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Bad Day/Good Day
1/29/2011 2:49:34 PM

Went for a drive up the Great River Road between Alton and Pere Marquette Park this morning to see the wintering bald eagles.  I probably had one of the better days of viewing that I have had with many eagles close to the highway, either in trees on on the river ice.  Unfortunately, I didn't get too many photos (this is the bad day part) because the autofocus failed on my 80-400 zoom.  It sounds like some of the internal gearing has stripped so I suspect replacement will be necessary.  I tried to use manual focus and between lens problems and failing eyesight, I didn't get too many good eagle photos.  One of the best is here:



Still seeing the large number of eagles, sometimes 2 or 3 in the same tree, made things not too bad.  What really turned the bad day into a good day occurred shortly before returning.  I has stopped to take a photo of an eagle when what I first thought was a hawk swooped down out of a low tree and flew along the side of the highway for a short distance and then appeared to land.  I decided to drive up slowly to see if I could get a shot of this bird before heading home.  Imagine my surprise when I saw this guy on the ground just off the shoulder of the road (I was in our truck about 15 feet away when these photos were taken):





I've taken a few photos of owls in the wild in the past but they were usually high in trees.  This guy was on the ground and, as you can see, very well camoflauged by the bushes and leaves.  Had I not seen him land and been looking closely I would have gone right past him.
 

Black & White or Color?
1/17/2011 11:36:40 AM

I recently added photos to two new categories, Barns & Buildings and Rails.  Most of the work I post here starts as either digital or color positives (slides).  These photos are no different.  While I kept almost all of the photos in Rails in the original color format (the one exception is an experimental, sort of sepia toned photo), I decided to make all of the photos in the Barns & Buildings category black & white.

Here is an original rendering of one of these photos:



And the black & white rendering:



I decided to use black & white for a couple of reasons.  First, most of the subjects in these photos are older, rustic buildings.  In many cases, paint is well worn, wood is weathered, boards are missing, or other things make the buildings look really old, even though many are still in use.  Second, many of these photos were taken on cloudy, overcast days so the sky didn't offer much value to the photo.  I've been please with the results and may use it more in the future.

(BTW, some of the photos in my Europe category are also rendered in black & white.  Those photos were originally black & white negatives and color wasn't an option there.)

Photography "As We May Think"
1/4/2011 8:14:32 PM
In July 1945, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Dr. Vannevar Bush, wrote a rather lengthy article titled As We May Think for the Atlantic Magazine. This article is quoted, even today, for the forward looking thoughts on technology that it provides. Often overlooked, however, are Dr. Bush’s thoughts on photography. Excerpts of his article are included below. One could easily associate some of his thoughts with today’s digital photography but even Dr. Bush couldn’t predict the rapid growth of digital photography and the way it has become a method of choice for sharing photographs today. (By the way, if you want to read the entire article, it is available on line in the Atlantic Magazine archives)

"Today we make the record conventionally by writing and photography, followed by printing; but we also record on film, on wax disks, and on magnetic wires…progress in photography is not going to stop. Faster material and lenses, more automatic cameras, finer-grained sensitive compounds to allow an extension of the minicamera idea, are all imminent...

The camera hound of the future wears on his forehead a lump a little larger than a walnut. It takes pictures 3 millimeters square, later to be projected or enlarged, which after all involves only a factor of 10 beyond present practice. The lens is of universal focus, down to any distance accommodated by the unaided eye, simply because it is of short focal length. There is a built-in photocell on the walnut such as we now have on at least one camera, which automatically adjusts exposure for a wide range of illumination. There is film in the walnut for a hundred exposures, and the spring for operating its shutter and shifting its film is wound once for all when the film clip is inserted. It produces its result in full color. It may well be stereoscopic, and record with two spaced glass eyes, for striking improvements in stereoscopic technique are just around the corner…Is this all fantastic? The only fantastic thing about it is the idea of making as many pictures as would result from its use…

When Brady made his Civil War pictures, the plate had to be wet at the time of exposure. Now it has to be wet during development instead. In the future perhaps it need not be wetted at all… Often it would be advantageous to be able to snap the camera and to look at the picture immediately…
A scene itself can be just as well looked over line by line by the photocell in this way as can a photograph of the scene. This whole apparatus constitutes a camera, with the added feature, which can be dispensed…
It would be a brave man who would predict that such a process will always remain clumsy, slow, and faulty in detail…
...Like dry photography, microphotography still has a long way to go. The basic scheme of reducing the size of the record, and examining it by projection rather than directly, has possibilities too great to be ignored…"
'Tis the Season of the Which
1/2/2011 7:36:44 PM

