Tag Archives: canon xt
June 7, 2009

Iguazú Falls

Iguazú Panorama

It’s hard to describe nature’s power on display in Iguazú.    Any one of the waterfalls in the park is worth seeing and the views where a good portion of them are in sight are simply staggering.  Before visiting Argentina, I’d read somewhere that the average amount of water plunging over the cliffs in Iguazú is triple that of Niagara Falls.  I’ve never been to Niagara, so I didn’t know what to expect.

If you like anticipation and escalation before your reveals like we do, I think Oksana and I happened upon the perfect way to see the park.  Early on our first day, we decided to walk along the isolated Sendero Macuco, hoping the quiet of the morning would reveal more wildlife.  It did.  Besides the ever-present lizards, butterflies, and biting insects, we also glimpsed a couple of rodents (small capybaras or perhaps cuy), a monkey, and a rather large and intimidating snake.

From there, we hiked back into the park, took a few pictures of the Coatis among the tourists, and embarked on what they call the “Lower Trail.”  Huge waterfalls intersected the trail, raging white water often directly under the metal catwalk beneath our feet.  With their twists and turns, intermittent spray-rainbows, and deep booming bass, they were impressive enough… but they were also just solitary streams.

And then, as we continued along the Lower Trail, we spotted the towering falls in the distance along the Brazil side of the park.  Our wonder increased alongside the number of photos we took, but it was only when we rounded the next corner, came up against the Argentine view you see above, that we thought we had witnessed the best Iguazú had to offer.

We waited patiently while the ebb and flow of camera-bearing tourists passed and finally, when we had the short balcony to ourselves, I took a series of photos in burst mode, expecting to stitch them into a panorama later.

It wasn’t easy to select the first photo to show of Iguazú (I have a folder of 452.)  I do like the foreground elements here, they lend a sort of frame to the composition, but as we kept walking through the park, along the Upper Trail, we found views from the tops of those same waterfalls that rivaled this one.  And we were wrong about this being the climactic view of the park.  It was bettered twice again: Once when we took a boat right into the spray coming off one of these behemoths, and then again when we stood on the edge of La Garganta del Diablo: The Devil’s Throat.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 12 November 2008
Focal Length: 18mm
Shutter: 1/400 second
Aperture: F/7.1
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Stitched from 4 images, cropped, minor color correction

Oksana and I have decided to do our first podcast video on Iguazú.  Hopefully we’ll have something to show by the end of June.

August 21, 2008

Catamaran Flare

Catamaran Flare

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We were in Key West to dive, but we hadn’t really planned how long we were going to stay.  Our first couple dives were okay, but nothing spectacular.  The water was a little murky, the coral a little sparse.  We paid a little more to go with a different company on the second day and were rewarded with friendlier staff, a better location, and more underwater sights.  We decided to stay for a third day of diving, even though it would mean getting up early on Oksana’s birthday.

While not as spectacular as the previous day, the dives were good (and, coincidentally, we discovered that another girl on our dive trip shared Oksana’s birthday!)  Still, Oksana likes to celebrate her birthday with parties and friend, and I was worried that diving wasn’t enough.  I decided to take her out on a sunset cruise.

Plenty of ships compete for your business in Key West; we walked the docks until we found one of the old schooners we’d heard about, the Hindu.  A sketchy but gregarious salesmen chatted us up and talked us into booking a couple tickets for the 6:30pm sailing.

The evening was gorgeous, the wind light.  While our captain and his college-students-on-summer-vacation crew lamented the lack of wind, Oksana and I relished the relaxed atmosphere on the bow.  Coolers of beer, flutes of champagne, and small panini sandwiches were available for the asking.  The only thing marring the serenity on the water was the loud southern woman who took the all-you-can-drink offer to heart.

As the sunset deepened, Oksana and I took turns walking the deck with the camera, taking photos of ourselves, the sun and sky, and the other sailing vessels tacking in and out of our wake.  Looking back over our pictures, I can tell you I took the one immediately proceeding this one (because Oksana’s in it), but I think she might have been the one who snapped this photo three minutes later.

And can I just say:  Best Lens Flare Ever!

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 17 June 2008, 8:00pm
Focal Length: 88mm
Shutter: 1/500 second
Aperture: F/20
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Rotated & cropped (horizon-leveling),
 cloned out salt spray spots on lens, minor contrast adjustments

March 9, 2007

Kalahaku Overlook

Haleakala Crater from Kalahaku Overlook

I have a new theory.  The time I spend playing with a picture in Photoshop is inversely proportional to the quality of the original image.  On the face of it, that seems obvious, right?  If the photo sucks, you’re really going to have to work it over in the digital darkroom.  But then, if the picture is good, Photoshop work is more like play, and I can spend hours playing…  Okay, so maybe my new theory doesn’t have a proof.

