Well, fresh from my trip with Haley, of course the next several days will be spent working on images.  Besides taking them all, the initial review on my computer is one of my favorite parts of the process.  It feels great to see them pop up on a large screen; like they have a new life when viewed properly (which cannot be said for the 1ds ii LCD…)

To begin, I randomly poked about on a few images from Leavenworth that weren't too exciting.  I decided to mess a bit with HDR, and spent a considerable amount of time stitching a 3 image wide, 7 shots per image, HDR panorama.  Needless to say, this took a bit of time.  Fortunately, I was having a nice conversation with my friend over ventrillo at the time, so it wasn't as much of a slog fest.  The end result was kind of boring…not sure if I'll upload or not. 

Now, you may wonder why I decided to edit my most boring images first.  Well, truth be told, the very first thing I did when I returned from my trip was to dump my cards on my computer, after which I immediately went to a set of night images I took during our last night on Lake Chelan.  These were probably the images that most excited me out of the thousand or so I took this weekend.  Unfortunately, the particular image I was most excited with was initially a bit vexing.  It happened to be an hour long exposure of the perfectly clear night sky and moon-illuminated mountains which surround the lake.  It's the longest single exposure I've done since I was in Canada several years ago, and seeing it on the big screen was akin to having film developed and seeing the images for the first time.  However, it was sub-par for a few reasons:

  1. It was COVERED in sensor dust, due to the huge exposure length, small aperture, and expanses of subtle, single-color gradients (ie, the night sky).
  2. It was overexposed by about 1/3rd of a stop (which ended up being a big deal), due to my over-correction of my tendency to under-expose night images.
  3. Due to my choice to shoot at F/11 (mostly to keep the camera at native ISO), the star trails weren't as bright as I would have liked.

Being sub-par, I was pretty disappointed in myself initially, because they were kind of silly mistakes (except 3, which was a technical tradeoff), and the scene was absolutely stunning.  I spent a half hour or so Sunday attempting to get it to look like I wanted (and knocking out most of the sensor dust), but was not satisfied at the end.  This is why, when I came back to it today, I started in on the mediocre images of the trip to give me a good "crappiness baseline" to compare against my favorites from the trip.

I pulled up the image in question and erased all my previous edits.  I tried and tried to get just what I wanted, but wasn't having luck with any of the approaches I was using in Lightroom.  I decided to pop the image into Photoshop to see what I could do, and ended up spending 20-30 minutes messing with LAB channel masks before giving up and starting over ONCE AGAIN in Lightroom.  In case you were wondering, the difficulty I was having had to do with the fact that the foreground was much brighter than the star trails, and I wanted to make the stars pop against their background without modifying the nearly ideal exposure for the foreground.  The fact that I had overexposed slightly meant that I had basically zero highlight latitude in the image with which I could bring the stars AND foreground up as one unit.  I had tried a mixing of gradients and exposure adjustments initially, but it just wasn't working.  At the end of the day, I ended up zeroing out the image again, and instead of beginning with huge exposure adjustments and then using gradient layers to balance it out, I made some very slight exposure adjustments to the entire image, and then made what changes I wanted to the sky with gradients.  I finally ended up with something I felt decent about…but I must say that I am still not 100% satisfied.  I plan to learn more about channel masks in Photoshop and try to implement my changes there over the weekend.  The whole ordeal has reminded me of Ansel Adams' discussion on the difficulties of printing one of his favorite images: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.

All of this makes me wish Lightroom had a better gradient system…specifically the ability to do:

  1. More complicated layer masks (arbitrary lines, etc, that don't require tedious painting processes).
  2. Related to 1), border detection for masks, or something similar to Nix's magical adjustment capabilities
  3. Ability to map curves adjustments on gradients (this is a big hole, IMO).
  4. Ability to do HSL adjustments on gradients.

Maybe this is something we'll see in LR4?  A man can hope.  Pics below, the first is my favorite from the trip, and the one which I have discussed above, the second is a 3 shot pano @ 2 mins per frame, of the same scene.

Startrails on Lake Chelan

Nightfall on Lake Chelan

Hope you're all doing well!  Keep shooting!

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Haley and I had just returned from a 3 day weekend tooling about Central Washington.  It was around 3 PM or so, and we had just finished lunch in Duvall at a wonderful place called the Armadillo BBQ.  Full and happy, we weren't yet quite ready to head home, so we decided to head on over to Snoqualmie falls, which is about 20 minutes from our apartment.  We arrived there at about quarter past three, and parked in our normal spot along the side of Fall City Road, away from the main parking lot.  We headed up to the (now renovated) viewing platform, and I began to take some shots.  We spent 30 minutes or so walking about and enjoying the setting sun when my camera battery went dead.  I decided to go back to the car, grab a new battery and a wider lens.

I returned to shooting for another 20 minutes or so, and at 4:30, Haley and I decided that we were ready to go home, enjoy a pizza, and relax a bit.  We arrived at our car, and, being preoccupied with cleaning a very wet UV filter, I wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings as I got into the car.  Haley, on the other hand, was.  "Check out that car to our left," she said, "it's got a broken window…".  Sure enough, the rear passenger window of the Lexus crossover to our left was broken, shards of glass sitting on the dirt next to the car.  I walked over and took a look, noticing that there was a lack of anything valuable remaining in the back seat.  Once I saw this, I told Haley to go talk to an employee at the falls' visitors center to maybe see if they could make an announcement to get the attention of the owners of the vehicle.  I decided to wait in our car to see if the owners came over.  While waiting, I once again resumed polishing my grubby filter, and, looking up a few minutes later, saw a group of 5 people milling around the Lexus in question.

