like this:

"Where are you?  I thought you were on vacation?"

"I am on vacation.  I am sitting in the infield at Laguna Seca."

"Wow!  Did you get to see the Corkscrew?"

"Up close and personal."

"Cool.  How does it look?"

"The bottom dropped out when we crested the top of the corner."

"You got out onto the track?"

"Yep.  Made two hot laps with a driving instructor from Skip Barber Racing School."

"Damn.  Only YOU could pull that off."

I kept thinking, "I am one lucky guy."  My Need for Speed was intensified for a few months.  I will likely go back to Skip Barber and take a one day class called introduction to racing.  Need to check that off the list.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-5 Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:44:24 GMT
Need for Speed Part 4 https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-4 While I was in college, I worked for the school newspaper in the darkroom developing film and making prints for the college newspaper.  Needless to say the photo bug hit me hard.  I was torn between needing speed and needing a camera!  Life offers many choices and sometimes you need to compromise.  I wasn't ready to let go of the speed addiction but photography was letting me do things that I strived to do with sketching and painting, express my artistic self, more clearly.  One of my friends at Texas Tech lived in Houston and had a Formula Vee race car.  He invited me over to drive it some afternoon during the summer months.  Cindy and I drove over to meet him.  I fell in love with the FV.  Open wheeled, simple and elegantly designed.  It was a race car, full fledged but honestly about as ugly as home made soap.  Skinny VW wheels and tires (although they were slicks) and with the VW trailing arm suspension up front and the swing arms in the back: but it was a purpose built race car.  I climbed in and discovered one of the same big problems I had with the kart.  I was sort of tall.  For a person who was 6 feet tall in the 6th grade, fitting my now, 6-1, 185 pound body into that thing was nothing short of a miracle.  I wanted to drive it very badly and they had laid out a track on a new housing development that had gone under with only roads built (PERFECT!) so I drove the FV behind the others in a street car to the "track" and followed them around the course.  I made a few laps, getting up to good lap times as I was told, very quickly.  I have to admit that fitting my feet between the frame and NOT hitting the brake a clutch at the same time was a real challenge.  It was about this point that I realized that most of the great drivers I knew about were maybe 5-5 and 140 pounds.  Maybe I wasn't meant to race sports cars.  Maybe I was meant to photograph them or maybe work on them or better yet, do a movie about them.  I still wish I had a Formula Vee for Solo racing (a form of racing with only YOU on the track trying to establish a great lap time).  I just have too many things I would like to do and a shortage of both time and resources (OK, that means money) to get them all done.


We put together a fairly crude darkroom using our one and only apartment bathroom.  I needed to work in a darkroom!  Found an ad about a go kart race being run in Dallas.  We went just because I wanted to go and I wanted to take photos.  I bought a bunch of rolls of Tri-X and took my only camera and both lenses, 28mm and 200mm.  We spent all day Saturday at the track photographing practice and qualifying runs, raced back home and started developing film.  As soon as the film was dry, we started printing 8 X 10's.  I know we finished printing about 4 am and went to bed.  The next day we were at the track with races scheduled to start at 10 am.  It was pouring down rain.  I mentioned to the announcer that we had images from the day before for sale at $5 each for an 8 X 10.  The images were good with action shots of almost every driver.  We were swamped with people wanting to buy images of themselves.  I think we took in over $400 that day.  Expenses were almost $50 for everything except our time.  We netted about $375 that day.  My full time Engineering job was paying me $830 a month.  I thought, this is crazy!  I can make money with photography!  That was the kick start for selling images.  Those same negatives paid off handsomely 15 years later as you will find out.


With a new house purchased we were solid citizens in a quiet residential area of Dallas and we had bought our first sports car, a Morgan!  I wanted a darkroom.  We needed furniture.  Perplexing situation.  I was out riding my bike down the alley one evening and spied an empty box of Kodabromide B&W photo paper in the neighbors trash can.  A DARKROOM!  As I rode around to the front of the house, the owner was standing out in front of his house so I rode up and introduced myself.  Remember, I only had two loves at this point, racing and photography.  Henk deWit was the neighbors name.  I mentioned seeing the empty box in his trash can and asked if he had a darkroom.  He said sure!  Come on over and use it anytime.  WOW!  I felt lucky.  He asked about my job.  I told him I worked at Texas Instruments as an Engineer.  I asked what he did.  Henk replied, "I am the Director of Photography for CBS News in Dallas."  HOT DAMN!  BINGO!  WE HAVE A WINNER!  I was close to heaven.  Then Henk asked if I was the guy who owned the Morgan.  Most people have no clue what a Morgan is other than a horse.  I was impressed that he knew what it was.  He wanted to know what engine it had.  I told him, "A 1500cc, reverse flow Ford with a Lotus log Manifold and a Weber 40DCOE sidedraft carb."  What Henk said next started my head spinning; "That's the same engine I have in my race car."  I asked him to repeat that.  He did then led me into his garage to see the car he raced in SCCA racing in the SW Region.  I was not believing my luck.  Photography, racing, darkroom, neighbor.  We became very good friends.  I became his mechanic and went to races with Henk as his crew.  Every once in awhile he would hand me a 16mm movie camera from the TV station and let me shoot film.  I thought that was the life, wrenching for an SCCA team (we were sponsored by Cowsert Automotive)and taking movies as well as stills.  Just a mention of Cowsert Automotive.  Great place.  Specialized in exotic cars.  Saw several Ferrari's there as well as Lamborghini's and Maserati's, Jaguars, the odd Lotus and one very special McLaren from the endurance racing world.  Eventually Henk got tired of racing, sold the car, bought a sailboat and started racing it on White Rock Lake in Dallas.  I moved on but not before learning a ton about chassis set up with Koni adjustable shocks and spring rate changes as well as sway bar placement.  By the time Henk sold the car, we had added a dry sump, oil cooling system and forged crank, pistons and rods.  The little Ford 1500cc engine was redlined at 10,500 RPM!  A screamer for sure.  Shortly after Henk sold the car, there was a Pro Formula Ford race at a track in Fort Worth, Green Valley Raceway.  Henk and I went out there to shoot some film for the nightly news.  He was tired and handed me the camera, asking me to go shoot some footage.  When you walk around at a race track with your 35mm camera you get hustled away from the fences and told to go back to the spectator areas.  With a big 16mm camera resting on your shoulder plastered with CBS News stickers, the corner workers invite you out to the edge of the track with them.  I was out shooting when one of the regular cameramen from CBS showed up with an identical camera.  Of course, he asked me where I got the camera.  I explained about Henk being in my van asleep sending me out to shoot stuff.  When the race was over we went back to the van, had a beer and then Henk handed him my camera and said go process yours and his and pick about 7 minutes for tonights news.  Amazingly, they used my film.  Henk laughingly told me that the regular cameraman was embarrassed that my footage was way better than his.  Of course he asked Henk who I was and what I did. Henk told him I was an Engineer at Texas Instruments just playing around with film for the first time.  We both had a good laugh from that one.


My old Morgan was fun to drive and work on.  Fairly simple and an eye-catcher, it turned heads everywhere we went.  I had more people mention what I great job I did of restoring it.  It was not a restoration, they were built that way right from the factory in Malvern Link, Britain.  Peter Morgan had a way of making a classic car from new parts.  I got a new job in Denver and not wanting to drive it in the snow, I sold the Morgan, a move I regret to this day.  Photography came back to being my main passion.  Speed took a back seat unless you are talking about skis on the snow!


Watch for Need for Speed - Part 5 - We get back into kart racing in a big way!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-4 Wed, 03 Dec 2014 04:17:31 GMT
Need for Speed Part 3 https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-3 Dad and I loaded the kart up and took it all the way Oklahoma and the farm just east of Oklahoma City.  Along the north side of my grandpa's farm they were building a new type road called an Interstate Highway.  This one was to be designated Interstate 40.  It looked so smooth.  We lifted the kart over the fence and set it on the road.  Unlike the roads in Oklahoma today, this was smooth as silk.  I fired up both engines and took off, went a mile and turned around, stopped and waited for dad to wave his arm.  I took off when he did accelerating to full speed in a short distance.  When I got where we had invaded the construction site, dad clicked the stopwatch.  In one mile, from a standing start, I had averaged 64 mph.  My grandpa was there and had only one comment about me sitting there on the kart with my knees up even with my shoulders; "You look like a dog who sat in some kerosene."  Dad and I were laughing so hard.  I never drove the kart on a regular road except that one time and then it was on a road that was not yet open.  


I kept the go kart all thru high school still going and driving it just for the thrill of going 60 mph while sitting on the ground (almost!).  I could not fit my hand underneath the frame.  Sitting that low and doing 60-65 mph feels like you are going 150.  A few years earlier I was really anticipating getting a drivers license and getting to drive real cars.  I remember being very disappointed.  Even at 70 miles per hour on the highway (way over the 55 limit at the time), the only thrill was wondering if the old cars we drove back then would just fall apart.  No feeling of speed, just you basic boring.  Driving a regular car was nothing to get very excited about.  Having the experience of driving fast took away any speed demon ideas about driving a real car.  The thrill was just not there, at least in the cars we owned, Chevrolet's with "stove bolt" sixes and "three on the tree" shifters.  When I left for college, the kart sat in the garage at home.  I drove it a couple of times when I was home for Spring break, Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I never lost the thrill of hearing those twin engines pop to life, idling at a mere 2000 RPM.  


During one of my trips home for Thanksgiving I ran into the cutest thing I had laid eyes on and asked her out for a date.  Something clicked.  She seemed very special but I needed to see if she was a "speed" person.  We made plans for another date in December when I was home for Christmas break.  I asked her to get us tickets to see "Grand Prix" in the new super wide theater called a Cinerama.  Grand Prix was about F-1 racing and proved to be a great film for someone like me.  She seemed to enjoy it too.  Next test; can she or better yet, will she drive the kart at speed.  We took it to the parking lot and Cindy got on, made a few mediocre laps then a few fairly fast rounds and was grinning from ear-to-ear.  i figured we must be compatible.  We got engaged about a year later and were married shortly after I graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  Dad let the kart take up space in his garage while my new bride and I lived in Dallas, some 250 miles away.  I really would miss my friend, the Hellcat, but I needed money and dad had a buyer wanting the thing for $100.  Like saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time, I could not be there to see it hauled off to who knows what sort of life, so I let dad handle the transaction.  That $100 was put to good use.  We bought a 12" B&W television so we could watch the moon landing of Apollo 11, in July 1969.

Stay tuned for "Part Four, Driving a Formula Vee and SCCA"

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-3 Tue, 02 Dec 2014 14:48:23 GMT
Karting Part Two - Need for Speed https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/karting-part-two---need-for-speed I really learned a lot from that old kart.  Caster and Camber as well as Toe-in and Toe-out were added to my vocabulary in the 8th grade.  I really understood the implications of these critical setting.  I really wanted to be able to adjust Caster and Camber but they were fixed on karts.  Toe-in and Toe-out were possible but best left neutral if you didn't have suspension.  With Roger Ward doing the testing on the Hellcat during development I assumed it was set up fairly neutral and for best handling.  I spent a lot of time in the library reading about steering geometry, trying to figure out why the inside tire turned sharper than the outside tire on the front; it is to insure that the center of rotation for all three axles was the same going around a corner.  Why did cars have differentials?  That was easy to learn the first time I pushed my kart and turned the steering wheel.  With a solid rear axle, one tire had to slip since it was traveling a different path than the other.  Having a solid rear axle ate up horsepower going around corners but it was rare to go around a corner on a kart and not have all four tires slipping!  There were times in tight turns when the inside front tire was completely off the surface.  I learned that chassis flex can be a good thing AND a bad thing depending on the situation.


What really came to light was engines.  The West Bend engines I had were "under-square".  By definition an engine that is square will have the bore of the cylinder equal to the stroke of the crankshaft.  The West Bend 580 had a long stroke and small bore.  That was great for low RPM torque but limited the top RPM of the engine.  Most of the newer karts had McCulloch engines which started off life as chainsaw power plants.  These were "over square" with larger bores and shorter strokes.  Those little engines were turning 9,000+ RPM at full song.  On a tight, twisty course, the West Bend with its low speed torque had an advantage.  Coming off a tight corner onto a long straight, the West Bend powered karts would pull away until about halfway down the straight.  Midway on the straight and the McCulloch powered karts would come by screaming at high RPM's.  Higher RPM meant higher horsepower.  It was a simple fact of physics.  I was learning stuff that would stick with me to this day.  Not bad for an 8th grader.  All this interest drove me to want to major in Engineering.  I took all the math and science classes I could.  I literally loved geometry!  Why?  Because I could go home after learning something in school and apply it to my kart.  I bought books on race car chassis and suspension design.  Most of it was beyond me but I read them anyway figuring that when I learned the physics later on it would all fall into place.  It did.


One Spring Sunday after a long morning shower we decided to go to the parking lot and do some driving.  There were huge puddles of water everywhere.  I decided it would be OK so we unloaded the kart and I fueled it up, put on my helmet and fired it up.  I thought it would be really cool to run thru the puddles at really high speed and see how far the water would spray out from the tires.  I learned a couple of valuable lessons that day.  One, slicks and wet are not compatible and two, when you drive a car thru a puddle and watch the water spray out it is cool, BUT when you drive a kart thru a puddle the water does indeed spray out but it also sprays IN!  Without fenders it is really damp for the driver.  I was doing about 50 when I hit the first long and fairly deep puddle of water.  I watched in horror as two huge waves of water came gushing into my face from the inside of the tires.  Helmet and goggles help but having water sprayed up your nose and into your helmet and mouth are not too cool.  I thought I was going to drown.  By the time I got my eyes open again I noticed I was traveling sideways in the puddle at about 45 miles per hour headed for dry pavement.  Steering had no effect, those slicks were essentially useless and hydroplaned very well.  As soon as the tires hit pavement and dried a bit they grabbed.  I felt like the kart was going to flip.  In actuality it came up about 15 degrees and bounced back down, whipped around and slid to a halt.  I gingerly added throttle and mostly crept back to the truck to go home.  I was soaked from head to toe and I need to uh, change clothes.


I really liked Indy Car racing and wanted to go see the 500 so badly but it was a long ways from Houston and it was expensive.  Walking thru the grocery store I spotted a magazine, Sports Car Graphic, and there on the cover was a Lotus Formula One car with a guy named Innes Ireland driving. This thing was small nimble and looked like a go kart on steroids.  I bought the magazine and started reading.  From they point forward I was a huge F-1 fan (still am to this day).  My friends in school had their heroes, mostly sports figures who played baseball or football.  My heroes had names like Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Innes Ireland, Bruce McLaren, Jimmy Clark and a host of other F-1 drivers.  Technically, there is no other class of car built that can match an F-1 car for performance around a road course.  And the technology!  It was all about simplicity and suspension design, chassis stiffness and a small engine cranking out huge amounts of horsepower via crazy RPM's.  The cars of that era was fitted with a small engine of only 1.5 liters (roughly 90 cubic inches for those not in the know), with carburetors but turning maybe 11,000 RPM and pumping out 400+ horsepower!  WOW!!!  I was totally amazed.  I learned all about tuned exhaust, multiple valves per cylinder, hemispherical combustion chambers (most current Dodge owners don't even know what the word Hemi stands for but they have one and brag about it) and close ratio 6 speed transmissions.  One thing my kart had in common with those F-1 cars?  We could both do four wheel drifts.  Not the smoking tires that is called drifting now but sliding along at crazy speeds basically floating on a small patch of slipping rubber on all four tires.  Four wheel drifts were so cool when they happened and just felt like a ballet at speed!


Another installment coming soon, as the Need for Speed continues!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/karting-part-two---need-for-speed Tue, 02 Dec 2014 04:42:43 GMT
Karting Part One https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/karting-part-one I had a couple of jobs when I was a kid.  One was selling newspapers on Saturday night in front of a grocery store.  Didn't make a lot of money but I saved most of it.  I also worked sweeping floors at a place named the R&R Grocery, owned by a neighbor, Roy Mellen.  I was saving up my bucks to buy a go kart.  I wanted to go racing.  In 1962, one of dad's friends was moving to a newer, faster go kart and said he would sell me his Percival Hellcat.  I had $140 to my name.  He wanted $140 with one engine and ready to roll plus a second engine in parts in a box with a broken connecting rod.  He said he would put the other engine together and install it for another $25.  No way I was going to wait for a few more months to save up the $25 besides, dad wanted me to put that engine together.  I went home and dreamed about owning that kart.  I remember the day we took the pick up over to pick it up.  I was almost shaking with excitement.  I parted with my life savings, we loaded it up and headed home.  Once it was safely in the garage, I spent maybe 4 hours cleaning it with rags, old t-shirts and even some of my mom's Q-tips.  It was beautiful, mechanically sound and purposeful.  Built for speed and racing, it was a dream come true for a kid my age.  I think I slept sitting in it the first night.


