My Photographic Weekend

Last weekend was Labor Day weekend, so I thought I could get some extra shooting in. On Friday evening I went to Baker Park and wandered around downtown Frederick as the sun was setting. As I was heading back to my car, I saw that the sun was setting in a spectacular way. I shot the bell tower in Baker Park with my Nikon D7100 with the 35 mm DX f1.8 prime lens.  I have been using my primes more often lately for more bokeh and sharpness. This is the last photo that I took Friday night. 

Baker Park Sunset. 

It is a 3 exposure HDR merged in Lightroom and then processed in Lightroom. I think it is one of the best photos that I have ever taken.

On Saturday night we again had a very vivid sunset and I hurried home from dinner hoping to catch the sunset near Prospect Hall, a nearby mansion that is being refurbished for other uses. The sunset had moved on by the time I got set up, but I took some photos anyway. I do not have much experience with shooting at the blue hour, so I thought I could get some experience. 

Prospect Hall 

Prospect Hall 

I also took this photo with my Nikon D7100 with the 35 mm DX f1.8 prime lens. This time I used a tripod. I took three bracketed shots, but I only processed the best exposure this time rather than doing an HDR merge.  I was also happy with the results of this photo. I thought it was a very competent first attempt at shooting at the blue hour. 

I posted both photos on flickr within a day of taking them. The second one was featured by flickr on their explore page. It got more then 2,000 views and was favorited by 69 people. I have had photos do better than that on flickr, and I think if the first shot had been featured it would have. 



Playing with Panning

Once a year there is a high wheel bicycle race in my hometown. I go to take photos, and I see plenty of others with better cameras and lenses than me there too. The high wheel bikes are interesting by themselves and there lots of photo opportunities, but this year I really concentrated on panning while I shot. 

The idea is to move the camera so that the moving object is always in the same place in the photo. This makes the object sharp and the background blurred.  You need to use a slow enough shutter speed so that the camera movement will blur the background. I shot with aperture priority which is my default. I should have tried shutter priority and always used a good shutter speed. My best shots were at 1/80 sec, but it was a bright sunny day and sometimes I ended up with faster shutter speeds that did not have much blur. 

I need to get out more often and practice. I need to find more bike races. 

I should have zoom out a little more on this shot so you could see the bottom of the bike. 

I should have zoom out a little more on this shot so you could see the bottom of the bike. 

Keeping the bike properly framed was challenging. 

I am happy with how sharp the rider is, but I would have liked to gotten him out the corner of the frame. 

I am happy with how sharp the rider is, but I would have liked to gotten him out the corner of the frame. 

Back from England

I spent ten days in England. A week in London and then a few days in the Cotswalds. One of my favorite things to do in England is to visit pubs. I like to try out various English ales. My wife finds them to hoppy, but I think they have just enough hops without overdoing it like some American craft brewers do with IPAs. 

Taps from the first pub we visited. 

At the first pub that we visited, I chose the Alpha 5 Pale Ale, which is the the third tap from the left. I did not notice then, but it is a American ale. It was being featured as part of an international showcase. 

Bubble Chambers as Public Art

A bubble chamber uses a liquid that reacts to charged particles by developing small bubbles.  As the particle passes through the liquid the bubbles form tracks that can be photographed. Particle physicists used to use bubble chambers to study the reactions of elementary particles. I did my Ph.D. using a the Big European Bubble Chamber (BEBC) at CERN in the 80's.  Bubble chambers became less useful when event rates become very high. I have discovered that they have become public art at particle physics labs. 

The Big European Bubble Chamber CERN now stands outside CERN museum as a sculpture. 


The 15 foot bubble chamber now sits outside Fermilab's detector development lab.

Lightroom Has Added a Pet Redeye Feature

I have lots of photos of our pet rabbits. Photos of rabbits show extreme redeye, and most redeye correction routines don't work well on them. I discovered that Lightroom CC has a pet eye option. Choose redeye as usual and you will get a panel with options. One is pet eye. I tried it and it worked great. I even tried it on some old photos that had been processed with Picasa. Picasa got rid of the redeye but the result was very unnatural. Lightroom did a good job.

Here is an example of how bad redeye can get on a rabbit. As you can see the room was relatively dark and flash was needed to illuminate the subject. 

Very bad redeye

Very bad redeye

Here is the same photo after correcting it with Lightroom's pet eye feature. 

Fixed with Lightroom

Fixed with Lightroom

Comcast Screws Up Even When They Fix Things

In general my Comcast internet service has been reliable and fairly fast. So I was not overly concerned when in December Comcast offered to increase my internet speed for free. All I had to do was trade in my cable modem for a newer model. I accepted the offer, but I was surprised when a wireless gateway was delivered by UPS rather than a camel modem. The wireless gateway is a combination of a cable modem, a voice over ip adapter, and a wifi router. I already had a wifi router that I had recently purchased and was very happy with. 

My router is an Archer C9 made by TP-LINK. It is 802.11ac router, and I had found it delivered much better performance to both 802.11ac adapters in my iMac and MacBook as well as the 802.11n adapters in my Roku boxes. I was very happy with it. I did not want to give it up for some other device of unknown quality. 

