Friday, July 21, 2017

Crash Test

When you are a photographer you like to take pictures.  There are different ways to say this, I prefer to make images rather than take images.  To me this implies I try to put effort into my craft and not just stand there and click a button.   I mean no criticism of others when I say this, it is just how I view the process.  

Several months ago I had an opportunity to watch a crash test at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.   It was not my first crash test, over the last 20 years I have seen several.  But this time I decided to take my camera after first making sure it was okay to do so.   I was told pictures are fine, just don’t post online before the Institute releases the crash data for this particular vehicle.

Having witnessed crash tests before I knew the layout of the crash hall and how the hall will be lit and more importantly the vantage point that is available to spectators.   The car is accelerated toward an offset barrier using a catapult.  Just a few feet short of the barrier the vehicle is released so it impacts the barrier under its own inertia.  The engineers make the vehicle hit the barrier at precisely 40 mph.   With the car located down an enclosed ramp from the crash hall, it makes the several hundred feet or so trip to impact.  It is worth noting the crash hall and ramps are climate controlled and the crash test dummies are put in the cars only moments prior to the test.  The dummies have specific requirements for temperature.   This is just a small part the highly scientific work these researchers and engineers conduct.    Crash testing is a lot more than just running a car into a barrier.

Getting back to the crash test and how I planned to shoot it.   Remember I’m trying to craft an image and not take myself too seriously when I say this.  The car starts accelerating toward the barrier and you only have a few seconds before impact.   From my vantage point I figured I would shoot high speed multiple shots and blend them in Photoshop.   I could have used the 10 shop multiple exposure setting in my camera, but since I only had one shot at this, I decided I would just let the camera run at 9 frames per second and I would blend them later.  My other option would be to use a slower shutter speed and hope for some motion blur,  perhaps next time.   Hopefully there will be a next time…

In case you are wondering  the photographers at the IIHS use a medium format camera with a digital back that is triggered by a switch placed on the floor just in front of the barrier.   They only get one shot, but it is at the decisive moment.  The bright lights overhead also allow for incredibly high speed video cameras that  shoot the crash from multiple angles.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Palouse in Color

In my last Blog I focused on the use of an Infrared Converted Camera and how the Palouse is perfect for Infrared photography.   In this blog I want to share a few of my color images from this trip.  As I mentioned in the last blog we love the Palouse!  The diversity of the landscape and almost every day has beautiful clouds.  This trip we were treated to some incredible storm clouds as well.

P.S.   If would like to see a few more color images from the Palouse, head on over to the Road Runner Blog.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Ever Changing, The Ever Constant Palouse

We just finished up what has become our bi-annual tour of the Palouse.  For those who don’t know the Palouse it is the largest wheat growing region in the country.  But we love the Palouse for its large rolling hills that resemble the shape of sand dunes. The farmers in the Palouse also grow a variety of legumes and canola but wheat is the primary crop.  The fields are often partially planted which presents a ribbon of color and textures.  Throw in some iconic barns and we think you end up with a photographers paradise.

The ever constant part of the Palouse is its iconic small towns, dirt roads and farms.  With each visit so much remains the same.  The people are very friendly and welcoming, very little seems to change.
The ever changing part of the Palouse can partially be attributed to its current popularity.   During the pre-tour scouting tour we happened upon a favorite old farm site to find the smoldering remains of a beautiful red barn.  We asked a nearby farmer if he knew what happened, but he did not.  In talking with some of our friends who also lead workshops we heard of a second barn that burned to the ground and we heard rumors of another photographer who was doing woolies in the area.  We have no way to know for sure that this beautiful old barn succumbed to a such a fate,  but it would not be the first time in recent memory that an iconic location was damaged from this technique.   (Full disclosure, we occasionally shoot woolies, but we always do it in a safe and responsible manner.)

We rolled up on another favorite location during our pre-workshop scouting that had signs posted “No Photos”.  This owner has a restored Texaco station on his property with a nice collection of old trucks.   We have visited this location several times over the last few years.  But it seems a large workshop group invaded the property at 6:00 AM recently, not considering this this is also this gentleman’s home.    As I mentioned above, the people of the Palouse are very friendly and will welcome strangers onto their land, but the key is to seek permission.   This past trip I had several people thank me for asking.  I assume that is because there are others who don’t ask for permission.

