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 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...
Magnolia Swamp Log
Washington DC, 28 May 2021 I'm a little late with the post today, though not as late as last week, when my Friday post went out on Saturday simply because I was travelling the day before. Today, it's a matter of equipment. I'm off the boat to clear the decks (as it were!) for a tradesperson who is working there this morning, and realizing that the processing of this photo really requires the use of the big monitor. The FrankenMac has a pre-retina twisted nematic screen which looks very good, but has issues for fine work. Notchy contrast, a very limited angle of best view, and a highly reflective surface. The last two tend to re-inforce each other, since when one has the screen adjusted to the most right angled viewing a good part of what one sees in most lights is one's own reflection. The big NEC monitor with it's matte surface, sweet contrast, and wonderful amenability to calibration is the way to go. Equipment does matter! It's not the only thing, or even the most important thing, but it matters.
In this case, the cloud at the bottom left hand corner was the brightest, whitest, part of the picture, though, interestingly, not over exposed. It drew the eye away from the center of the photo where I wanted the viewer's attention on the shallow depths of the clear swamp water and the infinite depths of the sky reflected in that water. Now, three hours or so after starting this entry, I'm back on the boat, in front of the big monitor, and have made the adjustments. Half a stop brighter exposure overall to make the picture lighter and more readable, then a small area of adjustment brush at two stops less exposure in the corner to darken those clouds to equivalent appearance to the other clouds in the photo, then, finally, two stops more exposure in a very small area at the edge of the corner to give some cohesive unity to that part of the picture. Once I could see the photo more clearly, it all went very fast, even though I had to look up the use (and even the name) of Photoshop's "adjustment brush". Googling "local contrast control photoshop raw" got me to the right page on the Adobe site! I've done this before, but not often enough to remember the specific drill.
Washington DC, 22 May 2021
Gloucester, Masschusetts, 14 May 2021 Ravenswood is a six hundred acre nature reserve and park a little way down Western Avenue/Route 127 on the way to Manchester, Salem, and points south, including Boston. Part of it is wetland with a waterlogged two plank path running through it, whence I took this infrared portraid of a clump of fiddlehead ferns. It was a good walk, lots of photos taken, and a great deal of post processing yet to come. I do find myself drawn to the damp places with a little standing water for the plants pushing through, the leaves and branches under the water, and the reflections, though those are hard to bring out in the finished photograph.
I'm sleepy this afternoon, feeling the back and forth of my own northeast shuttle between Gloucester and Washington DC. I've been up three times in the last six weeks, twice for my Covid vaccinations here while living there and now for bit of a stay with Julee. The last week has been all about U.S. and DC income taxes, alluded to below. Mailed off this morning. Next year should be a little simpler... Meanwhile, nap!
Washington DC, 7 May 2021 It is that time of year, delayed by a month in this Time of Plague. So, most of my energy there has been there this week, rather than on photography. Our taxes get simpler over time (no more foreign earned income!) but they're still complex. The big photo monitor helps a lot, since I can have multiple documents up at a time... Two pair of task glasses, the ones in front for the distance to my laptop screen and the big black ones, with real glass lenses to eliminate chromatic aberration, for critical work at the slightly longer distance to the big monitor. Aging is problematic...
Oil and Water
Washingtion DC, 30 April 2021 It's a Change of Seasons in so many ways. Here in Washington we're into what I tend to call "High Spring", that late spring/early summer period when the trees and foliage have fully leafed out, are green, green, a kind of fresh deep green, that seems to me to show a kind of vegetable power, an advance through time, if not across space. They're lush and full, and obviously getting still more lush and full, and it's now definitely warm, with days in the seventies and no further need for the electric heaters that have taken the edge off the cold during the last months. They'll be gathered up and taken to storage. Today I'm likely to blow out the pump that supplies cool river water to the air conditioning units, and test them for the need in the not too distant future.
And, boating season officially opens on Sunday. An arbitrary date, but a milestone that our club will mark with appropriate Fancy Yacht Club ceremony, summer uniforms for the officers and past officers of the club (this includes me!) and white trowsers and blazers for the yachters who attend. A bit on the theatrical side, but if one is going to have a yacht club, one should go all out for the traditional get-ups once or twice a year.
