Tidal Basin, Pre-Spring Day
Washington DC, 24 February 2020 Yesterday was warm, over sixty degrees Fahrenheit by my measure. (I keep a swimming pool thermometer tied to the rail of the boat to check air and water temperatures.) Unseasonably warm, but I think you could say that of our entire winter. Julee and I left the Wharf and walked around the Tidal Basin, and I took this photo from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. The trees of all kinds are beginning to bud out this last week of February.
Hong Kong From MacDonnel Road, HDR
Washington DC, 21 February 2020 This is the last of the three High Dynamic Range (HDR) images I'm happy with. Though, I'm not as happy with this one. I think it's a really striking image, and I like it, although I'm not usually in the typical HDR photographic world of exagerated colors. On that scale it's modest, but it's still on that scale. The problem is that it's also a stitched panorama (double technical!) and it contains a pretty bad mis-stitch on the round building with the pie section missing. It doesn't look round here, does it? And there are breaks in the lines of the brickwork. At the time I took and assembled it (2012) I was still fairly new with panoramas and didn't know how to fix it. It's still complex, since I should really recreate the HDR and the panorama in my newer, commercial, versions of the two applications, and see where it goes from there. One can often improve on even strong photos over time as one's skills improve, but I still think the last couple of photos are ready for prime time, while this one isn't.
The picture was taken from the roof of our apartment building on MacDonnell Road. I took a lot of pictures, in all seasons, all weathers, and all times of day from this spot.
Washington DC, 17 February 2020 Following on from last Friday's post, this is the other HDR image from Linda's that makes me happy. Now that I've pulled it and posted it, I note the it was actually taken the same day as the window picture below. A Good Day, photographically!
Washington DC, 14 February 2020 The furnace fan is repaired, and I've wended my way back down south. I broke up my trip with an overnight stay at my Aunt Linda's. She has a place in Brooklyn that is one of those amazing artist's spaces, built sometime long ago as a small factory and now reconfigured to house several families of varying degrees of intimacy. Some are tenants, in completely separate apartments, living separate lives, and some are actual family (though that can be complex!) living around the large space that was the old factory floor. It is small for a factory (tiny, actually, but a century ago a tiny factory in a U.S. city was a very viable economic unit) but it's huge for a living room, though, like all American homes, most of the family life takes place in the kitchen. I'm very lucky indeed to be welcome there.
I was lying in the sofa bed at one end of the living room, which is my spot there, and looking up at the street windows and I was reminded of the photo above, which I took of those very windows on another visit eight years ago. I was experimenting with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography at the time, looking for a way to deal with very contrasty photos, the shadowy abyss of a Hong Kong street between tall buildings, with bright blue sky visible above, for example. Here I was just playing/experimenting, but I like the results a lot. It's not "realistic" photography, but not all photography needs to be realistic, even for this disciple of Group F64. What really mattered to them (and to me) is that the processes used be inherently photographic, rather than painterly. And, as always with me, this image is straight from the camera, even if highly manipulated in terms of tones and colors. This picture was taken after midnight with a tripod for long exposures. The light comes from entirely from the street lights.
I just started to go off on an explanation of the process, but it gets highly technical rather quickly! At some point I'll write an HDR technical page to go along with my technical IR page and my prospective page on panoramas for anyone genuinely interested.
Danny Chau of Chau Digital in Hong Kong taught me the real solution to the shadows and bright light problem in digital (really counterintuitive to those of us brought up on film photography) so I didn't pursue HDR very long, but it has its own interesting aesthetic. And I find it interesting that two of the three HDR photos I'm really happy with were taken in this house, within a couple of days of each other. I think I'll post the other one on Monday...
Cemetary Grass, Gloucester
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 10 February 2020 So here I am, TCB. (Taking Care of Business, as Elvis used to say.) It turns out the house needs some immediate attention, not as an emergency, but to forestall the emergency. So, I'm making calls to local contractors today instead of waking up in Brooklyn as planned. It's winter, and has been dry, though it's raining today. Not hard. We had a few lonely flakes of snow yesterday afternoon. Yesterday morning was sunny, so I went out with my camera. I think this picture was the best from that stroll. It's simple, tending towards the abstract, but I think it works, at least to a degree... And, I like it because it's almost black and white, though it's absolutely a natural color photo, just as it came from the camera. And, I think it's an interesting companion piece to my other disordered grass photo, taken a couple of months ago on the other coast of the U.S.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 7 February 2020 A bit of a break from what I'm doing right at the moment. I found this picture while scrolling through the images searching for something else, and I think it's worth another look. I took it from Kellet Island in Hong Kong Harbour seven years back.
