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

GlobeLifePark-infield

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

BostonSkyline_MicrosoftICE

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

Fields of Lupines

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© Valerie Cox

A perfect day, perfect weather, great company, all in search of beautiful wildflowers, that is what my recent trip to New Hampshire’s White Mountain region had in store for one of MVCC’s spring field trips. Our mission: to find and photograph wild lupines during the Ninth Annual Fields of Lupine Festival sponsored by the Franconia Notch Chamber of Commerce and held in the towns of Franconia, Sugar Hill, Bretton Woods, Littleton, Bethlehem, and Easton, New Hampshire from June 7th to June 23, 2002. We decided to head to the festival on June 9th. [Read more…]

Maine Fingers Photo Trip

My friend Michael and I went on a weekend trip to the Maine Fingers, a coastal section between Brunswick and Rockland where finger-like peninsulas beg for photographic exploration. The area is rich with landscapes, geology, architecture, and culture. The locals definitely have the advantage here, but for those who love exploration, this place is for you.

From Brunswick to Rockland the coast changes abruptly, and a network of long narrow peninsulas and islands make up an estuary coast. Although heavily populated and overgrown with trees, this section of Maine has huge potential for those photographers willing to make the effort to explore the area and hunt down the imagery in the thousands of inlets, islands, peninsulas, ponds, lakes, and coves that make up this unique ocean front.

Most main roads in this area run north/south down the center of the finger with not much to see. A heavy cover of trees on both sides creates a tunnel-like experience. At the end, everything opens up to reveal gems of photographing possibilities. Another big advantage to the north/south orientation is that you will have plenty of opportunities for both sunrise and sunset photography.

There are five main sections for exploration; each should take a good part of a day. I would plan my explorations for the middle part of the day, giving myself time to get back to the optimal “Magic Hour” spots for sunset and plan an early wakeup for sunrise photography.

  • Brunswick
  • Bath
  • Wiscasset
  • Damariscotta
  • Waldoboro
  • Thomaston

Our weekend trip allowed time for exploration of only the first three sections. We were able to make a quick trip through the Damariscotta area to Pemaquid Point to photograph Pemaquid Light.

As you follow our route through the fingers remember that nothing is a pure destination. We are simply providing a route that will get you close to many of the wonderful locations in this region of Maine. If you stop only at the places we identify, you are definitely missing many beautiful locations. You should take your time and explore any of the side-roads or towns/villages that interest you. Discover your own secret locations (there are certainly plenty of places to explore) and take photographs that are uniquely you.

Brunswick

Brunswick is located on the coast of Maine approximately 25 miles northeast of Portland, Maine’s largest city. Brunswick is the home of a naval air station, Brunswick Community College and Bowdoin College. The area is rich with history. The town ‘mall’ is another point of interest to many. It is a park-like area that runs along the middle of the street. In the winter the town maintains an ice skating area about the size of a small pond. The Bowden Collage campus is a good spot for fall color photography.

From Brunswick head south on rout 123 down Harpswell Neck to Potts Harbor where you will find a number of photographic opportunities. On the east side you will find Basin Cove, Peter Cove, and Basin Cove Falls. On the west side you will find Stover cove, and South Harpswell.

Head back up route 123 to Mountain Rd and then follow route 24 south to Long Cove, Reed Cove, and Lowell Cove . Continuing south you will cross over the unique Cribstone Bridge connecting Orrs and Bailey Islands. It is the only bridge of its kind built of granite blocks crisscrossed on the ledges. This allows the tide to flow freely through the bridge.

On the southern-most point on Route 24, you will find Bailey Island Mackerel Cove and Jaquish Gut.

Continue on route 24 past Mountain road and turn right onto Cundys Harbor Road and down to Hen Cove and Cundys Harbor. You are actually on Sebascodegan Island, which offers several great places for exploration. When finished here, continue north on route 24 to route 1 east to Bath.

Bath

Bath has been a shipbuilding center since colonial times, and is located upriver on the Kennebec River. It is rich with a seafaring history. Bath was listed as one of the “Best Small Cities in America” and was deemed a “Distinctive Destination” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. At one point there were over 200 shipbuilding firms in the area that has launched over 5,000 vessels. Bath is still the birthplace to many of United States Navy destroyers.

