4.21.2017

Photo Story: To Spritz Or Not?


When I first became interested in flower photography, it never occurred to me to do anything artificial to the flower.  I was amazed when one friend told me of clipping a flower with stem, and bringing it indoors to photograph without wind and with controlled light and with an artificial background (ex. white foam board or black velvet fabric).  What a great idea that was. That strategy for creating good art had never occurred to me.  Another friend told me about using a spritzer bottle in the field to add the very appealing effect of raindrops or morning dew.  


"Droplets"
Olympus E-M1 plus 60mm F2.8 Olympus macro
1/100sec @ F8, ISO 200

I definitely like the raindrop effect. It gives a little “something extra” to the image. But I have never actually taken the additional step of procuring a spray bottle and adding it to my gear bag.  

So, this image is completely natural.  It was taken outside my home after, you guessed it, a real rain shower. Perhaps a spritzer bottle in the hands of an experienced spray bottle aficionado could duplicate the appearance, but I’m thinking that may not be possible. I love the way the raindrops have lined themselves up nicely along certain lines on the blades of grass.

I do think that during this coming season of outdoor flower photography I will add a spray bottle to my kit.  It's worth playing with, and it should add some fun. On the other hand, using it seems a bit like catching a stocked trout instead of a wild trout. The wild trout is definitely a higher quality experience. Yet, it should be said that a stocked trout is better than no trout at all!

4.19.2017

Photo Story: 8-Year Olds Love Chalk



Give an 8-year old some colored chalk and a paved driveway and it’s all about art and creativity. 

I think the above was the best of a ton of images I took of our granddaughter during her stay with us Monday and Tuesday. The background and foreground give a sense of the environment, without being distracting (IMO). I think that is a good thing. The 90mm F2.8 lens helped a great deal with blurring the background to help focus attention on the smiling 8 year old. Some vignetting might be useful, but I don't seem to use that technique much.  I feel I captured “the moment” here, and I especially like that it was done with an old manual focus, aperture ring manual lens.  

I used a 90mm Tamron F2.8 Macro (at F2.8, 1/500sec, ISO 100) mounted on a Sony a6000.  I am always pleased when I can get good focus with any manual lens; although, of course, our granddaughter wasn’t exactly in motion!



What was really amazing about this artistic experience is that we gave her the option to go to our local ice cream parlor for an ice cream cone before returning her to her parents, and she actually asked, “can I finish up my art project instead?”  Amazing girl.

BTW, buy triangular chalk sticks for your kids or grandchildren.  We’ve concluded that they don’t break as easily as the round ones. Ours are called “Chalkables”, and we just ordered more from Amazon.  The brand is OOLY.  They come in a box with 8 colors.

4.09.2017

Gear: Best $11 Gift I Ever Received (For Macro Photography)


I saw one of these folding stools a couple of years ago at the gym.  I immediately fell in love with it and thought it would be great for my macro photography.  I mentioned it to my wife a few days before my birthday in 2015 and as I was opening birthday cards on a Sunday morning, a U.S. Postal Service truck pulled into our driveway and delivered a Rhino II folding stool!  Wow.  What a surprise.  My wife had ordered it on a Friday and with her Amazon Prime membership got it delivered on Sunday! [Apparently, Amazon is so big that it has a special deal with the postal service which includes Sunday delivery.]




It’s called a Kikkerland Rhino II Folding Stool and they sell for about $11 on Amazon with free shipping.  The version II is sturdier than the original design so be sure to get the Rhino II model.






When folded, it measures about 12”x 12” x 1", so it fits nicely in my backpack.  I mostly use it for macro photography.  For me, this means either wildflowers growing in nature or cultivated flowers growing in botanic gardens. 

Flowers, by their design, tend to lie low to the ground, and this stool really helps me get down to the level of the flowers without resorted to sitting crosslegged on the (often wet) ground, or getting on my knees. My joints feel a lot less “creaky” at the end of a session. It makes the process a lot more enjoyable, whether you use a tripod or, like me, avoid a tripod whenever possible.  I find the stool helps me hold the camera steady.  Often I will put my elbows on my thighs, creating a “human tripod”. 




When in the field, once I have taken the stool out of my backpack, I generally don’t put it back.  When folded, It’s so easy to carry by the handle.  


