Category Archives: Photoblog

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12 Glen Photowalk-A.D. Wheeler 0624-082321-021

Watkins Glen Gorge Photowalk

This past weekend Gillian and I joined A. D. Wheeler, of A. D. Wheeler Photography, for a fun and informative photowalk at Watkins Glen Gorge in Watkins Glen, NY.

About 25 people attended and many brought their tripods and ND filters as they were after the “silky” waterfall look or were shooting HDR brackets. I decided to challenge myself and just bring my 35mm prime and shoot handheld. (or maybe I was just lazy and I didn’t want to haul my tripod…) The group got a bit bunched up at some of the more interesting locations but as polite photographers we waited patiently for tourists to pass by and for each other to get their shots.

Photographers setting up at Watkins Glen Gorge

The park offers access to the gorge from both the top and bottom. You can take a shuttle ride up and hike down or park at the top, hike down, and then take a shuttle back up to your car. You can also do as we did and to walk up and back down. Here is a view after the first sets of steps.

Foot bridge over the Gorge at Watkins Glen Park

This bridge is right at the entrance at the base of the Gorge Trail

This is the waterfall that the group in the first photo is focused on. You can actually walk behind this waterfall, hence the name Cavern Cascade.

Cavern Cascade at Watkins Glen Gorge

Cavern Cascade, the walk behind falls at Watkins Glen Gorge

And I’ll share one more of my favorites from Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls at Watkins Glen Gorge

Rainbow Falls at Watkins Glen Gorge

The organizer of the photowalk, A. D. Wheeler, led a fun and informative photowalk. He also put up a Facebook group for us to post all our photos to. Check it out and visit his web site!

I Got a New Lens!

I recently purchased a new Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Nikkor Zoom Lens from eBay. I know the 28-300 covers a larger range but when I want to go wide, 28 isn’t usually wide enough on my d300 so I would end up carrying another lens regardless. Not to mention its almost half the price. I have read lots of great reviews on the lens describing it as sharp, fast to focus, and having very good VR. I agree on all points and see no use in repeating what everyone else says about the lens. I’ll just share a few photos I have taken with it…

Before I bought this lens, I rented a copy from lensrentals.com and took it to the NASCAR race at Darlington. Since the Darlington race is run at night, an f/2.8 or even f/4 lens would have been better, but I was still able to produce some fairly sharp photos of the action.

The photo below was shot during practice so the light was still very good. 300mm, ISO 200, f/8.0, and 1/1000s.

Danica Patrick at Darlington Raceway

Danica tries to avoid the dreaded Darlington Stripe

When the sun started setting the aperture had to open up and the ISO started climbing. This was at 180mm, ISO 900, f5.6, and 1/400s.

Lining up for a restart at Darlington

Lining up for a restart at Darlington

Below is a 100% crop of the same image. As you can see, sharpness is quite good, especially for a $500 lens.

NASCAR race at Darlington Raceway

100% crop of the above photo

As it got later in the evening, shooting conditions got worse, but at 300mm, ISO 2500, f/5.6,  and 1/400s, I am still happy with the results for what I spent on this lens.

Turn Three Action at Darlington

Turn Three Action at Darlington

Sorry lensrentals.com, but unless I have a specific need, I will not be renting the 70-200 f/2.8 as often as I have been. Now if I can just find a $500 400-600mm zoom…

Raindrops Hitting My Car during a Stormy Sunset

Photographing the Rain

My lawn has been a mess for a couple years now so I finally broke down and hired a service to fertilize and get the weeds under control. Now that thats working and most of the weeds are gone the grass needs to fill in. So I used that as an excuse to put off mowing for a couple extra days. I finally decided to start the job one evening around 7:30PM and as luck would have it, it started raining about half way thru. The lighting was nice and the rain looked cool so I got out the camera. I played around with shutter speeds and apertures to control blur and depth of field and this is what I came up with:

A rainy day delays the mowing of the lawn

Nikon d300s with 35mm f/1.8: 1/20s at f/20 and iso 200

Here I went with a small aperture to maximize depth of field and a long shutter speed to give the rain drops a nice motion blur.

Hard rain and the setting sun

Nikon d300s 35mm f/1.8: 1/50s at f/20 and iso 200

Same technique here with a slightly higher shutter speed to control the extra light. Still good motion blur though.

Heavy rain hitting the roof of a car

Nikon d300s 70-300 AF-S VR Zoom at 125mm: 1/500s at f/4.8 and iso 200

I saw the raindrops splashing off the roof of my car and wanted to see what I could capture there. Still a bit of motion blur at 1/500s and I would have liked a bit more depth of field, but I did catch one cool splash.