One cool thing about the Percival Hellcat was the design, build and testing history of those karts.  The design team was headed by none other than Frank Kurtis.  Yep, the same Frank Kurtis who designed and built Indy roadsters!  The kart design was tested and perfected by Roger Ward, winner of the 1959 and 1962 Indy 500's.  How could it not be one of the best on any track?  I was ready to burst into the world of racing BIG TIME.  Problem is, and you never realize this when you are just an enthusiastic kid, it costs way more to go racing than just owning the kart.  There was no way I could afford to race at any track in the Houston area.  I would probably have not been competitive anyway with a two year old chassis that was many pounds heavier than the current versions.  Dad sort of figured it would be a nice thing to putt around the yard with.  We fired it up on Saturday and I made numerous donuts in the grass on the racing slicks.  That was not going to work.  We waited until Sunday and took it to a shopping mall (closed on Sundays in Texas back then) and took it for a few laps on an impromptu circuit we laid out.  It was scary fast.  Sat low enough to the ground that I could not put my hand underneath.  Top speed was around 60 miles per hour.  The single West Bend 580 engine would top out about 7500 RPM and it was really screaming at top speed.  After a few weekends of playing around in the parking lot and honing my skills, another couple of karts showed up and we set up a little race.  I won going away and felt like Fangio!  I was quick, knew abut the dynamics, could pick a line thru the corners, knew about setting up someone for a pass...   ...in short, all the reading I had done was paying off fast.  I think we met at that place maybe 5 or 6 times and I either won or one of us had mechanical issues and it was just over.  I loved every minute of it.  I was certainly glad we had experimented with tire pressures and kept records of the lap times so I knew a little about set up before we got into this impromptu racing at the Sears parking lot.


After a year of running with the single West Bend 580, I bought a new connecting rod for the other engine.  I put it together by myself except for getting the caged roller bearing put onto the crankshaft.  Dad showed me how to hold all that stuff together using axle grease!  I mounted the engine, hooked up the chain and fuel lines, connected the throttle and was ready.  This would be a real test.  Did I screw up somewhere?  I squirted a little fuel onto the air filter and pulled the starter.  The little engine jumped to life immediately.  I was both proud and shocked that I had built that engine myself from a box of parts AND it worked!  


Next thing was to try it out with TWO engines!  My friends all said it would go twice as fast.  I knew better.  The engine RPM would be the same so the speed would not go up BUT it would have twice the horsepower and get to top speed in half the time.  I was in for a rude awakening!  We had laid out the course without a straightaway, just a slowly bending curve that connected some crazy corners.  With one engine, I could stand on the throttle coming off the turn before the sweep and just pull away accelerating along the curve.  First time I stood on it coming off the last turn, I spun out!  The rear end just lit up, tires spun and I went around in circles.  I had to learn to feather the throttle coming off the turn and keep adding power along the whole length of the sweep.  Double the horsepower made the kart a handful to drive until I got the hang of having all that power!

Part Two - Coming up in a few days

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/karting-part-one Sun, 30 Nov 2014 04:34:39 GMT
When I was Nine https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/when-i-was-nine Having dad here in McPherson his last few years was a real blessing.  I quit playing golf while he was here (hard to take the game seriously, after all it was invented by the same people who think music comes out of a bagpipe) and devoted my time to being with him when I was not on the road.  One of the topics I most wanted to learn about was his family and the Depression back in the 1930's.  It was not a pretty story.  My dad's family was far from wealthy, in fact they would probably be considered as living in poverty today.  I know dad told me that one year he got an orange for Christmas.  Another year, he got one small toy.  Hearing this from him and knowing how much he gave us (my brother and I) every year for Christmas made me feel very funny about how unappreciative I must have been.  I do know that if I expressed an interest in anything, dad and mom provided me with the tools I needed to explore that interest.  I got excited about chemistry one year and for Christmas I got a huge Chemistry set with all sorts of experiments that could be run.  What did I do with it?  First thing I did was combine Potassium Nitrate with sulphur and charcoal and made gunpowder.  Yep, I blew some stuff up!  I know that is hard to believe about me but I did it.  I also combined Potassium Nitrate with sugar, melted it down and cast some rocket fuel pellets which we used to fire off a few home grown missiles.  I wanted to work on an old lawnmower engine and for Christmas I got a big set of Craftsman tools.  I learned to weld from my uncle and for my birthday got an AC welder.  For Christmas that same year I got a huge load of metal, angle iron, sheet, plate steel, etc. that I could use to practice welding and build numerous crazy things.


It seemed my parents paid close attention to whatever I was showing an interest in and then provided me with the tools to explore that area.  I know I must have driven them crazy with all the things I was constantly building, modifying and then moving on to new, unexplored territories.  Our garage was turned into so many things when I was a kid.  I know I had built a radio in there, turned down the flywheel on a lawnmower engine, ported and polished the heads on that thing, calculated and built "tuned" exhaust and in general learned a lot about cars, engines.  I even painted our 1953 Chevy after stripping off all the chrome and leading in the holes.  If I wanted to learn about something, dad was there to help and to either teach me or learn with me.


The discussions with dad about his childhood makes mine sound idyllic.  At age 9 he was driving a team of horses pulling a wagon load of cotton to the gin in New Mexico, at 9 he was plowing behind a team of horses for 12 hours at a time.  At 9 he was hoeing cotton for days on end, picking cotton and dragging a huge cotton sack down the row.  I can't even begin to relate to his childhood if you want to call it that.  I really think dad was an "adult" by the time he was 9.  He had adult responsibilities by then.  Me?  At 9 I was busy building a centrifuge with an Erector Set I got for Christmas.  I am not sure how many G's a frog can take but I put one poor frog I caught thru pure hell when I was 9.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/when-i-was-nine Sun, 30 Nov 2014 02:45:36 GMT
Maps? We Don't Need No Stinking Maps! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/maps-we-dont-need-no-stinking-maps I am an incessant map reader.  Always have been.  Always will be.  Can't say for sure when I started this obsession with them but it was an early age.  On vacations, and we took one every year, I perused the map of where we were, where we were going, where we had been and memorized the towns we passed thru.  We always had maps with us on every trip.  I was delighted to sit in the front with dad and read the road signs for him.  Dad, mom and my brother all three wore glasses.  I had eagle eyes back then reading signs sometimes before dad knew there were signs ahead.  Having studied the details on the map, I could tell dad where we were and have far we had to go to our turn off. 


Maps are insanely informational, with distances between towns, intersections, even from state border to state border.  Some had charts where you can follow the bars and determine distance between towns easily without all the hassles of adding up the miles from town to town.  To me, maps are sacred, to be protected.  After all , they hold the keys to not getting lost, knowing where you were and what treasure are nearby waiting to be discovered!  By the time I was ready to start taking trips on my own I had accumulated my own maps; maps of regions around us, my resident state of Texas, neighboring states, even a map of Houston in case I had to venture into the depths of the canyons of tall buildings.


My girlfriend and her family were leaving on a vacation once.  I was in college and anticipating asking her to marry me.  Then it happened.  I was at her house as they were packing and laid eyes on a small bound tablet, a small flip chart that had maps.  A thing called a TripTik, all bound up and personalized with each page representing a portion of the route, highlighted and ready to guide you from point A to point B.  She was quick to notice me staring at it, grabbed it and explained it to me.  Here, the whole trip had been boiled down to a series of lines; one main line with smaller lines leading away from the main line, a millipede of sorts.  I was terrified!  Sure, the main route was highlighted but those arteries leading to and from the main road faded into oblivion.  What the heck was out there, beyond the edges of the narrow guide?  The edge of the Earth?  A vast swap? A desert?  How would you know with this thing in your hand?  Had my beautiful world of maps had been bastardized into just a way to get from one place to another?  It was as if the ends justified the trip, negating what was in the middle.  It's about knowing where you are, how close to another state, a crazy overlook, a wild and untamed river.  Maybe there is an obscure little archeological dig that needs my attention.  None of these things existed on the narrow bands of a TripTik.  This drastic corruption of my sacred maps had me wondering if this girlfriend was the one for me.  Was a vacation, or any trip for that matter, just getting from where you are to another point on the Earth?  How could you know what lies just mere miles from your dictated route without a fully functional map to draw you away from a canned route?  The beauty of a vacation or any trip was discovery.  My idea of a time away from the familiar to yet undiscovered places involved nothing set in stone but rather the freedom to venture from any preset path to nearby places with intriguing descriptions, names or both.  Anything on the map that was in red, sometimes blue, needed to be investigated  I could not imagine a life married to a person who used these trimmed down "maps" as a way to travel.  I was truly worried.  Everything about her had been perfection up until now.  To get on with the story, we did get married. I drew her away from the pre-canned, pre-planned vacation to the happy go lucky, roll the dice and see what happens trips, that my heart and spirit needs.  


Fast forward to the recent past and the digital world of maps and GPS.  GPS?  Just another form of TripTik disguised as something planted on your windshield or dash to get you safely from point A to Point B.  Nothing I really want to trust my vacation to.  I have a GPS, have one built into my iPhone, but I find them intrusive and while great for maneuvering thru an unknown city or town, virtually worthless for an exploratory vacation.  As stated earlier, I need to know what's around me, options for visiting other places and these do a terrible job.


The first time I saw Google Earth on my computer was a truly religious experience.  Here was the entire globe, our little planet, waiting for me to discover any place my imagination could take me.  I wasted no time and set about looking at routes we had taken in Tanzania including finding a line of wildebeest migrating across the Serengeti, trails leading to Nasera Rock in Loliondo, a path I had hiked in Big Bend National Park, roads in obscure places that intrigued me.  There is no end to the list of places I need to visit.  Maps will get me there but a GPS or TripTik is not going to work for me!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/maps-we-dont-need-no-stinking-maps Sat, 29 Nov 2014 15:28:26 GMT
The View from the Left Seat https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/the-view-from-the-left-seat On one of our "dinner" trips to San Antonio, dad knew the crew of the DC-7 we were aboard.  I was just in the second grade but thought it was cool to look in the cockpit.  On the way home, we were invited up front by the Captain of the aircraft.  Once in the front, the Captain asked me to come sit on his lap and take the "yoke" while he looked up some radio frequencies.  I was really cool with this and wanted to do a good job of "flying" the plane.  The co-pilot dialed in a new radio frequency on the Direction Finder and the Captain let me turn the airplane to the new heading.  I thought I was king of the hill.  I am sure Eastern would have canned the whole crew had they known a 7 year old had his hands on the yoke with a load of passengers in the back and cruising along at 8,000 feet!  To be honest, I was terrified, worried that somehow I would screw up and we would all plunge to the ground in a mass of aluminum and twisted metal.  It was a few minutes of racing heart and wide eyes that I still vividly remember to this day, some 60 years later.  I never got the flying bug like my brother.  At 9, I got a racing go kart with twin engines and turned my attention to speed on the ground and engines, handling, the dynamics of racing.  I only "parking lot" raced that thing as it was two years old when I got it and was not competitive at the racing track in Houston.  We did race each other against the stop watch which was still fun.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/the-view-from-the-left-seat Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:03:00 GMT
Engine Fire! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/engine-fire My dad went to work for Easter Airlines on November 1, 1946, just short of two weeks after I was born.  His new job was in Memphis.  Mom and I stayed in Oklahoma for a few weeks then moved to Memphis (not that I remember, of course) and into an apartment that is no longer there.  I went looking for it once when I was in the area on a business trip.  The apartment, once filled with airline employees, all fresh from the military with aircraft experience, has been replaced with a shopping center and and an office complex.  When the maintenance base in Memphis was closed dad transferred to Houston Hobby Airport.  That was in 1949.  One of the perks for employees was free airline travel when seats were available.  By the time I was in the 5th grade we had flown to numerous places, Washington DC being the most memorable.  On select school afternoons, always a surprise, dad would get home from work and tell us, "Get dressed up.  We are going out to eat."  My brother and I would put on nice shirts, sometimes a tie and jacket and run to the car.  Dad would then drive the family to the airport and we would board a flight to either New Orleans (seafood!) or San Antonio (Mexican food!).  It seemed odd that not everybody did this.  We usually got back home by 8pm at the latest so we could get our homework done.  One particular evening we had flown to San Antonio to eat out and had just taken off from the airport to return to Houston when one of the engines on the plane caught fire.  The fire was quickly extinguished but we turned around and went back to San Antonio.  We sat on the ground for over 3 hours while they fixed the engine and the fuel leak.  Finally we were underway again and arrived back home well after midnight.  I was dead tired and went to bed without doing my homework.  The next morning when I left for school, mom wrote me an excuse to take with me to my teacher:


"Please excuse Jimmy for not getting his homework done.  We flew to San Antonio to eat out and on the way home we had an engine fire on our airplane which had to be fixed.  We did not get home until 1 am."


and she signed it.  I gave it to the teacher that morning.  She read it, looked at me and asked, "Who wrote this?"  I tried to explain that my mom wrote it but the teacher could not believe it.  Back in the 50's, only wealthy people could actually own an airplane and who other than a rich family would fly to San Antonio to eat?  She kept wanting to know "Who wrote this??!??!?"  Finally she called my mom who verified that, yes indeed we had flown to San Antonio to eat and had an engine fire on the way home.  You would not believe the look on her face as mom told her the same thing I had been saying all along, and the respect I got after that was almost weird.  Rumors went thru the school about me being from a rich family, with airplanes.  I just thought it was crazy that not everybody flew.  I had several people come to me and ask what it was like to fly?  I was really eating this up, finding out that flying was something special back then, something not many people had experienced.  It was one of the few times I felt special in school, too, other than finishing first in a spelling contest.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/engine-fire Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:27:29 GMT
Letters https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/letters My dad was a letter writer.  He never understood e-mail, never knew exactly what it meant but he didn't care.  He wrote letters.  Lots of letters to lots of people.  Don't ask me how he did it but he had friends all over the planet.  I know he wrote to a guy in Denmark, a farmer, who eventually brought his wife with him on a trip to the USA and stopped in Oklahoma to meet my dad.  Dad also had "pen-pals", a term most of us in my generation would know but probably not younger people.  He wrote to people in many states.  How he picked up these pen-pals is a mystery to me although he did show me a magazine once where people, probably lonely people, could ask for a pen-pal.  The magazine was about farming and country living.  We moved dad to McPherson when he was about 89, failing eyesight took him off his farm.  He couldn't hear very well either, but he could write.  We got hearing aids for him.  He could hear but he still wrote letters.  We arranged for cataract surgery and he was astounded to be able to ride down the road and see the heads on the milo growing in the fields.  He still wrote letters to all his unmet friends around the country and worldwide.  During his stay in McPherson until he died, he would sit in his chair and write letters, read his mail and generally was very happy to do so.  When dad passed away at 92-1/2 it was my duty to inform all his pen-pals that dad was no longer with us.  I sent newspaper clippings of his obituary to all of them and let them know that they were special, even if not in person, to my dad.  To this day I get a Christmas card, a birthday card and various other cards from one of his pen-pals, a lady in North Carolina.  Like clockwork I can expect a card or a note from her expressing her true love for life and those special people in her life.  I wrote and asked her how she knew my birthday.  She said dad told her.  She and dad are from the generation where little things meant a lot.  Remembering a friends birthday was a special way to show appreciation of the person, as a human.  I find it comforting to recognize people on their birthdays on Facebook, leaving a simple note of HB2U.  Not sure if that is considered a "Texting" shortcut or not, I just made it up and it works for me.  

I find it hard to write, hard to write a note to people I know.  I am not sure how well I would do at writing to people I don't know.  I have the ladies address in North Carolina.  I have gone there on business on occasion.  Maybe one time in the near future I will send her a letter and let her know I am coming to see her.  I should do that soon.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/letters Tue, 25 Nov 2014 03:21:28 GMT
One Lens - One Week https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/one-lens---one-week Way back when I was learning photography I got the chance to study under a great assignment photographer named Bob Smith, way too common a name, I know, but he was a great teacher.  Each week we had an assignment to shoot, develop, print and turn in.  Luckily we had our own crude darkroom back then.  We owned a 12" B&W TV, three cameras, a few lenses and a darkroom.  No extra money to upgrade TV's but we did find money for cameras, lenses, darkroom supplies and classes.  One stipulation from Bob was that we could only use ONE lens all thru the class, no substitutes were allowed.  I thought this was absurd, being the proud owner of four lenses (all primes, remember this was years ago when most zooms were poor devices).  In choosing I went with my 28mm lens as THE lens to use for the entire course.   This was my first lens and I loved it.


