Waterville Valley Yesterday for some nice Skiing

Monday I was able to get in my first day of skiing this season.  Things hand looked pretty good around Thanksgiving (about seven weeks ago) with some decent early snow.  But there has been no snow down here in southern New England since then, while northern ski areas were able to finally get some the last couple of weeks. For one reason or another I got a delayed start this season.  My goal for the season is 15 days, with the "minimal accepted" number being 10. Fingers crossed.

I bought my day pass at Waterville Valley ($29 midweek for seniors if bought online, at least one day prior) and packed the car the night before.  It is about an hour and 50 minute drive for me… just long enough to listen to two podcasts and sip on an insulated mug of black coffee.

There seemed to be plenty of people on the mountain and in the lodge, although I did not need to wait in line at the lifts.  I see my photos are also pretty void of skiers.

For gear I had the little Panasonic GM-5 with the tiny collapsable 12-32mm (24-64 equiv.) zoom.  I kept it in the outside chest pocket of my ski jacket for easy access. 

High temperature was about 24 degrees Fahrenheit and there was very little wind.  The battery registered as full when I got home, so I don’t think the temperature had much of an effect on the battery. And the camera worked fine. It must have picked up some body heat from me (I had 2-3 layers under my shell parka, depending on what you count as a layer) but the outside pocket allowed it to stay cool enough so that when I took it out to use, there was no fog on the lens.  Indoors, I just kept it in my pocket (except for two of the images below, both taken in the upper hut featured in the first image.)

"Come Back Soon"


Reviewing old images: a few black and white Landscapes

My friend Dennis Mook had a motivating post on his blog this week (link) about his use of black and white renderings for landscapes.  It had me thinking about my own (rather limited) use of black and white for landscape photography.  Like most of us, I shoot digital and color.  Then, on my computer with Adobe Lightroom (Lightroom works great for me, but any software will do) I create what adobe calls “virtual copies”, to which I apply a black and white preset to see how the image will look in black and white. If I like it, I keep it.  The black and white file will then sit in my Lightroom catalog, side-by-side with the color file.  The dog-eared lower-left corner (see below) lets me know which are virtual copies, something that is helpful if you’re making multiple color copies or multiple black and white copies. So, in the case below, the color image is the original file.

It is very difficult for me to predetermine what images will look good in black and white.  Often what I think will look great in black and white will, in fact, look boring and unappealing.  There are other times when I have accidentally clicked (or hovered) over a black and white preset and have been amazed how good a photo looks in black and white.  Except for the random hovering over the preset I would never have guessed. I have come to believe that the best chances of a successful conversion is when there is a lot of contrast and/or a lot of texture or “gritty-ness”.

Lightroom has many presets for different black and white styles (for lack of a better word). In the “develop” mode in Lightroom Classic CC, these presets (there are 10 of them in the initial group, and a few more further down the panel) run down the left side.  Examples of black and white styles found in the presets are: Landscape, high contrast, punch, and low contrast.

I filtered my 40,000 images in the Lightroom catalog and was surprised to see only 150 black and white versions, over the 10 year period I have been using digital cameras for landscape photography. That’s not a lot.  But I do like many of them. 

I picked ten to post below, chronologically starting in 2007.  I enjoyed seeing how my camera selection has changed over the years.  I didn't remember that I had had so many different cameras, including Panasonic, Olympus, Nikon (just the first image and it was borrowed for our 2007 vacation), Canon, and Fujifilm.

Schwabacher Landing, Jackson WY
2007: The second day with a borrowed Nikon D40.
As I recall, full auto, jpeg.
I had no knowledge RAW.

Sailboats and Morning Haze
2008: Fujifilm Finepix F20 point and shoot
At the time this camera with its slightly larger point and shoot sensor
had nearly a "cult" following

Kayaking on the Sudbury River
2010: Canon S90 point and shoot
Same size sensor as the Finepix F20
but with more pixels as I recall

Three images above from The Canadian Rockies 
2012: Panasonic GH2 with Olympus 70-300 zoom

 Three Hemlocks
2014: Olympus E-M1 and 75mm F1.8

Lobsterboat and fog bank
2015: Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic 14-140

Blizzard Conditions
2017: Olympus E-M1 and 12-100 F4 zoom

Leaving the Mooring
2017: Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic 100-300 zoom


Look for the Light and Stop the Car

Driving home earlier this month after a rain storm, the light became beautiful as the sun dipped down out of the clouds and rested on the horizon.  These photos were taken about 3:50p on December 3rd, and sunset was at 4:13p.  This put me nicely in the “golden hour”.  The light of the setting sun with the contrast against the dark clouds was spectacular.

