Feb 27, 2010

In Brookline

Winter is coming slowly but surely to an end and currently there is not much snow scenery out here in Massachusetts. I always like to use this kind of downtime to capture abstract macro flower photography. It's easy to do and this yesterday morning I had great fun with lilies in my dinning room. The lilies were in full bloom and wide open. It was relatively easy to set up my tripod with the camera and zoom in real close but use different perspectives. In this image I decided to compose a floral macro image from behind and below the blooming lily. I pointed the blooming lily towards the window for optimal lighting and illumination of the flower petals. The focus point in this image was the part where the petals and stem combine and I used a white card board to lighten the shadowed stem and backside of the floral. I achieved best exposure results by bracketing the image in 1/2 stops and the self timer minimized camera movement; therefore enhancing overall image quality. I liked the soft, dreamy image of the 1/2 over exposed image the best and started my post processing from its file; applying little contrast and color saturation enhancement. Last I sharpened the image.

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Feb 21, 2010

At Home

Yesterday I took another shot at the orchids that I bought a couple of weeks ago. They make great photo objects and the fact that they bloom for a few weeks is awesome. In this floral macro photograph I used indirect backlight from the sun streaming through the windows for a more attractive natural lighting. Backlight makes for great and enhanced flower photography but the drawback is an underexposed front. I improved the lighting in the center of the orchid by using another white cardboard directing passing sunlight into the inside. As a backdrop I used white cardboard that I placed 10 through 15 inches behind the orchid to ensure it stays out of focus when I release the shutter. Once tightly composed I release the shutter bracketing the image in 1/2 stops. I used the 1/2 overexposed image in the digital darkroom process since this one provided the best quality of light in the center of the orchid. In the post-processing I applied minor adjustments to saturation, light and lastly sharpened the image.

At Yosemite

A few years ago my family and I took a trip out to the west coast to visit family near San Francisco. We used the opportunity to see two of the great parks; Sequioa NP and Yosemite NP. After a day of hiking through Yosemite valley, on the way out we stopped at a pull out. El Capitan and Bridalveil falls were painted golden by the evening sky; the Merced river turned blue from the sky. It was amazingly beautiful! I lined up with all the other photographers and snapped away. In the post processing process I scanned the 35mm image, applied the usual minor adjustments I make and cropped the original image to a panoramic because the front was too shady and boring.

Feb 9, 2010

In Brookline

Last weekend I found a couple of beautiful orchids that were on sale in my local grocery store. It took quite some time to choose the right ones based on their photographic potential. I love orchids and they always cheer up our home; very much appreciated throughout the cold New England winters! When I photograph flowers inside I usually place the floral near a window where optimal natural light is provided. Usually the morning light streaming through our dining room windows works well for me. In this photograph I placed the flowers on a chair and adjusted the level by placing a couple of books under the orchids to match them to the camera level. Once satisfied with the orchids and camera level I played around with the backdrop. I usually use a foam board, one side blue and the other white. This morning the natural light illuminated the orchids beautifully. Placing the backdrop behind the flowers even enhanced the effect of illumination. In this floral photograph I focused on the lip of the orchid and re-adjusted the frame to the original composition. I used the camera self-timer to minimize camera movement. This also allowed me to focus on the backdrop adjustment for optimal illumination of the orchids. During post processing I made minor adjustments to lighting, saturated colors and applied sharpening to the image. 

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Feb 8, 2010

At Hall's Pond Wildlife Sanctuary

The photograph of the maple tree was taken during a project that I initiated to get out of a photography slump. I didn’t feel the inspiration and decided to visit the near by wildlife sanctuary Hall’s Pond. I visited regularly and photographed for a complete year cycle. It was a wonderful experience because I really got to know the place and I encountered many things over the year that might have gone unseen. I made it a habit to arrive early at Hall's Pond, having the place usually for myself. Another great benefit was to learn about the flora and fauna of the sanctuary. In the end I knew where birds were nesting and resting. During that time I still shot film and I remember the excitement every time I picked up the developed prints from my lab. One of my favorites and many others is this bright red maple tree. That fall morning I entered the wildlife sanctuary, walked along the beautiful boardwalk looking for a heron that usually stalks the banks, hunts for fish in the marshy, grassy areas or just rests in the shrubs and trees along the pond. Since the heron was nowhere in sight I continued along the boardwalk. When I was just under that maple tree I looked around and finally up to see if the heron was in one of the trees. Instead of finding the heron this day I was blown away by this bright red color of maple tree in its peak autumn colors. I set up camera and tripod to compose the frame, using a wide angle lens. I slightly underexposed the image and used a polarizing filter that limited the blow out of the leaves and brought out the autumn glow as well as the blue sky. Once ready to click, I fired away multiple rounds. Because of windy conditions I was crossing my fingers, hoping to capture one or two sharp and high quality images of this beautiful array of fall colors at its best.

