Photo Blog

Photography and assorted thoughts


Jenny Lake

I did a bit of work on some of my pictures from Grand Teton National Park, and ended up using Tonality Pro on this shot.


Jenny Lake At Dawn

Jenny Lake

What stuck me as odd, is that I think of Tonality Pro as a black and white conversion tool, but in this case I felt that it gave a better view of the sky.
And I think I amused one of my photo instructors when I had my tripod on rocks and was up on my toes to get this. I was trying my best not to extend the center column, even though in this case I probably could have gotten away with it since it was bright enough for my shutter speed to be 1/60.


Even the Zombies are glued to their screen these days…

I’m interested these days in how much folks are more interested in how the outside world sees them, than what’s going on in the world they live in.
Here’s these folks went to some trouble to create their look, but they spent a lot of time on Facebook trying to see how the world perceives them.


Art for Art’s sake

Earlier today I was out taking pictures at Union Station with Jason Odell, and his Mile High Cityscapes class and ran across this piece of art.

Lola at Denver Union Station


A few weeks ago I took a tour of artwork that the city has commissioned and Brandon mentioned that they had installed a piece of artwork at Union Station. If you’re looking for it, it’s a bit out the way, since I was installed on the bridge from Union Station in front of the stairs leading down to the platform. Brandon said on our tour that 1% of the funds for civic improvement projects go to public art. This piece was by Christian Moeller, and called Lola. It depicts both the imagery of person waving goodbye to someone on the train, and a swiss railway clock.


Rocky Mountain National Park

I made it back to the alluvial fan in Rocky Mountain National Park a few weeks ago. The fact that the National Park Service had declared it a free weekend to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the park service made it much more popular than when I was there last.
I had to wait until it started raining before everyone cleared out of the scene.

Here I was studying how a long lens compresses the scene. Here I was using my 70-200 at 200 mm. Years ago I had used my 24-70 and the fan looks more dynamic here. I also kept in mind something that Efrain Cruz mentioned to me, that you don’t want the water to go completely white, you want a variety there.


Making your photos unique

Last night I went with the Metro Denver Digital Photography Learning group to do some macro work.  I ended up using a technique that Tony Sweet was teaching in his Fine Art Floral Photography Course from BetterPhoto.  Note:  I don’t think the course is offered anymore.

Here, I was experimenting with combining multiple shots into one. In the Nikon D810, you can combine multiple shots into one raw image. You could do this in photoshop, but it’s easier to do in the camera. The nice thing is that with the auto gain option it makes it easier to adjust, or in this case not adjust.

I don’t think I would call this journalism, but this is what it looked like out of the camera. However if you shoot in raw, you have to post process your photos.

And for the folks who want to know the particulars of this image. I used my 70-200 at about 200 mm about as close I could get.

If you want to know more about the technique, Kathleen Clemons teaches it in her “Creating Painterly Photographs” class on Creative Live.


Seize the Night Part 1

Just got back from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography class at Crater Lake.

Milky Way at Crater Lake Park HQ

Milky Way at Crater Lake Park HQ

I took this picture with a Nikon D810A, the astronomical version of the D810. It’s tuned for night photography work and has a slightly different filter in front of sensor. So if it looks like we have more deep reds, the filter allows more light from the Hydrogen Alpha spectrum. It felt like it had about one stop better ISO performance than my D810 which was the real reason I rented it.
We had been photographing star trails over Crater Lake, and as many people say, once you’re done with your first picture, look behind you to see what else you’re missing.
One of our instructors, Gabriel Biderman, was lamenting that now that more people are using led lights, the night photography scene was getting less interesting. So I liked the interplay of the milky way, with the spill of the light from the park building. Our other instructor, Matt Hill, converts most of his night shots to black and white, so he likes the purity of the new LED lights for his black and white work.

Both Gabe and Matt are part of a venture, National Parks at Night. In this case they were offering this class in conjunction with RMSP.  One thing about National Parks at Night is that they will only offer one class at each park.

