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I am Nikonians

Thomas Sprunger (Melman59) Interview

Marsha Edmunds (meadowlark2)

Keywords: travel, landscape, photography, nikonians, melman59


Anyone who frequents the Landscape Forum will be familiar with the Melman59 username.  Tom is very active in the forum and posts landscapes that demonstrate what happens when time is taken in preparation for the shot.  He attends to all of the details and capturing the scenes when the light is best.  The result: spectacular images.

“My day job is as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Decatur, Indiana.  I have almost 31 years in at the USPS and have walked well over 50,000 miles in that time.  That would be over two times around the world.  No wonder I’m tired!  Retirement is just a few months away.  Yeah!!  Hopeful to venture out much more to shoot, once I don’t have to punch a time clock. 


Cataract Falls
Nikon D800, 80-200mm f/2.8 @ 100mm, f/16, 0.8s, ISO 100
On tripod, with remote release and polarizer
Click for an enlargement


I live in the small town of Monroe, IN.  This is farm country with corn and soybean fields everywhere.  Landscape photography is my true love.   I loved the quiet and peaceful benefits of exploring natural places. So as time went by I gravitated more and more to landscape photography though I had started with an interest in portrait photography. 


Panorama at Bear Lake
Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 44mm, f11, 0.5s, ISO 100
On tripod, with remote release, 3 stop Grad ND filter, 6 shots stitched with Photo Merge
Click for an enlargement


Even if I don’t take one photo, I still count the time I spend in the wild as a positive experience that rejuvenates the mind and soul.  I love to shoot mountainous regions of the country.  My wife, Melinda, has her own camera and lens combo and likes to shoot along side of me.


Berne Clock Tower
Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 38mm, f/11, 8s, ISO 100
Tripod mounted with remote release
Click for an enlargement


I live near a Swiss community called Berne, Indiana. Sprunger is a Swiss name and almost anyone with that name has a connection to Berne.  Berne, Indiana has a full-sized replica of the clock tower in Bern Switzerland. The tower can be seen for miles away. There is also a little village called the Swiss Heritage Village, a nearby covered bridge and we live in Amish country, so there are more possibilities for quaint photographs.  A person needs to be sensitive though because they usually don’t like to be photographed.  There are quite a few small nature preserves owned by ACRES Land Trust in our area.  I photograph scenery in these preserves and donate my photographs to ACRES to use in their promotional material.


Swiss Heritage Village Panorama
Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8, @, f/11, ISO 100
On tripod, with remote release, stitched with PTGui Pro.
Click for an enlargement


I signed up to take an online course by Bryan Peterson, internationally known photographer. After a few lessons I determined that I wasn’t going to be able to do some of the things Bryan was asking his students to do using my Nikon Coolpix 995.  So I took the step of purchasing the Nikon D70 kit back in 2004.  Taking Bryan Peterson’s course gave me a kick in the pants, so to speak, and got things on the right track.  Since then I have been mainly self-taught, however, Nikonians has been an important part of that learning curve.


Shaggy Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park
Nikon D800, 200-500mm f/5.6 @ 270mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 400, handheld
Click for an enlargement


Landscape photography has become my preferred photographic discipline.  I enjoy shooting wildlife too, but what really gets my creative juices flowing is photographing a beautiful landscape setting.  Landscape photography is like a treasure hunt. Part of the fun is just looking for that ultimate shot.  I love waterfalls.  I could spend hours looking for different angles and compositions.  Mountain lakes at sunrise or sunset are another favorite. I probably use my Nikon 24-70mm lens more than any other.  Occasionally I will use my Nikon 16-35mm for the wider shots.  Even my 200-500mm lens has been used on occasion for landscape shots. I incorporate a 3 stop ND filter and polarizer on many of my shots.  Mirror-up with remote release is typically used.  I almost always use a tripod to be able to obtain the sharpest images possible. A tripod also helps me to slow down and work out the best composition.  I also enjoy panoramas, macro, and astrophotography.


Letchworth State Park in New York
Nikon D300, 24-70mm f2.8 @ 52mm, f/11, 2s, ISO 200
Tripod mounted with remote release
Click for an enlargement


I love being a Nikonian because there is such a wealth of knowledge from the members.  Practically any question you might have can be answered from someone who has “been there, done that”.  I appreciate how the Nikonians culture encourages members to support each other as we strive to become more proficient photographers. Members are kind and considerate to each other and realize that we are all at different levels of experience. Membership is a bargain!


Church in Cade’s Cove
Nikon D810, 200-500mm f5.6 @ 500mm, f/11, 0.3s, ISO 64
Tripod mounted with remote release
Click for an enlargement


The forums at Nikonians have been incredibly helpful.  Viewing the work of others helps me strive to improve my own photographs and up my game. Constructive criticism by fellow shooters helps me to see things that I may have missed when I took the shot.  Also, if I have a question about practically any aspect of photography, I can find an answer on one of the forums.  The articles have been super beneficial also.


Path at Hathaway at Ross Run
Nikon D800, 24-70mm f2.8 @ 24mm, 4s, f/16, ISO 100
Tripod mounted with remote release
Click for an enlargement


One tip I would have is to never pack up your gear too soon.  A couple years ago my wife and I hiked to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  We were hoping to shoot a sunset there.  But it was cloudy and the time had come for the sun to set, so, thinking our day to be over, we put our gear away and started to hike back to the trailhead. But for some reason I decided to turn around and take one last look. Lo and behold the sun had finally broken through and the mountains were ablaze.  We hurriedly set back up and were fortunate to get in a few good shots.


