Friday, February 27, 2009

Carolina Blue

Carolina Blue

I know I haven't posted much lately. The truth is that I haven't been able to get out much since the trip to the Yorktown. Nothing serious, just life throwing stuff at you that occupies your time. Also, I am still trying to get a handle of Photoshop CS4 for the few things that I have photographed lately. I think I'm getting closer to being able to replicate the quality that I got with Capture NX2. The programs are so different though, that you sort of have to learn to think differently about how to make adjustments.

The above image is again from Patriot's Point. It is the South Carolina state flag flying on the bow of the Coast Guard Cutter U.S.S. Ingham. I liked the shades of blue against each other here. The bird on the top of the pole was a bonus. I didn't even see it until I had the image on my computer.

Have a good weekend.

Keep shooting.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Just a note that I have been having computer issues. It seems that my hard-drive may be on it's last legs. The computer itself is about five years old, so I have gotten plenty of use out of it.

Do not let yourself get caught by a crashed hard-drive. I have been keeping backups of my images on an external USB hard-drive and burning them to DVDs as I am able. Once these problems started happening, I copied all of my important files such as my images, songs, documents, etc. to an additional USB hard-drive so that I now have two copies of them off of the main computer. Plus, my Zenfolio gallery also serves as an on-line back-up for my processed images.

Back-up your important data. Do not loose it to mechanical failures. Stuff happens. Take steps to protect your electronic data.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Message from the Past

A Sailor's Note

When we were on the Yorktown, I explored our quarters and found some messages left by some of the Yorktown's sailors. I took this shot just to record what I had found. Sometimes photography is about recording what we saw and doesn't have to be anything more. Still, it makes you wonder what kind of tapes this sailor had that his crew mates kept "borrowing" them.

Keep shooting.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

No Picture Day

No picture today. Instead, there have been a couple of recent announcements in Photography-Land that I thought I would mention.

More after the jump.

First, Nikon announced a new lens for their DX DSLR cameras like my D80. It is the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8 G. There has been a lot of internet chatter about it, mainly from armchair-CEOs, calling Nikon all kinds of uncomplimentary names. Frankly, the lens should have been introduced a long time ago. It is the DX equivalent to the 50mm f/1.8 lens in FX format. The new lens will give DX cameras the "normal" equivalent field of view that they have been lacking since the introduction of the DX sensor format. The current 50mm lens actually provide more of a short telephoto range when used on DX cameras due to the smaller sensor's crop size. 50mm lenses give an equivalent of about a 75mm lens when they are used on a DX camera. This new 35mm will be closer to the 50mm normal field of view. It is something that has been needed for quite a while. Nikon themselves have said that the intended market is the DX user in general and students and amateurs looking for a small, lightweight normal prime lens. The new 35mm DX lens also reconfirms Nikon's commitment to the DX camera line as most of Nikon's recent lenses have been for the FX format. Some recent sample photographs look promising and the price fits quite nicely into a student's budge (estimated US $199).

Personally, this lens looks like a nice little lens for users of Nikon's consumer DX camera line (D40/D40x/D50/D60/D70/D70X/D80/D90) that will autofocus on all models and provide the "normal" prime lens that DX uses have lacked for so long. I am eagerly awaiting full reviews of the lens when it is finally released. Plus, it certainly will not be the last lens that Nikon announces this year. I would not be surprised if there is one or two lenses announced at the upcoming PMA convention.

Second, the photography boards are buzzing today with PocketWizard's new product announcment: the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1. The Strobist and Chase Jarvis were given the chance to preview the units and they sound quite formidable. While PocketWizard has been the defacto standard remote flash trigger for years, many people thought even the PocketWizards could be improved. Companies like RadioPopper, AlienBees, and Elinchrome have introduced remote triggers that have been well received and in some cases added additional functionality to the remote radio trigger device. PocketWizard has answered that with this new line. It will support Canon and Nikon TTL systems, they will have a more streamlined profile, be firmware upgradeable, and even work some digital magic to allow you to synchronize at even higher shutter speeds. Read the reviews/previews I linked earlier for better explanations than I can give.

