Stephen Kirkpatrick

Friday, December 30, 2011

It Just Takes Time

“I have often thought that if photography were difficult in the true sense of the term - meaning that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching - there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.”
- Ansel Adams -

These words are more than true. They are exacting, defining and masterfully expressed. We live in a world that rushes us, that pushes and shoves us to demand instant gratification. Even when shooting film that has to be processed instead of "instant" digital imagery, there is a tendency to rush. 

So, I've got one roll to capture 36 shots. I have to search out the shot, analyze what I think will be the perfect moment, focus and work all settings manually, then push the shutter. Nothing to it, right?

Below is a favorite shot that took two weeks to accomplish with NO restrictions on the number of exposures. Sometimes getting it right just takes time.

Waterfall and Leaves
June 1994
from the book  

"I think today I might have finally caught the leaves motionless over the stream. The constant wind and air turbulence has made this a frustrating shot to get for 2 weeks! The 4 & 8-second exposures needed to contrast movement with stillness are frustrating me, but it might have happened today. The overflowing beaver pond is running down into a nearby cove where I constantly see a pair of loons. They are obviously not nesting. I wonder if they enjoy the beautiful falls or love the sound of rushing water as much as I do?"
- Stephen Kirkpatrick-
June 1994 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fair Weather Friend

In the last few weeks, several people have asked me how I'll know when I have completed roll #1 of On A Roll. My answer is, "When it is the 'honor roll' (say 'On A Roll' real fast). When I was growing up, you made the "honor roll" when you had all As and Bs on your report card. As I have graded the previous rolls of film, neither one has come close.

For example:

Roll #1 (first attempt) 
A - 11
B - 15
C - 6
D - 0
F - 3

Roll #1 (second attempt)
A - 8
B - 16
C - 6
D - 4
F - 1

The examples above prove why I am going to have to be extremely patient this go round.

Today, for example, I found nothing to place On A Roll. My patience has been challenged already, with my reaction being, "I'm bored. I want to shoot something."

Thus, me and my shadow. Sadly, he is only a fair weather friend.

(photo taken with Nikon P7000)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Buck Stops Here

Finally, after months of watching this buck, I now have him on film. I had seen him from a distance in just about every conceivable scene, but I knew my best chance for a decent shot would be during the rut, and sure enough, today was the day.  

Every time I've seen this buck, he's been in the company of two does. Yesterday, I got a good look at him through my camera lens, and I had a really itchy finger thinking this might be my one and only chance to get him on film. I almost took the shot for On A Roll, but he never got into a pleasing position. As I watched him through the lens, I studied his antlers and noticed that his right beam was a perfect five points with a nice brow tine. The left side was exact but missing G1 (brow tine) and G4 points; it appears they never grew out as opposed to losing them in a fight or other mishap. So even though I have always thought him to be a 10 point, in fact he's been an eight point all along. 

Today, I saw this handsome whitetail again with the same two does, but this time, he turned his head in a wonderful position, and click, I got him. I now have my second shot for On A Roll. Two nice shots in the can, 34 to go. 

But the story doesn't end there. Right after I snapped this photo, a bobcat ambled through the scene. Who knows, ol' Bob could be #3. 

White-tailed Deer

2)   White-tailed Deer Buck - (H)
Madison County, MS
December 24, 2011 - 12:13 pm
Partly Cloudy, 48 degrees
500mm, 1/200@f4, Tripod  

(photo taken with Nikon P7000)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Winter solstice happens today at 11:30 p.m. CST, the shortest day of the year. My thinking was to try and capture an image for On A Roll that would define this unique day. I considered the shot below, but ultimately passed on using one of my 36 shots for On A Roll to record it. I still wanted to capture it for my own interest, however, so I used my Nikon digital camera instead. I like all of the subtleties of light and color.

Reflections at Dusk

(photo taken with Nikon P7000)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Patience Please

Yesterday was a banner day for a sunset. The sky kept "building," producing dramatic, well-lit clouds. The only real difficulty for me was predicting the moment of peak light since I had only one exposure to put On A Roll. Now the harder part begins - waiting to find out if I actually captured that peak moment or not.

