A Simple Way to Display Your Photographs

From the moment that I picked up my first camera and started taking pictures, I have always desired the ability to easily and quickly create and display a print of my work, and to do so in an inexpensive manner.  But in the film medium, the steps involved in film processing into negatives (or slides), darkroom enlargement onto photographic paper, and the subsequent chemical baths and processes needed to bring the print to fruition are neither quick nor easy.  And the cost of the enlarging equipment and processing supplies, as well as the need for a dedicated and specially equipped darkroom makes the endeavor anything but inexpensive.

Because of the costs and difficulties involved, I had opted to sit it out on the sidelines, with an occasional trip to the local camera store (or film counter) to take care of my photographic print needs.  But all things eventually change, and so it has with the entire film experience.  We are now in a digital world, and the equipment and processes have changed, along with the associated technologies utilized to produce a fine photographic print.

For the photographic hobbyist such as myself, there is a type of digital photo printer that has reduced the skill and effort required to produce an astoundingly high quality print to simply pushing a button.  The type of printer I am referring to is a dye-sublimation printer, such as the Olympus P440 unit shown below, the various Kodak dye-sub printers, and those produced by many other manufacturers as well.  The cost of this type of printer has dropped dramatically in recent years, to the point that some now cost no more than one decent enlarger lens alone!

Olympus P440 Dye-Sub Printer

Using this type of printer is simple.  Either pop the camera’s memory card into the printer’s memory card-reader slot and print directly from the card, or connect the printer to your computer (via USB) and print from within any imaging application.

The results are indistinguishable from an 8″x10″ enlargement ordered from a photo lab, since they are using the same types of printer technologies to produce the prints that you order.  The cost for an 8″x10″ print (using the P440) is $1.60/print, factoring in the ribbon cartridge and the special dye-sub paper that is required.  Printing an 8″x10″ is quickly accomplished in a four-pass printing process, which leaves a clear protective coating on the finished print.

Simple matting tools

Here you can see the few simple tools and materials needed to mount, mat and frame your finished 8″x10″ photograph.  First, mat board in a color that compliments your picture and frame is necessary.  I purchase 11″x14″ mat board from Internet art supply storefronts, where an assortment of various colored boards can be purchased at a steep discount from normal prices.  By buying the mats this way, I can buy them for about 40 cents each, and I can usually find an appropriate color to fit my needs..  A mat cutter is essential to be able to produce a fine, bevel-cut mat edge, in whatever custom size and style you choose to use.  A straight edge/ruler for measuring mat opening layouts is necessary, and spray adhesive is used to cement the photograph to a backing board so that it does not warp and curl beneath the mat.

Mat Cutter

The mat cutter is composed of a few simple parts, one being the cutter assembly shown above.  The cutter rides along a track that keeps it moving straight and true, and the 45 degree slant to the blade produces a nice beveled cut.  Once the photo is attached to the backing board, the pre-cut mat is placed over the photo, and the entire unit is placed within the frame of your choosing.  Now, all you need to do is find an empty space on the wall to hang the mounted, matted and framed photograph on.

Finished product

The total cost for the print shown above?

8″x10″ photo paper and cartridge cost, per print = $1.60

11″x14″ mat board (2), per print = $0.80

11″x14″ Frame (Walmart special) =$5.00

Grand total = $7.40 for framed, mounted and matted print.

There you go – it’s as simply as that!

Purple Martin Housing Maintenance

Martin condo at full height

You may recall from a previous post entitle Purple Martin Scouts Have Arrived that the spring season is the time when we open our martin condo for the in-migrating birds to take up residence.  Now that the martins have departed the area in favor of warmer climes, it is time for us to clean out the nesting cavities of the condo and seal them off until next spring.  But how do I reach the martin house, which is at the top of a very tall pole?  The sharp eyed among you may notice that the pole is equipped with a crank and pulley mechanism, which make it simple to lower the unit for periodic maintenance.

Martin house lowered for cleaning

Once the unit is in the lowered position, I proceed to clean out the nesting materials that the birds have placed inside the cavities.  Each cavity has a hinged opening, which facilitates cleaning.

Aluminum floor plates

The martin condo that we have installed comes with removable aluminum floor plates.  The plates elevate the nest off of the condo floor, allowing for air circulation which helps to prevent molds and fungi from developing within the nesting materials.  As you may well imagine, the floor plates accumulate quite a bit of debris during the course of the season, so that it is imperative to scrub them clean before closing up the house for the winter.  A scrub brush and some high pressure water makes them look like new, as you can see from the photograph above.