And... I got my second dose of Covid vaccine a week ago last Wednesday, meaning I'm very close to being as protected as possible from this modern plague, and, finally! I'm one of many. We're hardly out of the woods yet, and there are places -- big places -- on the planet where the news is still very bad indeed. But here we've administered scores of millions of vaccines, case loads are going down in much of the U.S., and very noticeably in Washington DC. Unlike some jurisdictions we've been cautious, but even here restrictions are begining to ease, and we're able to be more social (not just outdoors on the docks) with our friends.
So, A New Season on many levels. I'm beginning to think of taking to the field with my cameras again, and, perhaps more important, seeing what I can do to get the work out there. The commercial world of art has gone in some crazy directions in the last bit. Where the devil does a deeply traditional person like me, who wants to see his physical art (in the form of beautiful prints) fly off of his, or a gallery's, walls, and onto the walls of a buyer make of the increasingly virtual world of Non-Fungible Tokens, and things like that? How should I plot the next year as things start to open up?
Of course, this week's photo has nothing to do with any of that! It is, literally, oil on water, captured yesterday with my phone when I was walking along the dock to the gate of the Capital Yacht Club. It's not as bad as it looks... When oil or fuel spreads on water it spreads out, and out, until the sheen is only a couple of molecules thick, And, then odd refractions happen, which is what makes the colors and patterns so interesting. This sheen of oil, or possibly diesel, covered a couple of hundred square feet of water, but I doubt it was more than a tablespoon or two of spill. Also, since it's an abstracted photo anyway, I didn't feel any compunction about tweaking the heck out of it, bumping up the the contrast to make the pattern much more vivid. I didn't have to do anything to the colors! Those are real.
Yellow Flag Irises, Emerald Forest Wetland
In Transit, 23 April 2021 I feel I should walk back my statement from last week. But, while it's been very cold (and colder still in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where I spent a good chunk of the week) it's still spring. This week's photo, an infrared panorama taken in the Emerald Forest, that little patch of urban wild near the homestead in Gloucester, shows the shoots of flowering plants poking through the water of the damp part. My neighbor tells me they're Yellow Flag Irises. With a bit of disapproval, since they're an invasive species. Maybe the next time I get there with my cameras there will the proof of flowers.
What was I doing making a lightning trip to Gloucester for the second time in two weeks during a pandemic? Well, that's actually relevant. I went up for my vaccinations, since got an early offer for shots up there. I'm now through with the series, and waiting for my immune system to finish beefing up and the soreness in my arm to subside. I'm looking forward to travelling more for my photography.
Skeletal Building, Deale
Washington DC, 16 April 2021 Spring is definitely with us, with the green, green foliage showing as white in my infrared photos. I took this picture in Deale, Maryland last Wednesday, when I was out that way visiting the big boatyard across Tracys and Rockhold Creeks from where this picture was taken. I've now had my first dose of vaccine, and for the first time in a year or so I am not just carrying my cameras but agressively prepared and planning to stop for photo sessions along the way on my perambulations for ordinary business. I took the long way from Tracy's Landing, and stopped at some open woods to see if I could get a sense of the Mid-Atlantic forest into my camera. I'm still working on those, and may post one next week. This (former?) building was across the road, and I took a number of frames and panoramas (as almost always to make up for not carrying or switching to a wider lens) of it. So far this is my favorite, in spite of the boatyard visible to the right. I kind of wish I'd been able to throw a tarp with an image of infrared trees and sky over the whole thing. Many things might be possible. Ansel Adams is rumored to have painted all the rocks in Yosemite Valley Zone V middle gray...
Cherry Trees, Potomac Park
Washington DC, 9 April 2021 A little bit past peak bloom, just exactly a week ago, and almost directly across the Washington Channel from where our boat is moored. A pretty place to live! It's a three frame panorama, to the get the whole group of trees into the picture. I went over in my dinghy to take advantage of of the bright clear day and re-do the Wharf panorama of 12 February at a slightly moved advanced stage of construction, and using a wider lens for more sky and more foreground water. This photo was a welcome target of opportunity.
The work is beginning to pick up again. I've just had a period when I wasn't shooting much, and was posting older photos here to make up for the lack. This feels good! And, on Wednesday, I had a really good shot out in Deale, Maryland, which I will probably post next week.
Washington DC, 2 April 2021 It's Washington's Cherry Blossum Season again... It's oddly emotional. This time last year that I'd just gotten off the boat I'd helped deliver up the Intra-Coastal Waterway from Jacksonville, the petals were beginning to drop and the Pandemic had really taken hold of our national conciousness. It's been a wild year...
