Tag: Photography

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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!

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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

Patience

My wife and I recently took a short trip to southern Virginia for a midweek get away. One of the areas we visited was Virginia Beach. Anticipating some picturesque photographic locations; I reviewed the Photographer’s Ephemeris to check both sunrise and sunset perspectives for an old fishing pier that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean. For no reason other than I did not want to wake up early, I decided on a sunset photograph.

The weather that day started out as a partly cloudy, early spring morning. This gave me the distinct impression that the evening sky might just have a lot of color and provide the opportunity for a very nice photograph. That evening we drove to the beach and I got out to see where I should set up my camera and tripod. Since it was a somewhat cool evening only a few people were on the beach and I thought that I was very lucky to be here at this time with an unobstructed view. My subject was an old abandoned fishing pier that was quite weathered in appearance. I looked at several different compositional viewpoints and proceeded to take photos under the pier and looking towards the pier. By now, the sky was starting to look a little more threatening than it had earlier in the day and I began to think a rainstorm may come up and ruin my opportunity for photography. By now it was approximately 5 pm and sunset was slated for 7:30 pm; therefore, the Golden Hour would commence around 6:30 pm. Here are two of the photos shot after setting up.

Fishing Pier

Quiet Storm

The deteriorating weather encouraged me to return to the car with my camera and tripod. At first, the plan was to sit and wait but we were both getting hungry. It appeared that there would be sufficient time to grab a quick bite to eat and then return to the beach for the Golden Hour. So, my wife and I drove to a nearby seafood restaurant named Hot Tuna and were told by the hostess it would be approximately 15 minutes before we were seated at a table. After waiting about 15 minutes, I asked the hostess how much longer and she replied, “about another 15 or 20 minutes.” Now I was beginning to get quite worried that that we would not get back to the beach in time for any sunset photos. As I looked out the window the sky was turning very dark and within a few minutes it began to rain, and the wind began to intensify. I thought to myself that the evening for photography was pretty much finished!

Resigning myself to the fact my photography evening was probably finished the hostess finally came over and said our table was ready! The good news is the food was excellent. The bad news is, just as we started eating the rain stopped, the wind slowed down, and the sun drifted towards the horizon and began to light up the sky and clouds with the most beautiful colors! I couldn’t believe my terrible luck. We were not yet finished eating and the sky was filled with brilliant colors. I glanced at my watch and it was almost 7 PM. My wife encouraged me to go to the beach anyway and still try to take a few photographs. So, we paid our bill and ran out to the car and quickly drove back to the beach.

During the walk to the pier, the sky was getting darker, the sun was sinking more, and the sky was not quite as brilliant; but there was still some good color left. I set up my camera and looked through the viewfinder to focus on the pier and was unable to lock-in with the autofocus. I then turned on live view and attempted to focus in manual mode. After a few twists of the focusing ring it seemed that the pier was in focus, so I proceeded to take several photographs. My chimping was constant and the LCD screen gave me the impression that I had several good photographs. The histogram also looked good. I could hardly contain my excitement at having obtained some good sunset photographs.

Days later at home, I uploaded the photos to my computer and much to my horror none of the shots of the pier were in sharp focus and as result the photos were useless! There are two valuable lessons that came out of this experience for me. The first and most obvious one is to not leave your location until you have finished photographing the subject. I never should’ve left for the restaurant! The second lesson was that I needed to learn how to better focus in low light situations. Since then I’ve done some research and now have a better idea of how to handle low light situations with a wide-angle lens. Here is one of the photos I took that evening and you can clearly see how out-of-focus the pier is because of my inability to manage a low light situation.

Storm Clouds

As I’ve said before my purpose in blogging is to document my photographic journey to becoming a better photographer. This episode did not result in any great photographs, but I did learn some valuable lessons that should help me tremendously in the future. Please come back to see where my photographic journey takes me next. In the meantime, keep on shooting!

