Author Archives: Mark

Photo – The Zone

sunrise_8514ais_ndf_7116The Zone

I’ll apologize up front for this post, it may be a little mind bending for some of my readers.  While I have posted it as a Photo entry, this could easily have been a book entry as well.

Athletes define it as the moments in sports where they transcend normal physical limits and function at a level above greatness!  In photography I believe it’s where the mind’s eye and satisfying results meet in the final picture.

The zone is not something I can always summon on demand, it happens when opportunity meets with an artistic mood.  There are a few times I can vividly recall being photographically in that magical place.  Sometimes I would find it for a few minutes when I would set out upon a drive in the north eastern Kansas countryside with my Fuji S3.  One time I found it with my Nikon D2X for a few days at Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks.  I once found it while shooting stills for Last Breath at an abandoned dark warehouse.  Most recently, I found it while walking in San Francisco with my Nikon Df.

I am more apt to find it when I am on my own, doing what I want, not feeling hurried and not feeling pressured.  I’ll feel as if I definitely don’t have to force the photos, the scenery will be naturally visually stimulating, and interesting and the mood usually carefree.  That said though, I have found it shooting for pay a few times.  I enjoy working with amateur models and also doing weddings.  The last weddings and models shoots I worked before giving up semi-pro work were all times of feeling competent and just enjoying the moments.

There is a belief that great art is predominantly stimulated via the artists pain and sorrow.  I believe that can be true, but that it can also come from these places (moments and moods) I have described above.

For me it’s visualizing the pictures before I take them, already in their end post processed state.  It is curious how I can take a picture in the zone and wait several months to process it and recall upon viewing it what I was thinking and hoping for in the end result.  Having taken hundreds of thousands of photos by now, I can tell you that many times the vision is not realized in the end result, the mind can be over optimistic at times.  There are times I knew the desired result and I simply lacked the vantage point or ability to record or render the vision.  This is a hard thing about the photographic zone in that what can seem so certain can often fail.


I cannot tell you if it is the same for others, the creative process can be mysterious at times.  As I have said before, a lot of masterpieces have been created in times of deep emotional pain.  I was reminded in a seminar I attended recently of how some believe creativity stems from the sub-conscious, however, I can’t say I fully agree.  Some creativity stems from full awareness and consciousness.  There could be arguments on the quality of creativity stemming from each state consciousness, however, strong arguments could be mounted either way.

To suggest that creativity only stems from the subconscious ignores the notion of choice and makes it more mysterious and perhaps less inspired.  Some would argue that the idea comes only from the subconscious and it’s delivery only lives in the conscious.

Even in my book “The Awareness Journey” I breach notions of conscious and sub-conscious and its role in our decision process and how much stems from societal programming we receive as we grow up and throughout our lives.  I still believe this and what for me negates the total notion of sub-conscious creativity being the only origin is our ability to decide and to reprogram our sub-conscious and thus break the logic chain.

This is one of the massive mind benders of reality, awareness and our evolution!  The mere fact that we can focus on changing the laws and dynamics as we understand them to realize new realities suggests that evolution is more a product of the active conscious than sub-conscious.  The only problem in this is that we can create another non reality in doing so.

So I realize that is a mind full loaded with implications.  You may even be wondering where I am headed at this point with all this.  In jest I will counter with I am dabbling in a little real time conscious creativity in exploring this topic.  It has occurred to me lately that I have been increasingly become more able to summon creativity and in doing so gained this awareness.

So this all begs the question for many, is creativity something truly mysterious and a gift from the ether of neverwhere, or is it a product of logic and a mere window when the mind brushes the edge of our human self defined limits?