For the first two years of my SLR photography life I only owned one lens, that 28mm.  Me and that lens were "joined at the hip" almost.  I loved shooting with that thing but I was still a bit peeved that I was restricted, having spent untold amounts on three other lenses.  Each week the assignment was different.  There were times when it was so easy, shooting wide angle worked great.  Other times I wished like hell I could use my 200mm but Bob would know, I would know and, well, I am fairly honest about most things other than my weight on my drivers license.  We shot all those 4 months, weekly assignments, process, print, turn in the assignment and listen to Bob talk about "Filthy" photos, referring to the dust spots on the prints.  I learned to clean my negs when drying them and to use Spotone to take out the white dust spots on the B&W prints.  Many weeks, Bob would choose my images as the selection he would use for his imaginary magazine.  Other weeks I lost out to someone who had a telephoto as their choice of lens for the class while I was stuck with a wide angle wishing for my telephoto.


By the end of the class, Bob and I had become good friends.  I asked him at a dinner we had together to celebrate completion of the class, "Why did you restrict us to just one lens?"  His reply has been with me ever since; "There were times that the assignment called for a wide angle lens and you were all over it!  You jumped on those assignments with both feet.   There were other times that a telephoto was what would work the best and you struggled.  BUT, you would wring everything you could out of that wide angle lens, trying every way you could to get the images needed.  Those times maybe your images were not the best but you did learn a whole load of ways to shoot with that wide angle lens, ways you had never conceived.  You know that lens now and what you can do with it, right?"  I said, "Well, yes."  He responded, "I suggest you put away all your other lenses except for your 200mm telephoto and shoot with it for a month so that you become intimate with it in the same way.   It is not about having the right equipment, it is about having the right vision and knowing what you can do with what you have."


That lesson has stuck with me since way back in 1972 when I first met Bob and took his class.  Want to see what that is like?  Try shooting with one lens all week, one focal length if it is a zoom, and see how well you do.  You have to have your mind and abilities stretched in order to grow.


Go For It!


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) camera lenses photography workshop https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/11/one-lens---one-week Thu, 13 Nov 2014 00:50:15 GMT
The Start of a Love Affair https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/10/the-start-of-a-love-affair Let's just say I was in need of a topic.  Eighth grade and I needed a report for history.  I had read an article in National Geographic about a place, very foreign place on a very foreign topic and was fascinated.  Prehistoric man?  A gorge in Africa yielding fossils?  With a little more time in the library and I had a story.  From that modest beginning I was launched into the world of paleontology.  I spent many years reading about prehistoric mankind, saw movies about it, even took a class in anthropology in college that was not required for a degree in Engineering.  "Quest for Fire", a movie about prehistoric man opened in theaters in Denver on a Thursday afternoon.  I called in sick at work to be there for the first showing.   Think I was hooked?  I read everything I could about the topic.  My mom knew how much I loved this as a kid and somehow kept that original National Geographic issue in pristine condition for me, all wrapped in saran wrap when I found it in the old house several years ago.  I always dreamed of visiting Oldupai Gorge.  (Note that the magazines, newspapers etc. refer to it as Olduvai Gorge which is incorrect - more about this later).

National Geographic - October 1961



















Fast forward 40 years.  2001 and I was headed to Africa.  Not just anywhere in Africa, Tanzania.  The itinerary showed 6 days in Serengeti National Park followed by a route back to our arrival city of Arusha.  The route back included a stop at Oldupai Gorge.  On most maps and most articles about the place, it is called Olduvai Gorge.  The gorge is surrounded by oldupai sisal plants but the British misunderstood the pronunciation and it became Olduvai.  Can you imagine my excitement?  Here I was getting ready to step back in time and visit what to me was the cradle of civilization, where some of the earliest versions of humans had lived, worked and somehow survived.  Without a doubt this was more than a side trip, it was like homecoming for me!

Cindy and me with the director of the museum at Oldupai Gorge, 2001

There is a very weather worn sign pointing the way to the gorge from the main road to Serengeti National Park.  Down an equally weather worn road about 5km is a visitor center and small museum.  On all trips to the gorge we were able to visit down in the areas where fossils have been found.  For me, a delight.  For others, maybe not so much excitement but it is hard to get that close and not go.  In 2013, based on reports of huge herds in Ndutu, we voted to drive thru but not stop at the gorge,  We arrived on the plains of Ndutu in time to see a cheetah chase and kill; one of the few times I agreed not to visit the gorge visitor center.  It was worth it to me.





2001 and our first visit to the gorge.  We stood at the very spot where Mary Leakey found the skull fragment for Zinjanthropus, held other specimens.  It felt like a very Holy place to me, standing there holding multi-million year old bone fragments. This was my beginning.  I was home, full circle.  The african with us in the photo was then the curator of the museum at the gorge.  


Several months ago I sent in DNA swab samples to National Geographic.  In return for my DNA sample and a few bucks ($125 to be exact) I got a complete trace of my ancestry including a spot on a map which for all intensive purposes shows my paternal origins at Oldupai Gorge or VERY near it.  I knew, I knew, but the science confirmed it.  My earliest ancestor had lived here and used some of the stone tools on display in the museum at Oldupai Gorge (OK, maybe not the exact ones but similar) to break bones, get marrow, skin animals, make new tools.  This was no doubt, HOME!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Africa Gorge Leakey Oldupai Olduvai Tanzania antique paleontology zinjanthropus https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/10/the-start-of-a-love-affair Fri, 17 Oct 2014 18:34:33 GMT
Seeing the View - Images within an Image https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/seeing-the-view One of my pet peeves (I know, I have many) is to be at some fantastic locations and have someone walk up and "CLICK", they got a shot, then leave.  It is probably OK that they leave.  But not taking the time to really "SEE" the image is a real downer.  I always wonder how many times I will come back to this spot under these conditions and have this opportunity again?  Never, more than likely.  Same holds true in your own back yard or neighborhood.  One of the killers we have to seeing photographically is familiarity.  How many times have you driven down a familiar street and seen something new that has been there "forever"?  I know I do it.  Because we already "know" what is there we don't see; we may look, but we don't see.  Same holds true for a really beautiful scene in front of us, in say Rocky Mountain National Park.  If you have ever been on the loop walk around Sprague Lake and gazed across at Hallett Peak in the distance, then you have seen this view before.  Maybe not the exact scene but one very similar.  This image is scanned from a slide many years old, probably from the 70's.  Even though the scene may not be that "familiar" to those of us who live in the great plains, we all know that it is a mountain with a lake and some trees, so there is something familiar in it.  In fact driving up to this area in the park you will have seen many magnificent vistas so maybe your brain has become a little numb to the view.  Slow down and see!

Here is the full image:


This is an OK composition and shows the lake in the foreground with the peak looming above the trees.   The reflections are nice.  The image is balanced with equal weight right and left, top and bottom.  Exposure was very good.  Not bad for a fully manual camera and one exposure.  But what else is in this scene?  If you really sat there for a few minutes (and if my memory is good, there is a park bench at that very spot!) and tried various compositions with either your zoom lens or by changing lenses there are many possibilities in this one place.























In just a few minutes, using Lightrooms Crop Tool, I made several optional views of the same subject.  All seem to be OK but would be missed if you just walked up and took one image and walked away.  I might also add that most everyone on the trail that day did JUST that, a single exposure and to my horror they shot horizontals!  LOL.  This image was just begging for a VERTICAL layout.


Give this technique a try in Lightroom sometime this winter when you are stuck indoors and have a large image with a lot of elements in it.  How many "other" compositions are hiding in that one single exposure?  And when you are out in the field, slow down and try seeing the numerous other images hiding in the one large expanse in front of your lens.  Take off the wide angle lens and put on a telephoto.  Scan the scene with the telephoto by moving from place to place in the overall scene and see what else you can find that compositionally says "SHOOT!"


Happy Shooting


Jim Griggs

Selective Focus Photography

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) photography seeing https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/seeing-the-view Sat, 04 Jan 2014 01:33:36 GMT
Canon EOS M - My Take After Three Weeks https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/canon-eos-m---my-take-after-three-weeks Canon EOS MShown with the optional lens adapter allowing use of all EF and EF-s lenses, sort of (see text)


I have to admit that I had high hopes for the Canon EOS M, mirror less camera.  I bought it just a few weeks ago in hopes of having a way of replacing my crop frame DSLR's, cut down on weight and allow some video work as well with fast follow-focus.  In Summary, I was expecting:

  • Fast focusing
  • Accurate focusing
  • Good video quality
  • Lighter weight
  • Low noise

I can say that the Lighter weight goal was met quite handily.  The thing is small, light and packed with features and familiar menus although these are on a touch screen interface.  I knew up front that I was giving up an optical viewfinder, that the screen on the back was bright but did not swivel, rotate or move in any way, shape or form.  I figured an optical viewfinder was not a deal breaker.  WRONG!  I tried using the device in bright sunlight.  Looking at the screen, all I could see was the reflection of my face staring back at me.  With a lot of maneuvering, I could sort of make out the subject but by then the subject (elk, in this case) had moved, changed positions and the magic of the moment was lost.  Problem number one had reared its ugly head.

The focus point (OK, not really a point, more on that later) is selectable by touching on the screen where you want the device to focus.  A cool feature!  Pick out a spot on the screen, touch it and the focus point jumps to your selection.  That was easy and quick as well as accurate with your touch.  I sometimes held the camera a little too close to my jacket in the cold conditions we were shooting under.  The collar of my jacket would touch the screen and the focus point would shift.  I raised the camera only to find the focus point in some obscure corner of the screen, requiring me to move it back to the subject position in my composition.  This feature is both good and bad.

EOS M with AdapterSimple controls until you get into the menus on the touch screen. The "Focus Point"?  Well, to those of us used to DSLR's, it is not a point but rather an area, much too large to do pin point focusing on a small target.  I was shooting from a distance at a lone elk on a ridge with some grasses in the foreground.  If I raised to focus point too high, the camera focused on the sky, too low and it went for the grasses in front of the elk.  The focus area is just way too large to be of any use to a serious photographer trying to shoot shallow depth of field images, isolating the subject from a blurred background/foreground.  This says nothing about the focus accuracy.  The clouds and background were sharp, the grasses in the foreground were sharp, depending on what the large rectangle decided was the subject.

Accuracy of focus?  The default setting is for the focus to be in continuous mode.  I found this setting to be annoying as the camera was constantly shifting focus, seeking something sharp to lock onto and this was not only in still mode but video as well.  I turned off the continuous focus mode after about 30 minutes of watching things go in and out of focus almost constantly.  For shots of the kids standing in front of a brick wall, I am sure the camera would work fine but for serious nature, landscape of wildlife photography?  Just not going to cut it.  I will admit that I have not tried birds in flight yet but I can bet that without a clear sky background tracking focus would be jumping from the bird to the clouds, trees or whatever was in the background and back again.

I shot in video mode for about an hour as this was the use I fully expected to apply this device for the most.  My first few videos were awful!  The problem?  The continuous focus capability that sold the camera to me in the first place, was constantly shifting slightly, causing several apparent issues in the finished product.  First, the focus shift was noticeable, with things in front in focus then quickly the subject, then back again.  Also focus changes slightly alter the focal length of the lens causing the entire frame to move slightly but noticeably.  I got in the habit of getting an accurate focus on the subject, then switching off the autofocus on the lens I was using, a Canon 70-300L IS lens.  What a pain.  The one really cool feature I was looking for in a large sensor video camera, continuous focus, was spending all its time shifting around within the subject area.  Damn! Now that was a deal breaker but there is more!  Image stabilization on the Canon 70-300L IS lens is superb on my 7D and the 5DIII, even in video mode.  Shooting with the "M", I actually thought I had switched off stabilization on the lens.  Every little twitch was translated into a movement on the screen.  I took the lens off the "M" and put it on the 5DIII thinking maybe the lens IS had failed.  I flipped the 5DIII into video mode and WOW! the image was stable and unwavering taking out my small movements resulting in a very stable video.  For some reason the "M" doesn't activate the IS on the 70-300L IS lens either very well or at all!  I need to check this out on other IS lenses I own to see if any of them will work.

Canon EOS M Just for grins and to show the relative size I mounted the "M" on my Canon 300/2.8 with the Canon 2X. It is so small that the camera could be mistaken for a high tech rear lens cap of some sort. Noise?  I found the noise levels in still mode to be very similar to the Canon 7D, maybe a little worse but not enough to really see the difference so that was a plus.  I needed a lot of plus marks to offset the negative marks this thing was racking up. 


I need to run more tests with this camera before I decide if it won an all expense paid trip to Tanzania later this year.  I feel like there is some learning I can do to better utilize its convenience and size but there are also major hurdles to get over.  The major deal breakers for me are the lack of a viewfinder and focus peculiarities.  An EVF would have been a nice addition, even as an option.  I did determine that there are third party screens that can be added that run off the HDMI port but they cost about the same as I paid for the camera and I just don't see myself putting any more money into this thing.  I will learn what it can do and use it for those purposes.  For now, it has gone on a couple of local trips and the results have been so-so.  I know that I will not take it out as my only camera!  Something else will be in the bag as well.  There are numerous mirror less camera systems out there including Sony, Panasonic, Olympus (rated the best in tests), Nikon and Samsung.  I was advised to look at either Olympus or Panasonic as they seem to be leading the pack on these devices.  My goal was to carry one set of lenses and have options on which camera to use them with.  Canon was also the only company to offer a APS-C sensor with a 1.6X crop factor. The others were smaller sensors with the inherent noise issues I wanted avoid.  I did talk at length with John Ellert who has the better of the two Nikon versions and his conclusion with the Nikon 1-J2 was in line with mine and the Canon "M", filling but not satisfying.  Canon is rumored to have a third generation coming out late in 2014 with the second generation already out but available only in the Far East.  I will plod along and see...

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) EOS M camera photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/canon-eos-m---my-take-after-three-weeks Thu, 02 Jan 2014 01:06:12 GMT
Memories and Photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/memories-and-photography Tintype of me!Taken with an Anthony 1870 Tintype Camera and 2000 watts of daylight bulbs about 4 feet from the subject. Exposure time was 8 seconds. Also notice that the buttoned shirt is reversed as is the insignia on the hat. This was a problem until high quality mirrors started being placed in front of the lens. I spent a year helping a friend who was working on a Masters of Fine Art in Photography.  We did some really crazy stuff, like recreating old photographic processes including tintypes and wet plates.  Part of our research included tons of reading about the history of photography.  One very fascinating topic for me was the period of transition from photography being almost an alchemists realm to ordinary middle class Americans picking up cameras and taking snapshots on their own.  Up until about 1900, photography was a very specialized field, requiring a good understanding of chemistry, processes, the equipment, exposure and the art required to turn out good images.  Knowledge of all those fields was required to master the simple act of recording images.  About 1900 photography got "dumbed down" by George Eastman to the point that almost anyone could buy a camera, take it on a trip and get OK snapshots of the places they had been.  That time marked the transition from travelers keeping diaries every evening with descriptions of their trips to snapshots doing that job for them.  Writing in your diary was one of the last thing people did in the evening before turning down the wick.  Photography was growing rapidly back then as people gave up their books and pens in favor of snapshots.  How many people came home and put together scrapbooks with images from their trips plus written descriptions in the margins? Almost all of them!  The daily diary was going the way of the horse and buggy!


Similarly, we have seen another revolution in photography recently.  Digital photography has taken some of the mystery out of the process of capturing images.  Not that many years ago, probably less than 15, film photography was just being invaded by digitals early adopters.  I was slow to embrace the new technology only because the results were less than spectacular with lots of noise and clumsy to use cameras.  Once I made the transition, I became a man on a mission.  I really liked the total control that digital gave me.  I mostly shot slide film prior to digital but if I wanted prints, I had to send off the slides to get them done.  I lost a prize winning slide once due to the mail.  Besides the constant threat of lost images, there was the size of the prints being made.  We had few choices and in most case NO choices in cropping.  With digital, I can crop it to whatever looks the best to me.  I also have control of the color images the same way I had control over black & white in the darkroom EXCEPT the controls are repeatable, simple and I didn't come out smelling as bad!