This is a stitched panorama of the immense Haleakala Crater on Maui Island, Hawaii.  I believe it’s taken from the Kalahaku Overlook, but because Oksana and I stumbled upon this scenic view, I could be mistaken.  I wrote a bit about that day.

The view is awesome, of course, in the true sense of the word.  We spent at least 45 minutes hanging out at the railing, took countless pictures and even a time-lapse video of the clouds boiling below.  And though I like the panoramic photo you see here, I don’t think it’s one of my better pictures.  I wish I could put my thumb on why.

Is there too much sky?  Maybe, but if I crop it out the panorama becomes too thin.  Is it that the depth of the valley doesn’t translate?  We were practically standing on a vertical cliff, but here it looks like you could almost along the dip in the middle until you reached the crater floor below.

I tried a dozen variations of cropping, trying to make things right.  I lightened up some of the foreground elements, trying to create a sense of depth.  I even spent some time cloning out a huge foreground handrail in the lower right corner.  I know the scene is good; I just can’t seem to make the photo do it justice. 

But that doesn’t mean I can’t post it on my blog, now, does it?

It’s hard to see in the small version of this panorama, but the black lava flows and red cinder cones make for some attractive (also in the true sense of the word!) scenery.  I wish we had planned an excursion down into that crater.  As it was, we were only on Haleakala for the sunrise — we didn’t think to bring the hiking gear, extra water, maps, and cabin reservations that would have made a hike down Sliding Sands Trail really worthwhile.  Maybe next time.

Canon Digital Rebet XT
Date: 12 August 2005
Focal Length: 18mm
Shutter: 1/1000 second
Aperture: F/5
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Stitched with Autostitch, cropped, cloned extra rock on right, dodged foreground rocks, auto color adjustment

Continue reading to see the actual detail in the final panorama…


March 2, 2007

Парк Победы (Park Pobedy)

Park Pobedy

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I could spend an entire vacation exploring Moscow’s Metro system.  Seriously.

While we were in Russia last summer, Oksana’s brother encouraged us to the use the metro as our primary means of travel around the city.  Whenever he was with us, which was more often than not, he’d steer us toward roundabout routes just so we could catch a glimpse of a new station.  Each station is designed with a different style.  Some are covered in ornate scrollwork, some in mosaic tiles, others have murals between every arch.  Some, like Victory Park Station, almost qualify as science fiction.

I think it was after the first long day of touring the city that I took this picture.  We were on our way back to the apartment, it was late, but Andrey decided that we need to take a look at Victory Park.  Парк Победы, as it’s known in Russian, commemorates Russian’s victory in World War II.  There’s an impressive museum on the grounds and all sorts of WWII relics both inside and out.  We returned to see all that later.  The first night was just to see the station.

Amazingly, the throng of humanity in most of the metro (even at that time of the night) was absent.  Between trains, Victory Park station almost emptied out entirely.  As we walked down the length of the corridor to get a better view of the murl, we passed only a couple communters and one lone janitor buffing the highly-polished floor tiles.  After taking pictures of the mural and getting an Oksana-sponsored translation of the plaque, I turned around to see the entire station, empty.  I took a couple pictures of the impressive marble and reflections — portrait, landscape, next to the wall, out in the open — before I had the idea to just set my camera on the floor.  The first snap, on auto, fired the flash and created an arching shadow where the lens blocked the light.  I could hear another train pulling into the station, so I rushed to manually turn off the flash and snapped one more photo.  Shortly after this picture was taken, the station was full of people again.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 7 August 2006
Focal Length: 18mm
Shutter: 1/8 second
Aperture: F/3.5
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Auto Levels only

February 22, 2007



Oksana gets all the credit for this one.

I take a lot of outdoor pictures.  If I’m browsing through a directory of my digital photos, the best way to tell if Oksana was with me the day I took them is to look for flower pictures.  When she asks to hold the camera, it’s almost always so that she can crouch down and take a macro shot of a particularly colorful blossom.

On this memorably sunny summer day, we decided to take a walk through the university.  The camera’s lens spent most of the walk shuttered, but we did uncap it long enough to take some pictures of the lake (me) and the landscaped flowers (her).  This particular daisy wasn’t even a part of the campus flowerbeds — it was down in the ditch along the bike path to housing.

I spent some time in Photoshop working the image over.  I cropped it to remove some excess head room (and to try to balance in the stray dandelion in the background.)  Most of the work was in cleaning up the white petals.  I cloned away some black and yellow specks, removed a few strands of spider web, but stopped short of removing the pinkish hemlock needle on the right.  Sounds like a lot of work, but really it’s not so different from the original image.

