Category: Blog Posts

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A Horse of another Color

When I started this blog I was using a Canon Rebel T3i. This camera has been performing well for me and meeting all of my needs. Since I purchased the camera with the kit lens I have upgraded the lenses to the EF series. My primary lens is the Canon EF 24 – 70mm L-series lens. This is an incredible lens designed for a full frame camera body. For the last several months I have been debating whether or not I should upgrade the camera body to the new Canon 70d Mark VII, older full frame 6D or wait for the replacement to the 6D.

 The thought of moving to a full frame camera body has been very intriguing to me. It seems that most of my photographs are of people or objects that are stationary. I’m not a nature or a sports photographer, so the features of the 70D were not my priority. I tend to enjoy urban scenes and anything that strikes me as interesting. As it happens, I was at my local camera store talking to the owner and he asked me if I would consider buying a slightly used Canon 5D Mark III that had only 17,000 shutter operations. I told him that was slightly above my price range and skill level. He asked me about both and then he made me an offer I could not refuse. I’m now the proud owner of the Canon 5D Mark III!

 Fortunately, the Canon operating environment for both cameras is fairly similar. In the last several weeks that I have owned my 5D, I have been able to make the transition from the Rebel fairly easily. There are many, many features that I cannot take advantage of as of today, but I hope to incorporate the new features as I continue to employ this camera in my photographic journey. The quality of the images from my Canon 5D Mark III are certainly a horse of a different color from those taken with my Rebel T3i!

 Recently, my wife and I were driving through the countryside on the way to a farm market to buy some fresh produce. As I turned into the parking lot I noticed a multicolored, whimsical statue of a horse in the field a few yards away. Fortunately, I had my camera in the car, so I decided to take advantage of an unexpected photographic opportunity. The image of this horse is probably only the 20th or 30th picture that I had taken with the 5D at that time. The picture style was set to neutral and I have done some minor editing with Adobe Lightroom version 6. The colors are bright and the image is sharp. I now understand why more the more advanced photographers in my photo club have advised me to always keep some extra money set aside for camera and accessories purchases!

Horse of another Color

Horse of another Color

 

Blog Posts

Using Lemons to make Lemonade!

Recently, I decided that I wanted to work on some new photographic themes. Living near Washington DC I decided to capture some scenes that the average tourist does not see when he or she visits. Now that I have been taking photographs for a while I decided to do some preparatory work. I took the Metrorail to the Shaw Station and then walked around the neighborhood. As I saw interesting residential buildings I took some pictures of them with my smart phone. I then used my recorder app and made notes about the location and where I thought the best position to take the photograph would be. When I finished my day and returned home I found that I had selected 10 different locations that I thought would make interesting photographs.

Bistro Before Editing

Bistro Before Editing

I then did some research on where sunrise or sunset would be relative to these locations. This helped me to decide whether to take pictures in the morning Golden hour or in the evening Golden hour. After all of this preparation I felt quite proud of myself! The only other decision I needed to make was when I would take the first set of photos. Since I was quite excited about the potential I selected this past Thursday morning as the day to start the project.

On Wednesday evening I checked weather.com and saw that Thursday would be partly cloudy, but no rain was in the forecast. So at 4:30 AM on Thursday I drove into Washington DC full of excitement and anticipation of a great photographic journey. I just knew I would have beautiful, colorful morning skies as backgrounds to my shots. As I was driving on the George Washington Parkway, I noticed that the sky was partly cloudy and now I started to get concerned along with being very sleepy! I arrived at my designated parking area, took out my camera, gadget bag and tripod and started walking to my first location. Within five minutes of leaving the car it started to drizzle and a few minutes later rain was falling profusely from the sky!

I decided that I could either go home or use this opportunity to take some different photographs. So I decided when you have lemons the best thing to do is to make some lemonade! Since the ground was wet and it was still somewhat dark and cars and buses had their headlights on along with the buildings beingwell lit; I decided to do some motion blur shots with the added benefit of reflections on the wet street. When the rain stopped I took a few pictures of some of the buildings that I originally planned to photograph, needless to say I did not have the beautiful colorful sky I originally wanted.

