Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Flowers at the U.S. Capitol Building

Capitol Dandelions

The gardeners at the U.S. Capitol building always do a nice job with floral displays in the gardens surrounding the building and Spring is particularly nice.  After a long, cold, and stark winter which turns Washington DC nearly colorless, the flowers of spring are a welcome splash of color.

So the subject of the photographs in this post will be tied by the theme of spring flowers at the U.S. Capitol Building.  However, I will talk about my new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens as promised in an earlier post.  First I will acknowledge that all of today’s photography was taken with this lens.

Spring Flowers at the U.S. Capitol Building

I have long had the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L on my wish list.  However, it is a costly lens and I resigned myself to the fact that it may be some time before I could add this lens to my collection.  In place of the 24-70, I instead opted for the 24-105 f/4.0L – another great general purpose zoom lens at a much lower price.  Just last week I decided to put my 100-400mm f/4.0-5.6L on Craig’s list because I just was not using it (bought it for the camel races and have barely used it since).  I was approached by a gentleman with the 24-70 and he proposed a trade.  I think it worked out well – we were both able to trade an infrequently used lens for one we wanted.

I am very pleased with the performance of this lens.  It is super sharp all the way down to f/2.8 and maintains that sharpness out to the edges with a barely noticeable fall off in sharpness as you head toward the longer focal lengths (above 50mm).  However, if you are not pixel peeping, you will never notice the minutely soft corners.  Color, contrast and saturation are terrific, and the 8 blade aperture produces a very pleasing bokeh.

Spring Flowers at the U.S. Capitol Building-1

My only surprise with this lens was the size and weight.  I really don’t mind lugging around large lenses, but I honestly thought this might be a bit smaller than it turned out when I snapped it onto my Canon 5D.  At nearly 34 ounces, this lens is much heavier than all others in this neighborhood of focal length.  Like I said, the size and weight are not big issues to me and only make note of it due to my surprise.

This lens is a favorite of wedding photographers.  It is a fine portrait lens and is also wide enough on a full frame body that group and environmental shots are within it’s repertoire.  It is also a fast piece of glass that can be helpful in lowlight or indoor situations when lighting your subject is impractical.  One final point that is often overlooked with this lens is it’s short minimum focus distance.  At one foot, it is not capable of the maximum magnification of a 1:1 macro lens, but it does a darn good job.  This capability makes the 24-70 good for applications such as food photography, flower shots, and product photography.  I have already played with some flower shots and food photography and will post these soon.

Capitol Dandelions-1

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Focus on People with the Washington DC Cherry Blossoms

Arm in Arm

This is the last of my posts for this year’s coverage of the Washington DC Cherry Blossoms.  I have plenty more showable photographs, but I’ve had enough, and it is time to wrap this year up, pat it on the back, and say farewell until next spring.

Bike Man

The photographs in this post follow the theme of “people with the cherry blossoms.”  It is very easy to visit the cherry blossoms and focus only on the cherry blossoms.  I thought it would be interesting to focus on the people for a change.

Blossoms on Dress

If you have not seen the other posts in this series, here are the links:

Boy with Tongue

I hope you enjoyed this series on the cherry blossoms as well as this wrap up focusing on the people enjoying the cherry blossoms.

Man in a Tunnel

We will return to our normal routine of random photography and photography subjects later this week.

Peace on a Bench

Sitting on the Tidal Basin

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bound for Life–Protesters at The Supreme Court Part II

Bound for Life at the Supreme Court

These are some additional photographs of the Bound for Life group holding vigil at the Supreme Court.  Other than being the subjects in the photography, this post is not about the group Bound for Life.  More generally, this post is about protesters and photography.

Bound for Life at the Supreme Court-1

First, photographers and protesters make a good match.  Protesters want to be seen and heard – photographers are usually willing to play along with the “being seen” part.  Many photographers find it difficult to approach people, begin a conversation, and get permission to include them in a photograph.  Protesters short circuit this ritual – they are there to be seen and (mostly) expect to be photographed.

Bound for Life at the Supreme Court-2

Second, protesters are usually involved in some extraordinary behavior.  Whether carrying a sign with spelling errors, holding a bible up to the Supreme Court, or shouting their message at passing tourists, something interesting is sure to happen, or a unique juxtaposition emerge if you are patient.

Bound for Life at the Supreme Court-3

Third, protesters are normally in interesting places – particularly here in Washington DC.  Having a nice back drop like the Supreme Court, the White House, the Capitol Building, or even the Department of the Interior, is a nice prop for the photography.  Thanks protesters.

