Tag: Novice Photographer

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Leesburg Airshow

This past weekend I took my granddaughters to the Leesburg Airshow here in Northern Virginia. The sky was extremely overcast which made for a pretty poor photographic background. It did, however, give me an opportunity to spend the day with my granddaughters and also to take some photographs. Several of the photographs turned out reasonably well and are included in this blog post for your enjoyment!

 I learned multiple lessons that, hopefully, will help me in the future relative to photography. When these airplanes were in flight it was very difficult to capture them properly in the frame. After a few mistakes I realized I would be better off if I was shooting in continuous mode. That is probably a big Duh from the more experienced photographers reading this blog post. However, for a slow learner like myself, it was not something I immediately thought about. So one of the first lessons I did learn, was that it is very important to consider the photographic shooting environment before taking the first photo. I’m usually so excited to take pictures that I seldom consider the complete environment beforehand.

 The next learning opportunity arrived when I tried to use the panning technique on a few shots with mixed results. The few photos that did turn out somewhat decent were mere luck and not due to any skill on my part. This is the next lesson learned. It was not a mistake to try pannin; however, I do need to practice it more often to become proficient at using this technique. Combining panning and continuous shooting mode was not something that immediately occurred to me. I did use it for several photos and the results were an improvement on the shots taken earlier in the day.

 As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the sky was very overcast and gray and it made for a poor photographic background. Needless to say I did not use the proper exposure in several instances. Looking back on it, some of these photographs would have turned out a lot better had I dialed in either a slightly different exposure or perhaps minimized how much sky was in the photograph. Another option obviously would be to use Photoshop to replace the skies in these photos.

 Speaking of using Photoshop, I did try it for the composite photo of the parachutist and the American flag. A couple of months ago I shot several photos of the American flag against a very nice and colorful sky. It was my intention to use these for backgrounds in some future photo, but I did not have any idea as to when. This is another tip that I picked up from my photo club. Always shoot backgrounds for future use. I have built up a small library of various backgrounds; however, my limitation is utilizing them with Photoshop. I just recently subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud and I am in the process of attempting to learn Photoshop. The composite that you see here was difficult because of the number of ropes dangling from the parachute. I did the best I could to select the parachutist and then to erase the background between the ropes. The photo came out okay, however, don’t look too closely at the ropes!

 The airshow also featured an exhibit of several classic automobiles. Two of them caught my eye for their photographic potential. I have included them in the blog for your viewing pleasure. As always, I came away from the shooting opportunity with a few decent photos but the most valuable thing was the experience of taking the photographs. There is a lot to learn in becoming a better photographer and I am enjoying the journey, even if the results are not great to this point. Now enjoy the photographs from the Leesburg airshow.

 

1959 Caddy

Caddy for Daddy

On the Tarmac

Aerobatic Bi-Plane

japanese-wwii-aircraft-1

Japanese WWII Aircraft

Old Glory

Old Glory

Prop & Engine

Powerplant

us-air-force-in-flight-1

US Air Force in Flight

wwii-bomber-1

US WWII Bomber

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Blog Posts

National Museum of African American History & Culture

 Usually my blog posts are about photography and related topics. This blog post will also feature photography but just as importantly it will introduce you to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. This past Saturday my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the charter members only opening of the museum. This was an extremely exciting event for the two of us. My wife, in particular, has been looking forward to this and has been planning to be one of the first people to visit the museum once it opened.

 This museum has been long overdue and it was a privilege to finally walk through the doors. This museum is part of the Smithsonian family of museums. It is the 19th one in the system and the newest. The site is a stunning building designed by David Adjaga, Philip Freelon and J. Max Bond. It is located on a 5-acre site on the national Mall here in Washington DC. The authorization to build a museum was done by an Act of Congress in 2003. The groundbreaking itself took place in February 2012 and the grand opening for the public is scheduled for September 24, 2016. The museum itself contains over 36,000 objects of historical importance that documents the African-American experience from pre-colonial times to the present.

