2016!!!!

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Happy New Year to all!!  I thought I would post a picture of one of the most popular places to ring in the New Year.  This is a shot from the Marriot in Times Square, where my family and I were fortunate enough to stay earlier this year.  As we were checking in, the extremely cheerful worker at the front desk asked us if we wanted to upgrade our view.  An interesting proposition, and one I was not prepared for, but I had my camera with me, and cameras go nicely with upgraded views.  She noticed that we were in the city to celebrate a birthday, and saw we were intrigued by the whole notion of the upgrade, even if it was an extra $150 a night.  She quickly volunteered that there was no better way to celebrate a special event, and that she could probably get us a “Ball Drop Room”.  ‘Nuff said…we went for it.  So we rode the elevator up to the 38th floor, found our room, and as we entered, we were greeted with the view you see here.  We all stood in front of the floor to cieling windows like stupid fools with mouths agape for 10 minutes.  Instantly, we knew we had made the correct decision.  We actually considered skipping our dinner reservations just because we wanted to stay here and watch the scene below.  Take my advice on this, if you’re ever offered a Ball Drop Room at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square, take it.  Unless of course, it’s actually New Years Eve, because this same room goes for $6000 on that night.  That was the other selling point the desk clerk used while we were making up our mind about the upgrade.  She simply stated we were getting one of the best views in the hotel for over a 90% discount!!  Now that’s salesmanship at it’s finest.

Anyway, have a happy and safe New Years celebration, no matter where you choose to ring in 2016.  I will be home with my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I will be making plans for 2016 over the next few days.  We’ll see where that goes.  I resolved for 5  years to start this blog, and it finally happened at the tail end of this year.  Progress to be sure, but a little slow.  Maybe I can do better going forward.  As for the holiday, I wish you each a happy 2016, filled with many blessings and good fortune.  All the best!!!  We’ll see you soon!!

Winter is here…sort of

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I suppose this post could have been named, “Header Image Fail”.  I tried to use this as my header image, but based on the layout of the elements in this picture, there was no way my theme would crop it without covering up the main subject.  Namely, the barn!!  I tried several ways to accomplish what I wanted, some cursing was involved, but ultimately, I changed the picture.  Technology!!!!

Upon raising the white flag to CSS, I decided to use this image for a post instead.  I would love to say that this is a scene from this year, but it is not.  It’s currently raining, and very green outside my window.  This is a shot from last winter.  It was late in the season, and a fairly warm morning, with a heavy fog on the winter’s blanket of snow.  Believe it or not, there is a nice little pond just beyond the barn, and some rolling hills, but none of that was visible on this particular morning.  I will shoot anything in fog.  It renders your subject in a most sublime setting, and I love the minimalistic profiles it creates of your subjects.  I especially love bare trees in the fog.  As I’ve said before, bare trees are probably my most favorite subject to shoot.  Put them in a foggy setting, and you’ve got a double whami.  It’s always fun to play around with your camera settings to get all different interpretations of the light.  Exposure value and white balance changes, even subtle ones, give your pictures a wide variation of looks that are ready either for the gallery wall, or the trash bin.  Remember though, don’t delete in the field!!  Take them home, and look at them on the computer screen, and learn what different settings did to the overall look of the image.   Long story made short, its fun to experiment, and since this is the digital age, there’s no worry about how much film you’re wasting.  Technology!!

Last, but by no means least, this is such a blessed and important time of year for so many faiths and beliefs, however you choose to celebrate the season, I wish you and those you love, all the best.  See you soon!!

 

Niagara Falls

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Hi everyone!  I’m back with another travel posting today.  This is from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, where my family and I spent a few days last summer.  We had a great time walking around the falls, and taking in the Canadian side of things.  It was also a sort of homecoming for my wife and I, as this was the sight of our first date back in 1988.  It was neat to walk around again, and see what had changed, what hadn’t, and been able now to share it with the Kiddos, who thought the whole notion of their parents dating was just too gross.  On this particular evening, we were up on a huge observation deck called the Skylon Tower.  I’m not sure how tall it is, but it offered spectacular views in every direction.  This particular view is facing south, back toward the US, and the city of Niagara Falls, NY.  It was blue hour while we were up there, and light was fading fast.  They were super cool about my camera at the tower, but the tripod did not make the trip up, so this was hand held.  I braced the camera against the grid work of fencing that encloses the deck to keep it from shaking, but the image is a bit soft if you zoom in.  Beyond the American falls are the lights of the downtown, and as with every blue hour, the lights had come on to accent the landscape itself.  That’s why its’s one of my favorite times to shoot. In the evenings, the falls are illuminated with some incredibly strong lights which change color.  Personally, I would have preferred all white brilliance to the disco theme multicolor, but that’s just me.