This photo is from last year, a shot grabbed on the go in our marina with my phone, and cropped down to concentrate on the graphic qualities of the boat hull and the petals floating in the shadow of boat. Today as well we're a past peak bloom, and the cherry trees are beginning to leaf out.
Wshington DC, 26 March 2021 So, I found myself having to make a lightning trip to Gloucester the first days of this week. I had to ferry stuff there, I had to ferry stuff back and along the way north I dropped the boxes of prints (see below!) off in New Jersey to be frozen. -18°F for two to three weeks should give even the hardiest silverfish some pause. Drove up on Monday, and returned on Wednesday, simply because two eight hour days on Interstate 95 by myself and back to back was a bit much.
On Tuesday I puttered around the house, and did things like paying off the fine from a speed trap in Silver Spring, Maryland. Also, my favorite ice cream parlor had just mixed up a batch of my favorite flavor (Holy Cow, and Millionaire Shortbread, for the curious) so I took an afternoon walk to mail the check and pick up dinner. Once out the front door I noted the graphic quality of the stone wall at the cemetery across the street, and hurried back to grab my big cameras. The cemetery pics were okay, but walking back I skirted the edge of the Emerald Forest, on the other side, abutting Maplewood Avenue. There is a little wetland in there, completely hidden in the other three seasons by leafy underbrush. Of course I did the right thing and waded into the brown wintry tangle of dormant plants and took pictures. I'm very happy with a couple of them. This one, of course, a three frame infrared panorama of the pool itself, and a vertical panorama showing the pool in context that I'm posting to my Facebook page. I'm amazed and delighted that there is so much wild variation in this miniature forest that occupies the space of a small block in the middle of a city.
Low Tide Beach Sand
Washington DC, 21 March 2021 A photo from the magic day on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester last October. The light was amazing and the tide low, low. This is the inrared version of this shot. I have a very similar photo in color and I played with it for a bit some weeks ago to see if I could match the impact of this one. Rendered into black and white it was quite striking, but not quite as striking as the infrared version.
I'm a couple of days late with my Friday post this week... My life has gotten very busy and I'm beginning to feel my calendar is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. "Now, where is this task going to fit?" Photography is far from my least important activity, but this winter it's been less time sensitive than some other things. I am headed up to New Jersey tomorrow with my boxes of big prints -- wrapped in plastic to be completely sealed up -- where a dear person has lent me a corner of a commercial freezer, where they will sit for a bit, hopefully doing in any surviving silverfish. Then, the boxes, will have to come back, and be opened one by one, the photos unrolled and brushed clean, tissue paper discarded and replaced, the boxes themselves vacuumed out and corners lightly dusted with diatomaceous earth... And then re-rolled and repacked. Unpacking and repacking is a truly nervy process, because the print surfaces are so delicate. Nothing for it though. I'd love to keep them flat, but no one but a museum or a really big commercial gallery has the room for that. Or the budget for the huge print cabinets I'd need...
The Emerald Forest in Winter
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 12 March 2021 Tail end of winter now, and the Emerald Forest looks quite different than it did in the lush days of last summer, as documented in my blog post at the end of July. This photo is a lot wider than that photo, mostly to show how transparent the site is without the full foliage of the trees and underbrush, but I took it from close to the same vantage point, and you can see the same trees to the right of the frame. It's a 180° panorama stitched up from five frames taken with my cell phone. I don't have great pretensions for this photo, but I am interested in documenting the huge seasonal difference in this very small patch of land.
We're coming up on the end of winter here in Gloucester, north of Boston. Down in Washington DC I think the season may already be over, with temperatures this week above 70°F. I'm hoping for spring, in every sense, and soon!
Washington DC, 5 March 2021 It could be art, I suppose, but that wasn't the intention. It's as clear a scan as I could make of one of the Post-It labels I had on the back of one of the big prints, rolled up in the Hahnemühle paper boxes where they live between showings. It looked horrifyingly like insect damage to me, especially with some of the tissue paper used to protect the surfaces of the prints also showing holes. So far (and hoping!) I've seen no damage on the actual prints. I figured I might need some expert advice, so I scanned the label at as high a resolution as I could, against a black leatheret sheet to keep the image of the yellow paper as clear as possible, and sent the image off to a friend who works in conservation in one of the big New York museums. Some time later I got the diagnosis of silverfish . Hm... So, I'm in the middle of thinking this through, consulting with my printer, and plotting on what looks to be a very big conservation project. More on this going forward!