When not used for my photography, I usually just keep it in my car.  It takes up so little space. We now have a second one in the house.  It comes in handy for changing lightbulbs in the ceiling or swapping out batteries in the smoke detectors, and then folds up nicely to be hidden in a closet (or, in our case, between the washer and dryer).

Hey, it's only $11.  Buy one!


4.01.2017

Gear: LX100 At Discount, But I'll Wait For An LX200 (Assuming There Will Be A New Version)


When the LX100 first came out (September, 2014) I was quite excited.  All those retro dials in a smallish format.  Plus it had a mFT sensor which was pretty big for the small size of the camera and the small size of the fixed 24-75 mm-equivalent F1.7 to F2.8 (i.e. fast!) zoom. Albeit the sensor was cropped to about 12mp, but this was fine with me as it accommodated the mult-aspect ratio feature we’d come to know and love with the LX series.

Screenshot from Panasonic website
shop.panasonic.com

I guess what caused me to put a purchase on hold was the price tag of $899US… and to be honest, I was concerned with some of the reports that seemed to indicate some lens softness. I have to admit that lens sharpness is a “thing” with me.  Intellectually, I know it is overrated and that there are so many more important elements that go into making a good photo.  When it comes down to it, I think almost all modern lenses are “sharp enough” and fully “sufficient”, even slow kit lenses. Nevertheless, lens sharpness is always a hurdle for me.

At any rate, because of these concerns, by the end of 2014 I removed the LX100 from my radar screen.

But then a couple of weeks ago, I had another chance to reconsider.  Not only was the LX100 on sale at a trusted seller, Amazon, but they had plenty of them in stock and “more coming”, priced to sell fast at $560 with free shipping.  This was 30% below the retail price of $799 and 40% off the initial retail price of $899! Unfortunately for anyone reading this now who might be interested in buying at that price, this deal has come and gone and the current selling price at Amazon (on April 1, 2017) is $699. 

This was the $560 deal (now gone):



Screenshot from Amazon a few weeks ago.

Currently priced on Amazon at $699:


Screenshot from dpreview.com

However, I was unable to hit the buy button, even at $560.  It seems that a lot has changed in my mind with regard to an appropriate feature set.  Obviously, the camera still works as well as it did when introduced in 2014, when it received an 85% “gold award” from dpreview.com.  But my wish list for features and requirements seems to have expanded over the last 2 1/2 years.  That’s not a good or bad thing, it is just what is.

In passing up on this sale, I also considered that perhaps the heavily discounted price was a sign that a new model (LX200?) is coming.  I am hoping that the LX100 was successful enough that it warrants an upgrade. 

What would really kindle my interest in the next version of the LX100 (if there is one coming along) is one or more of the following “improvements”, listed here in order of my interest:

(1) A bigger EVF, preferably OLED so I can see through it with polarized glasses.  The bigger EVF can be accomplished in appearance without increasing the physical size by changing the EVF to a 4:3 aspect ratio instead of the current 16:9. I understand that the GH series has an OLED viewfinder with 4:3 aspect panel.

(2) Tilting display with touch screen capabilities.

(3) A new lens, equally fast, perhaps longer (24-90?, 24-105?) and sharper than the current one.

(3) Better image stabilizing. Gordon Laing was disappointed to find in his review on cameralabs.com that the stabilization system only provided a 2-ish stop advantage where he’d expected more like 3-4 stops.

(4) ND filter built in.

(6) A 20mp sensor ...which would need to be cropped to about 15mp to accommodate the multi-aspect ratio feature.

(5) Ability use a self-timer and bracketing at the same time.  I think currently, like other cameras I’ve owned from Panasonic and Olympus, the self-timer and bracketing are in the same drive mode so that you can choose only one or the other. (The work-around is to use a remote shutter release.)

(6) All the photo stacking and photo bracketing features that are now included on the upper end Panasonic’s.  I think the LX100 may have photo bracketing, but not photo stacking.  There were hopes for a firmware upgrade to accomplish this, but as far as I can tell that never happened.

(7) Blue Tooth for easy fast transfer to my cell phone for sharing. (I don’t have any cameras with this, so not exactly sure how advantageous this is… but it seems to be the direction upscale cameras are heading)

I guess that's a healthy list of "improvements".  I'm looking forward to seeing what Panasonic comes up with next.