Now digital photography has taken over in both a good way and a bad way.  The good?  More people are enjoying the hobby and turning out some exceptional images plus cameras are in more places at more times allowing capture of very unusual events.  The bad?  There are more people carrying cameras and business cards, claiming to be "professional" photographers.  That is not a really bad thing but it has driven down the value placed on photography to the point that the true, old time professional photographs are practically out of the stock business and struggling to make ends meet.


What is the next step?  I see the industry being split into two factions; cell phone cameras and DSLR's.  I doubt there will be many P&S cameras in 10 years as phone cameras increase in ability by leaps and bounds.  The working "professionals" and extreme hobbyists will still opt for the versatility of the DSLR and demand the quality of images these devices can produce.  Me?  I will be carrying DSLR's as long as I can still make it out and about but you know me and my love of video.  That is my true hot button!  I could be persuaded to stop shooting still images if I had a top of the line video camera and a team to shoot with including a sound man, gaffers, camera focus operator, boom mic operator, catering people…   …ooops!  Now I remember why I shoot mostly still images.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) antique photography tintype https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/1/memories-and-photography Wed, 01 Jan 2014 18:57:06 GMT
Setting Yourself Apart https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/12/setting-yourself-apar There are numerous ways to make your photography stand out from the crowd!  With the proliferation of digital cameras in so many forms, phones, iPads, P&S, DSLR's, photographs are everywhere in our lives.  The world is flooded with images.  Most are glossed over, ignored or at best, not remembered.  Most of us who shoot professionally or semi-professionally, enthusiastically strive to make our images memorable.  What makes your images stand out from the mass of images hitting the street everyday?  One of the age old ways was to travel to some exotic place, not normally visited and photograph what makes that place unique.  Those days are fast disappearing as more people are carrying cameras than ever before plus people living in those places are acquiring photo capability, too.  Photos of exotic places are becoming more commonplace.  That is one age-old recipe that is fading rapidly.

So what else could make your images unique?  Watch most photographers in the field and you will notice one VERY common denominator; they almost all shoot from eye level, standing and holding the camera up to their eye (or out in front of them!) giving a view of the world some 5 feet above ground level.  To be unique among this crowd all it takes is to get up higher or down lower and your images are unique.  That sounds overly simplistic but it does create a unique viewpoint that 99% of the photographers forego in the interest of "just taking photos".  So one way to set yourself apart would be to shoot high or low.

Shooting HighVisiting Canyonlands National Park in Utah, I was not happy with the view from ground level. Hired a small Cessna to fly me over the park in the early morning. This gave me the viewpoint I desired. Prairie RattlerI got down low to meet this small rattlesnake face-to-face.













Another way to set your photography apart from the masses is shooting early, shooting late.  Most people don't like to be up at 4 am or out shooting until 10 pm.  There are tons of photographs taken between 9 am and 4 pm.  As serious photographers, we know that the best and most unique natural light occurs in the early morning and late afternoon into the evening.  This gives us another way to make our photography unique; get up early, stay out late.  With digital and ISO's reaching into the tens of thousands, even shooting the stars has become possible.

Sunrise - Chase CountyUp early leading a workshop in the Flint Hills, our group photographed the rising sun with misty fog in the fields between the trees.


Milky Way and CabinAt our recent workshop on a ranch near Dubois, WY, we set up tripods and photographed the Milky Way rising above the trees and one of the cabins at the ranch.











Most common cameras and devices have limited zoom range.  The perspective offered by these cameras is somewhat limited.  Try switching to a super-wide angle or super telephoto lens.  This simple step changes the perspective radically offering very unique points of view.  Early on I discovered that I loved the extremes of viewpoint offered with these two choices.  There were times that I shot in the field with a 20mm wide angle and 400mm telephoto lenses ONLY.  Hard to believe that I would sometimes carry just those two lenses but it was the way I saw the world and  it did set my images apart from those using lenses in the "normal" range.  Perspective is one of the elements of control that we have in our lens choices.  Use the extremes and your images will be different, unique. Compressed PerspectiveA telephoto lens will allow you to compress distant object together. Wide AngleUsing wide angle lenses lets you get close objects larger while shrinking distant objects, creating large spaces between near and far.














Tell the story with the minimum of information.  I know we have all sat thru lectures or meetings that seemed to drag on because the speaker kept repeating things or embellished his presentation to make it fill the time slot.  A "Cliffs Notes" version would be enough for most of us.  Same goes with photography.  Sometimes it is easy enough to grab the viewers attention with only a portion of the subject, not an overall image.  Try finding what is critical in the image, move in or zoom in on that particular part of the subject and see if it tells enough to stand alone.  When someone looks at the image, you want their brain to engage and build the rest of the story.  Try tightening up your compositions, it can be very exciting.  The downside is that you can get too close and abstraction sets in leaving the viewer wondering what it is.

Tight CompositionBy using a telephoto lensI cropped in on this bison showing one horn, her eye and fur. Viewers know this is a bison without showing the entire animal.








If the above are not enough to get you grabbing for your gear and heading out, try this.  Think about what you want to convey with your photograph.   While photographing the ranch house at the "Tallgrass Prairie Preserve" near Strong City, Kansas with a few friends, I noticed that everyone of them was shooting with a  tripod, a good thing.  I also noticed that from that position the grass didn't look all that tall.  I suggested they lower their tripods enough to bring some of the foreground grass into play in front of the building.  This made the grass look tall; after all we were at the Tallgrass Prairie!  Try to think about what you are trying to convey in the image.

Ranch House at the Tallgrass National preserveShooting from a low angle emphasizes the tall grass, the trademark of the ranch.


I spend a lot of time looking at my subjects in every way I can imagine, front lit, side lit, back lit, high, low, compressed with a super telephoto, expanded with a super wide; all of these are ways I have trained myself to visualize the finished image.  I started photography on a shoestring with only a 28mm lens for over a year.  I next bought a 200mm lens.  I only had those two lenses for about 18 months.  I learned to see in either wide angle or telephoto.  I learned what those lenses would do well and when to leave them in the bag.  To this day, I see the world in wide angle and telephoto.  My brain has been trained to crop what my eye sees for telephoto and to scan to visualize in wide angle.  I think that has been a good thing for me.  It certainly makes me more aware of an area when I stop and look for images.




(Jim & Cindy Griggs) perspective photography telephoto wide angle https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/12/setting-yourself-apar Tue, 24 Dec 2013 20:08:17 GMT
Tanzania 2014 https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/11/tanzania-2014


We are closing in on yet another great trip to East Africa.  Join us, Jim & Cindy Griggs along with our amazing friend, Bob Gress, on an unforgettable trip thru the top tourist destinations in Tanzania!  Starting with Tarangire National Park and the magnificent herds of elephants, we venture further away from civilization into Ngorongoro Crater for a couple of days then on to the most magnificent locale in all of East Africa, Serengeti National Park.  For 2014, we will be staying at Sametu Camp (a delightful private location away from the lodges), the Sopa Serengeti Lodge and finishing the trip with the unbelievable Buffalo Luxury Camp in Loliondo adjacent to Serengeti's northern boundaries.

For information, contact us or check us out at Mondo Verde Expeditions.  We have rooms reserved but will be giving up those not used in a few months.  If you ever wanted to see Tanzania's top wildlife and scenic parks, do it now.  Costs keep escalating.  Please note that this is a trip planned mainly for serious photographers but would also be appropriate for those desiring the intimate interaction that we experience up close and personal with the wildlife.  We are out every morning at sunrise and stay out all day, arriving back at sunset!  Intense but full of "WOW!" moments.

We depart on March 29th for this adventure!

If you have ever thought about going on a Photographic Safari, we urge you to go soon!  


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Africa Tanzania photography safari wildlife https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/11/tanzania-2014 Mon, 11 Nov 2013 14:51:06 GMT
Great Plains Nature Photographers 2013 https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/10/great-plains-nature-photographers-2013

Registration is now open for the 2013 General Meeting of the Great Plains Nature Photographers.  Download and fill out the registration form and send it in with your payment.  Looking forward to seeing everyone there!


Lewis Kemper is our speaker this year!


Hunt's Photo and Video will be there again this year as well!


Jim Griggs

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Great Plains Nature Photographers 2013 Registration https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/10/great-plains-nature-photographers-2013 Wed, 16 Oct 2013 15:15:53 GMT
Chicha for Everyone! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/9/chicha-for-everyone Stopped at Paucartambo for a look around and to make a phone call.  Found this neat older lady sitting out front of her house with corn/maize mixture ground and drying in the heavy air.  At least the sun was shining!  She was making Chicha!  What a great experience seeing this stuff being made.  After talking to her thru an interpreter, she said I could step into her kitchen and see the batch brewing on her table.  I wasted no time in getting in and shooting a few images.  Chicha is an amazing drink coming in several varieties and flavors as well as varying levels of alcohol level.  I had been drinking this stuff since our first day in Peru and now I was seeing it being made up close and personal.  I offered the lady some money for the time and photos; held out my hand with a bunch of coins.  She took two coins, US value of about $0.15; I tried to give her a Sol worth about $0.30 but she was happy with the two smaller denominations.  Have to love the locals in these little rain forest towns.

Drying Corn/MaizeUsed in making Chicha, the corn and maize are ground, dried and mixed with other ingredients before the addition of water. The whole mixture is set aside for fermentation to take place. Chicha fermentingThis was her kitchen, sparse and basically empty except for a motorcycle in need of parts and a few basic ingredients on shelves.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Chicha Peru home brew https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/9/chicha-for-everyone Mon, 16 Sep 2013 02:40:44 GMT
The Right Safari Team! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/4/the-right-safari-team

There are places to cut corners on a Safari but the driver/guide/vehicles is not the place.  On the way to a hippo pool this trip we met a stuck vehicle.  Mud was the issue but we drove right through it.   The stuck vehicle had slick tires, hardly any tread at ALL!  Cheaper is not always better!!!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) AFRICA TZ hippo hippo pool hippopotamus safari costs cheap https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/4/the-right-safari-team Sun, 14 Apr 2013 19:21:55 GMT
Day One - Serengeti National Park! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/4/day-one---serengeti-national-park WOW!  What a start to our days in Serengeti National Park.  We entered the park at the Ndutu station and proceeded out to watch the wildebeest in the thousands moving in long lines across the prairie!  Just as we got into place for some photography, one of our guides yelled out "DUMA!"  We stopped and looked in his direction.  There was a female cheetah with two cubs, maybe three months old at best.  She seemed to be stalking the line of wildebeest.  Couldn't be.  A wildebeest is just to large for a cheetah to take down on her own.  

As we watched she suddenly took off at lightning speed.  A cheetah charge is almost impossible to believe.  It happens fast and if you are not ready for it, you will miss it.  With blinding speed and precision of a fighter plane she singled out a small calf and hit it at full tilt, knocking it to the ground  and grabbing it by the throat.

More images and stories to follow as soon as I get on a high speed internet connection!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Tanzania africa cheetah photography wildebeest wildlife https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/4/day-one---serengeti-national-park Thu, 11 Apr 2013 13:46:20 GMT
An Interview with Jim Griggs https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/3/an-interview-with-jim-griggs

A quick interview with me done by Scott Bean.  Good set of questions and comments from Scott.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) interview Jim Griggs https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/3/an-interview-with-jim-griggs Wed, 27 Mar 2013 21:50:47 GMT
A Most Amazing Experience https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/3/a-most-amazing-experience It seems like every trip to Tanzania is filled with amazing experiences but in 2011, we witnessed a fantastic story unfolding over about 45 minutes in Serengeti National Park.  We had been driving and photographing in the southern reaches of the Serengeti when we happened upon a lioness with three cubs, probably 6 months old.  There were two female cubs and one male.  The lioness stretched out in the grass and was relaxing while the cubs crossed the road in front of us to go to a marsh area to drink.

The reflection of one of the cubs was just too good to pass up!  Using a 300/2.8 lens with a 2X teleconverter, I got in a little closer.

While the cubs were drinking a few hyenas showed up showing great interest in the cubs.  Hyenas will kill cubs given a chance.

Momma lioness saw the intruders about the same time they saw the cubs!

She sprang into action, ran across the road to where the cubs were drinking and the hyenas left.  She rounded up the cubs and they took off together cross country headed to a tree about 100 yards away.

Momma went right up the tree and waited for her cubs to follow suit.  The male cub was first to try.  Part way up he got nervous and quit with his two sisters trying to negotiate a path around him.  All three came back down.  One at a time, the two sisters climbed into the tree with no problems. Little brother was left there on the ground wondering what to do.  Mom gazed down at him.

He looked up at her and his sisters comfortably and safely in the tree.  He decided to try again!  Failed a second time.  Tried a third time.  by then all of us in the vehicle were adding words of encouragement, "You can do it!"  "Keep trying!"

On his fourth attempt, half way up he turned and looked straight into my camera, almost saying "This is it!"  He went straight up into the tree.  we all let out a soft, almost whisper yell!

Once in the tree, without a moments hesitation, he stepped around his sisters and made a beeline to his mom and rubbed noses with her, letting her know he was finally up there,TOO!

This was one of those times I was so glad I was there and that my camera functioned perfectly and the batteries were not dying.  Amazingly there were three other vehicles that showed up to see the action but left to get back to the lodge in time for cocktails and missed the real excitement.  I was so glad this was a true Photo Safari and not a Sightseeing Safari!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Africa Tanzania cub hyena lion photography wildlife https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/3/a-most-amazing-experience Fri, 22 Mar 2013 22:47:07 GMT
Old Boots, Old Friends https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/3/old-boots-old-friends In 1970, after hiking up California's Mt. Whitney trail to a couple of alpine lakes and getting blisters on my feet from a pair of combat boots, I invested heavily in a pair of Vasque Backpacking boots.  They were expensive back then, but rugged and had Vibram soles.  For those not in the know, Vibram is a special high carbon rubber designed to adhere to surfaces even wet surfaces.  I was amazed at how great they felt on my feet, how well they stuck to the rocks I was backpacking on in the deserts of Big Bend at the time.  They were Heavy, with a capital "H" to emphasize the grossness of the weight!  They felt great wearing them and hauling around in the wilds with a backpack loaded with tent, sleeping bag, Svea stove, fuel, meals, water and camera gear.  

Me leading a Backpacking trip in Big Bend National Park I was leading trips for the Sierra Cub introducing people to the wilderness and wild places that were all over Big Bend National Park.  They made several trips to California as well and along some fun and exciting trails in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and even into Jasper National Park in Canada where they survived snow and ice in winter conditions well below zero.

In 1993, I retired the boots; worn, battered and leather cracking and splitting open.  I felt like I had lost a great friend.  These boots had been on countless adventures, saved my feet from certain destruction and led me to some astonishing places.  I certainly hated to see them go and in fact kept them in the back of my closet for a couple more years "just in case".  They were replaced by some new, lighter boots, made of synthetics and with good soles  (I insist on Vibram) that held up well.  Those boots lasted five years.  They were replaced by another pair of boots, another knock off pair, looked good like the ones before them but not a solid platform to handle me and my growing arsenal of camera equipment in a backpack.  I wore these out in short order.  I have been thru several other brands of modified lightweight "hikers".  None compared to my old Vasque boots in either ruggedness, durability or support.

Moose in a snowstorm, Jasper National Park - with my Vasque Boots! This week, I was in Seattle on a business trip and had a few hours to kick back before meeting a customer for dinner.  Not too far from the restaurant was an REI store.  REI stand for Recreational Equipment Incorporated.  I used to drool over their catalogs.  My old backpack came from REI as did my lightweight tent, stove, ground pad...   ...just about everything I used to covet on my trips came from this fantastic place.  I stepped inside knowing full well that my suitcase had NO room to take anything back.  I wandered around aimlessly for a short period of time looking at just about everything.  I happened onto the shoes/boots section and there sitting among the paisley, fluorescent and multi-colored modern boots was a pair of drab, brown, low cut boots made by Vasque!  The salesman could see the far away look in my eyes and asked if he could help.  I begged to try on a pair of those boots.  In a couple of minutes, I had them on and felt home again.  This was the first time my feet felt like they belonged somewhere other than hanging off the end of the recliner with my MacBook Pro in my lap!  Maybe if I left some clothes in the trash I could make room.  Armed with a credit card I brought a new/old friend home with me.  My other shoes fit in the suitcase fine with a minimal of compression.  Now I am the proud owner of my second pair of Vasque boots.  I feel like I am home again.  Unlike their predecessors, these boots will make the long journey to Tanzania in a few weeks and experience unfamiliar dirt and rocks but with familiar feet comfortably inside!


