Sharpening The Saw


It seems I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately in terms of getting out there and creating images.  Between working to meet deadlines at my day job; and cleaning the garage, keeping up with the mowing, and other necessary home-ownership type stuff….it seems like the camera isn’t getting out of the bag as often as I’d like.

So what does a photographer do to stay in the stream of the photography world that continues to flow on by?  I have spent some time learning about the craft. I’ve listened to podcasts; read articles; followed certain photographers on Twitter and facebook; read books; watched live webcasts, and organized and added to my own website.

Some of the photographers I have been learning from are: Rick Sammon; Scott Kelby; Art Wolfe, Dewitt Jones, and others.

Scott Kelby is a Photoshop Guru and Pro photographer.  He shoots NFL, travel, fashion, automobiles and much more. There are several things that I find really cool about Scott. One is that he used to be in a band and still is I suppose..he often talks about his love for guitars. He has a training business called KelbyOne where people can subscribe for on-line training in photography. I haven’t signed up yet, but know that it would be amazing…the classes are taught by the top photographers around. He shoots regularly for NFL games, which I think would be so awesome; he has these travel videos that he has done to teach people about Travel Photography. There is one in particular that I have watched a couple of times and it is from a recent trip to Italy. Another thing that he does is called “The Grid”. It is a Live Web Cast, like a t.v. show. He and a co-host have a different topic each time. They have a guest each show – the guest is a pro from the photo world who talks about their specialty. The show also does Live critiques of images that viewers have sent in…you can learn a lot from listening to the comments that are made.  I should also mention that Scott does something called the Worldwide Photo Walk where people can sign up to lead a photo walk in their area…and they are all done on the same day at the same time, so you have people from all around the world doing these photo walks on the same day…it is a pretty cool concept.

Rick Sammon is a Canon Explorer of Light.  He has published over 30 books on photography; has created several photography Apps; leads workshops and seminars all over the world. He also does a podcast called Digital Photo Experience. I had the opportunity to meet Rick a couple years ago at the Black Hills Photo Shootout. I got to hear him give a keynote and then joined him on two different workshops.  That was so valuable…because while he wasn’t the leader of the workshop, he was there just to shoot…it didn’t take long and his natural tendency to teach people and share his knowledge came out and he was helping us all.  I picked up a lot of tips just by listening to what he was pointing out during the session, it was great!  There were even a couple of times where Rick had people try certain techniques and he gave them suggestions for how to make their image better and when he got to me he would look at what I had done, and would say something like, “you got it”, or “that’s really nice”.  It made me feel great and it really verified for me that I was on the right track and confirmed for me that I was performing at a certain level. I had multiple opportunities to chat with Rick during the sessions and that was so valuable to me. Since that time I have followed his posts on facebook, Twitter, and Google+; I listen to his podcast regularly as well…it is full of great info. The thing that I have really made use of is an App that he made called Social Media Marketing  For Photographers..I have listened to that app over and over again….it has so much advice for setting up a social media strategy; advice on Free marketing tools; how to socialize in social media; and discussions on getting your work out there.  I have actually followed his advice in setting up my own Social Media strategy and now, besides this Adventures In Photography Blog – I have a business presence on facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I’ve read several of the books that Rick recommends in the App and they have been very good.  In the last couple of years I have really started to “Get My Work Out There”, and Rick’s discussions have really helped me in this. Like he says, “you never know who’s out there” and seeing your work. I should also mention that Rick is also a Guitar player…and was at Woodstock!

Art Wolfe has been an artist that I have admired and followed since the beginning. He is a world renowned photographer and also has many books, etc. I would study his photo books on Wildlife and nature as I was developing my style and vision. He even has produced a t.v. show called Art Wolfe’s Travels To The Edge. It’s a great show where you get to go along on his adventures around the world.  I had the opportunity to attend a day-long seminar that he gave in Minneapolis a few years ago…it was pretty awesome to meet him in person and hear how he approaches photography and how we might make our photography better. It was simply awesome for me. Side note….I don’t know if Art plays guitar or not…I do know that when he is not working on photography he is working on his Japanese style garden. I also know that his dad was a photographer in WWII in the Pacific on an Aircraft Carrier.

