Category Archives: Day Shoots

Another Great Meetup

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This past weekend our meetup group visited East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania. The East Broad Top was once a short line railroad that transported coal from the mines to another railroad for transport to the end users.

Mother Nature did not really cooperate and we had a fair amount of rain, but there was plenty to shoot indoors and everyone really enjoyed this location.

We are in the early stages of planning a return trip so be sure to join our meetup if you want to be notified of our next trip.

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The Old Truck Graveyard

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Above is one of the few old cars at a favorite location we call the Old Truck Graveyard.

I have shot at this location for the past few years and have shared this awesome location with our Meetup Group almost as long. This last trip we were treated with nice overcast skies which provided nice soft light. During all of my previous trips we had nice bright sunny days and the resulting harsh light that goes with what non photographers call a beautiful day.

I always like to visit locations more than once. Each time you go back you see things you might have missed on earlier trips. This trip was no exception.

The image above was shot with my Nikon D200 converted to Super Color IR by Lifepixel. Then I used Macphun Intensify and finished with Nik Color Effects and Flypaper Presets. Check out our discounts page for details!  

Golden Hour

Some warm thoughts and images on a cold winter’s night.

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The golden hour refers to the time just after sunrise and just before sunset when sun light is at it’s warmest and softest. It is such a spectacular time of day, it is also known as the magic hour. Depending on where you are, this “hour” can last for many hours or be as brief as a few minutes.

Our challenge as photographers is to take advantage of these moments to create magical images, in which we can feel the warm glow of the waning light on our skin.

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The first and second images were shot in Iceland in December. At this time of year, the sun in Iceland only reaches approximately 12º above the horizon… so the golden “hour” lasts most of the day (or rather a few hours.

The third image was taken at Conowingo Dam, MD, also in winter. Although in the U.S. winter days last much longer than in Iceland, the golden hour only last for about an hour in the best of circumstances.

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The fourth image, was taken at the Tidal Basin in DC in April. On a spring day, without cloud cover, the golden hour lasted about 15 minutes or so. Once the sun is up, the light is hot creating heavy contrast in the scene. This was a very brief, albeit beautiful moment on the Tidal Basin.  _DSF4273-Edit

The fifth image was taken in Acadia, ME. Also taken in winter, this sunset golden hour gave the rocks and the sea spray a lovely pink hue. Creating a dream-like feel on a very chilly evening.

The final image was taken in Assateague National Park, MD in May. This sunrise lasted for longer than normal due to the heavy cloud cover in the foreground. The clear sky on the horizon created a beautiful glow that reflected on the beach as the waves pulled back from the shore.

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These fleeting moments are the very ones that draw me to photography. Addicting. They don’t happen often, but when they do, their effect keeps you trying for more.

Get out and chase the light….

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a Sense of Motion with Long Exposures

Long exposure images can create an almost surreal effect, evoking emotional responses, such as calm, peacefulness, and even angst, depending on the image. Creating these images can be a challenge and generally requires certain gear, such as a sturdy tripod, a camera body that has a bulb setting, various types of filters to reduce the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor in order to lengthen the shutter speed and show motion in the image, and the right setting (environment).

The best long exposure images are created when capturing moving water or clouds, as these subjects convey movement in an otherwise still environment.

So, let’s chat about the gear and look at some examples of long exposure images.

The images that follow were taken on different trips, literally from coast-to-coast and were taken with either a variable stop filter or a 15-stop filter, as noted. I use Singh-Ray filters, but there are many options on the market. So you can find the one(s) that work best for you. If you are interested in Singh-Ray filters, you can get a 10% discount by using ROADRUNNER10 for a discount code.

For this image, I used variable stop filter to extend the shutter time to just over 66 seconds. This allowed me to capture the movement of the clouds, while creating a plane of glass on the ocean’s surface. I chose a variable stop filter, because the variability allowed me get just the right amount of exposure reduction to meet the needs of the environment. In this case, the heavy overcast would not have been conducive to using my 15 stop filter, which is actually best used on bright sunny days with big puffy cumulous clouds.

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This image was captured in the taken during the day, well before sunset. The sky was too bright for the variable stop filter to achieve the look I was going for, so for this image I used the 15 stop. The 15 stop allowed me to achieve a 3 minute exposure, which resulted in smooth water and a nice layer of fog on the horizon.

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This next image was captured in at sunrise. As before, the setting was not bright enough for a full 15 stops but it was too bright to shoot without a filter, so I used the variable filter to slow the rushing waves down.

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There are times when you don’t even need a filter to capture a long exposure, as in this next image, which was captured after the sunset. The clouds enabled me to get a 6 second exposure, without the aid of any filters.

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In this last image, I used a 10-stop filter to achieve the flowing motion of the river.

