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.
National Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC
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.
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.
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.
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
2nd Floor of Great Hall
Great Hall Columns and Arches
Finally, here is the front of the 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
In a previous post, I mentioned that living in Northern Virginia gave me a great opportunity to review and photograph places, monuments, buildings etc. that had a connection to the American War of the Rebellion or as it is commonly known the Civil War. It should be clear to anyone who studies American history that this war was a result of the evil of slavery perpetrated on African people. This blog will not retrace the history of slavery in America; however, I do hope to use photography to share historical sites related to slavery that I find photogenic. In this blog post, I am displaying photographs of two buildings that were the homes of former slaves. These properties are in various stages of preservation. I have some other sites planned for future posts.
These photos were shot with the intention to take advantage of the HDR effect available in Adobe Lightroom. The subsequent photos were edited further in Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop utilizing the Patch Tool to remove some unwanted distractions. As I am working to become a better photographer and I think these photos are an improvement in my attempts at HDR. Hopefully as time goes on I will continue to improve my skills as a photographer with both the camera and the digital editing tools that are available.
The first photo is that of the Settle-Dean Cabin. This home has been moved approximately 100 meters from its original location due to the building of a large subdivision in Loudoun County. An agreement was made with the developer to move and restore the cabin rather that demolish it to make room for a suburban home. This would not have been done without the herculean efforts of a couple of passionate African Americans with strong ties to this area. You can read more about the cabin by clicking the link below.
This is an image from the front of the cabin. It was shot at sunset and is the result of merging 4 images in Adobe Lightroom.
The next view is taken from a side perspective also shot at sunset and it was based on 7 images HDR merged in Adobe Lightroom.
I also had the opportunity to visit the former site of the Lewis Farm in Loudoun County and see a presentation on the Slave Dwelling that is located there. This property is now owned by Loudoun County and is managed by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. There is an effort under way to raise the necessary funds to restore and preserve this building. We were told during the presentation that up to 32 slaves lived in this dwelling place at a time! As you can see it is not a large building. You can read about this property by clicking on the link below.
The first photo is a view from the side of the dwelling. These photos were taken around noon on a very bright day. This one is the HDR result of 2 images merged in Adobe Photoshop and then edited in Adobe Photoshop with the Patch Tool to remove some unwanted distractions.
The next photo was taken from the rear of the building and you can clearly see the supports that have been installed to protect the building from collapsing. This photo is also a 2 image HDR merge in Adobe Photoshop.
I hope you enjoyed viewing these photos and hopefully you gave some thought to the former slaves and their children who lived in them. Please come back to visit www.Cestlavie4me.wordpress.com in the future for more photos on my journey to become a better photographer.
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, my journey into photography has necessitated me learning the art and skills of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I’m starting to feel very comfortable in using Lightroom as my digital darkroom. There are still frustrating times when making some type of adjustment I don’t notice a significant change. This most often happens when I am using the sharpening tool. Another area that frequently causes me some consternation is the Split Toning panel. I have a hard time finding a photo that benefits from this feature. There are a few other minor points that bother me but overall, as I mentioned previously I am getting much more comfortable with Lightroom.
Photoshop is a much more difficult learning exercise. I have purchased a book and looked at numerous videos just to get a basic understanding of how some of the tools work for photography. Most of the photos I have edited with Photoshop have just been attempts to learn how the software works. I can tell that this is going to be a long-term educational saga for me.
Fortunately for me, I recently had an opportunity to use both programs for editing photos to display at my local photography club’s monthly competition. The theme for that competition was abstract photography which by its nature allows for a great deal of freedom in defining what is an abstract photograph. Since this blog post is about my journey to become a better photographer and not a blog for technical instruction; I will just post the photographs that I used, without a lot of detail outlining the editing process that was incorporated into producing them.
The first photograph that I edited was a snippet of mosaic tile from the St. Louis Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri. The artwork throughout this Cathedral is made up almost entirely of mosaic panels that are stunning. While I was at the Cathedral I took quite a few pictures including a close-up of a small portion of a scene. That photo was edited only using Lightroom. Next, I sent the photo over to Photoshop where several extensive edits were made using layers and filters along with the bloat tool to create the composite image that you see below the original photograph. Much to my surprise, this composite earned a ribbon at the club competition.