Quote me when I say this: This new roll is going to be The One. Yes, I am going out on a limb with this statement, but it’s time to move on to the second roll of the 
On A Roll trifecta. Even if this roll takes the next six months, I am going to shoot only those things that truly move me and try not to force it. 

However, as you can tell from reading below, this round did not start smoothly.  

Last Wednesday was the original kick-off for this roll. I had set up near a deer crossing in a field where there’s typically a lot of activity, thinking that a nice buck would be a good opening shot. After about 30 minutes, a doe walked out and urinated right at the spot where I was hoping to get a shot. (For those of you who are not familiar with deer mating rituals, this may not sound very appealing, but it was perfect for my purposes as the scent is very attractive to the bucks.)

Moments later another doe appeared, then another. When one of them looked in my direction and snorted, all of them ran away. It was getting late and the light was fading, but I waited a few moments, constantly checking my shutter speed in the deepening dusk. It appeared the wait might be worth it when a spike appeared. As I had hoped, he went straight to the place where the doe had left her mark. Another spike walked out behind him and did the same thing. Again, one looked my way and snorted, and the spikes were off.

I was preparing to head out myself when an nice eight-point buck walked out and headed for the spot then stopped to smell. When he lifted his head, 
click. I got it.

But from the moment I pushed the shutter release, I worried about the shot not turning out well because of the shutter speed being too slow, causing the image to be blurry from lens movement. It was, after all, the very first shot of what would  be a long, challenging photo assignment. Yesterday, when I saw the evening clouds building, I decided to pull the roll and start over. It turned out to be a good idea. While loading the new roll, I noticed I had adjusted the exposure compensation to give another stop of light. I had done this on one of my last shots in California a couple of weeks ago and had forgotten to go back and reset it. The deer would not only have been blurry, but it would have also been overexposed. This was all caused by two weeks of trying to get an opening shot for On A Roll for which I had become very impatient, NOT a good trait for a wildlife/nature photographer, especially shooting film.

1)  White-tailed Deer Buck - (H)
Madison County, MS
December 14, 2011 - 4:55 pm
Partly Cloudy, 66 degrees
500mm, 1/6@f4, Tripod

(original entry before I started over)

Now, I have a beautiful sunset as the opening shot for On A Roll. Wish me luck with the other 35. 

Sunset Panorama

1)  Dramatic Sunset over Small Lake - (H)
Madison County, MS
December 18, 2011 - 5:03 pm
Partly Cloudy, 57 degrees
17-35mm, 1/10@f8, Split ND Filter, Tripod

(photo taken with Nikon P7000)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pocket Projector for iPhone 4

As if we needed more gadgets, we now have the iPhone 4 pocket projector. It's a cool little dock for your phone that let's you project images on any surface, and even has built-in speakers for audio entertainment. It's equipped with a focus adjustment and projects up to 50". Built in battery charges via USB connection with the included cord. Watch a complete movie with fully charged battery. 

Retail $229.99

Also available for your iPhone 4 is a set of three lenses which attach magnetically - macro/wide, telephoto and fisheye. Obviously for the photographer on the run.

Retail $20 - $25 each

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photo Friends

I spent part of the morning in search of my first photo for On A Roll ("My Backyard," attempt #3.) I passed on several possibilities, but I really did not see anything that excited me. I also didn't care for the cloudy and dreary weather conditions so I returned home and spent the rest of the day on the computer editing previous work. While editing, I came across this photo. 

I was in Grand Cayman diving near Stingray City. I had left one of my cameras (I usually carry two) on the underwater sand while I was off shooting fish with my second camera. Upon my return, I found this green moray eel guarding my wide angle camera set up. He really didn't seem to want to leave, just kept moving back and forth rubbing on the strobes. Maybe he wanted to shoot alongside me. Whatever the case, he stayed and we played for the next few minutes. He then slowly swam off as if he had grown bored with the whole exercise. The encounter left me smiling from ear to ear. 

Green Moray Eel (Gymnothorax funebrison underwater camera.
Grand Cayman B.W.I.
May 2008

Green Moray Eel (Gymnothorax funebris)

Photo of Stephen Kirkpatrick taken by Marlo Kirkpatrick

Friday, December 9, 2011


Thanks to Neil White for featuring me in his new book Mississippians.

