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Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of our Past: Chapter 3

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The Anna Plaza Motel sign in Anna, Illinois is very much a “blast from the past”.  The actual age of the sign is unknown but based on the style and shape it is likely late 1940’s or early 1950’s.

Take note of the conveniences listed: Modern Electrically Heated (I assume that means the rooms) and TV.  Then as the times changed a sign was added at the bottom to include Cable TV with remote, water beds, and direct dial phones.

Think about what we consider modern conveniences today. Free wifi probably tops the list for most people. I remember traveling with my parents, we looked for places that had a pool; a heated pool was a bonus. We stayed in Ithaca, New York one summer and it was unseasonably cold. The motel said they had a heated outdoor pool, but after an evening swim I was as blue from the cold water as the guy in Big Fat Liar after his swim in the blue dye!

Think about having “direct dial phones” when the majority of the nation has cell phones. How times change. I found an article written in 2005 by someone who also photographed this sign. They said in their article that this sign probably would be gone soon. Here it is 10 years later and it still stands.

As for staying at the Anna Plaza Motel; no thanks! I am sure in the early days it was a very fine establishment. The town of Anna has many old structures and other interesting signs. I look forward to sharing those with you in the future.

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Since posting my blog on using On1 10, I have received approval to be an On1 Affiliate. You can click the link at the bottom of my post to learn more about the On 1 software.

On1 10 was released in November. I have been an On1 user since about version 6.  I received a free version of Perfect Effects for attending a Kelby Photoshop Workshop. I thought it was odd they had another company promoting their products at the workshop, but I took the time to watch the demo during our lunch break.

What I found out was On1 can be used as a plug-in or as a stand alone software. I have used it both ways.  I make my adjustments in Lightroom then move my image over to On1 Effects to further process my image.

For me On1 is a very simple way to enhance my images using the filters they have built into the program.  I am able to layer and mask my images to bring out the details I want or to add in textures or other color enhancements to make my images stand out. And as an O1 user, I receive several preset packages throughout the year. Most of the time I create my own images, but I also try the others out.

My favorite adjustments in On1 Effects are the Amazing Detail Finder located under the sharpening tab and clarity under the tone enhancement tab.  I find that these two adjustments bring out details in my images that I may have not noticed.

I use a Nikon D800E DSLR and shoot in RAW. The image above was taken with a Tamron 28 -75mm f/2.8 lens. My settings were ISO 320, f/11, 28mm, 1/160 sec. The light was behind me and it was about 4:00 in the afternoon. While I was happy with my original image I decided to work with it in On1 Effects.  I used the adjustments I mentioned above and then worked on the highlights and shadows. On1 works similar to Photoshop in that you can make adjustments in different layers and if you are not happy with the change you can always go back and change or delete the layer.  I also added a leather texture to the image which created a warm feel. When I photograph a landscape with an older structure, such as this grist mill, I prefer to age the photograph to give it character.

The image on the left is what was captured out of the camera. On the right I used the On1 Effects to pull out the detail in the bricks and to give the image a more surreal look.  The time of day I captured my images made the reds pop. My settings were the same as in the images above. After I adjust in O1, it saves it back into my Lightroom catalog and I can

This is a collection of bottles in a potting shed. I thought this made a nice grouping. I did not move anything, just photographed it “as is”. My settings were ISO 800, f/4.0, 1/125, at 38mm with a Tamron 28 – 300mm.  I like how the coarse detail in the wood was revealed using the Amazing Detail Finder. I also used a subtle HDR look in this image. I like photographs with lots of texture.

Many times On1 offers the On1 Effects module as a trial; that’s how I started. In the full suite they had enhance, portrait, resize, and B&W modules, too. I have used all of these at one time or another. What I like about On1 is it’s ease of use. I have produced several images with On1 that have been in exhibits, competitions, and have won awards.

Thanks for reading!  Photography provides infinite opportunities for learning!


Fisheye Lens: Pros and Cons

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Yorktown Beach captured with a fisheye lens; you can see the slight curve in the foreground from lens distortion

The 8mm Rokinon fisheye lens is a great lens to capture landscapes and to create surreal images. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to using a fisheye lens.  The photographer has to decide what adds to or takes away from the image.

Pros of using a fisheye:

 

Using the fisheye to creatively “bend” the subject is a pro of this fine lens. The clarity throughout remains intact. It creates a snow globe effect when used close-up.

When shooting with a fisheye lens it is possible to capture sweeping landscapes with a greater depth of field. The image quality and sharpness throughout the image is a definite pro.  The photographer can also create surreal images with a fisheye lens.

Getting low to the ground will provide for interesting foreground in the image.

Cons of using a fisheye:

While the pros listed above are very positive uses, they can turn into cons if you do not want your subject to bend or curve. Even in the best case scenario you may end up with a slight curve on the edges. When looking  through the viewfinder, move the camera up and down and watch for the bend.  The image can be exaggerated or will look fairly normal as the camera is moved.

Photoshop and Lightroom have excellent lens correction features; with practice, lens distortion can be corrected or enhanced depending on the final vision of the photographer.

