Washington, 24 September 2021 Another Photo of Opportunity, really another Artsy Snapshot (see last week!) from a couple of days ago when we awoke to an early morning with the creamist blue light and this amazing full rainbow, with a faint double above it. A three panel stitched panorama to get it all in, even shooting with the wide 25mm Zeiss lens. I'm not sure it's Great Art, but it was a very happy moment, and the photo reminds me.
It's definately fall, with a huge break in the weather, bright, but cool, especially in comparison with the very hot summer. I'm crazy busy these days, what with the boat, boat club politics, and, of course, the overhead of life itself. Then there's photography...
Washington DC, 17 September 2021 Another busy week, though not in photography. In terms of capturing images it's been hazy, or raining, so I haven't ventured out with the big cameras. However, I do shoot images of opportunity with my phone, and the image above is one of those, from yesterday morning. Kind of an artsy snapshot... We get a lot of debris in the river, and some of it, like this log, can be pretty big. Fortunately not big enough to be a serious hazard to navigation! Last winter we had a complete twenty five foot tree floating in the fairway between a couple of our docks.
Untitled Washington DC, 12 September 2021 We've migrated... We'll be travelling back and forth between DC and Gloucester, as always, but we're anchored here for the season. The preparations we starting making a few days before to pack and prepare for the trip reminded me of Ursula K. Le Guin's wonderful story The Seasons of the Ansarac where she describes the imperatives of an annual migration on a sentient and civilized people.
One of the things waiting for me in Washington was a large package from Danny Chau in Hong Kong containing three big prints of this Washington Waterfront, two from early on in the construction of the Wharf development and the much more recent one which I posted earlier in the year in my blog post of 12 February 2021. Even at twelve inches high instead of my normal twenty four inches this image is ten feet long. As I said earlier it would need a big wall to hang! But it looks beautiful, and I'm very happy with it.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 3 September 2021 It's not about the technology, but the technology matters and cannot be denied, because, after all, it's what we use to make our art. Just as paint artists cared deaply about their recipes for paint, and the chemical photographer cared deeply about (say) their Tri-X film and D-76 developer, digital photographers care about their computers and monitors. I've been in a period of transition... Not extreme, and not necessarily obvious, but real and with some pitfalls, hopefully avoided!
First, earlier in the summer I found a replacement for the 24 inch NEC monitor I've been using in Gloucester. My 27 inch NEC monitor on the boat is crisp and clean, with neutral color and open shadows. Not this one! So, when I've been in Gloucester's wonderful computer resource, MacDaddy Computers I've been looking for a monitor in their used corner. What I came up with was the ancient Apple Cinema Display pictured above. The transparent stand harks back to a different era, the screen is a little smaller than the 27 inch NEC, and the power supply is big and clunky enough to bean an intruder. But, the price was right, and it's crisp and clean, with neutral color and open shadows. It's made working in Gloucester much easier.
Meanwhile the beloved FrankenMac was reaching it's limits. I'd filled up the second internal disk drive with photos, and while there was room on on the first drive, the first drive portable backup would need to be replaced. Easy enough, but since the last major round of upgrades eight terrabyte solid state drives have come on the market. Not cheap, but the price spread between one and a new four terrabyte drive, which I would haved needed to continue to use the machine in it's then present configuration, wasn't that large. So... Onward! But, installing the new 8TB drive and reinstalling an optical drive stressed the poor old Frankenmac beyond its limit. It worked, but not as well as it should. It had acquired some odd color glitches...
But, this is America! "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping." A bit over $200 on eBay got me a replacement computer, the same exact (or nearly the same exact) model as the one I had, the same age, at ten years (which is like a century in computer years) old, but much more lightly used. I will admit I beat my cameras and computers up pretty badly. Some days of electronic surgery and nervy reverse backup have got me the computer I want. And, as a bonus, the screen is better than the old one, crisp and clean, with neutral color. Probably not open shadows, which is a bit much to ask of a twisted nematic screen, but it looks a lot better. The FrankenMac is dead! (Well, retired...) Long live the FrankenMac!
The World is Getting Redder, by Katy Doughty on
Gloucester, MA, 27 August 2021 So, red... The image is from and a link to a page on The Nib, an online comics site and (more or less) quarterly magazine I subscribe to. I recomend clicking through and reading it, as it gives a sense of the multifaceted things that light and color are. I talk a bit about the physics on my page on infrared, but this goes into the historical, social and economic aspects of it, and hints at thoughts about the meaning of the color red.