3.26.2017

Photo Story: The Wharf at Thurston's Lobster Pound, Bernard, Maine



Thurston's Wharf

Olympus E-M1
Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 @ 15mm (30mm equiv.)
1/60s, F8, ISO200
__________

Photo Story

I recently picked this image to submit for a Photo Club critique.  Not sure why I picked it. It certainly isn't a "fine art" image.  I guess it is more of a documentary image. But I like it a lot, and I thought I'd post it here along with a bit of the Bernard story.

Thurston's Wharf and Thurston's Lobster Pound are located side-by-side in the Village of Bernard, Maine on Mount Desert Island (MDI), Maine.  MDI receives millions of visitors each year because of Acadia National Park. However, I should point out that Acadia is mostly on the right side of the island, along with the heavily visited Bar Harbor.  Bernard is on the left side of the island.  The left side is often called the "quiet side".

We've traveled MDI off and on for thirty plus years and have always enjoyed our visits.   But it was not until three years ago that we found (accidentally) the road that leads to Bernard. It barely exists on the maps but is worth finding.

The main attractions in the immediate area around Bernard seem to be Bass Harbor and Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.  The lighthouse is on the to-do list of any serious photographer and the village of Bass Harbor (confusion here: there is the harbor call Bass Harbor; the village called Bass Harbor lies along the eastern shore of the harbor) is the terminus for the Swan Island Ferry and the Frenchboro Ferry. Access to the lighthouse, the ferries, the village and the harbor is along route 103.  

On the “other” side of the harbor is the Village of Bernard, where this photo was taken. To see the village (and dine at Thurston’s!) you will need to get off route 103 and head south on a secondary road called, you guessed it, Bernard Road. It's easy to miss. If you are in the  area be sure to put Bernard into your GPS or cell phone navigator.  The GPS  coordinates are: Latitude 44.240766; Longitude -68.352143.

Bernard is a fishing village.  Our first visit there was about 3pm in October a few years ago.  At that hour the lobsterboats were streaming into the harbor with the day’s catch. It was great fun to watch the unloading of lobsters. However, this particular picture was taken during a subsequent visit. It was 1pm when this photo was taken, just minutes after we dined on Lobster Rolls at Thurston’s.  

Before I forget, Thurston’s has a great tag line: “Thurston For Lobster”. Get it?  Thurston, as in thirstin’!

3.19.2017

Photo Story: Second Blizzard of the Season



Blizzard Conditions

Olympus E-M1
Olympus 12-100mm F4 @100mm
F8, 1/15sec, ISO200
__________

Photo Story

We had our second blizzard of the season last week.  Cancelations (including our local schools and my workplace) started the night before, as the storm was predicted to arrive just in time for the morning rush hour and to be heavy right through the evening rush hour.  We were right on the border between a predicted 12-18” snowfall and an 18-24” snowfall. Ultimately, we ended up with 12" of windblown, wind-packed, rain impregnated snow. 

Laurie and I had no reason to drive anywhere … so we didn’t. And except for photographing this scene, we stayed indoors, watching the storm develop while sitting by a comfy fire. Our generator was all gassed up in case we needed it, but we never did lose electric. 

Wind gusts reached 60mph, but our trees stayed upright. I would say "just" a few branches lay around the yard when it was all done, except that one of the branches with a 2" diameter was buried under the snow in the driveway.  After hitting that with the snowblower, I was glad I had an extra shear pin!

I mentioned at the top of this post that this was a blizzard.  I always like it when the meteorologists remind us of the technical definition of the term, as I always forget.  (This time I created a “note” in Evernote for future reference.)  To be a blizzard, these three things must exist:

Winds with a minimum speed of 35mph
1/4 mile visibility due to snowfall
3 hours of the above conditions

Notice there is no snow depth requirement.  My guess is that we had these conditions for about 9 hours.

3.09.2017

Photo Story: The Mönch at Sunset, Switzerland, 1968



The Mönch at Sunset, Switzerland 1968

Kodak Retina iiiC
Schneider 50mm F2 lens
Kodachrome (ASA 64 or 100)
__________

Photo Story

The Monch is a frequently climbed mountain on one side of the Jungfraujoch. (To find out why I was there in the summer or 1968, see my prior two posts.)  It was first climbed in 1857. Along with the Jungfrau (rising on the other side of the Jungfraujoch) and the Eiger, the three mountains form what is called the Berner Trilogy. The Jungfraujoch is a saddle (about 11,371' elevation) between the Jungfrau (13,642') and the Mönch (13,445'). The neighboring Eiger has an elevation of 13,020'.