Next photo was taken in the woods behind my home. I deliberately moved the camera as I released the shutter to create a blurred photo of the trees. Again, this photo was only edited in Lightroom. A composite of this photograph was then made using Photoshop. I had previously taken a photo of some plywood with my smart phone. This was used as a texture overlay for the original photo in Photoshop. Both photos can be seen below.
The next photos are that of a chicken egg. To create an abstract photo, a small flashlight was placed directly behind the egg to illuminate the inside of it. This created a very interesting lighting effect because the egg was much more translucent I had expected. The flashlight also created a band of white light beneath the egg that added to the effect. I prefer the black and white version of this photograph for that reason. I was surprised a second time when the black and white photo received a ribbon at the club competition. It was a lot of fun creating this photograph and using the flashlight in different positions. Some of the other photos also turned out quite nice, especially when converted to black and white, but I decided to only use these two in this blog post.
I will continue my attempts to learn photography, Lightroom and Photoshop and hopefully the next photos I post in this blog will show significant improvement in my skill. Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com for future posts.
Since I started my interest in photography as a hobby there have been many new topics for me to explore. You know the basics, how to shoot in manual, jpeg vs Raw, Photoshop, Lightroom, composition, HDR and on and on. I have even opined about some of these topics in this blog myself. These, and many more aspects of becoming a good photographic artist are important to invest time in mastering. I continue to be amazed at how much I’ve learned and how much more there is to learn about photography.
Lately I have been considering the concept of storytelling with a photograph. This is a subject that has come up many times in some of the YouTube videos I have viewed, along with books and blogs on photography that have occupied my time. Interestingly, many of the photographs that I see do not always convey any significant or obvious story to me. I suspect that has also been the experience of many of you reading this post.
Naturally, this brings us to the question of how to tell a story with photography. For example, consider a landscape photo. At first, I could not see any story in a photo of a mountain, waterfall or some trees. I just thought that I was viewing some good photos. How about macro photography? What is the story that is told by examining a closeup of the inside of a flower or the wings of a butterfly? Even street photography sometimes appears to have no story that I can discern. Maybe I’m just looking at a photo of a man talking to a woman or some graffiti art on the side of a building.
I have arrived at the conclusion that my difficulty in finding stories in photographs is really a problem of my seeing. What does that mean? Simply put, it means I have been focused, pun intended, on looking at a photo from a technical viewpoint. Since I am in the learning phase of photography, it has been natural for me to try to view the focus, clarity, color or tone, composition and many other mechanical aspects of photography. I have not put any time or effort into looking deeper into a photo to find a story that is meaningful to me. It might not even be what the photographer intended but I suspect in many cases it is exactly the story the photographer intended.
This thought occurred to me due to a recent photo contest at my local photography club. The topic was Street Photography. The initial photos I took were ok from a technical standpoint but there was something missing. It became clear to me that I was just taking a photo of a scene that looked like it might be a good photo for the competition but I was not tuned to looking for a story to photograph. That caused me to finally go back and look at photos on Flickr, 5oopx, Instagram, Facebook and my club’s website to concentrate on stories. Slowly I began to see something I had missed before. The lighting and beauty of a landscape that may never occur again in precisely the same way. Did the picture give me an experience of being there when it was taken? I saw photos of the inside of a flower that displayed the awesomeness of God’s creation.
Hopefully, I will be a better photographer in the future by looking for the story in addition to successfully mastering all the technical manipulations to create a good photo. Back to the Photography Club competition. I managed to use my smartphone’s camera to capture some scenes that I hope convey a story with emotion. The first one is of a woman who was talking on her phone while waiting for her car to be washed and I could tell she was receiving some bad news. I was close enough to take the photo without being noticed. The next photo was of an older man just sitting on a bench. It struck me that he probably spent a lot of time at his age just sitting and possibly thinking of times gone by. As I am also getting older this connected with me in a particular way. Here are the photos for you to judge if you sense any emotion or story in them. Come back to www.cestlavie4me.com in the future to read more of my adventures in the journey to becoming an artist in photography.
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!
Please come back to visit http://www.Cestlavie4me.com in the future for more of my experiences in photography. Keep shooting!
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:
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.
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.
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.
To wrap up, I decided to see how the color photo would look if I used Tungsten for the white balance. Here it is.
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.