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Archive for October, 2010

Sick Day Special~Lightning!

Lightning Over Kansas

I’m battling the cold virus from h#$! so just a quick and easy one today.  I’ve had some success over the years in photographing lightning, in fact I have a couple of images on slides that I am pretty proud of (different than the previously posted windmill shot)  but never have gotten a decent scan from those.   I offer instead this more modern take.   Sure, the whole windswept prairie, windmill in the foreground  thing makes a good photo, but if that’s not practical there’s always your front porch.   That’s where this was taken, my front porch.    Click on the image for the super spectacular ginormous version.  Hope everyone is having a good Friday.


Eagle Lake

Fall Scene At Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park, Maine

Tranquil Autumn Scene At Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park

I was fortunate to spend an unhurried afternoon at Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park, Maine back in October 2008.  This is another HDR image that has been processed to (hopefully) appear more on the normal side, rather than surreal.  There was a bird (not an Eagle) patiently sitting on that rock in the foreground, which was a nice added touch.


Monochrome Without the Monochrome~Birds & Fog

Birds On Lake In Icy Winter Fog

A Serene Winter Fog

This is a color photo, nature herself did the monochrome conversion on this one.   I usually prefer a deep contrast in my black and white images, but a lighter airy feel seems better for this one.  An icy winter fog was over the partially frozen lake, but the ducks and geese seemed to be coping just fine.  This image is an example of what you can achieve with a point and shoot camera, it was an early test of my little Canon S90.    This is a sophisticated ‘point and shoot’, but I don’t recall doing anything special here, I probably chose the f-stop, focused, composed, and clicked.   You don’t have to have a big old dSLR (although they sure are nice.)

 


Lower Baker Pond Revisited

Late Afternoon Light At Lower Baker Pond, New Hampshire

Late Afternoon Light At Lower Baker Pond, New Hampshire

A couple of weeks ago I posted  an HDR  image of Lower Baker Pond, New Hampshire that got a good response.  I went back into my original files and found another bracketed set of exposures I took during that brief stop, looking in another direction.   This time I attempted to process the HDR with less of a surreal look, aiming for something resembling what might be the result of using a neutral density graduated filter during the actual shot.  I find it pleasing.  The composition may lack that extra 5% to make it great, but the sky, mirror smooth water, and eye popping foliage was an irresistible combination.


Icy Morning Forest Fog

Icy Morning Fog In The Trees-Chulitna River Valley Alaska.

This was the same morning I was able to get my favorite image of Mt. McKinley (Denali).  This is looking down into the trees in the river valley below the Princess McKinley Wilderness Lodge.  There was a fog in the valley that was beginning to burn off.   I doubt I did it justice, being obsessed with the mountain left little time for what would otherwise have been my primary focus.   One of those ‘just too much to process’ situations.   Princess was  in the process of building a wooden fence which would block this view, a few more steps forward and there would have been no more photographer-a pretty dangerous spot with an unprotected shear drop off.   This was on the grounds of the lodge so I can see their point.

 


Severe Thunderstorm

Severe Thunderstorm Near Kingman, Kansas.

This is from my film days, taken in the late 1990’s during my one and only real storm chase.     The person I was with had a meteorology degree and had done this before, so I felt like I was being semi-responsible about it.   (That is, until I found myself  frantically jockeying  a metal tripod around in the middle of multiple lightning flashes.)   I fired off a few exposures of several seconds each, then got back in the car, relieved the lightning had behaved.   In this particular spot everything came together visually when looking west towards the setting sun (behind the clouds.)   The clouds were interesting, the foreground of fence and windmill in silhouette, lightning, and the absence of overhead powerlines.  (I hate overhead power lines from a photographic perspective, although I confess to  enjoying  the electricity they provide.)   This particualr storm cell dropped a tornado a few minutes later to the north, but we were out of the immediate area by then.

During most of my film era I shot transparencies (“slides”).  For some reason now forgotten I started shooting print film for awhile, this storm was on print film.  I am embarrassed to report that the original negative is lost, or at least misplaced on a long term basis.  OK, it must be lost.   I have every slide I ever took, but those darn negatives must have been  tricky to keep organized.


Just Fooling Around~The Door

 

B&W HDR with Colorful Door

Bahamas Building

As you may have gathered, I am not a photo purist, I like to experiment with image manipulation on occasion.  This particular little building/hut/shack/house is at the stingray attraction on Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.  It is painted a variety of colors, and looked good as a straight HDR.   The composition is kind of in your face, but it seemed like the way to go at the time.   I’ve been inspired by my friend Ken’s classy work  over at Oneowner to try something like this, but the blame is mine if it fails miserably.   Click on the photo for a nice big version if you dare, it looks better.