The best time to climb is said to be from mid-June to the end of September.  Many make this a day trip by taking the first train from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. 

The easiest route to the Mönch summit is along the ridge seen here to the right of the summit. Beginning at the inside-the-mountain railway station (maybe a couple of hundred yards from where I am standing to take this picture), the trek starts with a fairly safe traverse (off to the right of this photo) across the glacier to the base of the Southeast Ridge route. From there, the vertical distance to reach the summit is 1,400 feet.  The summit has an altitude of 13,445 feet. 

Much of the climbing is along an exposed and narrow ridge that is typically cornaced.  I have a decent photo of the mountain taken while standing on the glacier, which I will scan and include in my next post.

Even in summer, the ascent is mostly over snow and ice. There are some rock climbing sections, too. Though I understand that the route is technically straightforward, there are some dangerous sections because much of the climbing is along an exposed and narrow ridge.  

In fact, a group of three Americans were killed that summer, falling from the ridge and 2/3 down the side of the mountain.  A small rescue helicopter was needed for the recovery, and I recall watching the operation through binoculars.

Please note that I have not climbed the Monch.  What I know is based on what I was told or have read.  I only ventured as far as the glacier traverse to the base of the Southeast Ridge route.  Though a fairly stable part of the glacier, watching out for crevasses was all the danger I wanted!

3.06.2017

Photo Story: Sunset From the Jungfraujoch, Switzerland in 1968.

Kodak Retina iiiC
Schneider 50mm F2 lens
Kodachrome slide film (either ASA 25 or 64)/Scanned


Sunset From the Jungfraujoch, Switzerland in 1968

In my last post I included an image from the Aletsch Glacier showing the Hotel Berghaus at the Jungfraujoch, Switzerland, the highest (at the time, and presumably until it burned down) hotel in Europe at an elevation of 11,000-ish feet. During my two months living and working there, afternoons and evenings were often socked in with clouds.  But occasionally we had spectacular views and sunsets.

The photo below was taken in the evening, in July or August (I was only there in the summer) of 1968, sometime after dinner. Obviously at this altitude, the sun sets late!  

One thing which the photo could not record, but which I remember distinctly, was the sound of cowbells in the valley below. Even on clear evenings (i.e. not socked in with clouds) like this one, it was often too windy to hear anything but the howl of the wind. But, on this particular night, the air was still, and the view looking west and the sounds from the valley below had me smiling.


3.03.2017

Photo Story: Nearly 50 Years Ago I Was In Switzerland


Today I'm going back about 50 years, to the first time I borrowed my dad’s “good” camera. I was on my way to a summer in Europe.  The camera was a German made Kodak Retina iiiC rangefinder with a 50 mm F2 Schneider lens.  By today’s standards that would be a fairly limited kit; but back then it was all I had and I really enjoyed it.  

The main venue was Switzerland in 1968, during a college summer break.  I had a job at the Hotel Berghaus atop Switzerland’s Jungfraujoch.  This hotel was carved into the rock and was at the head of the Aletsch Glacier.  It was located in the "saddle" (joch) between two mountains, both of which are climbing destinations: the Jungfrau and the Mönch.  The Eiger is also nearby. 

The hotel has since burned down; but at the time it was the highest hotel in Europe.  The elevation of the hotel was 11,000 feet.

Access to the hotel by tourists (and there were many every day) was by an electric powered train that traveled through a winding tunnel inside the mountain. The entrance to the tunnel is at the base of the Eiger, in Kleine Scheidegg, and it winds for six miles inside the Eiger and Monch mountains to the Jungfrau terminal, the highest train station in Europe.

Along the tunnel there are two stops.  Passengers can get out at these stops and see through windows cut into the north wall of the famous Eiger.    

What did I do in the hotel?  I worked in the kitchen. My specialty was pommes frites (French fries). Seriously! I made them by hand, using a hand operated machine that drove a whole potato lengthwise through a grid of blades. 

Lunch was a madhouse as hundreds were served daily (unless we were in the middle of a cloud or snow storm, conditions which usually meant very few would invest in the long and expensive train ride to the hotel).  Generally this was a day-trip destination, with very few visitors spending the night or staying for dinner.  As I recall, the best views were in the middle of the day.  In the afternoon, the clouds often rolled in and visibility could go to zero. 

