Thursday, May 28, 2009

Patuxent River Air Expo 2009

This past weekend was the 2009 Air Expo at Patuxent River NAS. I was joined this time by friends Greg, Jack, Alan and his son Christopher.

We had a perfect day!! The clouds were great and the light was spectacular. This year we purchased reserved seats that got us close to the flight line. Air shows are usually free, but paid seats are well worth the money.

New this year is the first female Blue Angels Pilot! Lt. Amy Tomlinson flies the #8 plane. While she is not part of the 6 plane show, I thought this was impressive nonetheless.

During the show I shot over 1500 exposures. I even managed to shoot a couple of handheld HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. I have spent the last 3 days going through images and deciding what to post. Overall I’m quite happy with the results.

Click here for a gallery.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rolling Thunder – Fairfax

This past Sunday was Rolling Thunder XXII. Living near Washington D.C. it is not possible for one to be oblivious to this annual event. A few days earlier motorcycles start arriving from all over the country. Many of the bikes have American Flags attached and other displays of patriotism. Two years ago I went to Nutley Street in Vienna to photograph the group from Patriot HD. For some reason I missed last year’s event and really did not want to miss this tremendous event 2 years in a row. I think this year’s group from Patriot was the largest I had seen, it took over 30 minutes for all the riders to pass by. Not visible in my shots are the crowd that comes out to watch the rides go by. Just on my section of Nutley there must have been close to 100 people.

I really wanted to go downtown this year, but I had been out all day yesterday at the Patuxent River Air Show and had a lot of yard work at home. So the compromise was to shoot the group from Patriot and try for downtown next year.

Shooting this type of event is a lot different than my normal work. My typical shooting platform is from a tripod and usually I take time to fine tune the composition. I was shooting today handheld with fill-flash from the curb. Bikes were going by 5 feet away at 15-20 mph. They’re close range and moving. Now the last thing I want to do is take static snapshots. So I’m using shutter speeds from 1/20 to 1/250 of a second. I’m panning and zooming. In the current setting there is only so much you can do to be creative. Perhaps if this was a more frequent event I could think up something else to try. Bottom line is many of the shots end up in the digital trash can. Another thing I noticed was that some riders really did not like having their picture taken. Some turned away, some gave me a very unhappy look and others really loved it.

Click here for a gallery.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Last Night in the Smokies

On our last night in the Smokies, Jack Nevitt and I set out for a location to shoot Star Trails. Not just any location will do. Ideally you want a spot facing north so the star trails move in a giant circle. Foreground interest is also important. We found 3 different possible locations and settled on the next pull off above Morton’s Overlook. New Found Gap Road is quite busy and traffic was an issue. To shield our cameras from the headlights of passing cars, I parked my truck at an angle that would afford protection for our lenses.

Lucky for Jack I had a spare body and timer. Jack had borrowed a timer and only realized when we started setting up that the batteries were dead. We then ate dinner and Jack edited his pictures. After 2 hours, we packed up and arrived back in Townsend at 1:00 am.

The tree is lighted courtesy of the passing cars.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, Jack Nevitt and I spent a few days in the Smoky Mountains.

The weather was great if you were a tourist, but not quite as nice for a nature photographer. In other words, sunny and no fog. While some fog would have been a plus, it was not essential.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New HDR Tool

Tonight I was working on my images from the Smokies. I decided to try combining my HDR sets with a new software tool, Essential HDR. I had seen a brief comment about the program in one of the photography magazines. The selling point was that it rendered a more natural look than Photomatix. I decided to go ahead and give it a try. As a result, I agree that Essential HDR has a slight edge in regard to processing a natural looking HDR file.

Then I stumbled on something I like even better!!! In the past when combining images with moving water, I often ended up with some artifacts that needed to be cleaned up in Photoshop. I combined several sets with moving water and each time Essential HDR did a perfect compilation with no noticeable artifacts.

I think the program is worth a try. The only downside is the program is PC only. This is sure to disappoint my friends with Macs.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Smokies After Dark

During my recent trip to the Smokies I stayed out after dark on 2 occasions. This was one of them, it’s the old Mill at Roaring Fork.

I’m a big fan of Lightpainting and have introduced the technique to many of my friends and a few workshop students. Lightpainting the landscape is somewhat difficult to tech. You need to be aware of and juggle the variables, strength of your light source, and color temperature of your light source when using multiple lights. At the same time you are dealing with diminishing light as evening becomes night. You also need to constantly adapt to the changing conditions.

In general my formula is:

Start 10 minutes after sunset and shoot for the next 20 to 30 minutes. During this time keep refining your technique and check your histogram. It is quite easy to blow out your highlights. Shooting beyond this time you lose the slight blue color in the sky.

It is not necessary to “paint” every aspect of the composition. In general the subject is not meant to look like a “flash” picture. Paint your subject with light using brush strokes.

In regard to my picture above, I consider it a “fun” shot. The light source was a 2 million candle power spotlight with a homemade snoot. It was probably a little more light than I needed, but you work with the tools at your disposal.

If you decide to try this, consider that many parks are not open after dark and the average park ranger is going to assume you are spotlighting wildlife and respond accordingly.

If you want to learn about Lightpainting one of the best resources on the web is Dave Black’s site.