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In each of these images, I used a sturdy tripod to help ensure that the still subject matter (e.g., buildings, piers, bridge) would be sharp. The environment and my overall vision for each image helped me decide which filter to use. Long exposure images take experimentation, how long is long enough, how long is too long.

I would say that if you are new to long exposure photography, you might find that a variable filter will provide you the most bang for your bucks, as it allows you to experiment in almost all conditions. You may struggle to achieve 10 minute exposures with a variable filter, but you will easily achieve 1-3 min exposures with a filter that varies from 1-8 or 10 stops, which is adequate to slow cloud and water movement in most situations. Whereas a 15 stop is best used in the middle of the day, bright sunshine, where a variable will not darken the image enough to achieve a slow shutter speed. You can also get filters at other stops, such as 5 stop and 10 stop, each has its own use.

So the question becomes, do you want to invest in a number of different filters to achieve a range of stops, or do you want to invest in one filter (a variable) that provides you a range with which to experiment. As noted, if you are just learning or experimenting with your interest in long exposure you might find that a variable filter gives you the most options early on. Once you are hooked, you may find that investing on set stops, such as 5, 10 or 15, broadens your creative horizons. In either case, long exposure images can open up a whole new avenue to create artistic images. 

Mt. Storm Time Lapse

The other day, I was asked to describe how I created this image:

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I decided it would be easier to write a blog and create a video demonstrating the techniques, than to layout out an answer in a Facebook reply. So let’s get started.

The Set Up

This image was created from 37 different images, created using the time lapse feature in my Fuji XT1. If you do not have time lapse built into your camera, you can purchase a wired or wireless remote with time lapse capability for most camera bodies. The time lapse was set to continue indefinitely, with a 1 second interval between images.  The camera was set to Aperture mode, with the Shutter speed determined by the camera. A sturdy tripod is a must. I also shot RAW and JPG files.

As you can tell by reviewing the image, that the image was created midday and yet, cloud movement is clearly visible. I was able to achieve this effect by using a Singh Ray 15-stop Mor Slo filter. (To receive a 10% discount, please use our discount code: ROADRUNNER10). The 15-stop Mor Slo is a great filter that will allow the photographer to create long exposures in the middle of day. The Singh Ray filters are so well made that they do not add color cast or distortion to the images. (Tip: buy 77mm filters and then a set of step-up rings, this way, one filter can be used on all your lenses).

Once the camera was in place, I triggered the shutter and waited. One thing to consider, when shooting time lapse images, consider bringing a second camera body along, as the wait can be quite dull with nothing to do. This may explain why I shot 37 images and not 100.

Post-Processing

As noted above, I shot both RAW and JPG files. I did this so that should I chose to process a single image, I would have the RAW file and for the time lapse image I could use the JPG files, which are smaller and easier to manage when blending so many layers. I organize my files using Lightroom and process my images in Photoshop. So after my trip, I imported my images into my Lightroom catalog (for a video on how to do this, click here). I selected the images that I intended to combine (a total of 37 images) and then opened the images, as Layers in Photoshop. From Lightroom, this is a simple Right click on the selected image thumbnails, Edit in, scroll to the bottom of the list and choose As Layers in Photoshop.

It takes Photoshop a few minutes to open and add each layer to a single tab, once it is complete, you can start changing the Blending Modes for each layer. At this point, take a moment to check the file size. In this case, my file size was just under 3GB. This is a huge file and I only used the JPGs! Now, I can start changing the Blending Mode for each individual layer (except the bottom layer) to Lighten. This allows the lighter pixels to come through from the layer below. As each of the 36 layers are changed, you will see staccato effect in the clouds start to appear.

Once all of the Blending Modes are adjusted, you have to decide if you are ready to flatten the image and start processing. I suggest that first you create a “stamp” of the image. Essentially, a “stamp” is a flattened version, that can be created as a separate layer (while maintaining all of the original layers below it) or by having all of the original layers merged together. I suggest that you use the “separate layer” method, so that you can check the result. You can always decide after to remove the original individual layers to reduce the overall file size. To create the separate layer, select all of the individual layers (all 37 in this case), and then right click, and while holding the ALT/Option key, choose Merge Visible. Photoshop will do some work and create a Layer 1, that sits at the top of the Layer Panel. If the result is what you were expecting, then you can select all of the original layers again and delete. This will bring the overall file size down to something manageable and pick up the operating speed of Photoshop, as you start to process the image.

At this point, how you process your image is up to you. I darkened the sky, enhanced the power plant, and darkened the foreground with Camera Raw. I then desaturated and slightly toned the image. I did some selective dodging and burning to further enhance the clouds and smoke. Lastly, I added a vignette.

To see a video on how I blended and processed my 37 images, click here.

For additional tutorials on how to post-process images, click here.