I think the contrast between the white petals and the black background is what makes this photo.  I also love the detail in the full-res image.  The tiny, not-quite-open-yet star-shapes in the yellow florets, the single grain of pollen(?) in the middle, and the dark and blurry depth of the background.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 13 June 2005
Focal Length: 55mm
Shutter: 1/320 second
Aperture: F/5.6
ISO: 200
Photoshop: Cropped, cloning to remove specks on petals

Continue on to see a closeup of the florets… (more…)

February 16, 2007

Feeding Time

Feeding Time

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The life of an amateur photographer in Hawaii must be depressing — some of the best photo ops are underwater.  Without a crazy-expensive setup consisting of an underwater housing and lights, there’s practically zero probability that you’ll take home a great photograph.  Every store has an 800-speed disposable camera at the checkout line, but you’ll be lucky to get a few pictures for the photo album with those.  There’s no real use in blowing up one of those dark and grainy images.

What can be done?  Take your camera to the Maui Ocean Center!

Oksana and I decided to spend half a day wandering around the aquarium.  Initially I was skeptical, but it turned out to be money well spent.  There’s hammerhead shark tanks and green sea turtle pens.  There’s a massive pool with all manner of sharks and rays and a transparent tube you could walk through as you marvel at them.  One never-ending series of darkened rooms held small, well-lit tanks containing all sorts of rarities you’d probably never see while snorkeling:   shrimp and lobster, octopi, anemones, seahorses, glowing jellyfish, sand worms, and the like.  We both had fun trading off the camera for the camcorder.

Shooting in an aquarium has its own problems, though.  With a tripod (which I didn’t have, anyway), one would be forced into using slow shutter speeds.  For fish that just sit there, that’d be fine, but most underwater life tends to move around… and blur.  You can always shoot handheld with a flash, though… and get a nice bright reflection in the glass.

So how did I manage to get this picture?  Just lucky, I guess.  I was snapping pictures of Oksana posing in front of the glass, getting bright flash spots or blurry fish in every one.  It wasn’t really bothering me, though, because we weren’t going for high art, just some “I been there” photos for the inevitable Hawaii photo album.  Oksana stepped away and I lowered my camera… and suddenly the tranquil aquarium burst into action.  Within maybe three seconds, colorful fish appeared out of nowhere, darted left and right, all flashes of color and motion.  I never saw what riled them up — feeding time or maybe a predator — but I did manage to bring the camera back up and snap a few pictures.  There had been no time to think about flash, aperture, and shutter speed, I just went with the previous settings on the camera.  Seconds later, the aquarium was back to normal.

EXIF data reveals that my camera’s iris was wide open and the shutter speed was set for 1/100th of a second.  That’s darn near the perfect setting for this situation.  Any faster and the exposure would have been too dark, any slower and the fish would have blurred (via their movements or the movements of my hand), and a flash would have reflected in the glass.  Lucky.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 11 August 2005
Focal Length: 25mm
Shutter: 1/100 second
Aperture: F/4
ISO: 1600
Photoshop: Auto color, Minor blurring of red and blue channels to reduce ISO noise

Continue reading to see some examples of what didn’t work…


February 2, 2007

Caution: Wet Paint!

Caution: Wet Paint

A little more than a year ago, our department decided to spruce up the office with an art project.  We decided on collaborative Jackson Pollock style painting.

Our canvas, once stretched, turned out to be around 6′ x 6′.  One fine fall day, we took it out on the deck, laid it down on a plastic drop-cloth, and cracked open many undesired cans of paint.

I didn’t actually take part in the painting; I was there with my camera, documenting the process.  It was a slow start.  As people experimented with the paint — dripping it, pouring it, splattering it — the white background disappeared slowly.  Too slowly, in fact.  There were some great early splatter patterns that were covered over completely as the paint was layered on enough to cover the canvas from frame-edge to frame-edge.  At one point, I worried that the whole Pollockness of the painting would be ruined as the most enthusiastic painters used their hands to smear the colors into an almost uniform shade of greenish-brown.  I shouldn’t have worried.  They were simply coating the canvas for the next few dozen layers of paint.

Most of the shots I took that day are dynamic:  People flinging and spattering paint, posing with dripping orange hands.  Surprisingly, my favorite shots happened to be of the artwork itself.  At the end of the session, before the paint was dry, I crawled all around the canvas, trying to find interesting angles from which to take a picture.

In choosing the photo for my website, I grudgingly eliminated three others that I really liked.  One had amazing glossy highlights that showcased the texture of the layered paint.  Another had great depth of field.  Two of them showed the sheer scale of the painting — the loops, squiggles, and drips are revealed to be quite complex.  But this one…  This one doesn’t have a lot of texture, almost no highlights, and just a bit of depth.  This one is about the color.

It only took a few days for the painting to dry, but we didn’t hang it up until months later.  I always felt a bit guilty about that; it was the longevity of my Post-It Note idea that monopolized the wall space…

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 23 September 2005
Focal Length: 55mm
Shutter: 1/200 second
Aperture: F/5.6
ISO: 400
Photoshop: Negligible Auto Color adjustment