 The best way to describe the museum is that it is an exploration through time. Your journey begins on the third level below ground with an introduction to Africa in the 1400s. You continue your journey through the beginning of the slave trade between Africans and Europeans and then move on to slavery in the United States. As you continue going up the different levels you experience not only slavery in the antebellum South but its relationship to the rest of America and America’s history. Your journey takes you through the Civil War, reconstruction, the era of Jim Crow segregation, the civil rights movement right on up to present-day America. The upper levels continue the story of African-Americans with a view towards culture, sports, music, the arts, community and even family research. For more details on this fabulous museum click on the link below.

https://nmaahc.si.edu/about/museum

Now I would like to share a few photographs that I was able to take at the museum. The photographic conditions were not great due not only to lighting, but the restriction on bringing in tripods and flash. I decided to try out a fast wide angle lens for the photos. The best option was to rent a lens, so that’s what I did. As long as it was a rental I decided to rent the best. I shot these photos with a Canon EF 15-35mm f2.8 L series. This is not a lens I can afford to buy! At times I was shooting wide open and as high an ISO as 3200. There was some noise but Lightroom cleaned it up pretty well. Needless to say the crowds of people, in many instances, prevented me from being in an ideal position to take a photograph. That having been said, I hope you enjoy the pictures below.

Blog Posts

County Fair

It seems that I have a penchant for photographing city scenes such as cityscapes, street scenes and architecture. Recently, I had an opportunity to attend the Prince William County Fair here in Virginia. The premier event at the fair that evening was the demolition derby. This struck me as a great opportunity to photograph some new subject material.

 First of all, to those of you who are unfamiliar with a demolition derby, let me explain it. This is basically a very unusual automobile race. The race cars themselves have had everything that could fall off, taken off. This includes the interior seats, windows, mirrors, headlights, etc. These cars are wrecks that are used to crash into one another! There is no racetrack, just an open area with concrete barricades around the perimeter. The surface is dirt that has been watered down to make traction very difficult. From watching the drivers, it seemed their primary tactic was to back into another car at as high speed as possible in order to render the rammed car inoperable. The winner of the event was the driver of the last car that was still in operation.

 From my photography standpoint, it was interesting trying to catch some action shots that would clearly portray this unusual car race. One of the first issues was related to where I was standing.  I needed to use a telephoto lens. I also had to shoot between spectators, since I did not have a pass to get inside the perimeter. The lighting became more difficult as the races went later into the evening. The combination of the car’s motion and low light made taking a proper exposure difficult. Needless to say, all these photos were done with the tripod.

 I must have taken approximately 100 photos that evening. After uploading the photos to Adobe Lightroom and reviewing them, I came to the conclusion that most of the photos were not really very interesting. Many of them were technically acceptable, but they had no real visual appeal. I’m sure that this is something that many of you reading this blog have also experienced after a day of photography. So I culled through these photographs and came up with several that I’m sharing with you in this blogpost. My personal favorite is the one of the driver sitting on his car waiting for his group to race. The casual and unpretentious nature of this race is evident by his pose.

 Calm before RacePolice ChaseLineupThe Devil Flames Out!County Fair Ferris Wheel

The other photos of the demolition derby are an attempt to capture some interesting action. In one of them you can see flames coming out of the engine compartment. Shortly after this, the race was stopped so firemen could douse the flames. I do have a photo of that and it is not very interesting since it only shows the firemen’s back and his hose with no flames bellowing from the car.

 Since this was a county fair, there was a carnival in progress. I took several photographs of the Ferris Wheel in the distance and I’m sharing the nicest one in this post. This particular photo gave me an opportunity to use Adobe Photoshop. I managed to lighten the shadows of the trees and this brought out significant detail. There were also several distracting objects in the background that I was able to remove with the healing tool. A few adjustments to the white and black points and the result was a decent photograph. This photo certainly won’t win any awards but it did give me an opportunity for late evening photography and a chance to start using Adobe Photoshop for editing. My first impressions of Photoshop are it is very powerful but also very complicated. I will be spending a lot of time in the immediate future attempting to learn this tool.

