Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

On Saturday, I participated in a joint meetup between my photography group and another fitness/adventure group. Not many people showed up for the event, but I had a great time and met some very nice people at the event.

Besides meeting new people, I also found two new places with interesting views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tierra Verde, FL. I have been looking for a place to get this angle for many years and never knew this place existed, although I've seen photos of this angle. Now I know where to get these photos. This angle shows the steep curve of the bridge.

For those that don't know about this bridge, this is the second bridge built to cross the water of Tampa Bay, connecting St Petersburg with Sarasota.

The original Sunshine Skyway Bridge was the site of a number of tragic events, including the collision of the US Coast Guard ship Blackthorn and outbound freighter Capricorn in 1980 which claimed 23 sailors' lives, and a structural collapse caused by a collision with the bridge support by the inbound freighter Summit Venture in 1980 which killed 35 people.

The Sunshine Skyway is a cabled main span approximately 5.5 miles in length with a vertical clearance of 199 ft. Construction began in 1982 and was dedicated in 1987 and cost $244 million dollars to build. It is constructed of steel and concrete. The Travel Channel rated the Sunshine Skyway #3 in its special on the "Top 10 Bridges" in the World. The bridge is considered the "flag bridge" of Florida.

Settings used for this image are exposed at 1/2000 at F7.1 at ISO 200 with +1/3 eV, at 208mm hand held. My White Balance was set to Cloudy, which rendered the image too blue. The image was color corrected with PhotoShop.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Causeway Memorial Bridge 3

This image was taken the same day as the other two I posted, except it was taken before dark when the sky was a pure white overcast. There was no interest in the sky and no interest in the photo. The original is pretty blah, if I say so myself.

While I was reading Rick Sammon's tweet on Twitter, he challenged everyone to create an illusion using a plug-in and post it on his facebook and his site. It's not a contest, just a challenge. Since I don't have many plug-ins and the ones I have I've never had occasion to use until today. I couldn't figure out how to use the one I just won. I'll have to spend some time with the tutorials from to learn how to use it.

In the meantime, I had to do something, so I came up with this. I almost deleted the original, but something told me it would be perfect for fooling around in Photoshop and/or Lightroom so I loaded Dynamic HDR and ran the pseudo HDR twice on it. This is what I came up with. I think it looks a whole lot better than the original.

Here's the original:
What do you think?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Man in Conflict

I noticed this guy while walking at Bay Walk with my grandson. He seems to have some kind of problem, judging by what he's wearing, or he's protesting something. This is just a grab shot, but I've never seen anything like this before and I wondered what he's all about.

His pants, if you can call them that are made of various patches from different types of material, either sewed, strung or tied together wrapped around his legs.That vest, and his unkempt hair says the rest. Conflict, disorder, partisan, and that drawing makes me wonder what on earth he's protesting or trying to say.

I caught up with him again and wanted to take a photo of his face, but he gave me this mean look before I could even lift my camera. I didn't dare try. He looked so mean or angry. His face was split in half, sort of like Michael Jackson's black and white video, but one side of his face had a long, thick, black beard and a thick mustache, while the other side was clean shaven. I guess it takes all kinds.

I won't give you all the technical details on how this was shot since it was only a grab shot, or a snap shot. I didn't have much time to think. I just shot it the way the camera was set for the previous photo.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fountain in Downtown St Petersburg

I spotted this fountain in downtown St Petersburg on my way home from our Saturday Photowalk Meetup while walking to my car. I'm not sure what the name of it is, or what it represents so I'll have to take another ride to it to find more information about it.

This parking garage was kind of scary since it is in South St Petersburg, which is not in a very desirable neighborhood, and it was late at night and my car was the only car on this level. I was pretty nervous since I was all alone.

I drove to the opening where I spotted this fountain, took out my camera and snapped a couple photos of it quickly and got right back into my running car.

To give you an idea how tall this wall of water is, that figure at the bottom of the fountain is a woman standing there with her hands on her hips. You can also see the parking garage behind it along with several levels.

If I had more time, or wasn't so scared, I'd have made this photograph properly using my tripod and a slower shutter speed. I must go back during the day when there's more people and cars around.