I often find myself returning to the same location to take photos or taking multiple photos of the same subject.  In the case of my wildlife photography, the locations are driven by the abundance of wildlife, the presence of a certain species, or the quality of the surroundings.  While the location may be the same, it would be highly unusual to see wildlife in the exact same poses or even in exactly the same spot.  Similarly, when I shoot hot air balloons, I may be drawn to a particular balloon because of its shape or color but more often than not, the background, other nearby balloons, or even the wind may change enought to create a unique shot each time.

When I was going through some landscape images today, I found two that surprised me, not because they were of the same subject but because they had been taken nearly eighteen months apart yet were taken from almost the same perspective.  The two images are shown here with a brief explanation following:





The top image was taken on December 19, 2010, using a Canon 60D with a Canon 28-135 zoom lens.  The lens was set at 70 mm and the shot was 1/350 of a second at f5.6.

The lower image was taken on May 3, 2009, using a Canon 10D with the same lens.  For this photo, the lens was set at 75 mm and the shot was 1/45 of a second at f11.

While there are minor differences in the foreground, as you can see the perspective is almost exactly the same.  The questions I had to ask myself were why did I take both of these photos and which do I like the best?

The answer to the first question is fairly simple.  This is one of a number of bridges in Forest Park, St. Louis.  I really find the aesthetics of this bridge pleasing.  The second question is a bit more difficult.  I like both, both could be improved by blue sky, and depending on my mood my favorite changes.  Which do you like the best?

My real point here is don't be afraid to take photos of the same subject at different times of the day or the year or in different conditions.  Each image should be able to stand alone or work well with the others.

Lone Elk Park - II
1/2/2011 10:55:08 AM

A few more photos to go with those posted yesterday.

While I rarely see the wild turkeys in Lone Elk Park, I saw a group of three on two different occassions in late 2010.  When this photo was taken three turkeys were taking a leisurely stroll down the shoulder of the loop road around the park (December 19, 2010; Canon 60D, Canon 28-135 lens).



We also had snow in late November which provided the opportunity for this shot of some of the bison in the park (November 26, 2010; Canon 60D; Canon 17-40L lens).



Another November photo.  I'm glad the wildlife weren't present for this shot.  This nest hangs right over the entrance road to the park (a lot of it has now weathered away).  I'm not sure what type of flying menace created the nest but I'm sure I didn't want to be around them :-). (November 26, 2010; Canon 60D; Canon 28-135 lens)



And a final photo from a much warmer time.  Canada Geese are common in the park throughout the year.  These were resting on the lawn near the old visitor's center.  While I don't have a photo, its humorous to see twenty or thirty geese in a row marching across the frozen lake to open water.  (August 7, 2010; Canon 10D; Canon 28-135 lens)





 

Lone Elk Park
1/1/2011 10:24:56 PM

Lone Elk Park, just west of St. Louis, offers a convenient location for photographing wildlife and landscapes.  Wildlife that can be seen include elk, bison, whitetail deer, Canada geese, and turkeys.  Over the last few weeks, I've been able to visit a number of times and have had the opportunity to get some photos of bull elk sparring.  This behavior is normally associated with establishing dominance and is often seen during or just prior to the breeding season.  These photos were all taken after the breeding season was finished but before antlers were shed. 

The first photo was taken just before Christmas 2010 from a distance of about 30 - 40 feet.



The second photo was taken December 26 and show another sparring match.  It was taken from a bit further away (I'd estimate about 80 - 90 feet) and in a different area of the park.



The third photo was taken on New Years Day, 2011, from a distance of about 10 - 15 feet.  Four of the bulls from the Lone Elk herd were gathered in the same area (on the opposite side of the park from where I had seen the cows and the younger elk).  Over a period of about 10 minutes, the elk on the left of this picture was in short sparring matches with each of the other three bulls, including the largest bull.



The final photo here is of the largest bull in the Lone Elk herd.  While it sparred with the bull above briefly, I preferred this photo which was taken a few minutes later.



All photos were taken with a Canon 60D and a Canon 28 - 135 zoom lens using available light.  They were cropped and resized in PhotoShop after Levels were minimally adjusted.

6 items total


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