I set aside my filter and walked over to them, asking if it was their vehicle.  "Yes," an older man responded.  I began to tell him and his wife that Haley and I had returned to our car at 4:38 to see the broken window, and that Haley had gone to inform the park employees.  I told them to call the police immediately, and that Haley and I would stick around until they arrived, just in case the police needed a statement from us.  Immediately upon mentioning "police," one of the couple's companions, we'll call her Jane (to protect the innocent), started bawling uncontrollably.  She was absolutely beside herself.  She was so distraught that she began to roll on the ground and hold herself around her knees.  All the while her friends were attempting, unsuccessfully, to console her.  This is when the story gets sad. 

The only item stolen from the car was Jane's purse.  Now, given my description of her emotional state, you may be wondering why she was so upset.  Normally, when one loses a purse, a wallet, what have you, it's an inconvenience.  Most of us can cancel our credit cards, recover our licenses, and recoup the 36 or so dollars we lost in the process.  Of course, one cannot discount the feeling of being violated that comes along with having something personal stolen by a complete stranger; however, most of the time people don't go to pieces, like Jane was currently doing.  In this case, though, Jane's purse contained her entire life.  As we found out, she was a visiting scholar from abroad who was in the states for 6 months.  Her purse contained several thousand dollars cash, her work visa, her passport, all of her identification, credit cards, and, worst of all, flash drives containing her life's work.  In short, this bag contained everything she needed to get by in a foreign land, as well as several items which were impossible to replace.  We tried to offer her some water, something to eat, some kleenex, but she was completely (and rightly so) inconsolable.

Fifteen minutes later, a sheriff arrived and began to ask some questions.  He kept a professional demeanor, given the circumstances.  While he did seem a bit distant, it was obvious that there was only so much he could do in this particular case.  There was no evidence to collect, no security footage, nothing to aid in any kind of investigation except for the "testimony" of Haley and I, which amounted to being the first to see the broken window.  We stayed for another twenty minutes while the officer finished his questioning and it was obvious we were no longer needed.  The owners of the car thanked us for our time and we headed home.

On the way back, I realized a few things about the situation.  First, was the incredible speed at which, upon seeing the broken window and realizing what had happened, my mind went immediately to Haley's and my own belongings and whether or not anything was missing from our own car.  I suppose I can't claim to not be a selfish individual when such things as this happen.  Second was my realization about how incredibly painful it can be for something to be stolen from you.  Up until this point, I had considered stealing to be one of the "minor" transgressions that is always forgivable.  I suppose this is not surprising, given the culture of "mystique" and "honor" we build up around stealing through things like "Robin Hood" and "The Thomas Crown Affair", but, really, it can tear someone apart.  Imagine someone stealing your life's work, intentionally or not.  Would you be able to forgive him or her?  I wouldn't.  And I doubt Jane will be able to, either.

I hope against hope that everything will work out for this woman, a woman who now will think of Seattle, and the United States, as the "place where my entire life was stolen."  I hope, too, that perhaps the thieves who stole her purse will make some attempt at returning some of her irreplaceables.  It is unlikely that either of these things will happen.  If you know anything, contact the Snoqualmie Police Department.

In the mean time, here's a photo to cheer you up.

Sunset on the Snoqualmie River

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This is just a small writeup I did when asked "what features matter" in an entry level SLR purchase.  Of course, it all depends on use case, but here's a stab at it, and what I would by given different budgets right now.  I presume little to no knowledge of cameras in this post (hopefully I've delivered there):

Full disclosure: I shoot a Canon 7D and Canon 1Ds Mark II, so, while I hope I was not biased in this post, take my suggestions with this in mind.

Min / Max ISO sensitivity – this is a number, like 100, 200, 400, etc, which approximates how sensitive the sensor is to light.  The higher the number, the more sensitive.  What this means is if you have a camera that maxes out at 12,800 ISO and one which maxes out at 3200, the one which maxes out at the higher number will allow you to take sharper pictures in lower light.  Every doubling of the ISO effectively doubles the light sensitivity, allowing you to double your shutter speed.  If you imagine a darkly lit party where you are shooting at 1/15th of a second with your 3200 ISO camera and getting blurry shot after blurry shot, the camera which maxes out at 12,800 ISO would let you shoot at 1/60th of a second, which would allow you to take sharp pictures without much issue.

Image Resolution (Mega Pixels) – Any current entry level camera body is going to have at least a 12 MP resolution, and many will have more.  12 MP will allow you to make great prints…16x20s are no problem, and you can go plenty higher from there.  Lots of people will tell you megapixels dont matter any more.  The reason being that any camera today can output an image of sufficient quality to hang on your wall.  This is true…if you don't ever plan to crop your images.  As soon as you start cropping things, though, megapixels start to matter.  If you crop half the image away on a 12 MP shot, you are left with 6 MP to play with, which can be limiting if you are printing (but will still look great on a computer monitor).  If you think you won't crop / make any prints, this is not something you need to worry about…just consider your use cases before making it a feature you care about.

Screen quality – obviously digital cameras have a screen, but up until 2 years ago, they were pitifully low resolution for their size.  Older cameras typically have 230k pixels in their screens.  This is borderline questionable for being able to determine if a shot is sharp or not.  Newer cameras will have 920,000 pixels or more, and it makes a huge difference in usability.  I would recommend to consider this a big selling point.  FWIW, some of the lower-end Nikons still have 230k pixel screens.

Number of dedicated external buttons – okay, this is much harder to quantify, but you will notice it quickly if you go somewhere to handle the camera.  The reason this is important is, if you actually get into photography, you will want to change settings quickly.  If you are using a point and shoot now, you may or may not know the pain of changing things like focus points or ISO sensitivity, etc.  The more buttons you can devote to quick operations like this, the better prepared you are to change them as fast as possible when you need to.  Honestly, though, if you think you will be in auto mode the whole time and don't expect to invest time in learning about aperture, shutter speeds, and how they affect your image, this point doesn't matter at all.  If you were looking for 1 button, I would make it the ability to change ISO sensitivity with one press.

