Looks like we're Finally Done with Snow

There are still a few patches of snow around our yard and I do plan on getting some more skiing in over the next week or two, with day-trips to New Hampshire being planned.  But I do think winter is over here in New England and, of course, according to the calendar it is officially spring.

Here in Massachusetts we had one of the snowiest Marches in history.  This after one of the warmest Februarys in history with the first ever back-to-back 70 degree (F) days.  

March saw four “Nor’Easters”.  This number in one month is unheard of.  Nor’ easters generate heavy rain or snowfall, hurricane winds especially along the coast, and blizzard or whiteout conditions. In our case we had snow during three of the storms and rain during the last one.  In our yard we had twelve trees snap in half from the weight of the snow, and we were without electicity for three days during the one storm that brought down our trees.

Here's one snowy picture I took after the second storm, which dropped over 20" of snow. I hope I do not have another opportunity like this until next winter!

"Snow Covered Maple Forest"
Olympus E-M1 plus Olympus 12-100mm F4 zoom @75mm (150mm equiv)
Aperture Priority, F8, 1/160, ISO200, +1 EV
Converted to black and white in Lightroom

Snow tip:

To keep white snow from looking mid-tone gray, overexpose the light meter readying by about 1 stop.  Whether you are using A, S, or P modes, just use the EV compensation feature found in even the lowliest camera to add one stop of compensation.


A Sunday Morning Walk at the Waterfront of Old Portland, Maine

Gear: Diminutive Panasonic GM5 plus 12-32 kit zoom.

I was visiting my daughter in the Portland area a couple of weekends ago, and we decided that it was a nice morning for a long walk in the city. I’d not yet seen the Waterfront area of Old Portland so we headed in that direction to have breakfast at Becky’s diner on Hobson Wharf. 

It was a Sunday morning and my daughter tells me there is not a lot going on in winter even in this high-interest area until 10:00 when stores open for business. The result of this is that during our walk after breakfast we saw surprisingly few people. This is quite obvious in the photos below. 

There were several large groups of joggers, however.  And we did see a group of people waiting to board one of the ferries that goes out to the islands.  I wonder how many people live on the islands and commute to Portland to work?  What a great way to commute.

Without people to look at, the highlight for me was the architecture.  The building at “121 Middle Street” was the showpiece in my opinion. I have a photo below.

What I have learned online after the visit is that it was constructed in 1867, after Portland’s 1866 fire. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places (as of 1973).  It is called Thompson Block and occupies several addresses: 119, 121, 123 and 125 Middle Street. I’m looking forward to returning and spending more time photographing the area in more detail.

A few more:


One Photo: Some Simple Symmetry

This was supposed to be a simple record shot of the season’s biggest storm. [Maybe a record shot is all it is; but I really like it.]

Starting Wednesday evening, we received a dump of over 14” of heavy wet snow during the “dark hours” (6pm to 6am). It is hard to believe it didn’t rain because surface temperatures never got below 35F degrees, so you can imagine how moisture-full the snow was.  I spent most of the night awake listening to trees and limbs breaking and crashing to the ground.  With gusts of wind as high as 40mph, it sounded like a train was traveling through our property.  We lost eight trees.  All maples with trunks about 8-10” in diameter. They basically snapped in half.  The good news is there was no damage to house or cars.  We did need to have some immediate chainsaw work as one tree covered our driveway. With no driveway access, then there’s no way to get fuel for the generator!

Anyway, back to the image below and some comments about processing the raw file in Lightroom.

The image after cropping and processing

This was taken on our porch looking out to a small deck and into a forest of maples beyond the snow covered lawn.  I did not see the entire symmetry of the image until I inspected the image on my computer monitor, and noticed with some cropping that even the tree in the background added symmetry to the image.  I had not noticed that when I framed the image initially.  There are so many times that I see things on my monitor that I never saw through the viewfinder.  Sometimes that is good, sometimes it is not. This time it was good.

Here’s what I did:

Photo as originally composed and exposed.

Using the Transform panel I made a full adjustment for level, vertical, and horizontal

Cropped to make symmetrical

In the basic panel I clicked on "auto".
In the detail panel I sharpened to 50, detail and masking to 25.

That's it!  Now it's time to shovel off that deck...


I’m Now Taking the Panasonic GM5 with me Skiing

For many years I’ve been skiing with the Panasonic weatherproof TS3 point and shoot camera in my ski parka pocket.  I’ve also taken this camera on fishing trips.  The images have been fine, but whenever I encountered what might make a “portfolio” shot (rarely) I wished I had something with me with a bit more image quality.  Nevertheless, for electronic viewing all is good; but I have found that when printing anything more than perhaps 8” x 10”, the images seem smeared and lack detail in random low contrast areas, even at a normal viewing distance.  That being said, non-photographers don’t really notice this; I wish I could learn from them as it would save me a lot of money on gear.

I could argue that my photos while skiing have been mere snapshots (perhaps with one or two exceptions) for which better image quality was not needed.  After all, the quality is just fine for sharing as jpg attachments to emails and texts, and for posting on Facebook or Instagram.  For all of these uses I never use anything more than a 1,200 pixel wide or tall image, which means cropping or downsizing from the native 4000 x 3000 pixel resolution (12mp). 

The main advantages of the TS3 are (1) size, (2) weatherproof, cold proof, shock proof, (3) 28-128mm equivalent zoom lens (5) one-handed operation. The disadvantages include (1) a zoom toggle located so it is nearly impossible to NOT press it with your right thumb when shooting one-handed, (2) three image bracketing is not “sticky”, in other words you must go into the menu to set it each time you turn on the camera, and (3) images are jpg only which greatly reduces post processing latitude.

Quick link to camerasize.com: http://j.mp/2oSMuBL

This season, after acquiring a used GM5 in the fall, I decided to carry something with the potential for better image quality, albeit at the cost of (1) larger size, (2) no weathersealing, (3) a lens limited to 24-64mm equivalent, and (4) the need to use two hands to operate it. 

But I like the fact that this little mFT camera has a sensor that is significantly bigger (the squared dimension is approximately 8x larger) than the Panasonic TS3.  And bracketing is “sticky” so that once set it is active each time I power up.  I like to bracket when out skiing, as getting an accurate exposure is difficult on the snow.  Rather than fuss around getting the “right” exposure, it is easier to shoot a bracket and worry about it at home. I don’t combine images, I just pick the best of a three shot bracket. I also appreciate that the GM5 has a viewfinder.  In bright sunshine an LCD is hard (for me) to see, making it a nightmare to compose. Though the EVF is quite small, it is acceptable and I prefer it over the LCD.

Here are a few shots I like.  No dramatic landscapes or snowscapes, unfortunately. We don’t have the same huge panoramas here in New England that my friends in Rockies do.