These two images are far from portfolio images.  But because they were well received on my social media pages, it got me thinking. There are plenty of people who see nice photos and think they themselves could not capture them without a “good” camera.  In this case it was not about the camera, it was about seeing and being willing to stop and get out of the car! [Though I had a marginally decent camera with me, I would have stopped even if I only had my iPhone 5S.]

In this instance it occurred to me that many people simply don’t see/notice things like this as they drive along focusing on the destination. (And ignoring the journey?)  I’m not saying one should drive unsafely with their eyes wandering all over the road.  I do think it helps if you have trained yourself to “be in the moment”. 

I am sure that among the hundred or so people who drove by me while I was walking around catching these images, most never even saw what I saw.  And definitely, among those who did see this, I was the only one who stopped to saver the moment.

75mm equivalent lens on a Sony Nex-5r.
A cell phone would have worked, though you'd
have to get closer... and aim upward, changing the perspective,
which is neither good nor bad, just different.

Shot at 28mm-equivalent, a cell phone would have worked fine.

Personally, I found meaning in these images.  Interestingly they were across the side street from each other.  Separation of church and state?

Also, let me note, should you be reading this at a much later date, the flag at half mast was in honor of President #41, the late George H. W. Bush.  This is a conflicted and difficult time in our country with much disagreement, nasty talk, and tension.  But I believe our nation will persevere and flourish and heal.  With this in my mind I saw great symbolism in the gold light shining on our flag, juxtaposed against the turbulent sky. That’s just me… your mileage may vary.


Inside at the botanic garden in November

Below is a set of images from the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, from a visit in November.  All were shot with an Olympus E-M1 and either the Olympus 12-100mm F4 zoom or the Olympus 60mm F2.8 macro lens.  All were shot at F4 and at a range of ISOs, depending on the amount and direction of light.

All were focus-bracketed with between 10 and 18 images and the camera was hand-held in all cases.  Processing was in Lightroom, and aligning the images and stacking was completed in Photoshop.

Cape Fuschia
10 focus-stacked images
Olympus 12-100mm

Indian Mallow
15 focus-stacked images
Olympus 60mm macro

17 focus-stacked images
Olympus 60mm macro

Forked Blue Curl
13 focus-stacked images
Olympus 12-100mm

9 focus-stacked images
Olympus 12-100mm

16 focus-stacked images
Olympus 12-100mm

Match Stick Flower
18 focus-stacked images
Olympus 12-100mm

Palm Frond
17 focus-stacked images
Olympus 12-100mm


Pizza Shot: ISO 25,600 with the m4/3 sensor on the Panasonic GM5

I took this photo at Joshua’s Restaurant & Tavern in Brunswick, Maine just to document for my wife and me that we’d had some good pizza there during a little two-day December vacation-between-holidays.

[I also made note of my new favorite beer, Chaga Stout, brewed by Lone Pine Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. Maine has become quite the place for craft brewing.]

In no way does this image have any value to me, other than documenting our evening out.  But what amazed me is how nice it looks, even though the iso was 25,600! Your mileage may vary, of course. And I have to admit that perhaps the texture of the main subject, the pizza, may be hiding some of the noise, and I did move the noise reduction slider in Lightroom Classic CC to a very conservative 25. 

GM5 Panasonic at ISO 25,600

I had in the pocket of my down jacket (it is cold in Maine in December!) the little Panasonic GM5 with the 12-32 kit lens. This shot is at the 12mm focal length. Aperture priority was set at F8 (though I don’t know why I didn’t shoot wide open at F3.5 so as to get another 2+ stops of light!)  Shutter speed chosen by the camera was 1/15 which I believe is the slowest speed when using aperture priority. Auto ISO chose 25,600.

I think this looks pretty good for such a high ISO. Let me point out that this camera model is now four years old. I'd expect the newer m4/3 to perform better.  But then, this is all I had with me other than a cell phone.

Ten years ago when I started with 4/3 gear (Olympus E-500), which used the same sized sensor as m4/3 bodies, I would never have imagined getting a shot at iso 25,600.  I can’t remember, but the highest setting back then might have been only 3,200, and even at that the colors and noise blotches were terrible.

All that being said, if I were to be in the same situation again, I’d try to get the ISO lower.  Wide open at F3.5 would have brought auto ISO down to perhaps 6,400. 