Ability to do "live view" – SLRs are designed to divert light to a physical viewfinder to allow the user to frame a shot.  Obviously this becomes problematic when shooting at strange angles, as your face needs to be smashed up against the cam to see what's in the frame and what isn't.  Live view shows you a "live" image as it appears on the sensor by exposing the sensor directly to light and outputting the result on the back screen.  This is great for strange shooting situations, tripod use, over-the-head use, etc, and also allows you to lock in focus extremely precisely (you can magnify the image and ensure spot on focus).  True, you will primarily be using the physical viewfinder, but having live view is a huge plus for around 20% of shooting situations.

# of AutoFocus points
– this kind of doens't matter, but kind of does.  It really depends who you ask and what kind of shooting you will be doing.  In an SLR, as I mentioned, light coming through the lens is diverted to a physical viewfinder to allow you to frame the image.  Part of this light is split off before hitting your eye onto a passive autofocus sensor.  This is a piece of silicon with physical "points" that map to points inscribed on your viewfinder.  When you focus the camera, whatever is on your currently selected point will snap into focus.  Obviously, the more points on that piece of silicon, the more "choices" you have when focusing the camera.  This is important, because for a given composition, the thing you want in focus has a higher probability of falling onto an autofocus point if there are more of them.  The thing is that, unless you are really going to invest in the hobby, 9 or so is more than sufficient for your needs.  The good news is that most all entry level cameras offer 9 points, laid out in a way which covers almost all of the frame.  That said, I would avoid any cameras with 3-5 AF points…that's where the AF point layout can seriously hinder what you can do when taking a photo.  Just as a point of reference, the current pro bodies have 45-51 AF points, something which becomes much more important if you are going to be doing a lot of action photography (sports, birds/wildlife, etc).

Continuous Shooting Speed / Buffer Depth – This is probably the most obvious…these are two numbers, measured in FPS / number of frames, respectively, which define:

1) How fast the camera can shoot
2) How many consecutive images it can take before it has to slow down to flush that info to the memory card

These figures, again, are very important to action photographers.  If you aren't interested in that, stop here.  If you are, then almost any entry level camera is going to fall short here.  Most entry cams shoot around 3-4 FPS with a 30-35 JPEG frame / 6 RAW frame buffer.  If you are shooting RAW, this means you are having to slow down your shooting rate 2 seconds after starting.  This really hampers action photographers, as they will machine gun for several seconds at much higher frame rates to capture peak action.  As such, I wouldn't really worry about this figure for most entry level cams, as, if you want to do that kind of shooting,  you are better off going up a couple notches to a quicker camera body.

HD Video – going to be short with this one…  Newer cameras allow you to shoot extremely high quality HD video (read: several feature length films have been made with DSLRs).  This may not make much sense, but the fact that SLRs, which have HUGE sensors in comparison to typical video cameras, can shoot video is a big deal.  The quality they are capable of outputting is akin to cameras which, when this technology was debuting, cost several 10's to 100's of thousands of dollars.  If this is something that interests you, make sure you get a model which can capture at 24 and 30 FPS at full 1080P.  Some models capture their video at 20, which is shit, or at 720P, which is okay, but not great for making "real" videos.

Viewfinder quality / coverage – this doesn't really matter for entry level cams…as you step up, viewfinders get bigger / have more coverage of the scene.  If someone tells you to make this a selling point on an entry level body < the 1000 dollar mark, he's full of it, as most all of them are exactly the same.  If you want to be sure for yourself, hold them up to your face and compare :).

Conclusions:
All this said, spec sheets are only going to get you so far.  You really need to go into a camera shop and handle some of the models within your price range.  Take some shots, mess with settings as you take them, see how they feel in your hand, and leave the store with the one that feels the best in your hand and is the most intuitive for you to use.  SLRs do have a decent learning curve, so you probably wont be able to feel "at home" right away with any of them.  However, if you have to reach awkwardly for buttons, or end up bumping stuff with your face, or don't like how it fits your hand, then it's probably not the camera you should buy.

If I was going to buy a camera right now, here would be my choices for the sub  1500 dollar bracket:

1200 – Nikon D7000 (body only, no lens) (Canon 7D is a good choice for a couple hundred more, as well, but it's an older cam than the D7000)
900 – Canon 60D or a Nikon D90 (body only, no lens) (Nikon is an older camera here)
800 – Canon T2i w/ 18-55 IS lens
600 – Nikon D3100 or Canon T1i w/ 18-55 IS lens (Canon is an older camera here)

Honestly, for the price point, the T2i is probably the best featured camera out there.  It's a really, really good value.  If 800 is too much, the D3100 is very similar to the T2i, for a couple hundred bucks less.  If you can swing 900, the Canon 60D is a great choice, but it won't come with a lens, so expect to invest another 200 there.  For 1200, the D7000 blows any current offering away…it's a phenomenal camera, but you'd be looking at 1400-1500 to pick it up with a lens.

At the end of the day, I would pick up a Canon T2i, and if you have some money left over, get a 50mm/1.8 II lens, it's 100 bucks, sharp as shit, and will let you take pictures in very dark conditions hand-held.

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Well, some entry level Canon stuff was announced today.  Among various point and shoots (one of which has GPS…neat) was the new Rebel offering (image courtesy of dpreview):

Canon T3i / 600D

No surprise there, more of the "incremental feature adjustments" that makes Canon's lower end so…odd.  Let's take a look at the main changes from the T2i (550D) and the T3i (600D).  Courtesy of "oldscotch" via reddit.com are the following key differences:

  • Vari-angle display
  • Scene intelligent Auto Mode
  • 'Basic+' creative controls in scene modes
  • 'Creative Filters' can be applied to images in playback mode
  • Multi-aspect ratio shooting (3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1, previewable in Live View)
  • Integrated Wireless flash controller with multi-flash support
  • 'Video Snapshot' mode
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer now adjustable in 4 levels
  • Feature Guide
  • Image rating (1-5 stars)
  • Eye sensor for LCD display replaced by 'DISP' button
  • Marginally larger and heavier