Family and Vasque boots at Treasure Falls in Colorado



(Jim & Cindy Griggs) backpacking boots https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/3/old-boots-old-friends Sat, 09 Mar 2013 00:56:40 GMT
The Calling https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/2/the-calling Sometimes I hear voices telling me to do something.  Yeah, I know you think I am crazy and this blog will stop any hope I might have had of getting a concealed carry permit but here goes.  Usually when I was on the road with my job, I carried camera gear in the trunk of the vehicle.  This was of course on purpose.  If there was a magnificent sunrise on the way to a sales call, then I might be a little late.  So what!  That sunrise was not going to happen again nor would it wait on me.  At end of a day calling on customers, I would usually drive around in some back country looking for photo ops.  Not one to sit in a bar and drink, (OK, a beer at night is a good thing but lets not over do it) I would also not sit and watch the US brain drainer (Television).  In fact, I have yet to turn on a motel room TV in almost a year and then only rarely to see a sports event or weather.  The camera was my afternoon/evenings entertainment.  One afternoon in Wisconsin, I had seen my last customer at 5pm and was ready to go out with the gear.  After almost two hours of shooting small lakes and reflections, I was headed back to a spot for sunset when I came upon a gravel road.  The voices began, quietly at first, but building to the point I knew I had to follow my instincts and drive that road.  Barely a half mile down the road I came across a large herd of doe whitetails.  Cool but not something my inner voices would push me to.  Up ahead I saw a bald eagle descending to a large tree!  Aha!  That was it!  I headed slowly down the road another quarter mile to the top of a rise.  I scanned the trees on both sides of the road.  No eagle.  Disappointed, I looked ahead and there on the right shoulder was a dead deer and perched on it a large bald eagle picking away at the carcass.  WOW!  Lucky me for listening to those voices.  I shut off the engine put the car in neutral and rolled ever so closely down the slight hill.  Stopped within about 50 feet of the eagle and pulled the keys out of the ignition.  I opened the door slowly, slipped out and shot over the hood of the car with my 100-400L IS lens.  The eagle didn't move.  I slid back into the car and rolled closer.  Repeated this several times until the bird had enough and hopped to one side and posed for me.  The sun was fading fast and I was running out of light but I shot until the eagle decided to leave.  Not sure where those voices come from but I usually don't question them!  They have rarely been wrong!!!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) eagle voices wisconsin https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/2/the-calling Fri, 08 Feb 2013 02:20:53 GMT
Distant Relative Found! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/distant-relative-found It was OVER!  Sadly, OVER!  The last hour of the last day of the first trip to Tanzania and we were rushing to get out of Lake Manyara NP before the park entrance closed and we were fined!  We stopped alongside a magnificent tree because the guide had seen a Vervet Monkey at the base of the tree.  I watched as the monkey climbed up to eye level in the tree then grabbed the beanbag and the 100-400L IS lens with my Canon 1n.  It was almost dark.  I was down to only ISO 100 slide film.  This was going to be pushing the envelope for sure!  I prefocussed on the space opposite where the monkey had been gazing, anticipating that he would look around on that side of the trunk, a much more dynamic composition.  In a few short seconds he did.  I wound off three shots, each at 1/15 second at roughly 300mm and f/8.  Not a chance I thought to myself, not a chance.  I turned to my wife who was still sitting in the seat of the vehicle and said, if that worked, I got my iconic shot of the trip, a monkey, in Tanzania, gazing off into the woodlands.  I figured I could go home now, reluctantly, but I could go home.  Little did I know that I said something that has become a mainstay of my programs about Tanzania, "You can leave Africa, but Africa never leaves YOU!"


Home, several weeks later and the last frame of the last day on the FIRST trip and it was SHARP!  How could I be so lucky?  The Image Stabilization of the lens had saved my bacon on this shot!  Thank YOU CANON!!!!  I owe that monkey a banana, too!


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Lake Manyara Tanzania monkey photography vervet https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/distant-relative-found Thu, 10 Jan 2013 17:41:07 GMT
Elephants in the Sunset https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/elephants-in-the-sunset On our first Photo Safari to Tanzania, on the third day of the amazing trip we were in a wooded area near Lake Ndutu with a herd of elephants.  They were crashing thru the brush all around us, grazing, the youngsters were playing and just being, well, elephants.  As we watched from the vehicles, one of the elephants walked over to our vehicle and posed for us.  Amazing!  In a few minutes our driver said we needed to head back as the sun was dropping.  I looked over my shoulder and saw the orange glowing orb dropping thru the clouds and thought to myself, "This needs a foreground!"  I asked the driver if there was a way to get the elephants in the foreground of this amazing sunset.  He said we were up against the trees and could not move that direction.  I was thinking, "What a shot if it could have only happened."  Just then, the matriarch of the herd, turned, made some noises and started walking towards the sunset.  The whole herd went with her.  I was shaking from the anticipation of the image if I could pull it off.  The range of light was tremendous.  My ISO 100 film would be at the edge of or beyond the performance envelope.  No post processing with slide film, you either get the exposure right or you go home empty handed.  I used the spot metering of the camera and metered the clouds away from the sun and used that exposure.  I shot several and bracketed off the original reading.  My first shot was the best both from composition and from exposure.  I was one happy camper when I got home and had the image in my hands and it had worked!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/elephants-in-the-sunset Thu, 10 Jan 2013 17:08:28 GMT
Interviewed by Scott Bean https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/interviewed-by-scott-bean Last year, Scott Bean did a short interview with me for his website blog.  Scott did a great job of getting me to think about why I do things.  never really thought about it before.  Hope you enjoy it.


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/interviewed-by-scott-bean Mon, 07 Jan 2013 13:37:56 GMT
Searching Focus https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/searching-focus On our November 2011 jaunt to Bosque del Apache, I convinced Jeff Heidel to go along.  He was concerned that he didn't have a long enough telephoto lens.  At Bosque, the big lenses are sometimes beneficial but not exactly necessary.  On a crop body, a 70-200/2.8 with a 2X will usually be more than enough.  First day of shooting I noticed Jeff seemed to be struggling.  Only noticed this because he was fairly close to me and I could hear him mumbling and grumbling about his Nikon lens.  His images were fine but the lens and body were searching for focus way too long.  I know his equipment is at least as good as mine so I figured there had to be something in his setup.  Quick look and I knew.  Almost all the top brand telephoto lenses, especially in the pro series from Canon and Nikon have focus range settings.

The range switch on my Canon 100-400 has two settings; 1.8 Meters - Infinity and 6.5 Meters - Infinity.  Photographing the birds at Bosque, we do get close but rarely inside 6.5 meters, about 20 feet.  Jeff's lens was set for the full range.  I asked him to switch it to the long limit setting and try that.  From right next to him I could hear the grumbling change to "Oh WOW!"  "Awesome!"  "Great!"

For the rest of the trip he was turning out exceptional images with no complaints!  It helps to know this and be told this but it is tough figuring it out on your own.  I learned the hard way with my 100-400 back in the film days when I seemed to struggle with searching focus on that lens.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) focus range lenses photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/searching-focus Fri, 04 Jan 2013 22:09:36 GMT
This Old House https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/this-old-house My great grandfather, John W. Griggs, built a house on his land in Oklahoma near Shawnee.  The house was completed in 1926 and was fairly well built considering the materials available!  I have the hammer he used to construct the house frame and finish work.  My dad gave it to me to be passed on to my son, Jesse, some day. 

This is the back of the house with my great grandfather standing by one of the two doors.  I always liked this photo!


Front of the house with the porch where my cousins, brother, neighbor kids played every summer when we went to Oklahoma.  That porch had character!



The house was added onto several times as things changed in the world.  First, a kitchen was added on the back.  Still had to go out and pump water from the well but the cooking was brought inside under roof in about 1935.  Later, when a well with a pump was added, plumbing came inside with a bathroom!  The kitchen was reworked to include running water.   That was in the mid 1950's.  My grandfather still had the hand pump working and would always walk out there to get drinks rather than out of the faucet in the house.  I liked the cool, fresh water out of the pump as well.  The run off from the hand pump dribbled into a water tank where the cows got drinks just on the other side of the fence from the yard.  That old tank seemed to always have fish in it when we got there as kids.  I still remember running around the cattle lot by the barn chasing grasshoppers to throw into the tank so we could watch the fish gobble them up!

When my grandfather passed away, January 1, 1970, my grandmother stayed as long as she could but eventually moved out of the house and into a care home where she lived another 6 years.  The house sat vacant until my dad retired and moved back to the farm.  He and my uncle rebuilt portions of the house, adding on again and modernizing a few things.  It never was brought up to good construction standards.  Dad added a room upstairs and a deck in the back plus tore down the old kitchen, replaced it with a new kitchen and added a second bathroom back next to the bedrooms.  That was in 1982-83.  

The house basically was not changed after that except for repairs my brother and I did to keep it from falling down on our parents.  The house was really getting delabidated when dad moved to McPherson to live near us.  Mom had been gone for three years and dad wanted to stop driving.  Dad said once he was gone that the house should be torn down.  Three years later, dad passed away in McPherson.  The poor house had gotten to the point that no one wanted to go in!  The floor creaked and swayed.  The back wall had slipped off the foundation slightly to the point of seeing light between the wall and floor.  It was time.

We had some antique dealers out who bought a load of stuff from us and then told them we were going to tear down the house.  The wanted to salvage stuff from the house.  We sold them anything they wanted to haul off for a paltry sum.  They pulled out all the copper wire, stripped some of the lumber off, tore off the deck and took at the aluminum windows in the newer part of the house.

The house was gutted and ready to come down.  A cousin said he would tear it down for us.  We arranged for him to do so and had a dumpster brought in to load up the crushed remains for the landfill.  We were not available the weekend it came down so my uncle took photos of the tear down job and sent them to us.


In short order the house was down, crushed and loaded into a dumpster.  What small pieces could not be picked up were buried in a home about 6 feet deep.  The ground looked like a wasteland.

After all the stuff was hauled off or buried, the cousin reworked the surface and smoothed it out for planting grass next spring.  The end of an era and a rather sad time for me to see this part of my personal history wiped out and gone.

My family standing on the porch of the house in 1959 during a visit to the farm.  My grandfather had been adding on at that time.

My great grandmother with her quilts laid out for a photo in about 1948.  Her husband had passed away in 1947 but she lived on at the house.

Great grandpa John W.Griggs and his wife in front of the house back in about 1938.  He was very proud of that house!  It was special back then.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Oklahoma Shawnee family history house https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2013/1/this-old-house Thu, 03 Jan 2013 04:36:37 GMT
Shooting Video https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/shooting-video  


Shooting Digital Video with the Canon T3 Rebel in Peru


I always wanted to be involved in shooting video even way back when it was called motion pictures.  My interest peaked about two years after graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  We bought a house in Dallas our third year of marriage and moved in!  Little did we know that just around the corner lived Henk deWit, the Director of Cinematography for CBS news in Dallas.  I talked at length with Henk about my interest.  He slapped various 16mm movie cameras in my hands and said. "Go shoot!"   I did.  It was fairly ugly.  I considered myself a fairly accomplished still photographer, even back then, but my movies were anything but delightful to watch.  About that time Henk took me under his wing and gave me some very good advice and direction on how things are different in the moving pictures versus those that just sat still, on a wall, in a wallet or tucked away in a box under a bed somewhere.


Rule Number 1 - "A Motion Picture Camera is designed to CAPTURE MOTION, not Create It.  Keep you hands off the zoom lever!  Stop panning so much unless the action requires it.


Rule Number 2 - "Short Takes RULE!  Long Takes are BORING!"  Henk challenged me to watch a movie sometime and count the seconds a scene lasts on the screen, you know, ...."one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three..." and see how many shots are longer than six seconds.


Rule Number 3 - "A Dolly Shot almost always TRUMPS a Zoom Shot."  Get your "cotton-pickin" hands OFF the zoom lever and move closer physically.


Enough rules for now!  I bought a fairly sophisticated Super 8 movie camera with the capability to do dissolves, fades and adjust the shutter speed manually as well as shoot slow motion up to 54 frames per second.  No sound.  It was about this point I discovered the drawback of movie film for amateurs; Almost everything must be done in camera as post processing is EXPENSIVE!  I wanted to use the Super 8 camera to learn techniques then buy a good; no, great 16mm camera and get into documentary filming.  I scrounged around and found a used Bolex 16mm, not the best one could own, but one I could own.  Henk gave me a bunch of 16mm film, all direct positive, as the station in Dallas was on the verge of switching to ENG (Electronic News Gathering) with some very expensive Sony Betacams.  With the station 16mm operation closed I lost my insider free processing!  The reality struck.  Shooting 16mm and having it processed cost about $50 a minute back then.  That only gave you a finished 100 foot spool of original footage.  Editing on the original was a no-no.  You needed to make an editing dupe, another $50, and edit it then send it with the original to a lab for "A-B Roll" processing into a final release print costing more than about $500 a minute!


The Bolex rests on a shelf right now in my living room, a monument to a dream lost years ago but I keep it as a reminder of how dreams work and it is one fine piece of precision equipment, looks cool up there with three turret lenses mounted (no ZOOMS!).  With the advent of digital video, I decided that maybe it was time to get back into "Thinking" in motion picture terms.  Hate to admit this but I have four dedicated HD video cameras plus three DSLR's that shoot HD video as well as a couple of non-HD DV cameras.  Nothing very serious right now but I did shoot a short industrial video for a local company.  Took about an hour of setting up and shooting and maybe an hour of editing time.  I also did a video for Mondo Verde Expeditions about trips to Tanzania which is also online at Youtube.  On our recent trip to Peru, I shot a lot of video and edit it into a short video for Bob Gress to show his mom what he does on these trips.  


What I have found is how much I enjoy the editing process!  That is where the guy doing the filming has his mistakes corrected!  I make enough mistakes on the filming end and correcting them in editing is not always enjoyable but necessary.


The more of this I do, the more I like it.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) motion pictures movies photography video https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/shooting-video Fri, 28 Dec 2012 18:30:33 GMT
Great Plains - Universal? https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/great-plains The vast plains of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Wildebeest


The Tallgrass Prairie in the plains of Oklahoma, Bison


That first morning in Serengeti was like a homecoming.  I stood outside my tent gazing out across a vast sea of grass teaming with wildebeest.  My first thoughts were, "This was Kansas/Oklahoma/Nebraska in the 1400's!"  Replace the Wildebeest with Bison and my mind was filled with the beauty of and the similarities of home and this vast place.  I had visited many historically significant places before in my travels, battlefields, buildings where history was made, but this was so different.  Instead of visiting a 'has-been" I was reliving my own countries history in a live diorama!  I could almost feel the presence of Native Americans slipping through the grass to get close enough for a shot with a stone age weapon.  Sure, it is different.  Outside, in Africa, in the open like this I was in something commonly called the "food chain" where back home the only real fear would be the odd rattlesnake.  Here were lions, cheetah, leopards and other wildlife capable of making me realize my true shortcomings and could help me find my place and position in the game of life.  Standing there, armed with a camera, a lens and several rolls of film, I was not near the top!


In some ways, I was expecting this but the true feelings were much greater than anticipated.  Barely 18 months earlier I had stood on a trail at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Kansas with Boyd Norton trying to explain to him (he lives in Colorado, in the mountains) why I loved the prairies.  I half expected him to think I was crazy.  He immediately chimed in, "I understand.  If you love this, you would love Serengeti."  At that very moment I decided that I had to experience Serengeti and Tanzania as Boyd had years earlier.  He had expounded on how it was one of the few places on earth he felt at home.  Now, I was standing looking at my home as well.  Tanzania and Serengeti in particular are "Time Machines" able to take you back to roots, roots from the beginning of mankind, from your earliest childhood and dreams of wide open spaces loaded with wild animals and sunny skies, solid ground underfoot and excitement in every direction.


Don't miss it.  Go.  This is your chance to turn back the clock and see the past unfold in front of you.....

