Tag: Photography

Blog Posts

Missing the Super Moon

This past weekend brought the super moon to our night skies. I decided that this would be a great photo opportunity. Now the hard part began or so I thought. Where would be the best location for a super moon photo shoot?

I live in the Washington, DC area, so there is no lack of photogenic locations, from the National Mall, Capitol Dome, monuments, museums, statues, Potomac River and the list goes on and on. It seemed to me that every other photographer in the neighborhood would be using these prime locations and one more photo from me would be a big dud! What was needed was a location that was not on anyone else’s photography location meter. How many of you, hobbyist photographers, have been in a similar situation? Lots of digital film but no clear idea of what to shoot or where!

After tossing out many possibilities, I did come up with a location that was attractive and accessible. More on that later. Now the problem was to determine where the moon was going to rise and would it be in the photo frame I wanted. There is a great app, Photographers Ephemeris, that is excellent for helping figure this part of the photographic puzzle. For those of you who have not used it, you give the app a location and it gives you the astronomical information you need. It is linked to Google maps, so you can see the location with the street view function. Here is a link to the site:

http://app.photoephemeris.com/?ll=38.930974,-77.001777&center=38.9310,-77.0015&z=17&spn=0.00,0.01&dt=20161115172600-0500

I proceeded to look up my intended site and gathered the necessary information. The app displayed a graphic projection showing where the moon would be located at the time I wanted to take the photos. I used the street view function in Google maps and it looked like I had a clear view of my potential super moon shot. I felt good that I had done my homework and was ready to take some great pictures. I suspect many of you have also felt good after researching photo sites.

As I was driving to the location, things began to fall apart. It was Sunday evening and the traffic was really, really bad. Now I was behind schedule. It seemed my GPS was routing me directly into traffic and road construction, a constant problem in the District of Columbia! Finally, I arrived at my well researched location and parked my car. Out came the camera bag, tripod and small chair I like to use. Off I went to the location that was in my notes. Shock and horror greeted me! There were big trees all over the place blocking my view. Those Google photos were either old or I had researched the wrong spot!

This location would not work. I crossed the street and there was a parking lot that I proceeded to use to set up my equipment. I took a few photos of my target and waited for the moon rise. Now another surprise, as the moon came up it was immediately apparent that I was not in the right location! Oh well, all I could do was take some photos of my subject and enjoy the evening alone with my camera.

The next day, I rechecked the app and found the mistakes I had made in setting things up. This was a lesson that I will not forget. Next time I will do a much better job. My suggestion to you is that you practice with this app and go to the sites to check whether you have calculated the position accurately for your photo shoot before you go on the actual shoot.

The location I selected was the National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University here in Washington, DC. Here are a few of the photos from my evenings adventure. Enjoy!

National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Photo taken just after sunset

National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

HDR image made from 3 photos

National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Photo made 20 minutes after sunset

National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The Super Moon is in the bottom right

Blog Posts

Photojournalism

As I have reflected on before in this blog, finding a photographic genre for me to concentrate on has been difficult. This is probably an issue that other readers of this blog have also struggled with from time to time. A conclusion that I came to in a previous post is that you should photograph what you enjoy and not worry about labels.

In the past, I thought real photography had to be done with a legitimate camera. In the last couple of months, I have concluded that this is another harbored fallacy on my part about photography. You can take interesting pictures with just about any camera and that includes, smartphones, tablets and whatever else has a photographic sensor!

On a recent trip around the country I took many pictures with my Canon equipment but I also took some good photos with my old and outdated smartphone! Just this past weekend, my wife and I attended a ceremony to commemorate a black slave cemetery on the former Belmont Plantation site here in Loudoun County, Virginia. I did not have my camera with me, but I did have my smartphone. Fortunately, I was able to take several photos of this event that I am sharing with you in this post. This has allowed me to be somewhat of a photojournalist and to use this as a means of informing and educating people on a topic that concerns American history! Admittedly a sad and tragic period of history but one that needs to be understood.

The cemetery sits in the woods near a busy traffic intersection that is undergoing extensive construction. The event itself was to honor those deceased slaves and not protest construction, but to make sure that the construction does not violate the cemetery! We were given name tags to wear of the slaves who had once lived on that plantation. I received the name tag of a slave by the name of Jesse. The procession then walked across the road to the cemetery under police protection from the traffic. A program was then held in a clearing near the cemetery. One of the photos shows the color guard and the actual cemetery is directly behind them.

