Better Than I had Expected

Dutchtown sunset 09-15-2014I did a post October 1, 2014, where I was chasing a sunset. In it I mentioned that I had missed making a good shot a few days earlier because the light went away before I could I could change my exposure.

I have to get a bunch of prints edited tonight and off to Kid Matt for an exhibit in Altenburg on October 23, so I was looking for something that wouldn’t require much research. In sifting though what I had talen recently, I ran across the bad sunset photo. It was about three stops underexposed, but I could see the golden tassels that attracted my attention. Click on the photo to make it larger.

Can I bring it to life?

The first thing I did was crop out a lot of the sky because it was blown out. I went so far as to crop out ALL the sky and planned to let the golden reflection in the water puddle carry the theme. Doing that made the composition awkward because the cornfield didn’t look “right,” so I loosened it back up. It still might be a tad tight.

The next step was to boost the highlights to emphasize the backlit weeds. Next, I brought down the shadows. That made the contrast greater. I opened up the midtones a little so you could see the details in the green grass. The cornfield had gone an ugly dark color, so I “dodged” the shadow areas and the highlights to bring out the “cornness.” [The spellchecker doesn’t like that word. If it doesn’t exist, it SHOULD.]

So, I was able to dig into a digital darkroom bag of tricks to save a photo I was ready to discard. Interestingly enough, the first frame of a total of 10 exposures taken in less than 60s seconds was the best. What I like is that even though the picture was “saved” in the darkroom, it is faithful to the way my eye saw it when it was taken.

It ain’t great art, but it’ll do so I can get on with my other work for the night.

Here’s the original

Dutchtown sunset 09-15-2014You can see why I thought it was a goner when I first saw it.

Chasing the Sun

Sunset near Blomeyer 09-30-2014This post is about chasing the sun and the evolution of a photograph. Friend Shari was in town from St. Louis, so I picked her up shortly before sunset at her Mother’s house where she had returned from playing bridge. I told her I was looking to shoot something quick and easy so I wouldn’t have to stay up late. I suggested we make a run out Bloomfield Road to take a look at Campster School. I knocked off several frames, but the light and angle wasn’t right, so we headed out Bloomfield road where I did my normal grousing about the city’s “improvements” to the historic scenic highway.

We headed south on 74 where I could see several big clouds of dust coming from fields, but none of them lined up right with the setting sun. When we crossed the Diversion Channel, though, I whipped off to the right onto the levee approach to knock off this picture of the reflection on a borrow pit without even checking the camera. For the geeks, I’ll provide camera settings: ISO 200 1/400 @ f/10 at 55mm and -1.67 eV.

THAT’S really how red the sky was due to all the dust and smoke in the air. I didn’t add any saturation or filters to get that. I was using a polarizing filter, but it didn’t come into play with the sun at that angle. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Maybe lighter would be better

Sunset near Blomeyer 09-30-2014That wasn’t a bad start, but I wondered what would happen if I gave the scene a bit more light. I changed the exposure to ISO 200 1/200 @f/7/1 at 55mm and -.67 eV.

That let me see into the shadows of the fields and made the dust show up. It still wasn’t quite what I wanted. That’s where I noticed that my 55mm to 200mm zoom lens was at its most wide angle setting.

Forget the reflection

Sunset near Blomeyer 09-30-2014Maybe I should forget the water and reflection and try to bring up the sun and dust more. I changed my settings to ISO 200 1/800 @f/5.6 at 200mm (maximum zoom) and -.67 eV.

If I had diddled with the frame in Photoshop, I could have brought out more detail, but I wanted to leave it pretty close to straight for comparison purposes.

Let’s keep going

Sunset near Blomeyer 09-30-2014“OK,” I told Shari. “I can go to bed early tonight, but I think there’s a better shot down the road.”

The dust started getting closer and the sun started getting lower and lower, but I couldn’t find any good places to pull off, plus I had traffic on my tail. Suddenly, a driveway appeared and I whipped in, throwing up my own cloud of dust. It was a long driveway, with a father playing with his kids about 100 yards away.

“I really need to be about where they are, but explaining what I’m doing is going to take longer than that sun is going to last. I’ll see if this angle works.”

It didn’t. ISO 200 1/400@f/5 at 120mm and -.67 eV.

Tractor in the field

Sunset near Blomeyer 09-30-2014I spotted the source of the dust about halfway between Blomeyer and Delta: it was a piece of farm machinery working in the field, but I couldn’t find a place to turn off to get the sun behind it. Then, with traffic too close to turn, I spotted a road. I went several hundred yards down the road, turned into a driveway and waited for northbound traffic to get by so I could back out. “We’re on a straight stretch here, so we not only have to worry about southbound traffic, but we have to worry about impatient PASSING southbound traffic, so keep a sharp lookout on your side,” I warned Shari.