October's trip to Bernard, Maine

Every summer or fall while driving along coastal Maine we spend a day or two on Mount Desert Island (which includes Acadia National Park).  The western side of the island (west of Somes Sound) is called the "quiet side", as it is away from the busy Bar Harbor side of the island. It's also away from the main attractions of the national park. Here on the quiet side is the town of Bernard.

Bernard is a fishing village on Bass Harbor. It is quite picturesque.  So is the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, which is on most landscape and seascape photographers' bucket list.

I wrote about Bernard in November of 2017 here.

I wrote about Bernard in March of 2017 here.

These photos were all taken near Thurston's Wharf and Thurston's Lobster Pound, where as the saying goes, every one is "Thurston for Lobsters".


One Photo: Penobscot Bay Morning

This is my favorite photo from several trips along the Maine coast this past summer.  The wind was minimal so the reflections in this cove were awesome.  The lobster boat was positioned nicely, though because it was backlit I did lighten it up in Lightroom.  The clouds were magnificent and really lit up when the sun moved high enough to be above them.

The photo was taken an hour after sunrise, which gave the sun time to clear the horizon and disappear behind a bank of clouds.

As far as my gear, I rarely use anything wider than a 24mm equivalent lens (the wide end of my zoom lens).  But in this case I used a 12mm (18mm equivalent) manually-operated Rokinon lens on my Sony a6000 camera.

"Penobscot Bay Morning"
Sony a6000 with Rokinon 12mm F2 lens (18mm equiv.)
Aperture priority @ F5.6. ISO100. 1/800 sec
Processing in Lightroom Classic CC


One Photo: Night becoming Day

After publishing yesterday's post, I noticed this image in my Lightroom catalog.  It was taken seven minutes before the photo "Off to Work" in yesterday's post, and four minutes before official sunrise on a day last month.

As the sun approached its actual sunrise position on the horizon (6:42 a.m.), I watched the clouds above me turn pink. I looked up and a little behind me to see just a wisp of the moon. After a quick "whoa", I aimed the camera upwards and autofocused on the moon.

 I was pleased with the photo because of the transition it captures of night becoming day. I was also happy that I actually saw the moon, as my attention was focused east toward the horizon.

"Night becoming Day"
Olympus E-M1 with 12-100 F4 zoom @ 100mm (200mm-e)
Aperture priority @ F4. Auto ISO 200. 1/200 sec.
Processed in Lightroom Classic


One Photo: Off to Work

My wife and I really enjoy our mornings in Maine.  Part of that is because when we are there, we are *not* going off to work. We are on vacation. Part of it is also due to the peace and quiet we experience, especially in the morning.

We like to get up before sunrise and get a pot of coffee going.  We set ourselves up on the screen porch (the mosquitos can be bad at dawn, unless there is an onshore breeze), sip our coffee, and watch the morning unfold until we decide it is time for breakfast. [We feel that this is a great "living in the moment" experience.]

During our sunrise routine, my camera is always at the ready, as periodically I'll walk down to the shoreline to take sunrise photos. The photo below is one such image.  It was taken on a day last month at 6:45 a.m. According to the PhotoPills app on my iPhone, that was two minutes after official sunrise.  I'm facing south.

We are so remote at this location that there are only two morning sounds: gulls and lobster boats. There are a lot of gulls, but just a few lobster boats.  We see maybe four boats each morning.  We love the sound of their engines as they pass in front of us, going out early to check their traps.

"Off to Work"
Olympus E-M1 with 12-100 F4 zoom @ 100mm (200mm-e)
Aperture priority @ F4. Auto ISO 200. 1/800 sec.
Processed in Lightroom Classic


One Photo: Fall Damselfly

Last month while vacationing in Maine, on a day that was not so pleasant for landscape photography, I decided to look a little "smaller".  I saw a patch of ferns that were turning their rusty brown dying fall colors and I thought I might find a nice composition.  What a thrill it was to get my lens lined up and to see this damselfly perched on a dead fern frond.

Both dragonflies and damselflies pose very nicely.  In fact, if you do disturb them and they fly off, they will often come right back to the same spot.  I've experienced that many times.

Do you know the difference between a damselfly and a dragonfly?


A damselfly rests with its wings straight back.  A dragonfly rests with its wings outstretched at a 90 degree angle from its body.

"Damselfly on Fern"

Olympus E-M1 with 12-100 F4 zoom @ 100mm (200mm equivalent)
Aperture Priority at F4.  Auto ISO 200.  1/500 sec
Processed in Lightroom Classic CC