Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
After publishing the previous post, she was “hanging out” where I hoped she’d be.
Why “she”? What, you didn’t read Charlotte’s Web as a kid?
ISO 100, Sigma 105mm macro @ f/8. Reproduction ratio not recorded. Remote flash. No crop. Click for the larger version if you’re not scared of spiders.
I thought I had a great opportunity to photograph a spider at work this evening, but as I set up, I scared her off.
I left everything in place and waited.
Truth is, I’m still waiting now… maybe as I write this she’ll come back down out of her hidey-hole.
Spider webs catch anything that passes by, and this one happened to catch two dandelion seeds before they could find terra firma again and set roots.
Using the 105mm macro at 1:1, they looked more like something that might have escaped from the imaginations of the producers of The Matrix. They look like some sort of alien spaceships in formation.
No crop here. The actual image area would fit neatly inside the space occupied by a typical pinkie fingernail. Just love macro lenses!
ISO 100, remote fill flash, 1/125th @f/8.
PS: I strongly suggest clicking on the image for the full effect.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Taken during the Ring of Fire 24 Hour Time Trial. Susan was approaching the turn into Tygh Valley.
Since it was early in the day, early in the race, what else would I do but shoot photographs?
This particular file brought a story to mind. I can’t call it a memory, since I wasn’t in the same vehicle.
During the preparation for our first go at Race Across Oregon, the team gathered for some on-course training. We’d never done this kind of thing before, so we wanted to get a feel for what was going to be expected of both riders and crew out on the course.
We gathered ourselves into my car (an aging Subaru Legacy wagon) and a borrowed Ford Explorer (to sit in for the motorhome that we would later rent) and headed east to Tygh Valley.
Since we’d agreed that I’d be the lead-out rider for the race, it seemed logical that I should be the lead-out rider for our practice sessions, and so I was plopped on the road (US 197/OR 216) and pointed toward Maupin. “Ready? Go!”
That’s exactly where Susan is in this picture, except she’s going in the opposite direction. But you can see where I was pointed.
Obviously, the first half-mile was a walk in the park.
The Explorer was supposed to hang back for a while, playing the part of the RV and not doing direct support. Since it was by far roomier than my station wagon, that’s where the rest of the team (Laura, Linda and Richard) were loitering, each awaiting their turn on the road.
Since it was illegal to do direct-follow support for a training session, Jeff kept close tabs on me doing short leapfrogs in the Subaru, while Susan and the team planned on making bigger jumps between exchanges.
Susan had hung back long enough to allow me to make significant progress up the grade shown in the blurry background here.
I should state here that I normally enjoy climbing hills. I’m not built for it in the same way that I used to be, but the affinity remains… unless I’m having a really crappy day, I still get along OK with positive grades.
And, it was early in the day. I was fresh out of the blocks and feeling fine.
This is what was told to me (or the way that I remember it being told to me):
As the crew in the Explorer passed me on the grade the first time, someone (Laura… it just had to be Laura) said something to the effect of “Well, that doesn’t look so bad! Looks like a piece of cake!” To which Richard (Australian, laconic, but not lacking a sense of humor) replied dryly “Yeah, but you’re not the poor bahstid on the bike.”
(This poor bastard understands that much laughter followed.)
The Explorer (and team) pulled over and allowed me to pass once more before setting up an exchange, and when they passed me again, the passenger-side windows were packed with faces hanging out, yelling “YOU POOR BASTARD!” as they went by.
I had no idea what had happened. I don’t even recall if I understood what they were saying at the time, but when the story was recounted to me as I peeled off sweaty gear, I laughed.
It became our rallying cry for that and the races that followed. We have “PG” rated team T-shirts with the phrase emblazoned on them. I don’t know about anyone else, but I still treasure mine.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
I shot the base images a couple of weeks ago, during the last full moon.
Several years ago, digital imaging gave me some direct feedback that was really hard to argue with… an accurate exposure of the full moon will be (depending on atmospheric variables) somewhere around 1/60 second at f/8 at ISO 100. As noted, there is some fudge-factor built in here, but that has turned out to be a reliable rule of thumb.
In other words, the full moon is freakin’ bright. Far brighter than we expect it to be. Even robust attempts at artificial lighting by we earthlings literally pale in comparison.
On a clear night, our eyes can resolve details on the face of the moon that are pretty amazing, given the distance. Using a pair of decent binoculars will yield even more granular detail, but many of us will start to squint, having become used to the ambient darkness.
But our eyes and brains work together in an amazing ballet that keeps re-computing and re-resolving the available illumination at a rate that no current technology really can in a single frame.
