Mar 042013
 
Howth, Ireland

Howth, Ireland

This image of a church in Howth, Ireland was taken with my recently acquired Nikkor 24mm-120mm f/4 VR lens. The light was low since I was in shadow, so the shutter speed was slow (1/20 sec). On top of that, I was also slightly zoomed in. Taken together, this is all part of a recipe for a blurry image. But, this lens pulled it off brilliantly.

My favorite lens for walking around used to be the Nikkor 24mm-70mm f/2.8 (considered to be one of the “holy trinity” of Nikon lenses – the others being the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the 14-24mm f/2.8), but no more. I think the 24-120 (revised in 2010, the early model was a better paperweight than a lens) with its VR capability is actually sharper and buys me more stability in lower light than the 24-70mm lens. The additional 50mm of focal length is pretty sweet too.

Bottom-line? I am going to be leaving my 24-70mm home more often now. Coupled with my other new favorite lens (the Nikkor 16mm-35mm f/4 VR), I am prepared for just about every “walk around” shot I may encounter.

So, if you see my 24-70mm on eBay and wonder how a “real” photographer could ever part with one of the trinity – don’t worry, I’m covered.

 Posted by at 9:44 am
Jan 312013
 
Looking southwesterly toward Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester, Massachusetts

Looking southwesterly toward Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester, Massachusetts

When my alarm went off this morning and I could hear the wind howling outside, I pretty much wrote off the idea of coming up with a decent image today.  Since it was also 4:30 am, and I am NOT a morning person, I just about scrapped it – I was sure that, between the driving rain and wind gusts up to 60 mph, I would just end up with a photo that looks like the one below of the surf.    So, why torture myself ?  Just sleep in and leap out of bed at the crack of noon instead.

Dog Bar Lighthouse at the end of the breakwater during today’s storm. (at “sunrise” Ha!)

Originally, I had envisioned a shot down the breakwater at Eastern Point (in Gloucester, MA) toward the Dog Bar Breakwater Lighthouse.  The forecasted winds had arrived and I was hoping for some great surf breaking over the rocks despite it being low tide.  That part turned out to be true.  The driving rain wasn’t in my plan though.  But I tried anyway and headed over toward the breakwater and the side of the lighthouse that I normally shoot.  The orientation of this breakwater provides an opportunity for a classic shot of a sunrise behind the Eastern Point Lighthouse – which I have done several times in the past.  The leading lines of the breakwater and the constantly changing sky and and backlighting of the lighthouse is a photographer’s dream.  I just wish that this side of the lighthouse wasn’t the ugly duckling of the Cape Ann lighthouses (have you ever seen a bad image of the Annisquam Lighthouse?)

Classic sunrise shot of Eastern Point Lighthouse

This time though I couldn’t safely go beyond the breakwater and there was no way in hell that I was going out on the wall itself.  I really didn’t want to be that person on the news, wrapped in a blanket provided by the Coast Guard, saying “Well, I thought it would be fine” while text shows up on the screen below me saying “This person is an idiot”.

So, I kept trying to catch the right surf shot.  It wasn’t working.  I was just about to pack it up when I decided to investigate the north side.  I had seen a sign saying that there was an Audubon Trail there and figured “I’m here, why not?”

Enter the lemonade and thank you lemons!  Why hadn’t I come over here before? Habit? Probably.  Turns out that not only is this a great perspective of this lighthouse (a much prettier side, if you ask me), the low tide that reduced the surf on the other side turned out to be a benefit here.  I was able to safely head out onto the rocks and get this image below that I never could have done at high tide.

So, sometimes the best laid plans just don’t work out.  Thank God.

 Posted by at 6:32 pm
Sep 052012
 

I thought it would be fun to share this “Oh crap! I’m about to get soaked!” image with you.

To answer your first question: I sure did. I managed to grab the camera and lift it above the wave as it rolled in but, since there was no one around to grab and lift me to dry ground, I went from ankle-high wet to waist-high wet in a matter of seconds (and yes, the water was COLD especially when it got to that special level).

I loved every second of it.

Half of the fun for me when I am out capturing images is getting to places where no one else really wants to go. I’m not talking about putting myself into dangerous or risky situations. As a risk management professional, I have a deep appreciation for just how stupid we, as humans, can be and just how fast we can get into trouble that endangers us and those around us. I even like to think that Murphy was an optimist when he came up with “Murphy’s Law”. So, I don’t put myself in places that I can’t manage safely. What I’m referring to are those places and positions where I am likely to get wet, dirty, slimed, and smelly. You know what I mean – the ones where I end up with an uncomfortable drive home because I couldn’t get all of the sand out of my underwear. None of which sounds even remotely fun – until you do it. Trust me.