Bistro After Editing

Bistro After Editing

As I was looking at my photographs in AdobeLightroom V. 6 that evening, one of them caught my eye and I decided to do some additional editing on it. I noticed that the sky was bland and colorless, so I decided to add a new sky using Adobe Photoshop Elements V. 13. This was going to be a challenge as I just barely knew how to use Lightroom and I had not spent any time with Photoshop Elements! Fortunately, I had a nice sky photograph that I had taken some time before with my smart phone. I proceeded to look at several videos on YouTube that described using layers and layer masks. After multiple attempts I had a reasonably decent copy of the Bistro you see in this post. Although I made some mistakes, for first attempt I think it turned out rather well.

Lesson learned: Preparation is great and important nut you also have to be flexible and find a way to turn a problem into an opportunity to photograph! Keep shooting and come back to visit this blog again in the future or subscribe to the RSS Feed at the top left of the page.

Blog Posts

Cane River National Heritage Area

This past April, my wife and I went on a genealogy road trip. My portion of the trip took me to my ancestral home in the State of Louisiana. One of the many historical areas we visited was the Cane River National Heritage Region.  This region is famous for its creole heritage and the home of many plantations that were founded upon slave labor when Louisiana was part of the French Empire.  If you would like more information on this region, visit this link http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Cane+River+Creoles+of+Color&FORM=RESTAB .

I want to discuss my photographic journey as stated in the launch of this blog. One of the things that have kept me busy has been learning the ins and outs of Lightroom 5 and recently version 6. Most of the photos in the Cane River Gallery were edited with Lightroom 6. It seems that I am finally getting a better for feel for using this powerful tool.  I have been using videos on Adobe’s site as well as YouTube and one purchased online web class and finally it is coming together for me. I wonder how many of you aspiring photographers have struggled to learn Lightroom. I haven’t even given learning Photoshop a moments attention!

As for these photos, a key technique that I failed to grasp was making sure to use a shutter speed high enough to avoid camera shake and fuzzy or non-sharp photos. All of these photos were shot handheld and on several the focus suffered from a slow shutter speed. Take photo shot inside the Magnolia Plantation Store at ISO 1600, 24mm, 1/6 second @f4.0. Handholding at 1/6 of a second is a bad idea. This photo suffers from a lack of sharpness.  I also could have helped myself if I had carried my camera bag with the speedlite inside, but I didn’t!

The photo of the Cotton Gin was one of my favorites of this trip for many reasons. It was obviously outdoors and shot at ISO 100, 24mm, 1/13 second @f18. The picture would have been significantly better with a different combination of shutter and aperture when handholding. The next photo is the machinery inside the cotton gin building.  It is very old and dusty and the interior was dark. I shot this at ISO 400, 28mm, 1/6 second @f4.0. Again this is too slow a shutter for handholding and needless to say I missed my speedlite!

Another photo that suffered from this slow shutter malady was of Cane River Lake.  I actually got down on my knees to shoot thru the foliage in the foreground. Again, the photo lacks sharpness primarily due to a slow shutter when handholding the camera. This was shot at ISO 100, 33mm, 1/15 second @f16.

I think the other pictures came out much better. What is your opinion? By the way, my camera is a Canon Rebel t3 with a Canon 24-70mm L series lens (the good stuff). Hopefully, my next post will feature some improved photos. Let’s see how I progress, afterall, c’est la vie 4 me.

Blog Posts

My Photo Club Contest

In 2013 when I decided to start my photography hobby I joined a local photo club.  This has been a great opportunity to improve my photography as well as learn new aspects of photography and meet some very amazing photographers. We meet twice a month.  The first meeting usually features an accomplished photographer as a guest speaker and the second meeting is our club photo contest.