Mississippians II is a tribute to the extraordinary talent that has sprung from this state. I challenge anyone to point to another state with so many talented entertainers, athletes, writers and entrepreneurs.”    -Editor Neil White-

Mississippians II retails for $49.00. It is available online at
• • •


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FILM - Roll #1 Analysis (2nd attempt)

Well, here we go again. Below are the shots from On A Roll, "Fall in My Backyard" attempt #2. I have included grades and thoughts from my previous posts (in blue.) The comments below them (in green) are my observations after seeing the developed film. In order to get these up quickly I copied the film with a Nikon P 7000 digital camera. The actual film appears slightly different from the photos below.

I am starting a new roll, this roll did not meet up to what I ultimately wanted. I would love to hear any comments you might have after seeing this second attempt.
SHOT LOG (Fall in My Backyard) attempt #2
 Nikon F5, Fuji Velvia 100

1) Fall at Soapstone Falls - (H)
Tishomingo County, MS
November 4, 2011 - 10:24 am
Cloudy, 54 degrees
17-35mm, 1 sec.@f22, Tripod

Grade A

Nice, beautiful colors.

Grade A

Turned out as desired.

2) White-tailed Deer in Fall - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 7, 2011 - 8:43 am
Clear, 63 degrees
400mm, 1/20@f3.5, Tripod  

Grade B+

Could be too much contrast. Deer positions should be pleasing along with golden leaves.

Grade B+

I liked the shot, just a little soft.

3) Grasshopper on Fall Leaf  - (V)
Madison County, MS
November 8, 2011 -  7:12 am
Partly Cloudy,  61 degrees
60mm, 1/13@f13, Tripod  

Grade A+

Beautiful colors, dew, warm light.

Grade A

Came out nice, as desired.

4) Great Egret & Cypress - (V) ?
Madison County, MS
Novenber8 2011 -   9:34 am
Partly Cloudy,  71 degrees
500mm, 1/400@f4, Hand Held 

Grade A

Tried to catch the egret taking off. Position in air will make or break this shot.

Grade B

The  position of wings as he took off are not in a pleasing position.

5) Fungi - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 8, 2011 - 10:04 am
Partly Cloudy, 69 degrees
60mm, 1/40@f6, Tripod

Grade B+

Interesting light and forms. Tried to shoot from a position slightly beneath the fungi to get gill patterns.

Grade A

I liked the way the yellow leaves fell on the fungi.

6) Alligator Resting in Leaves - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 8, 2011 - 10:30 am
Partly Cloudy, 71 degrees
500mm, 1/160@f4, Tripod  

Grade B+

Just finding this guy resting with a fallen leaf on his body was exciting. Light may be a problem.

Grade A

I liked this one, cool shot.

7) Green Treefrog on Leaf  - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 8, 2011 - 11:42 am
Partly Cloudy, 76 degrees
60mm, 1/30@f10, Tripod  

Grade B

Composition was an issue since I was trying to place the frog as part of the scene and not the main subject.

Grade B+

The composition and colors pleased me.

8) Turtles on Log - (H) ?
Madison County, MS
Novenber 8 2011 - 12:31 pm
Partly Cloudy,  78 degrees
500mm, 1/1000@f4, Hand Held

Grade C

This was taken so fast I have no idea. The turtles bailed on me quickly.

Grade D

Bad decision.

9) Sumac - (V)
Madison County, MS
November 8, 2011 - 1:04 pm 
Partly Cloudy, 75 degrees
60mm, 1/500@f3.2, Tripod

Grade A-

Powerful colors will make this. A little simple however.

Grade B-

Colors did jump but a little disappointed.

10) Golden Silk Spider - (V)
Madison County, MS
November 9, 2011 - 10:22 am
Clear, 60 degrees
180mm, 1/250@f8, Tripod  

Grade A+

I like this one. It should be different with spider, web and out of focus color in the background. It took awhile to get the camera in the right position for the shot.

Grade B

Not quite as impactful as anticipated.