Bound for Life at the Supreme Court-5

Speaking of the Department of the Interior, my wife was in lock down at the DOI HQ building yesterday at the precise moment I was shooting the protesters in front of the Supreme Court.  DOI was locked down due to protesters that were less well behaved than the silent and respectful protest of Bound for Life.

Bound for Life at the Supreme Court-4

I am accumulating a sizeable portfolio of protests, marches, rallies or individuals marching around with battered signs while looking for that beer they lost leaving them one bottle short of a six pack.  Most of my encounters have been happy coincidence.  What I really need is a way to easily know the schedule of all these events in advance.  An iPhone app for that would be very cool.  I believe I will begin my own protest demanding a protest app.

Have fun, and go make some great photography!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Bound for Life–Protestors at the Supreme Court

Bound for Life

In my last post I made note of the new lens I acquired just yesterday (Canon 24-70 f/2.8L).  This afternoon I decided to take a walk around Capitol Hill and enjoy some shooting with my new toy.  With all the flowers and trees in full spring bloom, my thoughts were on a relaxing stroll and some pretty pictures.  I was successful and promise to share some of these.  However, as I walked past the U.S. Capitol Building and the Supreme Court, my shooting took a big right turn.

Bound for Life-1

Not an uncommon occurrence in DC, the protestors were out in force at the Supreme Court.  But the term protestor does not fit well.  I’ve seen plenty of the boisterous protestors in DC and these do not fit that mold.  These were more along the line of folks hanging out showing their support or disapproval on some issue – not really protesting, just being there for the purpose of being present.

The photographs show the three issues at play today.  First is a group known as Bound for Life which is a right to life group that claims to have had a presence at the steps of the Supreme Court every day for the last seven years.  Their objective is overturning Rowe vs. Wade.

i4i Destroys Secretaries

The next two were individuals rather than a group.  First is the guy with the sign claiming that i4i destroys secretaries.  I’m guessing this is in reference to the case between Toronto based tech firm i4i and Microsoft set to be heard by the Supreme Court this year.  It is unclear to me how i4i destroys secretaries (do “secretaries” even exist anymore?), but there you have it in black and white.

The third in this small herd of “protestors” was a guy relaxing in a camp chair claiming that marriage is between a man and a woman, and only one of each.

One Man One Woman

I have opinions on the bookends, but don’t have a clue about i4i and the destruction of an apparently extinct species.  But this is a photography blog, and I will leave you to your own thoughts.  More on the rest of my stroll, some more shots of the Bound for Life folks, and my thoughts on the new lens will be forthcoming.

Have fun and go make some great photography!


Washington DC Cherry Blossoms in Black and White

Cherry Blossoms and Washington Monument

We are quickly coming to then end of my series of posts featuring the cherry blossoms in Washington DC.  If I am not mistaken, I have just one more shoot to process.  I’m sure there will be a few shots to share from the final group.


If you search the web, most of the shots of the cherry blossoms you will find are in color.  This makes sense because the pink of the blossoms is quite dramatic.  However, being a fan of black and white, I am convinced it is possible to get a unique perspective of the cherry blossoms by taking a slightly less trodden path.

Cherry Blossoms Reflected

The other contributing factor for processing these photos as black and white was the overcast sky.  Had there been blue skies with interesting cloud formations, I may have gone the color route.  However, with only the cherry blossoms filling a noteworthy color role, it was an easy decision to go black and white.

Cherry Blossoms under Flood

Check back later this week, and I will have the cherry blossoms wrapped up.  I have a few other things on deck you will be sure to find interesting such as some tips for food photography lighting (don’t miss the opportunity to visit my other blog, Craig’s Grape Adventure, for some great food photography, awesome recipes, and wine pairings guaranteed to please) and my recent acquisition of a new lens, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L (I will try to get some shooting with the new lens before writing about it).

Cherry Blossoms and Washington Monument-1

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cherry Blossom Minimalism

Jefferson Focus

As much as I have been enjoying the exploration of minimalism in photography, it was clear I needed to apply this idea to the current series of posts featuring the Washington DC Cherry Blossoms.

Washington Focus-1

With these photographs, I have achieved the form of minimalism I was seeking.  Certainly the photographs give you enough information  to possibly identify the Jefferson memorial and the Washington Monument amidst the cherry blossoms.  But aaaah! The cherry blossoms!  These are even less distinct, and without the context or an accompanying narrative, it may be difficult for someone to identify the cherry blossoms or even the time of year.

