Thursday, December 31, 2009

Self Portrait

Craig Self Portrait
Recently I have been asked on several occasions to submit a bio and self portrait for several photography related events, galleries, and online exhibits.  Bio…no problem.  Self-portrait??? More difficult - I am always on the wrong side of the lens.
As a holding place in the realm of self portraiture, I created this photograph.  I am not happy with it.  But first, let’s talk about how I produced it.  I have not yet invested in strobes or any other types of lighting systems for photography.  I do not have a studio, soft boxes, radio controlled strobes, light stands, and so on.  So for this photograph I went to my garage, took two nightstand lights, placed one below and in front of me, and the second above and to my right.
I used my 70-200 f/2.8L at 200mm and a wide open 2.8 aperture (1/4 second)  after setting the focus on a cabinet to the right of where I was standing, I used the shutter delay to start the process as I jogged across the garage to get in position.
So what is it that I do not like about the photo?  Technically, I am not unhappy given that I was working with a pair of $10 nightstand lights.  It is the subject.  Aside from the posed, thoughtful and troubled artist look, I must have self-image problems.  As I look out into the world, I feel like the 22 year old rugby player I am convinced I have always been.  When I look back I see the crowding 50, international environmental and maritime security consultant that I am today.  I have several years between the two to reconcile. 
The next portrait is of my son Ryan.  This is what I expect to see when I look in the mirror or make a self portrait.  Oddly, the guy in the first photograph keeps appearing whenever I do so.
I am thankful I am the crowding 50 consultant – that means this evening as we celebrate the conclusion of 2009 and the anticipation of great things to come in 2010, I will be able to afford a nice cigar and a fine, aged, single malt scotch to help contemplate what happened in those lost years.
Have fun, and go make a self portrait.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Remnants of the Great Snow

Boats in Saint Mary's-3
This morning I woke up to temperatures in the low 50s, rain, and only remnants from The Great Christmas Blizzard of ‘09.  On Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the snow was already in slushy, muddy retreat.  Fortunately, I snagged a few more photographs before the magic disappeared.
Road to Sunrise
The photographs featured in this post only show snow on the margins, but I wanted to post these as another example of photography that is nearly impossible to accomplish without using HDR techniques.  Specifically, both photographs were shot directly into the sun.  HDR lets you take this kind of shot while maintaining the details that would otherwise be horribly underexposed.
I hope you continue to safely enjoy the holidays.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More of the Great Christmas Blizzard of ‘09

It was a bit treacherous this morning, but I made it out to do a bit of photography.  I had time to do some preliminary processing of a few shots from the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons Island Maryland.
I will spend more time on these photographs to finish off the processing, but having promised to share some more when I was able, I thought it best to live up to my word sooner rather than later.
I hope you enjoyed the shots and gained a little confidence about shooting in the snow…it can be done, and the results can be something other than a lot of white!
Here are a couple of tips for shooting in the cold:
  • Have freshly charged batteries, and bring spares.  Batteries discharge quicker in the cold.
  • Leave you camera outside.  Yes, I really mean it (well, maybe in a secure place would be a good idea).  Bringing your camera from the cold to the warm causes condensation.  If that happens on the sensor or on the elements inside the lens, your plans for shooting are likely to be delayed a bit (or possibly much worse).
  • Don’t stick your tongue on the tripod unless you want to relive the famous scene from the Christmas Story.
Have fun and go make some great photography!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Great Christmas Blizzard of ‘09

Piney Point Dock I skirted great inconvenience last night as my flight arrived from Abu Dhabi just before the great Christmas Blizzard of 09 hit the Washington DC area.  OK, the storm is still ongoing, but it looks like 16 to 24 inches of fresh snow is the likely result and the airports are closed…so we can add a bit to the drama by calling it the great Christmas Blizzard of 09.
And of course, events like this scream “photography opportunity!!!”  The roads are sufficiently treacherous that I was only able to wander about on foot a bit, but here are a couple of the photographic results.  This was my first opportunity to try HDR with snow.  My conclusion is that HDR is particularly well suited to this condition.  Normally it is very difficult to get a well exposed shot without completely blowing out the white of the snow.  HDR helps maintain a balance between the extreme highlights and the darker details.
Piney Point Boat in the Snow
I hope to get out for some more shooting later and promise to share anything interesting.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Last Game of the Season