I think most landscape photographers subscribe to the “Leave No Trace” Philosophy that is asked of us when we visit a national park.   We need to remember to keep that same philosophy in mind whenever we shoot.   If you sign up for a trip with us, please know in advance that we do not trespass on private property and we treat and expect our clients to treat the landscape like the treasure that it is!

In spite of the bad behavior of just a few,  the Palouse is still a wonderful place to visit.   The area is so vast and the photographic opportunities so numerous we look forward to returning in 2019.

P.S.  The image above was shot with my Nikon D200 converted to standard Infrared by Lifepixel.  We highly recommend Lifepixel for IR Conversions!   Click here for info;

Friday, January 27, 2017

Iceland Part II

We just returned from our second tour to Iceland this winter.  Our first tour was in December and our second was about a month later in January.   In this case what a difference a month makes. During our first trip temperatures were almost summer like and we had a lot more rain than we would have liked.  A month later the temperatures were in the teens for the early part of our tour and instead of rain we had snow.

The good news was we were finally able to get into the ice caves.  Denise has posted images from the Ice Caves on our Facebook Page.

The shot above was from our first afternoon with the group.  It was very windy and as a result the seas were quite stormy.

We will return to Iceland this August and we still have one spot available!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Iceland Bound

The blog has been a little quieter than we would like,  so an update is overdue.   We finished another fantastic year making images and leading photography tours with a week in Iceland being our last tour of the year.  The image above was shot at Oxararfoss in Thingvellir National Park in Iceland.  

December was a bit on the warm side for Iceland and as a result there had been no snow.  The only disappointment was the Ice Caves were flooded due to warm temperatures and rain.  But as a result of the warmer temperatures the glacier lagoon was not frozen and we had lots of ice chunks on the black sand beach.   So Mother Nature took one thing from us but gave us another.

We leave again in a couple of days for another week in Iceland.  What a great way to end one year and start another!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Silk Mill After Dark

This past weekend Road Runner had two meetups at the Lonaconing Silk Mill.  The first group shot in the afternoon and then we had a second smaller group that shot for a couple of hours after dark.    I did very little shooting during the day and was quite pleased to just watch the group having fun.   A few of the first time shooters at the mill had a look of amazement that I remember having the first time I shot at the mill.    The place is truly frozen in time.

Now after dark is a different story.   We limited the number of participants after dark because we did not want each other’s lights to create interference.  The group size worked out perfectly and I’m already looking forward to doing this again!

The image above is of a belt driven drill press in the basement, just one of the nearly unlimited number of subjects possible when the sun goes down.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Two Nights Behind Bars

Recently we concluded hosting 2 nights of Light Painting at Eastern State Penitentiary.   This was an afterhours event where our participants pretty much had the run of the prison to take their creativity to new limits.  I must admit that I was quite impressed with a lot of the work our participants shared on our Facebook Group page.

The shot above is of the iconic barber’s chair located in one of the cells.  This particular cell is off limits to entry and we always respect such restrictions.   While we like most other photographers would love to get the best spot, etc., we also have a healthy respect for limits, whether in this case imposed by Eastern State or usually the National Park Service.   All too often photographers disregard such limits and restrictions and end up trespassing or creating damage to natural resources in their quest to “get the shot”.   We believe in the quote, “Leave no trace”.

Back to the barber’s chair.  I would have loved to be in close and paint the light on each part of the chair and the cell walls.  It would have rendered a much better feel to the image than painting from behind the camera.   So in order to work around this obstacle,  I first used the light to cast a strong shadow on the back wall.  Then I used the light to paint each wall, floor and chair in separate frames.  I combined the various images in Photoshop using layers and masks to give it more of a painted feel.  I then did a little dodging and burning to add to the effect.  

If you want to spend an evening behind bars, we are already making plans to do this again next year.  Be sure to join our Meetup group if you would like to attend!