11) Swamp in Fall - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 9, 2011 - 11:05 am
Clear,  60 degrees
17-35mm, 1/5@f22, Tripod  

Grade B+

Good color, reflections and mood should make this a pleasing landscape.

Grade B

An odd light is cast over open water area, don't like it.

12) Ducks in Flight at Dusk - (H) ?
Madison County, MS
Novenber 10, 2011 - 5:05 pm
Clear,  56 degrees
500mm, 1/800@f4, Tripod 

Grade B

Don't know about this one. Colors should be OK but it will depend on formation of flock as well as wing positions.

Grade B

Not bad for a group in flight, just not "the one."

13) Full Moon - (H) ?
Madison County, MS
November 10, 2011 - 5:17 pm
Clear, 55 degrees
500mm, 1/40@f4, Tripod

Grade C

Got a feeling this will be blurry from movement of camera. Exposure should be OK.

Grade A-

Came out nice, not blurry at all.

14) Leaves & Frost - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 11,  2011 -  6:25  am
Clear, 36 degrees
60mm,  13 sec.@f32, Tripod  

Grade A

Nice, beautiful colors and frost on leaf edges.

Grade A

Came out nice, as desired.

15) Foggy Sunrise - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 11,  2011 - 6:34 am
Clear, 36 degrees
180mm, 1/1250@f6.3, Hand Held

Grade A

As long as color, contrast, exposure and light rays all come together this shot should be very powerful. (That pretty much sums up all shots, doesn't it?)

Grade B

Came out nice, I was pleased.

16) Cardinal in Fall Leaves - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 13,  2011 - 2:54 pm
Cloudy,  78 degrees
400mm, 1/40@f3.5, Tripod

Grade A+

This seemingly simple shot took two days to capture. The colors were perfect for a female cardinal to fit into the composition. I was tempted many times to take a shot of another bird, it seemed I would never see a cardinal land in the right spot. As with all shots like this, it depends on the birds position the moment the shutter opened as to whether or not this will be a pleasing photograph or not.

Grade B-

Disappointed, body position of bird not pleasing, the colors were great. After two days of waiting you would think I would have done better. My old nemesis "frustration" showed up.

17) Redheads in Flight  - (H)  
Madison County, MS
Novenber 13, 2011 - 4:21 pm
Clear,  77 degrees
500mm, 1/640@f4, Hand Held

Grade C+

Hard to know, this will depend again on flock position and sharp focus.

Grade B-

Don't see redheads around here much. Focus was sharp, flock position, not so much.

18) Bur-marigold (Bidens laevis) in Fall - (V) 
Madison County, MS
November 14, 2011 - 2:53 pm
Partly Cloudy, 77 degrees
60mm, 1/50@f11, Tripod

Grade C-

Tight close-up but may be too simple to be interesting?

Grade B-

Turned out to be better than I remembered.

19) Fall Tallow - (V)
Madison County, MS
November 14,  2011 -  3:58 pm
Overcast, 80 degrees
180mm,  1/40@f5.6, Tripod  

Grade B+

Nice, beautiful colors.

Grade C-

Did not care much for this image, depth-of-field was a problem.

20) Trees and Clouds at Dusk  - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 14,  2011 - 4:50m
Partly Cloudy, 76 degrees
180mm, 1/400@f8, Hand Held

Grade A

Tree silhouette and cloud composition at dusk should make this a pleasing sunset.

Grade B-

Pleasing, yes...impactful, not really.

21) Canada Geese in Fog - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 18, 2011 -  6:22 am
Clear,  33 degrees
500mm, 1/100@f4, Tripod

Grade B

Swimming away from me, I was trying to get the small ripples created by the swimming geese to form the composition. Don't know.

Grade C-

Not really happy with this shot.

22) Plum & Leaf with Frost - (V)
Madison County, MS
November 18, 2011 -  6:47 am
Clear,  33 degrees
60mm, 1/15@f7.1, Tripod

Grade A

Somewhat shallow depth-of-field should make this interesting.

Grade A+

I think this is my favorite shot on the roll, the shallow focus made the frosty edges "pop."

23) Deer in Frost - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 18, 2011 -  7:10 am
Clear,  34 degrees
500mm, 1/1000@f4, Tripod

Grade A+

I set up near a deer crossing and a doe stepped out right where I hoped she would. The light from frost on the ground should give the shot life.