Let’s return to our athlete.  Often athletes train to arrive at elite levels of performance.  An athletes physical condition doesn’t really change from day to day, and yet a days difference can mean finishing 5th verses setting a world record.  How can this be the way of things?  The logical answer is that ones mind does change daily, in fact it changes frequently and within mere sub seconds at times.  I would offer then the zone can be the now when there is focus and all the noise is tuned out.  I am cruising at 33,000 feet at this very moment writing this, and am deafly aware of the white noise this airplane is creating right now in the cabin.  And then there are moments when it seemingly disappears, even though it’s still really there.


This realization allows us to understand the zone is truly a state of consciousness as there is no person magically switching the noise off and on so I can create these words.  When we have a migraine headache, we are brutally aware of changes in volume and light and it becomes difficult to think.  The zone is obviously harder to achieve when we are distracted by health or preoccupied with life’s problems.

Photographically I can coax myself into the zone by recreating emotions that are often connected by my environment.  Air travel has often been an enabler for my blog entries, as even though I would tell you I dislike travel in general, it does allow me to find the zone quite easily.

Less so now today where I would be able get in my truck, grab a coffee to sip and explore the numerous seemingly never ending gravel roads of eastern Kansas.  I can still get there at times in that way as well.  This links back to another post I made some months ago on photo opportunities and craving new environments to unleash ones creativity and knowing how to see things differently within the environments that are available to us.  Perhaps you can gain something from this post and find your own awareness of how to generate the zone.

And as the flight draws close to home now, as does the awareness of the background noise, I think it’s time to wrap this post up!  I will end by saying that focusing on a subject, thinking of new ways to see it, capturing your ideas and then pondering on them will allow you to begin to see that subject differently and possibly inspire the creativity and ability to slip into a zone.

Mood channeling is another way, if you have found success in an area, subject or venue of thought, try to re capture that mood and stream of though and channel off it.  For athletes I would offer that they remember those moments where they were at their best, the feeling, environment and thought process, it is in that way they can create the zone and ride high again.  They tend to manufacture visual representations of success in their minds and then channel from it during their performance.  It is no less true for you and your exploration of this awesome pastime we call photography.  Scan your subjects or scenes and visualize the potential in your mind and then record it.  Click!


Copyright 2016 Mark Abraham

Posted in Awareness, Talking Photography

Astro – Morning After Stars


My 18″ Obsession Telescope F/4.5

Ah, these short experiences in life, brief windows which make for significant memories!  Sitting sipping coffee listening to a a rooster crow and a cow moo in the distance as the sun rises and glitters off the dewy grass of a field littered with telescopes at the Heart of America Star Party.  Birds chirping, a little tuft of steam wisps into the air form my too hot to drink coffee. Coincidentally this coffee’s beans link to another one of life’s finer moments (trip to Hawaii). These memories create an anti-stoic mood, it is after all these moments we live for isn’t it?

What is it about being human that allows us to link to what some might think of as commercial or superficial moments and events?  Perhaps coffee being a product of beans and this coming from the earth and stars at a star party being scattered across the night sky are not so superficial after all, perhaps they link us to nature and thus captivate our minds and resonate in our core and souls.

Probably one of the coolest celestial objects I looked at this weekend was in someone else’s telescope.  I had meant to research and prepare to find some of these myself.  All in all it was a tiny blip of light, fading in and out revealing light that took more than 8 billion years traveling at the speed of light to reach my eyeball.  Hard to fathom isn’t it?  Was it beautiful? No! It was intellectual!

Quasar 8 Billion Light Years away and visible in a larger amateur telescope.

Quasar 8 Billion Light Years away and visible in a larger amateur telescope.

Thinking deeper,  maybe it was all the smoky looking knots of nebula’s I spent my night chasing, such as the Heart Nebula, and the Soul Nebula!  Of course with names like that, how can you not believe you truly weren’t having moments to remember?  There was also many more, the Bubble, Crescent, Pacman, Iris Nebulas, and so many many more!

Soul Nebula

Heart Nebula

I thought about all this as I walked around a little before returning to finish this post, there was some morning fog, it actually rolled in over us at midnight and caused the majority of us to cover up the scopes and go off to sleep early.  I too a few pictures though found below!