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Africa Kansas Oklahoma Tanzania great plains wildlife https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/great-plains Wed, 19 Dec 2012 14:14:57 GMT
"The Stars at Night are Big and Bright" https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/stars_at_night "Man, those stars are so bright", I thought to my self as I looked up from my sleeping bag in a remote part of Big Bend National Park in Texas.  Then I remembered!  "Oh CRAP!  My camera?!?!!"  Glancing at my watch, nearly 6 hours had passed since I had balanced the Canon F-1 and 50mm/1.4 lens on my boots and locked the shutter open.  I had intended to just make a one or two minute exposure but exhaustion from hiking 8 miles with a 40 pound pack took over and I drifted off asleep until NOW!  I reached up, covered the lens and closed the shutter.  The Canon F-1 was equipped with a shutter release lock to keep from accidently exposing a frame of film but if you put the camera shutter speed to "B", opened the shutter and rotated the lock, you could make a very long exposure which indeed I had!  Back home a week later and the Ektachrome 64 was back from the processor all mounted and ready for review.  There was my 6 hour plus exposure; a series of curved lines, all different colors.  That was great.  Being an extremist I made many more exposures using the "B" setting on the F-1, most on a tripod but not always.  The image on here is a terribly poor scan from an old HP slide scanner I owned at one time.  Sorry for the terrible quality but the image is lost somewhere in a file drawer and has not been re-scanned with modern equipment.


The star trails were something that we all shot back then, the stars in Big Bend was taken in 1970 on ISO slide film.  We didn't have much choice.  Long exposures were required with the film we had available ranging up to only ISO 400.  I tried a little of everything including driving down the road with the camera braced on the dash and the shutter locked open.  Did a few multiple flash images where I would lock open the shutter, manually set off a flash and have people move around to a new spot and flash again.  Lightning was always fun!  God provided the flash, all I had to do was sit somewhere with a metal tripod and my camera and cable release and make 60 to 90 second exposures, ISO 64 at f/5.6 and wait for lightning to strike in front of the camera.

This image is from a ridge behind my house in Colorado back in 1979, about a 30 second exposure.


Taken from my front porch in Colorado as lightning was striking all around us, again in 1979.


With the advent of digital and high ISO (It is still ASA to me) capabilities, the game has changed.  Now everyone is trying to get shots of the Milky Way in different, unique locations.  I thought it was amazing when I got my first image of stars with my old Canon 10D and ISO 1600!  Jim Richardson and I were out in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve learning about long night exposures with our digital gear.  He was shooting with a Canon 5D at the time.  I was out having fun and he was on assignment for National Geographic.  That was in 2006.  Jim was just down the trail from me shooting and looking at his screen.  I tried lighting him up with a small LED flashlight I owned.  I was amazed that not only could I capture Jim, both shooting and chimping but also the stars above him.

As the night wore on we tried several things all of which seemed to be OK.  Jim was chimping again next to me.  I asked, "How long can you hold that position?"

"Maybe 15 seconds if I grab the tripod."

"Try it. Oh, and can you turn down the brightness on the screen?"

"OK, tell me when."

I shot a 15 second exposure.  When it finally showed up on my screen, I was shocked.  Wow!  Not only was Jim easily visible but there above his head was the Big Dipper!  He heard me almost laugh out loud about the image, walked over, looked at my screen and said, "Shoot a bunch of those.  National Geographic loves stuff like that."


We shot the rest of the evening until the moon rose about midnight and obliterated most of the stars.  We had hoped to photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower that night but it was not to be.


With the moon up and bright we set up one more shot with the moon directly behind Jim.  I was now shooting with his 5D resting on my camera bag on the ground to get the angle we wanted.  The result was cool but I liked the "Big Dipper" shot better.  National Geographic liked the "Jim Richardson Eclipses the Moon" shot better and ended up using it online in their "In the Field" section about Jim's assignment in the Tall grass Prairie.









Here are some general guidelines for shooting the stars:

1.  The wider the lens you use the longer you can expose without noticeable star trails.  I like using my 28mm on the full frame 5DIII I am shooting with these days but I also have used a 16mm and a 20mm lens, both f/2.8

2.   BEFORE it gets really dark, focus on something far away, turn off your autofocus and tape you focus ring in place so you don't bump it and get fuzzy stars.  With some of the more modern digital camera you can use "Live View" in zoomed mode and manually focus on a star.  Have not tried that yet.  Probably works OK on bright stars.

3.   Set you camera to Long Exposure Noise Reduction.  What this does is take a second exposure of equal duration as your original exposure without opening the shutter, generating the same noise, then subtracts that from the first exposure.  A 30 second exposure that you take will require about a minute of camera down time.  Get over it.

4.   Use a rock SOLID tripod and a cable release!

5.   Remove your lens hood!  It is like a big sail sticking out there.  Here in Kansas, that is a bad thing!

6.   Use fresh batteries.  Digital cameras use power to lock open the shutter unlike the old mechanical Canon F-1 I grew up with.  Keep spare batteries handy; yours will die in a couple of hours.

7.   Try to learn the basic controls on your camera by touch.  Be able to make small adjustments without turning on a blinding light especially if other are shooting with you.

The Milky Way


General Guidelines:

1.   Dark Skies are almost a must for this!  You don't know dark until you have been in Big Bend National Park or Natural Bridges.  Those places are special!

2.   Exposure should be 45-90 seconds at ISO 3200 depending on the lens you are using with f/2.8 preferred but not totally necessary.  I have used f/4 lenses.

3.  No LIGHTS! If you are shooting with other people make sure they don't decide to turn on lights or use a flash.  People usually like to CHIMP their shots so have them turn down their screen brightness so as not to blind everyone else or ruin someones image.

4.   If there are foreground objects, try illuminating them with a VERY small LED flashlight.  It doesn't take much.  About the only guideline I can give here is EXPERIMENT but keep track of how long and how much you feather the light source.

5.   I shoot in RAW.  I highly recommend you shoot in RAW mode as well.  This will let you make adjustments to white balance.  I am not sure what white balance is correct for these night images.  I tend to like tungsten for the blue cast it gives the sky.

6.   The MOON!  It will ruin any chance you have if it is up and anywhere past 1/4 full.   New moon dates are the best!    



(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Geographic National milky night photography stars way https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/stars_at_night Wed, 19 Dec 2012 01:46:45 GMT
Turn off IS and VR on a Tripod! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/turn-off-is-and-vr-on-a-tripod

For the last few years I have been troubled with sharp and not so sharp images in a series shot with IS turned on.  In one image (like the one above) feathers and features are TACK SHARP.  In an adjacent image there is nothing really sharp, close, but no cigar.  I ran some tests with my 300/2.8 on a tripod and found that I have about 30% unsharp images on the tripod with IS turned on and less than 10% with it turned off.  That started me doing some reading again on this topic.  IS and VR (Image Stabilization and Vibration Reduction) systems are designed to detect and stop small vibrations when lenses are hand held.  In all cases a control system works off deviations.  There must be a deviation for the system to work.  Any slight movement is detected and compensated for thru the control scheme.  The correction is accomplished via a moving element in the lens design.  One of the elements is floating in a framework designed to counteract any induced motion in the lens.  This I understand from my Mechanical Engineering days.  What didn't make sense until I read in detail was this; Without a deviation or movement, the system will try to induce movement if only slightly, to make certain that it is working.  Weird concept but plausible and a probable cause for the higher than expected unsharp images I have seen when shooting locked down on a tripod.


There is a great explanation on this page from Canon's Chuck Westphal.  Well worth reading.


For you guys into control systems, basically the lens IS/VR is looking for an error.  Any error is amplified so that a slight trend in direction can be seen and averted.  Without an error the amplification keeps increasing resulting in a feedback loop going out of control and inducing movement of the floating control element in the lens.  Finally, I feel better.  I thought for sure I was going to have to stop drinking beer!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) IS VR photography tripod https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/turn-off-is-and-vr-on-a-tripod Mon, 17 Dec 2012 22:00:00 GMT
The Cycle https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/the-cycle In May 1999, we stepped off the aircraft in Anchorage, a point in time I will always remember.  I had completed the CYCLE!  All 50 states!  I was 52 years old and was glad to be in the last of the 50.  After a week on the Kenai Peninsula, taking photos and fishing for monster sized Halibut, we boarded a jet bound for Glacier Bay and a small boat cruise in Glacier Bay National Park.  I have to say I have never been on a cruise before and I never intend to go on a cruise ship, ever, but the time we spent in the "Bay" on the small vessel was stupendous!  With a maximum passenger capacity of 32, it was just superb.  If you, like me, think a Cruise Ship would be a personal disaster, let me tell you that this small boat thing is great!  Did the same three years later in the Galapagos Islands aboard a 60 footer that slept 14 passengers.  Yes, if I am getting on a cruiser, it had better be small!


Part of any trip to coastal Alaska is a chance to see the glaciers and there are two good ways, from a small boat or from the air.  We met Bill de Creeft, a close friend of Boyd Norton's who said he would take us up in his 1929 Travel Air!  Wow!  Beautifully restored and ready to fly.  We could hardly wait.  The day we got to Homer and met Bill, he said, "Not today.  Not as smooth as I want it to be for you to photograph from.  Come back tomorrow."   We did.  It was one amazing experience!  AMAZING!  For information about the trips on this absolutely pristine aircraft, contact Alaska Seaplanes!  You will not regret the experience.


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Alsaka Bay Glacier Homer aircraft antique photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/the-cycle Mon, 17 Dec 2012 03:23:47 GMT
Roundup! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/roundup "We are going to be doing a roundup at the ranch, you know, branding cattle, and stuff like that.  You interested in doing some photos for us of the event?

"I would love to Danny but you have to promise me two things."

"Like, what?"

I want a real branding iron, none of this electric stuff and I want real camp coffee, made over an open fire with no filter, you know, grounds thrown into the hot water; swirl the pot around to settle the grounds..."

"OK, not a problem.  I already have the brand and the coffee is the best in the world made that way."


This was going to be fun, photographing a real round up and branding just as it has been done in the western plains for years.  My good friend Dan Nowlin owned a small ranch in the plains of Eastern Colorado, close enough to Denver to see the noxious brown cloud but far enough away to not get involved.  To the southwest towered Pike's Peak, far enough away to be only a minor backdrop for the days activities.  Dan's cousin from Wyoming was bringing in his horses and daughter to help.

When I got there, the fire was going, the branding iron was heating up, the coffee was boiling and the horses were ready.  I was shooting with two Canon F-1's and my two favorite lenses, a 100/2.0 and a 35/2.0 but there was a problem.  The motor drive bothered the daughter.  Every time I shot, she looked my way and lost track of what she was doing.  I had intended to include her in many of the images because; one, she handled the cutting horse like a champion and; two, because she was nothing short of beautiful and 20-something years old.  Maybe the reasons were reversed but it didn't matter.  I left one camera empty and turned it on.  I let the motor drive hammer away with no film in the camera until she finally learned to ignore it!  It worked.  I added film and shot away.  There is much more to a roundup than a beautiful young lady, horses, cattle and a branding iron.  There is also the squeeze chute, the inoculations, the ear tags and the smell of burning hair and flesh that pervades the air, as well as the "lot".  The lot is where the cattle are kept at night to keep the mountain lions from harvesting a few.  The branding took place in the lot requiring someone to sit on the ground, grab a calf's rear leg and pull on it while simultaneously pushing on the other rear leg with your cowboy boot. Someone needed to do this.  I didn't have cowboy boots and I was photographing the event, plus, well, just make up an excuse.  I had no intentions of sitting on the wet ground in a "cow lot".  So the young lady jumped right in, no second thoughts,  and got the seat of her jeans wet, dirty and smelling like a feed lot!  Now there is a real ranch hand! 


I shot for several hours, using up 10 or 12 rolls of Ektachrome in the process.  The images turned out better than I imagined!  Danny was extremely happy, I was happy, the cousin was happy, the daughter was happy, my wife, uh, was somewhat perturbed that almost every image involved the young lady.  Actually, there was a good mix of everybody involved that day and I loved all the images.


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Colorado branding cattle horse photography roping round up https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/roundup Mon, 10 Dec 2012 22:00:00 GMT
Switching Priorities https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/switching-priorities Dragging was about the only way to describe how I felt that morning.  Up at 4:30 after being out photographing well into the evening the night before.  Rocky Mountain National Park had kept me and a friend occupied from late afternoon until late evening with elk roaming, jostling and bugling all around our tent.  It had been cold that October night but well worth the lack of sleep for some of the images we were capturing.  As we drove up into the high country that morning before dawn, we rounded a bend on Trail Ridge Road (still open!) and were confronted with a superb lenticular cloud that had formed over Long's Peak.  The color from the early sun was just astounding.  I safely pulled off onto what there was of a shoulder and grabbed gear, slamming a 200mm/2.8 lens onto the Canon F-1 body and started setting up a tripod.  My friend, wondered what we were up to.  I kept yelling about "The Cloud, The Cloud!"  He got out and looked at it but wasn't interested in clouds.  He came to Colorado from Indiana to photograph elk.  Sorry, but he was going to just have to wait!  Some things just happen and you have to react.  I hit the peak of the color with the 200mm then jumped to put on a 28mm to get the place involved, showing the context of the image.  In less than 90 seconds the color had vanished.  My friend just sat in the car while I ran around like crazy shooting 5 or 6 images.  We did get up to see the elk and to do some shooting, well before the light poured into the valley and he was happy but I was even happier, kept mumbling to my self, "lucky, lucky, lucky"; I could hardly wait for the images to come back from the processor.


Several years later, with my early digital world evolving, I scanned the large image of the cloud and sent it in to "The Weather Channel".  They featured the image on a Sunday, showing it every 20 minutes all day.  At 7am on that Sunday, my neighbor called me and said, "Watch the Weather Channel!  There is a photo on there by a guy with your same name!"

"Dave?  That is mine."  

"Are you kidding?"

"No, I sent it in about a week ago"



(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Colorado Mountain National Park Rocky cloud elk lenticular photography sunrise https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/switching-priorities Mon, 10 Dec 2012 16:42:52 GMT
Focal Point https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/focal-point Almost every captivating image has a focal point, something that draws the eye in and doesn't let it get away except to explore the rest of the image.   For an image to be strong it needs to capture the viewers eye and direct it to places you want them to see.  The human eye is drawn toward brightness so if the brightest area is not your main topic try to move or rearrange the elements to subdue the bright area(s).  Simple is usually better than complex in any photograph.  For this image, taken in Three Rivers Petroglyphs State Park in New Mexico, I moved in close with a wide angle lens to make the rock art the strongest subject in the scene.  The rest is subdued by being pushed back, one of the best things about use of wide angle lenses!  Control of perspective is what it is all about in most photographic composition.  The rock art dominates the scene.  Your eye starts there as a "Focal Point" and then traverses out into the balance of the scene to get context, location and place information but in doing so always comes back to the strong central, dominate subject.  The main subject being in shade is somewhat of a drawback for this image but a slider in Lightroom can fix that easily these days.  As it turns out, the petroglyphs photograph OK in shade as long as the area around them is in shade as well.


Try this experiment yourself.  Move up close with a wide angle lens and let the subject dominate and subordinate the background.  this technique works well except with people unless it is a relative you dislike and you want them to look weird!


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Angle Focal Mexico New Petroglyphs Point Wide lens photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/focal-point Sun, 09 Dec 2012 15:38:09 GMT
The Druids Would be Proud https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/the-druids-would-be-proud



Visiting a customer in the little town of Alliance, Nebraska, I told the plant manager that I had heard of the town but this was my first time here.  He asked, "So, have you been to Carhenge?"

"No!  Is it close?"

"About three miles north of town"

I finished up my meeting with him and headed north.  I will admit, you are not likely to just pass thru Alliance on your way to someplace else.  Alliance is not on the route to anyplace.  It is a destination you have to want to visit or like me, get sent there for some reason.  Carhenge has been on my radar for a long time but I suppose the remoteness and scarcity of reason to even be close has kept me away, until now.


Just out of town North on NE 87 (County Road 59) on the east side of the highway is a parking lot, a visitor center and the only attraction for miles, Carhenge.  Built by Jim Reinders as a tribute to his father who once farmed the land on which Carhenge is erected, the sculpture took shape from Jim's fascination with the original Stonehenge in England.  Built with 38 American vehicles arranged in a 96 foot diameter circle, there are also cars buried in pits up to five feet deep, trunk first depicting the similar "stones" in their positions at Stonehenge.  Proportionally the sculpture is accurate with cars replacing the stones, of course.  The whole sculpture is painted flat grey, another attempt to emulate stones rather than automobiles.  The artist completed work on the sculpture in 1987 and the site was dedicated on the Summer Solstice of that year, a fitting touch.


Was I fascinated with this place?  I have been there three times, first, just me on a business trip.  Again, a year later with my wife (she still wonders why I love this place) and again last summer with a great friend and crazy photographer, Jeff Heidel.  He was hooked as well and has vowed to make another pilgrimage soon.  Each time I have been there, it has offered something different in the way of light, weather, wind, flowers and mystery.  I think it would be a great place to photograph in the early morning light from a small airplane but I doubt that will happen by me.  My favorite images from there?  Taken at night using a small LED flashlight to help light up the "henge" during longer exposures.  Being so close to town, the ambient light makes capturing stars difficult but the ambiance from the town glow is fascinating.