Sunset In The Bermuda Triangle

Sunset in the Bermuda Triangle

Sunset in the Bermuda Triangle

Here’s a landscape without the land…I suppose that would make it a seascape.   In any case, this was a sunset in open ocean somewhere in the vicinity of the Bahamas.   I would have preferred a rocky seacoast, interesting island, tall sailing ship, or something similar for the foreground or mid-ground, but alas –  none were available.    This one had very little post processing, just level tweaks and a small saturation boost to the flat RAW file.


Little (Abandoned) House On The Prairie~In Ten Minutes Or Less

 

Window Detail Of Abandoned Stone House

Window Detail Of Abandoned Stone House.

 

I was fortunate enough to spend Saturday in my wife’s hometown of Belleville, Ks. photographing my lovely nieces and assorted family members.  At one location, off in a field in the distance, I spotted  an interesting abandoned stone house that was falling apart.   (I think this was probably a circa early 1900’s farmhouse at one time anyway.)   I’m always a sucker for abandoned buildings and architectural details, so this was a moth-to-the-flame type situation.  My primary mission in Belleville was portrait photography, but my brother-in-law was kind enough to drive me over to the stone house for a quick (under ten minutes) photo session.   So what do you do when confronted with an interesting subject, but under mid-day harsh sunlight and an uninteresting sky, and a time limit?  Why you just wing it of course.  (Then do some monochrome conversions when you get back home and hope you got something worth keeping-that’s what I did anyway.)   I’m not sure how successful I was, but thought it might make for a mildly interesting post.   I’ve filed this location away as somewhere that would be worthwhile re-visiting in more dramatic lighting conditions-or even at night.  I can’t believe my wife never told me about this house.

~Just a final quick note, it looks to me like these particular photos benefit quite a bit when viewed at the larger size you should get when clicking on the photo. ~

 

 

Abandoned Stone House

Abandoned House On The Prairie Near Belleville, Ks.

 

 

 

Abandoned Stone House~The Front

Abandoned Stone House~The Front Side

 

 

 

Abandoned Stone House~South Side Window

Abandoned Stone House~South Side Window

 

I was kicking myself later on the image above.   If I had been thinking clearly I would have centered a single distant tree in the window opening.   Dang it.

 

 

Abandoned Stone House~North Side Window

Abandoned Stone House~North Side Window

 


Surreal Sunrise On Cadillac Mountain

Surreal Sunrise On Cadillac Mountain

Surreal Sunrise On The Summit Of Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain is located in Acadia National Park, Maine.  At 1,528 feet it is a mere bump compared to the major mountain ranges, but it is the tallest peak along the coast of the eastern United States.  I was able to be at the summit for one sunrise, and it was very interesting.  (You can drive to the summit and park your car, but if you want to picture me heroically rope climbing to the top it’s OK with me.)  This particular morning it was partly cloudy, there were clouds out over the ocean, low clouds hugging the coast, clouds actually flowing around the summit of the mountain in the brisk wind….it was visually exciting but also chaotic.   I didn’t think the photos I took when the sun was lower quite worked….they were interesting but there was so much happening they seemed unfocused.  Not literally, but subject-wise if that makes sense.  When the sun rose higher it, I shot some images that I find more appealing, even if they looked like they were taken on the surface of Mars.   (If Mars had plants.)   The sun was filtered by clouds at this particular point…it’s still blown out photographically, but hey…it’s the sun.

Here’s one of the earlier shots, it has pretty colors but I don’t think I quite nailed a satisfying composition.  Anyhow, it was fun to be there and quite memorable.

Sunrise, Cadillac Mountain

 


Urban Wildlife – Old San Juan Cat

Green Eyed Cat On The Street In Old San Juan

Green Eyed Cat On The Street In Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

In the “And now for something completely different” department, I’m taking a break from the fall foliage material to post this.  I don’t own any of those long lenses needed for most true wildlife photography, so I usually have to make do with the more docile variety of “wildlife”.    This cat was hanging out on a side street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I thought it attractive, especially the green eyes matching the green leaves.   Old San Juan is chock full of interesting material of many subjects,  it is yet another place that I felt I was only able to scratch the surface of.


