Texas State House – B&W

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This was my third visit to the Texas state capitol. After spending a couple of hours touring the building and walking the grounds, I was scouting for compositions I wanted to return and shoot the next morning. It was this shot using the Capitol’s Extension Open-Air Rotunda to merge the architecture of the original 1880 building with the 1993 underground extension that really intrigued me. I love the way the symmetry of the rotunda balances with the capitol building, and how the new and old blend together seamlessly. I was hoping that the early-morning light would bathe the building with beautiful morning colors.

But when the alarm rang the next morning, it was raining. I don’t know why I didn’t give up—perhaps that old saying was haunting me; bad weather makes for good photography. I did manage to take a shot. I actually took a single set of 9 bracketed exposures from this location. The single color shot from this location was uninteresting.  Processing all 9 shots with Photomatix looked quite good, although it did have an HDR grunge look. What I particularly liked was how the sky and building balanced adding mystery to this  ominous feeling image. In the end, the color had to go as I felt it was more of a distraction.

I used Photomatix Pro to process the 9 exposures, Photoshop to clean-up the image of dust spots, and remove the police car that was parked on the left side of the Rotunda. Finally I used Nik’s Sliver Effect to convert to black & white.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 @ 14mm
Exposure: Manual ISO 100; 1 sec @ f/11 (initial exposure)
Bracketed exposure: 9 shots; 1/3 stop increments.
Shooting Mode: Continuous High Speed on a Tripod.

I See You

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McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet Multirole Carrier-based Strike Fighter.

At first glance, one would think that I took this image being escorted by military officials in an environment where the average photographer would never get access. Yes it was taken on an Air Force Base, and yes I did have a competitive advantage. Most people would never go to an Air Show when it is cold, raining and overcast. It’s miserable, you’re getting wet and no one is flying!

ISeeYouROrigThat’s my competitive advantage! Since it was cold the attendance was down, giving better access to to the display aircraft without the crowds. Since it was overcast people weren’t trying to use the wings as sun-shields, making it easier to get more of the aircraft into the frame. Since it was raining, there was this sheen that enhanced aircraft.

I’d like to say that when I saw this carrier based McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet aircraft that I was drawn by its unique geometric shapes, and spent several hours waiting for others step out of the frame and took hundreds of photos before settling on this particular one. But no, I was actually on my way to get in line for a tour of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy and stopped to grab a snap shot. I actually only took one photo at this perspective, 3 photos total; the other two were of the nose and the intake part of the jet. What can I say, “it was raining,” and the line for the C-5 was forming underneath the wing of its enormous aircraft.

What actually drew me to this particular perspective was the symmetry of the fighter. The circles and inner circles of the engines looked like eyes, and the arresting hook looked kinda-like a nose.

In post processing: the color in the photo was a distraction, so I enhanced the photo in Lightroom to pull as much contrast as I dared, I then used Nik (now Google or should I say Alphabet) Silver Effects to convert to black & white. With all that; the majority of the editing was done in Photoshop to remove the feet of the spectators as well as all the tie-down flags and the oil leak catch bucket. The editing was not all that bad because of the symmetry of the aircraft I was able to select portions of the photo from one side, flip and use it to recover what was hidden by the obstruction I was trying to remove.

The result is a rarely photographed perspective of the back-end of this magnificent aircraft that kinda looks like the face of an Owl.

Location: Barns Air National Guard – 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts
Camera: Nikon D2x
Lens: Nikkor 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 30mm
Exposure: ISO 100; f/4 @ 1/250 sec.
Tripod: none

Trinity River Flood – Dallas Skyline

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Before attempting to photograph the Dallas skyline, I did my homework, looked at other’s photos and then went to Google Earth to determine the best vantage point.

I arrived in Dallas at the perfect time, I found a place to park, although not exactly the best part of town!  I headed down to the Trinity River bank to set up. But where was the Trinity? It was more of a stream then a river. I must have walked a good 45 minutes looking for a spot that included a good reflection of the city — I did not find one. I finally settled on a spot near the road. I did not get a good shot that day.

I surmised that the photos I found, on the web, were taken after a hard rain where the photographer found a large puddle. I even thought that the water and reflections were fabricated in Photoshop. I attempted to use a photo from nearby Lake Grapevine to provide  the reflection for the buildings.  The result just looked fake.

What I didn’t realize is how the river and levi systems in Texas work, and that Dallas was in a drought. I was thinking that the likelihood of getting a good skyline photo was pretty much a lost cause.

