Tag: Fun

Blog Posts

Blue Hour and Sunrise

Last week I wanted to lose some sleep and get up before dawn was even close! I decided that I may as well take my camera for a short trip to Washington, D.C. since I would be awake with nothing to do. The alarm started to buzz at 4:00am and it seemed for a moment that my idea of rising early may have been a bad one. Struggling out of the bed I managed to washup and get dressed by 4:30am. Soon after I was traveling to Washington, D.C. with a few other intrepid early morning folks.

My photographic object was to capture both the U.S. Supreme Court Building and the U.S. Capitol Dome during the blue hour and at sunrise. The sun rose behind and to the left of the Supreme Court building and therefore lit the U.S. Capitol Dome which is directly across the street from the courthouse. I also wanted to capture these buildings from a few different vantage points. The first photo of the U.S. Supreme Court Building was taken at 5:27am during the blue hour. You can see the crescent moon above the building. I could not backup any further because I would have been standing in the street!

Supreme Court-4603

 

After taking this photo, I crossed the street and setup my tripod on the sidewalk facing the U.S. Capitol and took this photo at 5:31am. The blue hour is clearly captured in the sky and the dome was well illuminated by the building lights.

Capitol Dome-4605

Sunrise was at approximately 6:00am, so as I looked back to the Supreme Court the sky was starting to light up in anticipation of sunrise. I setup in front of the courthouse and took a series of photos with differing camera settings. My goal was to bracket as much as possible and use the power of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to process the photos when I returned home. The following three photos were from that series. The first photo is done in a portrait format, the second is a Lightroom HDR image made up of 3 photos. The third photo I tried to process with more purple in the sky.

Supreme Court-4607

Supreme Court-4608-HDR

Supreme Court-4614

 

The two photos below were taken 15 minutes apart, the first a little before sunrise at 5:56am and the second very near sunrise at 6:11am. I captured the security guard in both frames (no pun intended). The first photo was edited in both Lightroom and Photoshop and the second photo was only edited in Lightroom.

Supreme Court-4627-Edit

Supreme Court-4636

By now the sun was rising so I turned back to the Capitol and took the following photos. The first one is a single image. The second photo is a 2-image combination using the prior photo and another taken immediately following that capture. Both photos were then processed in Photoshop. I used the Select and Mask tool to place the bright dome and trees against the darker sky of the other image. I don’t think this one turned out very good, but I enjoyed the experiment!

Capitol Dome-4632

Capitol Dome-4632-Edit

 

So far it had been a good morning for photography, good subjects, great light and quiet streets! I looked around and saw that life was returning to the streets, joggers were heading towards me, traffic was beginning to flow and tourists were out early. It seemed like a good time to pack up and head home for breakfast and coffee!

 This photo shoot provided me with the opportunity to work with different lighting situations and also use both Lightroom and Photoshop on similar photos. I learned a few things that will hopefully help me on my next cityscape photo shoot. By the way, I hope to be in Pittsburg in a few days to photograph some city scenes there.

Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to join me in my next photo adventure and learn if my photos have improved!

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Blog Posts

New York Scenes

One of the most photographed and photographable cities in the world is New York City. Everywhere you look it seems that a great photograph is just waiting to be taken! The skyscrapers, skyline, Financial District, Central Park, Broadway and the theatre district, river views, harbor, churches, and street scenes everywhere are a photographer’s delight! The key problem is to find a shot that hasn’t been taken a million times before. Perhaps the best bet is to try and take a photo in a somewhat unique style or from a non-traditional point of view.

A few days ago, I spent a couple of hours on Manhattan Island attempting to photograph some sights without taking the same photos I had seen before. It was a very challenging enterprise and I did not always succeed. The beauty of photography in New York is even when you fail at an attempt to photograph something in a unique manner, you still end up with a nice photo! The following are a few of the photos from my day in New York.

It seems you can get any information you need via a smartphone.

Get Info Here?

                                                    Get Info Here?

There are millions of people in New York and sometimes it may feel that even the signs are watching you!

