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Hey, Take My Picture!

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Hey, Take My Picture

A friend and I bought photo passes to the Wings Over Houston Air Show last weekend.  The folks in Houston really do it right too.  The photo pit was right on the flight line, roomy, and had a great riser platform to get well above the fence.  They provided coffee in the morning, soft drinks and lunch — even sunscreen.  Well done.

It’s easy to go crazy at an air show and fill up a half-dozen memory cards.  From the sounds of the shutters around us I think some guys did that in fact.  Eight to ten frames per second, firing away every time a plane was in sight.  My friend and I were much more conservative in our shots.  I came home with barely more than a card full of shots.  It’s nice to not have so many photos to go through when I got home.

The shot above is Major Henry “Schadow” Schantz, pilot for the F-22 Demonstration and Heritage Flight team (more on the Heritage Flight some other time).  It was pretty cool being right next to the plane as it went by and getting a nod (and a finger-point) from the pilot.

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Fearless

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Fearless

We recently spent a week at a family camp and one of the activities was rappelling from the top of a 45′ tower (or you could climb the other side of it).  My eight year old couldn’t get enough of this.  He was absolutely fearless and did it over and over.  I made him stand for the portrait above before he bounded up the stairs so he could do it once again.

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Descending

Da Bears!

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Monday Night Football

I had no idea until now that I haven’t posted in almost two months…I have had zero time for photography and blogging…for all sorts of reasons.  I knew it had been a “long time” but not this long.  I finally log in to WordPress and find some of the formatting changed, all sorts of cool posts from others that I’ve managed to miss, and oddly enough — I’m getting more hits on the blog than when I left (not that I’m all into that, but it’s interesting nonetheless). My top posts every week are still the Domke F2 review and the Hill Country Wedding.  Interesting.

Having grown up a Chicago Bears fan I jumped on the opportunity to go to the Bears vs. Cowboys game last week Monday.  Given the insane cost I’m not likely to do that again anytime soon unless I win the lottery…and I don’t play the lottery.  It was a fun time with my son, daughter, and some friends.

The picture I’m posting today was taken with the trusty Canon S90 that I purchased from my friend Mike Connell.  Yeah, I know there’s almost nothing related to the Bears in the photo except that this is where they were playing…oh well.  I’m finding the S90 pretty handy for situations like this — where I either don’t want to lug a big camera around or they aren’t allowed yet I still want some manual control over the exposures.  Cowboys Stadium has a 3″ lens rule so I’m sure I could have brought my DSLR in with certain lenses.  However, I don’t want to risk the hassle of walking up with a DLSR and being told mine isn’t allowed — then what?  Argue with them and maybe win but if I lose I have to haul it back to the car, risk having people see me lock it up in the car, etc.  The S90 will do just fine…

Beep, Beep

Let Me In?

For several weeks now we’ve had a road runner showing up on our back porch.  The first few times it showed up it went around finding dried cicada shells (or whatever they are) and eating something out of them.  There aren’t any more shells around that I have seen but the road runner still shows up here and there.  Today it walked right up to the back door and peered in.  We have two sets of sliding doors in the back and as the road runner walked between them (out of view) I grabbed the camera off the table — I had left it there after snapping some pics of my daughter yesterday.  I managed to get in position before the road runner was back in view and when it showed up at the other door I was able to take some pictures without scaring it off.

The backlight was really bad and the reflections on the glass caused some greenish weirdness but if you’ve ever been around road runners you know they’re very skittish and you don’t get them looking in your back door every day.  I was grateful to snag a few pics regardless of the quality.

Seattle Skyline

Seattle Skyline from Kerry Park

I’m headed to Seattle next week and that put this picture in mind (a rerun on the blog).  During our last Seattle trip the weather consisted of cold temperatures (50-ish) with rain — *every* day.  The sun partially peaked out *one* afternoon for a couple hours. The picture above is a good reflection of that I think.  To be fair, we knew in advance that the weather would stink that time of year but visiting family (with 3 new babies among us) was worth it and we had a great time.  I have hopes of someday getting a clear-weather shot from Kerry Park with Mt. Rainier in the background but it’s not likely to happen next week as I doubt there will be much time for photographic adventures.  In fact, I might not even pack more than the camera body, a single lens, and a flash (for the baby snapshots of course).  We’ll see though — my tripod might sneak into the luggage.

Aside from a family photo shoot a couple of weeks ago (which I’ve been asked not to post online) I haven’t taken any pictures.  Work at “work”, work at home, and family this and that have consumed all my time.  That’s not a bad thing necessarily — those are the right priorities — but I hope to get out shooting sometime soon.

The Crew

20120728_WoodBurning

The Crew

We recently had visitors and it was a good opportunity for the kids and their visiting friends to have some fun making fires.  Fire, chainsaws…fun stuff indeed.  We were sure to capture some pictures of them together since they live 1000+ miles away and don’t get to visit often.  I used the tripod and wireless remote to get the group shot above.  They were supposedly going for the serious look in the photo below but they never could manage it.