Dewitt Jones is a photographer that I’ve followed since the early 1990’s when he would write a column in Outdoor Photographer Magazine. He shot for the National Geographic for years. Dewitt is one of my greatest motivators with his YouTube videos on Vision.  He now has a website, and more so…a message: “Celebrate What’s Right With the World” (instead of wallowing in what’s wrong with it).  I really like what he has to say and his approach to photography. I gain a lot of inspiration from this guy. He talks about looking for the next right answer when out photographing; he talks about the idea that we’ll see it when we believe it (not the other way around)….we must believe that an amazing and beautiful subject will present itsself – and it will; but he also talks about putting yourself in a position for getting the shot (knowledge of the subject and intuition)…and the idea of “good image/great image” (making small adjustments and going from good-to-great in composition).

In the last 12 hours, I have received a Tweet from Art Wolfe and a facebook message from Dewitt Jones…how cool is that!

Even though I haven’t been out creating images as much as I’d like….I guess I have been keeping myself in the stream!

Tears Not Cheers

IMG_1356I guess I had better wrap up this report on our trip to Gettysburg. Once I returned, I received some really bad news from a family member. Between that and the other devastating news that we had before the trip….I wasn’t quite ready to finish this up. I suppose that, in hind site, I should have gotten back to this as a way to have a creative escape. It really made the subject of this post more meaningful. When we talk about Gettysburg, or the Civil War in general, we tend to glorify it. I want people to remember that this was a very sad time in our history. People living in North America were slaughtering each other, there really isn’t any other way to put it. Our men from Minnesota marched off to war to the sound of cheers and marching bands….I don’t think most of them knew what they were marching into. Just like when I walk a local cemetery, walking these patches of sacred ground at Gettysburg was a special experience. On the final day, as we made our way from battle field to battle field on foot, we had to dodge huge trucks from t.v. stations that were setting up to get the shot for the re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge, that would be taking place hours later.  People were filing in to the area to claim their viewing spot for the event. What was this going to be like? A huge re-enactment and people getting set up several hours in advance, t.v. Vans. After learning about Minnesota’s role at this spot from our great guide, John Cox, we made our way to the National Cemetery to pay respects for those Minnesotan’s that didn’t make it back.  There is a Minnesota section in the cemetery and a memorial urn that was re-dedicated by our group. Commemorative flags were placed at each of the Minnesota graves,and there were words spoken over them. I’m sure there were tears shed at this nice tribute.  Once this was finished, we had some free time so rather than going shopping – we visited the grounds of the Community Cemetery called Evergreen Cemetery.  It turns out that there are two Minnesotan’s buried there and we wanted find them and get pictures.  The reason that they are there and not at the national Cemetery – is that when these men died – those around them didn’t want to leave the area without seeing that their comrades were buried properly.  The National Cemetery was not established at that time, so they ended up in Evergreen.

IMG_1366William R Allen  Co.D 1 MINN INF.

It also contains the estimated actual location where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address:IMG_1378

We walked up and down the rows and could hear canons being fired in the distance and there was even someone playing taps nearby – it was a really rewarding experience.   One thing that didn’t have to do with the Civil War, but I found very interesting, was that we found a Revolutionary War grave!  IMG_1385

At some point, we had to make our way back to the battlefield for the re-enactment of Picket’s Charge.  But before we did that we thought we better check out some nearby monuments.IMG_1433

Here is what the re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge looked like:IMG_1447

It was pretty amazing to see all the people, that supposedly duplicated the number of confederates coming at the union which would have been positioned on the left side of this picture (off the picture a bit).  We had a certain time that we were supposed to be back to the bus as we were pulling out at a specific time heading West for home.