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Feb 6, 2010

Monthly Photo Tip - February 2010

I commonly choose between two aperture camera settings that I use as a starting point to capture flora, fauna or landscapes. One is for wildlife and flower photography where most of the time I desire to freeze the action or blur out the background to enhance the main photographic object. Depending on the used lens I set the aperture to 5.6 and under. This guarantees the fastest shutter speed to freeze the action such as birds in flight or rushing water. Combined with a long lens this low aperture setting limits the depth of field providing a blurred out background eliminating unwanted background distractions. On the other hand in landscape photography I usually like to maximize depth of field. Here I choose an aperture setting of 11 and above. Combined with a wide angle lens this aperture setting provides best sharpness and depth of field results that reach from the foreground all the way to the background throughout the image. Be aware that the higher aperture setting slows your shutter speed and depending on your photographic goals you may have to compensate with higher ISO settings or use of a tripod to minimize camera movement and loss of image quality.

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At Crane Beach

During my location scouting on Cape Ann this week I ended up at wonderful Crane beach. Crane beach is located near Ipswich north east of Boston. When I arrived I got hit with an unexpected hefty $7 parking fee. Although it was late in the morning and the light was not perfect I handed over the parking fee. It turned out to be well spent. The high tide was coming in and it looked quite different from what I remembered from the few family outings we enjoyed here over the past summers. At the beach I took a right and walked eastward along the shore. Parts of the beach had almost disappeared due to the high tide and the ocean water was already coming close to the dunes, leaving not much room for walking. When the sea receded I used the opportunity to run a couple of yards without getting my feet wet, long enough to keep me a little out of breath. Once I passed this part of the beach there was more room to walk and explore photographically. Shells were perfectly plastered into the beach sand, sand ripples were beautifully formed by the wind and yellow beach grass near the dunes was complementary to the blue sky. As often in my photographic outings I follow an intuitive approach and this time it led me into the dunes. There are lots of hiking paths through the dunes and the pine woods near the beach. Off one path I discovered this amazing nature setting of icicles formed in an approximately 6 square foot triangular area. I am still puzzled by how nature exactly created this but I assume the freezing wind and sun did their fair share. I worked this field of icicles for about 30 – 40 minutes but I am not sure if I really convey this little natural treasure in my photographs. From here I made my way back through the dunes where I came across a tiny evergreen just by itself amongst blackish shrubs. In order to bring out the green and black I decided to underexpose the image by ½ stop. The polarizing filter eliminated reflections on the shrubs and saturated the colors. The path then led me into the pine woods where I finally found a pine cone suited for an abstract close up that I had in mind for a while now. It was nicely lighted by the early afternoon sun and I adjusted my macro lens for a close frame of the pine cone. I tried different settings for depth of field and settled on maximum depth of field keeping most of the pine cone edges sharp. I again underexposed the image to not blow out the highlights of the pine cone edges. Once back at the parking lot I got rid of my snow suit and took the high road back home.

Feb 1, 2010

At Lanes Cove

Yesterday was time for another trip to the North Shore of Massachusetts. I went back to explore Cape Ann for some location scouting. Cape Ann is growing into one of my favorite photography hot spots in New England; it is beautiful during all seasons, has a wonderful seashore with lots of picturesque harbors and cozy towns. I visited Gloucester, passed through Rockport and then continued north along the coast and finally ended up on Crane Beach near Ipswich. On the way I came across Lanes Cove and stopped because of a flock of Mallard ducks that were hovering and comforting each other from the bitter cold. During my first attempt to capture the flock I unfortunately scared them away. I think I approached them to fast or came to close for their comfort which made me feel bad; they have enough stress and did not need the extra dose from an insensitive photographer. Shame on me ... should have used a longer lens! On my way back to the car I discovered an ice covered dinghy that previously went unnoticed. It was rocking in the partly frozen waters of Lanes Cove. What a treasure! I worked with the object for quite some time and once satisfied I turned away to hit the road. Well, not that easy ... some of the Mallard ducks had returned. Others were still making their way in lanes through the ice, one always leading. I decided to give it another try but this time being more cautious and anxious for their well being. I changed from a 200 mm to a 300 mm lens and then carefully approached the flock. Once I got a few shots in I carefully and slowly moved the tripod and camera a step closer and so fourth. When I finally got my shots I moved slowly backwards and returned to my original purpose of scouting Cape Ann which led me to Crane beach at the end of my trip.