Sunday, December 28, 2008

Haunted Hotel?

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado is rumored to be haunted and this photo seems to lend credence to that belief. The hotel was Steven King's inpiration for "The Shining" and the mini-series was taped here. Ghost tours held at the hotel (we skipped that). The hotel was originally built by Stanley, of Stanley Steamer fame. He traveled to Estes Park to recover from tuberculosis and found the mountain air so refreshing that he built a house (and later a mansion which became a hotel) there.
Estes Park is the gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Polarizing Filters

Light reflecting off from surfaces such as water or metal can appear diffuse and fuzzy. Adding a polarizing filter (much like polarizing sun glasses) only allows light to come in at one angle. Skies are bluer, haze is reduced, and colors appear more saturated because there is less glare. Reflections on windows and water are reduced so that you can see through to whatever is inside/below. Go here to see with and without images on Wiki. Think of light coming through shutters on a window. This photo, Escape Route, is of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park in California. The wind was blowing the water across the lake in ripples and with a polarizing filter it takes on an almost velvet appearance near the top and the corduroy near the bottom.
Hetch Hetchy is a controversial reservoir that resulted when the Tuolomme River was dammed up to provide water and power for San Francisco. John Muir, among others, led a losing battle to preserve the Hetch Hetchy valley. While they were unsuccessful, the experience of the loss of the valley gave fuel to protests that prevented a dam that would have filled the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

2009 Calendars Available at Zazzle

and a selection of Infrared Photography

In association with

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, part of the Philadelphia public Fairmount Park System has clearly fallen on hard times. These buildings are part of what was built for the 1926 Sesquicentennial Celebration, with the top building originally a Russian Tea House and more recently a boathouse. The bottom building is a gazebo representing Japan. Now, there is garbage floating in the lake, partially eaten bones left behind by vermin, and the remains of a campfire on the floor of the gazebo. Jets are seen in their final approach to the nearby airport and I-95 is seen across the lake. The sports complex is next door, so apparently the park is used more by people parking for Eagles games than for enjoying the park.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Philadelphia: The Cradle of Liberty

This shot is titled, "The storm over liberty is clearing." I took it yesterday while downtown and realized that despite having thousands (?tens of thousands) of photos on my hard drive, I don't have any of the iconic Independence Hall. For those of you unfamiliar with Philadelphia, Independence Mall is in downtown Philadelphia and while getting this shot, a hundred feet to my right was the Liberty Bell. When I took it, I found the inclusion of the people intriguing, but without some HDR treatment, it really didn't work. It was a particular Blue States/Red States kind of day on the mall yesterday. Young people from the marching bands that would play in the parade today were swarming the area amidst Philadelphians on their lunch break-- Ohio, Alabama, other places. It made me think of the recent election and, watching their enthusiasm gave me hope for a turn around in the country. Band kids are interesting. Few people realize what work and discipline it takes for the kids and their families to make it to a parade like this-- months of fund raising, hours of practice, try-outs, local successes, and then a very long bus ride to a strange place-- just so they can get up at the crack of dawn and march a couple of miles in near freezing weather to entertain a crowd (and show their stuff).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Philadelphia Mural Arts Project

Mural from the side of the building at 707 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. There is more on the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project go here. Scattered throughout Philadelphia are hundreds of murals depicting everything from famous Philadelphias (Dr. J), to historic scenes, to ordinary people. Each mural is "awarded" to a neighborhood based on developing and theme and requires community input. This mural is in center city, but murals are present also even in neighborhoods filled with urban decay and blight. Bus tours are held from April to November.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


So, this is what you can do with a "long" lens. This shot, Hanging Ten was shot from a pier in Ocean Beach (near San Diego) looking down on surfers using a zoom lens at its max, 200 mm. It was shot with the shutter speed at 1/1000 of a second to get a nice sharp image of the surfer caught in motion with good sharpness. The only downside is that the water is also stopped in motion showing individual drops which makes it look less natural.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Bokeh is the use of depth of field so that different parts of the photo in focus. Typically, foreground is sharp and background is blurry. Changing aperture (f stop) on the camera allows you to make a large aperture (low number, e.g. 2.5) which gives you more bokeh or vice versa. In this shot, the center bird is sharply in focus and the farther back you go, the less sharp/more blurry the birds become. In this photo, Bird Bokah, depth can be conveyed by relative sizes (the farther birds appear smaller) and by selective focus (bokeh). Some photographers use Lens Babies to artificially create bokeh, but I prefer to not manipulate bokeh.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