Shall we categorize a bit?  Let's make a table, where one column represents hardware improvements, and the other represents software improvements:

Hardware
Software
Vari-angle display Scene intelligent Auto Mode
Integrated Wireless flash controller with multi-flash support 'Basic+' creative controls in scene modes
  'Creative Filters' can be applied to images in playback mode
  Multi-aspect ratio shooting (3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1, previewable in Live View)
  'Video Snapshot' mode
  Auto Lighting Optimizer now adjustable in 4 levels
  Feature Guide
  Image rating (1-5 stars

 

Notice I've left out "heavier" and "removal of eye sensor" as improvements, because….they aren't.  So, what you're left with is a bunch of firmware changes, a small screen improvement (depending on who you ask), and a "trickle down" feature (albiet an awesome one) from the 7D that was likely trivial to implement.  So, does it really take the Canon engineers 12 months to write some pretty basic software code and add some small hardware improvements?  Guess so.  Maybe the marketers spent all that time finding that consumery sweet spot, and told the engineers with 3 months left in their schedule.  Alas, all that said, Canon knows what they are doing, if their 2010 profits are any judge.

I was quite excited to see the 200-400 being developed.  The integrated extender is gold…what a great idea!  Just look at this beast (image courtesy of dpreview):

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

Canon is doing really strong the telephoto space, it seems, with all of the fresh new lenses they've released.  IIRC, they now have a 200/2, 300/2.8, 400/2.8, 500/4, 600/4, 800/5.6 that are all less than 2 years old.  I expect most other manufacturers to follow suit, and then maybe Canon can work on something like that sexy, sexy Nikon 14-24 2.8.

Complaining aside, my new Dell U3011 arrives tomorrow, to replace my randomly fried Samsung 24 incher that is off for repair.  Hoping to rock a triple monitor setup once I grab another vid card for some SLI action.  I'm also pretty excited to have a monitor with a decent color gamut…I've been holding off on photo editing ever since my Samsung died, since my only means of doing so is on a very yellowish old Dell 20 inch flat panel.  There is something to be said, though, that this 6 year old 20 inch Dell, that has been transported at least 10 times, once across the country, has had absolutely zero issues.  Meanwhile, a 1 year old Samsung that hasn't moved since it was purchased randomly fried itself one day.

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I went out for a nice evening with Haley and Brad this Saturday.  We wanted to head to the Winter Festival, but learned quickly upon arriving that it was kind of…child-oriented.  Instead, we went to the market, ate some piroshki's, and drank a bit.  Our nightcap was Sopranos back at the apartment.  A good day!

Here are some shots.

Department of Genomic Sciences

 

Shopkeeper

 

Brad and Haley

 

Jag and Monorail Line

 

Parking Garage

 

Car in the Public market

 

Last Light (1 of 3)

 

Last Light (2 of 3) (Wide)

 

Last Light (3 of 3)

 

Starbucks at Night

 

Man

 

Tea Ceremony

Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one!

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We had some very early snow this year on the West coast.  It was 20 here in Seattle while at the same time Boston was sitting at a balmy 60 degrees.  Unfair?  Maybe.  Scary?  Yes.  Many drivers here cannot mentally rationalize more than a nanometer of snow.  This is strange, because it rains a billion inches a year here.  Alas.

So, what did I do?  Well, besides from being really productive while working at home (seriously), I went outside and took some shots before the sun set each day.  They aren't great.  But hey, whatever.  My rules were:

  1. B&W
  2. No toning
  3. 35mm only (on an FF cam)
  4. Walk no more than 200 feet from apartment door

Here you go:

First Snow (1 of 14)

 

First Snow (2 of 14)

 

First Snow (3 of 14)

 

First Snow (4 of 14)

 

First Snow (5 of 14)

 

First Snow (6 of 14)

 

First Snow (7 of 14)

 

First Snow (8 of 14)

 

First Snow (9 of 14)

 

First Snow (10 of 14)

 

First Snow (11 of 14)

 

First Snow (12 of 14)

 

First Snow (13 of 14)

 

First Snow (14 of 14)

Happy Holidays!  Be safe.

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Eh, I woke up to snow and scary drivers today.  Ended up spending most of my day at home, working on various power points / bug triages / schedules for work, but I did get a chance to take a couple shots of the newly fallen snow before it got too dark.  I can't say I was too thrilled with the results, but it was a fun diversion in an otherwise busy day.  I've also started looking at some of my untouched shots from the Olympics over the last few days.  I think there are still some decent ones to be found in there, I just have to spend the time to look at all of them closely and decide what best represents my time there.

It's an interesting challenge, trying to distill 1400 + pictures into a few defining moments.  I suppose if I were REALLY good, they would ALL be defining moments, but hey, what are you going to do.  Anyway, here are a few shots, apologies to those who follow my Flickr stream, because you have already seen these :).

 

A Moment in Time

Canon EOS 30D Manual @ 0 EC 70.0-200.0 mm 130.0 mm 1/1250 sec f/5.6 ISO 200 Forks, Washington
A Moment in TimeMap
I really love waves.  As I have said before, they are incredibly challenging to get "interesting" shots of, but are incredibly rewarding subjects when you do. 

 

Rialto Self-Portrait

Canon EOS 7D Manual @ 0 EC EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM 34.0 mm 1/125 sec f/8.0 ISO 100 Forks, Washington
Rialto Self-PortraitMap
Or: how to get strange stares from passersby as you run/waddle to the water's edge with a 70 pound pack.

 

Loom

 

Enjoy the winter weather, wherever you are.