In the sunrise photos above you can see how the clouds curve, but the horizon is fairly level. It does make for a nice effect with the arching clouds.  In the photograph of the boat, the horizon is curved and the foreground is bubbled toward the viewer.  While this may not be a desirable outcome, the photographer has to decide if that is what the end result should be.

The fisheye lens definitely has its place in the photographer’s bag and there are many creative uses for it.  Adding a slight curve to a photograph can enhance the image or provide an unwanted distraction to the viewer. It is up to the photographer to decide how to use the lens. If given the opportunity to try one; see what kind of images can be made!

Photography is a skill with infinite learning opportunities!

 


Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of Our Past: Chapter 2

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Standard Oil Service Station, Vienna, Illinois

Having grown up in a small rural community, I remember an old castle gas station in the center of town. It is long gone and I so wish I had taken a photograph of it to preserve its heritage. Vienna, Illinois has a beautiful gem that has fallen victim to vandals and decay.

The station was built in 1930 by the Standard Oil Company. It is one of several that was built across the country to fit the space available. Many of these old stations have been converted into private residences and other businesses.  I spoke to a resident of Vienna and he said, “Many people have expressed interest in the building, but there it sits, decaying each day.”

My imagination wandered to the days of “full service” stations. I could visualize the service man rushing out to gas the car, clean the windscreen and “take a look under the hood!”

As you can see from the above photographs, the torch (in photographs of other stations, it was a beautiful gold and red torch) has been chiseled away. It also appears that someone has tried to removed the entire “service” emblem!  The lettering on the crown has also been removed leaving behind a skeleton of the past.

Other views of the building show the decay that is occurring. It is just a matter of time this beautiful landmark will be a memory just as the castle in my hometown is a memory for me.

I could only see inside the bay area; there were broken panes of glass that I could aim my camera through.  I read other articles lamenting the sadness people have for this wonderful icon on the corner of Routes 146 and 45. It is a shame that someone will not step up and take charge of the restoration. I’m sure the expense is a hinderance.  The red tiled roof, the yellow brick; a wonderful contrast of color!

Take the time to notice the images around you; pause and reflect on the past.


Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of Our Past Chapter 1

 

When you take the roads less traveled there are gems to be found!

While driving through Carbondale, Illinois this sign caught my attention.  I stopped and took as many photographs as I could.

The sign says closed for the season, but according to research this Dairy Queen on 508 South Illinois Avenue is a busy place!  The building is the original structure that was built in 1951 by Jack Clover. According to a 2014 article in the Southern Illinoisan, the stand has been owned by Mark Waicukauski for over 25 years and was owned by his father before him. In the article, Waicukauski says, “That old sign’s been there since the beginning!”

While traveling across the country, take the time to look around you! The gems you uncover may be diamonds in the rough!


Senior Photographs: Nelson

I had the pleasure of photographing a friend of mine’s grandson.  I have known Nelson for almost 10 years; it is difficult to imagine him as a senior in high school.  To me he will always be the freckled face little boy who liked to ride bikes at the campground.  Nelson has always been a polite young man and I wish the best for him in the future!

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Nelson posing next to his truck.

Nelson is a sportsman. He enjoys archery, hunting, fishing, boating…you name it!  They chose the location for his senior photographs; a cabin in the woods!  It was about an hour drive from Chillicothe into Hocking County.  It was an ideal location for Nelson’s photographs.  It was on the cool side and the sun was out.  With the dense forest we had a little shadow play from time to time.  Occasionally I called upon my daughter to help with a reflector to help fill in the areas if the shadows were too strong.

Without the reflector.

Without the reflector.

With the reflector

With the reflector

My assistant using the reflector to brighten the scenes

My assistant using the reflector to brighten the scenes

You can see how the reflector fills in the shadows to help produce more even lighting on the subject.

As mentioned above, Nelson is an excellent marksman particularly in archery.  He has won many awards and is ranked high in his age group. He has enjoyed deer hunting since he was a young boy.

Nelson pictured with his first shotgun

Nelson pictured with his first shotgun

Nelson and his deer scull

Nelson and his deer scull

Taking aim!

Taking aim!

Nelson’s brother Logan and step brother Brandon joined Nelson for a few informal photographs too.

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Logan and Nelson

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Logan, Nelson, and Brandon

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Logan, Nelson, and Brandon

The road to the future is waiting!

The road to the future is waiting!


Portsmouth Murals: A Different Perspective

PDC_9623 PDC_9624A few evenings ago I took a walk along the Portsmouth Murals. I just purchased a fisheye lens and thought I would experiment with the lens distortion. I like the 3D quality of the lens; it also makes for a cool “snow globe” effect.  The shoe factory buildings stood out and appeared to be coming out of the wall! I stood against the mural with the motorcycle and moved the camera around to create just the right curve; the motorcycle looks like it is coming right off the wall!  I had always enjoyed looking at images taken with a fisheye lens, but never really thought about purchasing one myself.  I have played around with other images using the fisheye; it is definitely something to get used to and will work well on some subjects, but not necessarily on others.

I like the look of the mural images.  Cropping a fisheye image is best done unconstrained; meaning adjust the crop manually vs a fixed dimension.  Thank you for looking and I look forward to sharing more creative images in the near future!

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