A Trip to the Tree Farm

The Thanksgiving leftovers are barely cold in my refrigerator, and it’s off to the Christmas Tree Farm I go!

I spent a little time at Buffalo Bill’s Christmas Tree Farm this morning, located on Oakwood Road in Franklin. Owner Rose Hinkel, along with several of her family members and friends, were busy measuring and tagging trees. She’s thankful for the sunshine, Hinkel said, as I fumbled with my camera dials, grumbling over forgetting my gloves. I was thankful for the sun, too … it made for some nice light.

The first two weekends in December are the farm’s busiest times. Beginning this weekend, Buffalo Bill’s will offer hayrides driven by Santa out to the tree farm, where patrons can cut down their own trees.

I have a feeling I’ll be heading back in a few weeks …

Lara Eucalano, 18, of Milwaukee, prepares some Christmas trees Friday, Nov. 23, 2007, at Buffalo Bill's Christmas Trees, Franklin. Opening day for the farm was Friday, but owner Rose Hinkel says the busiest time of the season is the first two weekends in December. Buffalo Bill's offer hayrides driven by Santa out to the tree farm, where people can cut their own Christmas trees. 

I’d also like to address a few questions I received yesterday. I was asked whether I shoot on RAW or JPEG. For those of you who are unfamiliar with certain photo terms, these are two different types of digital file formats. Without getting too far into the pros and cons of RAW vs. JPEG, I can tell you that I shoot on JPEG Fine. Many (but surely not all) newspaper photographers do the same. JPEG files are smaller and therefore, you can fit more of them on a card. Also, small files are more easily transmitted wirelessly and online. As a newspaper photographer, the quality produced by a JPEG image is more than adequate for newspaper print.

However, many other types of photographers — such as magazine photographers, wedding photographers and portrait photographers — prefer RAW files, simply because the file is not compressed, and therefore, it has many more levels to it. Color balance and exposure can be re-adjusted in a RAW image, using your computer. Beautiful, large prints can be made more easily from RAW files.

Additionally, the camera I use (a Nikon D2HS) gives me the option to save both RAW and JPEG files simultaneously.

Second, I was asked how much processing I do to my images, and whether CNI has specialists who tone our photos. The short answer is: I am the only one who tones the photos you see on this blog. However, all of the photos that appear in our print newspapers are toned by myself and then sent to the downtown office of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to be toned by specialists.

That said, there is a minimal amount of toning going on within my photos. I believe we are here to document reality, and that includes colors. Photojournalists follow hundreds of ethical guidelines, but the bottom line is: Alter nothing, before you shoot the photo or after. I do adjust the levels of some photos to a point, to make colors pop a bit more. I also set my white points and black points, to make the photos less “flat.” I rarely, if ever, use the burn or dodge tool. The key to getting good colors is to find the best light and expose correctly before you press the button.

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