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Just finished editing some shots from my sojourn to the Fall City area yesterday.  I was hoping to catch a bit of sun, but it got pretty socked in as I was driving, and I only got to catch a glimpse of the sunset through the clouds.  I spent about 40 minutes at the top of the falls and got absolutely soaked to the bone.  Not having waterproof gloves on me meant that my hands went numb rather quickly…I'm definitely going to invest in a pair soon.  I was shooting with both cams, complimented by the 70-200 and 24-70, and was happy that they performed admirably despite being as soaked as I was.  Though, I must say that I still get nervous when my cameras get wet, but history has borne out that Canon's weather sealing is no joke.  Once I had exhausted my possibilities on the top of the falls, I started looking for the trail down past the hydroelectric plant that leads to the base of the falls.  I was saddend to find out, after 5 minutes of aimless searching, that there is some serious rennovation going on down there, and as such the trail won't be open until March of 2013.

When I got tired of waiting for light to hit the falls, and finally realized I couldn't get to the base, I ended up going to the edge of the river and seeing what I could make of the surroundings a half a mile down river of the falls.  I had seen some guys fishing there when I drove by earlier, and hoped that I could catch some shots before they packed it up for the night.  Lucky for me, the two I had spotted an hour ago were still there, standing knee-deep in freezing water.  I snapped a few dozen shots with the 7D + 70-200 and was about to head to the water's edge when I noticed someone walking up the road.  Once he got closer, I realized that it was another fisherman who had been fishing a few hundred yards down river.  As he walked by, I asked him if he had caught anything, and subsequently ended up talking for 5 minutes.  His name was Seth, and he told me that he had been out since 11, and that the guys I was photographing were his buddies.  He hadn't caught any keepers – "only a couple 8 inch steelhead" – but that didn't seem to bother him.  I think my favorite thing about this encounter was what he said as he was walking away.  As we said goodbye and he was walking away, he asked me if I was a professional photographer.  "Just a hobby, like you and fishing," I said.  He yelled back: "No way!  I'm going pro!"  Awesome.  Makes me wonder when I will be able to say that with such confidence :).

Here are some shots.  I hope you enjoy them!

 

Over the Edge

 

Snoqualmie Falls Panorama

 

Snoqualmie Falls and Shrub

 

Shrub (Detail)

 

Fishermen on the Snoqualmie River (1 of 2)

 

Man on River

 

A Dry Spot

 

Fishermen on the Snoqualmie River (2 of 2)

 

Night by the River

 

Shoreline

 

Peninsula

 

Seth on the Snoqualmie

 

Waiting for a Bite

 

On the River

 

Snoqualmie River (Wide)

Have a good day, and stay warm!

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And got really wet.  And was sad the Snoqualmie trail is closed until March 2013.  And met a fisherman named Seth.  And tried on my new hiking pants (thanks Jim and Norine!)

All in all, it was a good day.  More to come tomorrow.  For now, a pic.

Holding On

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An interesting conversation about art and photography I had this morning with my artist / musician / friend Ario.

