Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday Links

I've been collecting links for a bit, time to share.

A Do It Yourself L Plate, good for ball heads on tripods. It allows you to change from landscape to portrait mode easily while still maintaining the flexibility of the ball head.

One of the photographers I follow collects Words Not to Lose.

2009 Calendar Templates. Use them with Photoshop to create your own calendars.

A Fox interview of what it's like to spend 8 years being a Presidential Photographer.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Windy Weekend

It's been strange weather wise the last week. From a snowfall of what seemed like 10 inches a day the weekend before Christmas to rain and 50 degrees. With freezing rain and messy roads in between. Pretty much all the snow is melted now, but it being only December, there will be more.

I woke up Sunday morning to high winds battering the house and the sound of a big bang. Taking a quick walk around the house didn't reveal anything wrong. Figuring it was a piece of debris hitting the house, I pretty much forgot about it.

I had been wanting to go out to Grand Haven to get photographs of waves hitting the lighthouse. Checking the webcams for the area showed that indeed they did have waves and they were big. Of course, once I hit the road the snow started and the roads got slippery in the Grand Rapids area. For some reason, they were dry closer to the lake shore.

I'm not sure what the winds at the lake shore were, they were reported to be gusting to mid 40 mph in GR. They were definitely higher at the lake. While I thought I had dressed warm, it quickly became apparent that a stocking type hat in high winds doesn't really cut it. I made a note to myself, once again, to look for warmer hats.

The other problem I had and one I had not thought of, was controlling the camera in high winds. The wind was high enough, that I had trouble keeping it focused on a single target. I ended up searching out pieces of fence or posts to help steady the camera. Even that was not an optimum answer. I'm not sure what else I could do. A tripod would blow over, unless it was weighted down with more weight than I wanted to carry.

I ended up cranking up the iso so I could get a fast shutter speed in the light, and quickly filled up 3 memory cards in 3 different locations. I don't think I spent more than 15 minutes or so in any one spot, but I was glad to get back to the warm car. I did get some photos I liked though.

Once I got back home, I finally figured out what the bang was that woke me up. We lost a big piece of trim on the garage. I still haven't been able to find it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Earthrise - 40 years later

December 24th marked another anniversary other than what most people were focused on. It was the 40th year after the flight of Apollo 8. For those that are too young to remember, Apollo 8 was the first manned spaceflight that left the Earths gravity and traveled to the moon. While they didn't land, they were the first humans to see the Earth rising above the moon.

The photo had a huge impact on society at the time. Showing the Earth as a small blue globe rising above the Lunar plains, it galvanized the environmental movement. It became a popular poster and you still see it used from time to time. Unfortunately its impact has lessened over time.

I have this vain hope that people will look at this photo every once in a while and realize how small and fragile this world we live on is. That all our eggs are in the one basket and once it's used up, it's gone. I realize that in this time of instant communications, a plunging economy and the hectic pace of everything, that it's probably not going to happen. But I can hope.

Being a young space geek at the time this was first shown, it had a huge impact on me and helped shape my view of the world. It demonstrated for me early on the power of an image. Even now, 40 years later, it still has a huge effect on me.

Photo GPN-2001-000009.jpg was downloaded from NASA. Usually presented in landscape mode, it actually was taken in portrait mode as presented above. There is no copyright on the photo that I could find.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lightroom 2 - Cropping

Even though I've used Adobes Lightroom since it's been out, I don't really use all its features. That's gotten worse since version 2 was released. If I want to do much more than the basics, I use Photoshop. To try to learn the product, I'm going to research one feature and write about it. This will probably not be on a set schedule, but I plan to finish before spring arrives.

The first one is going to be quick and easy. Adding new standard cropping ratios to the crop menu. Some photos are better as panoramic, but I've just been cropping them by eye. Since that is one photo type I want to explore more, I wanted some standard crop ratios for consistency. It turns out to be easy, drop down the crop menu and select the "Enter Custom..." option. Type in your new ratios and hit enter. They will be available immediately and survive closing the program. As you can see from the photo, I've added 16x9, 1x2 and 1x3. Since then I've also added 1x4, but that is going to be the format for web page banners.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Even though it's still officially fall, it feels like winter. We got dumped on yesterday, and we are still digging out. Even better, we are getting more snow later today. I know it's only December, but I'm sick of it already.

Even worse, except for some special cases, I haven't got my camera out much. Between the snow and the shortened days, it's been hard. Hopefully soon, when the days start getting longer, things will change.

The photo is of my neighbor digging out his driveway yesterday at noon. I had tried to get out of the house to meet some friends for lunch, but got stuck. I ended up digging myself out also instead.