Washington DC, 26 February 2021 About timing! This is a photo I took on the coast of Normandy a little less than four years ago at the Pointe Du Hoc. This was a German artillery strong point, ideally situated... There is a lot of history to it so it's a big part of the tourist circuit of the Normandy battlefield. Also the views are really good, which is why the Germans were building gun emplacements there in the first place.
On the timing... I have a series of three photos. The first shows the child coming up the steps to this gun turntable. The second is this one, and by the third the child is out of frame. The timing trick is that I lowered the camera as the family approached, and as I did the child did something extraordinarily photogenic, running to the post in the middle of the mandala, leaping on it, balancing for a moment on one foot like a happy little bronze statue in the middle of the atrium of a Florentine palazzo. Only for a moment! In the second or so it took for me to get my camera back to my eye the child had lept off and was running to the left, as captured here. I still think it's a good, surreal, infrared photo, but mourn missing the more decisive moment.
Wetland and Sky, Eastern Shore
Washington DC, 19 February 2021 I'm having a little trouble gathering the week together in my thoughts. Julee needed to get away (she's the managerial Queen of Zoom and works very hard) so we gratefully accepted the loan of a cottage on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake and took enough books, food, and food for thought to keep us going for a few days. Holidays during the pandemic are a different thing. No crowds, no bars, no restaurants, and minimal shopping... A change of scene, but as self contained as possible.
So, what did I do? I did a fair bit of photography. A change of scene is always good for that, and the scene on Hooper's Island and the surrounding area is pretty good! I'm beginning to get a bit of familiarity and a real affection for the wet Eastern lowlands of the United States. The photo above is a sort of day-for-night infrared shot I got on the way home on Wednesday. (We left a bit early to beat the winter storm to our boat here in DC.)
And I read, flipping between medieval history (history is my equivalent of a trashy novel) and a couple of books on photography. I admit I've given up on From Oz to Kansas. I've learned a lot from it, but it's really dense and obscure, and I'm not sure I really trust the author. Some of what I've learned comes from my saying "Is that really true?" and going out onto the internet and digging until I figure out that, no, at least not in the way implied. So, thanks the author, but perhaps time to move on. I found a book hiding on my iPad which is turning out to be really useful, Black and White Photography, The Timeless Art of Monochrome by Michael Freeman. Interesting that I had it, as it seems to be a fairly close reworking of his The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography, which I had on my bookshelf, and had read into a bit. I think the digital version is actually more useful, because, while it is also illustrated, there are fewer pictures and they're more focused on the lessons of the text. I'm finding it very helpful.
And, the last morning I was in the cottage I took a close look at my visible light camera, the Canon R, and its manual, which I also have on my iPad. This camera has been giving me fits, to be Victorian about it. I've now reminded myself how to lock the controls, so I don't reset things on the fly by brushing against the touch screen on the back of the camera. Then, the automatic focus, which was refusing to work some two thirds of the time. After some work, it became clear to me that it wasn't the camera, but the auto/manual focus button on the lens, quickly confirmed by beta swapping the lens with the (identical) lens on my infrared camera. These 40mm F2.8 lenses are very sharp, but not very expensive, so an order went out for a new one yesterday. It's not about the equipment, but the equipment matters, and if it's not working right it matters in the wrong way.
The Wharf, Phase 1.5
Washington DC, 12 February 2021 I haven't studied photographic technique as much as I'd intended, but I have been out a bit and done photography. It wasn't quite so much that the spirit moved me as it laid some guilt on me. A week ago yesterday was a really beautiful day. Quite cold, but blue and clear. The inner voice niggled me about not wasting light like that, even if the I didn't feel strongly moved... I've let a number of moments like that pass over the last couple of months, but this time I took the complete photo kit and drove across the Washington Channel to East Potomac Park and captured the images for a series of of panoramas of the Waterfront and the Wharf Development as it existed that day. I think the image above is the highlight of the session, and I'm really happy that I listened to the cricket. This is my neighborhood! The Wharf development is two thirds built (Phase One) and the construction site front and center is the final third (Phase Two). You can actually see the boat that Julee and I live on, though I'm not going to point it out.
