Posts in Category: Lightroom

April Ocean: Kennebunk/Kennebunkport. Happy Sunday!

We did not see any sun until yesterday evening, and the temperatures hovered in the mid-40s, but I still had to get out on my new scooter for at least a short photo prowl. I mean, that is what the scooter is for! Long-johns and a fleece vest under a windproof jacket, and my winterized scooter helmet and gloves kept me barely warm enough…as long as I kept my speed down 🙂

Both the ocean and the sky were gray, as only a grey day in April can be, but full of subtle drama. I tried a few in-camera HDR shots to see if I could catch the feeling. With a bit of extra processing in Lightroom this image comes close. We are looking out over Gouch’s Beach and the beach front summer cottages of Kennebunk and, across the Kennebunk river, the Colony Hotel and the first of the summer mansions on Old Fort point in Kennebunkport.

Though HDR with water is always a problem (the three exposures never quite overlap because the water moves), it works here. If you look carefully you will see three separate surf lines where the water meets the sand.

Canon SX50HS. In-camera HDR Mode. 24mm equivalent field of view. Recorded exif: f5.6 @ 1/500th @ ISO 80. Processed in Lightroom with my hyper-real preset, and then tweaked for black clipping point and contrast.

And for the Sunday Thought: What with the new scooter and all, I have a bad case of spring fever. It is generally my April mood. I am ready for the wildflowers and dragonflies of late May and early June (this is Maine after all), and we are still stuck with melting snow piles in the parking lots and maple buds still not fully open to flowers. Generally I am gone two weeks in April, to the more mild, and further advanced (but no warmer) spring of Northern California, and then to the riot of spring in Northern Florida around St. Augustine. I am a little sad this year that two events are the same week…and I was forced to choose Northern California. I will miss spring in St. Augustine!

On the other hand, perhaps it is for the best. Coming back to April in Southern Maine from Florida was always a shock, and probably made my spring fever worse instead of better. I am about to find out.

Of course, I know the cure for my spring impatience. It is the same cure that cures so many ills. Presence. Note that I said “presence” not “patience.”  I need to be more present to the moment, to each moment of every day. I need to make myself totally available to whatever is happening now! and not be always living a week or a month or a season ahead of myself. God is in the now. Always completely invested in the now. Or so I have come to believe. We can not experience awe in some future that has not happened yet. Awe is the appropriate response to right now, where God is. And, of course, that is the feeling I was trying to catch in the grey clouds over and grey ocean under Kennebunk.


Tall Fall Pond Shot

We are still at least a week, maybe two, from full colors here in Southern Maine, but the curtain is up and the show has certainly begun! A couple of days ago I set out on my scooter at lunch time, thinking I would go hunt the last of the dragonflies, but this sky immediately caught my attention, and I turned around to head for the coast and the Back Creek ponds and the Mousam river crossing, where I could catch the sky over a landscape. I took several conventional wide angle views of Pond #1, but as I am always just a little disturbed by having to cut to top off the tall pine on the right, I tried a two shot vertical panorama. This is two 24mm views stitched one above the other to catch more of the tree and more of the sky. When you do vertical panos the perspective issues with a wide angle lens are dramatic. Even if you hold the camera out and try to keep the image plane parallel to the scene you end up with a lot of vertical perspective distortion. Looking at the two images your immediate thought it that there is no way you are going to be able to stitch them into one. I am always amazed at how well PhotoMerge in PhotoShop Elements does the job. I know it is all math, but most of time it makes very intelligent decisions about which parts of each image to retain and which to let go, and how to blend the two. The layer maps before blending look like jigsaw puzzle pieces…but when it works (and it does not always work) it produces a seamless image. Like this one. 🙂

Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation.  Two 24mm shots. f5 @ 1/1250th @ ISO 160. Stitched in PhotoMerge in PhotoShop Elements. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness. I used my HyperReal preset…which is designed for scenes like this with maximum tonal range and bright colors.  

Fall in a ball… Old Falls on the Mousam

Though mushrooms of some kind are out pretty much all summer, I always associate the real abundance of fungi on the forest floor with fall. This emerging Fly Amanita, found along the Mousam River at OId Falls, is presented here a little over life-sized. Unlike some of its fellow deadly mushrooms, this one has always looked as poisonous as it really is to me.

The low angle shot was facilitated by the flip out LCD on the Canon SX40HS, and the close view by the 24mm macro setting plus 1.5x digital tel-converter function.

Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. f2.7 @ 1/30th @ ISO 500. A real forest floor exposure. I would have used the flash if I had been thinking. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.  A bit of Local Adjustment Brush to darken and soften the background slightly.

What the light did to the wet Petunia

This is another shot from the back deck on that Sunday morning when the sun was reflecting off the glass of the sliding doors to provide natural fill light for the flowers we keep there, balancing the strong sun coming from behind. The water drops, left over from rain the night before, only add interest to the unique light. I especially like what the light from the back is doing with the center of the flower.

Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 24mm macro with 1.5x digital tel-converter function for image scale and working distance. f4 @ 1/125th @ ISO 100.

Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness. I also cropped this shot from the right to get the flower out of the center, and used the Selective Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to carefully paint the backgound in darker.