For those that care, the winter equinox is tomorrow, December 21st at 12:04 UTC. The chart I looked this up in didn't say if it was a.m. or p.m., so I really can't say if it is 8:04 local time in the morning or in the evening. Oh well, I guess it really doesn't matter.

I hope you've had less snow then we have and if not, that you've digged yourself out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time Wasting Tuesday

I always liked Beaker of the Muppets. How much better can it get when you pair him with Beethoven?

I guess you need some humor during the economic crisis....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wandering Gary

The closest I've been to Gary, Indiana is driving by it on the tollway on the way to Chicago. My impressions have never been too high, a dirty industrial city, with some interesting looking architecture. When the Midwest Large Format Asylum decided to have a group outing there to do a little urban exploring, I tagged along.

I have to say, the city itself is more depressing than I originally thought, especially on a grey December day. At first glance, it seems most of the city is either boarded up or abandoned with a few dashes of light between. For a photographer who shoots urban decay, Gary would be a place you could work for years and not get through all the blight. It's too bad, because underneath the grime, you could see the pride that used to be present. Gary is probably a poster child for a one product economy. The steel mills take up the whole north side of the city and when they started having issues, so did the city.

Myriad examples of urban exploring in Gary are online, with whole web pages devoted to the city. A simple search on Flickr turns up more examples. We ended up going to a church in downtown, an old train station and the Palace Theater. We spent the most time at the church. A fascinating building, it's hard to imagine anyone just walking away from it. The old train station is another example. I know Gary has a commuter train that runs into Chicago, but the platform for that is at another spot. The old building is just the shell, with a few barricades in front. I'm sure they had a good reason for not using it, but I can't fathom why. We ended the outing at the Palace Theater. We got some photos of the outside, but we didn't go in the building. Not that we couldn't, we found two openings into it from an alley in back.

All in all, a good day out with the camera.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

TDTESS - It's Here!!!!

The movie I've both dreaded and waited for opens up Friday. The remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still starring Keenau Reeves. I'm really been afraid the movie will suck, but an interview with the director of the movie Scott Derrickson is promising. You can read it on the blog Science Not Fiction.

A post later on in the same week pointed to this video of a Star Wars remix as a silent film. While you're wasting time on the web, it's recommended.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dorthea Lange

I've become a big fan of Dorthea Lange lately. My first exposure to her was her iconic image of the Migrant Mother during the great depression. Lately I've been reading a book about her work with the Japanese-Americans interned during WWII. Produced by the FSA and working under restrictions, such as she couldn't show barbed wire or armed guards, she managed to depict the injustice inflicted on these people in the name of security. Since it showed the internees in a favorable light, the photos were not published during the war and many have not been published yet.

I see another book about her has been released. Titled Daring to Look, it focuses on her work in 1939. Another book for the Christmas list. In fact, browsing Amazon has plenty of books available about her and her work.

There is also been an interview published with one of the children in the photo above. Reading it is an education of the differences in the attitudes of the people 65 years ago and today.

The above image was downloaded from the Library of Congress. A quick search did not turn up any rights reserved. This was taken under the auspices of the FSA and I believe that it is in the public domain.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Messy Portraits

I attended a portrait workshop this past Wednesday put on by the Grand Rapids Camera Club. I had my friends bring their daughter to it, so I could get some more formal photos for her senior pictures. I got some good photos, but it once again bought out my lack of experience in doing formal portraits. I understand the technical stuff, I can set up some basic shots, I just am not any darn good at instructing the photographee on what to do. I watched some of the other photographers interact with their models, and they were much better at it than I. I guess it's something to work on over the winter.

My excuse for the photo above? None, I just like it. Alison has such an infectious personality, that she made up for my lack of directing ability. Plus, once again we had fun.

I have to say though, that the photo looks better on the computer then it does in the browser. I keep telling myself I need to get a handle on color spaces for the web. One more thing to put on the list for this winter.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Link Me Up

It's been a quiet week. A few links to tide you over.

If you're like me, ignoring the Holiday season so far, you will soon realize how far behind your are. Maybe this will help. 24 Free Christmas Photoshop Tutorials. Then again, it may just be another time sink, which won't help.

Last week NPR's On The Media had a segment on Ethics in Journalistic Portraits.

Something I've thought about doing, but procrastinated about. Free Photoguides for the US. Currently they only have a couple spots on the west coast and Hawaii.

The blog 43 Folders is better known as a place for productivity advice. It seems he is in the middle of a small crisis in confidence (my words, not his) and deciding like I did that there needs to be a different legacy than cold, hard facts. He has an interesting bit on Photography, and the Tolerance for Courageous Sucking.

Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged updated for the internet age.

An older post from the Online Photographer about finding the dynamic range of a digital camera using a paper towel.

The photographers at the local paper, the Grand Rapids Press have their own blog.