Oh by the way!  Happy Winter everyone.  Today is the first day of winter, and the longest night of the year.  Too bad it’s going to be 65 degrees (18C) here on Christmas, and the snow forecasted for this past weekend was a no show.  Things are still looking a bit green around here, but I figured I would go with the season and change my header image anyway.  I’ll talk more about them (current and previous)  in a future post.  Until then, keep warm if you have to, and have a great week.

You Can Learn A Lot from A Simple Daisy

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I hope everyone is having a great week.  It’s been a crazy one for me, and I’m just counting the days until the weekend.  I decided to share a simple picture today.  Just a single daisy from the summer.  Actually, this picture is a well cropped version of the original, but I still had enough info in the original to get a decent picture for my efforts. I don’t think it would print too big, but it looks good for the screen.  Hopefully, by next summer, I’ll have a macro lens to avoid that problem.

This picture is the unplanned result of a brief rain shower that left a few water drops on the flower petals.  It was strange because as soon as I noticed them, I realized it was something I wanted to photograph, but I wasn’t all to sure I wanted to put the effort in to the process.  I knew that to do it right, I would need my tripod, and possibly some reflectors, and at the time it seemed like an awful lot of effort that I wasn’t entirely committed to.  However, on the other side of the coin was the possibility of some really nice pictures, and gaining a little experience with a new subject.  I kept going back and forth, and as time went by, those drops on the petals kept calling out to me.  In the end, it was sort of like that guy in Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Tell-Tale Heart, it just got to be too much, and I eventually ran inside for my camera.  I simply couldn’t stand the thought of potentially missing the opportunity for a picture.  Actually, I had a great time trying all kinds of compositions with a few different lenses, and was glad I decided to make the effort.   I just goes to show you that sometimes the biggest problem isn’t what you think it is, but it’s actually just thinking too much instead of doing.  Anyway, I hope you like the shot.  Have a great day, and I’ll see ya all soon!

Lazy Day

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The summer is great for so many reasons.  It’s laid back attitude and weather are perfect for outdoor fun, and make it one of my favorite times of the year.  On this particular day, my son and I were doing a little fishin’.  We’re not really hard core fisherman, actually, we’re mostly worm drowners, but we go out from time to time anyway and have a lot of fun.  We practice catch and release because neither of us want to eat anything we catch.  We’re more of the burger and fries variety, but it’s still a lot of fun, and very relaxing, to stare at a bobber for a few hours and be occasionally interrupted by a bite.  Every so often we even catch a fish.  Not a bad way to spend a hot summer day.

Our luck this day however, was running thin, and since we couldn’t manage to catch anything larger than my index finger, I decided to just sit in my chair under this very nice pine tree, and take in the sites.  While my son kept fishing, I started making some photographic compositions in my mind of our surroundings.  Have you ever done that?  Some people even make a relative square with their hands like movie directors in Hollywood do, and evaluate the results.  I’ve read that it’s actually really good practice to do this sort of thing, and if done consistently, can help you compose your real photos better.  My favorite composition came from looking straight up, through the trees where we sat, to the perfectly blue sky above. In fact, I liked it so much, I grabbed my camera, and took this picture.  You know it was a great day of fishing when you come home with pictures…of trees!

Times Square Skyline

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Hello everyone!!  I hope you are all having a great week, and getting ready for the weekend which is fast approaching.  I had to work last weekend, so I am looking forward to getting this one off.  I’m hoping to get out there and take some pictures in my free time.  I thought I would mix things up a bit and put a monochrome image up today.  I love black and white, when it’s done right.  The truth is, I try to convert a lot of images to monochrome, and I am seldom happy with my results.  Color is a seductive force in photography.  It can cause us to miss the basic structure of an image as our eyes drink in all that flavorful color.  Monochrome gives us no such pleasure.  It calls on us to compose wisely, and pay attention to the tonality of the image, that is, not the color, but the brightness values.  It forces us to seek out contrast and geometric form, and capture it in a way that brings relevance to the image.  It is no small feat.  Most of my monochromes that are successful, are so because these things found themselves in the picture through good fortune, and not planning.  In other words…sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut.  I’ve been working on it though, and hopefully I’m beginning to “see” in black and white.   What’s your biggest challenge with black and white?  Do you like black and white?  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea as they say, but I love it.

My inspiration for achieving good monochrome is owed to my fascination with Ansel Adams, the Master.  He had a vision that was second to none.  Not only was he an exceptional photographer, but he was a gifted processor of his images, and used these skills to achieve his final vision for every picture he took. In fact, his teachings on vision and pre-visualization are part of why this blog is known as Vision and Pixel.