212 Steps Down a Cliff

Breaking in my new D300 while at a conference in California. This photo, Autumn Surf is from Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve just up the coast from San Diego. To get down to this beach required hiking down and back up the Beach Trail, including the 212 steps and a fairly rigorous incline. It was worth the trip though as the day was beautiful and the beach was busy with both people and seagulls. The shot looks fuzzy because it was quite foggy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Night of the Show - The Nova Crew

Thanks to the Nova crew for a wonderful evening at the combined grand opening and photography show.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Utah by Two Different IR Cameras

Both of these shots:  The top is Quail Creek Canyon and the bottom is "Orson Adams House" are from the Red Cliffs National Recreation Area, outside of a small town called Leeds, about a half hour north of St. George.  The cabin is from the original Mormon settlers of the area is on the road that leads up to the park.  Quail Creek Canyon is a slot canyon that was about a mile from the park entrance, uphill through a sandy path in 100 degree heat.  The best time to photograph slot canyons is noon since the light shines down most vertically illuminating the walls the best.  The top picture was taken with my Nikon D70 and the bottom is from the Olympus 2020Z.  Although the bottom picture looks a little sharper, the image size is jpeg only and is of a small file size so is not able to be enlarged significantly.  The top image was shot in raw and then converted to duotone.  The shutter speed is quite slow (since I didn't want to hike a tripod in as well) so not quite as sharp. 

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Color vs. Black & White

Both of these shots of petrified sand dunes in Zion National Park are processing of the same image.  The top one has all of the color desaturated to leave only the lines and textures, while in the bottom one, the color is so bold that it becomes the story (with the textures becoming the subtext).  The bottom one was done first in Photoshop and Photomatix with HDR processing, then the color was used in the "Black and White" command in Photoshop.  
The photo was taken along Highway 9, just before the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel (heading west).   These are sand dunes that were once buried and became petrified.  Even though the ripples look like wind blown sand, it is solid Navajo Sandstone.

Friday, June 13, 2008

An IR Kind of Day in Utah

I'm channeling Ansel today.  This shot is of trees along the Virgin River in Zion National Park in Utah.  I'd like to think that if Ansel Adams was around today, that he'd be shooting IR (infrared).  Ansel was known for his landscapes in western national parks (especially Yosemite) and used sharp contrasts and depth of field.  He, of course, shot with wide format cameras on film with long exposures and using a tripod, but I'd like to think that if had the option of infrared, he would have loved it.  It is also little known that near the end of his life he also shot in color, which leads me to believe that he would have also used all the tools available to him, including HDR photography and digital cameras.
This shot was with my old Olympus, only 2.1 megapixil and non-DSL.  The light was perfect and at this moment the wind was rustling so gave some of the leaves a bit of a feathery look while the higher leaves were more still and clearer.  

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Fun Flickr Game

Here's a fun game to play on Flickr.  This mosaic was made using FD Flickr Toys by searching on Flickr with the answers to questions below and then using a photo from the first page of the search results to form each tile of the mosaic.  Here are the questions:
1) First name 2) Favorite Food 3) Your high school 4) Favorite Color 5) Current celebrity crush 6) Favorite drink 7) Dream vacation 8) Favorite dessert 9) What to be when you grow up 10) What do you love most in life 11) One word to describe you 12) Your flickr name  Go to the photo page to see a better description of the steps to make it and the url's of the pictures that make up the mosaic.  See if you guess what my search terms were...some are easy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More on Posterization

This image shows how you can improve and change an image with Photoshop, especially with posterization to hide a lot of sins.  This shot was taken at a wedding with available light (didn't want to disrupt the wedding with my flash) and from my pew with a 200mm zoom (120 mm for this shot).  The original image exposure was 1/30 sec, F 4.8 at ISO 450.    As you can see, it was too dark, had a lot of distractions, and had a lot of motion artifact.  I processed the raw image by increasing the exposure, cropping out the unwanted parts to concentrate on her action, adjusted the curves, and then added a posterizing filter.  A pretty good save of an image that otherwise would have ended up in the trash, I think.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Promise of Spring