As for the photos, I can see that a different angle and perspective would have greatly improved these photos. When I get another opportunity to photograph an event I need to move around more. I tried to tell a story with these photos and perhaps I did. In any event, my goal will be to tell a better story in photos on my next attempt. Some of the readers of this blog have probably made the same mistakes and hopefully have improved in their photojournalism since then. At least I have another photographic genre to keep me occupied.

Here is a newspaper article about the commemoration event:

http://www.loudountimes.com

Enjoy the photos!

The Historian

slave-cemetery-memorial-3

slave-cemetery-memorial-4

slave-cemetery-memorial-6

slave-cemetery-memorial-10

slave-cemetery-memorial-13

slave-cemetery-memorial-17

Blog Posts

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

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

Working a Photo

In the last few months I have attended a couple of presentations by gifted photographers who discussed the concept of working a composition. By this, you should try and take a photograph of a particular subject from different perspectives, different aperture settings, different focal lengths, and any other techniques you can use to try and create a picture that is unique. The emphasis for you is on doing this in-camera and not just relying on Photoshop or some other editing program to manipulate the pixels.

 I must admit that this technique is one that I have not done a very good job with in the past. As I look back it seems that I probably spent too little time on any given shot. This is perhaps because I didn’t think through quite clearly what I wanted to do before I started shooting or in some instances I was impatient to move on to the next photograph. In any event, this is a problem in my photography that I plan to correct immediately.

 Recently, I visited New York City with the intention of enjoying a day or two in the city and not necessarily concentrating on photography. Fortunately, I did bring my camera with me just in case I changed my mind. As it turns out, I did use my camera much more than I had originally planned. New York is a fantastic city for photography, in particular, for urban street scene photography. I think I will use some of those photographs for my next blog post on the topic of street photography, but for now let’s stay on the topic at hand which is working a composition.

 When I came up with this idea for the blog, I realized that I did not have very many examples of working a particular composition to get a perspective, view or just a composition that was somewhat unique. I guess that points out what a poor job I have been doing in the past with working my compositions. While in the financial district I did manage to take a few different photographs of the icon of the Financial District, “the bull of Wall Street” sculpture. I will use those photos to somewhat highlight the idea of working a composition; although, admittedly, a very poor example of that technique.

 The first photograph that I took was from the front of the bull and it is shown below in color. As it would happen, many people were walking by and just as I snapped the shutter the woman on the right came into the frame and I memorialized her as a blur. I wasn’t originally planning to show this photograph to anyone because of that; but, since we’re talking about many photos of the same subject I thought I would include it as an example. Not exactly good in-camera examples, but I told you I had not done a good job of this in the past!

Color and Uncropped first photo taken.

First photo taken.

The next shot was a close up but it was also marred by someone walking into the photo as I pressed the shutter. So I cropped it to eliminate the blurred image of that person.

Closeup with blurred image.

Close up with blurred image.

This was the resulting image.

Cropped to remove blurred person.

Cropped to remove blurred person.

Ok, I took another photo and again a person walked into the frame. I needed an assistant to watch for me or I should have been more attentive to what was nearby before firing the shutter!

Black & White Conversion

Black & White Conversion

Cropped to remove blur.

Cropped to remove blur.

By the way, did you note the position of the woman at the rear of the bull! I wondered what had her so fascinated, I managed to walk around to the bull’s rear end and as you can expect I saw a substantially different view! This view by itself is fun to look at and certainly illustrates taking a photograph from a different perspective.

Another view from a different perspective.

Another view from a different perspective.

As long as I was having fun, I decided to take this photo into Photoshop and using the Out of Bounds effect created a fun photo of the bull crashing into the New York Stock Exchange. Like a lot of people, I have lost money in the market and this gave me some satisfaction as a visual way of getting back at Wall Street!

Market Crash!

Market Crash!

 As I look at these photos I wonder how much better they could have been with a little more time invested in working the composition. Perhaps a few photos from a ground level perspective would have been good. If I had arrived early in the day before the crowds arrived, then I would have had fewer distractions and a better environment to concentrate on the various compositions. Maybe a photo taken from a few inches from the bull’s nose with a wide angle lens would have been a winner.