Red is the closest visible light to infrared on the spectrum, and the very last color available to photography. Early film was sensitive only to blue light, and it wasn't until forty years into the history of the medium that the German chemist Hermann Wilhelm Vogel discovered that by adding dyes to photographic emulsions one could extend the sensitivity of film to green, then red, and even the near infrared I use so much. It changed photography. On the good side, better color rendition to black and white, and, in the goodness of time and the efforts of generations of chemists and engineers, color film. On the bad side... Well, I'm not sure I'd call this bad, exactly, but it made designing and building first rate lenses much harder. Relatively easy to design a lens that will give sharp focus in a single color. Making one that will bring all three primary colors into focus at the same point is more difficult and the early successes are part of the epic of photographic progress.
So, red... A great color. One of the things in the comic is a discussion of the language of color, from the point of view of an English speaker. A grace note is that early English didn't distinguish between blue and green. Interesting, as I once spoke a language (when I left Saigon after two years in 1999 I was moderately fluent in Vietnamese) that still doesn't make that distinction. If you wanted to be that specific you had to say "blue/green like the sky" or "blue/green like the grass". So much of this is weirdly social...
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 20 August 2021 It was meant to be part of a very wide stitched panorama, but that panorama didn't stitch very well, so I'll move on and use the image on it's own.
It's been a pretty choppy week. We've had guests, one tropical storm blew by, and another's on the way. The FrankenMac went in for upgrade, and it didn't go well... I have it back, and it's working but I have some big decisions to make since the disk with my photo history on it is now out of the computer. Miles to go, and a short post this time around.
Untitled (Waterfront Construction)
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 13 August 2021 I doubled back to Washingtion this week for the monthly General Membership Meeting of my boat club, only the second in-person meeting since the beginning of the Pandemic last year. I spent a good chunk of my time on the long train ride south (Monday) and the long train ride north (Wednesday) going through the pictures of the Washington Waterfront, the Wharf construction, and my boat club from 2014/2015, cataloguing, finding and building photos, and generally being confused in spite of keeping track of the photos with a spreadsheet. Here's something I found, another version of the photo below that has cause me so much grief. It was taken about two months earlier, so the hole isn't as deep, and the big "Wharf" sign is not yet up, but I think it's also a good photo that well documents the place and time.
The image above is the panorama as stitched together at the time, using the .jpgs as the source files and Hugin to assemble the image. At the time I'd not yet figured out how to process infrared images from the RAW (straight from the camera sensor) files, destaturating them and bumping up contrast to improve the look of the photo. I was also cropping the photos in Photoshop when all else was done. I don't remember if on can crop the output from within Hugin, but one can in the PTGui software I use now. This image has the rounded edges that are an artifact of the stitching process.
I'll have to redo this image from scratch, using what I've learned in the last six years and the better tools I've not got. No worries! I've had a lot of practice, and it generally goes pretty quickly.
Back to the Emerald Wetland
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 6 August 2021 I do go back to the same places to take photos, in part because the light and conditions change, in part because I think I might be able to do better... Maybe not as much better as I thought when I first looked at this version, but I do think it's better than the one I posted a month ago, a little more readable, a little more delicate, and definitely sharper and crisper, which will make a difference should I make a big enlargement of it.
But I do think I've done the Emerald Forest and its miniature wetland, at least for a while. I started working there last summer, so I've seen it through the seasons. If I'm in Gloucester in the fall I'll go back and see what I can make of that time of year, but I need to start going further afield again.
Untitled (Waterfront Construction)
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 30 July 2021 This is the color version of the infrared panorama I posted last week. No gaps... Well, the panorama parts here were shot with a 20mm wide angle lens, so there are only three frames, well overlapped, so it was a very easy stitch. I cropped this version down a bit to emphasize the construction site. The infrared version was made with a 100mm lens, and there are are something like twenty frames to deal with. The long lens makes for a final product with loads and loads of delicious detail, but also a complex photo to shoot and to stitch.
Honestly, I started working on the color image above when it occured to me that I might use a sliver of this image to patch the infrared version. Not a given... The frames were shot at the same time, from the same spot, exactly. But theres a big difference in the resolution between the images from the 100mm lens and the 20mm lens. Five to one! But, I thought I could get away with that since the gap is such a small sliver... But also, how to match everything up? In the process I learned how to extract the red channel from the photo. Not that complex, but like everything Photoshop so non-intuitive that it took me a couple of days of research and twiddly experiment to make it work. Red channel, because red light in closest in the visible spectrum to infrared, so I thought it would easiest to match. Still working on how to insert this imagery into the larger picture. PTGui won't do it automatically, but I have some hope I'll work it through. More news next week.
It's been another busy week, what with still working on my taxes (ugh!) (and an irritating and bottomless time sink) and a houseful of guests. That's been wonderful, but does take up time...
Untitled (Waterfront Construction)
Somewhere in New England, 23 July 2021 Just to reflect and honor the news reports from the Second World War where dispatches were often labeled "Somewhere in" the theater of operations to deny the enemy close grained intelligence should they be listening to the radio news, which they did, or read and analyzed copies of newspapers delivered to their missions in neutral countries, which they also did. Seriously, though, I'm on the move today, visiting with family, so "Somewhere in New England" isn't a bad description of my location.