Head south from Bath on route 209 to Drummore Bay. Continue south on 209 and take a right onto Basin Road, where you will find many places to explore around the Basin. Back on 209 head south and explore the various vistas on routes 217 and 216.

Head North on 209 and take a right to continue south on 209 to Popham Beach State Park. There you will find Fort Baldwin and Fort Popham. Fort Baldwin is the older of the two and offers fewer photographic opportunities. Nearby Fort Popham, offers great architecture shots of its fort and stonework. Also in this area is the Popham Colony Site (1607), which is the first attempted English settlement on the northeast coast. Despite its failure, colonists produced the first ship built in the new world, the Virginia (1608).

Heading back up to Bath, you can now travel down Route 127 and onto Arrowsic and Georgetown Islands. There you will find Five Islands, Reid State Park, and Half Mile Beach.

The Town of Wiscasset is the Gateway to Mid-coast Maine. It’s a place where a rich maritime history and a bright technological future converge in “Maine’s Prettiest Village.”

From Wiscasset take route 1 south and then a left onto route 144 which will take you to Westport Island; where you will find Greenleaf Cove, Jewett Cove and many other places to explore on the southern tip and eastern side of the island.

After exploring Westport Island, head back to Wiscasset and south on route 27 where you are sure to find many photographs. We spent most of our time on in the coves on West Southport and Linekin Neck. The more tourist-oriented Boothbay Harbor does offer some photographic potential.

 Damariscotta

Damariscotta is an old Abenaki word for “river of many fishes”. Known for its spectacular natural landscapes.

From Damariscotta head south on 130/129 and then continue on 129 to South Bristol. As always on the way you will find many places to explore. There are some interesting places at Christmas Cove.

Once finished with South Bristol, head north on 129 until the road joins with route130. Head south on route 130 to New Harbor and Pemaquid point. Along the way you will find, on the west side of New Harbor, the Colonial Pemaquid Restoration. This is the site of an archaeological dig that has uncovered foundations of 16th and 17th-century settlements. Just south of there you will find Fort William Henry.

At the southern most point you will find the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse and the Fishermen’s Museum. This lighthouse is probably the most photographed lighthouse in the area. Most photographs are taken from the east side where one can catch the lighthouse reflections in the many pools of water left behind from high tide.

From Pemaquid Point head north on route 32, making a stop at Round Pond (actually an inlet) and another at Greenland Cove. On Keene Neck you will find the Hockomok Nature Trails.

Continue north on 32 and then south on 120 to the town of Friendship and Hatchet Cove. From there continue on 97 north to Thomaston.

Thomaston

Thomaston is located on the banks of the inlet that drains the Saint George River. Its first European presence was a trading post in 1630 that remained continuously open despite Indian raids.

From Thomaston, head south on route 131 to St. George where you will find Fort St. Georges. After exploring the fort, head south to Cutler Cove. You my want to take the western shore back roads so that you can also explore the various inlets and coves such as Cutler Cove, Otis Cove, Turkey Cove and Deep Cove. Continue north on 131 to explore the eastern side of the peninsula.

Once back in St George, head north on Route 73 to Owls Head.

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Other Information

We stayed at the Shore Hills Campgrounds on the Cross River in Boothbay. This “Base Center of Operations” was where each our daily trips began and terminated.

For most of the trip, we relied on the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx to guide our exploring. Although built for hiking, this GPS also allows one to download and overlay maps, of the area. The unit does provide turn-by-turn navigation, like many of the Car GPS units. We just wanted to see where roads lead, so we could strategically follow roads to potential photographic spots. We were also able to use the unit to quickly mark points of interest for return trips when the light is optimal for photography.

Our basic plan was to spend from 10am to 3pm scouting out locations for landscape photography. We carried the  Brunton Eclipse 8099 compass with us so that we could determine what time of day would be best for photography. At 3pm we would begin formulating a plan for locations to visit for sunset photography. After sunset, we would head back to camp, make dinner formulate a plan for sunrise photography.

Among all the landscapes, and a harbor scenes there are also are a number of quaint photographic compositions that can be found in and among community neighborhoods, For example I found a row of mail boxes on a back street that could be a spectacular photograph in the right light.

Many roads shown on maps turned out to be private ways, causing us to seek alternate routes.

Ghost Towns of Texas

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Dinosaur Valley State Park

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Downtown Dallas

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