If you plan to go, do not tell your friends, they will swear you have cracked up.  My friends know I am crazy so they don't even think twice when I say,"I am headed back to Carhenge.  Want to go along?"


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Jeff Heidel alliance automobiles carhenge druids nebraska photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/the-druids-would-be-proud Sat, 08 Dec 2012 15:41:12 GMT
The Terminator https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/the-terminator In "NASA-Speak" the word terminator is used to define the narrow line that separates daytime from night, or light from dark in space.  We have all seen the heavy contrast between where the sun is shining and the shadows.  Well, I have been exploiting the "Terminator" for a very long time as well, right here on Earth, all with a camera.  When I walk around a subject I usually look to see where the sun is shining and which way the shadows are going.  In addition to the regular, well lit photographs with the sun behind me or off to a side, I look for a place where I can stand in the shadow line, the terminator, and get a silhouette with a burst of sun rays (caused by using a VERY small aperture like f/22).  The sample above, I walked directly behind the B-25 on static display and maneuvered into position to catch just the edge of the sun peaking thru an opening between the elevator and the fuselage.  Shot with a Canon F-1 and a Canon 20mm/2.8 lens on Kodak E100VS film.

Another example of this sun ray burst is this shot from Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.  Again, I used the same technique of searching out the location where I could photograph back at the sun with just the edge peeking around the subject.  Yes, I was standing in the "Terminator"!  This was shot on a Canon 5DII with a 24-105L IS lens at f/22 to get the diffraction off the blades of the aperture, creating the sun burst effect.  Watch for a future blog post about Carhenge!


Give this Terminator Effect a try!  It will grow on you and it does result in some amazing photos on occasion. 


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) aperture diffraction photography sunburst terminator https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/the-terminator Fri, 07 Dec 2012 22:00:00 GMT
ISO 1? Quick Post https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/iso-1-quick-post

The instructions that we had for our tintype plates read as follows:

"Welcome to the wonderful world of tintype photography!  We know you will have a wonderful time with these plates, and you will have even more fun if you follow these simple instructions."


It continues with the following:

"This is not the kind of film that comes in yellow boxes from the local drugstore.  A hundred years ago, photography was complicated, mysterious and even dangerous.  We think that tintypery brings back a certain spirit of adventure lacking in this day of Polaroid and Instamatic photography.  So, if your first exposure looks less than SX-70 quality, don't be downhearted.  Remember, Mathew Brady had all that to contend with, and cannonballs, too!"


With that in mind, we set off to the State Fair of Texas!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Bicentennial Crenshaw Great Tintype Conglomerate State Fair of Texas Griggs https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/iso-1-quick-post Fri, 07 Dec 2012 17:14:09 GMT
Kentucky Falls https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/kentucky-falls Just the name "Kentucky Falls" sounds like the back woods of the eastern US somewhere, right?  Kentucky?  Tennessee? Georgia?  Nope!  None of those places.  It is in Oregon.  I was headed to see a customer in Eugene, driving down from the airport in Portland.  Stopped at a rest area (too much coffee) and found a great booklet on Lane County, Oregon, one of the largest counties and only one of two counties that stretches from the coast to the Cascades.  Inside the booklet was a photograph of a spectacular waterfall, Kentucky Falls.  I read every stinking page in the booklet.  No where did it give the location for the falls.  I checked out the map on back.  Not on there either.  I asked the lady behind the counter.  She had no idea where it was.  We called the county information number on the back of the booklet.  No, they didn't know where it was either.  I was getting frustrated; "How can you have an image so vividly displayed in your booklet and not know the location in your own county????"  The lady on the other end of the phone took my cell phone number and name, said she would call me back.  I gave up and continued on my way to Eugene.  I was about 30 minutes away and two hours early for my appointment at 5pm.  Fifteen minutes down the road my phone rang. They had found someone who knew where it was!  I pulled off and grabbed my Delorme atlas of Oregon.  The person on the phone gave me directions which I followed on the map to the location, about 15 miles west of Eugene!  I had time!  I was going!  I reprogrammed myself to loop around Eugene and head west.  I found the turn off and headed up some logging roads.  I have found that these crazy side trips I make require either a four wheel drive vehicle or a rental car.  With a fine Avis provided Ford LTD planted beneath me, I was in business. The roads were not that bad, sometimes rutted and bumpy but I would almost take my own car here!  After about 40 minutes of jouncing and bottoming out the suspension I found a pull off parking area with a sign pointing to Kentucky Falls about 1/2 mile down a trail!  YES!  I grabbed my camera (this was a business trip but all business trips require camera gear in case I get bored) and tripod and jogged down the trail.  The light was fading and my appointment was somewhere back down that crazy "road" and into town.  Barely made it to the falls and set up the tripod.  I made maybe a dozen exposures, all with relatively slow shutter speeds to smooth the water.  The place was as beautiful as the booklet displayed.  With time gone, I raced back to the car and headed back along the logging roads knowing I would be late to my appointment but hey! this is ART!  Nothing should stand in the way of ART!  Driving in my best moonshiners mode along those narrow, twisting, rough roads in a Ford LTD, what could be more fun?  I was laughing and sliding around corners and all grins until I met a logging truck coming head on at, well, full moonshiner speed!  I swerved to the shoulder (what shoulder?) and watched him blast beside me, shaking the ground and the LTD like a California Earthquake!  Damn!  That was close.


I pulled into the micro-brewery in Eugene, barely 15 minutes late.  The customers were there already waiting on me.  They asked if I had traffic problems or got lost.  I had to explain that I took a detour to Kentucky Falls.  

"Where the hell is that?"

"A few miles west of Eugene."

"Can't be.  I've lived here all my life.  Never heard of it."

"Well, it's there and that's where I was."

Not believing me, I walked out to the car, brought in my digital camera and the Delorme atlas.  I showed them the photos on the LCD screen and then proceeded to show them the falls on the map; just west of Eugene.  They all looked at each other and said, "So you have been to places in our own county that we have never heard of?"

"That's about the size of it; give me a "Steelhead IPA."

                                                                    Kentucky Falls in Lane County, Oregon, just west of Eugene!  Trust me!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Kentucky Falls Oregon microbrewery photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/kentucky-falls Fri, 07 Dec 2012 14:40:43 GMT
STEPS https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/steps We must have been on vacation!  How do I know?  It was raining.  Camped in the rain in Rocky Mountain National Park, drove in the rain all over Colorado that year, 1970.  We were so excited to pull into Great Sand Dunes National Monument and the rain had stopped.  The dunes were wet down to a depth of about 3 inches.  We had been on a hike, Cindy and me, walking the dunes.  On one of the dunes close to the parking area I found a fairly steep face and started traversing it stomping thru the wet sand as I went.   I turned and asked Cindy to step in my footprints.  We zigzagged all the way down the face of that dune.  At the bottom, I asked my new wife (we had been married a little over a year) to turn and face the hillside and the steps we made.  I walked gingerly away and took this image with my new Canon F-1 and 28mm lens on Tri-X film.  Back home a week later, I processed the film in our rudimentary dark room and made several prints of this scene.  One was entered in a contest at the Dallas Times Herald sponsored by Kodak.  It won first place and the image was printed in the paper.  I was extremely excited as well as hooked on photography.  That same year I had several images published by the regional Sierra Club.  I really thought I was on the way!  Rather exciting to see your first published image and do an encore with 4 more in a matter of two or three months.  It has been great all these years.  Still married to the same wonderful lady and still in love with her and photography.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Colorado Kodak Newspaper contest photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/steps Fri, 07 Dec 2012 05:34:43 GMT
A Special Photo! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/a-special-photo Our dog, Ranger, hated to have his photo taken.  If I aimed a camera in his direction he would growl and snap at the lens.  Always nice and gentle around people, he seemed to sense that the camera was taking his soul away.  One of my grand daughters, Olympia, was at our house for a couple of days.  Ranger would hardly leave her side.  She cuddled with him and he would lay on the floor next to her when she was playing.  She even threw the ball for him which he would promptly fetch and bring back to her, dropping it at her feet, then sit and wait for her to throw it again.  Olympia wanted me to take a photo of her, so we headed down into the basement where I had a simple studio with backdrop and strobes.  I set up a stool so she could be on it, readied the camera and strobes and before I could get my eye to the camera, Ranger strolled in, went over and sat next to Olympia posing perfectly.  I thought this was strange but I took a couple of images, waiting for the growl.  It never came.  This was a Special Photo.  Ranger is no longer with us, cancer, his downfall.  Still on the refrigerator is a note Olympia sent to him in her best preschool writing, "I luv yu ranjer".

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Olympia Ranger dog grand daughter photograph https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/a-special-photo Fri, 07 Dec 2012 05:13:59 GMT
ISO 1? Are You Kidding Me????? Part 3 https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/iso-1-are-you-kidding-me-part-3 About the Camera and Process

The camera was actually a reproduction of an 1870 Anthony tintype camera, single plate version.  I need to explain the "single plate" thing.  A tintype is an original, there is no negative to make more prints.  What comes out of the camera is a one of a kind.  You get it, you keep it.  The photographer only gets your money one time.  If you want multiple images, you have to have another photograph taken.  Some of the cameras were built with four lenses allowing four images to be taken at one time.  The plate was then cut into four pieces yielding four identical images.  If you have ever worked in a darkroom or loaded slides in a tray, you know you can get them in backwards.  No big deal, just turn them around.  Negatives and film can be viewed from either side BUT a tintype is solid so it can only be viewed from one side.  Optics turn the image upside down and reverse it right to left.  You can turn the tintype right side up but not "OVER"!  Most tintypes are reversed, left to right.  To overcome this some of the cameras had mirrors mounted in front at a 45 degree angle thus reversing the image and correcting this flaw.   We did not have a mirror, uh-oh!  We had a special sign made up to say, "State Fair of Texas 1976" in nice old lettering.  First time we used it in a pose, it was BACKWARDS!  My artist and set designer friend worked a block from the fair grounds so I ran over there and explained the problem. He immediately made a new sign in reverse!  I watched him do it and I still don't know how someone can do that, but it fixed our problem.


                              For some reason I kept that backward sign and still have it!

Internally the camera was equipped with a Packard Shutter.  Basically a small cylinder is opened with compressed air which YOU supply via a rubber bulb and closed with a vacuum which you also supply via the rubber bulb.  Place your thumb over the hole on the end of the bulb and squeeze the bulb, you have pressure to open the shutter.  Squeeze the bulb and THEN place your thumb over the hole and un-squeeze the bulb and you generate a vacuum, closing the shutter.  With exposures of a minimum of 8 seconds at f/5.6 it is no big deal to count the seconds off in your head then close the shutter to control exposure.  For the subject?  A different dilemma, holding perfectly still for 8 or more seconds was a challenge!  Most studios had head braces, here is a sample images of twins, one using the brace (seen on the floor behind him on the right) while the brother tries to hold still.  We did not have a head brace!  One family group we did had a small child who constantly moved his head around during the exposure!  He looked like the "headless kid" in the final image.


The darkroom was a small standup corner of the booth with a canvas curtain I would step behind and close behind me.  It was easy to tell I was in there!  No room to move forward, the canvas had a huge lump where I was standing.  We went thru a normal print developing solution, Dektol if I recall correctly, then stop bath and fix and finally a wash and finished with a dunk in a tank of alcohol to displace the water and get things dried rapidly.  The bad news is we had to walk about half the length of the building we were in to get fresh water and to dump the old alcohol and other chemistry.  It all went down the drain the bathroom.  


Next:  Visitors to the booth and the competition! 


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) antique bicentennial fair of state texas tintype https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/iso-1-are-you-kidding-me-part-3 Thu, 06 Dec 2012 22:45:00 GMT
ISO 1? Are You Kidding Me????? Part Two https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/iso-1-are-you-kidding-me-part-two In 1975 Allen and I discovered a guy named Doug Elbinger who owned a tintype studio in Harper's Ferry, WV.  He was selling the supplies and know how to make tintypes.  This was excellent news!  Instead of the foul smelling (and dangerous to boot) chemicals of the Daguerreotype we could make genuine tintypes with normal darkroom chemistry!  YES!  We ordered some plates, found a suitable camera, an 1870 Anthony tintype camera with 5 X 7 and 4 X 5 backs and did some experimenting.  It was so much easier and yielded great results if you didn't mind sitting still for multiple seconds with 2000 watts of hot lights shining on you.  We were dancing again!  The results were very predictable even though we didn't have a light meter that went down to ISO 1, the speed of the emulsion in a tintype on a good day, we became good at guessing.  The latitude was such that being off a few seconds was not a disaster.  We found a place selling period costumes and other things we needed to become "Tin-typists".  we started a company called "The Great Tintype Conglomerate" with visions of going to Civil War re-enactments and shooting the real deal.

The Texas State Fair for 1975 was dubbed the "Bicentennial Edition" and suddenly we had a plan to go there with a small studio and capitalize on the attendees obsession with history and the authentic notion of real tintypes!  I had a friend who designed sets for major plays and broadway openings who agreed to design our booth for us.  WOW!  It was coming together.  We spent countless hours in my garage building the signs and other things we needed to fit into the 10 foot square booth including a darkroom.  After building and setting up the booth we felt we were ready.

We arrived at the fairgrounds on set up day and found that we had to carry everything quite a distance.  I remember that was a big deal. During set up we also discovered that the curtains we had purchased and planned to use were not fire retardant and we had to "rent" their approved curtains for about twice the cost of our curtains.  We proceeded to set up the booth and found out there was a height restriction!  Back outside, we borrowed a saw and cut everything down to size.  By the time we had the booth set up we were beat.  It looked great, the sign and the booth came across the way we wanted!  Now all we had to do was wait for the fair to open and put in two weeks of VERY LONG DAYS.   To be safe, we had calculated that we needed about 7,000 tintype plates and several gallons of chemicals.  I will not go into the chemistry but we used a small water bath and an alcohol bath to displace the water for quick drying.



The Booth - Up and ready for action!


The upside down image on the ground glass back of the old camera


Allen looking fierce for the camera!

Next:  The State Fair and Reality!

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) bicentennial fair of photography state texas tintype https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/iso-1-are-you-kidding-me-part-two Wed, 05 Dec 2012 19:39:05 GMT
ISO 1? Are You KIDDING ME????? Part One https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/iso-1-are-you-kidding-me-part-one Way back in the mid 1970's I worked part time for Crenshaw's Studio in Denison, Texas.  The studio was owned by Allen Crenshaw, probably the best wedding and portrait photographer I ever met.  His photography was astounding and I learned a lot from Allen (we are good friends to this day).  Allen was working on a Masters degree in photography and decided that recreating some of the old photo processes would be just dandy.  Me, being an engineer and having some scientific knowledge about chemistry and such other mundane topics, I volunteered to work with him in this endeavor.  Besides being technical it also helps to be a little crazy and love photography which is ME!  Our first venture was to learn how to make sensitive plates and shoot a Daguerreotype.  That was a huge mistake, both expensive and a time consumer.  We acquired some flat copper sheets and had them cut into 4 x 5 pieces.  These were polished to a mirror finish.  We then sent the plates off to be silver plated and polished again to a mirror finish.   These plates were like, well Silver!  Expensive to say the least.  Anything for science, right?  To make the plates sensitive we needed to expose them to certain chemicals, fumes of Iodine (label on the bottle had a skull and cross bones, wonder what that means?), and the fumes of Bromine (also containing all kinds of warnings about death and deformed children), so what's to worry about?  We set up in the studio at night and used the illumination of "one candle" for light based on what we could find out at library searches.  This was way before Allen and I invented the internet.

We built a crude rack and supported the plate over a beaker of Iodine, heated to drive off fumes, for several minutes in the semi-darkness.  Next we took out the iodine and switched to the deadly bromine for a few minutes, then back to iodine as a "kicker" to bring the ISO up to a respectable value of 1.  Without the iodine kicker we read that the ISO would be less than 1/4; less than 1/4!!!