Let the gardening begin.  This is a collage of a number of flowers, mostly from home, but a few from travels.  I've used an effect in Photoshop called posterization to make them more distinct when viewed from a distance.  The distortion can help when your image is a little blurry, but making it look like you intended it that way.  :)  Click on the top flower to get a magnified view of posterization.  Posterization reduces the number of color tones to "simplify" the image.  Too much of it, like most things, goes beyond being a good thing (unless you want to mimic Andy Warhol).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Our Iberian Odyssey, Day 1: Madrid

Parque de Madrid  

Our journey began in Madrid.  After arriving early morning from a red-eye flight, we checked in at the Room-Mate Alicia Hotel and headed to the Retiro Park.  Despite being February, it was unusually warm and with beautiful blue skies.  We chose the Room-Mate chain for both Madrid legs of the hotel for their upscale, quirky hotels in good locations and the best value that we could find for our weak dollars.   
The hotel was off Plaza Santa Ana which had a lot of charm and was in the theater district.  Along the perimeter of the plaza were outdoor cafes and sports bars.  It's my favorite area to stay in Madrid, easy access to everything else and enough off the beaten path that it's not too busy.  It's tourist friendly, but with a nice mix of Madrilenos.  At one point, while a soccer match (I guess I should say football) was being broadcast from a bar, a group of men and boys started playing soccer in the plaza, as cabs sped around them.  We ate tapas at the Cafe Miaw (yes, their logo is a cat) across the street and then collapsed for an early bedtime in prep for our next morning's flight to La Palma.
Both of these photos are from Retiro Park, more correctly known as Jardines del Buen Retiro.  It's a very Central Park type park in the middle of the upscale section of Madrid, down the street from the Ritz Hotel and La Prada, near the Puerto Espana.  The park is almost 400 years old and was originally part of royal estates, but has been open to the public since the mid-nineteenth century.  We entered the park through the gateway in the second shot and walked up the path, Avenida de Argentina.  The plants that are blooming look like mums from a distance but were more like ornamental cabbage on closer examination.  At the end of the walkway, we could see a monument in the distance, but to our surprise when we reached the wall in front of it, there was a lake that was filled with boaters.  I call the first shot "Oarplay" because all the teens were in single sex boats and manuvering around eachother in a very elaborate dating ritual.  The "older" folks got to mix genders, but the teens were clearly segregated and courting.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Day 2: La Palma (Canary Islands)

Town Square
Canarian House
La Palma is the furthest west of the Canary Islands.  The climate is "forever spring" with the northern end most influenced by the colder, wetter Atlantic and the southern end by the more arid Africa.  The island is basically a large (mostly extinct) island, so there is a 5,000 foot mountain in the center and the rest of the island sloping down to the sea, ending in most places as cliffs.  The mid-point of the island is mountain ranges and a caldera (from the oldest volcanic area).  The soil layer is fairly thin over black lava rock.  Throughout the entire island are walls, fountains, buildings constructed out of chunks of the rock crafted into puzzle pieces to form smooth even surfaces (as is shown in the top picture).

This building, in the town of El Paso, mid-point on the island, is typically canarian architecture.  Bright colors, white trim, and lots of small porches, railings, shutters, and other ornaments.  The fountain is in the town square.

On La Palma, we stayed at the H10 Costa Salinas in Los Cancajos.  The main tourist area on the east coast of La Palma is between the airport and Santa Cruz de la Palma (the capital).  The entire island is only 70 miles long and 30 miles wide but has a 5,000 foot peak in the middle.  One road bisects the island (through El Paso) while most of the roads snake along the cliffs on the edge.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 3: Tazacorte

Tazacorte is on the west (and warmer) coast of La Palma.  It was only about a 45 minute drive from the east coast area where we were staying, but very different from Los Cancajos and the terrain of the east coast.  It is partially blocked from the trade winds by a mountain range, so is warmer and sunnier.  This area (the puerto) in Tazacorte is the main port area and was the original area where  Spanish explorers landed.  The deeper port is now replaced by a much shallower beach/swim area and is the main tourism area for the western coast.  There were lots of options for lodging, although more condos and guest houses than big hotels.  Here's a webcam from the Atlantis, one of the hotels.  Outside of this area, was a charming city (the pueblo), and the rest of the land (85%) was cultivated with banana growing.  It was really amazing how every available piece of land had banana trees.  More shots from the Atlantis site, show the terrain and banana trees.  Some of them were in structures with plastic and frames that formed a temporary greenhouse.  If you look at satellite shots on Google Earth of La Palma, you will see large areas of land that appear white.  These are the banana plots.
Both of these shots are HDR with the saturation turned up slightly to really bring out the colors on the beach and of the buildings.