(10:49:44 AM) arioelami: i read your newest post
(10:50:39 AM) arioelami: what is your reservation about photographs of waterfalls?
(10:55:25 AM) st33nwyk: i dont know…
(10:55:27 AM) st33nwyk: i just
(10:55:31 AM) st33nwyk: dont find them interesting
(10:55:35 AM) st33nwyk: or didnt
(10:55:38 AM) arioelami: do you think it is like the shot of the lone tree on the hill
(10:55:43 AM) st33nwyk: haha
(10:55:49 AM) st33nwyk: no, i like those, typically πŸ˜›
(10:56:01 AM) st33nwyk: but i guess
(10:56:06 AM) arioelami: i was wondering if it was coming from notions of cliches
(10:56:17 AM) st33nwyk: its just because they feel so compositionally limiting
(10:56:23 AM) st33nwyk: that, a bit
(10:56:50 AM) st33nwyk: did you go to the link of that guy who does almost exclusively waterfall sh ots
(10:56:54 AM) st33nwyk: he does a good job
(10:57:02 AM) arioelami: no, not yet
(10:57:09 AM) arioelami: i will now
(10:57:17 AM) st33nwyk: i dont have the practice he has to do as well, but i've always not been very interested in them as a subject
(10:57:29 AM) st33nwyk: are there things you arent immediately interested in as a subject?
(10:58:03 AM) arioelami: in terms of other people's work or my own?
(10:58:33 AM) st33nwyk: both, i suppose
(10:59:52 AM) arioelami: i mean, it kind of depends on how you're defining subject as a word. because a subject can be what you see, or what the work is "really" about.
(11:00:10 AM) st33nwyk: ah yes
(11:00:46 AM) arioelami: like i am not specifically interested in the visual experience of a lot of minimal art, but i enjoy the implications sometimes that come out of discussing or thinking about the work.
(11:01:27 AM) arioelami: but yeah, there are things i'm right away less interested in, graphically
(11:01:43 AM) arioelami: graffiti would probably be one
(11:01:52 AM) arioelami: another would be children
(11:02:00 AM) st33nwyk: hm
(11:02:04 AM) arioelami: cars?
(11:02:08 AM) st33nwyk: so why, would you say, that is
(11:02:28 AM) st33nwyk: like, i would say i am typically drawn to large vistas bathed in interesting light
(11:02:40 AM) st33nwyk: or perhaps rainy overcast conditions
(11:03:11 AM) arioelami: it's hard to say, because this comes down to very personal reactions on an intuitive level, i think
(11:03:47 AM) st33nwyk: yeah
(11:04:03 AM) arioelami: i could at least say with graffiti, it is tied to a practice that i find often visually damages the place where it makes its mark
(11:04:15 AM) arioelami: so part of that is just irritation with associated action
(11:04:36 AM) st33nwyk: i see
(11:04:44 AM) arioelami: i also think about he chemicals used for graffiti, which smell unpleasant
(11:05:00 AM) st33nwyk: so its tied to something beyond just the visual appearance at hand
(11:05:14 AM) st33nwyk: i suppose i have the same thing with some of the photos ive taken
(11:05:17 AM) st33nwyk: im sure everyone does
(11:05:18 AM) arioelami: right, it has a social application, and i don't like that application
(11:05:27 AM) st33nwyk: they represent something more than just themselves
(11:06:03 AM) st33nwyk: do you think art should be appreciated with an impartial eye?
(11:06:16 AM) st33nwyk: as in, is it not important the context under which the work was made?
(11:06:20 AM) arioelami: i think it's impossible to appreciate art with an impartial eye
(11:06:40 AM) st33nwyk: but, i mean, a photo of my family is going to be incredibly important to me, but not to others
(11:06:50 AM) st33nwyk: it may be a shit photo, but i may love it simply for that fact
(11:07:05 AM) st33nwyk: i find it's hard to separate oneself as an artist from one's work
(11:07:22 AM) arioelami: i think it's easy to make the separation once the work is done, though
(11:07:29 AM) arioelami: if that is even a separation
(11:07:34 AM) st33nwyk: why do you say that?
(11:07:57 AM) arioelami: i don't know, i feel most connected to anything when i'm actually working on it
(11:08:09 AM) arioelami: once it's done it's a public object
(11:08:30 AM) st33nwyk: but your work on something is protracted
(11:08:37 AM) st33nwyk: it can last for days, weeks, months
(11:08:49 AM) st33nwyk: for a photographer, at least, tripping the shutter takes an instant
(11:09:08 AM) st33nwyk: of course, there is post processing, and the kind of "meta" aspects of actually going out and sh ooting, or doing a project
(11:09:36 AM) st33nwyk: but i almost think that because there isnt as intimate (imo) a connection for a photographer to the actual act of doing the thing, that it becomes harder to let go once it's complete
(11:09:37 AM) arioelami: but don't you actually go into programs and edit your photos for lengthy periods of time? isn't that an extension of the process
(11:09:42 AM) st33nwyk: yes, it is
(11:09:56 AM) st33nwyk: but, i dont think it's nearly as in depth as the things you do
(11:10:12 AM) st33nwyk: i mean, if you are doing something truly fantastic, it takes some time
(11:10:22 AM) st33nwyk: but it's measured in hours, typically
(11:11:18 AM) arioelami: i'm not so sure i measure connection in terms of time taken
(11:11:24 AM) st33nwyk: i suppose the difference is that the volume of a photographer is much higher, so his or her entire body of work needs to be that much more pointed
(11:11:38 AM) st33nwyk: well, i dont get connected to the photographs i take when i post process them
(11:11:47 AM) st33nwyk: its more the experience surrounding them that is important
(11:12:15 AM) st33nwyk: like the process of hiking somewhere remote and waking up at ungodly hours and watching the light come over a mountain as the sun rises
(11:12:58 AM) st33nwyk: its very much about the making of the photograph, not just the moment the shutter trips, but all the things surrounding how i got to that point
(11:14:18 AM) arioelami: yeah
(11:14:46 AM) arioelami: and there are some people who don't even physically take a photograph or are there when the photograph is taken
(11:14:51 AM) arioelami: it's kind of hard to measure connection
(11:15:14 AM) arioelami: *aren't
(11:15:40 AM) arioelami: i'm thinking of one person who set up a camera system near a city street that would randomly take shots of pedestrians
(11:15:45 AM) arioelami: and that formed the material for a work
(11:16:07 AM) st33nwyk: see, for me, i wouldn't be interested in doing that
(11:16:18 AM) st33nwyk: because, like you said, im not there experiencing it first-hand
(11:16:25 AM) arioelami: yeah. some people aren't concerned with the connection
(11:16:31 AM) arioelami: actually, shunning the connection could be the basis for the work
(11:16:38 AM) st33nwyk: which is really interesting, though
(11:16:39 AM) arioelami: taking on a mechanical persona
(11:16:45 AM) st33nwyk: because compare it to drawing or painting
(11:16:56 AM) st33nwyk: which inherently requires some input
(11:17:07 AM) arioelami: it goes back to warhol sort of (aaaaaa)
(11:17:17 AM) arioelami: who said he wanted to be a machine
(11:17:22 AM) st33nwyk: this is why I think that it must be much harder to do the same thing in that area of art
(11:17:25 AM) st33nwyk: oh yeah?
(11:17:38 AM) arioelami: drawing or painting doesn't necessarily require input
(11:17:43 AM) arioelami: you could have a machine do either of those too
(11:17:47 AM) arioelami: (which has been done)
(11:18:10 AM) arioelami: then it becomes "is it art if a person didn't physically make these marks" which kind of isn't that interesting to me
(11:18:19 AM) arioelami: my interest depends on the day and how much food i've had
(11:18:19 AM) st33nwyk: but really…how could you do that
(11:18:23 AM) st33nwyk: there is still input required
(11:18:25 AM) st33nwyk: you have to direct the machine
(11:18:32 AM) st33nwyk: unless you are saying its somehow automatic
(11:18:40 AM) arioelami: you have to build the machine, but you don't have to direct it
(11:18:48 AM) arioelami: it could be as simple as a rope mechanism
(11:19:06 AM) arioelami: where you just attach a brush to a rope and let it fall and brush against the canvas like a pendulum until it stops
(11:19:23 AM) arioelami: it's prompted by one action, but the ripple effect is mechanical
(11:19:52 AM) st33nwyk: i see
(11:20:09 AM) st33nwyk: i suppose that makes a statement on its own, i just dont care for it
(11:21:38 AM) arioelami: these waterfall photos are fine
(11:21:45 AM) arioelami: this actually ties into something i wanted to write about
(11:22:05 AM) st33nwyk: and what's that
(11:22:13 AM) st33nwyk: you mean the shots of cascade creations?
(11:22:53 AM) arioelami: uh yeah
(11:23:03 AM) arioelami: was looking for what you were taking about
(11:23:07 AM) arioelami: cascadekreations
(11:24:22 AM) arioelami: it's about how photography invites a critical element, or absolute quality, to a real place or object(s) and how that potentially ruins the memory or presence of those things
(11:24:59 AM) arioelami: maybe it ties into native american ideas about photographs
(11:25:03 AM) arioelami: i'm not really sure yet
(11:25:11 AM) st33nwyk: hm
(11:25:17 AM) arioelami: i got to thinking about it after reading a few texts
(11:25:27 AM) st33nwyk: but being critical of a photograph has nothing to do with the thing that was photographed
(11:25:27 AM) arioelami: and seeing my mom photograph these places in maine
(11:25:44 AM) arioelami: how do you mean
(11:25:59 AM) st33nwyk: like the quality of the subject is not denegrated by a bad photograph, and nor is it elevated by a good one
(11:26:19 AM) arioelami: well, that's something i kind of want to figure out
(11:26:25 AM) arioelami: i'm not sure that's actually true
(11:26:25 AM) st33nwyk: the subject just is, making a photograph of it is just the act of preserving it in time for whatever reason
(11:26:36 AM) st33nwyk: a photograph represents something
(11:26:55 AM) st33nwyk: if the representation is a foul one, fine, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, so to speak
(11:27:03 AM) st33nwyk: like i can portray something any way i want to
(11:27:09 AM) st33nwyk: but it becomes my portrayal of it
(11:27:14 AM) st33nwyk: not the viewer's
(11:28:15 AM) arioelami: i think i would approach the subject as photography in terms of myself as a photographer (not a Photographer, but a person who can take photos if i want to)
(11:28:41 AM) arioelami: i almost never take photographs and when i kind of wish i hadn't
(11:28:46 AM) arioelami: *when i do
(11:29:17 AM) st33nwyk: is that because you dont feel you can adequately represent what you are trying to photograph, and, due to that, you feel the experience was cheapened by taking a picture?
(11:30:57 AM) arioelami: i think it might come down to me seeing a photograph taken by myself as a kind of experiential container, and i prefer having the experience dependent upon the real place or just what i can remember — not an object that turns the experience into a fact, if that makes sense
(11:31:44 AM) st33nwyk: but that fact should remind you of the experience. that fact isn't the experience itself, it's just an entry point into the thing as a whole
(11:31:58 AM) st33nwyk: a really good photograph brings others within that experience
(11:32:25 AM) arioelami: but the experience isn't actually there anymore
(11:32:46 AM) st33nwyk: that's the beauty of it, to some degree
(11:33:03 AM) st33nwyk: isnt that what one is doing when one makes art? capturing something eternally in some form?
(11:34:52 AM) arioelami: that's situational, i think. i'm not capturing anything real when i draw a landscape. even if i were to draw from a real place, i'd still be making an edit, since drawing cannot ever capture a scene precisely, insofar as how that scene is exactly rendered to our eyes
(11:35:31 AM) arioelami: a photograph is exactly as something is in that exact time and place
(11:35:58 AM) arioelami: i'm not making a qualitative judgment, here btw
(11:35:58 AM) st33nwyk: isnt that just "creative license" :). I mean, every time i edit a photo i'm removing it from reality. hell, even when I take the photo, i make choices that remove it from being exactly what my eye might see
(11:36:05 AM) st33nwyk: yeah i know
(11:36:20 AM) st33nwyk: but it's not, a photograph is not exactly what something is
(11:36:42 AM) st33nwyk: i mean, take a look at this photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/absencesix/5023355425/
(11:36:42 AM) arioelami: in what way
(11:36:49 AM) st33nwyk: that is simply not what anyone's eye could see, ever
(11:37:10 AM) st33nwyk: even straight from the camera it's not "realistic"
(11:37:13 AM) arioelami: so what are you documenting then?
(11:37:51 AM) st33nwyk: well, interestingly, i documented non-reality at that point
(11:38:02 AM) st33nwyk: you see, the waves were crashing quite hard
(11:38:09 AM) st33nwyk: so i wanted to remove them from the picture, so to speak
(11:38:22 AM) st33nwyk: and have it be just about the stacks and the water
(11:38:39 AM) st33nwyk: so i chose a long exposure that would make the waves seem almost like a mist
(11:39:40 AM) arioelami: that unreality comes back to what i was saying about memory
(11:40:14 AM) arioelami: i like that i have these places in my head and that their apparent quality is subject to all the errors and modifications i've made through memorizing them
(11:40:35 AM) st33nwyk: so, photographing it "dehumanizes" the experience?
(11:41:29 AM) arioelami: i don't know about that. i'm really hesitant to condemn an entire method to futility.