What I'm doing right now is Taking Care of Business in Gloucester. Came up yesterday by bus, scouting along the way for places along the tracks to return to for photographic safaris later on. Maybe not so later on. The trees in the roadside forest were bare and stark, and really beautiful in a dark and moody way on that dark and moody, wet and foggy, ride. I need to get out there fairly soon and be seriously landscapsical.
Washington DC, 3 February 2020 My view for much of the weekend, from behind the counter in the Martha Spak Gallery. At five o'clock I was a bit put out because no one had come to visit me, but a bit after five my friend Seung dropped in and we had a nice chat about the art. Seung has a good eye and a wonderful collection but she's filled her walls up and is very picky about any additions. It was in general a very quiet late winter day at The Wharf and quieter towards Close-Of-Business on Sunday, presumably because people were beginning to congregate at their Super Bowl party locations.
Washington DC, 1 February 2020 My schedule required me to post yesterday (Friday) but yesterday I was driving a big loop through Baltimore and Annapolis hunting for boat parts. (Successful trip!) This weekend I'll be babysitting the Martha Spak Gallery here at The Wharf while Martha is on travel. I'll open the doors at noon Saturday and Sunday, close between six and seven and would be delighted for visiters. As you can see it's tucked in between a wonderful bookstore and a spa on District Square.
Washington DC, 27 January 2020 While the Wharf Development is anything but shut down over the winter, it is very quiet in comparison to summer. The retailers tell me that January is a dead time of year for them, which makes sense as everyone is shopped out after the holidays. The restaurants are dealing with the double hit of less flush customers and the fact that much of their business is geared towards alfresco dining and drinking, and it's chilly. The Water Taxi (what the big shuttles plying the river between nearby points in the District, Virginia, and Maryland call themselves) is shut down for the season. So here we are, on a weekday morning with a single person walking down the seawall in front of the docks where I live. You'll note also that a good half of the boats have been cocooned in shrink wrap for the season. In heavy winter weather that covering makes taking care of the boat so much easier, but we've had hardly any heavy weather this season. There's still time of course... This shot is a nine frame stitched panorama embracing the wrap-around perspective such a shot will deliver.
Thin Ice, Capital Yacht Club The river has frozen this season, but, as you can see, not very much. A thin, thin, layer in the still protected head of my slip on an especially (but not very) cold night, and even this had melted away by noon. Our measure of freezing is when we see the ducks walking around on top of the water. I don't think this ice would have supported the weight of any bird bigger than a wren. We continue to watch the weather (forecasting has gotten so much better!) and note the incoming nights when the air temperature will get below freezing. I monitor the temperature of the water with a spa themometer. It's 41 degrees F this morning, at the end of January.
Ivanos and Bugatti by Edward Weston (from the Web)
Washington DC, 24 January 2020 A picture chosen for my day at the Washington Auto Show with my friend Scott. I find this a very odd photo. Not because it's not wonderful. It's beautiful, and a bit funny, all at once. It's odd because Weston was a great portraitist, but wasn't really in the habit of taking pictures of the wealthy and their possessions. The Bugatti was a millionaire's car, and the driver is definitely showing off his very pricy Leica camera. I've done a little digging on the internet, and found a little more about this. The driver is Paul Ivano, a Hollywood cinematographer, and the passenger is the actress Claudette Colbert. This doesn't make the photograph any less odd! I haven't found more of the story yet. Is it in the Daybooks of Edward Weston? I don't remember, and will have to check when I get the library unpacked.
The car is a Bugatti Type 35, a twitchy supercar that people raced in Formula 1 and which won the world championship in 1926, back in the day when the gulf between a serious race car and a reasonable street car wasn't so wide as to be absolute. A different world... I found the car show underwhelming. Lots of really good cars, all looking very much alike, and frankly boring. If I had the budget to buy one this year I would, and would be happy with it, but it wouldn't excite me. Perhaps I'm older, and have other things going on in my life (photography, boating!) but I think we're also at the tail end of the glory days of the automobile.