 Who's Looking?

Who’s Lookin?

The New York Theatre District features some of the most famous musicals in the world. It just so happens that there is also music on the streets.

Mazel Tov

Great music. Mazel Tov!

The traffic is always heavy and it is difficult to catch a taxi, Uber or Lyft in NYC, but there are other means of city transportation.

It's the Hat!

It’s the hat!

New York can feed your body and your spirit!

Food Carts and St. Patrick's

Food Carts and St. Patrick’s

Please come back and visit www.cestlavie4me.com to check out more of my photographic exploits.

Blog Posts

Family Vacation Photography

I suspect that many of us tend to photograph in a somewhat solitary manner. We go out on a photo shoot usually with just our camera, bag, tripod and our thoughts. If we do go out with someone else, it is usually better if they are also a photographer. Taking time out during a family vacation or group activity to photograph something other than your family members or the group will not make you the most popular person that day.

There are many times during something like a family vacation or group outing where you can plan ahead and carve out some time to take photographs without interfering with everyone else’s activity. I had this opportunity during the past week when my wife and I went on holiday with our grandchildren, daughter and son-in-law. My daughter found a beautiful house that was available for short-term rentals in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The Mehoopany Creek which is a tributary of the Susquehanna River was just a short walk down the mountain from the house. A small stream flowed from near the house down to the creek and provided some nice photo opportunities. I found an area that had a small waterfall. Early one day before everyone was up I went to the waterfall and took some photographs. In this post I decided to show the before and after version of one of my photographs. I used Adobe Lightroom Classic for the edits. So even when you are on a family vacation or with a group, if you plan ahead you can find some time to enjoy your photographic hobby. Just remember not to abuse the opportunity or you’ll become that person constantly getting the evil eye while you are taking your photos!

Singing Waters Creek

Before Editing in Adobe Lightroom Classic

Singing Waters Creek

After Editing in Adobe Lightroom Classic

Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to track my progress as a hobbyist photographer.

Blog Posts

Hand-Held Panoramas

Some images shout out to be created as a Panorama. This sometimes gives the viewer a much better perspective of the subject and sense of place than a standard photograph. One of the primary tools for great panoramic shots is the use of a steady tripod. Unfortunately, in my case I did not have a tripod on a recent day-trip to Baltimore, Maryland. I do, however, carry a bean bag in my camera bag that I sometimes use as a support for my camera.

My wife and I visited the World Trade Center in Baltimore and on the top floor there is a great observation room with a 360-degree view of Baltimore. I was up for the challenge of attempting panoramic shots without a tripod. Just to make matters a little more difficult, I had to shoot thru the somewhat dirty and streaky glass windows of the Observation Room! So, I proceeded to find spots where I could anchor the bean bag with the camera either on top or pressed against the side and then went to work.

Here are four photos that are each made up of three images. I used Adobe Lightroom to process and combine the images into a panorama. I doubt if any of these photos would win a photography contest prize; but I was very pleased with how well they turned out considering the challenges of hand-holding a camera for panoramas!

Port of Baltimore

Baltimore Marina

Baltimore City Center

Baltimore City Center

Later in the day, we visited The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also called the Baltimore Basilica. It was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States and was among the first major religious buildings constructed in the nation after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. This gave me the opportunity to try a panoramic shot indoors in low light. I again took out my bean bag and took some photos of the altar area. Even with people in the scene the four-image panorama came out well!

Altar

I would always prefer a tripod to a bean-bag, but, it seems that you can make a decent panorama by hand-holding with the help of software like Adobe Lightroom. Now might be a good time for you to take out your camera and try the same technique. Keep on shooting!

