Category Archives: digital photography

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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.

Chevy_34305h

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.

Chevy_34305hba

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.

Chevy_34305hbb

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

Chevy_34305hbc

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

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

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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.

Chevy_34305hbn

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Kitchen-85184


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.

Default

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

Balanced


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.

Bright

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

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.

Dramatic


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.

Kitchen-85182h

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.


Seminary

Seminary

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.

Fun with Fisheyes

I recently bought a Rokinon 8mm fisheye for my Nikon D7000. I’ve never used one before, and I thought it would be fun to try with my architectural photography. The lens has a full 180° field of view, which of course causes significant distortions. That’s perfectly normal and one of the attractions of a fisheye lens. However, I decided to try to correct as many of the distortions as I could with Lightroom 5.2. Below is an original photograph of the Suburban Station at 16th Street & JFK Boulevard in Philadelphia. The image has been edited to fix the exposure.

Original FIsheye Image

Original FIsheye Image

The road slants downhill from left to right, but it does not curve back up. The road and buildings show the classic curvature of a fisheye photo. The first step was to apply Lightroom’s automatic lens corrections. The Rokinon 8mm is not one of the lenses that LR knows about, so I chose the Nikon AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm. The next image has had this lens profile enabled.

Lens Corrected Image

Lens Corrected Image

All of the curvature has been corrected, but the subject building in the center is skewed backwards and to the right. The final step was to use the manual transformation controls. I fixed the perspective with the vertical and horizontal sliders, rotated the image until the road was correct, and scaled it so the image filled the frame. The final result is shown below.

Final Image

Final Image

The building in the photograph now looks the way it would if you were standing in front of it looking up.

For comparison, here is a similar picture taken with a 17-70 Sigma zoom lens set to 17mm.

Normal Image

Normal Image

Because of the narrower view, I had to switch to portrait (vertical) mode. Not only is part of the building cut off, but the adjacent buildings are not visible. I was standing in the same spot as in the fisheye image.

I’m very happy with these results and plan to process future fisheye images the same way.

Treasure Hunt Challenge

Peter From and Lorena Masi organized a Treasure Hunt Challenge on Google+. Photographers had one week to take and submit a picture that met the requirements posted by Peter and Lorena. At the end of that time the photographers who qualified were given the assignment for the next week. I had a lot of fun coming up with ideas for each of the pictures, and I made it through all four weeks of the first challenge.

Steve

Steve

The requirements for the first picture were easy to get us started. The picture had to contain a person, a coffee cup, and a tree. My friend Steve posed after his daughter’s riding lesson. I have gotten compliments on the pose, which was his idea, and I suspect that he has done this before. For extra credit I chose a mug with a tree and a person on it.

Blofeld

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Bloferd and I am the head of the notorious criminal organization SPHINCTRE.

The challenge began to get difficult with Round 2. The required elements were a person, scarf, and sunglasses. In addition, we had to use the color red in a creative way and the picture had to have a James Bond feel. I posed as the villain Blofeld with his cat. His white Persian wore a diamond collar while my tuxedo Norwegian Forest Cat is sporting a tiara.

70 's Lounge Lizard

I am a wild and crazy guy, and I like to date the foxes.

The third round was similar to the second round. Picture elements were a person, building, hat, and gloves, the style was retro, and the mood was romantic. I dug out one of my old disco shirts and carried my lava lamp and other props onto my balcony. It was only 30F but I didn’t mind because I was laughing the entire time.

80's Hollywood

I’ll be Pretty in Pink and Back to the Future. It’s Risky Business to celebrate with Sixteen Candles.

We were not given any requirements for the final round. The primary theme was Hollywood and we had to choose a subtopic from 1980’s, horror, and glamour. I joked that I had used my glamour shot for Round 3. I decided to do a mashup of popular movies from the 80’s. The movies were Pretty in Pink, Risky Business, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Sixteen Candles, Star Wars (V and VI), and the Indiana Jones trilogy. I think the (unintentional) shadow looks like Indiana Jones. Darth Tater is looking up at me, waiting for me to blow out the candles so he can slice the cake with his light saber.