Le Bon Combat
Washington DC, 20 January 2020 I have a show in August! On Friday I signed an agreement with Martha Spak of the Martha Spak Gallery here at The Wharf to show my Haitian photos alongside the work of a Haitian painter. It will be interesting to curate such an installation, since the works will need to complement and strengthen each other, and contribure to a shared visual narrative. Early days yet on planning and plotting... As we get into it I'll post more. Meanwhile, a photo from my "Haiti Streets" gallery in way of introduction. (And there are more, and more recent, Haiti photos in "Port-au-Prince, December 2017". )
Reading Terminal Market
Washington DC, 17 January 2020 An interior panorama from last week's visit to Philadelphia. It's an iconic spot that has great memories for me, since it's across the street from the downtown convention center. I first went there years ago when I attended the annual WorldCon science fiction convention when it was held in Philadelphia. This photo is emblematic of many issues... It should have been underexposed a stop to reduce blown pixels at the bright lights everywhere. Not too much one can do to fix that. Even after masking and restitching numerous times there's still one area of mistitching, though that can probably be fixed by hand in Photoshop. Mainly, it could be a little wider top and bottom, and there's a slope down to the right, which both make it hard to make the best crop to a clean rectangle for display. Sigh! It's hard to pan across the scene in a level line. Easier outdoors, where I've learned to follow the horizon with the gridlines in my viewfinder. But indoors there is no horizon to follow and I was holding the camera above my head and composing in the hinged and swivelled outside finder. I should be taking pictures like this from a ladder, but that would require premeditation. This photograph may not progress beyond this intermediate stage of processing, and I may go back with a ladder and some extra equipment.
It does bring me to the next technical "About" page I want to write, on panoramic photography. That may take me a bit, because there is a lot of history there that I want to illustrate. Panoramic photography pre-dates digital photography by a century or so...
Rittenhouse Square, Winter
Washington DC, 13 January 2020 Well! I obviously don't have enough critical and difficult readers following this blog since I posted three blog enties in 2020 without updating the year from 2019 to no negative feedback whatsoever... Now fixed, along with the copyright date on the landing page. Happy New Year once again!
The photos above and below were taken in Philadelphia on Friday, while doing tourism after the last post. The top picture is a three frame vertical panorama, wrapping up to the branches directly above me as I stood in Rittenhouse Square. Unlike many pans of this sort I've tried, this one works with only a little tweaking of the projection. The one below is a photo of oportunity from the platform of the Philadelphia subway system.
This site is now secure! It wasn't quite as easy as paying the domain service an extra ten dollars... To reliably and consistently pop up with a secured version of the site some work is required on the host server, and, like so many things in the web world, the process is not obvious, at least not to me. It turns out that it is as simple (on my service!) as flipping a virtual switch, but that virtual switch is buried in the menus of cPanel and you have to know it's there. On to figuring out enough of PHP to make that work for me!
Philadelphia, 10 January 2020 Came up yesterday for the reception for InLiquid's show of its new artists, which included a piece by my friend and fellow artist Maureen Drdak. It's a very strong piece indeed, the fourth in her Inner Perceiver series. Now, the morning after, we're in our AirBnB basement apartment while Julee works on a grant proposal for her organization and I think about next professional steps. So, no photo, since that isn't what is front and center on my mind this week. A little later in the day we'll venture forth and do art and tourism.
So, I'm building my mailing list, and dealing with just how disorganized my addresses are. (I've never really recovered from the breakdown of MSDos program porting to the Apple ecosystem years ago...) Thinking about the next upgrades to this website, and thus having to learn new things. Time to encrypt and add the "s" to "https"? Probably, since I want, at some distant time, to be able to take payments through the site, and, most immediately, add an interactive sign up process for a mailing list. That seems like it may be as simple as paying my hosting service an extra ten dollars a year. Doing the pop-up for the sign-up looks rather more complex, involving learning how to use a whole new programming language, PHP. And, figuring out how to access the PHP interpreter on my hosting service and activating it on my local system (that is, on my own computer at home). It does appear that PHP is included in the Mac package, but that configuration files need to be edited by hand to activate it. Always a little dangerous... Especially for the semi-technical like me. When I say I'm learning something like PHP I don't mean I'm becoming a real expert. I'll learn enough to serve my narrow need on my own web site, and move on! I'm not enough of a coder, nor have the memory, nor the time, to do more. But, part of Busy 2020!