So, next time you are at the beach and thinking that you aren’t going to go walking in the surf because it’s too much effort to get the sand off your feet and dry them before putting your shoes back on – just ignore yourself and go have fun splashing through the waves and pretending you’re recreating the beach running scene from The Chariots of Fire. And while you are at it, take a picture too. Chances are it will be as much fun as the experience of capturing it.

 Posted by at 5:25 pm
May 012012
 
Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

I really have fun explaining, or showing, to others the technical steps I take to create my images. Enjoying the process of helping someone learn has been my passion since my Peace Corps days. But, since I have such a strong emotional involvement with my best photographs – one that goes beyond my ability to convey in words – I always feel that I am placing limits on those special images when I try to explain what they mean to me and what my thoughts and feelings were at the moment of capture. Of course, being the windy person that I am, it doesn’t seem to stop me from trying anyway….

Marquette Harbor LighthouseMarquette, Michigan

 Posted by at 2:39 am
Apr 152012
 

Many people often associate High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing with what I refer to as “grunge” or “cooked” images.  For some scenes, that is exactly what I want to achieve.  For others, I prefer a more subtle approach.  At the end of the day though, regardless of how saturated or detailed the final image is, the primary reason I use HDR software is to overcome the limitations of the camera to “see” in shadows while also “seeing” in bright areas.  Our eyes are capable of it, but our cameras are not (though they are getting better at this).  So, here is an example from a recent image that I created of Nubble Lighthouse in York, ME.  I used a series of 9 bracketed images (i.e. images with different exposure values – where I adjusted the time the shutter is left open to allow more, or less, light onto the sensor) in Photomatix to bring the images together.  I then used Topaz Adjust to give some “oomph” to the image (enhanced detail) and did final adjustments in Adobe Lightroom 4 to create areas of interest where I wanted the viewers eye to be drawn to – such as vignetting the image as well as adding a little luminance to both the green (seaweed) and red (shack) colors to bring them out more. I also used Lightroom’s new feature on the adjustment brush to warm the lighthouse slightly while also brightening it (because HDR software often renders whites with a more gray tone).   The first image is the “average” metered image.  Then I have four images to either side of the average ranging from 4 exposure values under average to 4 exposure values over.  The last image is the processed one.  To see an enlarged view of any image, just click on it.

Apr 132012
 

People often have a strong opinion about High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography – very few are ambivalent about it. For me, it’s just another tool in my photographer toolkit. But, how perfect it was for this initially drab image. The warmth and vibrant colors in this scene makes it one of my favorite “comfort food” images.

 Posted by at 10:04 pm
Mar 292012
 

Looking at this image, you may think I was insane. Standing in the middle of London’€™s Tower Bridge Road at rush hour? At night? Well, it’s not as stupid as it may appear (ok, maybe it is just sort of stupid, but not REALLY stupid). What this image does though, is illustrate how fun a different perspective can be while also demonstrating the usefulness of “€œgadgets”€ to allow you to achieve it. In this case, the gadget is my Joby GorillaPod Focus with the Ballhead X (you can find it here: http://joby.com/gorillapod/focus/). So, why do I love this tripod? This image is a great example: I never would have been able to set up my full sized tripod on the tiny little island in the middle of this road – which was reserved for a single lamp post / traffic signal – and my sufficiently sized stomach – barely. But, I was able to wrap the legs of the GorillaPod around the post and take a bracketed series of exposures, some as long as 20 seconds, and still have sharp images. The snug joints that make up the articulating legs hold fast so the camera doesn’€™t do a slow motion droop ( I was interested in bracketed exposures, not inadvertent time lapse photography). And, the quick release plate on the smooth ballhead lets you put the tripod in position and then quickly attach the camera. It also fits in my camera / briefcase so I always have it with me when I travel. Something I couldn’t and wouldn’t do with a full sized tripod. So, if you are ever looking for a small, portable, stable platform for your heavier DSLR – one that you can position almost anywhere -€“ then this tripod is for you.

Mar 192012
 

Sometimes I like to go back to a recent fun day of shooting and see if any images are laying “hidden” among the many that I took. I always enjoy shooting down low and at a wide angle and this is one of those – but even a little wider than previous ones I posted and the water was swirling around my knees while setting it up. Yes, I was down that low in cold Februrary weather and Maine coastal waters hoping to pull off this shot.

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