Grade A

Came out as desired, body position could be a little better.

24) Gray Squirrel Warming - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 18,  2011 - 8:33 am
Clear,  44 degrees
500mm, 1/80@f4, Tripod

Grade C

This was a tough one. I wanted the backlight to highlight the squirrel's tail, maybe.

Grade B-

Accomplished what I was after, but not quite right.

25) Hooded Mergansers in Flight  - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 19,  2011 - 7:15 am
Clear,  50 degrees
500mm, 1/250@f4, Tripod

Grade B

Positions and sharp focus again.

Grade F

Mergansers are totally out of focus, which is too bad because I love the shot.

26) Groundsel & Clouds - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 19,  2011 - 12:20 pm
Cloudy,  71 degrees
17-35mm, 1/60@f13, Hand Held

Grade B

Pretty simple landscape shot. Looking for a beautiful blue sky with white clouds to make it a pleasing image.

Grade C

Boring. Cloud formations were bad.

27) Downy Woodpecker  - (V)
Madison County, MS
November 19,  2011 - 2:17 pm
Cloudy,  73  degrees
500mm, 1/50@f4, Tripod

Grade C

Really have no idea about this one. Difficult composition and light.

Grade D or B?

The woodpecker (blur in middle) took off as the shutter opened and created an interesting blur. Probably would be acceptable in a book presentation, can't decide. This is one of the things that happens in wildlife photography but can't be seen until the film returns.

28) Tree Silhouette - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 19,  2011 -   4:28 pm
Clear,  73 degrees
180mm, 1/200@f16, Hand Held

Grade B+

Interesting lines and color should make this a very graphically interesting composition.

Grade B+

I like the graphic impact.

29) Tree Roots  - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 20,  2011 -  8:20  am
Cloudy, 66 degrees

60mm, 1.3 sec@f22, Tripod

Grade B+

I am counting on the color of leaves and ground as well as the interesting lines the tree roots made to complete this attempt.

Grade C-

Not happy with the results. Colors did not come through as I had envisioned.

30) Cicada Skins  - (V)
Madison County, MS
November 20,  2011 -  10:49  am
Cloudy, 72 degrees
60mm, 1/4@f22, Tripod

Grade C+

Thought it was an interesting find, may not translate.

Grade C+

Came out as I suspected, but not interesting enough.

31) Red-tailed Hawk in WIllow  - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 20,  2011 -  12:10 pm
Cloudy, 73 degrees
500mm w/2xTC, 1/160@f8, Tripod

Grade B

This was just a difficult shot because of the very long lens set up, who knows?

Grade B+

It is hard to see here, but it came out very interesting.

32) Holly Berries  - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 20,  2011 -  12:42 pm
Cloudy, 77 degrees
60mm, 1/10@f11, Tripod

Grade B+

Colors of the season was what I was thinking here.

Grade D

"Colors of the season" is NO reason to take a shot .

33) White-tailed Deer Buck - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 20,  2011 -  2:50 pm
Cloudy, 76 degrees
500mm, 1/250@f4, Tripod

Grade A

Nice buck that I had been trying to get on film but had constantly eluded me. Heard him move in a thicket he had been frequenting so I positioned myself for a departure. Got it.  Now, what position was his body, legs, etc. in when the shutter opened?

Grade C+

Well, first of all this is not the buck I had been seeing, this is a six point. Otherwise, it is OK but nothing special.

34) Creek Reflections - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 20,  2011 -  3:11 pm
Cloudy,  75 degrees
180mm, 1/15@f10, Tripod

Grade A+

Think I am going to like this one.

Grade B

I like it, but not that much.

35) Blackbirds in Flight  - (H)
Madison County, MS
November 20,  2011 - 4:53 pm
Partly Cloudy,  76 degrees
500mm w/2xTC, 1/200@f8, Tripod

Grade D+

What can I say, #35 again. Sorry to say, I think the light was too low to capture this.

Grade D-

Came out better than expected as far as focus, but obviously I was forcing the shot to finish the roll. Naughty, naughty.

On A Roll...again!

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