Rain drops frozen in time, splashing on roof of car

Nikon d300s 70-300mm AF-S VR Zoom at 300mm: 1/3200s at f/5.6 and iso 1000

Here, I boosted the iso to 1000 to get up to 1/3200s at f/5.6. That froze things nicely but I would have liked more depth of field. Unfortunately, as I was checking shots on the display the rain stopped so I didn’t get a chance to see how the extra DoF would have looked.

This next photo turned out to be my favorite of the evening.

Raindrops Hitting My Car during a Stormy Sunset

Nikon d300s 70-300mm AF-S VR Zoom at 300mm: 1/500s at f/5.6 and iso 200

Everything came together nicely to make an interesting composition. It makes me think of those times when you get caught in a downpour on the way to your car and all you are focused on is grabbing that door handle and getting in the car and out of the rain.

We seem to have been having a lot of storms at this time of the evening lately. Hopefully I get a chance to try this again.

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The George Eastman House

George Eastman House

George Eastman House-Rochester, NY

We recently visited The George Eastman House with Scott Thomas (of viewsinfinitum.com) and his wife Merrie. Be sure to check out the post about this visit on his blog too.

Our self guided tour started with a walk thru the gallery, which, at the time, was displaying The Unseen Eye, a collection by W M Hunt. The collection is mostly of portrait type photos where for one reason or another, you can not see the eyes of the subject. The reasons the eye was not visible ranged from the subject simply looking away, to the eyes, for one reason or another, being, uh, missing. There was a video loop of Hunt talking about the collection and in it he mentioned that he is a very “dark” man. Some of the photos in his collection were gruesome. If you would like to see this (or avoid it) it is on display until February 19th, 2012. I was looking forward to seeing some great photography, and for some this may be as such, but for me, I enjoyed the rest of our tour much more.

Just as you enter the museum there is a small room containing an exhibit called Cameras from the Technology Collection. This includes the very first Brownie cameras, a drive in movie projector, the first digital systems developed by Kodak, as well as other vintage photography and movie equipment. We walked right by it when we first walked in so make sure you don’t miss it!

Canon DCS 3e

Canon DCS 3e based on Kodak's DCS 200+ architecture of 1994 with a 1.2 megapixel sensor

The first room you arrive in when entering the home itself is the Dining Room. In the photo below, you can see a door in the background. This is the door to the China Cabinet. Inside those doors is a set of vault doors securing the china and silver.

Dining Room at the Eastman House

Dining Room at the George Eastman House

Past the dining room is the Conservatory. The mounted elephant seen here is one of several trophies that Eastman brought home from his many African Safaris. With my prime lens I was a bit limited in my composition here. Be sure to check out Scott’s blog for a great photo of the Conservatory.

Conservatory at the George Eastman House

Conservatory at the George Eastman House

View from the Conservatory back towards the Dining Room in the Eastman House

Looking from the Conservatory back towards the Dining Room

Beyond books, the Library contains a few more trophies from Eastman’s safaris. The table shown below is covered with hippo hide, and sitting on it is a vase made from a hippo foot.

Desk in library in the George Eastman House

This desk in the library in the George Eastman House is covered in hippo hide from a hippo Eastman shot on one of his African Safari's

A book on display in Eastman's library

A book on display mentioning a few of the details in Eastman's library

At the time of his death, George Eastman’s net worth was about $95 Million in terms of 1932 dollars. According to an inflation calculator I found on the Internet, that is about $1.6 Billion in 2011 dollars. That would have him tied for 273rd on today’s Forbes 400. $95 Million also accounts for about 1/611 of the Gross National Product of the United States in 1932. Below is a photo of the filing system used by Eastman’s secretary to keep track of his donations. The card in the back shows quarterly donations of $50,000 to the Rochester Community Chest. During his lifetime Eastman donated $100 million to different organizations locally, nationally, and worldwide, but most of the money went to the University of Rochester and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Wiki)

Filing system used to track Eastman's donations

Filing system used to track Eastman's donations

Two days before visiting The Eastman House I purchased a Nikon 35mm f1.8 so I decided I would use that exclusively this day. The speed of the 1.8  was great but the very narrow depth of field was sometimes difficult to work with. Also, the 35mm on the DX sensor of the D300s made composition difficult, as it was simply not wide enough. One would think that when photographing the interior of a 35,000 square foot house you could easily stand in one corner of a room and cover the area but that was not the case. So composition was a challenge but it made for a good learning experience, forcing me to work within the limitations of a prime lens.

I highly recommend visiting the George Eastman House and International Museum of Photography and Film. There are great history lessons on photography, the Kodak Company, and the man himself, George Eastman. Note that if you call ahead you may be able to visit the archives, which I plan on checking out the next time I visit.