Technically a stretch though! The panorama is nineteen frames wide, and wraps around a bit over 180˚. My go-to panorama stitching program is PTGui, which generally works very well, and is very intuitive for me. This panorama blew up in that program, and got thoroughly scrambled. And, every time I ran it, it scrambled differently... So, I restarted the whole process with another program, Autopano, which has a reputation for dealing with big panoramas. To my surprise it stitched up well on the first run, though the resulting image was bowed. I find the Autopano interface difficult, and I couldn't figure out how to unbow the image in the program, a click and drag action in PTGui. I thought to find the program manual online, only to discover the software publisher closed their doors a couple of years ago, or, rather, had their doors closed for them by the parent company, apparently just after I bought my copy... So no support! I saved the image, then figured out how to unbow the image in Photoshop. Better, but a bit more work needed. I put aside yesterday afternoon for that work.
Detail For the second go around I used a double row of images, as I'd shifted the pitch of the camera between the first set and the second because I thought I might be cutting off the top of the cranes. This way I could get more sky at the top, and more water at the bottom, and I thought that Gigapano would handle the double row, which it did without a hicup. In fact the stitching went really smoothly, and I figured out some of the obscurities of the interface along the way. No Photoshop needed except for cropping. Gigapano even smoothed out the exposure across the picture and corrected for vignetting, without being asked.
I post my photos at greatly (sometimes hugely) reduced resolution. A couple of reasons. First, the full resolution files are enormous, particularly for a large image like this one. The original TIFF file is two and a half gigabytes on disk... If I'd had storage like that on my first computer in 1985 I could have rented it out to a big data company with a mainframe. Really! Even today, if I posted images that size I'd being paying my web serving company a lot more than I'm paying them now for the priveledge of occupying so much more of their disk space, and this web site would choke the internet connection of most people looking at it. The other reason is that I don't watermark my images. My volume of sales isn't very big, but I do sell prints, and I don't want to be posting pictures sharp enough that they tempt someone to simply download them and take the files to the nearest print shop. This website and all of this content is copyright, of course, but I feel a little actual deterrence is also in order. But don't be fooled. The pictures are sharp, as you can see from the detail. Given how short and long the full panorama is... Well, if I printed it at my standard height of twenty four inches, the photo would be twenty feet long. And I think it would look very good. That's the natural habitat for a picture like this. It's hard to present on screen. Either it's very small (like here, and it will be minuscule on a smart phone screen) or you have to set it up so the viewer can scroll it. Neither is ideal or a complete view of the photo, though once I'd put it together I did look into what it would take to set it up as a scrolling image on this page. Not impossible, but more than I wanted to get into before this post!
Washington DC, 5 February 2021 Winter has come, though the weather remains very variable. I no longer have to go to previous years to post photos of wintry conditions as you can see from this photo I took at the Tidal Basin last Sunday after our day of snow on Saturday. A six frame panorama, in lieu of changing lenses, which in retrospect is rather odd, since I had the 25mm Zeiss wide angle in the bag over my shoulder, and I had to do quite of lot of masking in post production to get the branches to stitch together properly in the middle. Well, it was cold and I may have resisted juggling camera parts under those conditions. Or I may have just shot a bunch of overlapping photos as part of the picture capturing of the moment. That comes pretty naturally to me... It's bright and sunny today, and above freezing. Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog spokescreature, has predicted six more weeks of winter, which seems credible, though we're already in the race between getting colder and colder and the gradual addition of heat to the northen hemisphere as we travel away from the winter solstice.
I am still nibbling my way through From Oz to Kansas, below, though it gets very technical by page two or so. Versace started talking about something in Photoshop called "actions" which brought me up short, and lead me searching the web. They are recorded processes, that one can repeat. Don't we call them macros? Why does feel Adobe feel the need to confuse me by applying a new name to something that already exists as a fully understood and named concept in the IT world? I needed this knowledge, and it took me this long to get to because of the use of non-standard nomenclature. I also learned something fundamental about the Photoshop layers this last week. But enough of that! It's technical and quite wonky...
Washington DC, 29 January 2021 So! Starting out my study project, this week I'm reading From Oz to Kansas, which is about converting color images to black and white images. I do this all the time as I convert infrared photos (which have artifacts of visible light color in them) to black and white for consistency. But, I don't do any real processing, I just move the "saturation" slider all the way to the left when I'm processing the RAW files. I'm not unhappy with the results, although I wonder if I could do better.