Blog Posts

Old Point Comfort Lighthouse

A few weeks back my wife and I took a short drive to Hampton and Norfolk Virginia to enjoy a middle of the week holiday. In addition to eating great seafood I did go out for a couple of photo shoots. One of my goals was to focus on making sure I shot a subject from different viewpoints. I did this at the Point Comfort Lighthouse at Fort Monroe near Hampton. Here is some background on the Point Comfort Lighthouse:

“With the establishment of the United States government and its ensuing lighthouse projects at places like Cape Henry, pressure mounted to build a permanent aid to navigation at Old Point Comfort. An early edition of the American Coast Pilot noted the 1798 law passed by the U.S. Congress that set aside $3,050 for a light at Old Point Comfort and proclaimed: “We wish, for the security of navigation, that the important work may soon be undertaken, for the safety of our mariners.” Between 1800 and 1801, Congress appropriated another $5,000 for construction costs, and contracted the services of Elzy Burroughs to complete the octagonal stone structure.

Burroughs completed most of the work on the lighthouse, which stands fifty-four feet high, during 1803. The tower possesses a spiral staircase composed of hand-cut stone, stacked strategically on top of each other. The stairs lead to a ladder that ascends to a trap door, beyond which is the lantern room. Ten oil lanterns, which consumed 486 gallons of oil each year, were set in reflectors to produce a light that could be seen from fourteen miles at sea.”

Source: http://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=444

When I was editing these photos, I decided to try something new. The sky in one photo was a dull, washed out gray, so a sky replacement was in order. Since this photo had some trees, I decided to try to use the Channels Selection method in Photoshop which I believed would make a better selection. After viewing several videos on YouTube and more than a few attempts at this method, a final product was created.

This is the original photo with only a minor set of adjustments in Lightroom, I also started the adjustments by utilizing the new Profiles feature in Lightroom “Modern 10”.

Old Point Comfort Lighthouse

This is the same photo with the sky replaced by removing the dull, gray sky via a Channels Selection process.

Old Point Comfort Lighthouse

The next photo is from a different viewpoint and taken the next day, so there was a better sky as the background. I also used the new Lightroom Profile “Modern 10” to begin the editing process.

Old Point Comfort Lighthouse

There are a few more photos to share from this trip, but I’ll save those for the next post. Thanks for visiting and please come back to see what progress I am making in becoming a better photographer.

Blog Posts

Macro or Close-up Photography

My latest photography journey has taken me down the road to explore close-up photography. It has been interesting to try and capture images of different things from a very close perspective. Now I don’t think that photographing insects will be something that will keep me reaching for my camera. It appears that photographing various common objects will be more fun for me. One of the things I enjoy is staging the objects to build a composition. It is also enjoyable experimenting with different angles and lighting on small subjects. I have tried flash, flashlights, sunlight and lamps all with different results.

 Most of my close-ups have been taken with a Canon 24-70mm L Lens with a minimum focusing distance of about 12 inches. This has been okay for some photos, but it has been limiting. Recently I purchased some extension tubes and they have made a big difference and cost a lot less than buying a new macro lens! Below are some photos taken with and without the extension tubes along with my elaborate studio setup. I think that you can clearly see how much sharper the photos with the extension tubes are, along with the fountain pen being more prominent in the photo.

No Extension Tube

Close focus with no Extension Tubes

 

12mm Extension Tube

12mm extension tube. 24 layers photo stack, 7 minutes to blend in PS.

 

20mm Extension Tube

20mm extension tube 7 layer focus stack

Setup

Setup-36

Another aspect of close-up photography that has been a learning experience is getting sharp focus. As you may know, the closer the lens gets to the subject, the narrower the depth of field. This blog is not a how-to blog but a narrative on my photographic journey. Therefore, I don’t stray into giving input on how to do anything, but I do want to record my experiences. I have been viewing YouTube videos on the technique known as Focus Stacking. This has also helped me in my progress in learning Adobe Photoshop. The above two photos taken with the 12 and 20mm extension tubes were composites of about 10 layers each utilizing focus stacking. My goal was to have the foreground sharp and let the background go soft to try and create the illusion of the fountain pen pointing out from the flat surface of the composition book. You can be the judge of the results.

