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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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Image Enhancement

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.


JAX Theatre: Hansel & Gretel: The Musical

We all know the Grimm’s fairy tale about Hansel and Gretel; they leave a trail of bread crumbs to find their way out of the forest, only to have the crows eat the crumbs and they stay lost, then happen on a gingerbread house owned by a witch who wants to cook them…

JAX Theatre has it’s own adaptation of this classic tale.  Jordan Nickles is the creative mind behind the characters and the song lyrics in his adaptation of Hansel and Gretel: The Musical.  If you have followed JAX over the last 4 years you have seen Jordan transform himself from a “young Scrooge” to the “elder Scrooge” for A Christmas Carol: The Musical.  For this, we need to start from the beginning.

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Jordan Nickles

In 2011 JAX Theatre had it’s first production of A Christmas Carol: The Musical.  Nickles portrayed “young Scrooge”, Marley’s ghost, and Ol’ Joe.  Marley and Ol’ Joe required extensive make-up applications and removals between scenes. Jordan designed his own make-up for the parts and applied and removed one character’s features to transform himself into another character.  Jordan brings such energy to his performances and each production is bigger than the previous.  In 2012 and 2013 JAX brought in the talent of RJ Haddy to transform Jordan into the “elder Scrooge”.  (See blog post:https://pamdecampphoto.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=101&action=edit) Other plays produced by JAX Theatre have been Steel Magnolias, Sleepy Hollow, and Alice’s Wonderland.

In 2013, not only did Haddy transform Jordan into Scrooge he applied his creativity to transform actors into Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Marley’s Ghost.

 

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Standing L to R: Christmas Past (Hannah Noel); Christmas Present (Adam Lucas); Marley’s Ghost (Ethan Lawson); Seated: Scrooge (Jordan Nickles)

 

For the JAX production of Hansel and Gretel: The Musical, RJ Haddy’s talents were called upon again to transform the lovely actress, Eva Martin, into Beatrix the Witch who lures the Hansel and Gretel into her home.

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Eva Martin before her transformation to Beatrix

Eva was thrilled with the opportunity to work with RJ.  During the time in the make-up chair Eva sat very still and RJ was amazed at her patience while he glued, sponge painted, and airbrushed her features on. The process began with Eva having her beautiful locks of hair covered with a bald cap.

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RJ & Eva during the bald cap application.

RJ applied a layer of white on Eva’s face.  He used his signature Shadow airbrush to apply the contours and fine details to give her face dimension and depth.

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JAX 49674 RJ adds contours to Eva’s face to give her character dimension and depth.

During the play the Beatrix takes on her own transformation so cracks are painted onto her “skull” and some of Eva’s own hair is pulled through the bald cap to add to the witch’s realistic appearance. After all Beatrix is 900 years old!

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Cracks are added to Beatrix’s skull

A long flowing wig was added to complete the look.

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RJ touches up around the wig so it blends with the rest of the make-up.

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RJ adding highlights to the wig.

When RJ is working he attracts on-lookers.  These are not they typical on-lookers though.  Stacey Morrison and her fiancé Jerod Walker both enjoy crafting sets and experimenting with special effects make-up.  They helped to design and build the set for Hansel and Gretel plus provided make-up design for the ballerina Petra.

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Stacey Morrison, Jerod Walker, Edward Warren watch as RJ transforms Eva into Beatrix.

Below Jerod provides his talent to bring Petra to life.

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JAX 51353 Jerod applies features to Petra (Sami Matthews)

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RJ Haddy and Beatrix (Eva Martin)

Below are scenes from Hansel and Gretel: The Musical.

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Beatrix gives Rosalinde (Baylee Martin) her opinion on Hansel and Gretel’s fate.

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The clan of witches decide the fate of Beatrix. Pictured are: Sami Matthews (Petra); Adam Lucas (Udolf); Ethan Lawson (Admiral Theodoric); Rosalinde (Baylee Martin); Bastian (Micah Simmons); Yvonne (Lana Percell); and Klaus/Felix (Jordan Nickles)

 


The Adventure: Days 7 – 10 (I Think!)

Time flies when you are on vacation time!  We’ve seen much and have put 2800+ miles under our butts!  I think this will go down as a “scouting” trip as there are places I passed that I really need to go back to…yes, need to!