I took the photo below after skiing down to the glacier from the hotel. There is an exit to the mountain just out of sight to the far right. Notice the roof to the hotel in the background.  It's barely noticeable because it blends so well into the rock. 

Seen in this picture is single-engine plane which crashed while flying low and slow so that photographers could take some photos.  All aboard were killed.


Kodak Retina iiiC
Schneider 50mm F2
Kodachrome slide film (ASA 25 or 64)




2.27.2017

Photo Story: Sea Smoke on Penobscot Bay



I don’t claim to be an expert on fog, smoke or steam.  My prior post called “Fog on Penobscott Bay” was about a photo I took one early morning in August.  I did a bit of research online and found that there are several kinds of fog.  My conclusion based on the definitions given, was that the summer fog we experience along the Maine coast is “advection fog”. It requires warm air over cold water.Well, today I explored online the concept of “sea smoke”. I had seen a number of photos of sea smoke, though mostly they were taken along the Maine coast in the winter.  Nevertheless, I was pretty sure that is what I saw one cold morning last October.


Sea smoke can occur when cold air moves over warm water.  (It seems this is the opposite of the conditions that lead to fog.) I think this is what happened in the image shown below. 


This image was taken on a cold October morning.  I am presuming that the air temperature was colder than the water surface temperature.  It was about 6:45 a.m. and the sun had just begun to show itself.  I’m thinking this created the required layer of moisture-saturated air above the water that then cools and condenses. 


Of course I could be wrong about this, but it nevertheless was a pretty picture.

Olympus E-M1
Panasonic 14-140 F3.5-F5.6 
@ 140mm (280mm fffl)
1/2500s
F5.6
ISO 200


2.24.2017

Photo Story: Fog on Penobscot Bay

Fog and the Maine coast go together.  This is especially true in the summer, when the prevailing southwest breeze can bring moist warm air off the land which then passes over the cold ocean water, causing the moisture in the air to condense.  If you spend a week on the Maine coast, you will need to be prepared for a few days of fog. Even in summer, this means fleece jackets or wool sweaters, and sometimes both.

I have read that there are several kinds of fog.  From what I can tell, the type of fog I have described above and which is shown in the photo below is called “Advection fog”.  Advection refers to the wind bringing moist air over a cool surface. Advection fog can also occur when warm air passes over thick snow-pack.

Olympus E-M1
40-150mm kit zoom F4-5.6R
@ 102mm (204mm fffl)
1/250s
F8
ISO 320

Into the Fog


The photo was taken in August at 7:00 a.m.  The location was Penobscot Bay.  An hour earlier, the morning was beautifully clear, and I witnessed an outstanding sunrise. I knew that it would be an interesting morning because I also saw in the distance a thin band of fog. It made the horizon look much nearer, and it began coming closer. Then, coming around a point of land to my right, and outside the field of view of the camera, flowed a white “tongue” of fog gliding across the surface of the water.  As you would expect, this did not seem to phase the lobstermen seen here heading out to check their traps. A moment after capturing this image, the lobsterboat disappeared into the approaching fog.  I guess that’s no big deal for those who know the sea. 

Another few minutes went by and then I, watching all of this from a rocky beach, was fully engulfed by fog. It was then time to walk back to the cabin, put on a sweater, and have another cup of coffee.

Below is a black and white version.  It’s the same photo, but converted to black and white in Adobe Lightroom. 



2.20.2017

Photo Story: A Bluebird Day on the Slopes


I’m not sure how prevalent is the term “bluebird day”, nor do I know where it came from.  But it’s a phrase well known to skiers. I do wonder if it came about after the song “Bluebird of Happiness”, which was composed in 1934. I don’t know the lyrics, but I can say with all certainty that a blue bird day on the slopes makes me happy.  On bluebird days I will even chuckle excitedly to myself as I ski down the mountain.

Bluebird days just make a skier smile... or they should!  They are defined as days with a solid blue cloudless sky, made all the more remarkable by the contrast against a snowy landscape.  Polarized sunglasses help, too. (Note that a polarizer was not used in the image below.)