This shot is from my family’s recent trip to New York.  I posted the pano I shot in Times Square already.  This shot was taken after spending the day running around Midtown Manhattan shopping and taking in the sights.  We stopped by the hotel room the get ready for the evening’s activities, and as luck would have it, it also happened to be golden hour.  The sky was awesome, and the buildings had their sunward facing sides lit up with a golden hue.  It was awesome.  You can actually see “The Ball” that drops on New Years eve just above the Toshiba sign at the top of it’s pole.  It was an amazing view out of our 38th floor room.  I shot pictures like a crazy person whenever we were there.

A Rainbow of Leaves

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Do you like what I did there?  A rainbow of leaves?  It’s true.  If you look hard enough, and use your imagination just a little, you can see the entire ROY G BIV we all once learned about in science class.  Of course,  they were talking about rainbows there, and these leaves are not rainbows, but hopefully you see the artistic slant in all this.  People who see this bush, which has grown in my front yard for the last 20 years, are amazed by what it does in the fall.  Eventually, the leaves will all go to a bright yellow, but they don’t drop.  They just slowly loose their color, and get really thick for the winter.  The cool thing is that they progress through all these different colors first, and almost never in unison, so you wind up with this bizarre looking plant.  I can’t account for the flower in this picture, beyond the fact that it has been unseasonably mild this fall, and perhaps this poor guy got his seasons mixed up.  Sometimes people see one of my pictures of this bush and assume I’ve photoshopped the colors.  That sort of drives me nuts.  I’ll admit to using photoshop, but I don’t manufacture false images unless they are obviously so.  I’m more of the subtle enhancement kind of guy, and almost every picture gets a vignette.

For this picture, I got most of my bang out of the contrast slider in lightroom, and I did make the jump to photoshop for some sharpening, and curves adjustments in the channels.  Back in lightroom, I applied some more sharpening (not sure why) and I’ll admit hitting the vibrance slider a bit, but the base colors are all genuine;  I promise.  Fall continues to progress here in the northeast, but we continue to enjoy a mild run of days.  We have not seen a snow yet that has stuck, and by that I mean accumulate, or at least not melt on contact with the ground.  This has the skiers pulling their hair out, but most everyone else is pretty ok with it.  There have been some heavy frosts lately, and I’ve been fortunate enough to put a few hours together to get out and grab some shots of the frosty landscape.  I look forward to sharing them with you soon.  Have a great day!!!

Dwindling Light

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I especially like when the sun is low enough in the sky that it just hits the tops of the trees.  The leaves seem to glow in that golden light, and really look great.  If the light reaches the tree bark, as in the case of these pines, the trunks take on a reddish orange color that provides a great contrast against the sky, which is usually turning darker and darker blue as the sun sets lower in the sky.  If you haven’t noticed, trees are one of my favorite subjects to shoot, and believe it or not, I’m especially fond of them when they have dropped some, or all of their leaves.  I love this type of composition, with all the branches splitting off in different directions.  Shooting pictures up through trees is a little rough on the neck, but worth it if you ask me. You’re amply rewarded for your pain, and a little ibuprofen goes a long way once you get home.

On this particular day, the sun was fading fast.  We had hoped to be off the trail by this time, and near a lake shore where we could get some sunset pictures.  Unfortunately,  we were moving to slow and never got there in time.  As a result, this is my sunset picture for the day, and I’m glad for it.  Things don’t always work out as planned, but I guess if you’re having fun with what you’re doing anyway, there’s no harm in it.  As it was, we had a great little hike, and came away with a picture or two for the effort.  All in all, a great day.  I wish you all the best in the coming days.  I hope you are able to get out there and find what inspires you most, and make something great of it.  See you all soon!!!

Early Morning Clouds

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Ahh… back to nature.  After a brief trip to New York with my last post, its back to familiar territory for me.  The truth is I love shooting cityscapes, but I just don’t get to the city enough to do it, and when I am there, my family really isn’t concerned with what time golden hour is.  So as a result, I don’t get much chance to shoot the way I would want to when I’m in that type of environment.  I do have a few more shots from New York to share with you, but for now, it’s back to a more natural setting.  This shot was taken along the banks of the Susquehanna River in Northern Pennsylvania.  I was on a canoe trip down the river, and we were camping overnight along it’s banks.  Sunrise brought a beautiful shade of blue and orange to the sky, and I couldn’t resist getting a shot.  I didn’t have a tripod because we were traveling light, but I managed to get a decent hand held shot anyway.  It was a beautiful weekend, and over the course of our journey, I saw my first Bald Eagle in the wild.  Unfortunately, I have no photos of them to share as I was actively paddling when I saw them, but it was still an amazing site to see.

Today was my first day off since the holiday, and I’m completely messed up on what day it is.  I do know that while there has been some mild and sunny weather around lately, I ‘ve mostly seen it driving to work.  Today, on my day off, it rained.  I know, as a photographer that’s no excuse.  I should have been out there anyway, but it was REALLY raining, so I took a pass.  I guess sometimes even a photographer needs a day off.  Anyway, I wish you all the best and I’ll see you soon.