Branch Brook, Kennebunk ME

I continue my search along the streams of York County Maine, for the American Redspot…an so far elusive broadwinged damselfly that might or might not be found in York County. I want to see one. I have not. Yet.

The search, however, has taken me some interesting places. I feel compelled, when the road crosses any stream or river, to, if at all possible, park the car and climb down to the water. I am often surprised by what I find.

This is Branch Brook, which forms part of the water supply for the Village of Kennebunk, a mile or two upstream from the Water Works. It runs in a fairly deep and steep cut through most of the last part of its course, but where Wells Branch Road crosses it, you can, if you are careful, climb down to the mossy banks and the peat brown water.

This is one of those scenes that is very difficult to capture. The range of light is well beyond the ability of even the best digital sensors. Even traditional HDR techniques, in this kind of scene, too often result in a flat imitation…something very different than what the eye sees.

I started by dialing down the exposure compensation by one and one third stops (which, visually, brought the highlights in the water just in range), and letting the exposure system do its worst for the rest of the scene.

Then, in Lightroom, I brought up the shadows, toned down the highlights, shifted the backpoint to add depth, and finally added clarity and vibrance to give some life to the moss. Finally I used the Auto Color Temperature tool to remove a bit of the shadow blue. The result is about as close as I hope to come to the impression the scene would make if you were standing there.

I did try an sudo HDR treatment using Dynamic Photo HDR…and the result was interesting…with brighter greens and more open shadows…but it produced a different impression than I remembered.

Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –4/3EV exposure compensation. 24mm equivalent field of view. f3.2 @ 1/30th @ ISO 200. Processed in Lightroom as above.

Weather at the Pond. Happy Sunday!

Yesterday afternoon I took my electric scooter out, even though, at a casual glance, my weather app said there was a 67% chance of thundershowers. The great thing about weather apps, to me, is that you have access to real time radar maps of your area. At the click of an icon you can check the area to the west (at least here in New England it is the west, though certain seasons you do have to have an eye to the south) to see what weather is, or is not, coming. When I looked at the map, I could see storms well to the south of us, and tracking east out to sea, but nothing to the west…so I headed out, and had a good 3 pond photoprowl. And all under spectacular storm skies. And yes, I got home safe and dry.

This is the little pond where I am doing a lot of my dragon and damselfly hunting these days. As you see it is really drainage for a small industrial complex, now converted to a health care center. Health care is a major industry in Kennebunk. We have probably a dozen large residential care centers, three pharmacies, and two major medical outliers (mini hospitals) from larger full-service facilities in the area. And that is not counting all the physicians who are in practice on their own. Now if you live in a city you are probably thinking “ha, that’s nothing” but Kennebunk is a small town of 11,000 souls. We have become, somehow, an assisted living retirement destination. Go figure? (Actually the whole southern coast of Maine is hopping with residential centers…I have never lived anywhere where there were so many.)

That is not, of course, why we moved here…but, maybe because I turned 65 this week, it is more apparent to me now than it was when we got here 17 years ago.

But back to the image. I just like the intense sky and the empty parking lot…and the way the sky and trees reflect in the water. For me the shot has a lot of quiet tension…it should be pretty static…restful…calm…but that sky just keeps pulling the emotions in other directions.

Technically the scene was underexposed to catch all the detail in the sky. Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1EV exposure compensation. 24mm equivalent field of view. f5.6 @ 1/1250th @ ISO 160. I brought up the shadows (basically the whole foreground back to the building) using the selective exposure controls in Lightroom, and then added a final Graduated Filter effect from bottom to top to increase the brightness of the foreground for a more natural look. I think it works.

And for the Sunday thought. Lots of places to go here. At 65 I have to kind of, sort of, wish there were a life-weather app that would give me real-time radar of the life-storms that are, or are not, moving in from the west.

I also got my disappointingly small pension packet from the limited time I was in the pension system at my most recent employer (before they closed the system and went to mandatory 401ks), and had the inevitable discussion with my boss about when I was planning on retiring and what that means for my work, and the nature of my job, over the next few years. A kind of “lets get everything we can out of you while we phase you out” talk. Heady stuff. Stormy stuff if you let it get to you.

And I am feeling much like this image. There is a quiet, almost a calm, certainly a beauty…but an undeniable tension. I am not anticipating storms, but I can not deny the possibility. And yet, at my best, I would not have it any other way. I have lived my life by faith…never building barns (pension plans), as it is in Jesus’ parable…and, life-weather app or no, I know who has my hours and my days and all my years in hand. I will go on as I have gone. And I will, where ever I encounter it, celebrate the beautiful tension of living in this world.

And yes, I fully expect to get home, if not completely dry, at least completely safe!

Lafayette Building, Bridge, Mousam River: Kennebunk ME

Yesterday was one of those rare summer days in Maine, more common in August than in July, when clear cool air from Canada was pushing down across the state. Temps just touching 80. Low humidity immediately after a night of rain. Amazing clouds against a blue summer sky. And light that seemed to gently etch every detail. I had to stop my scooter on the bridge over the Mousam River in Kennebunk, on my way back from my lunch-hour dragon hunt at Roger’s Pond, and catch the moment…several moments as it turned out…as I also crossed the road to get the Mousam without the bridge.