For many people, the above definition is complete.  But in my opinion, a bluebird day needs something more.  I am sure many western skiers would agree that a blue bird day in its highest form requires there to be a fresh thick coat of overnight powder.  Of course, here in New England we need to make some adjustments for our lighter snowfalls and the fact that so many ski areas these days have all-night crews rolling (i.e. packing) the snow.  Seen below, there’s about six inches of new natural snow, some of which has been rolled and some of which has not. Regardless, I was happy and smiling and chuckling all day!


Panasonic DMC-TS3 waterproof, shockproof, dustproof P&S camera
4.9mm focal length (28mm fffl)
1/160s
F10
ISO 100

Blue Bird Day at Mt. Sunapee

2.17.2017

Photo Story: Old But Not Handicapped

Imagine the smile on my face when Laurie and I turned into a Dunkin’ Donuts in Searsport, Maine for a cup of coffee and saw these two parked “old timers”. The sky was so beautiful and the cars were so shiny!  They were the only cars in the parking area, so I knew I had to act fast.

Every year when we travel Maine's Route 1 coastal route, our routine is to stop in at the same Searsport Dunkin' Donuts behind the Sunoco station. There are plenty of quaint local coffee shops along the way, but every trip we nevertheless stop at the same Dunkin' Donuts for caffeine refueling. I think it is all about timing.  We seem to drive through Searsport at the same time every year, between something like 2-3 pm.

Before going inside to order coffee I quickly grabbed my camera to capture the scene before more cars pulled into the parking area or before the owners drove off.  I love the colors here.  The blue car and blue sky look so good together, and the red car provides a nice contrast. Everything is so bright and shiny. I liked the sky so much that I dropped to one knee to get this low-down angle that allowed me to capture the cars and a big patch of blue sky.  The 4:3 aspect ratio of my Olympus camera helped.

But there is also something about the two cars parked with the empty handicapped parking spot between them that made for a story... and gave me a title for the photo: Old But Not Handicapped.

Olympus EM-1
Olympus 14-54mm v.2
@14mm
1/200s
F8
ISO 200
Old But Not Handicapped

2.12.2017

Photo Story: Mt. St. Helens Ground Squirrel


This is perhaps my favorite photo from our trip to Mt. St. Helens in June.  This surprises me because it is not exactly a big beautiful sweeping panorama (though I do have some of those too, here).  What I like about this photo, other than the cooperative ground squirrel, is the nature story that goes far beyond the squirrel.

Mt. St. Helens is a volcanic peak in western Washington that blew its stack in 1980.  The main blast resulted in the largest landslide in recorded history, causing the entire north face to slide away following an earthquake, and removing 1300 feet off the top of the mountain.  The debris avalanche that ensued traveled more than 13 miles at the speed of 110 to 155 miles per hour. The blast was followed by a volcanic eruption that spread ashes over a dozen states and sent a plume of ashes 15 miles into the atmosphere.  

The aerial photos I have seen taken afterward show denuded forests looking like boxes of matchsticks all stacked together, lying side by side in one direction.  No vegetation. No color. Just de-barked tree trucks.

I think with that information as a backdrop, this photo becomes very interesting.  From what I read at the visitor center, it was the burrowing animals, like the golden mantled ground squirrel, that were among the first to come back.  It was said that some did survive by the fact that they were underground. 

In the background of this photo you will see lots of colors.  These are wildflowers.  At the time of our visit wildflowers were everywhere.  Many of course are not species originally found in this area, but now that there is a different soil chemistry and there are no forests to block the sunlight, wildflowers are able to thrive.


I recently entered this image in a “contest” at my photo club.  The judge did not like the bleached wood in the foreground. He did not explain, but I suppose he found it a bit distracting. I guess I understand that. But I like it, as it is an important part of the story. This log was a standing live tree in 1980.  Huge swaths of the region are still covered with tree trunks lying in a direction leading away from the blast.  Old denuded and sun-bleached logs are part of the Mt. St. Helens story. Neither the judge nor the squirrel likely understand this.

Mount Saint Helens Ground Squirrel



A Nice Web Tool For Understanding Your Weather Forecast


My brother sent me a link to the National Weather Service website a couple of years ago.  Being a very visual person, as it seems are most photographers, I find it very helpful in planning my time outside with a camera. Actually, I look at it every morning because it gives me a sense of the flow of the weather throughout the day.

Being February in New England, I find the site valuable in planning my ski days.  I love to ski when the sky is blue and the cloud cover is 0%.  And I dislike driving while it is snowing. 