This year spring rain flooded the area to the point of highways being shut down and I had to return to capture this elusive photo of the Dallas skyline. What I thought was parks and hiking / biking trails had filled with water.

For this particular photo I used my 70-200mm lens and took 6 shots in the portraits orientation to create this panorama. The final print has amazing detail — you can even see if people are in the windows. 

What I learned from this was not to give up on a photo, but to understand the environment and conditions that are needed to make a beautiful scene.  Be ready to return when those conditions are presented to you.

Time: June 19, 2015 @ 9:00pm
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 98mm
Exposures: 6 Panels at ISO 64; f/8 @ 1.3 sec.

 

Towers of the Virgin

Hello world!

PhotoSlate – the movie slate app for digital still photographers.

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Have you ever found yourself looking at your photograph archive and wondering “Where did I take that photo?” or looking at a photograph and trying to plan the best time to go back to that location?

Perhaps you took a single shot of a landscape, and then decided you should also take a couple of sets of bracketed exposures, and you even shot a set of images for focus stacking. You move your composition slightly and repeat. Back in the digital darkroom, you’re trying to figure out which images belong together.

In the past I used a cue-card system to solve these issues. It’s really quite simple; I would carry a stack of index cards, and write down pertinent information about the photograph I was about to take. I would first photograph the cue-card then photograph the subject—I even had an END cue-card to mark the end of a sequence. The movie industry has been doing this for quite some time to keep track of their takes using what is commonly referred to as a Movie Slate or Clapper Board.  This syncs sound and provides other pertinent information that is needed in post-production. 

For the past few years I have been searching for the “movie slate” app for digital still photographers. An app that would provide location information GPS, Compass Heading, Location Name, Address, as well as the type or sequence and the number of images that make-up the sequence. 

I have yet to find one…

So, I created my own.

AlwaysPhotographing is proud to announce PhotoSlate. A pre-production in-field application to capture the photographic meta-data that your camera doesn’t.

Start up PhotoSlate and in a few seconds, PhotoSlate will get your GPS location, heading, and using reverse geocoding will also find the location name and address of where you are standing. Tap the SHOT and FRMS fields, and quickly change the type of photo sequence and number of frames. Tap the LOC or ADDRESS fields, and you can provide your own location name and address. Return to that location in the future and PhotoSlate remembers your inputs and uses them.

In a location where there is no internet or cell service? Although PhotoSlate will be unable to reverse geocode, as long as the GPS is functioning, you can still manually enter your location and address information, and when you return to the same spot in the future, PhotoSlate will remember your information and will reverse geocode using your local data.

Additional Information PhotoSlate.

Link to the PhotoSlate Manual.

PhotoSlate

Version 1.0

Handheld Multi-Row Photo Stitching

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Dallas County Courthouse (Texas)

The old “Dallas County Courthouse” was also know as the “Old Red Courthouse,” is currently the home for the “Old Red Museum”

Sometimes I find myself wishing I had brought additional equipment for an unexpected subject. On this occasion, I wasn’t planning on any serious photography — just snapshots. I brought only my D3s and an all-purpose AF-S Nikkor 28-300 f/3.5-5.6. When I came upon this building I did not have a lens wide enough, nor did I have a tripod. I decided I had to try to capture the building anyway.

There were a couple of problems in capturing this picture

  1. I didn’t have a lens wide enough to capture the entire building in one shot
  2. I didn’t have a tripod, much less a  multi-row panoramic Head
  3. The traffic made it hard to shoot this from the street

I decided to try, a technique I am calling “Handheld Multi-Row Photo Stitching” The trick is to move the camera; not your body when composing for each section of the building. This is similar to what a “multi-row panoramic Head” would do pivoting around the lens nodal point—somewhere in the center of the lens where the aperture leaves in the lens would be.

HandStacking-ImagesI waited for the next red light, and then took series of 8 shots in a zigzagging pattern in one continuous motion

  • top tow left – top tow right,
  • row 2 right – row 2 left
  • tow 3 left –  row 3 right
  • bottom row right – bottom row left

The idea is to minimize the movement of the camera while overlapping each photo by at-least 30%.

 

The processing was 4 basic steps:

1 – Combine photos using Microsoft’s ICE

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2 – Fix perspective using Adobe’s Photoshop

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3 – Enhance Image using Adobe’s Lightroom

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4 – Make Final enhancements and remove foreground Lamp Pole using Adobe’s Photoshop

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Time: February 17, 2014 @ 2:22 pm
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens:  Nikkor 28-300mm @ 55mm
Exposure: 8 exposures – ISO 200; f/8 @ 1/500 sec.

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