Radiation Fog, Washington Channel
Washington DC, 6 January 2020 So, here we are, further into the New Year, and a bit further into this so far chill but not dreadfully cold winter. I took this three frame panorama from the end of my dock a couple of days ago, a pure target of opportunity. But, one of the things about living in a photogenic place is that there are targets of opportunity, and the wise photographer (or landscape artist or poet) takes advantage. That's why we always carry our cameras... The changing weather means that there are always new pictures, even in the same place.
Gulf of Gonâve Here's an example for twelve years ago, taken from the balcony of Julee's and my apartment in the New T'Adesky building in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Third (and top) floor apartment facing west and overlooking the City and the Gulf. The closest I've ever come to living in a penthouse, and we understood at the time that we'd never have better views. We faced the sunset, always different and often glorious, to the degree that we'd look out and say to each other "Ho Hum! Another beautiful sunset." and I'd run for my camera. I took a lot, and a wide variety, of photos from that small balcony.
Washington DC, 3 Jan 2020 It's a bit obvious, maybe even a bit trite, but here's my picture for the path ahead in 2020. I walked up to the Homestead Graveyard in West Swanzey on Christmas Eve to take pictures of the old New England gravestones. None of them are worth a second look, but I did capture this one across the street on the way back. I'll put it in the categories of "not bad" and "useful for a metaphor"!
I think this a year to be more agressive in getting my photos out there. So, I will be starting a email list for a biweekly note, and cross posting in on both my Facebook pages and on Instragram and Flickr. As now, I'll be trying to pull people into this website. It's mine, and I'm not fighting with Mark Zuckerburg about how to compose or present my work or thoughts, nor worry about politics, advertising or pet photos. In non-virtual world I'm going to see if I can pull off a real gallery show or two in the course of the next twelve months. I do have a couple of leads there...
Elephant Seals, Año Nuevo
Washington DC, 30 December 2019 They're there, really, three of them, lying sluglike/rocklike to the left, almost dead center, and a bit to the right. It is early in the season, two hundred males and three females, and one just newborn pup. In the coming weeks the beach will cover with big males beefing for prime territory. Safe beach plots for birth and nursing being what the females want, the males fight for that and so for the females who occupy them. It's amazing (I've been here before during the high season) but it's not... the picture of enlightened family life by my standards. But, unlike humans I think the seals are truly hardwired for that kind of violent competition. This photo is an infrared panorama stitched up from three individual photos.
Inland from Año Nuevo
Swanzey, New Hampshire, 27 December 2019 Another photo from the recent trip the Aulde Country (California). I may use it in my next Facebook post, since my wife Julee has already used it there (with full attribution) after asking me for it as a desktop image for her laptop computer. This is in Año Nuevo State Park, a haulout beach for elephant seals, first for births, later for courtship, which is a fraught affair for elephant seals. We were early in the season, so we saw only a scattering of seals, mostly boys waiting for the arrival of the girls. But, a beautiful day, a great drive up the coast from Santa Cruz, wonderful scenery at Año Nuevo itself, and a bonus in the chance to commune with a lakeful of pelicans. This photo was another bonus, captured as I was turning away for the seals themselves. It's infrared, and a three frame horizontally stitched panorama. As with many other smaller panoramas I've made, less because the image was so wide but because it's gotten to the point where it's just easier to stitch than to dig out the 25mm wide angle lens and swap it with the "normal" 40mm prime lens on the camera. Also... I can't prove this, at least not yet, but I feel the stitch gives a more normal looking picture than a wide wide angle lens.
Washington DC, 23 December 2019 Probably the second to last photo to be posted to this run of the blog from the trip to California. The first half of the trip was spent with dear old friends from Julee's history, in Sonoma County, and the second half with dear old friends from my history in Santa Cruz County. A great trip! I am, always, a bit surprised by which photos really work, and which don't, but also really happy when any of them do. This shot came from a big loop walk we took with a friend through the Fall Creek Unit of the Henry Cowell State Park outside of Felton.
Early in the trip, in another grove of redwoods I picked up a copy of Richard Preston's book The Wild Trees in the park gift store. It's the wonderful story about a group of misfits and scientists (sometimes the misfits and scientists are the same people) who are obsessed with the oldest and grandest of the Redwoods, each a large and complex ecosystem in itself, and survivors, for the most part, due to their growth in inaccessible places where no logging company could approach with heavy equipment. It's a great read, and has been a good companion as I walked among these smaller and younger (but still very impressive) trees and worked through the images I'd gathered along the way.
