Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Crossing the Road

It is the week of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US so I thought that I would post this shot from last year of some turkeys crossing the road. It was taken up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Save to say that these turkeys probably didn't end up at a Thanksgiving table.

Be safe if you are traveling.

Keep shooting.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Pointsett Bridge Arch

Poinsett Bridge Wall
Nothing new to show this week. My son had another fun run event, but the way it was set up I couldn't get a good angle on it. I don't really like any of the shots I got, but I'll go through them again and see if I can salvage some of them. At least we had fun and my son improved his time. Not every outing will have good shots. The shooting is what matters though. I think I learned how necessary it is to quickly assess an event. Thinking back on it I can imagine a couple of other spots that might have been better for me to take photographs from.

Anyway, the above shot is from our drive through the foothills a couple of weeks ago. It is a detail shot of the Poinsett Bridge's wall as it crosses the river. When I took this shot, I felt a sense of some of the bridge's history. I hope you get a glimpse of that from this image.

Keep shooting.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Stuff on the Web: NASA goes back to the future

I hope that everyone had a good weekend. While I was rummaging through the wilds of the internet this past Sunday, I stumbled on a couple of articles about a NASA project. It is called the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). Basically, NASA is restoring the images that it's various Lunar Orbiters transmitted back to Earth during the 1960s. NASA sent the orbiters the map the surface of the Moon in order to find suitable landing sites for the Apollo landing missions. Those orbiters mapped most of the moon's surface and sent back the first image of the Earth rising over the Moon's horizon. It is perhaps one of the most famous images from the orbiters.

With NASA planning a return of manned missions to the Moon, it is perhaps not surprising that they are restoring those old orbiter images using modern digital processing techniques. There are many old magnetic tapes that they have or are in the processing of restoring. Additionally, they needed to restore the machinery that was originally used to record and playback the data on the tapes. NASA has been restudying many aspects of it's first Lunar Exploration era including examining the Apollo capsules, the heat shields, etc. as part of it's return to the Moon directive. That they are restoring these images really doesn't surprise me in and off themselves. What is notable though, is the quality of these restored images which is due in large measure to the ingenuity of the design of the original Lunar Orbiter's camera systems.

The orbiters had two camera systems, a wide-angle and a telephoto camera. The cameras recorded their images on to film. In fact they used the same frames of film using a complex feed mechanism that synchronized the frames from one camera to another. This accounts for the high quality of the data that NASA can now extract from the original tapes. After the images were captures, the orbiters then developed the film, scanned the processed film and then transmitted that film back to NASA here on Earth where the historic images we have seen for the past 40 years were printed. Quite an accomplishment. I hadn't realized that the orbiters back then used film and had to develop it out in space. Plus, the fact they essentially converted that film image into a digital-type of data stream was really impressed me. Remember that this was all done without the modern digital tools that we are accustomed to using today. It puts the printer/scanner that is sitting on my desk in to a whole new perspective for me.

For further reading about the LOIRP, here are a few articles that I found:

The website MoonViews has several articles about the LOIRP as well as other Lunar Imaging initiatives.

Gizmodo has the first article that I found about the LOIRP and a nice large sized version of the Earthrise image.

CNET also has a good article about it that includes some YouTube video of the NASA press conference.

That NASA is restoring these images makes a lot of sense to me. They should contain quite a bit of information that will be crucial to the current Lunar program. The quality of the images though looks to be astonishing, and is a credit to the original designers of the Lunar Orbiters. That only today are we able to extract all of the data in the tapes shows the ingenuity that made the first Lunar Exploration era the success that it became.

Keep shooting.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Stuff on the Web

I thought I would leave you for the weekend with some things that caught my attention around the web.

1) There is a funny thread over on the Digital Photography School forums comparing the return on investment from various stocks and getting camera gear. Check out the Retirement Fund. My take: Buy the camera gear. ;-)

2)RED, the makers of some high end digital motion cameras have saying all along that they were working toward merging digital still and motion cameras. Well, Nikon and Canon actually beat them to it, but now they have announced their response. It is an impressive modular system that lets you select everything from the sensor, to the viewfinder. It has some impressive specifications and prices to go along with it. Read a good run down of it over at 1001 Noisy Cameras. My take: Digital still and video functions are inevitably converging. However, RED's funky industrial design and industrial prices will keep it out of the average person's camera bag.

3) The Strobist is continuing his exploration of on-axis fill flash on his blog. It is always a good read over there. My take: I've really got to get some light stands and modifiers and start practicing this stuff.

4) Over at Photoshop Insider and Layers Magazine, Scott Kelby has posted his 3rd Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide. My take: He showcases some neat stuff that might get me in trouble (see #s 1 and 3 above), but at least not as bad as #2 above would. ;-)

Have a good weekend whatever you do.

Keep shooting

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008



My son and I went downtown yesterday to watch the Veteran's Day parade. On the way back to the car I noticed that there was a very nice, evening sky. I thought it would make for a good background for some silhouettes by isolating subjects from the clues of their downtown environment. The above shot is of the statue of General Daniel Morgan, a local revolutionary war hero. I also got a couple of interesting shots of the palmetto tree fountain next to the Extended Stay corporate offices, as well as a couple of the trees. Nothing very fancy perhaps, but it was fun, and it helped to pass the time while the backed-up traffic cleared out of the area.

The other photos after the jump.

Trees and Sky


Palmetto Fountain

Daniel Morgan

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Monday, November 10, 2008

An HDR Comparison

Poinsett Bridge - HDR

As I have mentioned previously, I have started experimenting with HDR photography and thought I would try a comparison between an HDR image and a standard photograph with my typical processing. This weekend my family and I went out along US Highway 11, aka the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. Along the way we stopped at the Poinsett Bridge in Greenville County which is part of the Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve. The foothills were in full Autumn colors and we had a great afternoon drive.