I decided to try  the new wireless gateway, and it delivered the higher speeds promised. In the best case that I tested I saw a 50% increase in downloads speeds. I found that an appealing situation, so I sent back my old cable modem.  As I got my more experience with the setup, I found some problems that I was able to solve, but I had one lingering issue. Machines connected by wifi would have problems after the computer went to sleep. When I would wake up the computer, it reported that wifi was connected, but when I attempted to browse the internet I had DNS lookup failures. I checked the configuration of the wifi adapter and it showed the correct DNS servers listed. If I stopped and restarted the wifi, everything worked fine once again. After a couple of weeks of having to restart my wifi several times a day, I was quite annoyed. 

I spent some time in Comcast’s support forums, and while I could not find my exact problem being discussed, I did see that many people were having problems with the model of wireless gateway that I was using. Many people suggested putting it in bridge mode, which bypassed the router section and allowed you to use your own router. I decided that this was the best solution, but it required Comcast tech support to put the gateway into bridge mode. 

Calling Comcast puts you into a voice mail menu system that seems impossible to escape from. I had clearly tried all of the obvious fixes for my problem, and I had a preferred solution, so I needed to talk to person. I tried hitting the 0 key repeatedly and requesting an agent over and over. Eventually, the system said I would be transferred to a person. I got voice mail saying tech support was closed for the evening. 

When I decided to try contacting tech support again, I gave up on the phone, and I tried a web chat with Comcast tech support. This worked. I got through to a support person in about 10 minutes, and I requested that they put my gateway into bridge mode. She was happy to do that. After I gave her the MAC address of the device, she told me she would put it into bridge mode. 

At that point I lost the connections to web chat. I never got a chance to ask if it mattered which ethernet port I used to connect to the gateway, or if the gateway would need to be restarted. It took me about 20 minutes to get everything reconfigured, and I did have to power cycle the gateway to get things to work.  Things have been running well since, but it would have been helpful if the Comcast tech had arranged a alternate method of communication before putting the gateway into bridge more. 

Because of how difficult it was to get hold of a person at Comcast, I spent about 4 weeks with flaky internet. After my first attempts to call Comcast, I knew I would need to have at least an hour of free time before I could seriously tackle fixing my problem. In the future, I will be extremely leery of attempting anymore upgrades to my Comcast hardware. 

I Am a Amateur Photographer

I went to the park to take some photos on a beautiful autumn day. As I enter the park a large bird flew in front me. Thought it was an owl, but I followed it and found it perched in a tree. It was not an owl but a hawk, which was just as good for me. I have never photographed a bird of prey. I quickly took three photos and then tried to find a better vantage to shoot some more. That spooked the hawk, and it took off and was quickly out of sight. 

When I got home I saw that my shots were OK, but a small branch was just slightly blocking the view of the hawk's head. 

A small hawk perches in Baker Park in Frederick, MD.

A small hawk perches in Baker Park in Frederick, MD.

Serious bird photographers know how to find birds and dedicate time to giving themselves many opportunities for taking great shots. I have stumbled on to a couple of circumstances to photograph interesting birds and I get one shot to get right. This was good, but not great. I also wish the background was less busy, which would allow the hawk to be more visible. 

Someday I will retire and I can devote serious time and effort on my photography.

Yet Another Flickr Explore Photo

I shot this picture with my iPhone while out on a bike ride. I saw the clouds lit by the sunset and the farm in the foreground. I knew I had to photograph it. I was pretty sure I had a good shot. When I got home, I moved the photo to Lightroom and opened up the shadows in the foreground a bit and tamed the highlights a bit. It did not need a lot of processing. 

I got a comment on Flickr about the photo last night congratulating me on being in explore. I looked, and I did not see it. I thought it must of been a mistake. I woke up about 3 AM and my phone was filled with notifications from Flickr. It was true. This makes 5 photos in explore since last November. This one now has over 200 favorites. 

End of Day

Please Donate to Doctors Without Borders.

I have decided to do my first fund-raising bike ride.  I have joined Team Doctors Without Borders for the 2015 Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City. I have made donations  to Doctors Without Borders for several years, and I think they do very good work. They were on  the ground in Africa early  treating people infected with Ebola. They are doing trials of an Ebola vaccine in Guinea now, but they are also working all around world where epidemics, natural disasters, or war create need for medical care.

As far the bike riding part goes. The ride is the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City on May 3, 2015. It is a 40 mile ride through all five boroughs of New York. Not everyone who does this ride raises money, but when I saw that Doctors Without Borders was sponsoring a team, I decided to join. I will get a couple perks. The fund raising riders get to start first, before the roads get crowded. I also get a Doctors Without Borders jersey. 

At one time a 40 mile ride would be simple for me, but my conditioning is not as good as it was. Last year my long ride for the year was 40 miles. I will need to do some training to be ready by early May. 

I have started the fund raising with a $200 donation. If you would like to donate you can do so on my donation page.

Ducks in the Snow

I went to Baker Park on Monday to take some photos. The park was covered with snow, but the paths had been shoveled and there footprints in much of the show, so I wasn't able to take beautiful snow covered landscapes. After taking a few shots that I did not think were compelling,  I saw a large group of ducks coming down the creek. There was a bridge over the creek, and I went on it to get a better view. Just as the ducks reached the bridge they  decided that they wanted to go back upstream. Many of them decided swimming against the current was a pain, so they took off and flew about 20 yards upstream. 

I followed them by walking along the bank of the creek. I took about 50 shots trying to catch the ducks in flight. I only got four or five decent shots. They were generally too quick for me. The photo below is the best that I got. A one point they all decided to get out of the water and I caught two of them about to land. It would have been great if I could have got them closer to the center of the frame. 

Ducks in Baker Park

Ducks in Baker Park