Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Day Trip to Washington, DC

September 13th, 2009 No comments

[I’m going to backdate this post since I actually went on this  trip two months ago but never got around to finishing the blog post, which was actually published on 11/20/2009]

One of my friends and I went down to Washington, DC last weekend for the day.  The highlights of the trip were visiting the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives.

I was able to book tickets for the Capitol through their web site.  They’re free, and not difficult to get like some other tickets (such as the White House).  We got there nice and early, but the Capitol was closed (some security issue, they didn’t elaborate).  The one advantage to this was that we happened to be standing at the front of where the line forms while we waited, so when they re-opened, we were are the front of the line.   The tour was not all that impressive, they only take you through a few rooms (the basement, the old Supreme Court Chamber, the Rotunda, and Statuary Hall).  If you want to see any of the actual House or Senate chambers, you have to get tickets from a member of Congress in advance (and even if you do, they won’t let you take cameras into the House or Senate chambers).   Still, it was neat to see the parts that they do allow the public in.  The artwork in the rotunda was amazing, and the tour guide showed us why Statuary Hall is sometimes called the Whisper Chamber (if you stand on a certain tile and whisper, you can be heard on another tile on the opposite side of the room due to the acoustics of the ceiling).

After a quick stop in the Capitol cafeteria (and I mean quick, since we decided not to pay the outrageous prices), we went through the tunnel over to the Library of Congress.  We hadn’t planned on coming here, and didn’t want to waste time signing up for a tour, so we just tagged along with a tour that was already in progress.  As a result, I missed the warnings that we weren’t supposed to take pictures in the main Reading Room, so I got a few good shots.  🙂  The tour guide didn’t seem to care, but of course a nosy tourist loudly yelled, “You can’t take pictures in here!”.  Thanks a lot…

After a few pictures outside with the Capitol in the background (experimenting with focal length, took some of the shots with the background slightly blurred), we took the Metro over towards the National Archives.  After a quick stop to take some pictures at the Navy Memorial, we had a quick lunch at Starbucks and then got on line for admission.  After about a half hour in line, we were able to explore the Archives (including another half hour in line to attempt to see the original Constitution).  The room where you can see the original historical documents is very poorly managed.  The guard insisted that “we operate on a no-line system”, once you’ve gotten to the front of the line to actually get into the room, you’re supposed to go right up to the document that you want to see, and lines are not supposed to form around each document.  So, I walked right over to the Bill of Rights, and got yelled at (by the same guard who just said that there were no lines) to “go wait in line if you want to see it.”  Ended up only getting a brief glimpse at most of the documents since we didn’t feel like sitting around for another half hour.  On the way out, they have a comment notebook for suggestions.  I noticed several pages of comments along the lines of, “Is there a line or isn’t there?”

We took the metro back to Greenbelt afterward (definitely the best way to get into the city if you’re coming from the north down I-95), and made a quick stop at the College Park Ikea so I could buy an additional shelf for my bookcase (which I later discovered I already had in the closet, so now I have bonus shelves) and then visited my sister at her college on our way home.
I geotagged the photos, as usual. Here’s the map:

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Photography practice in NYC

August 12th, 2009 No comments

I took the train up to NYC a few weekends ago with one of my friends for some photography practice (and it was an excuse to spend some time outdoors for once). We didn’t do anything specific, mostly just wandering around the city.

Got in to Penn Station in mid-afternoon and hopped on the subway down to the World Trade Center stop. There’s not much to see there at the moment, the site is still walled off and under construction. I took some pictures of the Balloon Flower statue, along with the fountain and a group of nearby pigeons.