Settings used to make this shot: First of all, I didn't use my tripod, I braced my elbows on a ledge to steady the camera. This was shot at F5.6 for 1/2 second, using ISO 400. My exposure compensation was set to +1/3 eV with partial metering. I used my 18-55mm lens set at 49mm. Had I used a tripod, I would've set the shutter speed to 1 or 2 seconds to blur the water more. However, I was all alone at 10:00 at night in an empty parking garage on St Pete's south side. I stepped out of my car quickly to make this shot and got back in to my running car where I'd be safe.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Honey Bee on Shephards Needle

Lately it's been really busy at work and between that and running 3 photo clubs and trying to get a wedding business started, I haven't had much time to go out shooting. Actually, I haven't had much time for anything.

One good thing is that I can always find subject matter in my own back yard. I spotted this Honey Bee hanging on for dear life trying to sip this nectar. They seem to prefer the nectar of yellow flowers. At least that's how it seems to me. I usually can find bees around yellow or white flowers with yellow stamen. It just might be my imagination, but that's the way I see it; and I've photographed lots of them.

I have to keep my distance when I'm photographing bees and most insects because I'm deathly allergic to their stings. Due to the allergy, I have to shoot them with a fairly long lens so I don't get too close. Sometimes, the lens has enough magnification to keep the photo full frame, rather than having to crop in to get close.

This one was shot at about 1:00 in the afternoon. Tricky light, most of the time, but it was pretty cloudy and I got lucky that I didn't have more of an exposure latitude problem. The settings used for this photo was a shutter speed of 1/1000 to stop movement at F5.6 to sufficiently blur the background at 0 eV (exposure compensation). I used an ISO of 400 to guarantee that I'd have a fast enough shutter speed with partial metering at 250mm with my 55-250mm lens. As it stands, I didn't have to crop it. I was lucky enough to be able to get a close enough focus by shooting at an angle from up above him.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Closeup of White Peacock Butterfly

Normally, I would post the whole butterfly; but since I've posted several of these butterflies whole, I though I'd let you see the closeup detail.

This White Peacock is sipping nectar from a Shephards Needle flower. They seem to really like this particular nectar because I see many White Peacocks sipping the nectar of this wild flower. When I made this photo, there were four of these butterflies that I was following. Lucky for me that this one decided to come close enough for me to capture him like this.

Settings used to make this image: This was shot at around 8:30 in the morning in my back yard, while the sun was fairly low in the sky and bathing everything in that warm light. I chose and ISO of 1/400 to arrest any movement at the time of shooting, which gave me a nice, 1/2000th shutter speed at F5.6. I chose F 5.6 because the background was pretty busy and I wanted to ensure none of it would detract from the butterfly and the flower. Exposure compensation was set to 0. I used partial metering and my 55-250mm lens at its full length. Usually it's undesirable to use your lens fully extended and wide open. But in this case, it worked out well for me. In post processing, I cropped the image to give you all a close view and slightly burned in the petals of the flower in a couple of small spots where they lost detail.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Causeway Memorial Bridge 2

For some reason, I happen to be attracted to bridges. That's strange since I'm afraid of heights and water, you'd think I wouldn't go near them. Of course, my photos are usually made under them.

I like this second version of this bridge. It seems this is the first time I've ever had a successful shot when looking at a bridge from directly under it. It could be the wide-angle shot, I'm not sure why.

If they hadn't built that pier right next to the bridge I'd have never started to look for different angles. I'd have kept on making the same photos in different light. How boring! It could be that I just need to be challenged.

The settings used to make this shot are exactly the same as the photo I posted last night. The only difference is the time. This one was made at 9:38 pm; about an hour later. In case you missed them, these are the settings: shot in aperture priority mode for 1/4 sec at F7.1 using ISO 200 to minimize noise, with partial metering off the bridge at what looked like about 18% gray about 1/3 into the shot to maximize depth of field with my Canon 20D and an 18-55mm lens at 27mm.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Memorial Causeway Bridge

I've photographed this bridge many times, each time trying to do a better job with it. This is one of my favorite images shot last night during one of my teaching sessions.

It was shot fairly late and we had been waiting for a sunset that never happened, so we decided to wait a while longer to see if we'd get anything in the sky besides clouds. Even lightning would've been great after waiting so long.

Sunset was supposed to happen at 8:10 pm, but with the heavy cloud cover, we got nothing! No sun; actually, no sun all day which is unusual in Florida.