I want to thank my good friend Doug for making this trip available to me. What a great experience!  Let’s always remember what these Civil War guys did.  For photos from this trip: http://jgrammondphotography.smugmug.comIMG_1417

Gettysburg: July 3rd Part One

IMG_1222Do you realize that Minnesota’s North Shore has a very interesting link to to the Civil War? The man immortalized here is Albert Woolson. He is basically sitting in a spot that over looks the battlefield of Pickett’s Charge.  Woolson holds the distinction of being the last official survivor of the Civil War. He died at age 109 and lived in Duluth where there is a monument just like this one near the Depot Museum. The other interesting fact is that Col. William Colvill, the man that was the commander of the First Minnesota – lived near Grand Marais after the war. The following is a quote I’ve heard a few times in the last couple weeks: “So far as human judgement can determine, Colonel Colvill and those eight companies of the First Minnesota are entitled to rank as the saviors of their country” — Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States of America, July 29, 1928.  He is referring to the actions of the First Minnesota at Plum Run and Pickett’s Charge.

IMG_1234This is the scene looking across the field between the Union forces and the Confederates.  The Confederates were in those woods and this vantage point is what the First Minnesota would have been seeing before the charge.

IMG_1257This is a close up of a portion of the stone wall in the general area of where the First Minnesota was positioned.  Standing there, it was hard to imagine this “wall” could have given much protection, but I suppose that if you are being shot at it is better than nothing.  I don’t think I got a picture of this, but we also saw a wall or fence like this that also had the wooden rails on top.  Our guide told us that they served the dual purpose of keeping the hogs in and the cows out if particular areas.

IMG_1263I had to include this one which is found near the First Minnesota’s Monument near the area of Pickett’s Charge.  This Monument represents the 42nd New York or “The Tammany Regiment” named after Delaware Chief Tammany who was a friend to the colonists of the area.  Anyway, it was very unique among all the Monuments I saw while out there.

IMG_1299This is the monument to the First Minnesota at the site of Pickett’s Charge taken after our group did a re-dedication ceremony.  One day earlier, the First Minnesota had suffered something like 82%  casualties.  The 47 that managed to survive that – got to face this charge the next day. There will be more about this in the next post.

IMG_1356We next moved on the the Gettysburg National Cemetery where we saw the Urn monument recognizing the First Minnesota. This was the first monument placed in the cemetery.  We had a very solemn and moving little ceremony at this site. Near this urn are the graves of many of the Minnesotans, like this one for a man that was from Elk River.


Gettysburg: July 2nd Part Two

Culp's HillOnce we finished at the museums we headed out on a Circle Tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield, which isn’t a single field, but basically the whole area around the city of Gettysburg. The first place we stopped at and got off the bus was below Culps Hill.  Here we heard the story of the 27th Indiana Infantry Unit that tried to take the hill and were basically slaughtered.  The thing that really got me at this site was that the orders got mixed up and instead of a couple of soldiers going up to basically see how far they could get; the person delivering the orders got it mixed up and said that the whole group was supposed to attack the hill.  The confederates had the high ground and were dug in amongst the trees and rocks.

CircleTourRededication-0851This marker tells the tale and marks the furthest spot the Indiana boys got to. It was in an open field maybe about 50 yards from the base of the hill area where the Confederates were.  From there we went up onto Culps Hill and learned about the fighting there from our excellent Guide John Cox. John would tell the story so well that the story seemed to come alive right before our eyes. Continuing on the tour we got to see Oak Ridge and McPherson Ridge and fields where battles were fought. We saw places like The Peach Orchard; The Wheatfield; Little Round Top; and Devil’s Den.

We didn’t get to get out and walk around any of the above sites, but I put links to them so you can see what happened at each site and who was at each one…pretty intense fighting. If I ever get back to Gettysburg, I think I’ll visit those places first. The reason we didn’t stop at these sites was that we ran out of time. We had to get to the Minnesota Monument at the site of the charge at Plum Run.