The image above is actually a crop of a larger Brenizer pano that I attempted.  It would’ve been a cool Brenizer except that the smoke in the background varied so much as the individual frames were being taken.  That led to some odd-looking stuff in the final stitch (some of which is actually evident, but not too obvious, in the photo above).  Little puffs of smoke blurred the image in some (small) places which looked rather unnatural.  I didn’t bother saving that larger view.

For safety reasons we keep the fires small and don’t constantly add new “fuel” to them.  This gives the kids plenty of time for play and exploration — they have a blast out there.  There are imaginary forts under the trees, deer tracks to follow, scorpions to find under rocks, and snakes to (pretend you want to) find.  We haven’t run across any rattlers or coral snakes at our place yet but they’re certainly around.  Fortunately I’ve only seen them dead on the road when I’m out running rather than live in the yard.

Quit Using Auto White Balance

White Balance Fixed 50mm, f/1.4, 1/160s

Ever since taking Raul Touzon’s workshop I almost never shoot using auto white balance (AWB).  The camera rarely gets the white balance correct when it guesses, and the photos from a single shoot are often inconsistent in color when they are shot with AWB.  If they are going to be “wrong” when AWB is used, you might as well guess wrong yourself by choosing one of the manual white balance modes — at least the images will be consistent with each other.

Ideally one would shoot an image of a gray card (or a similar type of product) which has a known color and use it either to set a custom white balance in the camera or to sample it in software to do an automatic adjustment.  If I don’t use a gray card, I pick a WB mode (my default is “daylight”) and shoot everything with that.  In Lightroom I either sample a white point to fix up the WB or I adjust it to taste (I might even want to make it wacky here and there).

The shot above was snapped in the kitchen while I was testing my newly-repaired camper.  Canon had changed all my default settings of course and I don’t even remember what WB was set in the camera.  No matter, I simply used the WB eye dropper to sample one of the white polka dots on my daughter’s dress.  The image above is the result — straight out of the camera except for the white balance.

White Balance Settings In Lightroom

Original image:

Original Image

Chair Abstract

Chair Abstract 50mm, f/1.4, 1/50s, ISO 200

Just like the kite photo I recently posted, this image is out of the ordinary for me — I don’t shoot many abstract or fine art types of photos.  During the week I picked up my Canon 5D mkii from being repaired [related sad story below] and yesterday got a chance to fully check it out.  I popped my 50mm f/1.4 lens on the body and started plinking.  As I sat at our little breakfast table I opened the lens up completely and started shooting through the rails of one of the chair backs.  There were a lot of colorful things in the background which were nicely blurred by the wide aperture and close focus distance.  I then started shooting while moving the camera up and down, resulting in the image above.  I rather like it.  The image is straight out of the camera except for cropping.

So the sad story is this:  This year I decided to try shooting some pictures at a fireworks show.  I’d never done it — I’d rather concentrate on *watching* the fireworks and it just seemed like a headache overall.  Before the fireworks we attended a BBQ dinner catered by the Salt Lick and as dusk fell I hauled out the camera and tripod and began getting set up.  I put my wireless remote into the cameras hot shoe, put the camera on the tripod, then proceeded to adjust the length of the tripod legs.  I heard a loud crash — my 5D mkii hitting the pavement from a height of about 5 feet.  Looking on the bright side, the camera had turned over on the way down and landed flat on the wireless remote which was in many pieces all around us.  That definitely spared me from the damage I could have had.  The camera “worked” here and there but mostly gave an error.  It would even randomly try to focus the lens — when the power switch was off!  Anyway…a couple hundred dollars later I have my camera back refurbished and sporting a new shutter box and mirror assembly.  I managed to put all the remote pieces together but it was dead as a doornail.

The Lone Kite

Lone Kite

I’m not much for the minimalist thing in general but I’ve always liked this picture.  It was taken from the beach — looking inland over the dunes — in Port Aransas, TX.  While swimming and fishing with the kids one evening I happened to look back and see this kite all by itself in the sky.  I’m not sure what else to say other than “I though it was kind of cool”.  Adding to the cool factor IMO was the clear sky.  Normally we photographers like dramatic skies but that would take away from this scene in my estimation.

Storm Panorama

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Storm Panorama 70mm, f/5.6, 1/180s, ISO 200, 10 frames

It’s pouring rain again tonight.  Lots of lightning and thunder too…awesome.  Last night after the rain I noticed some clouds to the east so I shot about 20 handheld frames along the horizon.  The above image was cropped from the resulting stitched panorama (probably about 10 frames worth).  I did some basic contrast adjustments in Photoshop after the stitch then went back into Lightroom.  I’d recently seen a very cool cloud/lightning image done in black and white and decided to go that route with this one.  I used the channel mixer in Lightroom to adjust the image to taste.  In very rough terms that meant darkening the blues and brightening the reds.