Pipe Organ and Virgin River – Zion National Park

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On our last trip “Two Weddings and a Dinner” I was off to photograph my two friend’s weddings less then a week apart. The first wedding was at the “Valley of the Gods” in Utah, the second wedding was at Mt Sunapee, New Hampshire. The dinner was in Washington DC for our friends annual Big Bash.

For the first Wedding we landed in Las Vegas; first stop on our way to the Valley of the Gods was Zion National Park. We arrived at Zion after dark, so we didn’t see much, and when we woke up in the morning we were treated with dense fog and pouring rain.  We had only one-half day there as we still had another 4 hours of driving and the first wedding was the next day. I thought of skipping Zion all together as it didn’t look like we would see much and the day’s forecast was not promising.  We decided to visit Zion anyway and hope for the best. 

Zion does not allow you to drive in the park. Instead, they have regular schedules buses that drive up and down the park to take you to your destination. We decided to get off at selected stops, and look for photographs near the bus stations. 

One of the stops was for the trail-head to Angels Landing, I ventured down toward the Virgin River noticed the formation of what I believe to be Pipe Organ. Angle’s Landing Is to the right and behind the me as I took this photograph.

Luckily, the clouds were beginning to break up which made for an interesting sky. For this shot, I took three exposures each two stops apart. I did process this as an HDR to bring out the sky, but limited processing to minimum the grunge effect that has given HDR processing a bad wrap.

Time: September 21, 2014 @ 11:21pm
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens:  Nikkor 14 – 24mm @ 14mm
Exposure: ISO 100; f/8 @ 1/250 sec.

Moon Rise Over Nubble Light

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I promised my friend Preston that I would get him a picture of Nubble Light (a.k.a. Cape Neddick Light) without christmas lights. I arrived in York Maine just at sunset, and quickly headed out to a spot on the rock where the buildings don’t merge into each other. I like the composition where the lighthouse, the red barn and the white barn have plenty of space between them. Unfortunately at that location, the moon looked like it was off on its own and not part of the composition. So I repositioned myself back toward the main parking area so that the moon was rising over the lighthouse complex.

The rocks and lighthouse where mostly lit by the headlights of the cars in the parking lot. It was cold and windy so everyone coming to see the full moon stayed in their cars. It was so windy, that I had to collapse all of the legs on my tripod and sit on the ground as the wind almost knocked my camera over.

I particularly like the shadow of the lighthouse in the foreground ocean caused by the moon.

Although this is not an HDR photograph, there were two elements pulled from an underexposed image. I wanted to bring back some detail in the moon, and with a thirty second exposure with winds at 40 miles an hour, the the flag was just a blur in the main image photo.

Time: October 6, 2014 @ 6:45pm
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens:  Nikkor 24-70mm @ 32mm
Exposure: ISO 100; f/8 @ 30 sec.

Rowes Wharf – Boston Skyline

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It seems like whenever I’m in Boston at sunset, I need to head over to the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse to photograph the Rose Wharf view of the skyline. It’s probably the most picturesque view of the Boston skyline.

The first time I went solo with my Nikon D2x and the 23-24mm lens. The picture was nice, but I neglected to watch the skyline, which resulted in an obscured view of the custom house; an important Boston landmark.

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Another time I brought my 4×5” view camera with a 90mm lens. That image turned out surprisingly nice given that the 90mm lens was not wide enough to capture the entire skyline so I decided to do a panorama stitch with two images.

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This time I had my new Nikon D810 with the 14-24mm lens. My sister Valerie was with me on this shoot, and she decided that the mooring poles where too dark, so she took my LED flashlight out of my camera bag and proceed to paint the foreground.

 

Time: October 26, 2014 @ 6:30pm
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens:  Nikkor 14-24mm @ 16mm
Exposure: ISO 64; f/8 @ 20 sec.

Bald Cypress With Spanish Moss

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I made a quick stop at the Caddo Lake State Park in Texas near the Louisiana border. I wanted to see what the photographic potential of the park would be for a future trip. It was 2pm, not exactly the best time for photography. I found this scene which had okay light but not excellent, so I quickly shot off an HDR sequence of 9 exposures.