Coming up Christmas and travelling to be with family. It'll be a different holiday because some of my older relatives are in real medical distress. But, all the more reason to be with them. Season's Greetings to all!
Work in Progress
Washington DC, 20 December2019 Hm! As it happens, I did take my infrared camera with me when I took the picture from my last post below, and grabbed a quick series of shots with it just 'cuz. I took a look just before I left California and flew home, did a little tweaking in Photoshop, and have come up with what may be my best shot of the scene. IR after all... It's very abstract, but if you look closely you can see what it is, trees reflected in ripply water, and I think that will be clearer if it's bigger, on a wall. It needs more work of course, to control the lights and darks so the image is drawn to the image of the redwood crowns in the middle, and both of these pictures will get my attention over the next bit. I think this one might be a good one to learn luminosity masking on...
Work in Progress
Santa Cruz, California, 16 December 2019 I've been working on this picture for years. Anyone who looks at my body of work will note that I have a draw to the philosophical equivalent of negative space, which is what drafting artists call the parts of the picture between the objects drawn or painted. The blank paper surrounding and between the branches and leaves of a tree in a pen and ink drawing for example. For me as a photographer it manifests as an interest in the images of shadows, reflections, unseen light like infrared, and, sometimes, actual negative space in the traditional sense.
I saw this reflection of a small stand of young redwoods in the creek water looking down off the bridge in Boulder Creek that carries Highway 9 further up into the Santa Cruz Mountains some years back and I thought it was a great way to look at the trees. And I thought it was perfect for infrared, which can sometimes work really well with reflections and sky.
The picture was disappointing... But, I really thought there was something there, and a couple of years ago when I came back to this neighborhood I took the infrared camera back and carefully shot it again. And the result was still disappointing... Maybe it isn't an infrared photo after all... So, when I came back this time I was thinking that I'd shoot it in color, and reduce it to black and white. So, on Friday as the weather was clearing I went back, and again on Saturday when the weather was totally cleared. The picture above was taken on Saturday, and it's a six frame stitched panorama, to get the whole scene in. I can always crop it down later!
I think it has potential, but it's not there yet. The bright spot in the very left bottom corner draws the eye, but doesn't add anything to the picture, so it needs to darkened. But it's so light the pixels are actually blown and it darkens grey instead of brown. I'll have to add the brown first... I think the left bank will have to be darkened a lot, and the right bank a little, to focus the eye on the creek and the reflection of the trees which is the point of the photo. Fussy work, and we'll have to see if it does the trick. I'll give it my best, but it is possible that this one won't gel to the degree hoped for.
Santa Cruz, California, 13 December 2019 From last Monday in Sonoma County, when we went to the Redwoods and then to the mouth of the Russian River. The one usuable picture from that day of wonder, which ended up at the mouth of the river watching a grey whale hanging out and feeding not a hundred feet off.
We're traveling this week, and this is a people-oriented trip planned and executed around visits to dear people, so tourism and photography tends to the incidental. But, of course, one way a host or hostess visits with out of towners is to take them to the special places and I keep the big cameras close.
DC Waterfront, Evening Light
In Transit, 9 December 2019 Sometimes the light pulls you. I looked out the aft windows of the boat the other evening and saw the scene above and grabbed my camera and ran. (New policy: The big color camera is always in my bag, and set up.) I got to the end of our finger pier beside the boat and captured the frames that make up this panorama. I shot a lot more, but the light changed right after this series, and, while still good, was not as good. But, at the end of the session I got the panorama I posted on Facebook
Washington Channel, Dusk
which I also like, but which has a very different feeling to it.
I shoot a lot of pictures here on and around the docks of The Wharf in Washington DC, because it's home, and I'm there. No longer original, but the changing weather and light mean the scene is always a little different. Laurence's version of Monet's haystacks? I don't give myself those kind of airs. (Once upon a time I sat surrounded by Monet's haystacks. There is a whole room full of them in the Chicago Art Institute. They were so beautiful, and the impact of a number of them in one place so strong that I literally wept.) But, the local scene does sometimes give images I'm happy with, and I am learning a lot from my technical noodling here at home. The next clear day in January I'll paste a big sheet of white printer paper on the side of the clubhouse where the sun falls directly on it, and run another set of experiements to get more of a handle on how much of an issue I really have with vignetting and uneven illumation with my favorite prime lenses, the super sharp Canon 40mm F2.8 pancakes.