 Since this blog is my attempt at documenting my progress as an amateur photographer, I think I can now add some new skills to my repertoire. Hopefully, with more practice my technique with close-up photography and focus stacking will continue to improve. Please come back to visit this blog to follow my photographic journey!

Blog Posts

Old Smartphone Camera

A few days ago, I was driving back home from Washington, DC when I saw a scene on the Potomac that looked interesting. We have been having some extremely cold weather the last several weeks and there was ice on the Potomac in a quantity not usually seen. On this day, the temperature had risen enough to cause fog to form over the ice, which created the scene that interested me.

I did not have my dslr with me, but I did have my smartphone and its camera. I must admit that my phone is several generations from being a current technological marvel, but it does work! I parked and proceeded to walk around the area across from Roosevelt Island and the bridge to the island. I took a few photos of what looked like some good prospects. My biggest concern was the lack of sharpness of the photos due to the age of my phone.

When I arrived at home I downloaded the photos to Adobe Lightroom and started to look through the group for the best photos. As I suspected, none of these shots was particularly sharp. I selected a couple and started to edit them as usual when the idea of taking advantage of the lack of sharpness occurred. Perhaps some interesting photos could be created via post-processing. I utilized both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. As it turned out, some fairly good photos were the result, at least in my opinion. I’ll let you be the judge.

Although I am still far from being proficient with either Lightroom or Photoshop, I am beginning to see some progress in my ability to use these programs. It also seems to me that the sharpness of my dslr and lens may not always be the best option for a photo. Sometimes an old smartphone camera may be ideal! Here are two photos with several versions of each. I hope you enjoy viewing them. 

Original Portrait

Original Process

 

 

Soft Portrait

Soft Image

Oil Painting Filter

Oil Painting Filter

Monochrome Portrait

Monochrome

Here is the view from directly behind the previous photo.

Original

Original Process

Soft Version

Soft Image

 

Oil Painting Filter Landscape

Oil Painting Filter

Monochrome

Monochrome

This is only the beginning of my exploration into using different filters and processing techniques to create images from my smartphone. I will hopefully be able to transition these techniques to photos taken with my dslr. Please come back to view the updates to this blog in the future.

Blog Posts

West Virginia Fall Foliage

At the conclusion of my last blog post, I mentioned that I would be taking a trip to West Virginia to view the fall foliage. My wife and I decided to travel on the Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia. This is an approximately 91-mile highway that goes through the Monongahela National Forest. This was planned to be a simple daytrip so we packed a picnic lunch and planned stops to take photographs along the way and return home around 8 PM.

 

My wife and I lived in Colorado for approximately 20 years and had the opportunity to see the fall foliage change in the great Rocky Mountains. The colors there were bright and spectacular due to the leaves of the Aspen Trees that dominate the mountains. The foliage in West Virginia is very different primarily because there is a greater variety of trees in this area. This led to a tremendous variation in the color and vibrancy of the fall foliage in West Virginia. Our trip took place probably a few days in advance of the peaking of the fall foliage, but nonetheless we saw some very picturesque scenes. Overall, the colors were much more muted than what we were used to in Colorado.

 

Shortly after entering West Virginia I decided to turn off the main road to see if there were any interesting sites to photograph. Very quickly I came upon the scene of a silo in a field along with a small shed and I decided to stop and capture that shot. I had to walk through the farm field to get in position to take this picture and fortunately the field was dry that day otherwise I would’ve been a muddy mess.

 Silo in Autumn

Many of you who have been to Washington, D.C. have seen the Potomac River. It separates the District of Columbia from Virginia and Virginia from Maryland. During the summer months you see many boats, sailboards and kayaks on the river. As we were driving thru West Virginia we saw the North Fork of the Potomac River. It is significantly narrower and much shallower than the Potomac River in D.C.

 North Fortk of Potomac River

As we approached the Monongahela Forest, I stopped at the Ranger station to get some suggestions on good locations to photograph. The Ranger was very helpful; however, he did tell me that there was a small forest fire in one of the areas that he would usually recommend, as it happened that area was called Smoke Hole Canyon! Unfortunately, we would not be able to view the area but he did give me some other suggestions. As we continued our drive I happened to notice a road named Smoke Hole Road and decided to turn and go up that road to see what was there. The first photograph is from a small bridge on this road overlooking a pond with some beautiful reflections of the mountains above.