Back home I downloaded my images and on quick inspection, thought they were nothing special, but I then decided to process HDR of this scene. To my surprise I found the result quite pleasing, but it had that HDR look, which I don’t like for a nature scene. So I decided instead to work on the first correctly exposed image. I corrected the white balance, along with a few other adjustments in Lightroom. I really liked the non-HDR version of the trees, but I liked the HDR water. So I combined the best of the two image to come up with the image here.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: 28-300 @ 80mm
Exposure:  ISO 200; 1/2 sec  @ f/16

Nikon D810 Announced

The new Nikon D800/D800E replacement has arrived. The D810 has an all-new FX-format sensor and EXPED 4 image processor but the same 36.3 megapixel resolution. The new camera lacks the Optical Low-Pass Filter (OLPF) so it should have increased image detail, The D810 now employs better image processing to reduce moiré so the D810 essentially replaces both the D800 and the D800E. The D810 base ISO has been lowered to 64 with boost level at ISO 32. The lower ISO should translate into higher dynamic range. The high ISO has been bumped up one stop to ISO 51,200 which most likely means less noise at higher ISOs. The EXPEED 4 processor should mean faster throughput and autofocus (which is the same system found on the D4S). The D810 should shoot at 5 fps at full resolution.

  • New 36.3 MP sensor with no OHPF (The D800E’s OLPF had anti-aliasing properties removed)
  • 25% faster frame rate 5fps as opposed to 4
  • 7 DX-crop mode when using optional MB-D12 battery pack and EN-EL18a
  • EXPEED 4 processor for better more suppression
  • Group AF introduced in the D4s
  • Rear LCD with RGBY for brighter display
  • New Zebra strips to show blown-out areas
  • New electronic first curtain shutter to minimize shutter shake
  • Video 1080p/50/60 fps
  • Slightly lighter
  • Improved grip for smaller hands
  • New highlight preservation metering mode
  • Bracketing button moved next to the flash popup button
  • Native ISO 64 – 12,800 extended ISO 32 – 51,200
  • New “i” button for quick on-screen access to settings and adjustments
  • sRAW for smaller raw files
  • Auto ISO for smooth video transitions as scene changes light
  • Record compressed video in camera while sending HD video to external recorder

For more information see Nikon’s press release.

Hippocampus (Seahorse)

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I’m not one to shoot animals in captivity, thinking it is somehow cheating going to a zoo to capture a “Nature Photo.” But then, the pros spend thousands of dollars and hire private guides to take them to exotic places to get speculator nature shots. Not that I don’t admire their work; in fact I love most of their work, but I don’t have the time or the financial where-with-all to go after nature shots the way the pros do.

I shot this image at the Dallas Aquarium where this little guy was swimming furiously around his tank. There were not too many people around so I was able to spend some uninterrupted time photographing this seahorse. I was also lucky enough that the room was dark enough that any reflections from light or reflections in the room were minimal.

The biggest issue with photographing fish in an aquarium is dealing with reflections. Any object that can be seen is a candidate for a reflection on the aquarium glass, that includes you and your camera. One solution is to use a rubber lens-hood that you can hold against the glass, and since it is rubber it moves easily as you try to compose your shot, and it will not damage the aquarium glass. For this shot getting close to the glass was not going to work, the subject was too big and was swimming close to the front of the tank; fortunately the room was dark and I could position myself to minimize reflections.

Another issue is that modern aquarium glass is often made of acrylic which may cause chromatic aberration; that is the colors that make up a subject not focusing at the same spot on in the camera. Images photographed at acute angles will have ghosting or what looks like a double image. To minimize this, shoot strait on at 90 degrees from the glass.

For the most part you will be relying on room light so you may need to push your ISO to minimize motion blur from the swimming fish.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 28-300 @ 58mm
Exposure: ISO 6400; 1/125 sec @ f/4.5

Post processing involved minor exposure adjustments in Lightroom, with a 1:1 crop. I then pumped up the shadows to though out the muddiness in the blacks. I then used Photoshop to further clean-up the blacks, and clone out any matter floating in the water. Finally I added an Orton effect to the background to further diminish any evidence of a fish-tank.

Texas State Capitol

REC-20140524-123309-HDR-Edit-2It seams that the only time I am at the Texas State Capitol is in mid afternoon on a cloudless day. A bright sun just behind the dome washes out the building. Another issue I had with photographing the capitol is that it is so wide, that I would need to stitch at least two photos together in order to capture the entire length of the building.