Somewhere over Missouri, perhaps. I’m on my way to California with Julee, in the window seat with only my phone. I’d like to work on my photography, but my computer is in my overstuffed briefcase in the overhead, and the gentleman in the aisle row is asleep and I don’t want to wake him. I will, when the phone runs short of juice or I need to use the bathroom, but until then I’ll continue reading and writing on my phone. The plane is packed. Aren’t they always these days? The downside of cheap travel, and this travel is the cheapest, as I’ve been able to cash in my miles for the first time for something substantial. Obviously, the gentleman woke up (Julee had to use the loo) and I recovered my bag and am now even more cramped than before, working away with my computer in may lap.
Over the last week I've done more work on blending in Photoshop and have a better grasp of it, although not yet clearly getting to what I want. "Clearly" is the operative word, here. The adjustments I want to make are pretty subtle, and the limits of my aging eyes got in my way, even on the big Epson monitor. Hm... Next time I work on that on that setup I won't be too lazy to head to the after cabin and get my big Clark Kent task glasses, ground specifically for work on that screen, and made of glass so as not to introduce chromatic abberation to my vision as I work. This is not work for a trip without the big monitor and when I want to be spending my time being social with my special friends in California. But, I did bring my cameras, and will hope for good weather in California. Good weather for a photographer is defined as interesting light and interesting skies. Not necessarily bright and sunny...
Untitled Test Shot, DC Waterfront
Washington DC, 6 December 2019 Here's the first big answer to my technical questions. I first posted a version of this on the 16th September last, where it had a subtle but very definite blotchy paralellogram of darker in the middle of the sky. That led me on a long journey through Photoshop, but it turns out that the solution was in PTGui, the software I use for almost all of my stitched panorama creation. PTGui is very modern software in that it has no manual, not even an online version. You have to figure it out yourself, admittedly with help from the in-program help windows. I always checked the "Exposure compensation" box in the appropriate control panel, blishfully unaware that it wasn't an automatic process and the you then had to click on the "Optimize now!" (emphasis in the original) button in the bottom half of the panel. There's also a dialogue box that allows controls the degree of correction (maximum!). The result is this very clean, even, two frame stitched panorama of gallery quality. Wheh! I will still pursue my study of blending and masking in Photoshop, since those are skills that will come in useful in other contexts.
Swanzey, New Hampshire, 2 December 2019 I took this picture on the way to the Allen family's traditional harvesting of Christmas trees. A cold, clear day, with enough clouds for interest. It's infrared, and a vertical panorama to eliminate the need to change to a wider lens. Interestingly, this is one of the few infrared images I've taken where I actually had to compress the dynamic range (reduce the contrast) rather than extend it.
It's been a couple of weeks of frenzied contemplation on "Whither Laurence's Photography?", obvious to anybody who might have been following this blog. On the one hand I'll be thinking ahead to up and down the East Coast and where I want to be hunting for photos, but for the moment that will be on the back burner. On the other, I've given myself permission to concentrate on the technical questions for the next few weeks, and dig into the issues of exposure and the ins and outs of Photoshop and the other photographic programs I use, along with learning how to get more out of my graphics tablet and the big monitor, which I've just duplicated via eBay so that Julee and I can work with the needed tools at the same time. More on this at the end of the week and as it rolls out.
Swanzey, New Hampshire, 29 November 2019 Quiet, post-Thanksgiving Day in the bosom of the Allen family. We don't do Black Friday (retail workers should have holidays off, after all) so it's a quiet day at home. I'm still working on my technical problem. My Googling lead me to a technique called luminosity masking, but a day's study revealed that it's a solution for a very different problem. So, I'm back to working on figuring out how to make blending work properly, and especially, how to bend it to my will...
Looking at my screen this is what I'm seeing. Not a lot of tangible progress yet, but I do feel I have a better grasp on this than I did last Monday. I will continue noodling!
Postive and Negative Leaf Shadow Combined...