I also used this location to experiment with exposure bracketing and successfully took a picture of a water tower on top of a nearby building while exposing the tower correctly (overexposing the sky in the process, but I could crop that out if I had really wanted a picture of the water tower).  I was also able to get a neat picture of the sky and clouds reflecting off the windows of a skyscraper.  After I clean it up a bit, I might try selling that one on some stock photography sites (been meaning to try doing that for a while), but I’ll have to see whether that’s allowed since there’s probably a copyright on the architecture of the building (although it looks like a basic building, so maybe not)

From the WTC, we walked over to City Hall Park.  This was another good photo spot, as there’s a neat fountain with City Hall in the background.  I found exposing this shot to be a challenge, as the picture would either be properly exposed for the building and the sky (making the fountain too dark) or vice versa.  I took three photos at -2, 0, and +2 EV and plan to attempt to make an HDR image of the fountain.  I had limited success here attempting to use my Gorillapod SLR-Zoom (was attempting to attach it to a light post sideways, but the camera kept creeping down, apparently I would need the more expensive Focus model to make this work, even though my camera is not very heavy.  Maybe I just wasn’t attaching it right, but I didn’t want to spend any more time fiddling with it).

Next was a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Tons of people were there since it was a nice day, complete with the usual bicyclists cursing at anyone who dared to cross into their lane to get around crowds of stopped pedestrians.   The bridge is a great place for photography, both of the unique architecture of the bridge itself as well as the views afforded of both Manhattan, Brooklyn, and beyond.  I took assorted photos of the traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian), boats, the bridge itself, and scenery in the distance.  I was a bit too far away from the Statue of Liberty to get a decent shot with only a 105mm lens.

Here’s a panorama from the Brooklyn side of the bridge:

We took the subway back from the Brooklyn side over to 14th st.  On our way over to Sammy’s Noodle Shop for dinner (mmm…Thai spicy cashew chicken and curry rolls) we saw an interesting combination of stores next door to each other, and then hopped back on the subway up to 52nd St. to head over to Central Park. I haven’t been there too many times before.  Walked around one of the small lakes (it was too dark to get a decent picture of any of the ducks without my tripod), up near the amusement park, past the large field, and then back out over by the Time Warner Center.  The stores had closed already, but the mall was still open.  I was surprised to find a full-sized Whole Foods Market in the basement;  I don’t think that was there the last time I went there.  It was packed even though it was close to 10pm on a Saturday, they must make a fortune.

The final stop before returning to Penn Station was Times Square.  Most of the streets there are closed to vehicular traffic for the rest of the year, so you can walk right in the middle of the roadway to take pictures (the city even put out chairs to sit on).  Sprint has a giant billboard with a simple video game on it that you can play by dialing an 800 number and then pressing keys on your phone to move the character around the screen.  Apparently it was being ignored by most people. since I was able to play three times despite the Square being packed with people.  (Lost all three times, but I don’t think anything interesting happens even if you do manage to win)

A map of where we walked/rode to:

Or you can view a map with all of the photos plotted on it.

Here’s a slideshow of the rest of the photos.  Click here to see them if the slideshow doesn’t work or if you want to view larger versions of the images:
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First attempt at photographing fireworks

July 4th, 2009 No comments

My town held their annual fireworks on July 2nd, 2009.  (Yes, two days early, it’s cheaper then; according to the mayor they were done at “no taxpayer expense”).  I took advantage of this to try my hand at taking pictures of fireworks for the first time with my new camera (Canon Rebel T1i).

Before I started, I read some of the tips from Digital Photography School, PetaPixel, and Scott Kelby’s book (page 175).  I decided to use my EF28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens, set at f/11 on bulb exposure mode (tripod mounted, lens hood attached, wireless remote used to trigger the shutter).  I didn’t want to fight the crowds over at the park, so I set my tripod up on the sidewalk near my house.  I’ve watched from here in past years, the view isn’t bad, but is occasionally obstructed by trees.  I’ll need to find a better spot for next year, as I discovered that there were power lines in the way that obstructed many of the photos that I took.  I cropped them out in most cases, but you can see them in a few of the photos below.

The first half of the photos were taken in JPEG mode because I forgot to switch the camera to RAW mode before I started.  I took 75 photos total, and eliminated about half of them (empty frames, too much blur, only a small bit of firework in the frame, etc.)  I processed the remaining 43 in Lightroom (mostly cropping and exposure adjustments).