Last year, the City of Clearwater had planned to build slips along the beach just under this bridge. Everyone was disappointed because this is such a nice, quiet area. People from all over come by to sit on the benches and watch the sun set at this spot. Something must have changed the city's plans, because they built this fishing pier instead. While it does change the view quite a bit, we were trying to find an angle where we could work with it. I think this may be the best angle, but I'm not so sure. It's so close to the bridge, it's impossible to get the bridge by itself from this location. I don't think this is so bad; but we'll just have to work a little harder to get a nice view. I'll keep trying, though.

Techs are: shot at 8:18pm, in aperture priority mode for 1/4 sec at F7.1 using ISO 200 to minimize noise, with partial metering off the bridge at what looked like about 18% gray about 1/3 into the shot to maximize depth of field with my Canon 20D and an 18-55mm lens at 27mm.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cassius Blue Butterfly

Another little cutie from my back yard. This one is a Cassius Blue Butterfly. The positive ID is by the eye spots on the wings that are circled with yellow/orange. The Cassius Blue is from the Gossamer-wing family and is very small. Its wing span is only 5/8". It can be found in central and southern Florida in fields, woodland edges and residential areas. It prefers Leadwort for food.

Here he is sipping on a Shepards Needle. These daisy-like flowers can be found in most fields.

I especially like making photos of these tiny butterflies because of their beauty, and the challenge. Sometimes the hunt is just as satisfying as the capture. These little guys don't rest on flowers very long. They're fast flyers and like to flit from flower to flower. I've found that if I wait long enough, they'll come back to the same flower over and over.

Settings used for this shot on a bright sunny day are 1/500 of a second to stop all motion of both the flower and the butterfly, and F7.1 the sharpest aperture for my favorite lens. To get the fast shutter speed I moved the ISO to 400 even though it was sunny. It was around 4:00 pm so the sun was beginning to make its descent and was a bit lower in the sky, bringing out the detail in the flower and the butterfly. I used partial metering to be sure the butterfly would be properly exposed and -1/3 eV so I wouldn't blow out the white in his body. In post-processing, I burned in the flower petals just a tad. With my 55-250mm telephoto lens zoomed all the way out to 250mm, I was able to get enough magnification to show the butterfly fairly large in the frame and it also allowed me to sufficiently blur the background. There was no cropping in this shot. It is full-frame.


This is Mayo, one of the girls in my newbie group. This image was made during a photo walk at Bay Walk in downtown St Petersburg in the late afternoon.

Making this image was very easy since Mayo is not camera shy at all. It's very difficult to get someone who is camera shy to look natural in a photo. This was made for her new profile shot in our group.

I was careful to compose this so her eyes would be at the top third in the frame, following the "Rule of Thirds". It was shot at ISO 400, using Partial Metering off her skin, at 109mm, which provides a perfect focal length for rendering a natural looking portrait. Other settings were 1/250 (because I was handholding the lens), at F7.1. No post-processing was needed other than conversion and resizing for the internet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Street Musician

While on a photo walk with my Newbie group on Sunday, I spotted this street musician playing the sax. He wasn't just playing the sax, he's a blues player! I love the blues, and love to photograph musicians.

This guy has been playing for over 35 years and he's really, really good. I gave him a tip and he let us make all the photos we wanted of him.

After processing this image, actually I didn't have to do anything to it other than RAW processing, I decided to fool around with it a bit in Lightroom 2.4. One of the latest trends in photography is the "grunge" or "edgy" look. I fooled around a bit and came up with this. I kind of like it and I think it's a good fit for a street musician. Let me know what you think of it.

The original image was shot with ISO 400 in the late afternoon, actually early evening. I used aperture priority mode at F7.1 which is the sweet spot on my lens, and a shutter speed of 1/60th. I used partial metering off his face and exposed at -1/3 exposure compensation to prevent the highlights on the sax from blowing out. I used a focal length of 154mm on my 55-250mm lens to give him some space and to further blur the background.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Giant Swallowtail

I have been trying to capture one of these butterflies all summer long. Giant Swallowtails, don't light on a flower for any length of time. They are mostly in the air and very fast flyers. The wings also never stop fluttering and it's very hard to catch it without too much blurring on their beautiful wings.

