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.

The Boston Skyline

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I find that the Rose Wharf view from the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse very picturesque. I have attempted this photograph several times. My past attempts were with a Nikon D2x using the 12 – 24mm f/4 lens (which was barely wide enough to capture this skyline).

An issue with my past attempts was that I was not paying close attention to the buildings and their orientation. I was too focused on Rose Wharf. In past photos the Custom House Tower, an important Boston landmark, was hidden behind the foreground buildings. As it turns out, there are only two spots along the waterway where the Custom House Tower is not blocked.

The key to a good night skyline shot is choosing a week day evening where the sun sets early enough so that people at still working after sunset. Around winter solstice would be best, but I was not due to be back in Boston until Christmas/New Year. I was planning on taking this shot on Thursday, but the weather was not cooperating which forced me to take this shot on Friday evening. Sunset was at 4:19pm.

Finding the light for this photo took patience. I only had 4 sheets of film with me (and I left my digital camera home). At sunset the sky is way too light for a night skyline shot. And if you wait too long the red glow would be gone. I waited so long that most of the other photographers there were gone. This shot was taken about two hours after sunset; after I pack up and started started to leave, I was thinking that I took the shot too early.

For this shot I used a 4×5 camera with the Rodenstock 90mm f/6.8 Grandagon-N Lens. The final image is actually two images stitched together. I almost gave up on this photo using Adobe Photoshop CC, but for some reason, I stumbled upon Microsoft’s ICE software while looking for alternative stitching software; it was free so I thought I’d give it a try. To my surprise it is very fast and does a remarkable job.

Time: December 27, 2013 @ 7:00pm
Camera: Toyo 45AII
Lens:  Rodenstock 90mm f/6.8 Grandagon-N
Film: Kodak Professional Ektar 100 4×5 sheet film
Exposure: IOS 100; f/22 @ 16s