Category Archives: photography

Seeing in SIXES

In 2016 LensWork hosted a fine art community book project called Seeing in SIXES. Nearly 1,900 6-photo entries were received and 50 were chosen for publication. Even though I expected the competition to be even more fierce this year I entered my own B&W photo set. For my subject I chose a walk through part of the conservatory at Longwood Gardens during the annual Orchid Extravaganza.

Longwood Gardens was started by Pierre S. du Pont in 1907. The original gardens have expanded to over 1,000 acres with a 4.5 acre conservatory. One of the annual events is the Orchid Extravaganza. I would like to take you on a walk through the East Conservatory to some orchids on display.

East Entrance

The primary entrance to the 4.5 acre conservatory is on the east end.

Entrance Display

Inside the entrance is a reflecting pool with an arch of orchids.

East Conservatory

Looking back at the entrance.

Banquet Hall

The floor is usually covered with a sheet of water to provide interesting reflections.

Hanging Orchids

Orchid balls are suspended under the glass roof.


The final destination—a spray of orchids.


How to Edit B&W Negatives

Way back in the mid-70’s I shot B&W film and color slides. This summer I dusted off my old Minolta SR-T 101, found a battery that worked in it, and bought a roll of Tri-X 400. After I shot the roll I sent it off to Old School Photo Lab to be processed and scanned. While I miss the smells of working in a chemical darkroom, I don’t miss dodging and burning when making prints. Here are the steps that I used in Lightroom CC to clean up one of my scanned photos.

Original Scan

Original Scan

Here is the original scan. I received a 3130 x 2075 pixel JPEG at 512 dpi. There is a thin white strip at the top of the image (barely visible).



The first thing that I did was crop the image to 4 x 6. This trimmed the strip at the top and removed some unwanted background.



Next I made some adjustments in the Basic menu. The highlights are too bright so I dropped the Exposure a hair to -0.05, pulled the Highlights down to -48, and increased the Shadows to +24. I like crisp B&W images so I also increased the Clarity to +4.

Tone Curve

Tone Curve

I’ve been experimenting with tone curves. I click on the curve and move my stylus around (I use a Wacom tablet) until I see something that I like. In this case I left the Point Curve on the default value of Linear (I haven’t tried other curves yet) and ended up with a Lights value of -65.

Hot Rod

Hot Rod

The original image has some noise and this processing has made it worse. For example, the windshield looks like it is dirty. For the final step I used the Nik Dfine 2 plugin with the default values to reduce the noise.

The final result is one of my favorite photos of 2016.

Before and After

Before and After

The original image combined with the final version for easy comparison.

My Favorite Shots from 2016

Everyone likes to post their favorite photographs of the year so here are my favorite shots from 2016  in the order that they were taken.

SR-71A Blackbird

SR-71A Blackbird

This January I went to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. One of the featured aircraft is an SR-71A Blackbird spy plane. I hung a 20″x30″ print of this over my TV.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Once in a while I’ll hear a Barred Owl or two in the woods behind my condo. I was a few miles away on a trail by the same woods when I found one of the owls.

Rusted Car

Rusted Car

My photography club visited an auto salvage yard. I like the reddish car in the woods surrounded by light green ferns.


Flight Trio

For 2 years I’ve been a photographer at the WWII Weekend in Reading, PA. Here some reenactors are posing in front of a B-25 Mitchell bomber.

Modern Meets Art Deco

Modern Meets Art Deco

I like Art Deco architecture and I captured the Comcast Center in Philadelphia, PA behind Suburban Station. I made the roof lines vertical instead of horizontical to make it a bit abstract. The photo earned Honorable Mention at the Harford Artists’ Association’s annual juried exhibit.


3 Butterflies

I was taking a picture of an Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly on a thistle when it was joined by a Silver-spotted Skipper and a Spicebush Swallowtail.