I have entered several contests but as you might expect, I have not won any prizes.  That is not important, what is important is the contests cause me to try different things and have new experiences.  Our last contest used the theme of bridges for our subject. This turned out to be a nice solo adventure for me and I was rewarded for my efforts.  Usually the judge just looks at my picture and moves on. This time he actually stopped and looked at it for a long 20-30 seconds and then said “nice image“.  I felt like I had won an award!

The picture of the Key Bridge crossing the Potomac River at Georgetown is the “nice image”. The fun part is what it took to get the photo.  My adventure started with a Metro train ride to Rosslyn Virginia which is across the river from Washington DC.  When I left the train, I walked to the river and saw the bridge but the view was not very good, so I started to walk. Now Rosslyn is a mix of high rise office towers, shops and lots of traffic.  It is almost like another downtown for DC, so maneuvering through traffic to get a photo is tough.

As I crossed over closer to the river , I saw a walkway that led down to a trail near the river.  I proceeded to walk down the trail which was filled with bikers and joggers and me with my photo bag and tripod! Still no good vantage point, so I got off the trail and went walking down to the river. It was dusk and there was no one with me and the area was starting to look a little spooky.  I thought to myself “no big deal, I’m a big city kid!” I pushed aside some bushes and trash and soon was at the river’s edge with a good view finally!

There was some brick-brat on the edge of the water and I set my tripod up on that and literally stood on a small ledge and looked through my viewfinder to take some photos. After a few minutes of clicking the shutter I heard some noise. As I looked around I saw a man walking about 50 yards from me and he was talking to himself!  It was at that point that the big city kid decided he had enough pictures for the evening!

This photo was taken with my Canon Rebel T3 and a Canon EF 24-70mm L lens at 70mm. I used a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds at f11 and an ISO of 200. I hope you think it is a “nice image”.

Key Bridge crossing the Potomac River at Georgetown.

Key Bridge crossing the Potomac River at Georgetown.

 

Blog Posts

Macro Photography

It has been quite a long time since my last post.  Although I have continued my interest in photography it seemed like it was time to study the subject more. When I started this blog and the photography journey it was my intention to document my progress as a photographer.  It was going to be a blog with my successes and failures in hopes that any readers could identify with my journey. It was also an opportunity for me to play around in the blogosphere and learn some new things. That is still the plan, however, I needed to get more familiar with aspects of photography other that releasing g the shutter.

That’s a long way to say I’ve been learning new things. First of all, I joined a photo club and have heard some great presentations on many facets of photography. The speakers also presented their work and I could clearly see that I had a long way to go to even get close to their quality of art.  Next I took some lessons in using Adobe Lightroom 5.  I also looked at videos on both Adobe’s site and YouTube. I even bought an expensive book on using Lightroom.  Fortunately, for me all of this is starting to help and I’m getting more proficient in using Lightroom!

In the process of using Lightroom, I’ve come to the understanding that beauty is a very subjective term.  I wonder how many of you have also come to the conclusion that Lightroom by itself is useful but only if you have an idea of what you want the final picture to look like.  This has been a real challenge for me since my artistic eye is not well developed as you can probably ascertain from the pictures on this blog! To that end, I’ve recently started looking at photos on 500px.  This has now given me more ideas on what good photographers produce. This is going to take a lot of education to get me up to speed, but I’m looking forward to that.

As I mentioned, I joined a photo club and that is proving to be a great experience.  I’ve even submitted a couple of photos for the contest the club holds monthly.  I haven’t won anything or even finished above the bottom yet but I’ll keep trying. Recently the club sponsored a Macro Photography Workshop. I attend along with around 25 other photographers and we spent the day taking pictures of all sorts of small things. I am sharing some of the photos I took with you in this post.