Day 4: Nogales and the Northeast Coast

These two shots were taken along the northeast coast.  The first is at a roadside vista point with a sculpture to honor those making the highway (I think).  There was no notation of who the artist was.  
The second is a view of Nogales Beach.  One of our guidebooks noted that Nogales Beach was a "short and easy" walk from the parking lot.  After driving down quite a highway snaking along the cliff, we arrived at a parking lot that offered a beautiful view and a trailhead.  30 minutes later after climbing down 276 steps and a series of ramps we arrived on the beach.  The view was beautiful and the beach was almost deserted.  The sand, like most of the island was black sand.
Both of these shots are infrared, shot with the Olympus.  As you can see, the day was overcast, so it made photography challenging, but with interesting sky at least.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 5: Tip of the Island - Fuencaliente

First photo, Abandoned Faro, the old lighthouse at the southern tip of the island.  The second photo is of the salt paddies, adjacent to the lighthouses.
The southern tip of La Palma, in contrast to the northern tip is quite dry and almost desert.  In the mid-eighties, there was a sudden volcanic eruption that spilled lava over about 1/3 of the southern part of the island.  Now, the area has been rebuilt and farmers are growing crops, including grapes for wine, out of the shallow dirt on the hillsides.
We traveled down to this area to photograph the lighthouses, but were quite surprised to fine the sea salt "production" in these salt paddies.  Sea water is pumped up from the water below.  The whole area is on steep cliffs.  These shallow pools are carved out of the black lava rock.  When the water evaporates, the salt is "harvested" into piles and more sea water is pumped back in.  Then, two elderly gentlemen in blue jumpsuits and rubber boots collect the salt and take it into a little shack within the area.  There, they bag it.  They advertise that the sell the salt and we bought some (at only a euro for a bottle of it), but the two gentlemen have to stop their work to sell to the tourists.  Quite an incredible find that doesn't appear to be in any of the guidebooks or advertised.
For every 1000 grams of sea water, only 35 g of sea salt is produced.  It's constituent minerals vary by location, but may include calcium, sodium, iodine, and other mineral chlorides.
Both of these shots were taken with a Nikon D70 - no HDR or any special processing.  The light and sky were perfect for photography that day.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Day 6: Hanging Out in Los Cancajos

Infrared view of Los Cancajos on the bottom and color at the top from a cliffside path looking northward.  Los Cancajos is La Palma's eastside tourist lodging center.  Here's the Trip Advisor guide to lodging.  Most of the eastside hotels, condos, and aparthotels were located in this area.  It's about a five minute drive from the airport.  The area is carved into the hillside, so has steep streets and offers dramatic views of the ocean eastward.  Further north up the shore (and in the distance in the color shot) is Santa Cruz de la Palma, the capital.  Many of the people staying in our hotel walked into Santa Cruz, but we chose to drive.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 7: Hiking the Caldera

Forest PathCaldera de Taburiente National Park:
In the middle of the island of La Palma is a national park that is comprised of the caldera left over from a volcano from.  A caldera is a depression left when the volcano "collapses" on itself.  Much of Yellowstone is a caldera.  The area is now completely forested reflecting how long it's been since the volcano erupted (unlike the lower end of the island that has fresh lava exposed everywhere).  
The top picture, A Dandy[lion] View looks southeast into the valley near El Paso  The clouds move in from the east to the west with the trade winds.  This creates dramatic landscapes from up high on the mountain, looking into the valley to see the clouds creeping across.  As the day went on, this view was almost completely obscured.   This shot is HDR. 
The second photo, Forest Path, shows hikers on a path ahead of us.  This trail was labeled as "easy", but that was by European rather than American standards.  It took us 2 hours and wound down into the caldera, along a narrow ridge, and then up a steep cliff by switchbacks at the end when we were already tired.   This shot is infrared, by instead of being with my Olympus 2000 Zoom (see below), is with my Nikon D70.  I was lucky that it was fairly light, so was able to capture the scene with a fairly low shutter speed.   