As I sit down again to write this people are waking up, one by one they begin to tear down their Astro camps, a bird screams, almost as if angry from the sky overhead, perhaps protesting our nearing departure but more likely warning others of our presence now that there is more movement.


I took off my own cover to accelerate the drying process of my soaked telescope.  The dew from the past few evenings has left everything soaking wet.  Even the dew heaters on the scopes couldn’t all keep up with natures fine mist!

I awoke early, around 6:40 and knew I wasn’t going to sleep more, despite being up past 1AM.  Yes, I had quite a night with the latest new gizmos I added to my large telescope.  Probably the most fun one of them was the ability for it to link to a star chart application on my iPad that allowed me to see my telescopes view it on the chart as I moved the large set of optics.


Why is that cool?  Well, most beginners have no idea just how many things we can look at with a telescope of moderate aperture, mine being 18 inches.  The star chart application shows them and allows me to move the telescope on to one by putting the cross hairs over it and then looking in the eyepiece to fine tune it.  With this newly added feature I was able to see so many new things I had never viewed before.

Some objects I viewed were extremely faint and had to be viewed first out of the corner of my eye (averted vision) to catch their dim contrast against otherwise black space.  The Bubble nebula was maybe the hardest, just barely detectable and taking 35 minutes to validate I was actually in the right place by matching up stars I was seeing in the eye piece with stars on the star chart application.

While it’s nice to just have time to view what you want, there are always a few moments when visitors drop by and ask to see what you’re viewing in the eyepiece.  Of course having a larger telescope one is almost obliged to show them and then show them maybe a few other things they haven’t seen.  What makes it worthwhile?  Sharing your own excitement is always fun of course, but when a young kid is looking through your telescopes eyepiece and genuinely proclaims that what you showed them was so very cool, it really makes one smile.  I certainly did.

I had one such proclamation last night on the veil nebula, both east and west, but the east got the louder sound bite.  I believe she was genuinely taken by the experience of seeing this big black looking light canon and a computer strapped to its side with a red start chart and relaxing celestial music playing as she climbed the latter and looked into the heavens.  She commented on how relaxing the music was, it was just music built into the Sky Safari iOS app I was using.   Her Grandpa seemed to enjoy it as well, even though I was certain he had seen many such views before.


As I having been writing this, I took a break to pack up some more of my personal slice of the great star camp.  That’s how I operate, pack a little, relax a little and easily achieve my goal of pulling out of camp on time.  It takes a while to get it all to dry before packing it completely away.  I camp with a large popup trailer and it usually takes until about 10:00 – 10:30 to dry enough to be put away.  Its really nice to have along when observing, makes a great retreat to warm up, drink some coffee and be ready to return to the viewing field for a few more hours!

As I was doing this work to pack up, sure enough that girl showed up and said hi and thanks. She wanted to hang around a bit and chat, maybe hoping to extend her experience.  I confess I was moved by it a little as it was at that moment I knew she had really experienced something special looking through my telescope the night before.  It was so very ironic that I had already written about it only to have it confirmed by her showing up to chat!

All this my friends is the magic of amateur astronomy and being on the field of starry dreams while attending a star party.  Going off to dark dark sky’s, far away from city lights opens up a whole new world to us, even with the naked eye there is so much to see.  Instead of a washed out grey white looking sky with a few dots you get looking up in the suburbs, you see literally millions of white dots, too many to ever fathom counting.  The Milky Way is a sight to see and people often comment about seeing clouds overhead only to learn that they are seeing our own galaxy from the inside out.  The stripe runs from one end of the sky to the other and can be memorizing in itself.