Plugging the condo openings

After making certain that the insides of the condo cavities are sparkling clean, the floor plates are replaced, and then it is time to affix the plugs into the cavity holes.  This will prevent nuisance birds from taking up residence in the condo, which is designated for “purple martins only” (read the lease documents, you darn sparrows and cowbirds).

Cranking the martin condo back up the pole

Now it is an easy task to crank the martin house back to the top of the pole, where it will remain idle until the martins return to the area next spring.

This season we experienced mixed results with this particular martin house.  I installed this condo on the site of a previously successful, but smaller martin house (this condo has 24 cavities, the previous house had 12).  I relocated the smaller martin house in another location, about 300-400 feet away from this spot, and it has attracted martins this season.  This spring saw a few cavities with martin activity in the new unit, but far fewer than we had hoped for.  There may be two possible reasons for this.  First, notice the fence in the background of these photographs.  This section of fencing was under construction at the very time that the martins would have been establishing their nests this past spring.  The close proximity of the condo to the construction activity may have deterred the martins from nesting in the condo unit.  Second, we now have three cats in residence, and while they do not seem to have intimidated any of the other birds that frequent our yard, they just might make the martins a tad nervous.

Although this martin condo was not filled to capacity this spring and summer, do not think that we did not see purple martins.  To the contrary, martins were a regular sight to behold this past summer.  The natural habitat of purple martins are dead trees, and because we have an abundance of dead trees around our acreage (see post entitled Seeing Things In a New Light), many martins continue to call this spot their summer home, despite the fact that they did not utilize the condo to the extent we would have liked.  We shall be persistent, and I believe the purple martins will eventually book this condo to capacity each and every spring – at least, that is our hope.


Off topic aside:  This is the time of year that I am very busy with tractor work, getting my fields, clearings, and pastures in order.  And don’t forget the billions of leaves that fall off the trees, some of which must be picked up by this stickler for a neat lawn.  Because of these, and other projects that I have been undertaking, I have found less time to devote to writing blog posts than I would like.  Soon, I will be caught up with my work, and my posting (for better or worse) will be more frequent.  Thanks for continuing to check in regularly, I really do appreciate it.


Was This the Peak?

The colors are probably at their peak in this photo

I took this photograph of the woods behind the house last Wednesday, November 1.  If I were to have parked myself at this location continuously for several days in a row, shooting as many photographs as I possible could, using as many different exposure techniques as I could conjure up, I would end up with a vast collection of images.

I suppose that collectively, you and I could sit down with the images, and reach some kind of conclusion as to which photograph best represented the peak of the seasonal color changes that occur in Autumn here in the Ozarks.  We could then look at the EXIF header embedded in the digital image file to see when the photograph was taken, and thus determine with precision the exact date and time of the color peak.  Or is it so easy?

Look at just a few of the variables that can affect the outcome of an Autumn photograph, and with it, the judgements that are made with reliance upon our photographic evidence.  The weather conditions, along with the time of day greatly affect the natural lighting that we rely on to capture landscape photographs.  The film used in the photograph, such as Fuji Velvia 50 or Kodak Kodachrome 100 (or in the case of digital images, the ISO setting and white balance controls of the camera), have a direct affect on the color saturation within the image.  The concept of “reciprocity” shows that the combination of f-stop and shutter speeds also play a role in determining the colors that appear in an image.

With these, and many other variables to play with, who is to say that any given photograph represents the peak of fall colors?  Perhaps a photograph taken prior to the color peak, but with excellent weather and technique, looks visually superior to a later photograph taken under poor lighting conditions, or with inferior technique.  Does that mean that the color peak actually occurred at the time of the superior photograph?  No, it doesn’t, and for that reason, we can never really be exactly sure of the exact moment that the Autumn colors have peaked.

Having said all that, I think the colors peaked here last Wednesday, as shown in the photograph above.  The photo below was taken one day earlier, on Tuesday, October 31 (and no, for any who may be interested, we did not get any Trick ‘r Treaters).

 Photo from a day before the local peak of color

Since these photographs were taken, we have had a couple of sub-freezing nights, and some rainy, overcast skies.  Definitely not the conditions that are favorable for continued color development of the leaves.  The red, purple and yellow leaves are quickly turning to shades of brown and rust, or are simply committing “‘leaficide” and leaping from the limbs to their ultimate demise upon the ground below (it is a horrible sight indeed, to see their flattened bodies on the ground, shriveling up and drying out right before your very eyes)….