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


One Photo: Favorite Fall Photo

I didn't get many fall images this year, and I have little hope until next year.  We have had a lot of rain and wind, and I have read that the record high moisture in the air (high dew points) and the longer non-frost season, are not good signs for our maple trees.  And it is the maple tree that gives us our brightest colors.

All that being said, I did like this image taken about a month ago in Maine. Trees near fresh water tend to change colors first.

"Beaver Pond"
Olympus E-M1 with Olympus 12-100mm F4 zoom @70mm (140mm-e)
ISO 500
1/160 sec
Lightroom Classic


One Photo: But thanks to my friend Dennis, two Versions

My friend Dennis commented on the Cadillac Mountain photos included in my last post. He liked the image below, which is presented here pretty much the way I processed it seven years ago in whatever version of Lightroom was then available.

Dennis has a good eye and photographic vision, and he made some processing suggestions that I found worth experimenting with.  The changes, all done in the current version of Lightroom Classic, make this image quite a bit more dramatic.

Based on Dennis' recommendations, in Lightroom I increased the contrast (+41), increased the clarity (+100), and added a slight vignette to darken the corners.  I also warmed the white balance temperature by changing it from 5,100 to 6,500 degrees kelvin.  Instant drama!

[Check out Dennis Mook's blog, especially if you are an Olympus or Fuji user, as Dennis shoots with both systems, with one or more Panasonic lenses thrown in for good measure. Link: https://www.thewanderinglensman.com ]

"Visitors at Cadillac Mountain"
Panasonic G2 with Olympus 14-54mm
 @43mm (86mm-e)
ISO 100
1/800 sec


Clear Views atop Cadillac on Mt. Desert Island

My last post, in which I featured a few photos from the top of Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island on a foggy day this October, had me thinking about all the times I’ve been up there when the views were clear. Because today is a rainy, windy and cold Saturday, I decided to go into my archives (i.e. my lightroom catalog) to find a few images from prior years.  

What I noticed is that I have no images taken during the golden hour.  The last time I was there at sunrise was some 20 years ago with a film camera, and I don't know where any of the photos (if any) are.  And I have never been there during sunset.  So, all of these were taken during the challenging conditions of mid-day. 

Here are a few:

The town of Bar Harbor. Cruise ships are a growing occurrence.
The islands are known as the Porcupine Islands, due to their shape and appearance.


Fog, Mist, and Clouds atop Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain on Mt. Desert Island, Maine is not a big mountain.  In fact it is only 1,530 feet high.  But the views are terrific.  From the top you have more than 180 degrees of ocean and harbor views, and you can see for miles... on a clear day.

Due to it’s height and longitude and latitude, many argue that it is the first place in the United States where you can see the sunrise. But others argue that Mt. Katahdin at 5,600 feet, but further inland, deserves that honor.

Access to the top of Cadillac is easy via a winding road that opened first in 1931 (and clearly has been maintained and improved since then).  The road terminates at a parking lot that is often full at mid-day.  Unfortunately, even during an early summer sunrise, this means a traffic jam of people, especially in recent years.  

I have never been there at sunset, but I understand that that too is spectacular. There are at least two hiking trails leading to the top. My favorite starts at the Black Woods Campground.  

Lichen on the Granite Boulders

As beautiful as it can be atop Cadillac, Maine weather is unpredictable.  And along the immediate coast there can be fog and a cold mist, even while a few miles inland it might be bright and sunny and warm.  That’s what this day was all about!

Winter Berries

On this day I felt sorry for visitors who were hoping for a nice scenic view.  But the top half of the mountain was in a cloud, and it was cool and windy and misty-wet.  Many visitors had their camera slung over their shoulders but few were taking pictures.  I saw a few selfies being taken, all with fog for a background.

Because I didn’t want to go away without a few pictures, I gave up on the “big scenic iconic shots” and focused my attention on more intimate pieces of the landscape, as shown in the four images above. 


One Photo: Fall Blueberry Barren in Maine

Seen here is a tract of managed blueberry barrens.  Soil here is naturally nutrient-poor and acidic. Apparently this is perfect for blueberries, though since this field is harvested commercially, I am guessing that some fertilizer is added to the mix. 

Barrens are wide open areas that are flat or hummocky and covered with dwarf shrubs, like these lowbush blueberries. There are also often “carpets” of reindeer lichen, though I don’t see any from this angle.

"Fall Blueberry Barren"
Blue Hill, Maine
Olympus E-M1 and 12-100mm F4 zoom @ 54mm
Auto ISO 200, Aperture priority F8, 1/125 sec
Processed in Lightroom Classic CC

What is particularly remarkable is that these lowbush shrubs (which are green and of course “chock full” of blueberries in the summer) have some of the first leaves to turn color in fall. And this is a bright red and/or orange!  Unfortunately, summer travelers in Maine never get to see this spectacular fall display.

[These barrens are owned by a friend of mine.  Last summer we picked berries along the edge of this road.  My wife and I picked a couple of quarts each, in just minutes.]


Focus Stacking a few September Flowers

During my one visit to the botanic garden in September I found myself rather disappointed.  Everything was beginning to look a bit ragged. I was nevertheless pleased with these images.
These flowers were photo stacked with between 5 and 12 images.  Whoops, the first one is a wild geranium and it is a single shot.

The lens used is an Olympus 12-100 (24-200mm equiv) F4 zoom.  The camera is my aging Olympus E-M1.  All were done at base ISO 200 and aperture was wide open at F4. All were hand held. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/250 to 1/640. Images were merged and edited in Lightroom Classic.

Wild Geranium (one image)

Phlox (12 images)

Verbana (5 images)

Marigold (9 images)

Anenome (10 images)


Reflections: To Polarize or Not

Based on what I have read, a polarizer is a “must have” filter when near water or when the sky is blue and filled with puffy clouds.  Or, at least that has been my “take away” when reading various articles by the experts.  Near water and other reflective surfaces (automobiles and foliage, for example) the polarizer cuts the reflections.  And when it comes to blue sky and clouds, the filter can brighten the blue and keep details in the white clouds.

In the two examples below, the polarizer was able to simplify the composition in photo #1 but cutting out the reflections being created by the surrounding vegetation.  

But just because you have a polarizer in the camera bag doesn’t mean it must be used!  I actually find them to be cumbersome to use, as the more times you screw one on and screw one off, the more likely it is that you will drop it or at the very least smudge it or the lens. In the situation below it would mean potentially dropping the polarizer in the water, so I didn’t bother with it in photo #2.

These two images are very different.  I don’t know which I like better, but my current favorite is photo #2.  That’s because it seems kind of artsy and abstract.  I guess any time a photo makes me feel like an actual artist, I like it.  YMMV.

Photo #1: With Polarizer

Photo #2: Without Polarizer


1958 Jaguar XK150 3.8L Red Convertible Coupe

This 1958 Jaguar two-seater coupe was the first thing I keyed in on at a recent "British Car Day" at Larz Anderson Auto Museum.  It would have been impossible to miss this beautiful red sports car.  And red is so photogenic.

Here are the photos I took as I strolled around the Jaguar.