If you want to learn night photography, these guys are some of the best instructors teaching night photography.  I suspect that they must have had the motto, leave no one behind.  For the folks in the class who had never done this before, they spent the time to make sure everyone got what they needed.

And the spoken motto was Carpe Crater!  Or seize the crater.

Gabe’s phase he keeps saying is Carpe Nostrum, or Seize the Night!


Orthodox Churches

Last weekend, I went out for a tour of some Orthodox Churches in Globeville with the Denver Architectural Foundation.
The folks on the tour were understanding of the fact that when they walked away to listen to Mr. Gallagher, I was off taking pictures, and I caught up with them. They were some beautiful churches. And since I hadn’t studied comparative religions since I was in high school it was wonderfully educational as well.


Shooting Raw

One of the things that my Nikon cameras give me is the ability to shoot in different formats. Usually the folks who are starting out ask is should I shoot in raw or shoot in jpeg? I would suggest to the folks who are getting started in post processing, that they should do both. And unless you’re a sports shooter, if you have to pick one, you should shoot in raw.

Milky Way from Collegiate Peaks

Milky Way from Collegiate Peaks

Here I was shooting with the American Photo Treks folks, and David Soldano did the light painting.This photo was taken at 1:30 AM, so there’s a large amount of dark tones.
By shooting in raw the darkest portion of the photo has 64 times the levels that I would have had in the 8 bit jpeg.
Additionally, I used DXO optics to process this photo. They’ve improved their noise algorithm to clean up raw photos. Since I was shooting at ISO 5000 it needed some help with the noise. DXO also helped with lens imperfections for this photo. While the Rokinon 14 mm lens is a good lens for its price, it has some distortions and vignetting.
By shooting in raw I was also able to choose the white balance that suited me.

Some folks will say that the raw files are larger than the jpegs out of the camera and they’re correct. But if you need to do any work on the photo, the added resolution comes in handy. And whenever you process the photo and save it out as a jpeg, the jpeg compression algorithms cause a degradation of the photo.


Watching the water in the Smokies

Living in Front Range one of the things that you don’t get to see is a lush environment. But for my last major photo trip I went to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where you do get to see it.

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork

I think this was along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, so it was literally just yards off the road. But it looks like something you could have photographed in the 1800s. Of course in those days, with the emulsions requiring so much light, that the water would have been even softer. The pictures would have probably been in black and white. Then again our modern lenses have so much more clarity.

Here I was enamored of the flow of water tumbling around the rock.


A few more meters down the road I came to this.

We ended spending about 45 minutes in this section of the park. We all had a great time exploring our individual vision.
One of the things you find at a workshop is that you can be standing right next to someone, and your shots look entirely different than their shots.


Night Photography

I’ve made it out the last two weekends to do some night photography. This weekend, was more urban night photography, and I had a chance to try out what Tony Sweet was telling us, that you can overlay multiple shots to make a more interesting picture.

Saturday night on I=25

Saturday night on I-25

Here we took two pictures and used the lighten blend mode to overlay them. Since it was lightly sprinkling, we had some reflections working for us. The two shots were 25 seconds each, and since I had my iso set to 64, I didn’t need my neutral density filter. It does rely on the fact that you have a good tripod.

Tony had shown us a demo, where in the small town he was photographing in, where you could make a small town look like it had the traffic of the Las Vegas strip. In this case, the traffic on I-25 wasn’t bad either.

Since I was doing urban night shots, we didn’t need a cloudless sky.

In the next picture, I was out at Mt Evans, where I was trying out some software that allowed me to stack star shots and align them automatically.

Stars and Bristlecone pines

Stars and Bristlecone pines

Here this was 4 shots that I stacked. I was using Star Stacker Pro to do the alignment. This technique should allow me to use higher iso levels without paying the noise penalty. Thankfully last weekend, the clouds cleared up before nautical twilight. This 4 shots were all shot at 25 seconds each as well.
If you click on this photo, you can see how many stars are in it. I did get a comment on Facebook asking if there were really that many stars.

Mt Evans is still within the Denver light pollution, and later this summer I hope to take pictures on the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park where it will be darker.