I was afraid we might be too late. I told Shari that I had missed a photo by no more than 10 seconds the other night. It was a sunset just like this one, and it was setting the roadside weeds on fire. I had time to get off one frame. The exposure was off by about two stops, but by the time I changed the setting and put the camera back to my eye, the sun had dropped just enough to let the magic leak out.

Looks like we made it to the right place. ISO 200 1/500@f/5.6 at 150mm and -.67 eV

He’s coming our way

Sunset near Blomeyer 09-30-2014It became apparent that the farmer was headed our way. When I zoomed in on him, I saw him waving his arms around. I didn’t know if he was telling us to leave (Florida farmers aren’t particularly happy to see photographers because of all the migrant farmworker abuse stories we’ve done since the 1960s), bopping to music in the cab or what.

I was pretty sure if he kept coming, the sun would wind up almost exactly behind him. ISO 200 1/250@f/6.3 at 200mm and -.67 eV

The last frame

Sunset near Blomeyer 09-30-2014The sun didn’t exactly go where I thought it would, but it was close enough. I can’t decide if I like this shot or the one before it better. Both could be improved by some minor croping and playing with the tones. Still, this gives you a good idea of why you have to shoot it when you see it. And why you shouldn’t be satisfied with what you think is a good shot if there’s a possibility of finding a better one.

ISO 200 1/250@f/6.3 at 200mm and .67 eV (Note that I went from a minus exposure compensation to a positive one.)

Why was the farmer waving his arms?

Oh, what was the farmer doing with his arms? When the big machine got close to the edge of the field, I hopped out and walked to the end of the row. Instead of a gray-haired farmer, a young Matt Brucker, shut it off and walked up with a big smile. “I figured you were taking pictures when I saw you come down the road and stop,” he said.

“I saw you waving,” I said as I handed him a business card. “You might find yourself here in the morning.” He looked at it and said, “I think I’ve been on that site before.”

I hope he sees himself. He made for an early night for me.

Embarrassing admission: Dad used to rant and rave whenever he read a story where some knucklehead reporter didn’t know the right name for construction equipment. I’m that knucklehead when it comes to farming and farm equipment. The sun was down too low for me to get a good look at what Matt was operating. I don’t think it was a combine because the corn looked like it had already been cut. On the other hand, I couldn’t tell if he was pulling a plow to turn the stalks under.

I’m sure somebody will set me straight. I leave gardening stuff to Wife Lila and her WatchMyFoodGrow blog.

Niswonger Church Est. 1847

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014We were on curvy Hwy 72 west of Millersville when we got behind a piece of farm equipment doing about 10 miles per hour. After following him for a couple miles, I welcomed a chance to pull off at a neat white church and well-kept cemetery. I figured by the time I had explored the place he would be far ahead or have turned off.

Historical Marker

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014Right at the entrance to the driveway is a marker that tells how the Niswonger family came to these parts from North Carolina and how they crossed the river on ice near Ste. Genevieve on New Year’s Day 1800. One of the party, George Christopher, was 110 years old when he died in 1802, it said. You can click on the photos to make them larger, but I don’t know if you’ll be able to read the marker.

Historical oops

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014The back side of the marker has some corrections that were added in 1996. Apparently the 110-year-old man WASN’T George Christopher. They aren’t exactly sure WHO he was. They also cleaned up some other details at the same time.

Beautiful setting

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014Someone is doing a great job at keeping the building and grounds in good condition.

Men, Women and ?

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014Behind the church is a row of three locked outhouses. One is marked “Men,” one says, “Women,” and the third doesn’t say anything. I’m not sure who it is intended for.

The church was unlocked

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014I didn’t hold out much hope that the church would be open – I mean, they put locks on the OUTHOUSES.

Still, the front door swung open at a gentle pull. I left it open behind me after remembering how the Methodists tried to hold me hostage in the McKendree Chapel.

At the ready

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014Hymnals, collections plates, the piano and an electric fan were at the ready for the next service.

Plain, but neat and clean

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014It was a simple country church with plain walls and simple pews, but the paint was fresh, the floor was clean and there wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere. The carpet and plastic runner added a jarring note of modernity, but they were functional.

Cemetery Plots

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014One wall contains a list of interments. If you are doing genealogical research, this could be a good starting point. FindAGrave lists 93 interments and says about 89 percent of the stones are photographed and / or containing detailed information about the deceased.

Thanks to the farmer

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014I’m glad the farmer was on that stretch of road. If he hadn’t slowed traffic down, then I probably would have whizzed right past an interesting church and cemetery in Cape County’s Whitewater Township.

