Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pathways #2a: Michael Frye - Reading Histograms (and using them!)

In my Pathways #2 article on this blog, I spoke about getting better exposures straight out of your camera.  It makes such a huge impact on the visual appeal of a photo to have it properly exposed.  Within that article, I posted an example photo of mine to drive home my point.  This post is related to the one I mentioned above, so I called it "2a".  :-)

The two main tools to achieve better exposure are:  1) having the knowledge of how your camera's metering system works and what lighting situations will fool your camera into over or underexposing a scene, and 2) how to use your camera to correct these situations.  I touched on both points in my article. 

Related to #2 above, the main way to use your camera to understand and correct any given exposure situation is by viewing the histogram and understand what it's telling you about the exposure settings that you've chosen for any given photo that you're trying to take.

To that end, today I read this post by Michael Frye on his blog that drives home the point of getting proper exposure with even better examples than I provided in my article because he includes photos and histograms and explains what they're showing you.

It's a quick and useful read for anyone looking to get better exposures straight out of their camera.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Welcome, spring! Are you almost here?!

Before the storm...
It's 55 degrees today where I live in New York.  Tomorrow it will probably be over 60!  Very nice, considering the brutal winter we've had this year.  You can go outside in a sweatshirt, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, etc.  All while we still have over two feet of snow on the ground!

I love the photo to the left.  It was taken at dusk out of my garage door after I cleaned up the snow from the start of a big storm.  The light in the sky was heavy and gray, and you could almost feel the storm coming in.  We got pounded that night with over a foot of snow.  I've seen this type of light many times this winter late in the day before overnight storms...

I didn't mind the harsh winter this year.  In my opinion, I don't have much purpose for winter without the beauty and fun of the snow, so bring it on!  :-)

My greeting in front of the garage door, blocked with 20 inches of snow!
That being said, it was a lot of work cleaning it all up!  This winter, I was typically met with a scene like this when I opened up the garage door.  A blocked door with swirling winds and blowing snow.

Of course, I learned the hard way about the new laws in the U.S. that were implemented in 2010 that increased the amount of ethanol in our gas.  Why does this matter to me?  You can't store your power equipment with gas in it during the off seasons anymore.  The new fuel turns gummy in the fuel lines and carburetor and makes the equipment run very badly.  Of course, not knowing this ahead of time, my snow blower was one of my pieces of equipment that I left the gas in over last summer and all of this snow was that much harder to clear because the machine was not running right.

Clearing the driveway after a storm of more than a foot of snow...
Eventually I got it running better, which helped me cut a path through the multiple storms that dumped over a foot of snow, like this one at left.

The kids had a lot of fun with the first few storms because there was so much snow that it was funny to try to walk and play in it.  But then we got another storm.  And another.  Soon the snow was too deep for sledding.  The sleds didn't move!

Then we got an ice storm on top of it all and that turned everything into a solid block of ice and snow.  The fun was over.

Me, at work, on one of our smaller storm cleanups...
As the winter progressed, we ran into another problem.  Many school cancellations.  In a stroke of genius (insert sarcastic sigh), our school system only planned for one snow day this year.  Huh?  I don't really understand the logic of that, but go figure....

Now the kids will have their spring vacation chipped into so that we can return days to the school calendar.

Was it me who said I wanted all this snow?!  :-)

So as we roll toward the end of February, I can say now that I've had my fill of winter.  The storms were fun, everyone got to play around a lot, and now it's time for spring.  I especially began to feel this way today with a classic day of "spring fever".  The high temperatures and the birds singing brought that on... 

The birds want their bath back...
So I end this winter photo essay with a picture of our birdbath.  It's buried up to the dish in snow and it's tipping over due to the soft ground underneath it.  In some of the past winters, it was so mild that the birds were able to splash around in the bird bath most of the winter.  Not so this year.  They land on the frozen snowcap on top of it and look around as if to say, "What the hell?  Where's the water?".

Soon, my friends...........soon.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Subscribe to me on Flickr!

Hi everyone...

As we move forward into 2011 (covered in snow!), I've started to increase my online photo posting on Flickr.  I'm trying to get some of my better photos up there to get some feedback from people.

If you're interested in receiving my new photos automatically, you can use your RSS reader to pick them up from this link:

If you're so inclined, please post your comments about any of the photos that you see there.  I would be interested to hear your feedback.

Hope to see you there!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Photo Carousel #10: "Boathouse Restaurant"

The Boathouse Restaurant - Lake George, NY

Here's my next Photo Carousel entry, "Boathouse Restaurant".

We spend some time almost every summer vacationing at Lake George in upstate New York.  It’s a terrific vacation place centered around the beautiful (and big!) lake with many water activities to enjoy and a nice town with a ton of restaurants and other land-based activities.

This is one of my favorite photos that I’ve taken of Lake George, and there’s not even much of the lake in it!  But it captures the spirit of the place for me and for that reason I consider it a successful photo.  I hope others enjoy it as well, even though it may not have the same emotional connection for you.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it…

From a creative perspective, there’s a lot going on in this photo to look at…which is precisely why I captured it.  It’s all “calm” stuff though, so it allows you the time to look around it to explore.

You have the overall scene itself of the restaurant and the reflections of the lights on the water.  I liked the colors there.  Their reach across the water was what initially grabbed me about this scene.  Then there’s the people eating in the upstairs alcove in the upper left.  The boats at the dock, the waitress in the red shirt all the way on the right, etc.  To me it says what it is:  A waterside restaurant, and to me they’re very relaxing.  A great way to spend an evening after a day on the lake.  Pull up to the restaurant, dock, and relax.

I took a number of shots of this scene as the sun was setting.  The most effective ones were after dusk when the lights of the restaurant impacted the scene.  For shots like this, it’s best to try to capture them while there’s a little bit of light left in the sky so it doesn’t appear as total blackness in the final image.  If I had waited just a few minutes longer, the blue sky would have turned black and that would have changed the mood of this scene in a direction that I didn’t want it to go.

I intentionally framed this with the restaurant at the top to allow the lights maximum room to spread across the water.  As I look at this I can almost hear the water lapping against the boats and the laughter of the people on the dock enjoying dinner.

What I really wanted to do was go back to shoot from this same location with a more telephoto lens on a night when the restaurant was more crowded so I could pick out scenes on the docks, in the upstairs bar, etc.  It would have been a cool vantage point to capture the hustle and bustle of the place on a busy night.  But I never got the chance to go back on this trip.  I’ll try again in the future.