Jefferson Focus-2

I’m ok with the indistinctive inclusion of the cherry blossoms.  I think the photographs still work from the perspective of engaging the imagination of the viewer.  As is the case with all of the intentionally unfocussed photography I have made, these were shot with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II.  Being close to the perspective our eye actually sees, this is a great lens for this form of photography.

Washington Focus-2

The cherry blossoms have now passed, but never fear – I have a few posts worth of photography left.

Jefferson Focus-3

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Monday, April 11, 2011

DC Cherry Blossoms–Black and White–Shallow Depth of Field

Cherry Blossoms Black and White

This post is closely related to my last post featuring the cherry blossoms encircling the tidal basin in Washington DC.  In the last post “DC Cherry Blossoms with Lensbaby Macro-Black and White” I featured extremely close up photography of the cherry blossoms.  The photographs featured in this post are similar because they are a) detail shots of the cherry blossoms, b) use a very shallow depth of field, and c) are black and white.

Cherry Blossoms Black and White-1

The shallow depth  of field (or appearance of) is achieved completely differently among the two lenses (Lensbaby in the previous post and Canon 50mm f/1.8 II here).  However, the relationship with respect to the feel of the product is much the same.  I enjoy shooting shallow depth of field to bring the viewer’s eye to what I feel is most important in that composition.

Cherry Blossoms Black and White-2

Processing in black and white furthers the process of drawing attention to a specific point by minimizing distractions that color can add.

Cherry Blossoms Black and White-3

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Refocusing on Minimalism

Rain and Crab Boat on the Potomac

Before my recent sidetracks to improve my food photography and shoot the heck out of the Washington DC cherry blossoms, I intended to dedicate some time to further exploring minimalist photography.  I still have several more posts focusing on the cherry blossoms, but this weekend I plan on dedicating time to shoot minimalist photography.

Rain and Crab Boat on the Potomac-2

Speaking of the cherry blossoms, it appears that the Capitol Hill wrestling match over the budget will end in a stalemate tonight.  The relevance to the cherry blossoms are the Cherry Blossom Festival permits for activities set for this weekend.  Without a resolution to the budget, the National Park Service either cannot or will not honor the permits for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Rain and Crab Boat on the Potomac-3

However, I just heard rumor that the DC Police are stepping up and taking responsibility for the events and the permits will be honored.  I have no idea of the mechanism or requirements for doing this, but BZ to the DC Police.

Rain and Crab Boat on the Potomac-1

To begin my rededication to exploring minimalist photography, these shots were taken this afternoon along the Potomac River in Piney Point Maryland.  It was raining while these shots were taken and a crab boat was working the waters.  The unfocused shots turn the crab boat invisible, but it is there – trust me.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


DC Cherry Blossoms with Lensbaby Macro–Black and White

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Black and White

This is the second and final post of Lensbaby macro photography featuring the DC Cherry Blossoms. In my last post, I featured a set of color shots.  Here, the group is entirely black and white.

I’m in a bit of a rush today, so I will let the photographs speak for themselves.  Enjoy.

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Black and White-1

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Black and White-2

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Black and White-3

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Black and White-4

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DC Cherry Blossoms with Lensbaby Macro

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Color-7

Pretty soon I will be shooting the hangover, or aftermath of the cherry blossoms.  For the moment however, I still have some great fresh shots to share.  The photos featured here today add another layer of creativity to the Lensbaby by the application of a macro lens.  It is more like a macro adapter with a screw on lens that approximates macro, but regardless of the “how” shooting with it is a great deal of fun.

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Color

The difficulty in getting these shots comes from the constant winds that have stopped only briefly since the cherry blossom began to bloom.  The bottom line is that it took patience to get these shots.  It also took a lot of exposures – I have many wasted shots thanks to the wind.

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Color-1

In the next days I will post another set of macro photography processed in black and white.  I would post them here, but I think these work best as a set of color, and a set of black and white viewed separately.

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Color-2

One of the things I had not noticed before but occurred to me while shooting the cherry blossoms this year, is that all cherry blossoms are not created equal.  Specifically, some of the trees produce brilliant white blossoms with hints of pink or purple.  Others produce soft to bright pink blossoms.  I’m sure there is an explanation, but I don’t have it.

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Color-3

Cherry Blossoms - Lensbaby Macro Color-6

Have fun and go make some great photography.