I have been keeping an eye on the various remote flash triggers. Until now I was torn between which to choose. Each manufacturer's units had pluses and minuses. These new PocketWizards look to wrap all of the features I would like to have into one system with a convenient form-factor and solid build-quality. The downside is that PocketWizard will have different models for Canon and Nikon systems due to the different methods they use for their TTL communications. This means that PocketWizard will be releasing the Canon variants in March while the Nikon variants are not due until the 2nd Quarter. Still, I'm not in desperate need of remote triggers right now. So, I will gladly wait for the reviews to see if they match the marketing and public expectations.

That is it for today.

Keep shooting.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Living History

U.S.S. Laffey and U.S.S. Ingham
Two of the exhibits at Patriot's Point are the U.S.S. Ingham (on right), a retired Coast Guard Cutter that I posted about a couple of days ago, and the U.S.S. Laffey (on left), a retired WWII era destroyer. The Laffey was closed for renovation during our visit. Which was a shame as I was looking forward to seeing her again as my previous visit had been so memorable.

More after the jump.

On April 16, 1995, my wife and I visited Patriot's Point. We toured the Laffey first planning to save the Yorktown for the afternoon. During our tour, we stopped in the room on the Laffey which commemorated a particular battle that it had been involved in during the WWII Pacific campaign. During that battle, the Laffey was attacked by 22 Japanese bombers and kamikaze fighters. Three bombs and five kamikaze struck her killing 31 of her crew and wounding another 71. This was nearly one-third of her 336 man crew. Two other bombs scored near misses to contribute to the toll. Through it all, the Laffey's crew kept the ship afloat and fighting downing 11 of the attacking aircraft. The crew eventually nicknamed her "The Ship That Would Not Die." The Laffey also served in the D-Day invasion fleet and ended WWII with a Presidential Unit Citation and five battles stars. She would later serve as a support ship for the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb test. Later still she was rearmed and served in the Korean War were she earned two additional battle stars. The Laffey is the only surviving member of her class, the Sumner-class destroyer, and was eventually decommissioned in 1975. Patriot's Point received her in 1981 and she was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

As you can see, the Laffey, like the Yorktown and Ingham docked near her, had a long and notable career. The truly remarkable, or perhaps serendipitous would be a better description, of that visit to her back in 1985 was the particular date. As I stood in the exhibit room I thought the date seemed odd, but couldn't quite place my finger on why. That is until I looked at my watch. April 16, 1995, the date that we were standing on the U.S.S. Laffey, was exactly 50 years to the day of the battle where she survived the kamikaze attacks. Once that sunk in, I felt a very palatable weight of history settling on my shoulders. There was no fanfare for the date. No commemoration of the battle beyond the already existing display. Nothing at Patriot's Point at the time remarked about it's significance. Yet, there my wife and I were standing on the ship almost exactly 50 years to the HOUR of when she suffered her first kamikaze attack of that fateful day: April 16, 1945.

That experience by itself was remarkable. To realize that you are standing where men may have died in battle exactly 50 years to the hour you are there is quite an overwhelming feeling. However, it was soon to become even more personal and would be brought into much more human terms.

As I mentioned the battle and the date to my wife, I noticed a family of three step into the exhibit room. They were a young, oriental couple with an aging man who apparently was one of their's father. The older man moved slowly with age, but also with a pensiveness that seemed almost as if he was on a pilgrimage. It was just the five of us in that room together and yet both my wife and I felt a curtain of silent history descend throughout the room. We no longer heard the creaks of the Laffey's battle-scarred plates. The twittering birds and impatient traffic outside faded. Even the waves lapping through the river onto the shore grew quiet. We didn't speak with the family, but I could make out some of what they said. The young couple read the displays to the older man. When they finished reading the commemorative display of the battle to them, the young couple left him alone while he bowed his head. I overheard the young couple speaking softly to each other in English and from what I made out, the older gentleman had been a Japanese serviceman during WWII. He was in American visiting them, and made this visit to Patriot's Point as a way of reconciling his experience and putting the old memories to rest.