Also, I do still have a crush on visible light black and white. Simple when I was shooting film, since the film itself was either fundamentally black and white (Tri-X) or color (Kodacolor or Kodachrome) while the vast perponderance of digital photo equipment is fundamentally color, and perhaps more to the point, the very file structure of a digital photo is color. One can convert, of course, and one does, and the premise of the book is that one can get superior results by working with the red, green, and blue color channels individually. Makes sense. In the film days one manipulated the colors reaching the film with filters, and the front end of making a photo. In digital, as in so much in contrast with film, there is an inversion, and one does the manipulation at the back end, in the complicated back alleys and cellers of Photoshop. More on this as I work through the book...
Work in Progress Work Space
Washington DC, 21 January 2021 It's been quite a ride. I think the last few weeks have been hard for all Americans, and for our friends worldwide, but Julee and I live about six blocks from the National Mall here in DC. We've had a particularly close experience of all the bruhaha. Exhausting!
Serious photo creation is still very much in the background of my conciousness, and may stay there for a bit while the distractions recede, the emotions settle, I get a sense of when and how much I can travel, a sense of when photo venues might become open, and so on. Thinking about it yesterday evening, and reflecting on the physical boat work I've been doing (the floodgates of focus on that opened on the day of the inauguaration) I thought that maybe it was time to step back from the art and work a bit on the technology and craft of photography. That's where my mind seems to be right now, so it would make sense to embrace it. So, I went through the boat and gathered the technical books and manuals together.
There they are on the corner of my workspace at the dinette of our boat. (When we moved aboard I set up a desk space in the main salon that Julee and I were going to share, but she's working from home now, so, properly, in full possession of that.) I'll start with one of these books, and go through it with my pencil in hand to take notes, studying it as I would an engine manual, or (back when I was a liberal arts type at university) an original book on political theory. There is still so much to learn, and a better understanding of technique will make me a better photographer, and speed and ease my work with camera and computer.
Washington Channel Dawn
Washington DC, 15 January 2021 Last June I started one of these posts with "It's hard to get away from the moment" and that's even more true now. Then, it was Covid and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Now, of course, we have Covid, and much worse than we had it in June. And, we have, ten times bigger than BLM, the insurection of 6 January. We didn't have a front row seat (prudence required that we kept our heads down!) but we live close enough to the Mall that we heard the amplified music played before the speeches and, of course, the sirens as belated re-inforcements began to come in. A terrible day, though the processes of elective democracy held in spite of the assault. That and the aftermath have sucked a great deal of the oxygen out of the room. I'm still functioning, but I find it more than usually easier to do the physical work of maintaining and upgrading the boat rather than the mind work of writing and photography. On top of the fact that the travel (even very local travel) that keeps me photographically fresh and engaged is more difficult and frought than ever.
We had a potential exposure to Covid on the 8th, so we were locked down even more than usual while awaiting our test results. I walked, but went to no stores, did not buy my hot chocolate at the Praline Bakery, didn't even visit the boat of a friend to return a couple of wrenches. We're negative, so that's over and we've returned to the level of masked caution we'd been observing before.
And yet I've continued to take photos and process them. The three frame panorama of the dawn and radiation fog on the Washington Channel was captured three days ago using my cellphone from the clubhouse. A target of opportunity. (The best camera is the one that's with you!) But also, yet another shot of the marina where we live. Here's to a better and broader 2021!
Good Harbor Beach
Washington DC, 8 January 2021 The last two or three days in Washington have been pretty heart wrenching, so I'll put that aside in this blog, which is (mostly) dedicated to photography. I took the panorama above at the end of November, in Gloucester, at Good Harbor Beach, which is the go-to walking beach on Cape Ann. The photos that make up this three frame panorama were taken at the end of November, the last time we were in Gloucester, and perhaps the last time we'll be there for a while.
CYC, December 2020
Washington DC, 1 January 2021 Happy New Year! The photo is a panorama of the marina where Julee and I live, stitched up out of four photos I took with my phone a couple of days ago, when we had wonderful afternoon light. At the end of December we're coming into the deepest part of Winter. Many of the boats are wrapped up, and we're all hunkered down, but so far it's been a mild winter. It's cold (and was actually colder when took the picture, in spite of the sunny skies) but not freezing, and we have no freezing in the ten day forcast.
So, the Best Wishes for all of us this year! Health, calm, and prosperity! I'll be working on my photography, getting my images to a wider audience, our boat, our house, and anything I can manage to make a better world. It's all a bit ambitious, but that seems to be called for these days...