Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Surprise #1

Unique Stump

Here is the first of the surprises I found while walking around Cleveland Park. A rather unique, if not distinctive, stump. Naaawww ... it couldn't be. Not in a man-made pond/lake in the middle of Spartanburg surrounded by old textile houses.

To be continued ...

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Monday, March 30, 2009


Dogwoods in Bloom

We had a rainy weekend, but the sun finally came out on Sunday. I went down to Cleveland Park here in town for a little walk. It was quite windy, but I found a couple of surprises which will get posted later this week.

Keep shooting.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

And the winner is ...

The Runner

Another close-up of the trophies from the Shamrock Fun Run at Furman University last week. This one was taken from the same position as the image I posted on Wednesday. However, this one is vertically oriented as opposed to the horizontal orientation of the previous image. Notice how today's image seems to focus more on an individual, while the other is more about a group. Simply turning the camera 90 degrees changes the implied subject and mood you can capture.

The next time you are out with your camera. Try photographing with both horizontal and vertical orientations of the same subject.

Keep shooting.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Running with the pack

On your marks!

This is a close-up of the trophies from the Shamrock Fun Run. As you can see, there were quite a few due to the various age groups. I was particularly attracted to the fading lines and reflections made by the trophies. I also "worked" them from several angles and compositions. This is my favorite of all of them.

It always helps to change your shooting angles, height, distance, compositions, etc. whenever you are able to do so. Take photographs from odd places. Get the camera out of your natural height and you will notice that they start to improve. Get above, below, to the side, up close, far away, etc. from your natural inclination to lock your knees and shoot with the camera in the same place all of the time. You will start to see more interesting things, your compositions will start to look different than those of everyone else with you at the time, and you will begin to see how the quality of light changes with even small changes in angle or position.

Keep shooting.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More twilight blues

Tower in Twilight

A different view of the Furman University clock tower in the pre-dawn twilight. This one was actually taken before the photograph I posted yesterday. I think the tower looks like it is leaning backwards due to the perspective distortion of the wide-angle lens. Although, maybe I am being a bit too critical.

Keep shooting.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

A good weekend

Twilight on the Lake

A former co-worker of mine organizes a charity 5k race for her church's youth ministry. I went this year to take some photographs for them. Got some good ones, I think. Shot about 800 total, and processed just over 200 of them into final JPEGs. You'll probably seen a couple of them later this week.

Anyway, the race is held out at Furman University. It gave me the opportunity to photograph the University's lake and signature clock tower in the pre-dawn twilight. This is something that I've wanted to do for awhile. I didn't get the shot I wanted, but I'm quite happy with what I did get. The only reason I didn't get what I wanted is that I did not have the time to get into the position I had pre-visualized with the sunrise colors behind the clock tower. I only had about 20 minutes and didn't know my way around the Furman lake. I will head back and do some scouting though, so I can get what I wanted. That's the fun of photography. Heck, even Ansel Adams kept returning to the same places in Yellowstone until he found the best light he had pre-visualized.

Keep shooting.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Slow Times


It's been kind of slow photographically here recently. There have been some school events that I've taken my camera too, but nothing particularly compiling for the blog. The above is a seagull on the Yorktown that was quite content to pose for me. I was able to shoot it for about five minutes, and it moved around just enough to get different angles of it. I think it was too cold to be worried about some guy pointing a camera at it.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Snow and a Camera Tip


I've been practicing with lighting, but don't have anything to really show off from it yet. Instead, how about another snow image? It is hard to believe that a tad more than a week ago, the trees in my yard looked like the shot above. A couple of days later and the snow was all gone. Now it has been sunny and in the 70s-80s the past few days. I noticed that some of the neighborhood dogwoods are beginning to bud. So, it looks like you folks will get inundated with flower pictures soon enough. I bet you'll want to see more snow pictures before the flowers drop off. ;-)

Yesterday, I stumbled on a neat "feature" of my Nikon D80. I was reviewing the sharpness of an image on the LCD display when I accidentally turned the command dial on the back of the camera. To my surprise it advanced the image. The really cool thing about it though is that it advanced to the next image at the same zoom level in the same position as the previous image! Do you realize how easy this makes it to compare images for sharpness on the LCD? Before I would look at one image, zoom in several times, check the sharpness, zoom out until I got back to the full image, go to the next image I wanted to check, zoom in several times, and check that image, etc. Sometimes it took a lot of time and button presses. Now, I only have to zoom in on the first image and then move to the next image with the Command dial. This will be great for those times that I am shooting a series in continuous mode. I will have a better idea which one is sharpest and in less time with fewer buttons to press. I guess it is the little things that sometimes excite us.

Keep shooting.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Playing around

Moon Painting

I've been playing around with Photoshop CS4 some more. I took a picture of the moon this weekend, but it seemed kind of bland with all of the black sky around it. I had watched a tutorial over on Planet Photoshop and thought I might try to apply some of that to this photo.

I might have overdone the lights a bit, but so what. It was really more of a practice thing than anything. Now, to figure out how to do some nebulae.