 Hopefully from here on out I will concentrate on working a composition in greater detail. The other thing that I’ve heard multiple times, especially in relationship to street photography, is trying to convey a story in my photograph. In the next blog post on the topic of street photography, I will share some photos that attempt to tell a story. I will leave it to you to judge whether or not I have accomplished that mission and to what degree. For those of you who already are doing a good job of working your compositions you didn’t need to read this, but for those like myself who have not been doing this, I hope this gives you some ideas that you can use in your photography.

 Keep shooting!

 

Blog Posts

What to Photograph?

What to photograph is a question I ask myself quite often. Usually, I think about what themes I would like to photograph such as landscapes, nature, etc. or maybe this is the day that I really focus on street photography. In the last year or so I have been trying to determine what type of photographer I am. Not whether I am a good photographer or poor photographer, but what style of photography should I be pursuing. I’m sure many of you have asked yourself the same questions. And I’m equally sure that some of you have made a clear determination of what photographic path is most interesting to you. I’m just as sure that some of you are still trying to figure out what photographic journey are you actually on and why.

 A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a presentation at our photo club where we heard professional photographer John Barclay ( http://johnbarclayphotography.com/ ) talk about “Discovery and the Creative Choice” or fear, uncertainty and doubt in photography. His discussion centered around his own concerns about photography and how he had come to some very specific conclusions. Most importantly, is the idea that you should photograph what you enjoy, what you like to look at or what interests you. Being concerned about any particular theme or philosophy of photography is not all that important! Neither are some of the well-worn rules of photography, however, it is important to understand the rules at the beginning, so that you have a solid set of fundamental skills that will help you take great pictures.

 As I thought about the idea of just photographing things I enjoy or things that catch my eye, it was a freeing idea. It occurred to me that I had been taking pictures like this anyway. I was not focused, no pun intended, on any particular theme I just took pictures of things that caught my attention for whatever reason. As a consequence, in the last week I’ve had the opportunity to take some photographs that perhaps no one else would be interested in but I enjoyed taking them and looking at them. Interestingly, while I was preparing this blog post I read a similar one on 500px by Viktoria Haack entitled “Why you should Not specialize in one type of photography” https://iso.500px.com/why-you-should-not-specialize-in-one-type-of-photography/ . This has further convinced me to not be fixated on what type of photography to pursue but to photograph what I like!

 As an example, I recently had the opportunity to travel to New York City. There are not too many locations that offer more photographic opportunities than the business capital of America. When I arrived in New York it was raining and the forecast was not encouraging for any letup. As it turned out about 10 PM the rain subsided and merely became a slight drizzle. I got up and left my hotel with my camera and tripod and started walking. Because of the rain, the streets of Manhattan were unusually quiet, and somewhat deserted. As I was walking I happened upon a store being remodeled at the corner of 5th Avenue and 49th Street. As I looked in the store windows I saw some rather eerie window displays. These caught my attention and so I decided to take some photos. The challenge was to avoid the reflections in the glass from the lights nearby and passing cars. Fortunately, because of the rain there was not much traffic and due to the magic of Adobe Lightroom I was able to remove the few reflections that did appear.

Blog Post 11-26-15-1 Blog Post 11-26-15-3 Blog Post 11-26-15-4 Blog Post 11-26-15-5

These photos also gave me the opportunity to work a little more on my post-processing skills. I tried to maintain the dark, eerie mood; yet brighten up some of the faces, along with the glasses and other items that appeared in each scene. These pictures are eerie, as a matter of fact they’re downright weird; however, I enjoyed taking them and I enjoy looking at them. I hope you will also enjoy them. I’d like to know what you think, not only about the photos, but your own experiences in determining “what type of photographer are you?”

 

Blog Posts

Photographing Cityscapes

Okay, so the title is a big DUH! In any event, I had an opportunity recently to visit both Chicago and Las Vegas and to take some photographs. I decided to focus on architecture in both cities. These two cities could not be more different. Chicago is filled with bold and imaginative high-rise buildings that feature stunning architecture and style! Las Vegas, on the other hand, is somewhat of an adult fantasyland, the architecture here focuses on creating the illusion of something magical and exciting in hopes that you won’t mind losing your money while you are gambling!