 I hope reading this blogpost encouraged some of you to go out and photograph something that you’re not used to doing. It is only by tackling unfamiliar projects that we as photographers can learn new skills and techniques and improve our overall ability to capture a good photograph. I know I certainly enjoyed this opportunity at the county fair.

 

Blog Posts

Urban Photography

I have found that taking photographs of people in their urban surroundings is very enjoyable for me. In a previous blogpost I discussed what types of photographs I wanted to take and decided that I like to point the camera at anything I enjoy! Is that something that appeals to you or do you tend to concentrate on one specific type of subject matter? Have you considered trying new subjects and challenges? With summer approaching and good weather to be found throughout the northern hemisphere, now is a great time to get out and explore taking photos of different subjects and situations.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take some photos at both a local street festival and in the historic city of Annapolis, Maryland. I consider these to be urban photography although some of you may prefer to call it street photography. Since these are my photos I have decided to use the term urban photography. My hope is to display people interacting with one another in an urban setting or just being a critical element of an urban scene.

The first several photos were captured at the OneLoudoun Festival in Ashburn, Virginia. Ashburn is a suburb in the greater Washington DC metro area and OneLoudoun is a real estate development that is attempting to mimic a downtown area in a city. If you visit, then you can decide for yourself if this idea is successful. The picture below is entitled Conversation. I caught sight of the couple in conversation in the midst of a crowd of people. I processed this photo to highlight them and at the same time to deemphasize the rest of the scene. I wanted the effect to be subtle and my style seems to gravitate to lightly post processed photos.  Conversation

The next picture from the festival featured a dog. Usually, I am not the person who has much interest in photographing animals, but this scene caught my attention with the dog, his owner and the costumed person in the background. Since the dog was a black and white breed and his owner was wearing black tights, a white top and boots with white fur trim I decided to process this as a monochrome image. I did use a slight tint just to make it look a little different. It's about me!

In America, we have a provision in our Constitution that permits citizens to own firearms. The actual text of that amendment is as follows A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. Depending where in the world you live, this might be a concept that you disagree with. Many individual states also have laws that allow for citizens to carry firearms on their person. A weapons permit is required to do this. The Commonwealth of Virginia has laws to allow the carrying of firearms and if you are interested click on this link http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter7/section18.2-308.01/

The rationale for this discussion is found in the next photograph from the festival. This scene was interesting because the two blue balloons are harmless and photogenic. If you look closely to the left of the woman with the balloons you will see a man wearing a red headscarf. Note that on his hip is a handgun. I thought the juxtaposition of the innocent balloons in a scene with a handgun was a great opportunity for a photograph. I tilted the image in post for a little extra effect. Gun and Blue Balloons

Now the last picture from the festival was of a family behind the stage where a band was playing to the crowd. I watched the dad take several pictures of the family and I took candid pictures of them at the same time. The one below is entitled Why me? And I think you can surmise the reason for the title. Why me?

Annapolis is a very historic city here in America. It is the capital of the State of Maryland and it was also the first capitol of the United States prior to Washington DC. It is also the home to the U.S. Naval Academy. The first picture was taken on Main Street near the harbor. This area is a very tourist oriented neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants and bars. I noticed several Naval Academy Cadets standing outside of a restaurant and thought the scene was interesting due to the four people and dog (again an animal) in the foreground. Their facial (not the dog!) expressions are all quite different and tell various stories. Feel free to guess what you think those stories might be. Naval Academy Cadets

The last photo is of a traffic control officer. It looks like his hand signals are giving contradictory instructions. Actually he is signally to pedestrians on both curbs that they can walk. Just as I snapped this photo a gust of wind blew in from behind me and blew my hat across the street behind the officer. He was kind enough to run after it and grab it before a car had the great opportunity to run over it! Traffic Control

Thanks for visiting C’est La Vie Photography Blog and come back to see another post in the not too distant future! Feel free to leave a comment.

 

Blog Posts

Adobe Fun!

In prior blogs I have talked about my attempt to learn Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Continuing to develop my technical skill with these great products has been a challenge but there has been progress. Unfortunately, I have a long way to go. Maybe some of you have experienced similar issues in your journey through these photo editing programs.