All of which makes photocomposites necessary to create a reasonably convincing facsimile of what we can really put together in our own heads.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) image compilation software offers solutions for many situations, but not this one. The moon moves too quickly. I shot a series of nine exposures in hopes of being able to combine them into a single frame, but there was just too much motion between frames to make that possible. So it was back to an advanced version of cut and paste to get to what’s shown here.
I don’t know why, but it seems like I’ve been on a prolonged self-assignment to catch a Great Blue Heron at the moment it overcomes gravity. I’ve never shown anything previously because earlier attempts were garbage, and that really gives garbage a bad name.
This isn’t “it”, but it’s the closest that I’ve come so far.
A little earlier today I saw (and caught a few frames of) a turf battle between two herons in Youngs Bay, but this one came closer to what I was hoping for.
Even at f/8 at considerable distance (I’m guessing this to be about 50 yards), depth of field is still razor thin at an effective 450mm focal length. I wish I could trust images made at ISO 400 or more! Soon, maybe… Sony has announced a new camera with a sensor (and entirely new technology) that intrigues me, and the replacement for the Alpha 700 is still rumored to be just over the horizon.
It’s a cropped image. There was just too much negative space in the remaining frame.
1/400 second, f/8, ISO 100, 70-300mm “G” @ 300mm (450mm effective). Handheld. Developed from RAW in ACR, very minor adjustments.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Handlebar tape on a bicycle is normally not something one thinks about much. Unless you ride several thousand miles per year. And even then, it’s not considered to be a structural issue. It’s a matter of comfort and aesthetics.
But that’s not really always the case, as I found out tonight.
The right half of my handlebars has been “insulted” on several minor occasions. The wounds weren’t that bad, but they were growing with each outing.
It was time to re-wrap.
It’s worth noting that the tape on these bars has been around for longer than the frame has. Trek saw fit to replace my frame (good on ‘em) when the original all-titanium frame developed a crack from a stress-riser on the downtube. But the bar tape has been around since dirt was new.
I’ll shorten this story a lot by saying that I was astonished to find that my own sweat had leaked through a small gap in the tape and had, over time, eaten a hole in the handlebar.
Structural failures (or even impending ones) are not to be trifled with on a bicycle (or car, or motorcycle, etc.) and so I set off in hopes of finding the right size and shape of bar to replace the existing part.
It was not as easy as one might think.
After much searching, I found a part that I thought would work at Performance Bike Shop. It’s a mail/online house that has retail stores around the country. I have been doing business with them for more than 20 years when local outlets have not been able to meet my needs.
But, my account information was all messed up. I couldn’t place the order online and couldn’t wait for an automated response.
So I called the number listed onscreen.
The call was answered before the third ring by a real English-speaking voice. No… a real “American” speaking voice. I’m not jingoistic, but hearing a Southern lilt in the middle of the night is somehow comforting when there’s something urgent to be taken care of.
We processed the order, and she offered to attempt to ship next day air to my office. At no charge. It was tempting, but she said that she could not guarantee it due to the specific hour. I elected to have the part shipped to a store that I would be much closer to in the event of a screw-up. (If something went awry at this particular time, it would mean an extra 300 miles of driving for me… not something I wanted to take a chance with.)
But, damn… I really appreciated the offer!
As she processed the order, I just had to ask… was she in North Carolina (Performance’s home base)? “No, the call center is in West Virginia, but I’ve got a son in North Carolina, if that counts.”
Customer service is not dead, and it’s not all offshore. I would buy locally if I could, but my options are thin-to-nonexistent for items like this.
I was both glad and sorry that I’d made contact with this extremely polite, very accommodating person in what was (for her) the middle of the night. I’m glad she was there to help me, but I’m also sorry that she had to be talking to me at 11:45PM her time.
She should have been at home, reading or sleeping.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Really, there have only been about ten hours of sunlit days that I’ve been able to be out and about in this month. Honestly. There’s been a little bit more than that overall, but not all that much.
Most of the sun fell on August 14, with a bit of a peek-a-boo game on the 15th and the heart of the day on the 16th. After that, fall set in.
Still, I shot so much in those sunny periods that I’m having trouble keeping up with it all. Different threads and stories running through all of it. Not sure how to deal with it all.
Still, sometimes a frame (or part of it) will pop out and say “deal with me.”
This uses about 20% of the full frame. I’d been following the same bird for more than half an hour and got a lot of stuff that I liked, but it never went all akimbo like this.
“G” 70-300 @ 300mm, ISO 100, 1/160 @ f/8, handheld. Developed from RAW in ACR. Light dodging applied in shadows around face in CS4.
A couple more from the same sequence:
“Fish on! Or under.”