It is also nice to see what you will be up against or will have working in your favor when grabbing your camera for outdoor photography.  For example, when I visit our local botanic garden, I like  some cloud cover to diffuse the sunlight and I also examine the windspeed forecast.

Unfortunately, the government website is a bit cumbersome.  There is no app available with this same information, as far as I know.  So, what I have done on my iPad is to go to the site in Safari, then click on the “up” button, and then choose “add to favorites” to place a thumbnail on my home screen.  This way it appears in Safari on all my devises: iPad, iPhone and Mac Book Pro.

Here’s a link:



Once on the home page, type in your location.  On the next page view, if you cursor down the right side you will see a chart like  the one below.  Just click on it.  It is this final page that I have bookmarked as a favorite.

If this is hard to see on your monitor, click on it and it should give you a larger view.


2.11.2017

Photo Story: Camden, Maine from Mt. Battie


Each year my wife and I take a couple of trips along the Maine coast.  Usually it is once in the summer and once in October.  The picture below is an October photo.

Camden is always a fun stop.  It’s an old town with a picturesque main street and the downtown area sits right up against Camden Harbor, home of many yachts and sailing vessels, including some old schooners and “Windjammers” that are available for day charters and longer trips.

Two miles north of the town is a park and campground called Camden Hills State Park.  There are trails to the top of Mt. Battie, but also an auto road.  The drive to the top takes about 5 minutes and if you are over 65 it’s $3 per car load for non-Maine residents. The elevation is only 780 feet but you get a sweeping view of Penobscot Bay and downtown Camden. 




Unfortunately, unless you are there in the afternoon, the sun will be shining toward the front element of your camera lens.  I’ve tried a polarizer to cut glare off the ocean but it’s hard to get the sky looking nice because the angle relative to the sun isn’t quite right.

EM-1, 14-54mm Olympus zoom at 25mm (50mm fffl), 1/1250s, F8, ISO 200.

Processed in Lightroom, I made ample use of the dehaze feature to clean up the shot.



2.09.2017

First Nor' Easter This Year


Temperatures fell throughout the day and the wind has been significant, especially along the Massachusetts coast. I can hear the wind howling through the trees. And the snow is falling nearly horizontally. We're in the 14-18" snowfall band. Boston is reporting the first Blizzard in two years. 

I didn't even bother to go outside today. I spent the day looking through photos, staring out the window at the falling snow, and listening to my Neil Young station on Pandora. The snowblower is all gassed up, but overnight the wind-driven snow will just fill in the driveway again.  So I'll wait until tomorrow.

Just past our backyard is a forest of relatively young get maples. I'm guessing that the area was logged some 20 or 30 years ago.  I enjoy looking deep into this stand of maples on snowy days. I think the images I've captured work well when converted to black and white images. 

Here's one I took today, by standing sheltered in the doorway of our backyard screen porch. Taken at 1/100s you can see a bit of purposeful blur from the falling snow. The other settings were RAW, F8 and ISO 1250 on a mFT sensor (EM-1 and 12-100mm lens.) Processing was done in Lightroom using one of the included black and white presents.




2.05.2017

The First Time I Skied Mt. Sunapee was 1963... and Hodge Podge Lodge



I’ve checked my math a few times now.  1963 was 54 years ago.  Right?  That’s incredible.  Over half a century ago.  That is such a long period of time, yet it seems like yesterday to me.  

Sunapee isn’t my favorite mountain.  It’s a big mountain, but it’s (still) a tame mountain. For a day trip, I’d much prefer Waterville or Cannon; however,  Sunapee is closer to home.  The drive home after a cold day on the slopes is always tiring, so I appreciate that it is only a 1 1/2 hour drive.  Getting home in time for a hot shower and dinner is oh so nice!  All of this is much aided by route 89, which didn’t exist in 1963, as far as I recall. But then, I wasn’t doing the driving back then.  

Nor was Sunapee a day trip for us back then.  As a family, we rented a big house with 8 or 9 other families from back home.  We called it Hodge Podge Lodge. I remember the season rental per family that first year was $250.  I also remember my first season pass.  As the “first junior” in the family, my pass cost my parents $60.  Today, this is about the price of a weekend day ticket!  My brother was the “second junior” and his pass was $40.  Day tickets for juniors were $6, so I pretty much made up my pass by skiing the school Christmas vacation. (We used the word Christmas back then.)