The environment for both cities is also quite unique. Chicago hugs the shoreline of Lake Michigan, while Las Vegas is located in the desert. Chicago is a city of big business, big commerce and big industry. Many major corporations are either headquartered or have bases there. Las Vegas, is a city whose industry is hotels, casinos and visitors.

In any event, both cities provided some great photographic opportunities. In Chicago, I did make an effort to try and take all of my photographs in the early part of the day to take advantage of some beautiful blue skies and white clouds. One of the photos in this post features two towers, the tower on the left is black and the tower on the right is a bright silver. The reflective surfaces created a lot of glare. The sky was somewhat dark so I decided to process this photo as a monochrome image.

Trump Tower is on the right.

Trump Tower is on the right.

The next photo was in the shadow of the Chicago CTA (subway) “L” train, with the iconic Trump tower in the background. My vantage point for this photo was standing in the street near the curb trying to avoid being hit by a car, truck or bus! When I uploaded this picture to my computer, I was initially disappointed in it because most of the picture was in heavy shadow. Fortunately, Adobe Lightroom’s shadow slider opened up this picture considerably along with the use of the Tone Curve tool. The lighting was somewhat tricky, but it created what I think is a good photograph. You can be the judge of that yourself!

CTA's Elevated "L" Train with the Trump Tower in the background.

CTA’s Elevated “L” Train with the Trump Tower in the background.

One of my favorite photos of this trip is titled Diving Platform. When I first saw this building I thought “Now that is a photograph waiting to happen!”. The sky was blue as was the tint of the building. The issue was where to stand, so I tried several angles. The best position was standing as close as I could and pointing the camera straight up and using the tree branches to enhance the photo. Since it was the middle of the day, many people passed by, some looked at me with a little curiosity but most just ignored me!

Building acroos the street from the Sofitel Hotel. Photo shot at midday.

Building across the street from the Sofitel Hotel. Photo shot at midday.

I also took quite a few photographs that featured highly contrasty, bright skies and therefore the resulting photographs were not very good. So I didn’t post them to hide my lack of photographic skill! I had the opportunity to see firsthand how important the correct light actually is, even for shooting in the city. I did some sunrise photography in Chicago and I was quite pleased with those pictures, but I decided not to post them in this blog in order to be brief.

Las Vegas, because of its location in the desert, the skies are extremely bright during the day and generally speaking clouds are somewhat limited. This definitely makes it difficult to take daytime photographs of the buildings along the Las Vegas strip. I did attempt to take one photograph of the New York New York Hotel and Casino which I posted in this blog. As you can see, the sky is quite boring and lacks any interest. I had to use the graduated filter in Adobe Lightroom to lower the exposure just to make it a presentable photo.

Under the category of people say weird things, I’m sure the following situation has probably happened to you. As I was standing with my camera mounted on a tripod and pointed to the New York New York Casino, not once, but on several occasions people asked me what was I doing? I smiled and fought the urge to say something really sarcastic and merely replied “I’m taking a photo of the casino”.

Shot in the late afternoon from the MGM Hotel & Casino Sidewalk.

Shot in the late afternoon from the MGM Hotel & Casino Sidewalk.

One of the benefits of being in the desert were the clear skies. I decided to take advantage of this by getting up at 4:00am the next morning to take some photographs. The Paris Hotel and Casino was situated in a favorable spot to catch the first glimpses of dawn breaking. I set up my camera across the street from the hotel, interestingly enough in front of the beautiful and very photographable Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The reflecting pool that you see is the pool that contains the famous water shows that the Bellagio is known for. This photo is another example of taking advantage of light, both the manmade light from the casinos and the light from the early morning sky. The photo was processed in Adobe Lightroom and Nik software’s Viveza 2 helped to brighten up the Eiffel Tower.

Shot at daybreak from the Belliago Hotel & Casino sidewalk.

Shot at daybreak from the Belliago Hotel & Casino sidewalk.

A little later that morning, I walked up Las Vegas Boulevard to the new Aria Hotel and Casino complex. Near the hotel are two very unique condominium towers along with an upscale shopping mall. The towers are unique in that they are actually built to look as if they were leaning in opposite directions. I took several shots from different positions because each time I peeked at the LCD screen the buildings tended to look straight! Finally, as I stood at the edge of the street corner in harm’s way, I got the best angle for the shot! Again, the early morning sky helped to make this an attractive picture. Later in the day, the sky was much too bright to take the same shot.