So, fifty years to the hour of when the Laffey suffered a kamikaze attack, my wife and I stood on board her with a Japanese serviceman who may have been involved in the battle in some manner. We do not get the chance to experience such a sense of physical, living history often in our lives. That particular day, that particular event, is one that my wife and I will always remember. It is so clear in my mind, so visible when I close my eyes and think about it, that it is almost as if I had been witness to the Laffey's battle myself.

That visit was of course quite a number of years before I really became interested in photography. So, I don't have any photographs of it. At least none in digital form. I might have some color prints in a box somewhere. I don't think that even if it had happened today that I would have taken any photographs with the former Japanese serviceman. The moment was too physical, too personal, indeed almost too important and even too surreal, to even have considered it at the time it occurred. That is why I was disappointed that the Laffey was closed for tours this time. I had hoped to memorialize some of those feelings after the filter of these past few years. This particular photograph does not really capture the feelings I had wanted as I couldn't get onto the ship itself. I don't even think it is a particularly good photograph in the end. It is too busy with no clear subject. The mooring line leads the eye out of the frame rather than into it as I thought it might. However, it does at least capture the U.S.S. Laffey and U.S.S. Ingham together in their final berths. Both are ships with long, distinquished careers in service to the nation during times of war and peace. They are true monuments to man's determination in the face of extreme diversities. Tributes of living history that we should never forget.

Keep shooting.
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Thursday, February 12, 2009


Arthur Ravenell Bridge

The Arthur Ravenell Bridge replaced the older truss-work bridges that crossed the river in Charleston. There are port facilities on both sides of the bridge and the old one wasn't tall enough for the newer container ships. Plus, it was deteriorating and becoming unsafe. Charleston's harbor is a vital part of South Carolina's economy. The BMW vehicles made near my home town are shipped out via the ports in Charleston to the rest of the world. Charleston also has a lot of history associated with it and is a center for arts as well.

I like the lines and shapes in this new bridge. It is much more modern looking and is quite pretty when lit at night. Being safe is a big bonus as well.

I am continuing my education on Adobe Bridge. Good program so far. I can see how it will help my organization and workflow.

Keep shooting.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Red Alert!


A photo of the safety light in our quarters on board the Yorktown. I guess it was meant to provide a bit of low intensity light for people to move around after "lights out". I liked the color and shape of the light, although there wasn't much else about it or the immediate area that was particularly interesting. So, I treated the image with selective color to draw attention to the light itself. Not sure if it works or not in the end, but I am trying to experiment around more with my post processing.

More after the jump.

Speaking of post processing I just got Adobe Photoshop CS4! The FedEx man dropped it in front of my door yesterday afternoon. I am quite excited about it. Adobe is running an upgrade special for owners for Photoshop Elements 4-current where the full Photoshop CS4 is heavily discounted. I had missed the offer both times they had it last year, but thankfully a poster over at the DPS (Digital Photography School) forums mentioned getting an email about it. I searched for it on Adobe's site, didn't see it and was about to leave when one of their customer service reps started a chat session with me. I asked him about it, he confirmed that I had Elements 5 and gave me a link to the order page for the upgrade in the Adobe Shop.

As I said it arrived yesterday and I am already a Photoshop master! Ok, well maybe not even close. But I have been reading Scott Kelby's new book "The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers" while waiting for it to arrive. It is a great book like all of Mr. Kelby's that I have read so far. He walks you step-by-step through each of the PS CS4 programs (Bridge, Camera RAW, PS) in a results oriented way. If you want to see how to start doing things right away, I think this book is a great means for that. He gives you helpful tips and tricks throughout and discusses customizing the UIs for better workflows. If you are looking for more of a reference style book, then this one probably isn't what you are looking for as he writes in his conversational style and doesn't bog you down with technical details. I will likely get another Photoshop book of the reference sort as I get more comfortable with the applications. For now, this book is what I need to get kick-started into the wide and woolly world of Photoshop.