Milkyway Galaxy

I myself have delved into the depths of this extraordinary hobby over and over again, its addiction is ever lasting, ebbing and waking like the sun and the moon.  The best part about it all, there is always something to view, be it with ones eyes, binoculars, or telescopes of all types and sizes.  Once can start with nothing but a dark sky and a simple star map and learn the constellations and asterisms.  Asterisms are patterns of stars people use to help learn and remember the sky. Then if the interest to see more bites, you can slowly work your way into it, binoculars, then maybe a small telescope.  Just pray you don’t get what we jokingly call aperture fever!


Orion the Hunter – his belt is home to the Orion nebula – stunning to view in a telescope!

Created with Sky Chart – its free!

If you have never attended a Star Party, do yourself a favor, add it to your bucket list and see if you can make it happen.  Usually you can find one by googling that will be within driving distance.  Pack a tent, get their a little early before dark to setup and then take a walk when all the telescopes are up and running and witness the heavens as you have not seen them before.  Don’t expect views in the eyepiece that look like Hubble Telescope images.  No, most of the objects will appear grayish, and some will be blue with the notable colors being from stars and planets varying from white, blue, orange and reddish.hoasp_2_ndf_7068

Your closest astronomy club will gladly get you started, give you free tours, access to free equipment and all sorts of other fun possibilities!  Look up in the darkness!  There’s a whole universe waiting for you to explore!  This link is also a place to start!

List of Astronomy Clubs

List of Star Party’s and Events

Hope you Enjoy!


Aka EverStaR

Copyright 2016 Mark Abraham

Posted in Talking Photography

Photo – A7RM2 Status Report


I have been taking notes as I make the journey to becoming a regular Sony A7Rii user.  By regular I simply mean I intend to use the camera with my other Nikon cameras and insert it into my regular rotation of cameras.

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Posted in Talking Photography

Photo – Everything Changes Over Time


Wow!  its been a while since I scratched out some thoughts on this blog.  I have been busy building up and playing with all the cool old glass I have accumulated!  Let’s say that at this point I want no more for older glass! There are few Nikkor lenses I could still will get but plan to acquire through trade-offs over time.  Examples would be trading away a 28 F2.8 Ais for a 28 F2 Ais.

There are over 50 in the collection now of Manual Focus Lenses and Zeiss would be the last frontier and Just don’t think I have the appetite for that!

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Posted in Talking Photography

Photo – Grey Matters


I thought I would share my experience in a grey market purchase of a D810.  The deal was too good to be true, but eBay feedback on this mass seller was 99.6 at the time of purchase and current ratings were good, plus, they had already sold 258 at the time I finally broke down and decided to give it a whirl.

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Posted in Talking Photography

Building a Home Portable Studio

StudioBlog6_NDF8274I thought I would share my adventure to build up to a home portable studio.  There were some  requirements for me that I wanted my solution to meet: that it be easy to setup and tear down, that it be compact and easy to stow away, that it leverage my existing equipment as much as possible, and that it not cost and arm and a leg.  Beyond that it had to be capable and able to produce professional results.

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Posted in Talking Photography

Thoughts on the D750


Always a tuff pill to swallow, I had quite a few notes over time I took and entered into Draft status in my Blog that lost and could not recover.  I’ll do my best to try to remember them all, however, I am certain that this loss will impact the quality of this journal entry.

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Posted in Talking Photography

Of Time and Mind


This entry discusses two topics that come to the forefront of my thoughts these days, time and mind.

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Posted in Talking Photography

Why Video Din’t Kill Photography and Never Will


I had one of those moments last night when one randomly becomes enlightened on a topic. The topic in question was the reasoning of why video didn’t kill the photography star!

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Posted in Talking Photography

Finding The Zone on Demand

I’ll apologize up front for this post, it may be a little mind bending for some of my readers.  I am going to talk a little bit about getting into the Zone for photography.


Athletes define it as the moments in sports where they transcend normal physical limits and function at a level above great! In photography I believe it’s where the minds eye and satisfying results meet in the final picture. The zone used to be something I couldn’t summon on demand, it happened in my mind only when opportunity met with an artistic mood.

Continue reading »

Posted in Talking Photography