Friday, August 14, 2015

The New, Improved Philosophers' Grove

The New, Improved Philosophers' Grove

Really, Mayor Soglin?

New Solution for Homelessness in Madison: Get Rid of Public Art

New Cure for Homelessness in Madison: Get Rid of Public Art

Madison likes to position itself as a "world class city" when it's trying to lure conventions to town. But when it comes to the hoomeless, we revert to being the small town we really are. Sad and stupid things happen. Things like this.

This is so sad and stupid -- I watched city workers removing some of the Philosophers' Grove stones at the head of State Street. They were designed as a pleasant place to sit in the shade without having to buy anything, but apparently they attracted the wrong sorts of people. Very shortsighted and counterproductive.

But Clouds Got in My Way

But Clouds Got in My Way

I carefully set up the tripod to provide a nice leafy frame for any Perseid meteors my camera might catch last night, but clouds got in my way. Despite my success the night before, I didn't capture a single meteor at the Perseid peak last night --on account of clouds, mist, or the camera not being aimed in the right direction at the right instant. (This was taken about 3:00am facing west.) Earlier, we saw quite a few with the naked eye. One of mine had a long tail that streaked across about a third of the sky.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Watching the Perseids by Candlelight


We watched the Perseids by candlelight on the deck tonight -- not something the experts would recommend, since it doesn't do much for your dark adaptation. You'll only see the brighter meteors. But that was fine. We saw more than we usually do, and being outside in the dark with the candles flickering was lovely -- almost like sitting around a campfire. What did my camera see? It's still shooting, so I'll see in the morning. Good night.

Early Riser

Early Riser

I'm not the early riser -- the Perseid meteor was. I was fast asleep when this image was captured. The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight in the early morning hours, with as many as 100 per hour, but it looks as if it might be partly cloudy at the peak, so I set up my camera last night.

I've experienced some spectacular sightings over the years, but they all exist only in memory, in my mind's eye. I've seen some beauties, but I haven't photographed them. There are many different ways to photograph meteors, but ideally they require finding a really dark sky far from the city, a lot of patience, equipment that's a little more capable than mine, and a willingness to lose some sleep. I've tried a few things over the years but never captured a meteor. Until last night.

This year I decided to keep it simple. I didn't leave the city, and decided to work with what I have -- beginning with my Nikon Coolpix P7100. It has a nice feature for a compact -- a simple intervalometer, or timer to click off shots automatically (also nice for time-lapse movies). Our backyard and deck are fairly dark for the city, so I set the camera up on the deck and went to bed.

Some notes: Exposure was ISO 800 8 sec. at f/2.8 with zoom at 28 mm. This was the longest shutter speed and highest ISO the intervalometer would let me use. And I could only shoot at 1 minute intervals, so -- in effect -- my shutter was open only about 12% of the time. Still, at the peak in the early morning hours, this should give me a reasonable chance of capturing one or more. If you want to try this at home, remember to turn off your LCD -- it uses far more battery than shooting, and battery life is what will limit your shooting. Also, be sure to turn off vibration reduction, which should only be used handheld.

In the midst of all this, did I actually see any meteors myself? Yes, one very faint, underwhelming streak high in the sky a little after midnight while I was setting up. I'm glad the camera did better.

Stalking the Elusive trophy Sunflower

Stalking the Elusive Trophy Sunflower

Pope Farms Conservancy, Middleton, WI.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pilgrims with Cameras

Pilgrims with Cameras

I don't know how the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales managed without cameras and smartphones. I guess that's why they told so many stories.

Whenever we make our pilgrimages to well-known sightseeing locations, no matter how often they've been photographed, it seems they're not real until we've taken a picture. Almost everyone at the Pope Farms peak sunflower display the other day was taking pictures, either with heavy duty gear or with smartphones. You had to be careful not to trip over the tripods. (Yes, I was a pilgrim with a camera too.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

The black and white vs. color quandary

The Black and White vs. Color Quandary
It was a magical moment. Twilight was falling, the lake was as still as a mirror, the women doing yoga on their paddle boards were serenely quiet, and Lake Wingra was bathed in muted pastels, with a layer of ground fog in the distance. I snapped the shutter.

Then my problems began. I was shooting for a mood of calm serenity, but what best expressed it -- black and white, or color? Usually when I take a photo I know pretty clearly which will best portray the subject -- color if the color is an integral part of the image, black and white if things like form, line and/or concept seem more important. This time I really wasn't sure.

Paddleboard Yoga

On the one hand, the muted pastels are lovely and seem to support the mood of serenity. On the other hand, the colors would be just as pretty if the women weren't in the picture. I worried that it might be dismissed as just another pretty picture of the lake at twilight.

The black and white seems to focus more on the meditating women and the repetition of the forms of the paddle boards. To my eye, it communicates serenity without the distraction of the pretty pastels. But compared to the color version, it seems a bit somber (though I'd be happy with it if I hadn't seen the color image -- not an issue with film, where you make the decision to shoot black and white before taking the picture).

I still can't make up my mind. What do you think? Which do you like the most? Why?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Finally! Perspective Control Right on My iPhone

Finally! Perspective Control Right on My iPhone

 Here's a photo I shot with my iPhone in Wisconsin Dells last month from a moving car. It used to be that if I wanted to do something like making the ramp and the telephone pole truly vertical, without converging lines, I would have to export to Photoshop -- and it usually wasn't worth it. Now i can do it on my iPhone (right), thanks to an app called Perspective Correct. (It can also be used live, while shooting.) And it's very easy and intuitive to use.

Perspective control is most often used for architectural photography, and pros normally use either a view camera with a lens that shifts or an expensive perspective control lens that can run many thousands of dollars. Software, whether Photoshop or an iPhone app, can mimic the same effect at much less expense. (The drawback is that perspective control in software creates artifacts that show up in big prints; it also involves drastic cropping.)

But if you're shooting for the web or not making gigantic prints, this software tool is a valuable resource. It can make a snapshot pop and look like something shot on a view camera, because the perspective is so unusual. It can make your travel shots of buildings look more professional. And, if your makeup, like mine, includes a bit of OCD, it's just plain fun to play with.

Now my digital-darkroom-in-a-phone is just about complete.