Caldwell House
Nikon D810, 24-70mm f2.8 @ 66mm, f/16, 0.3s, ISO 64
Tripod mounted with remote release and polarizer
Click for an enlargement


This experience is kind of on the humorous side, at least for me it was and it carried an important lesson.  I was in the Munising, Michigan area shooting a waterfall when a fellow walked up beside me with a Really Right Stuff tripod and ball head.  I had been interested in one of their tripods, so I asked him how well the clamp system on the ball head held the camera.  He said that it worked very well and demonstrated its quality by giving the tripod with his camera mounted a good shaking.  The tripod bumped into his partially open backpack parked precariously on the ledge of a steep cliff causing the open backpack to roll over to the side and down the cliff with lenses falling out all the way down. Fortunately, he was able retrieve his gear without any significant damage.  So, keep your backpack closed and situated in a safe place!  I did buy that ball head and tripod after his real-life demonstration.” 

Thanks for all you contribute to Nikonians, Tom. You may want to visit his profile as well.

Originally written on May 16, 2018

Last updated on September 19, 2018

Marsha Edmunds Marsha Edmunds (meadowlark2)

Donor Ribbon awarded for her support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Fellow Ribbon awarded for her continuous encouragement and meaningful comments in the spirit of Nikonians. Donor Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

Lethbridge, Canada
Team, 7294 posts

More articles by Marsha Edmunds

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dwight koehler (dkkoehler) on June 18, 2018

Wonderful Landscapes. As a novice, one of the things I struggled with in landscape photography is the need for patience; something that was in short supply for me when I began my journey, but getting better. Patience to get the right composition. Patience to get the right light. Patience to find that ideal focus point. You are correct that the use of a tripod forces you to slow down.....not only to get the perfect sharpness, but to enjoy the wonders of the outdoors, which is why you're there to begin with isn't it. Looking forward to seeing more of your work.

Thomas W. Sprunger (Melman59) on June 4, 2018

Ribbon awarded for his win at the Best of Nikonians 2017 Annual Photo Contest

Thanks everyone for your kind comments. As for the hyperlocal distance question. I have the DOF calculator on my phone, but I rarely use it. For most landscapes I shoot f11 or f16. I usually autofocus somewhere approximately 1/3 or so into the frame. Then I switch to manual focus so my focus point doesn't change. After I take the shot I zoom into 100 percent and check the closest and farthest object to see if they are in focus. If the distant objects are a bit out of focus I will move my focus point just a bit father out. If the close object are out of focus I will move my focus point in a bit.

Timothy Blackshear (NikoBlak) on May 31, 2018

Thanks for sharing Thomas. You have some very impressive shots on display here. You provide a novice encouragement and hope!!

J.D. Leipold (Daix) on May 25, 2018

Very much enjoyed this article on Tom's insights into landscape photography. Question: I understand the role of a tripod in getting tack-sharp photos, but in broad, wide landscape shots are you generally manually focused at infinity or are you usually focused at a halfway point on something? I'm trying to understand hyperfocal distance? Thank you for sharing your photos and metadata.

Kathy Cavallaro (Cavy2) on May 23, 2018

Awarded for her continuing willingness to keep on learning and to share her knowledge with others in the Nikonians spirit

Stunning images Tom and I enjoyed reading your story. I too own three of the RRS ballheads, they've performed wonderfully through the years. Important lesson about keeping the backpack closed!

judith dunn (topper1946) on May 22, 2018

Ribbon awarded for for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

What a wonderful survey of your work and thank you so much for the stories to go with them. Your compositions are so inviting and evocative of the places they represent. I will definitely remember your suggestion to wait just a few minutes longer.

Sarah Boser (Sarah9) on May 17, 2018

Tom, so glad to see your story here, and thanks, Marsha, for bringing it to us. You probably already know, or at least suspect, that your images are among my very very favorites on this site! They routinely evoke the smell the pines, the feel of a cool morning, or the rush of a nearby waterfall, which to me is the hallmark of a great landscape photo. Without fail, I back up for a second (or third) look at your images to consider the angle, shooting data, lighting, or just to appreciate the view. I especially appreciate your ability to showcase the small jewels of rural New York state, which are such a part of my own history. Keep them coming!!

Carol Freshley (PhotoSpydie) on May 17, 2018

Donor Ribbon awarded for her support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the 2017 fundraising campaign

Nice getting to know you, Thomas, and I very much enjoyed your photographs. Your retirement may benefit all of us with more of your photographs and adventures. I had a good laugh at your story about the backpack. No one can say that photography does not have its moments of excitement! Thank you, Marsha, for introducing me to Thomas.

Tom Jacob (sevendayimages) on May 17, 2018

Awarded for his continuous knowledge and images sharing with community members Awarded for his win at the Best of Nikonians 2016 Photo Contest

Beautiful images Tom, and very nice 'getting up close' with you! Enjoyed reading the article very much. Well done and thanks to Marsha too..cheers!

David Summers (dm1dave) on May 17, 2018

Awarded for high level knowledge and skills in various areas, most notably in Wildlife and Landscape Writer Ribbon awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Nikonians community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Thanks for sharing Tom! Your work is always very high quality.

Fred Laberge (labtrout) on May 16, 2018

Fellow Ribbon awarded for his constant sharing of his skills and continuous comments of encouragement in the Nikonians spirit.

It’s been a real pleasure reading about one of my favorite Nikonians. Tom’s landscapes are always so well envisioned and executed, a true delight to view. It’s nice to learn more about the person behind the photos.

Russell Whittemore (rosewood_ltd) on May 16, 2018

Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

Always a pleasure to see Tom's visions. Now that he's close to hanging up the mailbag, hopefully we will all be the beneficiaries of some increased output. Nice work as always, Tom.

Lawrence Treadwell (treadwl) on May 16, 2018

Very interesting article with lots of interesting ideas and most importantly a collection of wonderful photos.