Shooting at the wide end of the Canon SX40HS zoom, 24mm equivalent field of view, and with the camera not level with the horizon, always leads to some interesting distortions…which are very evident in a shot with the straight line verticals of buildings. While it is common these days, and pretty well accepted, to see images with the wide angle and perspective distortions left in, I used the Lens Corrections panel in Lightroom to pull the building back up straight and correct some curvature due to lens distortions. The result is not perfect, but it is more natural, I think, than leaving the building leaning out over the bridge. 🙂

From the other side of the bridge, looking directly out over the dam, the mill pond on the Mousam reaches away under that same sky, with interesting shadows and reflections. I left just a corner of the building in to anchor that side (again using Lens Correction in Lighroom for the angles).

Both shots, Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. I exposed for the sky, tipping the camera up and locking exposure before recomposing for the shot, and brought foreground shadows up in Lightroom.

3/15/2012: Church Street, Burlington VT

On our short visit to Burlington Vermont, we took our daughter shoe shopping on Church Street. Church Street is an urban mall…a common feature these days of attempting to revitalize the downtown shopping districts in cities the size of Burlington. In New England they all share the closed to vehicle traffic and the brick street and sidewalk ambiance, as well as the trendy shops, art galleries, organic and exotic restaurants, and boutique coffee and tea houses. Burlington has also managed to attract a more main-stream mall mix, from Macy’s and Famous Shoes to Panara Breads and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. All in all it is one of the more vital revitalized downtowns that I have seen.

This shot is the very north end of the mall on a rainy morning. There is nothing like wet brick for atmosphere. It was taken with the 24mm equivalent end of the Canon SX40HS zoom, and then pulled back into plum with the distortion tools in Lightroom. The next two images, taken later in the morning when the sky was clearing, show just how powerful the Lightroom distortion tools are for architectural shots.

With the camera tipped up to frame the church, the vertical distortion makes for a crazy city scene. It seems shots like this, with untreated distortions, are pretty well accepted these days, and it does have a kind of wild appeal…but I think I prefer my buildings standing up straight.

This correction required both the vertical distortion slider (considerable) and the lens distortion slider (just a tiny bit)…and then a custom cropping to keep the walker’s feet in the frame. It is totally amazing what you can do in Lightroom!

1) 24mm equivalent, f4 @ 1/80th @ ISO 100. 2) and 3) 24mm equivalent, f4@ 1/1250th @ ISO 100. Program with iContrast and –1/3 EV exposure compensation.

Processed (in addition to the distortion corrections) in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.

1/5/2012: Wave off East Point, Biddeford Pool ME

This is another shot from my unsuccessful Snowy Owl Prowl down the coast from Biddeford Pool to Kennebunk last week. Unsuccessful in finding an owl that is. From a photographic point of view I found much of interest in the massive waves and lowering sky as a front passed over and out to sea.

Directly off the point at East Point in Biddeford Pool waves coming in from the north east met waves coming in from the south east to create a cross wave effect that I could have watched for hours. The dynamic and the energy of the water was breathtaking. I did my best to catch a bit of that energy in images like the one above.

Canon SX40HS at about 90mm equivalent field of view. f4 @ 1/500th @ ISO 125. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation.

Processed in Lightroom. Besides my usual Intensity (fill light and blackpoint) and Sharpness adjustments I applied a Graduated Filter Effect from the bottom to bring up brightness and contrast…and then a second GFE from the top to pump up Clarity and Contrast to give the clouds slightly more definition. This is on the edge of being hyper-real, in the way many HDR treatments “go reality one better” and create a scene that is more dramatic than what the naked eye would actually see. (Some HDR treatments, in my opinion, boarder on the surreal. I don’t go there.) I think this image strikes a good balance.

Just for comparison, here is the same image with more intense tone-mapping in LightZone and final processing in Lightroom. This one is hyper-real…but it certainly has impact.

1/3/2012: Lafayette Building, Kennebunk ME

I don’t do a lot of architectural photography, but I could not resist this view of the Lafayette Building in Kennebunk ME. I drive past it, most days, at least once. This was taken from the Cumberland Farms at our end of the bridge over the Mousam River where I stopped to get gas on my way out on a picprowl. The sky, of course, makes the image.

It was taken at 24mm equivalent field of view with the Canon SX40HS, and while the Canon image processing engine processes out most of the expected wide angle distortion, I was still left with considerable vertical perspective distortion. Lightroom’s distortion controls allowed me to pull the building back to vertical. I cropped out some of the road way (bridge surface actually) at the bottom and there we have it. Warm brick with lots of interesting details, the blue sky with massive clouds, and the touches of green from the Christmas decorations, make for a pleasing architectural shot. Or so I think. Feel free to view it at a larger size on WideEyedInWonder. Just click the image and use the size controls at the top of the window.

f4 @ 1/1250th @ ISO 160. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation.

Processed, as above, for vertical perspective distortion, Intensity and Sharpness in Lightroom.