It’s a keeper.
Same basic specs as above. Cropped for composition.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Lucky at last. It sat still for a few frames before losing patience with me.
I was actually looking for something else that I'd caught in the corner of my eye as I drove by. I parked the car, hauled out the gear and marched back up the road. Hunting for reflections in the ditch near the road, I looked up and saw this frame. I moved to the left about two feet and it was gone. Two feet to the right, same thing. There was really only one place to put the tripod.
Monday, June 28, 2010
I’ve been using my current DSLR body for nearly four years now. Which means that it’s seriously outdated… an operational dinosaur.
But it IS usable, and use it I do. Which means changing lenses frequently.
I’ve always done this with care. I do understand the downsides of exposing the delicate guts (especially the sensor) of the camera to the outside world. But interchangeable lenses are very much the point of using a DSLR. And the point of keeping the camera at hand is to be able to use it.
All the care in the world (barring hustling off to a clean room) will not eliminate the chances of dust and crud eventually settling on the sensor of a DSLR.
After about three years of changing and changing and changing lenses, a few clots of dust (or something) were making their presence known if I stopped down beyond f/11. At first, it was a minor annoyance, but as time went on and I really really wanted to show greater depth of field, the problem intensified.
Conventional wisdom from a few years ago held that if you touched the sensor, you’d be doing well if you didn’t destroy the camera. That’s an overstatement, but not a big one. Accepted practice for “unqualified” sensor cleaners involved using a combination of gravity and the biggest damned air-bulb you could find to ever-so-carefully “poof” the offending jetsam off the sensor’s glass.
Translation: remove lens; set the camera to “clean sensor”’ hold shutter open with the body pointing earthward and poofpoofpoof with a blower bulb until you got tired of the exercise. Then check and see if your efforts had any effect.
The truth is, this is an inexpensive and not-too-scary way to take care of a lot of crap that lodges on the sensor, but eventually, one finds its limits.
Eventually, a lot of little bits of gawdknowswhat end up sticking tenaciously to the delicate face of that light-gathering instrument and won’t let go.
Eventually, what seems like desperate measures are in order. Either buy a new camera body (can’t do that) or risk ruining the existing one (don’t want to do that, but can’t find an option)…
…so I did about two weeks’ worth of on-again, off-again research on the best way to clean a camera’s sensor. And I decided on a method, then found that I couldn’t get there from here. More accurately, I couldn’t get IT here from there. Amazon (or B&H or ProPhoto Supply) can’t solve everything… not if the contents of product are on a “no fly” list.
“The Solution” contains methanol. The same stuff that powers Indy cars. Burns without flames. Highly unwelcome on airplanes, UPS trucks and Post Offices. I think I can understand the caution.
But I needed it. I was ready to stop shooting if I didn’t get this crap off my sensor.
So I planned a stop on a Saturday at ProPhoto Supply in Portland after having called in advance to make sure that they had a bottle (all 2 fl. oz. of it) in stock.
$54.98 later, I held the nearly weightless answers (I hoped) to my prayers… a bottle of cleaning solution and a box of 12 sensor swabs from Photographic Solutions, Inc. (It’s not cheap, but it’s a LOT less expensive than a new camera!)
The Photographic Solutions “kit” is available for use with all sensor sizes, but you need to know which type you need. The swabs are sized for individual sensor types. (I needed Type 2… I’d already done my homework).
After all of this buildup, the actual implementation was incredibly anticlimactic. The instructions are easy to follow, and I’m reasonably well-coordinated, so things went off without a hitch.
My first (and so far only) foray into full-contact sensor cleaning is still holding up after nearly four months.
It’s been a wet, mottled spring, and a completely clear sky has been a very rare commodity, but I spent much of last Saturday shooting with just that as a backdrop… and there were no dots or fuzzy $^%^S%@ to deal with afterward.
And that’s a very nice thing with 200+ files staring me in the face.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
First is the shoot.
Get there, mount up the equipment, read the light, test the white balance. Retest the white balance. Shoot the first game. Adjust compensation factors the second location. Shoot the second game.
The easy part is done now.
Load the card to the hard drive. Wow… 532 files (266 images, captured in .jpg and RAW simultaneously)… this is going to take a while.
First viewing. There are some obvious and inevitable failures. Autofocus took a smoke break, photographer couldn’t find the shutter button, etc. Those are expected.
And, I’d expected to see some improvement in the general quality of the images since my last attempt because I’ve changed lenses. But I wasn’t sure if it would be something that would jump out at me.
It really did.
