Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Best Camera – Win number 2

Heathrow Rail
I cheat on the love of my life…and I hate to think what my Canon 5D would think if it knew I were photographing with my iPhone.  This is not my first confession of this transgression – three other posts about my infidelity with my iPhone can be found by following this link.
This entry revisits the iPhone because for the second time, my peers on “The Best Camera” recognized one of my photographs (the one featured at the top of this post).  I don’t take this too seriously, because I don’t take my iPhone photography too seriously.  In other words, I generally don’t plan a day of shooting with my iPhone.  However, because it is always with me, I take quite a few photographs with my iPhone and send most of them to “The Best Camera".”  Mostly, these are random things that catch my attention and do not represent any form of intention…just things I see.
You can see more of my iPhone photography on my portfolio on
Have fun and go make some great photography…with whatever camera you happen to have with you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Petra in Motion

Petra in Motion
The entrance to, and the general location of, Petra Jordan is a wadi (dry watercourse).  As you proceed from entrance to the the far end of Petra (about 4km) you traverse a deep gorge portion of the wadi that gradually transitions to a broader and flatter dry bed.
I find these gorges very interesting; formed by thousands of years of water gradually eroding the softer portions of the stone, they are natural artwork and document the motion of water that created them.  This motion recorded in the walls of the gorge is the foundation of the featured photograph for this entry..  The motion of the water  is not difficult to imagine given the perspective and lighting in this photograph.
I intentionally set up this shot as a longer exposure to capture the motion of both the horse-buggy combination and the person walking away from the camera.   These little buggies regularly run up and down the wadi transporting tourists that don’t see walking through a wadi as good opportunity for exercise.
A fourth, less obvious element of motion are the channels on either side of walls.  These channels are man made and were designed to carry water through Petra…yes, the public water works.  These small canals that snake through Petra are a true engineering marvel.
Finally, I offer a second version of the same photograph.  This one in color.
Petra Jordan-5-2
As most of you know, I generally prefer black and white.  In this case, I prefer the black and white not for the many reasons I have mentioned before, but because the black and white version is more convincing in telling the story of motion.  As a color photograph, I am pleased; the orange shades of the rock walls provide an interesting background, and the green and red of the backpack and buggy canopy lead the eye through the photograph.  The simplicity helps as well; three subjects (walls, buggy, person walking) with three complimentary colors.  Although there is a great deal of shape and shadow, the photograph remains uncluttered.
There is a great deal more to come from my trip to Petra.  Please come back to see the rest.  Although I have to admit to being terribly behind on my photo processing and it may be quite some time before we have the chance to talk about the best from that trip.
Have fun, and go make some great photography!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sneak Preview of Petra Jordan

Petra Jordan-17
I was finally able to take a few hours away from my day job and spend some time in Petra Jordan today.  It was a mind blowing experience that I recommend to anyone traveling in this part of the world.  The beauty, artistry, craftsmanship, and scale were difficult to absorb in the few hours I was able to dedicate to this venture.
Petra Jordan-2
I would do a completely inadequate job of describing the history of Petra if I were to make an attempt, so I will leave that to more authoritative sources.  However, to set the context for these photographs, I will tell you that Petra was a metropolis dating to the sixth century BC, was an important trade route, wass the capital city of the Nabateans, and was chosen as the “New Seven Wonders of the World” in 2007.  It is principally carved from the sheer walls of a wadi (dry watercourse) and has my full support as one of the true wonders of the world.
Petra Jordan-6
As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, I don’t expect that my few hours in Petra will add much photographically to this well shot site.  However, I may be able to contribute by taking a different look at it.
Petra Jordan-7
The photographs in this post are probably not terribly creative in being different from the thousands of photographs available for this phenomenal site…except that these are all HDR.
Petra Jordan-9
I promise to post additional entries from this trip, hopefully adding a new dimension to Petra photography in addition to the HDR perspective.  I took nearly 600 exposures today, and have a wealth of really cool stuff to share.  I promise to do so soon.
Petra Jordan-8
In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this teaser to further entries focusing on Petra and maybe a few clicks to learn more about this truly amazing place.  I also hope to spend more time in Petra to get all the shots I am sure I missed today.
Petra Jordan-10
BTW, the shots I have included in this post are simply a random sampling of the photography I took today.  They do not necessarily represent the best, or the most interesting.  They represent a grab bag of the HDR photography that I was able to process in a short time. 
Petra Jordan-12
There will be additional posts that focus on non-HDR as well as black and white, people, and other interesting aspects of Petra.
Petra Jordan-14
Finally, if there are any Jordanian photographers, or Jordanians just getting into this wonderful art of photography, please contact me.  I would love to spend some time with you.
Petra Jordan-15
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fireworks in Aqaba