Right now I'm learning about Bridge. I like is so far. I think it will help with the organization, sorting, and image rating of my workflow.

That's it for today.

Keep Shooting!
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reflecting on Service

Reflection of Coast Guard Cutter

I love reflections. I love photographing them. There is something about how light and surfaces interact to form reflections that captures my imagination. Perhaps it is how the reflections are changed from the original yet are still recognizable. Kind of like glancing into Alice's Wonderland for a brief moment where the mundane gets transformed or warped into something completely different. Reflections hint at other possibilities that we are not normally aware of in our daily experience. Walk down the street, catch a faint sparkle of yourself in a puddle, and wonder if that other self is as harried as your mundane life or is it in a land of wonder where imagination is made real?

More after the jump.

I also enjoy how light plays off of and through materials in a scientific manner. It obeys very specific laws and can be predicted with simple mathematical equations. Optics has always been an interest of mine. Give me a flash light, some lenses and prisms, and I will play with them for hours. Better yet, add a laser pointer and the potential fun is compounded. I guess that is why I like photography. I get to play with and capture light.

The above photograph is of the decommissioned Coast Guard Cutter U.S.S. Ingham at Patriot's Point. It sits near the U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Laffey destroyer, and U.S.S. Clamagore submarine. The Ingham was the most decorated Coast Guard cutter at the time of her decommissioning including being the only cutter to receive two Presidential Unit Citations. It was built in the 1930s to combat the opium smugglers of the time, but soon found itself embroiled in WWII. It escorted supply ships across the Atlantic protecting them from German U-boats. It also served as a flagship in several Pacific Theater island landings. She provided naval gunfire support in Vietnam and rescued Cuban refugees during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. Her 52 years of service ended when she was decommissioned on May 27, 1988. Over those years, thousands of sailors served aboard her and were the key to the success of her missions. Remember that she was a Coast Guard ship, yet she served during wartime. During peace she and her crew protected the US's shores while also providing aid on the open seas. For every Ingham, there are countless other Coast Guard ships and service people that have served without recognition. The Ingham's presence at Patriot's Point is as much for those service people as it is for those that directly served on her decks.

That is what I think this photograph captures. While it is the Ingham's reflection, it also reminds us that there are others who serve in the same role with little acknowledgement.

Keep shooting.
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Purple Aliens


So many forms of sea life look alien to us. Aquatic environments require such different ways to survive, that there seems to be a near infinite number of forms that life can take below the surface. These jellyfish were one of the displays at the Charleston Aquarium and are some of the more alien looking animals we can imagine. They are also quite beautiful in how light outlines their geometry. I am not a swimmer, so this is as close as I will ever get to their actual environment.

Keep shooting.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Low Tide

Low Tide

A photograph of a pier in Charleston at low tide. I'm not really sure what it was about it that grabbed my attention. Maybe it was the blue water, or the ladder's lines, or maybe something else entirely. I guess we don't always have to know why we like something, although it does help most times.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In Flight

Looking Down
While we were eating on the Yorktown's fantail, dozens of seagulls buzzed us hoping to get a handout. After I had finished, I pointed my camera at them and they promptly disappeared .. but not before I got a couple of shots of them. I don't know what it is about birds and my camera, but they disappear as soon as I take it out.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Twilight Symmetry

Twilight at Patriot's Point

This weekend my son's Cub Scout troop camped on the U.S.S. Yorktown memorial at Patriot's Point in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the things I wanted to do was to try to get some sunset and sunrise photographs from the flight deck. However, the flight deck is closed at night for safety reasons since it isn't lit and the airplanes are tied down. They don't want anyone tripping over the cables or falling overboard. However, we could still get out on the pier leading to the Yorktown which is where I took this photograph.

I particularly liked the colors in the sky and the lights outlining the Yorktown and the Ravenell Bridge. Plus, I enjoy photographing reflections which I thought added a nice symmetry to this image. I didn't have my tripod with me, so I braced the camera against the concrete floor of the pier.

Keep shooting.

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