Fall In Vermont – An Often Photographed Farm

 

Fall Colors On An Often Photographed Farm In Vermont

Fall Colors At One Of The Most Photographed Farm Scenes In New England

 

It’s sort of like trophy hunting I suppose.  I sought out this specific farm in Vermont.  Even if you don’t specifically recall, you’ve likely seen it on calendars or in books.   It’s one of those iconic scenes I felt compelled to photograph.  I must not be the only one, these folks have had to install a big electronically controlled gate to block their driveway.  That’s not a country road in the photo, it’s their private drive.   The timing seemed fortunate, as a carpet of red/orange leaves made for a nice foreground.   This is a photograph that’s been done to death, but not by me, so I enjoyed shooting it anyway.   After the trophy shot was in the bag, I tried to find another way to shoot the farm (from the public road) that would be more original.   That was only partially successful I guess, there’s a reason everybody shoots it from the driveway…it looks darn good lol.

That barn is really super attractive, and as usual if I had more time, or was able to actually get closer there might have been more success.   Below is my favorite alternate view.   Seeing these again really makes me want to go back to New England in the fall.

 

Vermont Barn

 


Lower Baker Pond for the Purists (a.k.a. I Survived Being Freshly Pressed)

Fall Reflections At Lower Baker's Pond, New Hampshire

Fall Reflections At Lower Baker Pond, New Hampshire~Non HDR

The response to yesterday’s miracle post, which got me “Freshly Pressed” (thanks WordPress!) was a bit overwhelming.   I’d like to thank everyone who took the time out of their day to take a look, and especially those who left comments.   Sprinkled throughout the commentary were a few opinions that the HDR on yesterday’s image was overdone, or too saturated etc.   I understand.  While the general public seemed to like what they saw, HDR can make the more serious photographer’s noses turn up, especially when it is perceived to be overdone.   I get it, and that is an entirely valid point of view.  For those purists who wanted to see a more normal looking view of yesterdays scene, today I offer a .jpg practically right out of the camera.   This is the same hillside and lake from yesterday’s post.

The dynamic range of the whole scene from yesterday’s image was way beyond anything the camera could handle in one exposure,  the correct exposure on the trees resulted in a totally blown out sky (and the sky’s reflection in the foreground).   The only way to have created yesterday’s image was either with HDR, or some major filter work with a neutral density grad.  That would have been especially problematic due to the fact that it was not just the sky needing tamed, but the sky’s reflection in the foreground.   If there are any skilled landscape photographers out there reading this,  maybe you have an alternative, I’d be interested in learning.   In a future post I may illustrate what I’m trying to convey here by posting the 3 original exposures I used to create the HDR    I will probably do that if  I sense anyone is interested in ‘how the sausage is made’ so to speak.   Thanks again to wordpress for finding yesterday’s post as worthy, and to all of you for visiting.


Sometimes You Get Lucky – Fall Reflections In New England

 

Fall Reflections In New England

Fall Reflections At Lower Baker Pond, New Hampshire

Sometimes you get lucky.   My wife and I were driving from Acadia National Park on the Maine coast to Woodstock, Vermont.   I had researched the heck out of both those locations, but didn’t know much about what lay between.   We were very tired, on a seemingly endless secondary highway winding it’s way generally westward.   This was a remote area, towns and businesses were few and far between.   Eventually it became clear that a….ummm…..’rest stop’  was needed.    I parked on the highway shoulder as safely as possible, walked about 20 feet from the car, and there it was….a mirror smooth lake reflecting a hillside of spectacular fall foliage.   I set up the tripod and shot a few bracketed sets of exposures, one set of which was combined using Photomatix software into the HDR image above.    Google Earth provided me with the name of the lake – Lower Baker Pond.     Sometimes you get lucky, just make sure you have your camera ready.


HDR Extreme-Fall Colors at Jordan Pond

HDR Image of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park

Fall Colors Flank Jordan Pond and "The Bubbles", Acadia National Park

I know there is debate on the artistic merits of the HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique and how it is applied.   I’m not one of the minimalists, but I do agree it can certainly be overdone.   To tell you the truth my only barometer is whether or not I think it looks cool on whatever image I’m working on.   I thought the more extreme HDR look worked for this one, but of course not everyone will agree.   Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine is a photogenic location, but I was never able to catch it with a calm surface on my short time there.   It is certainly a location I would like to revisit someday.  This image was created from a bracketed set of three exposures, combined using Photomatix software with a final tweak in Photoshop Elements.


Favorite Places-Cloudland Road Vermont

Misty morning and fall colors, Cloudland Road Vermont.