Another item I am tackling is learning Photoshop. I decided to start with Photoshop Elements because it seemed simpler and was definitely less expensive that the full version of Photoshop. This software is somewhat challenging for me and I must admit it has been a slow learning experience. Have any of you suffered through either Photoshop Elements or Photoshop? If so, I hope the learning process is getting better for you! I did have a little success in making a composite picture. The first one that I

labeled Treasure Found is a composite. The shell is the one in some of the other pictures in this post and I used another photo for the background.  It came out ok for a first attempt!

Please take a look at the pictures from the Macro Workshop and if you have a minute, leave a comment for me.

 

Blog Posts

Rusty Farm Tractor

It has been a while since I have posted an update to this blog. It’s not that I haven’t been taking any pictures it’s more like I’ve been trying to learn how to take better pictures and also to process them in Adobe Lightroom Version 5. I have also been taking some pictures but nothing that I thought was interesting and certainly not worth posting for you to view. I do have some photos that I think are somewhat interesting and I have decided to publish them in this post. The pictures are all of a single subject, a rusting, old abandoned farm tractor.

 

But before talking about the photos, I’d like to talk about my photographic journey. As I mentioned, I’ve been trying to learn how to take better pictures and also how to process them using Adobe Lightroom. In the last several weeks I’ve spent a lot of time viewing videos on YouTube. I have found a large number of videos that do a great job of discussing various technical aspects of photography. I have found these videos to be a great help and they are all free to view. That makes the price excellent!

 

I also decided to take a class on taking pictures at night. The class was conducted by a professional photographer over 3 sessions. On the first evening, after a short lecture that included viewing some great examples of night photography we took our cameras and tripods out into the surrounding neighborhood and starting taking photographs. I learned a great deal and much to my surprise I found that you could take pictures at night at ISO 200 and f/8 along with a few different shutter speeds and the pictures came out great. The second night we met at a nearby park and attempted to take some photographs of the stars, moon and silhouetted buildings. As it turned out, a light fog floated in that evening that somewhat obscured the sky photos but it created some interesting photos of nearby buildings and also the automobile traffic that lit the fog. The last night of the class we went to a retail development that featured reflecting pools, water fountains, a movie theater and a few restaurants, and other establishments, all of which had beautiful colored lights glowing. Some of these pictures came out very nice and a few with colored water fountains came out quite clear and colorful. I posted some of these pictures in October. Needless to say this class was a lot of fun and hopefully I learned enough to become a better nighttime photographer. Time will tell.

 

I have been working with Adobe Lightroom for a couple of months and more or less training myself on its various features. I have learned a great deal but decided there was a lot more that I could learn so I met with a professional photographer for a one-on-one training session on using Lightroom. Denise was a wonderful instructor who shared a great deal of information with me. She even spent additional time talking to me about various ways to fully utilize Lightroom and also how I might want to begin using Adobe Photoshop. I think I learned some additional tips and techniques from Denise that I have incorporated in the photos included in this post.

 

This past summer I was at a park that had an old farmhouse, barn and some farm equipment still in place. I thought it might be interesting to take some photographs; however, I forgot to come back until just a few weeks ago. You can tell by all the fall leaves on the ground that it is not summer. I decided to try and take these photographs from several different perspectives around the tractor. I also wanted to try to fill as much of the frame as I possibly could with the tractor while at the same time allowing for enough of the farm to show through to be recognized. I did some minor editing with Lightroom; however, my sense of style is to use a light touch and not overcook these pictures. Hopefully, I was successful in creating some images that are interesting and worth your time to view. Until the next time, let’s all keep on shooting and improving our photographic skills.

Blog Posts

Night Photography

This month I decided to take a Night Photography class from the Leesburg School of Photography. As I have been trying to improve my photographic skills it seemed that it was time to tackle a new topic. This class was an introductory level course and it was taught by Tom Ramsay, the lead instructor at the school. Tom is a very accomplished photographer and it turns out that he was an excellent instructor! You can learn more about Tom and his photography at:

http://momentwithnature.com/Moment_with_Nature/Welcome.html

The classes consisted of a brief discussion on some topic related to night photography and then we went out to shoot with the new skills that we learned.