The G lens focuses faster (and sometimes mis-focuses faster) than the old gold can ever could. The percentage of keepers leaped up… and the ones that went south when WAY south… no equivocation there. Those were losers, and there was no doubt about that.
But the winners! Oh, my. I’m so happy! I’m not talking total technical perfection here… this is a fast-moving sporting event in pretty crappy light… but the increased contrast, sharpness, CA (chromatic aberration) control is so obvious to me in the first viewing that I can’t help but get excited.
However… the white balance really wasn’t right, but the potential of the RAW files to correct for that, and opening shadow detail, and reducing noise and… I could go on for as many options as ACR offers.
The summary is that I’ve got a lot of work to do.
But it should be worth it.
Stella takes flight. One of my favorites so far.
No crop. Sony 70-300mm “G” @ 70mm. ISO 200, 1/160 @ f/5.6. Monopod used throughout the shoot.
Monday, June 14, 2010
I left the house this afternoon in a mood for monochrome. The day had finally turned for the better in terms of contrast, but saturation was still minimal.
So I was thinking in terms of a limited pallet.
I made an obligatory stop at The Cove in Seaside just in case my “finger in the wind” surf forecast was wrong… but it wasn’t. The waves were blown to hell, “confused”, in meteorological parlance, and not especially photogenic. But, it was a nice place to watch the gulls do their air-dance.
I squeezed off a few frames, but couldn’t get excited about anything, so I continued south.
Indian Beach still calls to me, but not loudly enough to make me forget my fall there at the beginning of the year. I don’t fear the place, but recent memories from there keep me thinking of alternatives.
I pointed myself toward Chapman Point, and realized as I navigated up the ridge that I had not been there in more than 30 years. The topography had not changed much, but what covered it certainly had. Mega-homes encrust the ridge like barnacles on the rocks below.
At least they left an access point or two for riffraff like me.
Until early afternoon, the day here had been a consistent shade of gray… no variation in the sky at all. There had been now way to tell the time of day by solar observation… it all looked the same. By early evening, that had all changed, which is what put me in the mood for monochrome and what follows.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
…and the state to the north of me has disappeared. I’m sure that Washington is still where it belongs and to the people passing by Dismal Nitch it looks as though Oregon has dropped off the map.
Welcome to late spring in the Pacific Northwet. It looks a lot like late winter, though it’s not nearly as cold.
Venturing out into the gloom before nightfall (that would be the time of darker gray before the dark-blue gray), the only sounds were the faint but persistent splashes of raindrops in puddles and on leaves, the gushes of water in downspouts and the upward-lilting trills of Swainson’s Thrushes.
I’m glad to hear the thrushes. I’ve loved that stairstep call since I was a kid. But, where are the rest of the trappings of spring? Yes, rhodies have bloomed and spent themselves and the daffodils were weeks early, but where the hell is the sun?
In “normal” years, my daily uniform would have been shorts and sandals for at least six weeks by now, and I would have had my upstairs windows open constantly since the beginning of April.
This has been one sorry, soggy spring.
Even the herons look pissed off.
Oh, wait… they always look pissed off.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
This shot only works well if you click on it.
I’d shot a lot of the preparation for and start of the Tuesday yacht race. The wind was howling, and even with the aid of the monopod, I was getting pretty fatigued from keeping the horizon level and scanning the interior of the viewfinder for close to an hour.
Just as the boats were getting to be too far out of range for usable shots, a line of cormorants started streaming through the race. There are 32 in this frame. I shot a number of frames and then gave up, heading up and over the fill wall at the end of Pier 1. As I hauled myself up to the top, I looked back and saw that the stream of back waterfowl had not abated at all.
They continued to stream south across the river and toward Youngs Bay for as long as I was willing to be battered by the wind.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Infrared, to be precise. Just past our normal visible spectrum.
Barn and gate near Brownsmead, OR.
Sony 18-70mm zoom. f/8 @ 5 seconds with R-72 filter. Tripod mounted. No crop, developed in ACR.
Time constraints didn’t allow us to explore and photograph when the visible spectrum lent itself to more interesting photographs, so I took some extreme measures. It was a beautiful, warm afternoon, but that just didn’t translate well in photographs, so it was time to get out the bigger hammers.
Anyone passing by as I set up the shot either paid no attention at all or thought “Can’t he hold a camera still in broad daylight?”
It would have been a fair question. Sunglasses were in order after all. But the R-72 filter is all but opaque, and the camera’s meter is useless when it’s in place.
Brownsmead freight station. Exposure specifications as as shown above.
Technical details: Both files were developed in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) with somewhat different settings. No further adjustments (other than optimizing for web use) were made.