Misty morning and fall colors along Cloudland Road, Vermont.

Cloudland Road in Vermont is one of those scenic stretches of classic New England scenery that really get the old photographic enthusiasm flowing.   This was taken on the same morning as the image in yesterday’s post, Cloudland Road and Galaxy Hill Road are in the same area and actually intersect.   The diffuse fog/mist/drizzle lent an interesting atmosphere to the images and make the fall colors stand out.


Fall Foliage-Galaxy Hill Road, Vermont

Fall Foliage Along Galaxy Hill Road, Vermont

Fall Colors Along Rainy Galaxy Hill Road, Vermont.

While it might seem counterintuitive, a rainy overcast day can really make colors pop.  This was a favorite spot we found in Vermont, I visited it twice.  The first day was rainy and I jumped out of the car for a few quick hand held frames.   The second day was dry, and  I came back with a tripod and took some time…but as it turns out I prefer the rainy day images.   The light is what really matters.


No Studio, No Studio Lights, No Flash Unit? No Problem.

No studio, no expensive lights, no flash.

As another example of what you can accomplish on a budget I offer the following…  I was asked to photograph my brother in-laws beautiful baby daughter who was only a few weeks old.  They were wanting the black background look that we had seen so skillfully executed by other photographers.   Trouble is, I have no studio, no studio lights, not even an external flash, so what to do?   Wal-Mart to the rescue!  We bought 3 or 4 black bedsheets for the backdrop and floor,  went over to the hardware area and bought 4 of those clamp on work lights, along with 4 of the brightest compact fluorescent bulbs they carried.

In a darkened room I rigged up a way to hold up the backdrop, spread more sheets in the foreground to get some seperation, set up the lights, and went to work.   I had to dial up the ISO on the camera, and have the lights close, but I was able to get workable shutter speeds using the camera on a tripod.  I suppose you could add some more lights to help with this.   Frankly, the originals out of the camera look terrible, but after converting the RAW files to monochrome in Lightroom they suddenly looked pretty darn good.   Sure, a studio would be better, or at least a makeshift studio with some ‘real’ lights or flash units, but you can get by without.


Light Painted Orchid

Orchitd blooms in front of black background.

Orchid blooms illuminated by painting with a penlight.

It’s interesting to discover what is possible with a little experimentation.   The orchid here was sitting on a countertop in a dark room, with a black piece of cardboard behind.   The camera was on a tripod,  set on “B” for bulb.   With a cable release the shutter was tripped, and a small penlight used to paint the orchid with light.   With modern digital cameras you can experiment at will with both exposure time, and the way you use the light.    This particular frame was shot at f16 with an exposure time of 37 seconds.   No studio or expensive lights required.   That doesn’t mean I  didn’t wish I had a studio, just that sometimes you can get by without.


When Good Iguanas Go Bad

Iguana On Rocks Ignoring Rules

I stumbled upon this scene in St. Thomas.   The word “Iguana” is derived from a Spanish form of the original Taino name for the species “Iwana”, which means “outlaw”.   Ok, I made that last part up.


Denali Dawn: Behind the Photo

Dawn at Mt. McKinley (Denali)

Dawn Light Washes Over Mt. McKinley (Denali)

We were extremely fortunate on our Alaska trip to find clear skies over Mt. McKinley (a.k.a. Denali).   This is unusual enough that even the employees at the Princess Wilderness Lodge where this image was taken were outside taking photos of each other with the mountain in the background.   Princess would like you to believe that Denali is looming over the main lodge deck, but it is more like 40 miles away, about the size of your fist at arms length.   Having said that, it was still a beautiful view.

The view from the Princess lodge is looking generally north, many photos you see of the mountain are taken from inside the national park looking west or southwest.    On this particular morning my tripod was already on it’s way to our next destination in our big checked bags, so I braced my 70-200mm Sigma telephoto lens on a wooden guardrail and fired away.   This particular image has had some photoshop actions applied, others in the linked gallery have only had level tweaks and such applied.   I feel fortunate that we were able to see this great mountain so clearly, it was quite memorable.


Moonrise Over The Atlantic

I posted an unremarkable photo yesterday to illustrate a point, I thought I’d use one today of the same general subject which I thought turned out more pleasing.  This was just a quick shot from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine.  At the time I had been more interested in shooting the sunset, and the brightly lit cruise ship in the harbor below, so this was image was something of an afterthought.   I think I find it works better as a vertical crop, the original was horizontal.

Moonrise Over The Atlantic

Moonrise Over The Atlantic