In the past when I had tried to photograph anything at night, my photos were of extremely poor quality. I was usually trying to increase my ISO, slow down my shutter speed and open up the aperture. It seemed that was the approach to use in low light situations. Tom taught us that we could take good pictures without resorting to exaggerating these techniques. The pictures that I am posting were all shot at 200 ISO, f8 aperture and a shutter speed of 1/40. Of critical importance was the use of a tripod and I used my new tripod on these occasions with success!

These photos were adjusted in post-processing with Lightroom 5 and all of them were cropped a little. I was very pleased with the results, especially considering my previous failures. Five of the photographs exhibit examples of invisible moving cars with just the headlights and taillights exposed. These were fun pictures to take. I had shot a few others but they were not as good as these. Two of the photos were of a modern water fountain complete with pulsing lights. These were difficult shots and I am very happy with how they turned out. The other two pictures are of a wall and two buildings. These were nice shots with great detail in the surfaces. I finally managed to get pretty good focus even with low light levels.

At this stage, I am feeling like some progress is being made with my photographic skills. I am now a member of the Loudoun Photo Club and hope to compete in some of the contests for novice photographers. In the future, I will post any submissions for your review. You can learn more about the Loudoun Photo Club by clicking this link:

http://www.loudounphotoclub.com/

Invisible car and U-turn

Invisible car and U-turn

Invisible car and Parking Lot

Invisible car and Parking Lot

Invisible car

Invisible car

Invisible car

Invisible car

Invisible car

Invisible car

Stone Wall

Stone Wall

Buildings and Walkway

Buildings and Walkway

Water Fountain at Night

Water Fountain at Night

Water Fountain at Night

Water Fountain at Night

Blog Posts

Blackwater Falls, WV

I recently visited Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia with my family for a short vacation. The state of West Virginia is very mountainous. The Appalachian Mountains are an ancient range and due to erosion are not very high. The highest peak is only 4,863 feet (1462m) and since I lived in Colorado with many mountain peaks over 14,000 feet these seemed like high hills and not mountains! West Virginia is a beautiful state and its motto is “Wild and Wonderful” and I can see why.

This post is a slight departure from previous posts because the subject is nature and not street art. Blackwater Falls is a magnificent waterfall on the Blackwater River. I took my first few pictures around 7:00am and it was a cloudy, overcast morning. You can see the mist in the first picture very clearly. I came back later in the afternoon around 6:00pm and it had cleared up to being only partially cloudy. You can see several pictures that are in somewhat brighter light. Interestingly, there was a professional photographer there in the morning also taking pictures. He was kind enough to let me look thru his pictures on his camera’s LCD screen. They were great looking pictures and I almost felt embarrassed when I looked at mine! I had to remember that I am a beginning photographer and there should be a big difference in quality between our photographs. By the way, the river is named Blackwater because of the brown sediment that drains into the river. This material is tannic acid from the runoff of hemlock and red spruce needles. You can clearly see the streams of brown in the water in the pictures of the Falls.

The challenge here was to take pictures in poor lighting. I also decided to try to take a picture where I blurred the water to give it a milky effect. You can see the result in the last two pictures for comparison. I also used Adobe Lightroom 5 for my post processing. I even managed to erase some people and the observation platform they were standing on in several pictures. Try to find the changes. Check the left margin at about the center point on a couple of pictures and you can just make out the edits. I am starting to get more experienced with Lightroom, although there is a ways to go before I can make a more professional looking photograph.

Another area of needed improvement is focus. I noticed when I downloaded these pictures that the images were not in sharp focus all the way through the scene. This is a skill that needs to be developed and I will try to learn more about using hyperfocal distance in the future. I usually was using the big rock in the waterfall for my focus point and that did not work out well as you can see.