First let’s talk about Lightroom. This is the digital darkroom for your images. I have invested a great deal of time viewing training videos on YouTube.com. It is amazing how much free training is available to you and how good the training actually is. My frustrations; however, is that beyond describing what the controls do and how that particular photographer uses them to make fantastic photos, there is not a lot of depth in explaining what setting to use! The frequent response is “depends on what you like”. I guess in the world of art this is something I will have to get used to it, but from my more precise business background I tend to like absolutes and answers that are clear-cut. Another area of confusion for me is “sharpness”. I have tried many different levels of sharpening of photographs and sometimes it’s hard to see any real improvement. It seems that I degrade the photos more than improve them. So lately I have started not to bother with sharpening at all and just use the preset level of 25 that Lightroom provides.

I must admit that when I look at some of my photos from a year ago and compare them to newly edited photos, I like what I’m seeing. Two of the tools that I’m beginning to have a greater appreciation for are the Tone Curve and the HSL sliders. These tools have helped improve quite a few photos that otherwise were a little dull and lacking. I suspect many of you have had similar awakenings with using these tools. One of the newer features of Lightroom 6 is the ability to create panoramas. I recently visited New York City on a rather chilly, hazy winter day. I went across the Hudson River to Liberty Island State Park and took a series of photos of Manhattan Island and then used this new feature to create the panorama that you see below.

Photoshop Elements version 14 is Adobe’s latest enhancement to their popular hobbyist version of Photoshop. A trial version is available and I took advantage of that because I wasn’t sure there were enough new features to make a purchase worthwhile. One of the new additions is Dehaze. This feature turned out to be quite helpful in several photos that I recently edited. It is not perfect, but it did make an improvement in photos by removing what appears to be haze and leaving a much clearer photograph.

Continuing with the theme of struggling has been my utilizing some of the tools in Photoshop Elements such as the Selection and Clone Stamp tools. I looked at many videos and then tried to duplicate what I just learned and in some instances it was difficult to get the same results. As it turned out the problems I was experiencing had nothing to do with my learning ability or the software itself. One of the issues is I have developed an irritating twitch in my right hand. Since I am right-handed this creates problems in editing photos. Research for solutions led me to larger input devices such as trackballs and a larger mouse. I should also mention that I have been using a Wacom pen & tablet along with a mouse. I seem to have compensated for the twitch by purchasing a beanbag type wrist support along with a better surface for my mouse. I also changed the sensitivity of both the mouse and the pen. These steps have helped significantly; however, there is still a problem with the tablet; it sometimes acts rather erratically. I could not find out why until I did some Internet searching and found out a lot of other people are having the same problem and it seems to be related to Microsoft Windows 10! So until Microsoft communicates fixes to these pen & tablet developers I suspect many people including myself will continue to experience problems with their pens and tablets when using this operating system. How many of you are having similar problems?

Okay, back to photo editing. I have been enjoying the use of Photoshop Elements 14. I want to share some of my photos with you. One is a photo taken on the U.S. National Mall in Washington, DC of the Korean War Memorial. I edited this photo with both Lightroom and Nic Silver Efex software. This created a somewhat dated look in the photo but it was still missing something. While I was out on a windy day I noticed an American flag blowing in the wind and I decided to use a photograph of that flag in the picture. Through the magic of layers, selections and patience I managed to create the photo below.

While on that recent trip to New York a visit to Wall Street provided another great photo opportunity. The famous statue of the Wall Street bull is around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange. In the last several weeks I have watch my stock portfolio drop so I decided to create a rather silly photograph of the bull market crash. I hope you enjoy looking at this composite as much as I had making it. The market will come back one day and my portfolio will improve or I may have to try to sell these photographs to buy food! It probably means I’ll starve to death.

Well that’s enough ranting for this blog post. Hopefully you found something interesting in it or found it to be a good way to waste a few minutes of your valuable time. I hope it was the former! Now stop wasting time with this blog and go out and take some photographs.

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.