Stokoe Farms-Harvest Festival

Stokoe Farms Harvest Festival

After immigrating from Northumberland, England in 1801, Thomas Stokoe established Stokoe Farms on 100 acres of land in 1812 in what is now the town of Scottsville, NY. The Stokoe family, now in its seventh generation, has expanded the farm to 3000 acres in four towns.

Each year, we get our Christmas tree at Stokoe’s but this is the first year I attended their Harvest Fest. In addition to their selection of pumpkins, Stokoe Farm offers recreational and educational activities as well as food and beverages and a gift shop.

Below you can see their giant slide and pumpkin selection.

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest

For the little ones, you can take a train ride around the farm to see some of the animals…

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Barnyard Train Ride

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Barnyard Train Ride

…go for a walk on the Tall Pines Nature Trail…

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Nature Trail

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Nature Trail

…and see a clown driving around on a tractor that blows bubbles, has an “aaaooooga” horn and shoots fire out the exhaust!

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - A comical clown

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - A comical clown

Wilma, their one year old pig, just gave birth to eleven piglets on September 30th 2011.

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Wilma and her eleven piglets

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Wilma and her eleven piglets

For the older kids (and the adults), they have zip lines…

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Zip Lines

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Zip Lines

And no fall farm festival would be complete without a Maise Maze. Tough to get a photo of a maze from inside the maze, so I did my best to peek over the corn stalks for this shot…

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Inside the Maise Maze

Stokoe Farms Harvest Fest - Inside the Maise Maze

We had a wonderful morning at Stokoe’s this past weekend and the recent Indian Summer really brought in the crowds for the farm. Harvest Fest runs September 17th through the end of October on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $8, free under 2 years. For more information, check out their web site. I highly recommend making the trip to check our Stokoe Farms!

churchville-park-header-hdr

Photography Near Home

Wouldn’t it be nice if every day we could all shoot in the most interesting venues in the world like Venice or Yellowstone or Hawaii and display a continuous stream of gorgeous photos on our flickr or G+ pages? This is where I think a lot of us would love to be, either shooting professionally, or simply indulging our love of photography while traveling the world in our free time.

Alas, most of us have “day jobs” that have little to do with photography and free time is difficult to come by unless we happen to be retired. But if we expect to capture our own gorgeous photos in our travels, or are to achieve the dream of becoming some sort of paid photographer, we need to practice this art. To do this, we need to find times and locations that fit the reality of our schedules where we can get out and just shoot.

I don’t know about everyone else but even though I have lived where I now do for most of my life, it’s still difficult to think of interesting locations to shoot. On top of that, by the time you leave work, maybe spend some time at the gym, get home, make dinner, eat dinner, etc. there is, if its summer time, maybe an hour or so to go grab some time behind the camera. Which means, if you are to catch the evening golden hour, or a sunset, you need to shoot at a location near home. And since we have lived “near home” all our lives, we see nothing worth shooting “near home”. So we sit home and scroll thru the online stream of gorgeous photos, the likes of which we wish we could capture, but can’t because we are stuck “near home”.

This is the frustration I have felt lately, at least during the work week, when it comes to finding interesting, nearby subjects as I work to improve my photographic skills. But last week I broke through this frustration and found a bit of inspiration. How? Well, in a couple ways, one personal, and one technical.

On a personal level, or maybe more appropriately, a mental one, I needed to stop thinking I had to be in some amazingly picturesque location to make photos that satisfied what I was trying to accomplish. I needed to see those “near home” locations not from the perspective of a local resident, but from that of someone visiting. Put simply, I just needed to open, or reopen, my eyes.

Since the time many of us have available to shoot is somewhat limited, we need to make good use of that time. Now that we have (re)opened our eyes to the photo opportunities “near home”, we now need to find the best light and shooting angles to take advantage of that light quickly and efficiently. For that, I turn to technology. Namely, Google Maps and a piece of software called The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE).

TPE basically uses Google maps for its display but I find Google’s interface and available full screen map a bit easier to use to locate an area to shoot. I start with the map centered on my house and at a zoom level that covers the maximum distance I want to travel. I used the 1 mile scale, seen at the bottom left of Google Maps. I also start with the map view instead of satellite view. This helps find the points of interest quickly, like parks, creeks, railroads, etc. See the below screenshot.

Note the scale in the lower left at 1 Mile. Also, the green areas are parks or recreation areas, blue is streams or creeks, and the Rochester Airport is even shown in the upper right corner. All present decent photo ops and all are within about a 6 mile radius of home!

Now, since we don’t have a lot of time to drive or walk around whatever location we choose, we want to get an idea of how the light will be falling on our subjects before we get there. This is where The Photographer’s Ephemeris comes in.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) is a free app for desktops, and a paid app for iOS. Unfortunately, it is not available for Android yet, but they say they are working on it.