During a hike I came across a field of yellow flowers and I saw a bee (or some kind of insect) on one flower. I quickly focused the camera and squeezed off a couple of photos. The one in this post was the best. I managed to focus at about 2 feet from the flower. I used my new tripod from MeFoto on this trip and it is a great addition to my equipment. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Morning Mist

Morning Mist

Blackwater Falls closeup

Blackwater Falls closeup

Bee on a Flower

Bee on a Flower

Blackwater Falls

Blackwater Falls

Blackwater Falls  f7.1 1/80 sec

Blackwater Falls
f7.1 1/80 sec

Blackwater Falls  f22    1/4 sec

Blackwater Falls
f22 1/4 sec

Blog Posts

Philadelphia Street Art

Philadelphia is an amazing city, it has history, sports, food, culture and great street art. On a recent trip I took the opportunity to walk the streets of the central city and enjoyed the sights and Philly Cheese Steak Hoagies! I also saw some great street art and took some photos and I am sharing seven of the best with you in this post. The day started bright and sunny and then the thunderstorms rolled in and I got soaked. This did change the lighting for some photos and I think a few benefited from the soft lighting right after the rain.

Several of these images were in rather tight spaces, so I had to use the wide angle lens a few times. I am getting used to using Adobe Lightroom 5 and it is improving my photos. There are several photos that exhibited keystoning and Lightroom made great adjustments to eliminate this effect in those photos. I was also able to use the Graduated Adjustment Tool in a few pictures to decrease some brightness in the sky. There is a temptation to overuse Lightroom, so I am trying to limit the adjustments to basically the minimum needed to improve the photo. The tool that is still giving me trouble is the cloning or healing tool when I try to remove something distracting in the photo. One picture in particular did not turn out as well as I wanted, so I guess more practice is needed.

Overall, I am pleased with these photos and it looks like my photographic and post-processing skills are improving. I hope you enjoy these photos and I am looking forward to my next post and hopefully, those pictures will be even better. I am planning on posting pictures from my trip to Blackwater Falls in West Virginia. Nature photography is a departure for me, so lets see how I do on that.

Philadelphia Street Art-5679

Philadelphia Street Art-5683

Philadelphia Street Art-5689

Philadelphia Street Art-5695

Philadelphia Street Art-5697

Philadelphia Street Art-5704

Philadelphia Street Art-5712

Blog Posts

Washington DC Murals

On May 7 I visited Washington DC trying to locate some murals. While on Georgia Avenue near Howard University I caught sight of the first mural on the side of a small grocery store. As I read the information about the mural I learned that it was part of a project of the DC Commission on the Humanities and the Arts.

It was raining and this probably had the effect of making the photographs a little less luminous. I suspect in brighter sunshine these photographs would stand out more. Although the trade-off was very even lightning with no harsh shadows and on balance maybe this was a better day for shooting after all.

All of the murals that I took pictures of were located in primarily African-American neighborhoods. I think more murals are in other locations and I will have to find them on another visit. The following is a list of the pictures and their approximate locations:

Washington DC 2 – Georgia St. and Buchanan
Washington DC 3 – Georgia St. & Webster
Washington DC 5 – Georgia St. and Taylor
Washington DC 7 – 14th St. and U (in an alley)
Washington DC 8 – T St. and 7th
Washington DC 10 – T St. between 7th and 8th
Washington DC 11 – T St. between 7th and 8th
Washington DC 12 – T St. and 4th

If you want to learn more about the DC Commission on the Humanities and the Arts Mural Project you can visit them at http://dcarts.dc.gov/page/muralsdc.

Photographing street murals is a fun project but there are some difficulties in getting a proper position for taking the photos. Sometimes there is not enough room even with a wide angle lens. This is further complicated by the height of the images. In some instances, street traffic restricts where you can stand. That said, this looks like a fun photo project. I have been amazed to learn about some of the many websites that feature mural street art all over the world. Pinterest has been very helpful in showing me many of these beautiful and interesting images.