 Autumn Reflection-2

We continued to drive up the road and noticed the smoke that was very slightly obscuring the view of the mountains in the distance along with the distinct smell of wood burning. But we could tell the fire was nowhere near us at that point. We came upon a small clearing and pulled the car over, parked and enjoyed a great picnic lunch! This is the photograph that I took directly in front of where we stopped to have our lunch.

 Curves-

By now it was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon so we decided to go back the way we came and photograph some of the sights that we saw as we were driving up the mountain. Here are a few of those photographs.

 

We left the forest and returned to the main highway and proceeded to drive home. I noticed a scenic overlook sign and pulled over into the parking lot. We looked around and thought it was not much of a scenic overlook until I noticed a trail leading up the hill behind us. My wife decided to stay in the car and wait. I grabbed my gear and hiked up the hill. After a short climb a very nice view did come into focus. Cutting right through the scene below me was the highway that we had just left. I slightly raised the angle of my camera to crop out the highway and this is the photo that I captured.

 Appalachian Autumn

I hope you enjoyed traveling with us on our short drive through West Virginia to enjoy the fall foliage. Please come back to visit http://www.cestlavie4me.com to view some photographs from my recent visit to the U.S. Library of Congress here in Washington DC. It is not only the largest library in the world but the Jefferson building is a beautiful architectural delight! I think you’ll enjoy the photos. Au revoir!

 

 

 

Blog Posts

Monuments in Washington, D.C.

This past summer has been a quiet photography season for me. It was a great summer filled with family activities including traveling to South Carolina to see the total eclipse. That was an incredible experience and I just concentrated on enjoying it and did not even bring my camera! I have found that photography for me is a somewhat solitary experience. I seem to enjoy it more when I can take my time and concentrate on the photograph I’m trying to take. That means when I travel with the family I concentrate on them and if I need a photography outing I usually go by myself or possibly with another photographer. How many of you reading this post feel the same about separating your photography from other activities?

 

Since I live in the Washington D.C. area I decided that I would try my hand at photographing some of the many monuments and historic buildings in the district. In this post, I want to share four of the photographs from this collection. I will plan on sharing more photographs of the Washington D.C.  area later. Photographing monuments is somewhat of a challenge because of the crowds of tourists that are usually always present. This meant that at times the angle of the camera was not ideal for the photograph but it did eliminate unnecessary distractions. Photoshop also came in very handy at removing those other distractions that the camera angle could not compensate for. As I mentioned when I first started this blog, my objective was to document my progress as a photographer. This meant not only my artistic progress but also my technical progress with the camera and post-production software. I think I’ve made some progress on all counts but I have a long way to go to become a competent photographer!

 

This first photo is a sunrise over the Washington Monument and the US Capitol and it was an afterthought. I had initially come to the National Mall to photograph the Lincoln Monument at sunrise which is the next picture in the post. As I was setting up to photograph the Lincoln Monument I remembered to turn around to see what was behind me and fortunately the sunrise turned out to be very photogenic. This photo was edited in not only Lightroom but also Photoshop to enhance colors and take advantage of some dodging and burning techniques. You can probably figure out where this took place in the photo.

Monument Sunrise-2

This picture of the Lincoln Monument is the one that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There were quite a few tourists around that morning even at sunrise! I took about 25 different photographs of the monument and this is the one I was most pleased with. Hopefully, you can see the golden glow of the sun on the façade of the monument. This photo also gave me the opportunity to use Photoshop to remove more than eight tourists who were either on the steps or near the columns. Feel free to look because I’m sure a practiced eye will be able to find those edits. I also used Photoshop to accentuate the blue and gray color of the sky. This was important to me because blue and gray represented the colors of the opposing Union and Confederate forces in the U.S Civil War. President Lincoln brought the country through this crisis and allowed it to remain a United country. So, I titled this photograph United.