On my dad's 80th birthday twelve years ago we took a summer drive up to Sunapee.
Here we (dad, my brother, and me) are checking out the old place.
I thought it was cool that the street number is 64 and our first season
was the winter '63-'64.

Patches were quite fashionable back then.
HPL = Hodge Podge Lodge


I wish I had some photos of our Sunapee days from back then.  But we didn’t tote cameras around. 

The first picture below was taken this past week.  It’s just one turn below the top of the mountain and the trail is called Bonanza.  This particular area was called Bonanza Ledges back in the day. It looked a lot different. The trail was narrower and covered with rock formations.  There was no snow making and the grooming was primitive.  We had to pick our way through the ledges, using one or two goat paths. Timid skiers side-stepped through the mess, causing others to queue up above the ledges. My friends and I usually just went straight through without turning, hoping for enough loose snow at the bottom of the ledges to make a turn or two to slow down.

Years later the area was blasted and smoothed out.  My guess is that as uphill capacity was increased (seen here is a high speed quad which gets four people to the top in 6 minutes (I need to verify that) compared to a slow double chair that got two people to the top in 12 (or was it 20?) minutes), downhill capacity needed to be increased.  Trails were widened too so that snow making could be maximized, and traffic jams like what was created at Bonanza ledges had to be eliminated.

So easy now.  Here there used to be ledges to negotiate


Also a recent picture, this next image I call “Dad’s View”.  This was taken along one of his two favorite trails.  This one is called Skyway.  The other favorite is called Blast Off. My dad passed away a year ago at age 90.  I’m guessing he was 70 when I last skied this trail with him.  Of course, I think about him often when i ski Sunapee.  I have some great memories. Even though Sunapee is not my favorite ski mountain, it’s the ski area with the most meaning to me.




I’ve put together a small portfolio of Sunapee pictures on my website.  Nothing particularly special, just snapshots.  All were taken with a digital point and shoot camera.  The oldest snapshot of the bunch was taken in 2009.

peterfraileyphoto.com/sunapee




1.26.2017

A Few Black and White Prints From Mpix.com

I don’t do any of my own printing.  I’m actually a bit afraid to “get into it”.  I am worried that I might like it, which would mean buying an upscale printer and supplies, learning to print on different kinds of paper, learning about color profiles, etc, etc.  It would be a huge investment of time and money.  It might also be fun.

But so far I have resisted.  Instead, when I need prints I order them online from mpix.com. It is very simple, though print-purists might question the image quality that can be obtained by uploading merely an sRGB file.  But the results are beautiful.  I’ve created awesome prints as big as 20” x 30” from my m43 gear. 

I decided last week that I needed to get some black and whites done.  Each month in my local photo club, we can submit one color print and one black and white print for judging and critique.

I have a few color prints stashed away from the last time I ordered prints. However, as of last week, I had no black and white prints that I could use for the photo club. So I smiled when Mpix emailed me a note with a coupon code for 25% off all prints. (By the way, it makes sense to buy a bunch at a time because of the $8 flat shipping charge.)

It seems to me that a 25% discount is offered several times each year at Mpix, though I don't think it is possible to predict when that will be.  If you are interested, get on their mailing list so you will know when it happens! Last year I even bought several 20 x 30" prints during a 50% off sale.  That is quite a substantial savings, as the full retail price for a 20 x 30" color print is $32.39.

Below are the four black and whites I ordered last week. The first and last ones were printed at 10 x 15" (full retail would be $7.69), the bridge photo was printed at 11 x 14" (full retail would be $7.49) and the square image was printed on 10 x 10" paper (full retail would be $4.59).

The turnaround time at Mpix is very fast. I ordered my prints on Wednesday, they were shipped from Kansas on Thursday via 2 day Priority Mail, and they were delivered to my office in Massachusetts on Monday.  The prints were packed flat and sandwiched in heavy cardboard all surrounded in plastic, inside a sturdy flat box.  I have used Mpix for nearly 10 years and have only once had a problem with a print, a problem which Mpix quickly solved (re-printed) at no charge.

Penobscot Bay from Weir Cove, Maine

Chowder and Sandwiches, Stonington, Maine
Old North Bridge, Concord, MA
Mount Saint Helens, Washington