My family and I try to get to downtown Chicago every year and we almost always visit the Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park. We take goofy pictures in the reflections and pictures of other people taking goofy pictures of themselves. The shot above was taken at the end of our last visit to Chicago. It was cold and rainy but we were prepared with jackets, umbrellas, and a rain cover for the camera bag. The forecast for the day was sunny and warm early, turning to cold and rainy in the afternoon and for once the weatherman was completely correct. The shots below were only taken 5-ish hours earlier in the day. I liked how the blown-out sky and top of the bean blend together in the last shot. Someday I’ll get through all the photos and post some of the goofy ones.
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.
IMO an important part of growing up is learning how to work. I’ll say the caveats up front: We’re not slave drivers, we have a lot of fun too, blah, blah, blah. We’ve finally had our burn ban lifted since we’ve been receiving some rain lately. Our burn pile has been growing, and growing, and growing — especially since it includes an old carpenter ant tunneled playscape. The boys have been anxious to get the fire going (all boys are pyros, no?) so I put off the rest of my to-do list and spent the afternoon burning. Once it was stoked we really couldn’t add wood very fast (at least not if we wanted to keep it under control) so the boys played in the wood pile and one even built a mini fort inside the pile. I reminded him to watch for snakes and he just said, “All I see is sticks”. After a long pause I heard him mutter, “But I guess the snakes match the sticks…”.
I had my daughter bring out my Canon 50D so I could grab some pics. I had only snapped a couple and it started to rain so that camera got put away. I would have liked to switch lenses as the telephoto lens compressed the scene a bit much for my liking, but the weather didn’t cooperate. [It was a typically unpredictable Texas weather day: hot and sunny in the morning, thunderstorms whipped up and it poured, went back to bright and sunny (and humid), and as I write I hear thunder again] I did get out my Canon S90 later and got a couple more pictures. The top photo was the 50D, bottom was the S90.
While we’ve gotten much more rain this year than in past years, we could use more. I’d love to see the sky go black, hear some good thunder, and feel the rain coming down again. During one of our spring rains my daughter and I had lunch at the Whole Foods mother ship (as we sometimes call the headquarters) and walked around downtown Austin in the rain. I went monochrome, super contrasty, and dark/moody with this shot of my daughter walking along Lamar Blvd. For most of our walk I had to keep the camera put away — too much rain — but we had a lull here.
“If you own a house which faces west on an island in the Indian Ocean and your youngest sibling is left-handed and your primary vehicle is white, then subtract line 21 from line 13, multiply by 0.285, subtract your latitude and longitude and enter the result on line 85.” What’s that got to do with anything? I just did my income taxes and it seems like half the directions are as nonsensical as the one above. So, I’m just venting…our tax code is too complex and MESSED UP. It doesn’t matter what political party affiliation you claim, whether you think the system is fair or unfair, or you think the rich should pay more or less — I don’t see how anyone could disagree that it’s a mess. Solutions? I don’t get into those kinds of debates online 🙂
In a previous post I showed a bokeh panorama (or “bokehrama”) from the same place the above picture was taken. The one above was a quick snapshot as we packed up to get out of the rain. I hadn’t planned on doing much with it but as I continued to see it among my photos it grew on me — I like the overall gloomy mood contrasted with the random colors of the skyscraper windows for example. Having a bit of detail and drama in the clouds helps too and I don’t think I would like it as much if the skies had been a flat gray.
This image is from a single frame captured with a 50mm lens. You may note the odd settings used — not typical for a landscape shot. The fact of the matter is that I had just used roughly the same settings for the panorama I linked to above. For this skyline image I sped up the shutter one stop with a flick of the dial (didn’t need quite the length of exposure that I needed for my daughter’s dark skin) and snapped this quickly so we could get going. Something like f/8 would’ve been sharper, etc. but there was no time to worry about that stuff. I cropped to a more panoramic aspect ratio (and cropped out another visitor to the park who was in the left side of my frame) then processed mainly with a bunch of curves and masks to selectively adjust contrast. I tweaked the white balance a bit to move from a completely black and white cast toward having a wee bit of warmth.
Finally some rain in Austin. I grabbed a bunch of shots of my son playing in the rain but I decided to post some faceless, could-be-any-young-boy pictures. I’m sure that many children in Austin took advantage of the rain to do what boys like to do – splash in the water in mud. For a time there was some nasty lightning so I had to have the kids come under the cover of the porch for a while. Fortunately the lightning cleared up and much fun was had again.
The black and white shot was processed in Lightroom — simply playing with sliders until I liked it. I brought the color shot into Photoshop and put a little more work into it. I cloned out a few things and used a series of curves and some sharpening in an attempt to enhance the falling rain and the drops rolling off the raincoat. I’d like the falling rain to stand out a bit more but simply did not want to put more work into it (things are busy around here). The clouds were thick and there was very little light so I cranked up the ISO for these shots. There isn’t that much noise in the shots but what little there was I decided to keep and didn’t use any noise reduction.
We’ve been getting a ton of rain this week thanks to the relative proximity of Hurricane Alex and the fact that we’re on the north side of it. I’m very glad for the rain, thanking God for it each time I look out the window, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more peeks of the sun.
In light of that (no pun intended) I decided to post this sunset image that I took sometime back. Nothing fancy — a picture of my son in our backyard as the sun heads to the horizon. I never get tired of seeing sunsets and am tempted to get the camera out for each one of them. It’s a run-of-the-mill 3-exposure HDR with some basic adjustments.
Speaking of rain, some of our family is headed to Seattle for a wedding next week. I’m reminded of the classic saying “I spent the summer in Seattle — both days were sunny”. I’m also reminded of a joke I heard sometime back that goes something like this:
A man moved to Seattle from sunny California and of course, it was raining. It rained the next day, and the next…and the next. After 7 or 8 straight days of rain he was wondering if it would ever stop. He asked a young boy passing by, “Does it ever stop raining here?!?”. To which the boy answered, “How should I know? I’m only six…”.
In my last post I extolled the virtues of my Canon 70-200 f2/8 L IS lens. Today I’ll point out one of the few positive things about my old Sigma 18-200 non-IS (or whatever Sigma calls their stabilization). What is that virtue? It’s so old and worn out that I don’t mind setting it down in a puddle in the middle of the Champs Elysee in Paris on a rainy night.
I ran out to the little bitty concrete island in the middle of the street and set the camera on the ground for some shots while traffic zoomed by. I added my folded-up camera strap under the lens to adjust the framing (I couldn’t look through the viewfinder b/c the camera was sitting right in front of a pole…and I didn’t want to get wet anyway). With a tripod and more time I would have framed this shot a little differently but I like it well enough. The water on the lens adds a nice effect too. Post-processing mostly amounted to the “punch” develop preset in Lightroom and some “recovery” slider action.
My not-quite-10-minute excursion to this concrete island was pretty much the extent of my “doing photography stuff” when I was with my wife during our Paris trip (I took one short photowalk while she was crashed in the hotel one evening). It was kind of nice not feeling the pressure of trying to work every shot, find the best angles, etc.
Did I mention we had an awesome time in Paris???