Tag: photos

Blog Posts

Flashing Around

I have been away from this blog for quite a long time. It seems that since the end of the year many other things have been occupying my time. Recently, it occurred to me that perhaps I should get back to photography by doing some photos. That was my first brilliant thought of the new year! It’s not that photography has been something that I had forgotten about, after all; I had been reading other photographers blogs, listening to podcasts, going to my photo club meetings and studying YouTube videos about Lightroom and Photoshop. I just had not been taking pictures. Perhaps some of you have experienced the same type of lull in your photography.

 One of the photography podcasts that I listen to, Improve Photography, had a segment that discussed this very issue. A suggestion was made to try something different in photography to get reengaged. This seemed like a great idea and I decided to begin with flash photography. This is an area that is new to me. I had purchased a Canon 430EX II Speedlite a year or two ago and had used it very infrequently. To help get some training I viewed a few YouTube videos explaining the use of speedlites. Every video almost demanded that you take the flash off camera.  I proceeded to purchase two Yongnuo Digital Wireless Flash trigger/transceivers from Amazon. I had read that these were good units and significantly less expensive than Canon’s equipment. I also had a circular reflector that I had never used, so I took it out of the package hoping that I would be able to repackage it when I finished.

 The next issue to deal with was finding an interesting subject to photograph. Fortunately, the Amaryllis bulb that I had planted a few weeks ago, had bloomed. The flowers are a beautiful red, large and almost translucent, so this was to be my flash photography subject. I had a lot of fun putting the flash in different positions and using the manual control to adjust the intensity of the flash. The reflector did come in handy on several shots and fortunately I did get it back in its storage bag after a few attempts!

 One of the many facets of photography is the level of anticipation that occurs as you engage the shutter. You find yourself getting excited about viewing your newly created masterpiece on the camera’s LCD screen. In an instant, you can go from elation to disappointment when seeing your creation! Each of you probably experiences these emotions as you finish framing your shot and finally depress the shutter. As I was experimenting with my speedlite, I felt this anticipation increase because I had absolutely no idea what the result would be. I must admit this added a great deal to my enjoyment of this exercise in flash photography!

 None of the photos displayed below would win any prizes but that was not the point. Each photo was a type of adventure. I would examine it on the back of my camera to evaluate what change the flash had made and then try to determine the next speedlite position and setting. Sometimes I would add the reflector to see how that changed the image. Every photo became a sort of classroom by itself.

This blog is not about instructions because I don’t have that level of skill. My goals for the blog is to share my photographic experiences with whomever takes the time to read it. Thus, below are the photos that I took with minimal information on how I did it or where the speedlite was located. The first photograph was shot at f9, 2.5 second shutter, 70mm and ISO 100. The other photos were all shot at f9, 1/200 second shutter and ISO 100. The differences seen are due to the speedlite flash power amount, position and reflector use. I have my favorite, now you can choose yours.

 So, what did I learn from this exercise? First, it helped get me doing some photography work again. I probably shot 200 photos of this flower with different lighting and I enjoyed the activity tremendously. It also became very clear to me why taking the flash off camera is so highly encouraged. I try to always shoot in manual mode with my camera and this gave me the opportunity to learn about manual mode on a speedlite. Because of this exercise, I now feel a little more comfortable in using a speedlite off-camera. Since I don’t have a light stand for my speedlite, I now have something else to buy for my photography hobby!

Amaryllis Flash-1

 

Please come back to visit http://www.Cestlavie4me.com in the future for more of my experiences in photography. Keep shooting!

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Blog Posts

White Balance

It has been a while since my last post and all I can say is I just haven’t been taking many photos lately. So for this post I thought that white balance would be a good topic. I have made some progress in my post-processing skill set, so maybe I can share some of my newfound knowledge with the readers of this blog about my journey into photography.

Ok, that is not quite true. My skill and knowledge level are not sufficient to actually discuss white balance to any meaningful degree, however, I do want to show you a few examples of how changing white balance does make a big difference in some photos. The first example is a photo of a squirrel sitting in a tree. Fortunately, it was taken at sunset so the background has some color. When I opened the photo in Adobe Lightroom it had a blue tone even though I had set the white balance in camera and thought it would look better than it did. Here is the picture:

Squirrel at Sunset

I then started to adjust the white balance by selecting the different options in the drop down menu. None of them looked very good. As a last resort, I just started to move the temperature slider to the right to warm the photo and the results were a significant improvement. Here is the same picture after the white balance has been warmed.

Squirrel at Sunset

Probably a little over cooked but it is more pleasing to my eye. My next picture is a photo that was converted to black & white in Lightroom. First, let me show you the original color photo.

Portland & Columbia River at dusk

When I converted it to black & white I set the white balance to Tungsten and the tones in the photo were much more muted. I also noticed that the street lights looked more like starbursts.

Portland & Columbia River at dusk

To wrap up, I decided to see how the color photo would look if I used Tungsten for the white balance. Here it is.

Portland & Columbia River at dusk

Obviously a really bad photo. As I said at the beginning, my knowledge of white balance is not very good. These experiments did teach me that in the future, I will pay more attention to this aspect of editing photos because it could help to improve some photos tremendously.

I hope you enjoyed this post and will visit again in the near future to see if I have made any progress in my journey into 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

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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

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Japanese WWII Aircraft

Old Glory

Old Glory

Prop & Engine

Powerplant

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US Air Force in Flight

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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

Macro Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blog Posts

Philadelphia Street Art

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

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

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

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