It's been a busy week, mostly dealing with issues to do with my 2018 taxes, the year before Julee and I moved back to the United States. Not to go into detail, the details have been legion and critical and so I've spent many exhausting hours on them. I had "PHOTO" in big block letters on my proprietary and magical Four Day To-Do list and yesterday put aside the afternoon to work on my photography. I spent an hours long block of time working on a single day's infrared photos, specifically 21 March 2015. Julee and I were passing through Washington and it was a beautiful, sunny, very clear late winter day. I had the time and walked the 14th Street Bridge to Potomac Park opposite the Waterfront and the early stages of excavation for what would become the Wharf development, taking hundreds of pictures with both the color and infrared cameras, mostly in panorama sets, along the way. Hundreds... And I'll have to do something similar with the color pictures as soon as I set aside the time. And it's just one day's work...
As I've said in earlier posts I'm trying to bring order to my portfolio of photos of the Waterfront, and this was part of that effort. I'd done some stitching at the time, and it didn't go that well. It was before I'd learned to properly process infrared photos from the camera raw files, and before I'd made the jump to the PTGui panorama app, and long before I'd learned to crop and force exposure corrections inside PTGui, and also long before I learned to do fixes and patches with Photoshop. So, the images I have are pretty rough, though I think they have potential. The picture above is an example, complete with banding in the sky, and a blank stripe in the sky where a couple of the frames don't overlap, another aspect of the process that I've gotten a lot better at over the years.
This is quite fixable, so I have work to do, and work that needs to be done from the beginning with the camera RAW files. But first, I need to get a little bit further ahead on the catalogue of photos... And get my taxes squared away. As always, onwards!
P.S. Do we always see what we want to see? I was on the move yesterday (I'm writing this on the 24th) and scrambling to get my Friday post up on Friday while in transit, but still... The blank bit of the photo in the sky, where the adjacent photos don't overlap isn't the only part of the picture that has that problem, and the other bit is unfixable, as it's fairly wide and full of unrecorded detail. I'm really sad about the picture, because it's both a strong image and a good document of a particular moment. But I'm also very distressed that I honestly did not see the fatal error until I started to re-process that panorama with better tools this afternoon. It's a strong lesson, almost as sharp as getting my chemicals out of order when processing film back in the day...
Leaves, Old Brooklyn
Enroute, 16 July 2021 For the first time in well over a year I’m traveling up and down the East Coast myself and in public transport. I thought I be doing a lot of this during that time frame, but the pandemic….
During the last year Julee and I drove between DC and Gloucester a few times, sealed in our air conditioned metal box on wheels, carrying our own food, with furtive bathroom breaks, and one stop on New Jersey for fuel. This is quite different. I took the train to DC on Monday for boat work and the monthly General Membership Meeting of the boat club, then back through New York City for a visit with the Brooklyn family and some Museuming in Manhattan. It is different. Being in a long articulated tube with a whole community of strangers requires a mask regardless of vaccination status, and in stores or other venues I’m ready to whip mine on if the circumstances appear to warrant. New York City seems pretty quiet, and there is a lot of retail space for lease. I'm not at all sure there's a normal to get back to, at least not yet.
The photo is a new take on the wonderful front window in Brooklyn, taken during the day in infrared.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 9 July 2021 Another photo in my quest to do something special with water, transparency, and reflection. I took this one yesterday morning at the wetland side of the Emerald Forest around the corner from our house. I feel progress is being made... The photo is infrared, but this time I shot High Dynamic Range (HDR) triplets. That is, one shot two stops under exposed, one shot "correctly" exposed, one shot two stops over exposed. I've programmed my cameras to do this automatically when the mode dial is set to last position, so all I have to do is press the shutter button and the camera will take over. If one holds the camera steady enough (!) the images can be overlaid in software and will line up to make a single image with properly exposed and visible highlights and shadows and everything in between.
It's an occasional technique for me, and even more occasional with infrared since it's in the nature of infrared to compress the dynamic range so much that it has to be greatly expanded in Photoshop to make a crisp image, rather than compressed. There are exceptions though, and this is one. Here the HDR software (I currently use Aurora HDR) made it possible for me to bring out the reflections in the water without completely blowing out the infrared-whitened greenery.