Hot Rod

The Big M car show was revived last year. I took this picture with my old film camera from college, scanned the negative, and edited it digitally.


Bucks Tussling

This photo is a favorite because of the subject rather than the quality. These two young bucks were playfully fighting in my back yard.


Aspen Grove

In October I attended a photography workshop in the Eastern Sierra. Our first stop was an aspen grove. When I told the instructor that I had a fisheye with me he suggested that I look straight up.


Half Dome

My last full day in California I visited Yosemite. I took this picture of Half Dome from Olmsted Point.

Converting to Black and White

I recently rode on the SS John W. Brown Liberty ship, a WWII freighter and troop ship. It was towed from its usual berth to a public pier for the Labor Day weekend. One of the crew parked his antique Chevy on the pier and I just had to take pictures of the pair. I used an 8mm fisheye lens (12mm effective) and took a burst of 5 photos at different exposures. I combined them using Google/Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 as shown here.


I like how the shot turned out but the bright blue rope is very distracting. Converting the image to B&W would easily take care of that, plus I like pictures of old objects to look old as well. Here’s the first version which was created with Google/Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.


Silver Efex has a collection of presets that defines a series of styles. This one is rather dark but it makes the sky look dramatic and it makes the rope less conspicuous. As I tried different presets I discovered that I liked several of them. The next has a higher contrast and some of the fine detail is lost.


The next preset is lighter. The greys are closer to the actual colors.


I started to lose the sky with the next effect. The picture is on the verge of being over-exposed.


It may be hard to tell but the next picture has a slight sepia tint. This adds warmth to a standard B&W image.


The next preset is appropriately named Film Noir. The photo is gritty (grainy), the edges are burned, and there is black vignetting in the corners. The car stands out and the ropes are partially covered.


The final version of the photo was processed with yellow preset in the style of photos from the 20’s and 30’s. Not only does it immediately invoke a sense of age bu the ropes are mostly faded out. The car is surrounded by a pale yellow haze making it the focus of the image.


That’s my series on this car. B&W may be used to save a picture with a serious flaw (in this case, the bright blue rope) and it may also change the character of the image.

HDR Does Not Have To Look Garish

I have been asked by photographers who are new to HDR—High Dynamic Range—why the images look the way they do. In this post I explain the basics of HDR, then I discuss processing options using Nik HDR Efex Pro 2. Another popular tool is Photomatix. HDR does not have to use excessive processing.

Note: Normally I would do additional editing (with Lightroom) on the HDR images. I did not edit these for the processing differences to stand out.

The primary goal of HDR is to capture the range of light and dark that the human eye can see. Camera sensors are limited and cannot detect the same range. Below are 3 bracketed shots. In bracketing the camera takes 3 shots: the first is “normal”, the second is under-exposed, and the third in over-exposed. I set my camera to automatically bracket +/- 2 EV. EV stands for Exposure Value and is 1 “stop”. The first image below was what the camera chose when I used Aperture Priority (Av) at f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/25 sec. The overall exposure is ok (if a little dark), but the windows are a little too bright and there are no details visible in the shadows.


The second image was taken 4 times faster (2 stops) at 1/100 second. The lanterns and windows look pretty good and you can see outside, but the room is way too dark.


The third shot was 4 times slower at 1/6 second. The barrels are clearly visible and you can read the writing on the crate. However, now the windows are “blown out” (too bright) and they are a blur of white.


The first HDR image uses Nik’s “Default” processing. It’s a pleasant photo with both the bright windows and dark corners clearly visible with proper exposure. This is what makes HDR such a powerful tool. With a little more editing it would be a nice photo of a well-lit room. I never use this preset because I want to add some punch to my images.


The “Balanced” preset is also nice, but I think this image looks a little soft.


The next pair are like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The first image, using “Bright”, is too bright and the second is too dark. As you might expect, the windows are blown out. The colors are intense and the room has a cheery feeling.


The “Dark” preset goes to the other extreme. The windows are perfect. This mood suits the room better, but it’s too dark.