Aria Condos and Shopping Mall. Shot in the early morning. These towers really are tilted its not the camera!

Aria Condos and Shopping Mall. Shot in the early morning. These towers really are tilted its not the camera!

So what have I learned from all of this? Besides the fact that I needed my wife to watch out for traffic as I took pictures, that lighting really is important. Another thing I learned, is if I am going to take a lot of pictures of tall buildings, I may need to invest in a tilt-shift lens to correct the distortion caused by a regular lens in this situation.

As I have said before, this blog is not intended to teach anything because I don’t have enough skill as a photographer to take on that task. This blog is my attempt at documenting my experiences as an amateur photographer. Do any of you amateurs have an experience to share with shooting cityscapes? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Blog Posts

Local Photo Opportunities

It has been a long time since I have posted anything on this blog. It’s not really very surprising when you consider I haven’t had anything to talk about. In the last month or so I have been taking photos that were mostly photos of the family vacation and other things that were not appropriate for my blog. I am not even a big fan of Facebook, it seems too many people are publishing way too much personal information and I don’t plan to join the crowd.

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I decided to take a short trip to Frederick Maryland for a day of sightseeing. Frederick is an historic town from both the colonial period and Civil War standpoints. Many famous Americans such as George Washington, Francis Scott Key, Robert E. Lee and the first American-born canonized saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton have visited, stayed in or in the case of Robert E. Lee fought in the vicinity of Frederick, Maryland. Roger Taney, a local attorney, eventually became the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and presided over the Dred Scott v. Sandford case (1857), that ruled slaves, were not considered at the time the Constitution was written as citizens and, whether free or slave, could not be considered citizens of the United States. Most American High School students are taught about this seminal case in their U.S. History classes. The historic downtown area of Frederick is filled with old buildings, shops, restaurants, theaters and other points of interest. The nearby area is rural and has many historical sites to explore. Among them are several very old covered bridges.

I decided to bring my camera and to make this a photographic sightseeing tour. One of the first sites was “The Angel” painted by Artist William Cochran on the Carroll Creek Park Bridge. This style of art is known as “trick the eye” and is intended to be seen from several different viewing angles. The images I’ve included in this blog do not do justice to this rather unique painting. Interestingly, it took quite a while to take these three photographs because every place I stood the image did look different but not significant enough to notice! When I got home I went through the 10 or 15 pictures I had taken and picked out the three that you see posted in this blog as the best representation I could make of the visual trickery of this painting.

While we were walking down, interestingly enough, Church Street, I saw a stark white church with two spires that caught my attention. It was the Evangelical Lutheran Church established in 1762. I decided to take a photograph standing as close as I could to the church and looking straight up so that the spires and the pinnacle of the roof all pointed to a bright blue, cloudless sky. I might add that before I went on this trip I decided to try and use different angles and perspectives for some photographs. This idea came to me from one of the photographic books I was reading that discussed the idea of trying to find different viewpoints and not take the same old photographs everyone else does. Seems to me this came out rather nicely, but what are your thoughts?

The next photos that I decided to publish were of the Loy’s Station Covered Bridge that was originally built in 1880. It spans a rather small creek named Owens Creek. At one time there were a great number of these covered bridges in Frederick County; however, today only three remain. I visited them but decided to post pictures of this one bridge. This also gave me an opportunity to try my skills in Adobe Lightroom and convert the color photograph to a black-and-white one. I think I prefer the black and white version even though the right side is slightly blown out and somewhat distracting. That is one of the problems that I continue to experience and hopefully my photographic skills will improve enough to eliminate this in the future. Or I might try to do what’s recommended and that is to take the photo in better lighting conditions; but unfortunately, I was there at 3pm and I took the shot and that’s as good as it was going to be!

I guess the thing to take away from this blog post is that there are many great photographic opportunities just about anywhere you look. You don’t have to travel a long distance to find some interesting things. Having said that my wife and I are planning a train trip to Chicago and then flying to Las Vegas later in October. Hopefully I will have some great photographs to show you in that blog post; however, you never know about these things! Until the next post remember to keep pressing the shutter button because there is always a great photo out there, we just have to find it!