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Along the River

by ajamess on 19.Nov.10

in Photos,Travel

I'm finally getting around to processing some of the shots from my recent Oregon trip.  The ones you see below are from our last day, which was spent mostly on the road eating Voodoo doughnuts and enjoying the countryside.  The drive back was quite astonishing.  We began by taking the historic Columbia River Highway, which winds its way along several dozen waterfalls on its way parallel to the Columbia River.  I must say, before this time I was generally…skeptical…of waterfalls.  What I mean by this is that there are not many waterfall shots that I truly enjoy.  As such, I didn't think that I would really enjoy actually shooting them.  I was completely wrong.  What a blast!  Something about freezing the never-ending torrent in time is just satisfying.  I won't say that I did a very good job (this guy, on the other hand, is a waterfall genius), but I did really dug standing in the mist and working with the camera.

After overcast and falls and getting wet came the trip through the more arid parts of Oregon and Washington.  This local offers its own own charm, but this particular time though was mind-blowing.  We sidled up next to the Hood around sunset and had 2 hours of simply astonishing light.  Light was kissing the hills and valleys around us every which way, and the sky was just…I don't think I've seen anything like it, to be honest.  The clouds were like someone had taken a giant sheet and draped it across the sky creating hundreds of folds that caught every ray of light differently.  And the sun was this blood-orange color that made everything seem on fire.  My only spot of sadness about this entire trip was that I didn't ask to pull over the car and get some proper shots.  I do now know, however, that I will be going back as soon as the weather permits.