Once again, I found myself at the capitol at the wrong time of day, but this time I had two things going for me. First, I had my new Nikon 14-28mm f/2.8 lens, which was wide enough to capture the entire building. Second, it was cloudy out, so the sun was not a big white blob just above the dome washing out the entire photo.

I thought that an HDR shot would be perfect as it is always good for bringing out details in the clouds and building and creates a dramatic image.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 14mm
Exposure: ISO 100; 1/30 sec @ f22 (initial exposure)
Bracketed exposure: 9 shots; 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, +1, +2, +3, +4 stops
Shooting Mode: Continuous High Speed on a tripod.
Focus Point: Beginning of basement glass sun roof (in the foreground).

Globe Life Park – Texas Rangers – Infield

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I had tickets for game two of the three game series Boston Red Sox against the Texas Rangers at the Globe Life Park played May 9, 10, 11 2014.

I had always wanted a panoramic shot of a professional baseball field — like the posters that you see at the team sporting shops. I alway thought that you had to be the park official photographer sporting a special pass. A more practical approach, I thought, was to purchase the optimal stadium photographic seat in the park (if you could figure out what seat that actually was). I had neither. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox tend to draw large crowds in Texas, so I was lucky enough to have a ticket to a sell-out game.

I wanted a panoramic HDR shot of the field behind home plate after the sun has set.  The game started at 7:05, so I thought I would have to wait for the third or fourth inning before I attempted the shot. The good thing was that by then everyone has settled down and is engaged in watching the game. Also the section seating attendants have stopped denying access to fans trying to get into sections they do not have a seat in.

I headed up to the upper level of the park and peaked into each section until I found the section looking over home plate. I then went back out and set up my camera and monopod and got all my camera settings ready for my rapid fire HDR sequences. I then went back in, and politely asked the section attendant if I could take a photo. To my surprise he said “Sure, just don’t block anyone and don’t stay too long.” I then went to the top of the stairs and took three sets of nine exposures, left, center and right. I did this two times, then moved to the railing overlooking the park and repeated the process.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 @ 14mm
Exposure: ISO 1250; 1/250 sec at f/5.6 (initial exposure)
Bracketed exposure: 9 shots; 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, +1, +2, +3, +4 stops
Shooting Mode: Continuos High Speed at 12 Frames a second on a monopod.
Total  27 images (9 left, 9 center, 9 right).

I processed the photos first in Photmatix Pro, I started with the center section to get the look I wanted, then I saved the settings as a preset and used it to process the left and right HDR sets of images. I then used Microsoft’s ICE software to stitch the the 3 HDR images together.

Globe Life Park – Texas Rangers – Outfield

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Being a Bostonian transplanted to Texas, the arrival of the Red Sox for a three game series inspired me to photograph the Ranger’s ball park. Unlike Fenway, Global Life Park is situated in a big field making it easier to get an external shot. I had tickets for game two, but I decided to go out to the field for game one to get some evening external shots with the lights on.

Researching the the location before hand using Google Maps, I noticed that the field had two ponds located on the north and west side of the field. I wanted an evening photo with the glow of the stadium lights. The slight water vapor in the air would be good for the dome glow effect. The pond on the west side of the stadium was ideal as the sun setting behind me would not interfere with the lights from the stadium. The trick is to get the sky dark enough so that we can see the glow from the stadium lights, but with enough ambient light to illuminate the exterior facade.

I got to the park about an hour before sunset, and scoped out the best shooting location. It was a bit windy, so I decided that a long exposure would be best to soften the ripples in the water. Initially I used the Tiffen Variable Neutral Density ND Filter – 2 to 8 Stop Light Control; ISO 100; f16 – 22 for 30 second exposures. As it got darker, the need for the ND diminished; and the stadium lights kept getting better. This final print came from my last shots.

The final image is comprised of three images ISO 100, f16 10s, 15s, and 30s. They were merged together using Photomatics Pro software. Final edits in Lightroom using the gradient filter over the ball park to enhance to lighten and cool down the color of the glow hovering just above the stadium. I used the dodge tool to brighten up the trees in front of the stadium and added a slight Orton effect. Finally a little vignette to darken the edges to highlight the stadium.

Dealey Plaza