Once the plate was sensitized, we put it in a plate holder and made an exposure outside in the sunlight with a view camera Allen owned.  Waited until dark again then developed the plate in, are you ready for this?  The fumes of mercury which we all know causes blindness and brain loss (if you are not a crazy photographer before hand you will be afterwards).  After a development time of one minute we washed the plate then ran it thru a regular fix bath from a normal darkroom.  And there before us was a shiny plate, no IMAGE!  We figured we needed more exposure so we made another plate that night, shot it the next day with double the exposure, processed it that night and we had another shiny plate.  Then it dawned on us that MORE light just made it brighter.  These things are DIRECT POSITIVES!  We made another plate the following night, put it in the holder and the next day made a much shorter exposure, somewhere around 10 seconds at f/5.6.  When we developed that plate we had an image, nothing startling but an IMAGE!!!!  We jumped around and danced like new fathers in a waiting room with twin baby boys!  Wow!  We made an actual Daguerreotype!

Next we experimented with other processes and loved the look of the tintypes plus the cost was more inline with our budget.  We figured the Daguerreotype cost us about $200 each not counting our labor which was going for about $0.01 and hour.   Thus was born the Great Tintype Conglomerate.  Stay tuned for next installment of this thrilling story....


(Jim & Cindy Griggs) antique daguerreotype photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/iso-1-are-you-kidding-me-part-one Wed, 05 Dec 2012 03:15:29 GMT
Wanderlust https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/wanderlust Wanderlust?  It's in my blood!


I came from a family which did not go to the beach house EVERY year.  Not us.  No we headed out in new directions, to see and experience new things.  Never, ok, hardly ever, did we go back to a place once visited.  We wanted to see it all.  These trips were financed in a unique manner.  Dad said, "We go until either half the money or half the time is gone then we turn around."  In this unique way, I saw lots of New Mexico, Colorado, Yellowstone, Washington, D. C., Yosemite and half of California before I was in the 8th grade.  That desire to go places both unusual and distant has not subsided.  I pride myself on having stood at ground zero at the Trinity Test Site (so far I do not glow in the dark and parts have not started falling off); at watching whales arc thru the water in Glacier Bay; at being on the South Rim of Big Bend's Chisos Mountains with my backpack hugging my shoulders; at being in front of the Kremlin and Lenin's tomb; at riding in a boat down the Tambopata River in Peru; at sitting in a Rover in Serengeti with a lion mere inches away sleeping in the shadow of our vehicle.  I am not sure the wanderlust will ever subside, not sure I want it to.  I know at some point I will be too old to do some of those things, too frail to do others, but until that day I have to keep going.  My favorite place?  Don't make me pick.  They are all special in their own right.  Sometimes I wish I could be like some of my friends and just go to the beach and kick back but that is not me.  No, my blood says GO!  See what's over the next hill (or in Kansas, see what the sun and clouds create this evening).  I have my mom and dad to thank for this and every trip I say "Thanks for showing me that I am only a small part of this place, minuscule but a part none the less".



(Jim & Cindy Griggs) dad mom travel wanderlust https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/12/wanderlust Sat, 01 Dec 2012 15:56:20 GMT
Shooting with Jim https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/shooting-with-jim

Ever want to go out shooting with a National Geographic photographer? Wonder what they do differently to get those spectacular images? I had the opportunity and seized the moment. It all started with a simple phone call;

“Jim? This is Jim Richardson from National Geographic.”
“Uh, yes?”
“I need to ask a question and feel free to say no. It will not offend me.”
“OK, go ahead.”
“I know you have spent a lot of time in the Flint Hills in Kansas and have even taught a few photo workshops there.”
“I have an assignment to photograph the tall grass prairie in the Flint Hills for a future issue and I was wondering if you would be willing to share some of your secret locations with me?”
“Sure, love to. When?”
“How about I pick you up Saturday morning? Are you a morning person?”
“Yes, no problem. Are we going to shoot?”
“I would hope so. I will bring my gear, why don’t you as well. OK if I pick you up early, say… …7?”
“Works for me, earlier if you want.”
“Really? How does 6 sound?”
“I will be ready.”

For the next eight months I spent several weekends out shooting with Richardson. That first weekend was a revelation for me. Even though it was overcast and raining we shot in several locations, scouted places to shoot later and at what time of day, marked spots on the topographic maps and drove over 400 miles.

Let me shed a little light on a popular misunderstanding about shooting on assignment for anybody much less National Geographic. No one is going to pay you time and expenses to go out and discover someplace. National Geographic photographers are probably the best researchers in the world! Every assignment has got to be the equivalent of a Master’s Thesis. They do not get on a plane with a bunch of gear, show up and wander around hoping that serendipity happens in front of their lenses. By the time Jim picked me up he had spent several months researching the area to know what happens where when. He had already made contacts at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Strong City (one of our stops to get a key to the back country gate), had contacted a flint hills rancher who was giving us access to their property, introduced us to other ranchers and arranged a prairie burn for us to photograph. Jim had also acquired numerous other photos of the area in the way of books and magazine articles. His reason for taking me along was mainly to pick my brain about areas I had been on my numerous trips to and through the area. I did my best to also help him with strobes, flash lights and other paraphernalia while he was shooting.

On the last leg of our trip on the first day we found a field of false indigo, beautiful flowers that grow in strands in the short grass areas. We spent about three hours photographing these clumps of flowers. For the first two hours we worked independently. My normal modes of shooting these types of things takes me maybe 30 minutes to an hour to get what I think are good images. It was very late in the day and the sun was setting. I spent the later part of the second hour holding strobes for Jim and packing away my gear. Jim kept shooting. I got my gear back out and shot a few more minutes then gave up, light fading fast. Jim kept shooting. Surely he will pack it in and quit in the not too distant future I thought. He dug down in his bag and produced a small LED flashlight and proceeded to tape a colored gel over it. According to Jim the gel corrects the LED to daylight. Cool. We, or rather he continued to shoot for almost another hour as the sun sank behind the horizon and left us with only the glow of reflected light from overhead clouds and the ambient light from the almost clear sky. Jim was on the ground, eye pressed to the right angle finder on this camera, camera braced on top of one of my bags shooting with a super wide angle lens slightly upward. At first I held a diffused strobe to help fill in the strand of flowers but as the ambient light fell I started “painting” in the flowers with the color corrected flashlight during his 10 to 20 second exposures. We experimented with how much light I should add using my fingers to trim the light level down so as not to blow out the flowers during his long exposures. The best exposures were when I illuminated the flowers at an oblique angle with one finger acting as a cover for two thirds of the light beam. It wasn’t until Jim was through that I saw the “finished” image. I was shocked! There on the LCD screen of his camera was the curve of the strand of flowers softly lit by the flashlight mimicked in the sky by the same graceful curve formed by a cloud, glowing pale red and orange in the blue to purple sky. I was dumbstruck. This was but one example of the dedication to detail Jim was to display each and every time we were out shooting together.

One key thing he kept stressing was the need to not only take beautiful photos but photos that depicted the subjects in ways not done before. He said, "It is not enough to take beautiful images anymore. You have to show them in a new way, a new angle, a new surrounding, something that will stop people in their tracks." One was was to change vantage points, shoot from low or high camera angles. I was in the habit of setting my tripod up to steady the camera and hold it still at eye-level. No more. That is the most over used vantage level. Now I drop down extremely low or look for ways to get up high, either in the bed of my truck, on a ladder or, if available, from the air. I rarely shoot in the middle of the day anymore. That time is best left to siestas or exploring and looking for vantage points, maybe even lunch. If I am stuck shooting mid-day I look for ways to change the angle, viewpoint and add fill flash or lighting that minimizes the deep shadows from the high sun.

On one particular outing we spent and entire evening shooting lightning bugs, starting at sundown, about 9 pm until well after midnight. Several nights later we shot the Milky Way and eventually I got my all-time favorite image from the weekends out shooting together, a shot of Jim with Ursa Major just above his head, his face illuminated by the LCD on the back of his camera. He took one look at the first image and said, "Take lots of those, National Geographic will love them." Eventually one of the images I took in a similar setting ended up on the National Geographic web page illustrating the assignment that Jim was shooting.

Since then, Jim and I have become good friends.  He even arranged for me to help edit a story that was published in Geographic Traveler magazine and a tour of the facilities in Washington, D. C., but that is a different story!






(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Jim Richardson National Geographic Photography Tallgrass Prairie https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/shooting-with-jim Sat, 24 Nov 2012 10:45:43 GMT
Still Photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/still-photography "If this is still photography, does that mean I have to be still or the subject?"

What a weird concept, still photography.  The world does not sit still.  Subjects move.  Photographers move.  Ever since I touched my first good camera I have wanted to capture motion, create the feeling of motion in my images.  I spent countless trial and error hours learning how to do a simple blur pan, following the motion of the subject and letting the background blur.  There sure where a lot of errors leading up to perfecting my technique.  Now it seems second nature to shoot this way.  I also found out along the way that a really wide angle lens moving along in a canyon or in a tunnel will see movement and exaggerate it extremely well.  This is a case of me (the camera) moving!  I constantly look for opportunities to shoot these shots as well.  Something about implied motion in still photography just rocks my chair.  Some examples are easy to understand like the elk trotting along.  I used a slower shutter speed and followed the motion of the elk and pressed the shutter while still following the animal.  I never stop panning until the shutter is well open again.  For this shot to work there needs to be a background with patterns or things back there to blur.  A plain white wall or smooth background just would not show any motion

The second shot was taken in a salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas as we "raced" along in the underground tram at a heart stopping 2 to 3 miles per hour.  Using a 16mm wide angle lens and a very slow shutter speed I was able to create this illusion of speed and motion while I SAT STILL in the car with the camera.  I did about 8 of these shots with this one the only one that came out with the people in the foreground anywhere near sharp and still.

Probably the most bizarre use of a blur-pan is the last shot of a man walking in a field at night starting fires in the prairie meadows by dragging a burning torch behind him.  First I was using a slow shutter speed because it was DARK!  Frustrated that I could not get a shot of the person lighting the fires, I loosened the pan knob on my ball head and then took a slow shot of the man while panning with him.  It worked!




(Jim & Cindy Griggs) action blur blur-pan motion photography https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/still-photography Thu, 15 Nov 2012 03:12:51 GMT
The Incomparable Ngorongoro Crater https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/ngorongoro-crater Ngorongoro Crater!


At over 10 miles across and 2500 feet deep, the crater is the largest unbroken caldera in the world.  What does that mean to a photographer like me?  Well, for one it means the best backdrop for wildlife to be found anywhere in Africa as far as I am concerned.  There is nothing like looking thru the viewfinder and seeing a group of wildebeest, elephants, cape buffalo or...  ...well, just about any wildlife and having the walls of the crater sweep up behind them.  So it was with this small herd of wildebeest.  The depth of the image is enhanced by the herd of cape buffalo grazing in the distance on the left followed by the incredible rising walls of the crater with mottled lighting from the clouds.  I knew when I saw this image it would be one of my favorites.  There other things special about shooting in the crater.  The light is so varied but almost always clear and ethereal, otherworldly and timeless.  I suppose it is the timelessness of East Africa that makes it so special for me.  Every trip to Tanzania I grow more fond of the crater and its hold on me.  At times, it seems crowded and abused but still special.  We make it a point to be at the entrance every morning WHEN it opens, not sitting in the lodge sipping coffee.  Most morning we have breakfast down in the crater, standing around the hood of the vehicles sipping great coffee and eating the special breakfast meals prepared by the lodge.  In the distance animals can be seen roaming and grazing, attending to their duties as inhabitants of this special place!  Yes, it has a strong hold on me and is what makes Tanzania a special place, every trip...

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Africa Ngorongoro Serengeti Tanzania widllife https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/ngorongoro-crater Thu, 15 Nov 2012 02:37:09 GMT
What Started it ALL! https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/what-started-it-all As a senior in high school I was intrigued by photography as an art form but had never owned anything other than a cheap camera.  My neighbor owned a business in the Houston Bus Depot and had a sailor sell him a camera for $7, enough for a ticket home.  The neighbor sold it to me for $7 and I was elated, a real 35mm camera!  The King Regula was made in Germany and had a precision feel to it that I could not describe.  There were actual controls on this thing and I had no idea how they worked, what they meant or how I would ever learn a thing so complicated.  I took it with me to a local camera store where I bought a hand held meter for $17.  The store owner showed me how to use the meter and how to transfer those setting to the camera.  I was in business!  The camera was equipped with a non-coupled rangefinder, meaning I could adjust focus which read out on a dial on top of the camera and then that setting had to be made on the lens as close as I could "guess".  It was haphazard but damn, it really turned out sharp images!!!  I later learned that the camera was fitted with what's known as an extinction meter located in the long slit above the lens.  Too complicated to go into here, I never used it for good reason.  I shot my first roll of film with this thing, Tri-X 36 exposure and ASA 400; had it developed and printed and I was in heaven!  I promptly bought 10 rolls of Kodachrome 64 and left for Colorado.  I had no idea of the inflexibility of slide film to exposure errors but shot profusely (for back then) using up all ten rolls (360 shots) and buying 4 more rolls.  Back home I spent a small fortune and had the film developed.  When I got the slides in my hands I was astonished at the superb colors, the accurate reproduction of what I had seen on my trip.  I bought a slide projector (thus establishing a pattern that continues to this day of buying more stuff that I absolutely NEED!) and projected the images for anyone I could coerce into watching!  I loved that camera.  When I finished college, I bought Canon F-1's and sold my beloved King Regula to a friend who promptly dropped it out of a canoe!  16 years ago, I discovered eBay and found an identical camera in perfect condition which I obtained for $16 (inflation!) and the camera now occupies a special place on my shelf and in my heart.

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) camera king rangefinder regula https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/what-started-it-all Wed, 14 Nov 2012 23:46:20 GMT
Peru and the Tambopata Rainforest - Chapter One https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/peru-and-the-tambopata-rainforest---chapter-one I had never been to Peru, much less the remote rain forest region surrounding the Tambopata River.  With little experience shooting in this type environment, i was not sure what to expect much less what to take along.  Armed with my usual Canon 7D and an assortment of lenses, I ventured off.  As a back up, I took along a Canon T3 body.  I had heard horror stories about what all the rain and humidity does to gear.  What I was not prepared for was the heat and humidity and what it did to ME!  After the first afternoon, I was dripping wet from my own sweat.  Hot and almost miserable, I kept wondering what I had volunteered to do for 10 days.  Just after sunset I was thinking, "Woe is me!" it was still hot and humid.  My mind wandered back to my days on the farm in Oklahoma in the summer.  It was hot, humid and downright miserable.  At nine years of age you don't care!  I decided, OK, I am nine again!  Hot and humid it is!  We will enjoy it just like back then.  With a new mindset, the next morning we set off looking for birds and other photo ops!  No problems, no issues except that my glasses kept fogging up.  No big deal.  I had a microfiber cloth along to clean them and I did, about every 15 minutes for two hours in the mornings.


The rainforest is one amazing place.  The diversity of bird life is astounding!  There are more bird species in Peru than in all of North America and it seemed we were seeing some very special ones indeed, Squirrel Cuckoo, Screaming Piha, Green-headed Parrots, Trogons, Barbets...   ...it was astounding, a bird photographers paradise and I was here with one of the western worlds premier bird photographers, Bob Gress.  Bob, me and our exceptional guide, Silverio, would spend the next 10 days together exploring and photographing some of the most cherished bird species among "life-list" birders.

Red-crowned Barbet Squirrel Cuckoo Screaming Piha

(Jim & Cindy Griggs) https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/11/peru-and-the-tambopata-rainforest---chapter-one Wed, 07 Nov 2012 02:07:17 GMT
Tanzania - A Step Back in Time https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/10/tanzania---a-step-back-in-time I love reading about and exploring prehistoric mankind. From my childhood and the books and magazines my parents kept in front of me, I grew to love finding out about early ancestors, imagining how they lived, how they survived and evolved to modern man. I often wondered what their environment was like. In 2001 the speculation ceased and reality struck full force. Serengeti is one of those rare places on earth where you can imagine prehistoric man once walked and could possibly walk today and not feel out of place. The wildness of it is unsurpassed. The exquisite landscapes and vistas, a perfect setting for my mind to wander as our prehistoric ancestors did eons ago. The struggle to survive and move on. I can truly imagine them following the migration of the wildebeest, feasting on those not strong enough to complete the migratory cycle and contemplating how to cross the crocodile infested waters of the rivers which bisect the Serengeti ecosystem. For two weeks at a time, I am in heaven, reliving the lives of my ancestors, from the safe haven of a Land Rover. Come join us in Tanzania for a step back in time....

Oldupai Gorge Cheetah on the prowl, SerengetiCheetah
(Jim & Cindy Griggs) Serengeti Tanzania africa safari wildlife https://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2012/10/tanzania---a-step-back-in-time Mon, 29 Oct 2012 09:58:36 GMT