Nationals Last Game of the Season-6
I may have mentioned it before, but this post is evidence that I am way behind on my post processing.  The photographs featured in this entry are from the Washington Nationals last game of the 2009 season…September 30th.
Nationals Last Game of the Season-13
I admit to being not much of a dedicated baseball fan, but going to the park, any park, is always a great deal of fun.  This night was no exception.  So here is the setup – It is the Nationals last game of the season.  The season is already decided.  The Nationals will finish with an unimpressive record and will be watching post-season play on television rather than from the dugout.
Nationals Last Game of the Season-7
At best, the stadium is 50% full.  Even some of the vendors have decided to call it a season and pack up.  Clearly my introduction is not setting the stage for an entertaining or exciting night.  Other than a run in the first inning, the Nationals fall behind and stay there the entire game.  Many in our group decide to leave, the despair of a miserable season clearly evident in their sagging body language.
Nationals Last Game of the Season-15
However, the uncommitted in the group later learn they have missed a dramatic finish to a forgettable season.  Suddenly, without warning, the ninth inning transforms the shear boredom of the last few hours into one of those moments when everyone is on the edge of their seats.
Nationals Last Game of the Season-14
It is the bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, bases loaded, the count is 3 balls and 2 strikes, and the Nationals are down by three.  The perfect setup for great sporting drama.  Had it been a playoff game or possibly the 7th game in the world series, the tension would have been unbearable.  Fortunately for our nerves, it was just a small spark at the end of an unremarkable season.
And of course, just to keep a few folks coming back next season like the one good drive hit by a golfer, the season ends with a grand slam, and the Nationals go to the off season with their chins a bit higher.
Have fun and go make some great photography!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don the Bird Man

I love cities.  I love walking around cities.  I love walking around cities with my camera.  I love walking around cities with my camera and meeting interesting people.  Don the Bird Man is one of those people.
As I often do, on this day I grabbed my camera bag and set out for a walk.  I did not have a destination or route in mind, but as luck would have it, I wondered around Capitol Hill in Washington DC for a bit, then made my way toward Union Station.  With the trains, and the crowds of people, I am regularly drawn to this beautiful landmark.
Just before arriving at Union Station, I met Don.  He was sitting on a park bench feeding a squirrel.  I stopped, chatted a bit, and took a few photographs.  Then Don says, “If you want to see something really cool, meet me in front of Union Station in 30 minutes.
I had nothing but time on my hands and had nothing to risk so I agreed to meet him.  45 minutes later, I arrived at the plaza in front of Union Station which has a fountain in the middle.  Sitting at the base of a nearby light post, Don wasted no time and simply said “watch.”
Don lifted his arms as if a human crucifix and suddenly there was a flurry of activity in the air.  I had not even noticed the flock of pigeons on top of the fountain centerpiece when they spontaneously became airborne, took a couple of coordinated turns guided by some unseen flight commander and landed on and at the feet of Don.  There were likely between 30 and 50 pigeons.
Don explained that he recognized all of the pigeons and had names for 19 of them.  Don was nice enough to make introductions.  The birds were named for distinguishing visual characteristics like Pepper (nearly all black), behavioral characteristics like Thief (previously stole some money from Don), and birds that somehow reminded him of old friends like Petey.  They all had a story.
If you are ever walking around Union Station in DC and see Don hanging out with his bird friends, stop by and have a chat.  I’m sure he will appreciate it.
All of the photographs in this post were taken with a lens I recommend for the kit of every photographer; a fast 50mm prime lens.  For me, it is the canon 50mm f1.8 II.  This lens is tiny, plastic, inexpensive (under $100), light, and takes wonderfully sharp photographs.  Nikon has an equivalent lens.  If you don’t have it, get it!
Have fun and go make some great photography.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Turn at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club

Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club
This photograph comes from a turn on the race track at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.  It is a beautiful facility and it was a beautiful evening.
The photograph was constructed from a three shot HDR taken with a Canon G10.  I was attending an event at the club and had the G10 in my pocket.  This was a shot of opportunity…you gotta take advantage of the gifts presented to you!
Have fun and go make some great photography.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right?

White House HDR
This photo is an HDR composition of a familiar place.  Rather than offer my thoughts, I would like to hear yours.  Too much, too little, or is the HDR processing at the level you like to see?  Please accept my apologies – the processing is not complete on this shot.  The ghosting of the man at the bottom left remains to be addressed.
Go make some great photography, and I hope to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Southern Maryland Barns in the Fog

Barn in the Fog-Edit
This entry is a continuation of my Thanksgiving Fog post.  The Thanksgiving fog post featured photographs on or near the water under the cover a dense fog over the entire DC metro region on Thanksgiving.
Barns in the fog-2-Edit
This post features photography from the same day with the exception of shifting the theme from “on the water” to fields and barns.
Barns in the fog-Edit
There are several aspects to each of these photographs I find appealing.  First, the fog provides a uniform background to each photograph that provides an interesting contrast to the foreground.  Notice that in each photograph there is a great deal of detail and good contrast on the immediate foreground.  The detail and contrast gradually diminish as your eye travels vertically through the photograph.
Farm in the fog-2-Edit
Another common attribute, other than barns and fields,  is that some portion of the photograph fades into the fog.  I naturally find myself studying the photograph and wondering “what is that, or what lies just beyond the threshold of the fog?”  This intrigue is a valuable component of the composition.
Farm in the fog-3-Edit
In nearly each of the photographs there is some grain of the field (rows of corn residue) that acts as a leading line drawing your eye through the photograph and eventually into the void created by the fog.
Farm in the fog-Edit
Another common aspect is the composition.  In each of these photographs I have placed the horizon (or what we can best make of it) at or around the upper 1/3 line.  In this type of environment, that makes most sense.  Imagine the horizon a the lower 1/3 division; the composition would be dominated by the nothingness of the fog and offer much less interest.
Horses in the Fog-Edit
Finally, each of these photographs reminded me I need to clean the sensor on my camera.  The opaque gray of the fog did a brilliant job of highlighting every speck of dust on my camera sensor.  I was not particularly happy with the time it took to repair each of these spots.  Gratefully, the dust spots are not featured in the final product.
Go find some fog and make some great photography!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Up in The Air