CircleTourRededication-0921This is a close up shot of the statue on top of the memorial to the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

CircleTourRededication-0943I saw this and just had to get the image, an image of peacefulness represented by the Bluebird perched at the tip of the bayonet. This is the site where, on July 2nd, 1863 – the men of the First Minnesota saved the Union by charging across an open field for about 200 yards with fixed bayonets towards Wilcox’s Alabama Brigade, even though they were outnumbered five to one.  General Hancock had just given them the orders: “Take Those Colors!” referring to the mass of Confederate soldiers advancing and ready to break the Union’s line.  The First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment suffered over 80% casualties holding the line and repulsing all those Confederates.  This set up General Lee’s desperate attempt the next day to finally break the Union lines with what is known as Pickett’s Charge. More on that later.  The following images are from the re-dedication of this monument.

First Minnesota Monument Rededication-0948First Minnesota Monument Re-dedicationA large crowd is gathered for the re-dedication.

March Down To Plum RunFirst Minnesota Re-Enactors marching the open field leading to Plum Run.

CircleTourRededication-1017The First Minnesota re-enactors marching to meet a contingent from Alabama.

CircleTourRededication-1049Generals from Minnesota’s and Alabama’s State National Guard Armies met on the battle field and exchanged gifts in a gesture of friendliness and in honor of the memory of both side’s soldiers.

Cannon at Plum RunI couldn’t pass up this photo op!  This was one of several Cannons lined up at this spot in the open field to Plum Run.

First Minnesota Re-Enactors Standing Proud At The MonumentFirst Minnesota Re-Enactors proudly posing around the Monument to the First Minnesota after the re-dedication.

Finally, while back in Gettysburg attending our evening banquet…Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had just made a comment about this being the exact moment 150 years ago that the battle started at Plum Run. As he was saying that, someone in the group saw this and pointed it out to me. I sprinted out the door, down about 30 stairs and out the door to get the shot:

Rainbow At the Exact Time of the BattleWhat a day!

Gettysburg: July 2nd Part One

Museums-0734We started this day bright and early with a visit to the Seminary Ridge Museum.  The Museum just had had it’s Grand Opening the day before.  It is an old Seminary building that was used as a hospital 150 years ago to handle the wounded Union soldiers that were fighting a battle right outside the front door that is pictured here.  This is our Minnesota contingent posing with our banner on the front steps of this historical building. It was a great museum and a great way to start our visit to Gettysburg.  Inside, there are three floors of educational exhibits highlighting the first day of the battle; the care of the wounded; and the moral, civic, and spiritual debates of the Civil War. One of the highlights was the opportunity to climb up through the attic and up to the cupola at the top of the building – the same cupola where Union General Buford, watched over the advancing confederates.

View of Battlefield from CupolaInside the museum, there were several really great exhibits, and several great paintings that depicted scenes from those days of battle.  This painting was one of my favorites:

Painting at Seminary Ridge MuseumOnce we went through all of the exhibits, we looked  around outside a bit.  The grounds were really nice – it had a college feel to it as it was actually still an active Lutheran Seminary with lots of buildings and beautiful grounds.  Just to the South of the old historic seminary building though was a battlefield, the one pictured above is a farther away view of where the Confederates were coming across. In the next picture, you can see the battlefield where units like the 6th Wisconsin; the 95th New York; and the 14th Brooklyn pushed toward where you see the flag and crossed the Chambersburg road and met the 55th North Carolina;  the 2nd Mississippi; and the 42nd Mississippi as seen in this link for the fight for McPherson Ridge. Backing up a bit…this fighting took place on July 1st and the road you can see in the next picture is the Chambersburg Road. The monuments that you see are placed in spots where units from different states fought.

and Chambersburg RoadThis is Doug as he gets an image of this area of the battlefield on McPherson’s Ridge.  It reminded me that a soldier might have braced against a tree like this one in the same way back 150 years ago while firing on the advancing Confederates.