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Day 8: Adios Espana

For the grand finale of our trip, we finished with a night in Madrid (prior to flying out the next morning).  We stayed at Room-Mate Mario, on Calle Camponmanes (view from the room in the top picture above) in Old Madrid, a few blocks from the Opera and the Palacio Real (Royal Palace).  We found the Room-Mate chain to work out quite well.  They are well located, relatively inexpensive for Madrid at about $150 per night (breakfast included).  The rooms are small, but well appointed and with modern (aka funky) decoration.  The breakfast area was a bit odd with bright green walls and space age transparent plastic chairs.  A bit hard on the eyes before caffeine.
We dined al fresco in Plaza Mayor (second picture above).  It was warm for a winter night (about 60 degrees) which made the Madrid residents flee inside for warmth and only tourists who were escaping the winter cold from home ate outside.   Plaza Mayor was built in 1617 and is now mostly residential the first floor and above and with stores and restaurants on the ground floor.  In the past it has been used for bull fights, public meetings and executions during the Spanish Inquisition.  See some shots from our previous trip when the courtyard was filled with booths selling christmas items.
Both of these night shots were taken with the camera hand held (due to previously mentioned tripod issues), using the automatic night-time settings on the Nikon D70.  PS 3 was used with the raw images to clean up some of the noise and adjust the white balance a bit.    

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Same Building, Different Techniques

Both of these shots are of Trinity Church in Boston.  The first in infrared and the second in HDR.  Both shots done within a few minutes of each other, but with very different look and impact.  I think the infrared gives a timeless sense to the scene with just a hint of the current day by the context of the surrounding buildings.  The HDR version appears magical with the reflection of sky in the windows giving it a semi-transparent look.  The HDR is shot with a wide angle lens, so the buildings beside it appear to be curving inward.  Also note how the clouds and sky look different in the two shots.

Monday, February 4, 2008

There Will Be No Super Bowl Parade in Boston

Falling Out
Everything is bit topsy turvy here in Boston.  They are calling it the biggest upset in history-- or maybe they are just really upset.  I'm in town for CROI and thought I'd be photographing a Super Bowl celebration parade, but I guess not.  I'm glad I got these shots of skateboarders in Copley Square today before the depression set in.  They were literally doing back flips in anticipation.  Once the game started, the streets were deserted, the restaurants were empty.  I'm anticipating a lot of depressed people tomorrow.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Here's to Normal Light (well, mostly normal)

    These two shots were taken at the same time as the infrared below, but with color digital photography (a Nikon D70).  The first is a regular shot and the second is the same shot, but processed in HDR (high dynamic range).  There's a good discussion on HDR here on Wiki, but basically the idea is to correct for lighting challenges.  For example, without bringing lighting with you, there are going to be areas in the picture too dark to see detail and if you expose for your main subject, the sky will likely be washed out.   For true HDR, you need patience and a tripod.  Take one picture with the appropriate exposure, one or two under-exposed 1-2 F stops, and one or two over-exposed by 1-2 F stops.  Then process them in Photoshop or even easier with Photomatix.   There's free trial software at their website to play with.  It leaves a watermark until you pay for it, but you'll get the idea.  Faux HDR is done (the bottom shot) by processing the raw image so Photomatix does all the work of creating the other exposures.  With experience, you can fine tune it to your preference.  On a Mac, it's super easy-- just open the raw image in Photomatix.  On a PC, you need to first create and save under and over exposed images in Photoshop first when you open as a raw image and then load them into Photomatix as if they were separate shots.
These two groups on Flickr have more examples:  HDR and HDR from A Single Raw

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Here's to Invisible Light

Here's my most recent upload of a picture that showcases the advantages of what can be highlighted in a scene using infrared photography.
"Growing Storm" There was a nor'easter heading this way with a dramatic sky, so it was a must shoot day.
This shot demonstrates the high contrast between white clouds and a dark sky, the shades of black/gray from bark, and the bright white of leaves. Cement and stone is mostly unchanged with IR, but it ends up having a very smooth texture compared to the high contrasts and textures of the rest. The lawn in the background which still has grass despite it being winter looks like snow but it's just grass.
More later, on how to do IR photography, including what equipment, how to shoot, and how to post-process.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Greetings from the Worlds of Visible and Invisible Light

This first blog is my jump to the blogosphere from living in the virtual world primarily on Flickr.  I have previously only been known as Cocoabiscuit .  Visit my page there to see that alternative universe.  My plan for this is to feed my new photos in here as I post them, especially with a bit more of commentary to go with them.  I'm especially interested in near-infrared photography, so the future will hopefully include some tutorials on how to do it.  My other interest is in playing around with HDR work, so hopefully we'll have some fun with that as well.  Looking forward to the experience.