Pictures from Workshop II

You got to see photos produced by half our Picturing the Past Workshop group yesterday. We’ll show the other half today. Curator Jessica reported that Todd Bastin, Athen Public Library coordinator for Art in the Library, said that they’ve received more positive feedback on the exhibit in the past three days than they usually do in a month.

Each photographer’s work will be shown in a gallery. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the images.

Mary Connolly

I was particularly drawn to Mary Connolly’s work because she’s a runner who says a regular camera would be too heavy, so she shoots everything with her smart phone. It goes to prove that it’s not the camera, it’s the eye that make the picture. She admits that her frequent stops for taking photos throws her running rhythm off, but the results are worth it.

White’s Mill is one of the most photographed landmarks around Athens. Mary, though, nailed it from a different angle than most, and she did it on a snowy day. She photographed Ali Babas’ food truck because “who knows if food trucks will be around in the future?” I like the way she didn’t just shoot a mug shot of the truck: she engaged with the guy INSIDE the truck.

We had some debate about the shot of Radar Hill graffiti. She really liked, but I thought she had stronger photos. We compromised by cropping it tight so it made the image of the woman much more prominent. The man in the alley is her friend waiting for her to get done taking the photo so they could go to the restaurant in the doorway at right.

Robin Barnes

Robin had two photos of women with hats. I really like the composition in the one on top, but it was shot with a cell phone and fell apart when it was enlarged. When it was paired with another hat photo in a layout, it could run smaller and still look good.

I like the way she let the boy’s shoes echo the red in the flag. The fact that he’s holding a phone will make the photo interesting when we all have microchips implanted at birth to carry on that function. Robin had two frames of the little girls lined up for a contest of some kind. I picked this one because I liked the way they are all off in their own little worlds.

Everybody called the guy on the left “Santa Claus.” There was some discussion about cropping the clown barrel on the right out of the photo because it was too dark to read properly. When I got it into Photoshop, though, I could save enough of the tones to make it show up. It was a great pairing of a barrel-chested guy balanced by a barrel.

Sallie Sauber

Sallie was an interesting person in her own right: first off, that’s her in what she titled “Roller Derby Selfie.” She didn’t want to show it to me at first, but I convinced her that the technical limitations were outweighed by the spunky attitude she captured. It was a way better than average selfie. Boy in Leaves wasn’t my first, second or third choice, but I was outvoted by the workshoppers who loved it.

We had some debate about the girl on the bike. She showed up for office hours with a tight shot from behind. It was interesting, but this picture with lots of activity has much better composition and shows the wide variety of ways kids get around on wheels at that age. She, too, made good use of a mirror and reflections.

Steven Koch

Several of the participants said they liked to shoot in black and white or convert their color to B&W in the editing process. I said I really liked black and white – and shot it for most of my career – but that since digital single lens reflexes had come along that let me shoot color under low light levels, I had made the transition to color.

Steven took what, to me, was a curious middle ground: he “desaturated” his really nice color photos, leaving them as something that was neither full of color nor was a pure black and white. A good example would be that he liked the “dull-looking” school bus over the one with vibrant colors. I don’t know that we ever convinced him that the color work was better, but the group voted to go with the color versions of his pictures. [Wife Lila said she liked the way the bus lights showed up in the “duller” shot, but she like the color shot better overall.]

Despite our disagreements over color and B&W, I have to say that Steven was the most technically versatile of the group, with the ability to shoot unusual landscapes, an industrial photo and a nice portrait. That’s quite a range.

Susie Blauser

Susie did a wonderful series of photos showing the Glasshouse Works greenhouses, a Stewart, Ohio, mailorder nursery specializing in rare and exotic plants from all over the world. It was hard to narrow down her take to only four photos. (As someone who lives in South Florida, it feels odd to see tropical plants that grow in our back yard called “exotic.”)

Teresa Faires Winning

When Teresa showed up for the first office hours meeting, she had a photo of an intersection with yellow traffic dividers in it. “We’re going to do something that won’t make Historian Jessica happy – we’re going to crop out all of the stuff that she’s going to want to see in 50 years – but we’re going to end up with a much more striking photo that will probably look more like what caught your eye than what the camera captured.”

Teresa was one of my point ‘n’ shoot people who went out when the sun was going down. Before the sun set, she grabbed a great slice of sidewalk life in town. In addition to preserving a wide variety of clothing of the era, she also managed to get a girl with the ubiquitous white earplugs and the girl in the red dress in the background gabbing on a cellphone.

She was disappointed that she wasn’t able to push the button at the right time to get the lightning flashing in those boiling clouds, but she did manage to capture a spectacular sunset, the gates to the Main green and a row of street lights. She was also astounded at how neat businesses looked at night. It was great to open up a whole new way of seeing for someone.

What’s next?

The group played together so nicely that I hope they get together from time to time to share what new stuff they’ve uncovered.