Keep shooting.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

More Snow


This photograph was taken the morning of our "snow storm". What you are seeing his is my driveway on the right side of the photograph as it intersects with Briarcreek Drive. It looked more like a small creek at the time with all of the snow cover. This weekend is supposed to be nice and in the 70s. Ahhhhh, Winter in the South. What a fickle one you are.

Keep shooting.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Color Casts



Light is made up of different colors. Even what our eyes might see as "white" light can be a range of colors. For example, the color of sunlight varies throughout the day. It has a golden/reddish/warm tone to it during sunrise and sunset. It has more of a blue cast during high noon. Have you even taken a photograph indoors and wondered why everything had a yellow to orange color cast to it? That is because we typically use tungsten light bulbs to illuminate our homes. The tungsten filaments in the bulbs emit light that is more to the yellow or orange side of white than toward the blue side of white. Fluorescent lights can cause a green cast. Sodium vapor, mercury vapor or other outdoor lighting have a whole host of other color casts to them. Our eyes are remarkable optical instruments and can adjust to these color casts so that we perceive white light where there may actually be another color in the light. An easy way to see this effect is when you are driving down the interstate at night. Look at the headlights of the on-coming traffic. You will likely notice that most of the cars' headlights have a slight yellowish tint to them. Then you will see some really "bright" headlights, usually BMWs or Mercedes Benz, that look more blueish or more "white" than the other cars. Those cars have the more expensive headlights that burn at a brighter "color temperature" than the other cars which gives them the bluer color. Those bluer lights are not actually any brighter than the normal headlights. Our eyes are just more sensitive to the blue portion of the spectrum than the yellow part of the spectrum. Thus, the bluer headlights appear "brighter" to us simply because our eyes are designed to collect more blue light than yellow light.

This difference in colors of "white" light is what is called white balance in photography. Our cameras only see the light that enters through the shutter. They will record light with what ever color cast might be present. This is why your indoor photographs turn out with yellow or orange color casts to them. The camera's "white balance" wasn't set to consider the tungsten light "white". So instead it recorded it with the color cast you see in your photograph. Modern digital cameras can be adjusted on the fly to whatever "color" light you might be working in via the camera's white balance setting. Digital photographs, especially those shot in a RAW format, can be adjusted to a proper white balance during post processing. When using film cameras, you have to select the proper kind of film that is balanced to the kind of light you will be shooting in. If the light changes, you would have to change your film or your subsequent photographs will have odd color casts to them.

Which of the photographs above was the "natural" light photograph, and which was the color adjusted photograph? Find out after the jump.

Near my neighborhood is a small parking lot with several sodium vapor lights that illuminate it at night. They make it hard to see stars at night from our house. They also cause a color cast when you try to photograph at night. The color cast becomes exaggerated during bad weather such as fog, rain, ice or the snow we had a couple of days ago. In fact, once there is a coating of snow on everything, the color cast gets amplified by reflecting off of all of that white snow and causes everything you see to turn into a sepia tone. Thus, the first photograph above called "Sepia" is actually the "natural" light version. That color is what I saw when I was outside that night. It is a really weird feeling walking around a naturally sepia toned world. Almost like walking around in an old silent film or Civil War era photograph. However, it is also a really interesting light because it is so different than what we usually have to work with photographically.

The second photograph is the very same image after I color corrected it to a more neutral or white color tone in Photoshop. It almost looks like it was shot during the day, doesn't it? The truth of the matter is that both photographs were taken on my tripod with a four second exposure time. The amount of light in the image which is due to both the exposure time and all of the snow-covered reflective surfaces as well as the snow in the air makes for an optical illusion that the image was taken during the day. The neutral color cast adds to this illusion because we expect to "see" this kind of white light during the day, not at night.

While photographers generally strive to get the light to a neutral tone in order to eliminate undesirable color casts, said color casts can also be used creatively for mood and effect. Here, the "natural" sepia tone of the sodium vapor illuminated snow invokes a much different mood than the color balanced version. Which is best? It depends on what the photographer means to convey in the image. I took the image to experiment with the odd sepia ambient light and to compare it to a color balanced version. In the end, I like both images although I am more partial to the natural sepia toned version in this instance. It invokes a stronger mood to me than the color neutral version does. Which do you prefer?

I have to admit, having a source of "natural" sepia lighting like this could have some interesting potential. Plus, walking around in a sepia world is very unique.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

The First of Many

Stained Glass

The above photograph was taken the night of my son's recent Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. They meet in the Fellowship Hall of a local church. The Fellowship Hall has a small stage that is always curtained off. The night of the race, the curtains were pulled back from a previous event, and I saw these stained glass windows for the first time in the two years my son has been attending Cub Scout meetings there. Luckily, the setting sun was lighting them up and I had my camera with me. I really like the colors of the glass.

This is also the first image that I have processed with Photoshop CS4. It is quite a bit different from Nikon Capture NX2. I am obviously still learning Photoshop, although, I'm certain that this is just the first of many more photographs I will process with it.

Keep shooting.

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