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 25 November 2019 Well, here it is: The two photgraphs from last Monday (18 November) combined by overlayering the positive image with the negative image in Photoshop, then dialing the opacity of the negative image down to 50%. A featureless gray rectangle! I've spent all day trying this and that, going to the nine hundred and sixty page pdf of the Adobe Reference for Photoshop (not terribly helpful) and Googling my questions... Success.
Applied to a real picture, this is what I've got:
Kinda ugly, isn't it? The dynamic range is compressed into an overall greyness, but the sky is illuminated evenly across the top of the frame... I thought I'd be able to tweak the tones of the photo back into shape in Photoshop, but so far I've not been able to get to the vibrancy of the original. Work in progress, work in progress...
So, paraphrasing The Bard, 'Now is the winter of my discontent.' I'm mudding towards the glorious summer, but the slog has been pretty hard recently. The technical side of the problem is deepened by the fact that I learn differently. Concepts come easily, but the step by step execution is hard. This is starkest in math and is the reason I'm neither an engineer nor an economist. People who are drawn to the fields, including the teachers, find the steps easy and have trouble teaching people who don't. I'd love to take a deep formal course in Photoshop, but fear if I did I'd be wasting my time and money with the teacher skipping through the menus, completely oblivious to need to highlight the details (like rasterizing layers) that spell the difference between being able to complete a task successfully and looking at a menu of greyed out commands. For the time being I slog along on my own, knowing I will make progress eventually if I keep at it, trying different things and picking up hints from the online research.
I think I might leave the existential stuff for later, although there are hints in earlier entries...
In Transit, 23 November 2019
Currently in The Bronx, and rolling north with Amtrak on the way to Gloucester. I don't have much to say about photography today. In my defence, this is yesterday's to-do list:
✓ PU Car --
✓ Cash Check
✓ Sea Cocks Closed !!!
✓ or Antifreezed
Radar Arch (if dry)
✓ Bolt cut
✓ Note to Horacio
✓ Note to Delyn
✓ Pay David Dodge
✓ Pay Club Dues
✓ Port Bilge !!!
✓ Haircut 11:15 --
✓ Water Boat
✓ Physical Therapy 2pm --
✓ Straighten Up Aft Deck
A long list, mixing the mundane with the coincidental and necessary, and with what really had to happen for safety before we left the boat unattended for an extended time during the winter when freezing temperatures are expected. I got almost all of them checked, off, which made for a busy day, especially since I'd had a wee hours migraine bad enough to require the whole range of triptans, boosters, and serious pain killers, which meant I started the day with some hours of woozy and dippy! On to the opening of the holiday season... More on photography later.
Postive and Negative Leaf Shadow
Washington DC, 18 November 2019 Yesterday was photo day, and I spent part of it working on the business of blending in Photoshop. I learned how to make the process run, which is not at all obvious process, or, as they say in the computer biz, intuitive. You have to rasterize images that are, at least to my an previous knowledge, already raster images. No doubt I'll figure this out someday! But, though I can get the process to run, I've no idea which of the thirty plus versions of blending will get me the result I need, which is a change in the luminance of a photo on a pixel by pixel basis in relation to the luminance of a second image. Still with me? The pair of photos above are for the next step in the experiments. The first is a ghost leaf left by the decompositon of a real leaf on a sidewalk, in monochrome. (What we used to call black and white...) The second is the inverted version of the same photo. (What we used to call a negative...) In theory if I used these two images in my blending experiments, when I get it right the end result would be a featureless fifty percent grey image as the dark and light cancel each other out. I'll report in later! If anyone has advice please email me!
Washington DC, 16 November 2019 This is the picture that convinced me I needed to start carrying the big camera more consistently, and, as a corollary, I needed to be readier to run for my tripod. Caught on the fly as I walked between docks towards my boat the other night. Beautiful moment, with the patchy clouds, which were darkly and mysteriously reflected in the water. I took an up and a down photo with the phone in my pocket, and combined them as a vertical panorama. I like it, but it's so rough, even at screen resolution. The phone assumed (correctly, and as phones always do) that you're hand holding for the shot and boosted the sensitively of the sensor to give an acceptably short exposure speed. But, with the tiny sensor (probably less that a square millimeter) that introduced so much electronic noise that the final product came out looking very noisy/grainy. And, the dark but distinct pattern of the clouds reflected in the water is nearly invisible. The big camera has to deal with noise too, but its sensor is on the order of a thousand times larger so the noise gets subsumed in the signal. And, I had the time to go to the boat, get the tripod and set up, and set the camera for low senstivity/longer exposure. Lesson learned... I probably won't get a second chance on this image. When am I going encounted that dark and those clouds again? But for the future, I'll take on the weight of the big camera, and probably the wide lens, in my briefcase. But I do note it's the marginal conditions that require the big, only-a-camera, professional camera, especially marginal or less than marginal light. The last two blog posts are phone shots, but in great light, so clean photos.