A compromise was reached with the “Deep 1” preset. It’s an artistic scene that does not look unnatural. With some additional editing around the windows and barrels it could be a very good image.

Deep 1

The “Structured 2” preset gave results similar to the previous image. Adding structure (clarity) to an HDR image enhances the textures.

Structured 2

This set contains the kinds of images that people associate with HDR. “Pale & Structured” is like the previous image except the colors are washed out.

Pale & Structured

The “Dramatic” preset is aptly named. I like this pair of images but they are too gritty for a kitchen.


This is the first time that I’ve used the “Granny’s Attic” preset. I generally do not like images that have a filter applied to them like this. In this case the combination of HDR plus the preset gave the look that I wanted. It’s not the image that has aged, but the room itself. The washed out colors, deep shadows, and textures give the room the feeling that it was taken during the Civil War when the kitchen was being used.

Granny's Attic

To summarize, HDR is not good or bad. It all depends on how you process the set of images. While a normal image may be processed to varying degrees, from very natural to artistic to overdone, the current fad is to over-process HDR images.

Here’s the final image with additional editing done in Lightroom. mainly to lighten it a little bit.


Harford County Farm Fair 2014

Last year I entered some photos in the Maryland State Fair. Later some friends asked me why I hadn’t entered the Harford County Farm Fair. My answer was that the farm fair is about 4-H, baked goods, prize pumpkins, and tractor pulls. Well, I competed this year and earned several ribbons.

Chief Mate's Stateroom

Chief Mate’s Stateroom on SS John W. Brown

This picture won 1st place for Black and White, Other subject and was Champion B&W. It’s a stateroom on the SS John W. Brown Liberty ship that was built in Baltimore in 1942. It’s a 3-shot HDR processed with Google/Nik HDR Efex Pro 2. It’s one of my favorite photos from my first visit to the ship.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

This colorful photo of the Tower Bridge over the Thames in London looks really nice on aluminum. However, because of the rules I entered an 11×14 print. It earned second place in Cityscape. I like how the bridge is painted.

Great Egret

Great Egret

I entered this Great Egret at Cape May Point, NJ in Birds and animals other than pets. It did not win anything, although I like how its neck matches the bend in the surrounding grasses. I plan to enter a version on canvas in another competition.

Your Favorite Shots from 2013

In 2013 the Havre de Grace Library photography group did not have a theme where we presented our favorite photos from the past year. If we had, these are the eight photos I would have submitted. They are shown in the order that I took them.



I went on a photo walk with the Lancaster County photography club to Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. One of the photographers suggested that some of us walk around the nearby seminary. This is a 3 shot HDR photo.

Dragonfly on Water Lily

Dragonfly on Water Lily

I go to Longwood Gardens in PA every couple of months. I took this picture of a dragonfly with a 70-300 mm lens, not with a macro (close-up) lens.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

I went on a tour of the UK. We spent the first two nights in London not far from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. This photo was taken from a plaza on the opposite bank.

Great Egret

Great Egret

During a visit to relatives in West Cape May, NJ I went to the bird sanctuary at Cape May Point. I liked how this Great Egret was mimicking the way the grass bent in the light rain.

Two Buildings

Two Buildings

As part of my Art Deco project I drove to Philadelphia, PA for a day. (No, these are not Art Deco buildings.) The building on the left is City Hall and the other is the Masonic Temple.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

During one of my many visits to Conowingo Dam in MD I spotted a small flock of Carolina Wrens on the bank of the Susquehanna River.

The Conversation

The Conversation

I took pictures of a gallery opening at the Tower Restaurant in Bel Air, MD. The restaurant owner on the left is having a conversation with two of the guests.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

At another visit to the dam I saw this almost mature Bald Eagle perched in a tree.

Once again Jim Goldstein on Google+ has created a page where photographers can post a link to their favorite pictures of the year.