United-

The Thomas Jefferson Monument is one of the most visited monuments in Washington D.C. It is not on the National Mall but it is just a short distance away. This photograph was taken from a location just in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument which is the last photo in this post. Interestingly, it was a moonless evening, so I decided to put the moon in the photo for dramatic impact. It is larger than it would naturally appear; however, that is my artistic prerogative!

Thomas Jefferson Monument at dusk

The Martin Luther King Jr. Monument is the newest monument on the National Mall. It is located a short distance away from the Lincoln Monument. This is probably the most challenging of all the photographs due to the large number of tourists and the limited space for me to set up my camera. Fortunately, after taking several shots over a 20-minute period, I did manage to catch one before the tourists clambered back in front of it to take selfies. The quote is not engraved on the monument; however, it is a quote taken from the wall directly behind the monument and it seems an appropriate quote because of current events in America.

MLK-

I hope you enjoyed reading the posts and viewing the photographs. Come back to visit in the future because I hope to show some photos from an autumn trip that I’m planning to West Virginia to capture some of the fall color from the seasonal change.

 

 

Blog Posts

Abstract Photos

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, my journey into photography has necessitated me learning the art and skills of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I’m starting to feel very comfortable in using Lightroom as my digital darkroom. There are still frustrating times when making some type of adjustment I don’t notice a significant change. This most often happens when I am using the sharpening tool. Another area that frequently causes me some consternation is the Split Toning panel. I have a hard time finding a photo that benefits from this feature. There are a few other minor points that bother me but overall, as I mentioned previously I am getting much more comfortable with Lightroom.

Photoshop is a much more difficult learning exercise. I have purchased a book and looked at numerous videos just to get a basic understanding of how some of the tools work for photography. Most of the photos I have edited with Photoshop have just been attempts to learn how the software works. I can tell that this is going to be a long-term educational saga for me.

Fortunately for me, I recently had an opportunity to use both programs for editing photos to display at my local photography club’s monthly competition. The theme for that competition was abstract photography which by its nature allows for a great deal of freedom in defining what is an abstract photograph. Since this blog post is about my journey to become a better photographer and not a blog for technical instruction; I will just post the photographs that I used, without a lot of detail outlining the editing process that was incorporated into producing them.

The first photograph that I edited was a snippet of mosaic tile from the St. Louis Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri. The artwork throughout this Cathedral is made up almost entirely of mosaic panels that are stunning. While I was at the Cathedral I took quite a few pictures including a close-up of a small portion of a scene. That photo was edited only using Lightroom. Next, I sent the photo over to Photoshop where several extensive edits were made using layers and filters along with the bloat tool to create the composite image that you see below the original photograph. Much to my surprise, this composite earned a ribbon at the club competition.

Mosaic Original

Mosaic Composite

Next photo was taken in the woods behind my home. I deliberately moved the camera as I released the shutter to create a blurred photo of the trees. Again, this photo was only edited in Lightroom. A composite of this photograph was then made using Photoshop. I had previously taken a photo of some plywood with my smart phone. This was used as a texture overlay for the original photo in Photoshop. Both photos can be seen below.

Springtime

Trees with Overlay

The next photos are that of a chicken egg. To create an abstract photo, a small flashlight was placed directly behind the egg to illuminate the inside of it. This created a very interesting lighting effect because the egg was much more translucent I had expected. The flashlight also created a band of white light beneath the egg that added to the effect. I prefer the black and white version of this photograph for that reason. I was surprised a second time when the black and white photo received a ribbon at the club competition. It was a lot of fun creating this photograph and using the flashlight in different positions. Some of the other photos also turned out quite nice, especially when converted to black and white, but I decided to only use these two in this blog post.

Egg Color

Egg B&W

I will continue my attempts to learn photography, Lightroom and Photoshop and hopefully the next photos I post in this blog will show significant improvement in my skill. Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com for future posts.