I remembered canoeing in Black Creek from Churchville park a few years ago and thought it would make for a decent nearby photo location. See the standard Google Map below.

Churchville Park Map

Screenshot from Google Maps

Great, we have a park with easy drive up access to a creek within a ten minute drive from home! Hmmm. Now, where will the light be coming from when I get there and what time does the sun actually set? Find the answer with TPE…

Sun and Moon rise and set angles at Churchville Park

Screenshot from The Photographers Ephemeris- Orange line shows sunset, yellow: sunrise, light blue: moonrise, dark blue: moonset

Well look at that! The sun will set directly down the length of the creek when standing at the shore twenty feet from the edge of the road! That could make for a nice shot! Not shown above are the rise and set times for both sun and moon. TPE will calculate and display this info for any date.

I learned one more thing after arriving at this location and thinking the sun was not where it was supposed to be. So when I got back home I took a look at the satellite view in TPE…

Near the upper right corner of the above screenshot, you see a parking lot, which was where I was thinking the orange marker was positioned. So when we got to the lot things didn’t look right. So my lesson learned here is to zoom in tight on the satellite view to make sure you get right to the point you mapped out. I also could have saved the point in Google Maps on my smartphone and it should have gotten me there with the GPS. I’ll have to test that out next time…

So after all this, did I get any decent shots? A few. Here’s one…

Churchville Park HDR

Churchville Park HDR

The HDR processing didn’t come out as I had hoped but that is just another thing I need to perfect. What I did successfully accomplish was getting some seat time with the camera during the week when I was usually uninspired due to my perceived lack of subjects ”near home”.

This post was not intended to be a lesson in using The Photographer’s Ephemeris but more a lesson to myself and maybe others that may be having difficulty working photography in to today’s busy lifestyles. Reopen your eyes to the “near home” subjects and use technology to help locate and plan your shots before getting on location.

I will be using TPE to plan future shots, “near home” as well as not so near to home and I plan on sharing everything else I learn while using this tool.

How about you? Have you tried TPE? Have you found any fun and interesting ways of using this photographic tool?

To learn more about The Photographer’s Ephemeris check out their web site.

Chimney Bluffs

Chimney Bluffs State Park

After spending time with some friends at Captain Jacks on Sodus Bay, Gillian and I decided to make the short trip over to Chimney Bluffs State Park. Gillian had never been to Chimney Bluffs or even Sodus Bay. I practically grew up on boats that my parents kept in Sodus. We sailed between Sodus, Fair Haven, The Thousand Islands and Kingston for many summers, so for me, the area holds fond childhood memories. One of the nearby places we would spend hours anchored was in front of Chimney Bluffs. Which back in those days, was not yet an official State Park.

Even today, as a NY State Park, it does not have much in the way of amenities, but does offer a small parking lot, a picnic area, a restroom, and a few hiking trails. Since today we were interested in seeing the bluffs from the beach, we drove directly to the parking area at the end of East Bay Road instead of using the official park entrance off Garner Road. (See map links below) We skipped the hiking trails but you can find a map at the official NYS Park website. For a local website with descriptions of the trails, see here. For an article about the bluffs, check Wikipedia.

We arrived shortly after a major downpour. In the photo below you can see the trenches created by the water rushing down the faces of the bluffs.

Looking up one of the bluffs at Chimney Bluffs State Park

Looking up one of the bluffs at Chimney Bluffs State Park

And here you see a thunderhead passing just south of the bluffs. We could hear the thunder but we stayed dry.

Ominous clouds just south of Chimney Bluffs

Ominous thunderhead lurking just south of us.

After reading about showing scale over on Scott Thomas’ blog, I took his advice in composing this shot.

Showing the scale of Chimney Bluffs

To show the scale of the bluff formations I composed this shot with my girlfriend Gillian at the base of the bluffs.

Below is one of the more interesting formations at the bluffs. Also, you can just see a large rock hanging from the left wall of the right bluff. I was unable to show any scale here, but that rock is a minimum of two feet in diameter. A good reason to heed the warnings about falling rocks!

Chimney Bluffs, NY or Arizona?

Chimney Bluffs, NY or Arizona?

The photo below (courtesy of TripAdvisor) is of Mitten Ridge, Arizona. Maybe you see a slight resemblance to the shot above???

Mitten Ridge, Arizona - Photo courtesy Trip Advisor

Mitten Ridge, Arizona - Photo courtesy Trip Advisor

Chimney Bluffs State Park has a nice picnic area on the shore of Lake Ontario as well as a couple hours of hiking trails that overlook the bluffs you see above. The rocky beach has crystal clear water thats wonderful for a refreshing swim and the sunsets are gorgeous. Check it out some time!