I made it to Douglas Wyoming by gosh!  I will have to say going through Wyoming is akin to going through Kansas.  Mile after mile of field and rock.  We have yet to see a buffalo!  But we continue to say that the buffalo are disguised as cows, rocks and even the occasional tree…at one point I could have swore one was hiding out in an oil well costume!  We’ve had to try to be creative, can’t you tell!  It was a long drive across Wyoming.  We finally made it to Colorado Springs, I believe, on Saturday.

My uncle Max has been a long time Colorado resident.  He lived in Aurora for many years, in an apartment without modern conveniences like a phone.  He always used the pay phone down the hall to make calls.  When he retired he purchased his girlfriend’s brother’s property in Deer Trail, Colorado…he had to have utilities and when he went to connect his phone he was asked when he had a phone last…in the 1950’s when he lived in Illinois!  Fast forward to the present…my uncle Max is 95 years old and his girlfriend Lela is 98.  They live in  assisted living apartments down the hall from one and other.  I was able to spend time with uncle Max.  He is still sharp as a tack mentally and so is Lela.

This is my favorite photo of uncle Max.  He is smiling; I've never photographed him smiling!

This is my favorite photo of uncle Max. He is smiling; I’ve never photographed him smiling!

While in Colorado Springs, my daughter and I went up to the Garden of the Gods and did a few senior photos. I did not feel well that day.  Between the heat and the altitude I think they got the better of me. I always like going to the Garden of the Gods.  I would like to visit it in late spring or fall when it is not so hot out.

Libby laying on top of a rock at Garden of the Gods

Libby laying on top of a rock at Garden of the Gods

Monday was a travel day.  I decided to go half way to Flagstaff Arizona, stopping in Cortez Colorado.  We stopped in Alamosa County in Colorado and payed a visit to the Sand Dunes National Park.  I am so glad I purchased a park pass…it has more than paid for itself!

Sand Dunes National Park in Alamosa County Colorado

Sand Dunes National Park in Alamosa County Colorado

This was the first mountainous area I traveled through pulling the camper.  Traveling Rt 160 while very picturesque, I was not prepared for the 8000 feet in altitude and the ascent and descent that lasted 8 – 10 miles each way!  What goes up must come down you know! I had to watch my temperature gauge as it crept up.  I found if I lifted my foot off the gas it helped a great deal.  It also made me nervous at times when the engine revved to over 5000 RPMs.  I would back off again and still it did fine.  I made it through the mountains…very carefully!  I took it easy on my brakes too!  My car has a “gear down” feature and all you do is push a button and it saves a great deal of braking!  My one friend says I have a “jake brake” on my car. Whatever it is, it works very well!

We traveled on into Flagstaff today, stopping, of course at the Four Corners Monument.

I'm standing in four states at one time! :)

I’m standing in four states at one time! 🙂

On our way to Flagstaff I saw a few interesting rock formations.

Along Rt 160 in Arizona

Along Rt 160 in Arizona

Another formation along Rt 160

Another formation along Rt 160

For supper tonight I decided to use Yelp* to help me pick a place for dinner tonight.  I chose the Crown Railroad Cafe.  After circling the block a couple of times I figured I’d give it a try.  The outside pretty plain except you see the nifty neon Restaurant sign on top of the building.  The restaurant is attached to a Howard Johnson that is being remodeled and there are dumpsters in the parking lot.  I figured what the heck!  Yelp* gave it 4 1/2 stars.  The place was very clean on the inside.  Reminded me of Mel’s Diner on Alice.  It had a model train circling the dinning room along the ceiling.  The waitress recommended the burgers and what a treat!  Loved it!  I can hardly wait to try other local flavors while traveling the area and on the way home via Route 66!

If I was Guy Fieri I'd visit this place.  A real Diner, Drive-in and Dive!  Great Burgers!

If I was Guy Fieri I’d visit this place. A real Diner, Drive-in and Dive! Great Burgers!

Tomorrow is the Grand Canyon.  I think I will travel there in the evening to catch the sunset.  Such pretty colors I saw tonight!

 

 

 

 


Before PhotoShop

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On my recent trip to the Antique Mall in Medina, Ohio I happened upon a couple of items and my curiosity got the best of me.  The box and sleeve were marked Spiratone and one was a Vignetar and the other was a Center Sharp Focus.  They were both marked 52mm and I thought out loud, “Those would fit my 50mm lens!”  So for about $23 I purchased both items. Spiratone was a manufacturer of camera accessories from about 1946 to 1990.  Many of the younger photographers have never used or seen these types of filters because Photoshop or other programs can provide these effects.  Photography, back in the day (LOL), was much more, how would I say this, accessory dependent than what we are now.  In the darkroom you would achieve vignetting by cutting piece of paper and shooting your light beam from your enlarger through it.  You dodged and burned using cutouts of the image.  If you were lucky you could purchase filters to give you the star effects and soft focus for portraits (I still have mine!).