Replica Santa Maria
Washington DC, 11 November 2019 One of the wonderful things about living at the new Wharf development on the DC Waterfront is that special things just show up... This is a Spanish replica of Christopher Columbus' flagship the Santa Maria. Here it is in context:
Replica Santa Maria in Washington
I think calling it a replica is actually pretty strong, since we really don't know that much about the original except for it's general size! Even the type of sailing ship is uncertain... So, the various "replicas" built since the 400th anniversary of the European discovery of America all look different. This one is very round... Very much like a medieval roundship in a medieval manuscipt. I like it for that. I think it's probably better built and certainly better finished - not to mention in better condition - than the original, which was a random freighter found in Palos, Spain and requisitioned/leased for the voyage of discovery.
Both photos taken with my iPhone. The bottom one is a three frame panorama, stitched together on the FrankenMac with PTGui panorama software.
Leaf on Sidewalk
Washington DC, 9 November 2019 Which one is better? There's no absolute, of course, and I think this picture is pretty strong either way. On the ones below I think the black and white versions are in fact better, especially after I boosted the highlights (a little) and the darks (much more!) in Photoshop. Interestingly, the picture above took no adjustment at all when rendered to black and white.
Sidewalk Leaf Shadows
All taken with my iPhone while out running errands in the neighborhood yesterday. I'm still very much in the playing around mode so I processed these entirely from the jpegs while standing behind the counter as I manned the Martha Spak Gallery at the Wharf in Washington DC. I wonder if I should channel my inner
Ralph Gibson and darken the dark areas even more? It would certainly be dramatic, and I may well do it after I've let the thought sit for a bit. There is an interesting issue with doing most of my work on the Ancient FrankenMac. The contrast on screen drops noticeably if not viewed at exactly ninety degrees. Now that I've internalized that I'm careful to do those kinds of tweaks while looking straight, straight at the screen.
Washington DC, 4 November 2019 Running late on posts again. I think, technically, this would be last Friday's post, but I we'll let that deadline slip into oblivion, along with many others in my life. It's not laziness, though laziness and procrastination are intertwined into my soul, albeit in a complex and indescribable pattern. It's not even being distracted by the boat work, though there's a fair bit of that, along with the progress that belies any accusation of sloth on my part. I think it has something to do with where my work is, and the fact that the next steps aren't particularly linear. One, I'm trying to get the work out into the world, with everything that implies in terms of exposure and sales. This website is part of that effort, of course, but I've also over the last year put some effort into insinuating myself into the DC art scene and connecting with exhibition space. That's not quick work, and requires some zen, both in terms of mindfulness and patience, not to mention lack of attachment!
On the work itself, I'm still in the midst of trying to figure out how to smooth out the skies in infrared. I did another series on Maine Avenue last Friday, and came home with completely unusable images not because the skies were uneven, but because of the extreme split in exposure and contrast between the sky and the shadows along the street. This will have to be revisited another sunny day. Meanwhile, my thoughts have been running to black and white, my first love in serious photography. I don't have to shoot in infrared to get black and white images... Even in digital photography, which is pretty fundamentally a color process. I have two friends, Kevin Brubiski and Perry Bennett who do a lot of black and white, even though they're using the same color digital equipment we all use.
So, today, insteading of messing with infrared images of Maine Avenue (or infrared images of anything else) I've been messing with black and white conversion of some fall images I took with my phone Friday afternoon, after the cold front blew away the blue sky of the early morning and brought rain to the District of Columbia. One example above, another on Facebook with my redirecting posts, and the third here:
These are leaves and bit of other detritis floating in the water next to the dock where we live. I used my cataloguing program, ACDSee, to do the conversions, and Photoshop for tweaks in lighting and composition. So, this is one moment of non-linearity for me. I'll be following along this path, for at least a bit, and seeing where it might take me. It is the season for change... It's suddenly chill in DC, time to start prepping the boat for winter and switch wardrobes!