Here are some shots.

Latourelle Falls (Wide)

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Manual @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 26.0 mm 1 sec f/16.0 ISO 100 Corbett, Oregon
Latourelle Falls (Wide)Map
The first of 3 falls we happend upon not 2 miles from each other.

 

Latourelle Falls (Close)

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Manual @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 20.0 mm 1 sec f/16.0 ISO 100 Corbett, Oregon
Latourelle Falls (Close)Map
This is closer than it looks. Also, impossible to keep spray off the lens.

 

Wahkeena Falls

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Manual @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 16.0 mm 1 sec f/16.0 ISO 100 Corbett, Oregon
Wahkeena FallsMap
I loved how Wahkeena meanders down from the distance. It's not as impressive as some of the higher falls, but it has a great quality nonetheless.

 

Multnomah Falls from the Base

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Manual @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 23.0 mm 1 sec f/16.0 ISO 100 Corbett, Oregon
Multnomah Falls from the BaseMap
Classic Oregon. I was at the base with a woman who, like me, was struggling to keep water off the lens. We looked like a couple of hunchbacks, with our jackets half off, covering the front of our cameras until the instant the shutter tripped.

 

Multnomah Falls from the Bridge

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Manual @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 35.0 mm 0.8 sec f/16.0 ISO 100 Corbett, Oregon
Multnomah Falls from the BridgeMap
I took a 4 shot vertical pano looking up to the falls, but the comp was pretty boring. I ended up stitching the bottom two shots into what you see here. My workflow was: frame, lock tripod, remove camera, turn back to falls, wipe off lens for 30 seconds or more, place lens cap on, put camera back on tripod, engage 10 sec MLU, wait until 1 second remains before the shutter trips, remove lens cap, and pray no spray hits the lens in that timeframe. Unfortunately, almost immediately my lens would get soaked, so there are still a good amount of waterspots about.

 

Friends

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Manual @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 16.0 mm 1/40 sec f/4.0 ISO 800 Corbett, Oregon
FriendsMap
I met these guys on top of the falls. They had me take a shot with their manual focus Minolta, but I fear my lack of glasses caused me to miss focus. Hopefully the shot turned out! I always dig it when people engage with me when I take photos.

 

Rainbow over the Hood

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Aperture-priority AE @ +2/3 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 35.0 mm 1/1000 sec f/5.6 ISO 400 The Dalles, Oregon
Rainbow over the HoodMap
Coming home, we saw some astonishingly beautiful scenery. I'd been through the hood river / yakima valley area before, but oh my god, it wasn't nearly this stunning. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to get out and take some real shots, so I had to make due with what I could out of the window at 60 MPH.

 

Rainbow and Clearing Storm

 

Awash

 

Shadows

Canon EOS 7D Aperture-priority AE @ 0 EC EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM 170.0 mm 1/400 sec f/5.6 ISO 200 Wasco, Oregon
ShadowsMap
The entire face of valley was lit by the sun. This is one of the small hills that made a more interesting pattern.

 

Golden Hillside

 

Yakima Moonrise

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Manual @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 35.0 mm 1/30 sec f/5.6 ISO 400 Wapato, Washington
Yakima MoonriseMap
The sky was on fire the whole time we were driving through. This is the last vestiges of the day, taken while we filled up at some gas station near Yakima.
 
Hope your skies are blue.

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I was editing images from Portland, and found an interesting distinction between those images taken with a circular polarizer and those which weren't.  In the back of our heads, I think we all have an idea of what polarizers are for, but not often do we get a first-hand sense of what they can do for our images.

I've used polarizers typically only when there are large swaths of blue skies, clouds, or reflections to knock out.  In this sense, my applications were pretty limited – I probably only have it on for 10% of my total shooting time.  Many times, I don't bother putting it on at all, and think to myself after the fact that it wouldn't have made a difference anyway.  This is because (IMO) seeing the difference in the field is really, really hard.  Yes, you can see a bit through the viewfinder, and the LCD, but the full nuances of the effect are masked until you get home and take a looksie on the monitor.  Yes, we've all seen the drastic transformations polarizers can bring to clouds and summery blue skies, but what about a scene like the one below?

Let's evaluate the scene a bit:

  • Flat lighting (overcast)
  • Lots of foliage
  • Many reflections close in brightness to the scene itself
  • Lots of open shade

Now, mouse over the image to see what it looks like with a B&W CPL at full effect.

 
 

Just as an FYI: both images are straight from the camera with zero editing.  Some notable improvements I notice are:

  • Better contrast ratio between the water and surroundings
  • Distracting reflections in the water toned down dramatically
  • Fewer distracting reflections on the foliage
  • Richer colors in the foreground (look at the ground in the bottom right corner)
  • Richer colors in the foliage
  • Better separation from the greens and reds of the Japanese maple in the foreground

Of course, the more standard uses of polarizers still apply, as seen below.

Columbia

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Aperture-priority AE @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 35.0 mm 1/25 sec f/11.0 ISO 100 Knappa-Brownsmead, Oregon
ColumbiaMap
A CPL was used at full effect for this image.  It made the difference between a hazy, flat sky and what you see here.

 

Moonrise over Cannon Beach

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II Manual @ 0 EC 16.0-35.0 mm 16.0 mm 0.3 sec f/16.0 ISO 100 Cannon Beach, Oregon
Moonrise over Cannon BeachMap
Again, a CPL here worked wonders to make the moon and cirrus really pop against the sky.  Note this was during sunset and it was still a large difference than without a CPL.

 

I suppose if there is one take-away from this post it would be this: polarizers are a specialized tool, and we all have some preconceived notions on how they should be used; however, there are situations where, while they do not create as dramatic an effect, polarizers can be used to add that extra bit of something to an image to make it that much better.

So, would I be happy with the first image?  Probably.  Is the second image better?  Definitely – I would pick it over the non-polarized image every time.  Which image do you prefer?

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