Shooting on McPherson's

One last image is of a scene in a place called the Cyclorama at the Gettysburg Visitor Center and Museum. It was this really great diorama in the round…I guess that is the best way to describe it.  There is a bunch of actual items displayed  and they seem to blend right into these fantastic painted murals on the walls.  Then there is a sound and light show where different things light up highlighting different scenes, etc.  It was really cool to experience.

Cyclorama Painting

I am going to have to split this day into two posts because we did so much. The next post will cover a circle tour that we did of the battlefield, the rededication of the First Minnesota Monument, and a Reception where we talked some more about the charge of the First Minnesota at Plum Run.

Check out images of this adventure:

Day 1 Gettysburg


It was a long bus ride, but we finally made it to Gettysburg.  Today was mostly about getting there.  When we did get to Gettysburg, we had a group of First Minnesota Re-enactors waiting for us displaying the special Civil War 150 flag and playing fife, pretty cool after a long exhausting ride. Once we had a chance to check in and get freshened up, we headed downtown for our Welcome Banquet.  On the way there our tour guide (pictured in the photo) pointed out a few interesting tidbits of information, like showing us the hotel that President Lincoln stayed at when he was in town for the Gettysburg Address; he also showed us the train station where he would have gotten off the train.  There was even a building downtown that had a cannonball embedded into the outer wall.  Tomorrow morning we begin the really serious touring, and I can’t wait!John Cox Guiding On The Streets of Gettysburg

Civil War Veterans In Our Own Back Yard


When I embarked on my study of Gettysburg I read a couple of books, watched a few movies and documentaries on the topic. I also joined Doug in walking through cemeteries in Minnesota looking for grave markers for veterans of the First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment to photograph. We found several markers for Civil War Veterans from various Regiments and states. This led to a desire to do some research to find out more about the person behind the name on the marker. An interesting side note is that we see a lot of men from Maine.  I think I’ll need to look into that another time.

I wanted to tighten the focus of what I was searching for – so I researched guys  from the First Minnesota that were wounded at Gettysburg, that moved back to Minnesota, and were buried in the area between Princeton and Elk River/Otsego.

I found two men that were buried in Princeton: Charles H. Rines, and Jonas R. Hill.  Rines was with Company D. His family moved from Maine to Minnesota in 1856, two years before statehood. Rines was just 18 years old when he went off to war. On July 2, 1863, he was wounded in the side five times. He recovered from that and moved back to Princeton after the war and opened a General Store.  Later in life Rines went into the lumber business which was a booming business in the Princeton area.

Jonas Hill was born in Canada and came to Minnesota via Maine.  He joined when he was 30 years old and was assigned to Company E.  Like many of the men, Hill was wounded on July 2nd. Hill settled in Princeton after the war and went into the lumber business, he died at the age of 76. It is interesting to note the ages of these men when they went in and it shows the desire of all ages to fight for their country.

Sgt. Anson R. Hayden was born in Maine in 1835. He was 25 when he enlisted. Prior to Gettysburg, Anson was wounded a year or two earlier before at one of the Battles of Bull Run (or First Manassas as the Confederates called it). There was a First Bull Run (First Manassas) and a Second Bull Run (Second Manassas). Hayden was a lumberman after the war and even served as a State Legislator. He worked in the woods apparently cutting down trees as a lumberjack.  He married his second wife (the first died in childbirth), in Elk River and lived in Anoka. During one of his trips to the woods he injured his toe and ended up dying of blood poisoning.  He is buried in Elk River.

Lastly, I found Joseph McDonald in Otsego. While he was not wounded at Gettysburg, something I find extraordinary, he was there and he did participate in the repulse of the famed “Pickett’s Charge”.

I think that it is really great that we have these men right in our back yards.  They are the stories of history, and they  are there for you to discover and learn from.