Hollywood Squares
Just the other night I was sitting on the balcony outside my hotel room in Aqaba Jordan doing exactly what I normally do…smoking a cigar, enjoying a glass of wine and listening to podcasts.  In addition to enjoying my favorite vices, I was doing a little photography. 
Facing my hotel is another hotel with similar balconies angling toward the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.  I found the view interesting because of the repeating patterns formed by the rooms in addition to the overlaid pattern formed by the guests turning on the balcony lights as they enjoyed the evening – like me.  So the first photograph represents the “why” of having my camera set up in the first place.  The next two photographs are a happy coincidence that resulted from having my tripod and camera in place.
Aqaba Fireworks
I am not a big fan of fireworks photography, but since the camera was already there, I figured “why not?”  This leads to two points I am obliged to address; 1) why I am not a fan of fireworks photography, and 2) fire works are all about color – why did I decide to process the photography in black and white?
I am not a fan of fireworks photography because of sentiments I hold that are similar to sunset photography (see my post titled “I Don’t Shoot Sunsets (Except in Aqaba Jordan)”)  On one level, I find fireworks photography cliché.  More importantly however is my recognition that getting fireworks photography “right” is a very difficult thing.  In addition to the obvious challenges with timing and exposure, fireworks are just big flashy bangs unless they are set within an interesting context that gives them a sense of purpose and scale.
Aqaba Fireworks-2
The two photographs shown here are essentially the same composition, but I think they clearly show the point I was making (I am not suggesting these are particularly noteworthy fireworks photographs, but they are illustrative).  If you accept my premise that a happy snap of an exploding rocket in the middle of a black sky is not particularly compelling, you can see how composition and other elements of interest make these two photographs much more interesting.  Adding interest to this composition, one could consider the following as contributors;
  • the fireworks are off-center on the third
  • there are the equivalent of two horizons at roughly the bottom 1/3 and top 1/3 formed by the upper limit of the Aqaba city lights and the top of the mountains in the background
  • the flag pole on the right flying the flag of Jordan draws your eye through the photograph to the right
  • the repeating patterns of the hotel rooms on the left with the single balcony light energized draw the eye through the left of the frame.
I hope you enjoyed my happy coincidence.  Oh, and by the way, regarding the second question of “why black and white fireworks photography?”  The answer is simple – I was more attracted to the black and white version that accented the silhouette of the mountains.  In the end, it really helps if you enjoy your final product.  So processing choices should be something that leads you to an appreciation of the photograph even if you cannot articulate a reason other than “I like it.”
Have fun and go make some great photography!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Oman Part II: Al Nuway and Khutwa

Gardens at Khutwa-3
This is my second set of photographs from Al Nuway and Khutwa Oman.  See “Oman – A Fort, A Wadi, and Falaj” for part one and some context for these photographs.  In presenting these photographs I am breaking one of my closely adhered rules – keep the collection consistent…in as many ways as is possible.
House at Khutwa
In other words, one aspect of consistency is my preference to present a set of all color photographs in a collection, or a set of black and white.  Mixing the two tends to confuse the collection and detracts from the feel or story told as a group of related photographs.
Window at Khutwa
There are probably times when there is good reason to combine black/white and color in a single collection.  There may be an element of contrast, or a part of the story that is best told in either manner of presentation.
Door at Khutwa
This small collection fits no good “general” reason that I can think of for mixing color and black/white.  So why did I do it?  Simply put, I liked the flow of the photographs.  The road in the second photograph mimics the flow of vegetation in the first photograph.  the window in the third flows from the window in the second.  Moving from a dilapidated window to the door of an abandoned home is an easy transition.  Finally after zooming into a window and a door, we take a step back to see everything in context.
Fort at Al Nuway Omman-2
I have no idea whether this logic makes sense to you, but it worked for me in putting this small collection together.  And although I have mixed color and B/W in a single collection, I think it still works.
Have fun and go make some great photography.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Oman – A Fort, a Wadi, and Falaj

Steve at Al Nuway Fort Omman
This weekend, a very good friend of mine, Steve Duffy (seen in the first photograph) and I went on a day-trip to Oman for yet another photographic adventure.  We visited a number of places in Oman near the border with the UAE.  We visited Al Nuway, Khadra Wadi, Wadi Sharm, and Khutwa.
Fort at Al Nuway Omman
I had a wonderful day and made over 500 exposures.  With the limited time I have recently been able to dedicate to post processing, it looks like I am digging my hole even deeper.  Today I was able to sneak in a couple hours of processing so I could at least share a few photographs with you.
Khadia Wadi
So, to explain the title of this blog, I need to provide a couple of definitions.  Wadi is an Arabic term for a dry river bed or stream.  Of course, during rains, a Wadi will collect and convey great volumes of water collected from their mountain sources.  Sometimes the flow of the wadi is sufficiently strong over time to cut gorges through rocks.
Gorge at Khutwa Wadi
The second definition, for Falaj, is a system of canals to convey water from a remote source to the point of use.  The Falaj at Khutwa shown here begins several kilometers up into the surrounding mountains and has an elaborate system of gates and tiers to bring water to any of the hundreds of garden sections.
Gardens at Khutwa
With over 500 exposures, I have plenty more to share from this trip to Oman.  I promise to post more soon.
Gardens at Khutwa-2
Have fun, and go make some great photography.