First impressions: The Brownsmead Station shot really shows off how IR Imaging opens up shadows at certain points of the day. When shot, the right side of the railroad crossbuck was barely legible… and that primarily from memory.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
My son had no interest in T-ball. Given that he’s nearly 21 now, I thought that was water safely under the bridge, over the dam and long gone out to sea. And then back through the water cycle a few dozen times.
But Evan, Andrea’s youngest boy, is playing now, and so I got my first high-intensity dose of it this weekend.
Baseball (and softball) and I have only recently come to terms. Thanks to some serious dexter/sinister confusion (and liberal sprinklings of “you throw like a girl”, etc.), I never got too excited about that family of games as a kid.
My brother was quite good at it, but either he, too, came late to the game, or T-ball hadn’t yet been dreamed up when we were of the proper age in the early ‘70s. Back then, the ball was pitched. Period.
The ball was pitched, and there was a standard complement of nine players on the field. The outfield tended to play within fart-joke-telling-distance of the infield early on, but otherwise the lineup looked pretty much the same as you’d see on TV.
T-ball is different. Way different. I’m not making any judgments here… just saying that it takes some getting used to.
Little League ball can be pretty intense. The whole “screaming insane sports-parent” subspecies grew out of it, after all.
T-ball’s a lot more laid back. I’m starting to think of it as a mass play-date for 30 kids at a time that doubles as family-friendly comedy for those too old to participate. Oh, and the only consistent formation of scrums outside of rugby that I’m aware of.
It’s an adjustment. There was a lot of cheering, a lot of laughter and no barking at the kids… even when the center-fielder wandered off in the general direction of Scappoose because that’s where it looked like the kite that had caught his eye might be headed.
My camera’s memory card runneth over with cute, so I can’t include it all here. This is a seriously pared-down smattering of what went on.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Along the Catherine Creek trail on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.
The color original was not bad, but I was seeing the composition in monochrome all along. This section of the trail is visually busy. Lots of oaks, rock, grasses etc. The monochrome conversion let the shapes of the trees and the collapsing corral stand out.
I had taken a series from the same vantage point with the intent of working in HDR with Photomatix, but I liked this result from a single frame better. A lot to learn there, for certain!
1/4 second @ f/22, polarizer. ISO 100, tripod mounted. Developed from RAW and then adjusted for monochrome in Photoshop. (I should have taken the polarizer off… it functioned solely as an ND filter in this case, and was unneeded.)
Andrea, stalking wild fern fronds. Just an educated guess, but I think I see the purchase of a “real” macro lens in her future.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
…the crusty old champagne-gold Minolta underachiever will step up and at least get on base, if not put one out of the park.
I guess I needed to be reminded that cheap lenses don’t perform badly all of the time. Given enough light, things can look pretty good!
Unfortunately, in these latitudes, the conditions are wrong more often than they’re right by a large margin.
Several factors were working in its favor for this shot. Bright light, low ISO, “sweet-spot” aperture, and middling focal length worked to strong advantage. Sharpness was good where it was intended to be, and CA is minimal.
Still… I’m jonesing bad for that G-series lens that Sony shooters are raving about.
ISO 100. Minolta 75-300mm @ 180mm. 1/160 at f/8. No crop.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
I made a spur of the moment trip to the Tillamook Air Museum last Saturday. I didn’t think a lot would have changed in the year and a half or so since I was there last, but quite a bit did. The entire display has been reorganized and a couple of mainstays are missing. I hope they’re in the process of being restored.
The 159-series F-14A is still there… looks unlikely that it will ever be airworthy again… but it no longer has headliner status. The Tomcats that I worked on were all in the 161 series, but this one is as close to one of those as I’m likely to see again. Looks slightly forlorn, what with the holes on the cockpit where the formerly-classified components used to be.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the lack of light for photography. With the crown of the old blimp hangar being just shy of 300’ above ground, the inverse-square rule for light falloff seems to be magnified. So, taking pictures always results in compromises.
I shot a few knowing that they were pretty much going to stink the place up on their own… the aim was to have something to mess around with once I got back home.
The P-51D shown here has been repainted to match the “Redtail” design used by the Tuskegee Airmen. It’s a simple but striking scheme, and this particular example looks like it would only take a couple of hours of cleanup to make it Smithsonian-worthy.
Original image: ISO 400, f/4.5 @ 1/30 second, 26mm (with kit lens)
Altered in Photoshop with masking and multiple layers, background desaturated and blurred to leave “suggestions” of the hangar structure but de-emphasizing the clutter. Thank goodness for digitizer tablets!
Shot as above, except shutter speed was all the way up to 1/60th.
More messing about in Photoshop. Was it worth it?