Barns in the fog-2-Edit
Yesterday I was listening to one of my podcasts; NPR’s Fresh Air.  Terry Gross was interviewing the writer, director and producer of the new George Clooney movie, "Up in The Air."  The story line is that of a management consultant that flies around the country and delivers the bad news of downsizing or layoffs as a proxy for spineless managers who don’t have sufficient fortitude to face the people they are terminating.  As a result, he (the Clooney character) is constantly flying from place to place and spends most of his life in airports and airplanes...where he is most at ease.  At one point in the movie, Clooney describes how being in an airport or a plane is one of the few places left where one can be truly alone.  He has platinum cards for every airline, car rental agency and hotel.  He prefers booze in convenient single serving containers...and it goes on, and on. 
As I send this post from the British Airways lounge at Heathrow, I am beginning to worry I may be becoming the Clooney character.  Please send help.
The photograph featured in this post comes from my Thanksgiving day shoot in the wonderful fog blanketing the Washington DC metro area.  I have several other good landscape photographs of fields and barns from this shoot I will share with you soon. 
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finally a Win!

In October I posted an entry about The Best Camera.  The post focused on the iPhone application called “The Best Camera” and my budding obsession with iPhone photography.
As a refresher, the basics of The Best Camera are:
  1. Take a photograph with the iPhone
  2. Process the photograph using The Best Camera app (although many people seem to be straying and using any number of apps for editing).
  3. Use the app’s interface to submit the photo to The Best Camera website (and post it to twitter, facebook, and/or save the edited photo to your iPhone library).
  4. Hope the other users of The Best Camera like your work and view/vote for your photography.  Photographs with the most votes (apparently the number of views takes care of tie breaking) are selected as hourly, daily and monthly “best photos.”
The very cool, and sometimes frustrating thing about the process of voting and selecting the best photos is that it is completely democratized….either you get votes and views from your peers, or not.  This is very cool because your success in this head-to-head full contact photography battle is completely dependent on how your peers assess your photography.
The frustrating aspects include:  a) I don’t always agree with my peers (ha…big surprise), b) every time you submit a photograph, it is like entering a new contest (for that hour) with a bunch of very talented cohorts, c) success is a relative issue…my best shot may have been submitted during the same hour as someone else’s totally rocking shot (oh well, better luck next time).
So here are a few words about the shots featured in this post.  The first photograph was my one and only hourly winner.  The rest are not…including those featured in my previous entry - The Best Camera.
Arguably, my shot that was selected as the best in that hour is not the best iPhone photograph I have produced.  That is Ok.  The fun comes in the challenge of making good photography with a very limited piece of gear.  I will keep trying.  If nothing else, it is entertaining.
Have fun and go make some great photography!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reflections in Breckenridge

Reflections in Breckonridge-2
When friends ask my wife if she takes photography, her typical answer is “why should I?…my husband is a photographer.”  Recently Sue changed her perspective.  This past summer, Sue changed jobs and as a result is now in a position that requires quite a bit of travel.  Suddenly Sue was traveling without me there to document the trip and find beautiful things to capture in the camera.
Rapids in Breckonridge
Not feeling ready, or particularly drawn to a DSLR, Sue purchased a Canon G10.  The G10 (like the G9 and G11) has the full suite of controls you will find on the big boys.  This includes physical knobs (not menu selections) for ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.  The camera shoots in Manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and the other modes (that never get used!).  On top of all this, the camera shoots in RAW.  This means that all the data captured by the sensor is available in post processing rather than being compressed into a JPEG (loss of data).
Reflections in Breckonridge-3
The photographs featured in this post were all taken by my wife with a Canon G10.  I am very pleased with her results (is there any other right answer?).
Aspen in Breckonridge
Sue was very pleased with her results as well.  There is something deeply gratifying with capturing a moment…the still waters offering a perfect reflection of the distant mountains, or the bright yellow Aspen revealed between the pines.
Rapids in Breckonridge-2
Even with this success, Sue remains of the opinion that when I am around, she will leave the photography to me.  However, she is very happy to explore her budding photography during her lone travels.
Reflections in Breckonridge
One of my principal objectives with blogging is to give something back to the community of photographers irrespective of their level in the field.  I am very happy that even my wife has taken to heart some of my advice.
Wooded Stream in Breckonridge
I hope you enjoyed Sue’s photography.
Have fun and go make some great photography.