What I learned from this experience:

  • Most images were slightly overexposed.  I’ll either try a smaller aperture or will manually set the ISO to 100 or 200 next time.
  • Find a spot where power lines and trees won’t get in the way.
  • Watch out for mosquitoes.  (Ok, not much I can do about that one…)

Overall, I don’t think they came out too badly for a first attempt.  You can see a slideshow of the results below.  (Click here to see them if you don’t have Flash enabled).  You can click on a photo from the slideshow to see a larger version in the gallery.
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Categories: Photography Tags: ,

Almost ten years of photos to organize

June 27th, 2009 No comments

35,000+ photos (113 gigabytes)Ok, it’s time that I did something about the electronic equivalent of a few hundred shoe boxes full of photographs.  There are over 35,000 files in my photography folder, organized only by one or two word folder names.

Photosmart C200 digital cameraI purchased my first digital camera during my freshman year of college (2001), an HP Photosmart C200.  By today’s standards, it was worse than a cell phone camera, but at the time it seemed like a great improvement from paying for film, development, and prints.  One glorious megapixel, flash, and a CompactFlash card that held a whopping 20 or so photos.  In retrospect, it was an advantage of sorts to have a limited amount of storage space, it forced me to only take pictures that were worth keeping.    My current 16GB SD card (an unthinkable size back in 2001) effectively allows me to take as many (often useless) photos as I desire.

Over the years, I upgraded to several other point-and-shoot cameras from Sony, Samsung, and Canon.  (I’ll post a list of the cameras that I’ve owned along with some sample pictures at some point).  Each camera gave much better resolution, at the expense of more and larger files.  I recently purchased my first SLR (a Canon EOS Rebel T1i), which supports RAW shooting (along with JPEG), meaning I’ll have even more to deal with.

So how do I plan to organize all of this?  I’ve recently started using Adobe’s Lightroom program.  I tried an early beta of this a few years ago and wasn’t impressed, but the current version(2.3) is a lot better.  Here’s my plan of attack:

  1. Back up the whole folder.  (already done)
  2. Go through each subfolder and get rid of anything that doesn’t belong.  (I’ve accumulated various photos from other people that have made their way into my folders, I’ll move those elsewhere, my aim is to have my Photography folder only contain pictures that I’ve taken or been involved with).  This should eliminate a few thousand of the files.
  3. Import the whole folder into a new Lightroom catalog.  This will be my temporary working catalog.
  4. Use the metadata sorter to arrange photos by year.  Identify any photos with incorrect or missing metadata and either repair or remove the metadata.
  5. Create a new folder structure organized by year.  For each group of photos, create a sub-folder with a descriptive name.
  6. Move the photos to the new folder and remove them from the temporary Lightroom catalog.
  7. Add the moved photos to a new, permanent Lightroom catalog.  Add tags/captions as appropriate.  (It’s unlikely that I’m going to actually tag all of my old photos, but I can do some global operations to organize things a little better)
  8. After moving all of the photos to new folders, create category-based shortcuts to allow easier navigation.  (The actual folders will be by year and name, I can then make a “Vacations” folder with shortcuts to each of my vacations in the various annual folders)

Using Lightroom will significantly cut the amount of time I need to spend organizing photos that I take in the future, as well.  My current workflow consists of copying the files, geotagging when possible (using GeoSetter – my obsessive geotagging of photos deserves its own post, to be written later) and then manually uploading them to my Flickr account.  I then use Flickr’s tools to caption and tag the photos, and then use a discontinued program called NitroDesk Media Edition (no longer available) to transfer the tagged photos to my other photo hosting accounts (usually Smugmug since their galleries look much better than Flickr’s, and occasionally Facebook).  This workflow is far from ideal, since I’m relying on Flickr for a lot of the metadata.  Using Lightroom instead will allow me to easily geotag, caption, tag, and upload all from one place (plus allowing me to work with RAW files and do image enhancement).  Thanks goes to Jeffrey Friedl for his excellent Lightroom plugins which save a ton of time (exporting to multiple photo sites with a few clicks, and letting me geotag directly in Lightroom).

I’m expecting this to take a few weeks (months?) to complete, a little bit at a time.  On the plus side, I’m sure I’ll rediscover a bunch of old pictures that I’ve forgotten about.  I’ll post any interesting ones that I come across.