More after the jump

While at the Poinsett Bridge I attempted to capture a few series of exposures to process using the open-source Picturenaut HDR software. The photograph above is the best of the attempts. It is seven frames of the same scene taken with the camera on the tripod and changing the shutter speed for each shot. I goofed up the exposure bracketing in the other attempts and didn't get acceptable results when I tried to process them.

I like the above photograph for a couple of reasons. It has a kind of dreamy look to it that is enhanced by the blurriness of the background trees and the foreground water and leaves. I think this happened because of the movement of the water between frames which also moved the leaves, and there was a wind which was moving the upper boughs of the trees. All of that movement combined to cause Picturenaut to average the tonal values on the various exposure together resulting in the blur you can see. I think it actually lends the image a painterly impression.

The quality that I like the best about the image is the lighting on the bridge itself. The highlights are fairly well controlled and the shadows are not too dark. However, even the bridge looks a tad impressionistic to a degree and required additional, selective sharpening to reduce that quality. I also tweaked the contrast and color saturation a tad in Capture NX2 for the entire image.

Pointsett Bridge

This photograph is one that I took "normally". It was hand held and exposed so that there were few if any blown out highlights on the LCD screen. I processed it using Nikon's Capture NX2 RAW processing software. While developing it, I added my normal contrast curve, boosted the colors a bit, and used the high pass filter for sharpening as I do with most of my photographs.

I like this version of the scene as well, but for different reasons. Everything is crisper and more clear in this photograph. It looks more like a photograph, I suppose, than a painting. However, I don't like the lighting on the bridge quite as much as the bright areas are just a bit too bright and bleed out some of the details. The differences in this quality can best be seen by looking at the keystone in the arch. In the HDR version, the keystone is nicely exposed/blended, while in the regular version it has lost some detail due to the bright sunlight.

Both images could certainly be improved with better field techniques and better processing knowledge. However, I think it does give a good look into the differences between HDR and normal processing. I am excited to continue playing around with HDR images. It seems to be an area that could broaden my processing capability.

In the end, both images serve their purposes and that is what it is all about.

Keep shooting.
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Photo of the Day: Layers of Color

Layers of Color

Another photograph from our recent trip to the mountains. I liked the way the Autumn colored slopes, the clouds coming over the ridge, and the blue sky formed distinct layers of color.

Have a good weekend.

Keep shooting.

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Some Books for the Weekend

I thought I would mention a few books that I have read or been reading over the past month or two. These are all books that I would recommend to photography enthusiasts to learn more about photography in general or just certain aspects of it. I will also link to the books on Amazon. However, the link is only for convenience and to show you the book's cover for identification. I am not an Amazon affiliate thus I don't get a portion of the sales of books you follow through the site. Buy them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore, borrow them from a friend or check them out from a library.

Ok, enough of the disclosures and on with the books after the jump.

Rick Sammon's Exploring the Light: Making the Very Best In-Camera Exposures by Rick Sammon and published by Norton. This book strives to teach you how to see the light on your subject, adjust your camera for the image you imagine, and use Photoshop to boost it "to the next level". It is a very easy book to read with good descriptions and excellent photographs. Mr. Sammon touches on all aspects of exposure in a digital environment including basic introduction to post processing techniques such as levels and curves, hue and saturation adjustments, color adjustments such as black & white, high dynamic range (HDR) images, and panoramic stitching. While he does discuss post processing to "finish" photographs, he doesn't approach it as a tool to "fix" photographs unless the light just wasn't with you when you were out shooting. Most of the book goes into explaining aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and how to use your camera's various modes to get the exposures you need for the very best images to "finish" in Photoshop.

Face to Face: Rick Sammon's Complete Guide to Photographing People by Rick Sammon, published by O'Reilly. Another book by Mr. Sammon written in his conversational style. It delves into how he goes about interacting with strangers on his trips to get them to pose for him, how he poses them, how he finds good backgrounds, what equipment he uses and how best to use said equipment. If you are a people photographer, or want to get better at photographing people, this book is an excellent primer.

The HDRI Handbook: High Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers and CG Artists by Christian Bloch, published by rockynook. I mentioned this book a few days ago but didn't link to it. It is a very technical book about HDR imaging in everthing from photography to motion film to computer graphics/animation. The book doesn't bog the read down in the technical details so much as it explains those details in an easy to understand way. The book discusses the pros and cons of several HDR applications for photographers and even includes a CD with some open source applications to get you started with HDR photography. There is a companion website over at hdrlabs where you can find discussion groups about the included software as well as HDR in general.

The Photographer's Guide to Landscapes: A Complete Masterclass by John Freeman, published by Collins & Brown. This book is just what it says it is. If you enjoy landscape photography then this is an excellent book to add to your library. Excellent photographs illustrate Mr. Freeman's discussions of landscape photography techniques.

Light - Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Third Edition by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, and Paul Fuqua, published by Focal Press. This is one of those quintessential books that anyone serious about photography should read. It is about nothing other than how light interacts with objects, how to photograph that light, and what sorts of solutions you might need for various lighting situations. While most of the book uses studio photography due to the ability to precisely control light, the concepts are applicable to any style of photography. In the end, photography is about light and this book explains how to capture it.

That's it for now.

Keep shooting.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Off Topic: Election Day

Twilight's Last Gleaming
A little off-topic message. Today is the national election day in the US. It doesn't matter who you support. It does matter that your voice gets heard. It our most important responsibility as citizens. So, do your duty and vote if you are eligible to vote.

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