It's funny that I've been forcing myself to get out there and shoot for the last two weeks, and for some reason, I've captured some of the best photos that I've ever captured. For that, I thank the members of my photography class. Since I've been teaching them, I've tried very hard to practice what I preach, but getting out there and shooting a lot, all the time thinking while I shoot. I can't be satisfied with just adequate photos, since I keep telling them to capture the best angle, perspective and to be careful to hold the camera steady. Writing the hand outs has also reminded me of some of the basics. Things I just did without thinking, now I have to think before I shoot and I'm not satisfied with "just capturing it on my card". I'm thinking about the best way to capture it. So, thank you, students. We all need to learn.

This butterfly was shot using F7.1 for 2 reasons; it is the sharpest aperture on my lens and to get a little extra Depth of Field to keep the flowers and his wings in focus. I used ISO 400 to give me a faster shutter speed (1/320th) to stop the motion of his wings. Today was an overcast day, so there were no lighting issues to deal with so I set it to 0eV, which worked out fine. It gave me a perfect histogram with no clipped highlights or shadows. That's the beauty of shooting on an overcast day. It also helps to increase the saturation in the colors. No flash was used.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hairy Woodpecker

All I've been doing since Monday is shooting babies and more babies with, guess what?--a Nikon. If you ever want to tick off a Canon shooter, give them a Nikon and tell them they have to work with it.

I shoot babies for a living, and until Monday, we had a mobile photo studio to use at the hospital. Our company is growing and we are replacing our mobile studios in all our hospitals with Nikon cameras. Actually, I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression--this is a good thing, and one I've wanted for a long time for my hospital.

But, it is very hard to use a Nikon since I've never used one in my life and everything is backwards. It's like Nikon and Canon got together and said, "OK, we're the top two camera companies for pros, so we're not only going to compete, we're going to do every opposite so our pros will remain loyal to their brand". It's uncanny how different the two cameras are. The lenses mount by turning in opposite directions, so do their zoom controls. Where Canon uses a wheel, Nikon uses a 5-way button, Canon's menus are in a horizontal motion to go from one series to another, while Nikon is vertical. About the only things I've found in the same place and that work the same are the shutter button and viewfinder. I'll bet they couldn't figure out how to make those different. It's just so weird. I like it though (did I just say that?). Canon and Nikon are both excellent cameras. One can't be knocked above the other and each photographer has his/her preference to how they like the feel and how each camera works.

I'm going to shut up about this rant for now and get on with my photo. Since I hadn't made any new photos since the butterfly day except for babies, I'll share with you this cute little Hairy Woodpecker. He was taken on the same day as the butterflies I just shot. He was so busy working hard to get his snack that he really didn't pay much attention to me at all so I was able to get fairly close. The lighting was poor, but I couldn't walk away from this show no matter what the lighting was like.

This was shot at 1/60th at F7.1 (my lenses sharpest aperture), +1/3 eV, ISO 400, partial metering because there was a lot of light directly behind him, at 250mm.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Firey Skipper Butterfly

Some of you may have noticed I've been "missing in action" during the last week. I must apologize for that. The truth is, I've been in a photographic rut for some strange reason.

So, yesterday, I forced myself to take my camera out in my backyard to see what I could find. I had really good luck, too!

I made, in my opinion, some of the best butterfly photos I've ever made. This one, the Firey Skipper is one I'm really proud of. He's rather small, and he's one that you probably wouldn't even notice unless you were looking for them. I've never seen their wings spread when they're resting, which makes them all the more difficult to see. They are only about 1 1/4" in length, and when compared to the blade of grass in front of him, or to the stamen on the Shephard's Needle flower he's suckling on, you can see just how small this one is.

This other shot shows his face more clearly. If you've been following my blogs, you know I have a fascination with faces on insects and butterflies, so when I captured this one, I was pretty excited.

I also captured photos of a Hairy Woodpecker, a Phaon Crescent butterfly, a White Peacock butterfly and a Cassius Blue butterfly. The Cassius Blue is even smaller than this Firey Skipper. So all in all I had a pretty productive day.

This Firey Skipper was shot at ISO 400 to get stop action speed, also because I was hand holding a 250mm lens, which gave me 1/800 sec at F7.1 to give me decent depth of field, I shot in aperture priority mode so I could be sure I'd have the sharpest aperture on my lens and good depth of field. I added +1/3 exposure compensation to open up the shadows.