The Road Not Taken

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost

 

And I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference… This one line sums up how I have always looked at life. Explore where others may not have wandered. When I set out to travel, I don’t think to myself… where does everyone else go or how does everyone else do it. Instead I try to forge my own path and head in a direction that might not seem as likely.

This doesn’t mean I don’t travel to well-known destinations, because I do. But it does mean that I try to see that destination differently. Maybe I stay in a small pensione or albergo and not the well-worn hotel chain. Maybe I eat where I see locals and not the restaurant recommended by the concierge. It also doesn’t mean I travel alone. In fact, I rarely travel alone. I prefer traveling with friends, creating shared memories and experiences. Simply, I like to go to places and then experience aspects of that place that are not as well-worn by others.

This past weekend, two friends and myself headed off in search of something to photograph. We could have stayed local, gone to DC or Arlington or…. But instead we headed west. We had a general idea of where we would end up, but we took a circuitous route through the countryside of West Virginia. The rule in our car… just say stop and the driver needs to do his or her best to accommodate. This is likely to include driving until it is safe to turn around and heading back to the location. Also, we never question the stop request. Just because we may not have seen what the requestor sees does not mean the requestor did not see it. However, if you say, “that is cool” or “wow what great light” or similar, the car keeps moving. You must say stop.

Here are a few “Stop” images from that trip. Random lonely barns, abandoned cars, bored bovine… scenes of life in the country. As much as I love the big cities with their monuments to progress, I have often taken the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.

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Along the Way

Often when heading out on a photo expedition, it is so easy to be only focused on the destination. The desire to get there and get started is so compelling we often forget to enjoy the journey.

Today I am sharing an image that was captured on the journey. I was headed to Weston, WV… taking a round about way there through Davis, WV to get a burrito… for all you Hellbenders fans. This route takes me by one of my favorite industry locations… the Mt. Storm power plant.

I have hundreds, maybe thousands of images of Mt. Storm, but I never hesitate to stop, because each day brings a new opportunity for creativity. Some stops are more fruitful than others; this was one of those times. The sky was modeled with thunderheads, with just enough wind to create motion. This time, however, I did not want to capture long streaming clouds. This time I wanted to create stop-action motion.

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This image was created by setting up the intervalometer on my camera (Fuji XT-1 has this built in) to shoot images consecutively, with a one second pause in between. I was using a Samyang 12mm lens, at f5.6, with a Singh Ray 10-stop Mor-Slo filter. The shutter speeds varied between 3 and 10 secs. The images is composed of 35 individual images and some post-processing in Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw.

When on the move, try to allow enough time to explore. Here is another example of what can be found along the way to somewhere else.

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If you are always rushing to get somewhere, you just may be missing the fun stuff. Allow some extra time for opportunity to present itself.

Happy Shooting!

 

Asylum

This past weekend, RRPT led 3 tours photography tours at Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA). The first tour was a night tour, where the focus was on light painting. The images featured here are from that particular event. We also led two day-light tours, morning and late afternoon. TALA is an amazing place. When you enter, you are transported to the past. The owners are working hard to keep the facility alive and open to the public with photography tours, historical tours, ghost tours, and more. To learn more about TALA, click here.

We are hoping to schedule another night photography session later this year. For more information, join our mailing list by signing up (see the side bar) or by following us on Facebook.

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Playing With Ice

Although winter is steadily coming to an end, ice may have a place in your future! Here is a fun idea to try out at home, maybe on a warm summer day to keep you cool while you practice some macro photography.

Start by taking a plastic container or a clear Pyrex cooking dish, filing it with water and submerging flowers, either silk or real). Put this in the freezer the night before you need it and let it set up. You do not want to freeze it too early, as the ice could turn weird on you.

Next day, take it out and out it in a large aluminum baking dish, or something similar.

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Start shooting away. You might be intrigued by the results… soft, hints of subject matter.

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Be creative… you don’t need to stop at the ice… use textures and borders to highlight your image!

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The possibilities are limitless! Let your creative juices flow!

It’s Almost That Time of Year Again! Cherry Blossoms!!

That’s right, it is nearly that time of year… Cherry Blossoms! You would think that Spring lasts for weeks, but really, in a Cherry Blossom’s life cycle, this period of time is brief and in fact, very elusive. Weather is the biggest factor, with varying degrees of impact. For example, last year:

  • The weather pattern resulted in blooms being nearly 3 weeks late.
  • Windy mornings near the water make it impossible to get a crisp shot.
  • Rain, very common during early spring in DC, knocks all the blooms off.
  • Late-March and early-April is generally frigid, making the experience less than pleasant.

But who’s listing! Capturing the elusive cherry blossom is what we, photographers, are all about. Suffering for that one stunning image! So get ready, because it coming… RRPT will hold a Meetup, so keep an eye on the Meetup page (click here), as the Meetup will be announced as the timing predictions get more accurate.

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