Three Worlds, by M.C. Escher from Wikipedia. I've long (always?) been fascinated by the soft edges of reality, shadows, reflections, transparency, and outline. I think I picked up some of this tendency from Paul Klee and M.C. Escher. Klee, of course, was completely abstract, but he was working in the Germany that was putting together quantum mechanics, and I got the sense from his wonderful little canvases that he was showing us something real, but very, very small, and profound. The connection between my take on water and Escher's should be obvious from the picture here. I actually saw an original print of this image in the Vorpal Gallery in San Francisco in 1979. It's a great image reproduced at any scale, but Escher was also a master craftsman, and the lithograph itself is so clear and crisp it multiplies the effect. I think I stood in front of this one for a solid twenty minutes. It was only eight thousand dollars in that long ago time. The best investment one could have made, though it would have been hard to let go of. But of course eight grand was a lot more money then, and comfortably more than half of what I made that year. I haven't thought of this image in a while, but it's definitely been lurking in the depths of my mind.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2 July 2021 Back in New England for a bit. Nothing out of the last couple of weeks that seemed worthy for this post, so I reached back to the last sojorn in Gloucester and worked up one of the photos I took during Julee's and my walk through the Ravenswood Park and, most particularly, through the Magnolia Swamp. I definitely think there's something to this picture, but I think I may be having trouble with the issue of scale. Some pictures look better small, and some look better big. It's a rare picture, like Fewa Lake that looks good at any size. I have a suspicion that this is a picture that will look better bigger. Though it's not bad screen size... There is a small mystery here, in that one is not looking at the leaves directly, but through very clear water. That's the hint in the title. So, they float, a bit under the surface. The fact that this photo is infrared might give it a little more of that mysterious quality. I do look forward to seeing it bigger, if only on the large graphic arts monitor I have on the boat.
Untitled, (Washington Waterfront, 2014)
Washington DC, 25 June 2021 This is my 'hood, but the picture was taken nearly seven years ago, when the demolition of the old Waterfront had nearly reached the Capital Yacht Club. The old clubhouse is the wonderfully '70s mansard-roofed building close to the middle of the picture. A few days later on, we moved into out new docks further down the Washington Channel, and our temporary clubhouse in the bar of the old Channel Inn, a building that was preserved as swing space as Phase One of the Wharf Development was under construction, and demolished later.
The photo is an infrared panorama stitched together out of twenty individual photographs. I took and processed it when I knew a lot less about processing infrared photos than I do now. It was a couple of years later that I read the incomparable Image Clarity, which gave me the understanding needed to start with the raw image files and stretch the dynamic range out to make the photos cleaner, crisper, more full of light. I've not reprocesed this image in light of this knowledge, but I think it would look better if I did.
(By The Way, at $4.99 for an electronic Kindle copy, Image Clarity is a steal for any serious photographer.)
Why am I looking back at these old photos? Well, there is a business reason for me to have all the photos of my club, and the Waterfront/Wharf at my fingertips. I'm not the worst cataloguer, but hardly the best, so I'm having to go back to something like the beginning of the project and actually look through and list the photos on a spreadsheet, along with some analysis of what panoramas have already been assembled, what panoramas could be assembled, and how good the photos are, or might be with further work. I've often said I have the soul of a librarian, but dang! Doing this properly and thoroughly is a lot of work.
Washington DC, 21 June 2021 Today's Facebook Post:
I missed my Friday blog post (on www.lkj.online) completely, because I was here, twenty miles down the Potomac River at anchor opposite Mount Vernon in our boat the Mad Hatteras. Beautiful weather, and a great day on the water for the run down to the anchorage, and a lovely afternoon and evening and overnight on the water. It feels like a watershed moment. This is the first time in two years of ownership of this boat that we've been out purely for pleasure, and the first time the boat has been anchored since we acquired it. Suddenly it feels like not just a home, but a vehicle, something that can take us places...
The photo's of the view off the aft deck, captured with my phone. There's a lot going on, between the sunset, Old Glory, the Pride Flag, and the Tibetan Prayer Flags!
Washington DC, 11 June 2021 I've taken a lot of photos of this Waterfront over time, and a lot of pictures of the construction that transformed the old Waterfront into the new Wharf development. This one was captured in September 2014, just as our yacht club was about to be moved from the old spot, where we'd been since the first half of the 20th Century, and the old clubhouse, which we'd occupied since the early '70s.
This picture was actually published at the time. In no big venue, mind, but in the club newsletter along with an opinion piece I wrote about the future of the club on the eve of our move. To the left, our old docks. In the middle ground, Gangplank Marina docks, partially dissassembled and close to being broken up and taken away. Beyond, our new docks and our new home, though it was three years before the construction on land of the first phase of the Wharf was completed.
I was still fairly new to infrared at the time, and hadn't yet learned to work with the raw files to extract as much dynamic range as possible from the photo. I constructed this two row, eighteen frame stitched panorama from the compressed jpeg files, and, according to my notes, "brightened" it, presumably to crisp up the whites. Seven years ago, and a different world, both on the ground and in my work.
Washington DC, 4 June 2021 Last weekend we were in West Virginia, so of course there are now more pictures of nature in infrared...