Today, I decided to “play” with my newly found items.  I had to experiment with the f/stop settings and found if I kept it mid-range or stopped down all the way the effects were much better.  The Vignetar is adjustable and will give you a smaller or larger vignette.  The Center Sharp Focus had its challenges.  If I shortened my depth of field (smaller f/stop) I had much more blur within the center part of the photograph; it produced shadows and reflections.  If I narrowed my depth of field (higher f/stop) it gave a much better effect.

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The first photo above (red background) is with the Vignetar and is a straight out of the camera exposure.  The black and white version is the same photo using a blue filter effect in Aperture.  I like how the camera fades into the background with this.  This camera is my old Nikon F2 with the 85mm f/1.8 lens attached (Nikkor).  These were photographed with my Nikon D700 and I used a tripod and I lighted this with white fluorescent lights on a pole lamp. My settings were ISO 200, f/6.3, and shutter 1/15.

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The next image was taken with the Center Sharp Focus filter and was straight out of the camera.  You can see the blur effect it made with the background while keeping the center focused. My settings for this were ISO 200, f/6.3, shutter 1/15.

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Here is another view of the effect the Center Sharp Focus filter produces; my settings for this photo were ISO 200, f/6.3, shutter 1/13.

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My final image is a shot taken with the Vignetar; my settings were ISO 200, f/9, and 1/3 of a second.  I again, used the blue filter in Aperture to convert to the black and white.

I think these are great finds.  I enjoyed shooting with these and they make great effects.  I think they would be a great addition to macro photography to help keep your central focus on your subject.  I am going to keep my eye open for other cool “old” items to use.

Happy Shooting!

 


The Making of Scrooge

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I know this is a late update to the Christmas season, but I felt it was worth publishing.  I had a wonderful opportunity to photograph the special effects make-up process of RJ Haddy of RADFX Company in Charleston West, Virginia.  For those of you who are not familiar with RJ’s work, he was a finalist and fan favorite on the SyFy Channel’s second season of Faceoff.  RJ (pictured below) came to Wheelersburg, Ohio to transform Jordan Nickles, a 19 year old actor, in to the elder Ebenezer Scrooge for JAX Theatre presentation of A Christmas Carol: The Musical.

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RJ, in the weeks preceding the play, had taken a plaster mold of Jordan’s face so he could design the foam latex mask to apply to Jordan’s face to make him look “old”.  Below is Jordan.

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The mask was a 6 piece foam latex prosthetic that was applied one piece at a time and then the “seams” were glued and blended together so it would appear as one piece.  The “mask” moved naturally with Jordan’s facial expressions and was very realistic in appearance.

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The next photos show how the mask application progressed.  The entire process took 4 hours to complete. If you want to view the video of the entire process (8 minutes) go to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2l0BF8ieXc

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Veins and age spots were added to make the skin appear more realistic.

 

 

 

 

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The following sequence is the application of the hair, eyebrows, and sideburns.

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I enjoyed, very much, photographing and video taping this process.  RJ is a wonderful to work with. Jordan is a very bright and talented young man and he has made JAX Theatre a wonderful establishment and had brought a variety of cultural experiences to our area. Image

Jordan and RJ posing and showing off the final results.

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I have to include one more shot…This is my favorite shot of the two of them.

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I hope you enjoyed this visual journey of The Making of Scrooge.  This was such a fun assignment that I hated not to share it with everyone.  

Stay tuned for my next adventure!


12 Hours and 3 Friends In New York City: Street Photography

This past weekend a couple of friends and I had the “courage” to take a “red-eye” bus tour to New York City.  The total time for the trip from Portsmouth Ohio is about 14 hours–give or take!  For most of the trip we either slept or talked.  There were those every couple hour breaks when we could purchase a snack or a pillow for our backs!  We spent a total of 12 hours in New York City.  This is my first installment and showcases my street photography.   (more…)


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Rainbow

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I was at the bank today and the sun was out and there were nice white fluffy clouds in the sky. I was talking with the customer service assistant and looked out the window and saw this beautiful rainbow. It extended from the river over to roughly Sciotoville. The best I could do at the time was photograph it with my iPhone through the tinted window of the bank. I started to get up and go out to shoot it outside, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. It was colorful and sharp. What a wonderful scene to see today.