 

 

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

Planning a Photograph

As I have attempted to make progress as an amateur photographer the need to plan for a good photograph has often come up in books, videos and blogs. This has led me to begin using Google Earth to view potential sites. I have also begun to utilize the features in the Photographers Ephemeris, click here for more information,  http://photoephemeris.com/tpe-for-desktop , to better understand the lighting on a subject at a specific time of day in my planned location. Another change has been considering how the finished photograph should look before releasing the shutter. This had not been my pattern in the past.

This past October I put all of this planning to work for a photo of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. you can find information about the Shrine here http://www.nationalshrine.com/site/c.osJRKVPBJnH/b.4747309/k.C5D1/History.htm. First, I wanted to capture the sunset, so the Photographer’s Ephemeris was used to check the position of the sun for October 15th. I also used Google Earth to familiarize myself with the area around the Basilica, including parking places.

As I was considering the photo, a partial silhouette of the Basilica was the shot that seemed most interesting to me. After arriving at the site, I setup my camera and tripod and looked around. The Basilica is located next door to Catholic University, so there were a lot of people walking around and some were playing soccer or frisbee on the lawn in front of me. I decided this would not be a problem as the sun went down, however, I did notice that there was some construction taking place at the Basilica. Some of these distractions could be fixed in camera by using the shadow of the Basilica and some would be fixed in post-processing.

My next decision was to setup the composition. The sidewalk would be used as a leading line, however, there was some material on the ground where I wanted to stand. Oh well, you can’t plan everything. So, I moved over a few feet to the left. I then sat down and waited for sunset and the color that I hoped would arrive! It was a warm autumn evening, so the wait was very pleasant. As the sun was setting, I took many photos and made some adjustments along the way. After returning home and transferring the photos to my computer and picking the shot that appealed to me, Adobe Lightroom was used to dodge and burn some areas and boost color in the sunset. Adobe Photoshop allowed the removal of distracting elements. I also decided to have the Basilica in semi-silhouette as mentioned earlier to reveal some details of the building. Below is the resulting picture. I hope you enjoy it.

untitled-17-Edit-2National Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC

Blog Posts

Library of Congress Jefferson Building

There are many spectacular public buildings in Washington, D.C. and one of the best in my opinion is the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The Library is a complex of 3 buildings in Washington, D.C. directly across the street from the U.S. Capitol. Click the link below to learn more about the United States Library of Congress.

https://loc.gov/about/history-of-the-library/

 The three buildings in this complex are the Jefferson, Adams and Madison; all are named for former presidents of the United States of America. The jewel in this collection of great architectural edifices is the Jefferson Building. Click here for more information on the Jefferson Building.

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/wash/dc79.htm

 The vast majority of this building is open to the public and there are always many tourists and others taking pictures throughout the facility. The major exception is the exclusion of photography while in the Main Reading Room. This exception is lifted twice a year and the public can bring their cameras into the room and photograph as much as they want.

 October 9th was the most recent date that the Main Reading Room was open for photography. I arrived early and was greeted by a line of people waiting to enter the room! It was so very crowded that I could hardly find a place to stand to take a photograph. As it turned out, I did manage to capture a few good photos. The only one from the Main Reading Room that I am posting is my favorite because of the perspective. You cannot bring a tripod into the room, so I had to use a bean bag for stability. This worked well enough with the exception that I could not see the LCD display or look through the view finder to frame the composition. I took about 20 shots and constantly adjusted the position of the camera to reframe the photo. This is the shot of the dome and columns that resulted from this exercise.

 Main Reading Room Dome

I decided that if everyone was in the Main Reading Room, it might be a good idea to move to another area and take some photos. This worked out well and here are some photos from the Great Hall of the Library of Congress.

 Great Hall Ceiling

Great Hall Ceiling

 

Great Hall 2nd Level

             2nd Floor of Great Hall

 

Great Hall 2nd Level

Great Hall Columns and Arches

Finally, here is the front of the Jefferson Building.

 Main Entrance

Jefferson Building

If you visit Washington, D.C. make sure to plan to spend several hours at the Library and in particular the Jefferson Building. You won’t be disappointed, and it’s free!

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.