Monday, February 27, 2012

Strolling Around Washington, D.C.

If you appreciate history or architecture, Washington DC is a fabulous place to visit.  Although I've been there several times, without a doubt my most memorable visit was back in 2005 when I spent 5 days there during the cherry blossom festival.   With the entire city bathed in pink, it was absolutely beautiful.  Additionally, for anyone who has not had time to explore the city at night, some of these images my prove interesting.
[click on any image to enlarge]

#10_28741  Jefferson Memorial  - 1/160 @f13, iso 400, 44mm

#10_27885  The Path Around the Tidal Basin

Walking along the edge of the tidal basin to the Jefferson Memorial was just an amazing splash of color with the cherry trees in bloom.  The photo above gives an idea of what it looks like but it's hardly a substitute for being there in person.  After visiting in April, it will be difficult to get excited about going there again at any other time of the year.

Washington is also a great place for night time photography.  To me, there is something magical watching as the darkness slowly filters out the daytime distractions to provide a different perspective the buildings and monuments.

#10_28252  US Capitol at Dusk - 2 seconds @f6.3, iso 100

The image above was made at 8:03pm, and the one below was taken just 16 minutes later.  While dusk is my favorite time for photography, it's easy to see that one can only photograph one or two sites in a day before the light is gone.   Since I was standing on the national mall only a few steps from the Smithsonian, I was able to photograph it as well before the sky was too dark. With few exceptions,  once the sky is black it's usually too late to get a good photo.

#10-28278   US Capitol at Night  - 8 seconds @f8, iso 100, 65mm

#10_28283  Smithsonian Castle  - 15 seconds @f4, iso 100, 33mm

#N_50872  Iwo Jima Memorial - 0.4sec @f4, iso 200, 30mm

For best results when photographing the monuments, it's important to have a wide angle lens.  Most of the buildings cannot be photographed very well without one, and using one gives you the opportunity to capture some really interesting perspectives.   Both views of the Jefferson Memorial below were photographed with a 17mm lens.  In the second one, I was lying on my back to get as much of dome as possible in the photo.

#N_50672  Jefferson Memorial  - 1/40 @f9, iso 200, 17mm

#N_50676  Jefferson Memorial  - 1/50 @f9, iso 200, 17mm

When I visited the Lincoln Memorial, I stood there trying to figure out a way to make a photograph that would not look the same as all the other ones I had seen.  I photographed the statue of Abraham Lincoln from the front, the back, and both sides,  figuring I should be able to come up with something a little bit different.   My favorite photo is below.

#10_27818  Lincoln Memorial  - 1/60 @f4.5, iso 400, 44mm

Although I did not have time to go inside the US Capitol on my trip back in 2005, I finally did take the Capitol tour in 2010.  Since the last time I had been to Washington, the new visitor center had been built, which now has guests entering the capitol from underground.

Even my 15mm fisheye lens was not wide enough to capture the underside of the capitol dome the way I wanted to.  The first image below is the best I could do, and the next one shows a close up of the painting under the dome. [click any image to enlarge]

#N_96508  US Capitol Dome  - 1/100  @f6.3, iso 400, 15mm

#N_96516  - Painting Under the Capitol Dome  - 1/30 @ f5.6, iso 400, 95mm

#10-28609   The White House  - 1/250 @f5, iso 200, 65mm

The last few images are Washington National Cathedral.

#N_96443  National Cathedral  - 1/125 @f13, iso 200, 15mm fisheye (straightened)

#N_96435  National Cathedral  - 1/10 @f2.8, iso 800, 15mm fisheye (straightened)

#N_96386  National Cathedral  - 1/20 @f2.8, iso 800, 15mm fisheye (straightened)

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Stroll Around Jacksonville

Despite the crisp weather this past Monday, I spent the afternoon taking pictures of some of Jacksonville's more recognizable points of interest. 
#7_0288 Friendship Fountain - 1/3 @f3.5, iso 800, 28mm

Starting out at Treaty Oak Park, I photographed the oak tree centerpiece that is believed to be over 250 years old. Treaty Oak is over 70 feet tall and its width is more than double it's height. Here is a look at the tree from 2 different angles.

#112380 Treaty Oak - 1/160sec. @ f8, iso 200, 17mm

#112364 Treaty Oak - 1/125sec. @f8, iso 200, 17mm
The downtown skyline has not changed much the last few years with the exception of titles on the buildings.  Wells Fargo has now replaced Modis, on what was originally the Independent Life Building.  Just east of the Main Street Bridge is the Maritime Museum, and the US Navy Memorial behind it.

#112437 US Navy Memorial - 1/1600 @f4, iso 100, 24mm
From Friendship Fountain, I shot several photos of the city skyline and I like this one the best, mainly because of the really cool cloud formation.

#112262 Jacksonville Skyline - 1/160 @f7.1, iso 100, 17mm
Here is a similar image shot from the Acosta Bridge.   [click any photo for a larger view]

#112468 Jacksonville Riverfront Panorama - 1/400sec @f8, iso 100, 17mm

To the west of the bridge is the Museum of Science and History.  I have not been inside for several years and I don't know if it's still the same, but when I was growing up we came here for 'cosmic concerts' at the Alexander Brest Planetarium, located inside.  It had theatre seats that tilted back so that you were looking up at the dome shaped ceiling.  Music would be playing while a fancy Minolta gizmo using laser light would project all sorts of planetary images across the ceiling, which acted as a huge movie screen.  It was a hot ticket when I was a teen.

#112463 Museum of Sciense & History - 1/400 @f8, iso 100, 35mm

For anyone who is curious about the progress of the new courthouse, here is a photo of it under construction.   The building takes up 4 city blocks.

#112510 New Courthouse - 1/1000 @ f5.6, iso 100, 15mm fisheye
(this was shot with a fisheye lens and then straightened in photoshop)
Next to the Jacksonville Landing is the Times Union Center.  The second image (night photo) shows it back in 2004.

#112550 Times Union Center - 1/400 @f8, iso 100, 17mm

#10d_10430 Times Union Center at night - 2004
It's always fun to photograph the buildings on the waterfront when it starts to get dark and the lights of the buildings begin to appear. 

#112729 Waterfront at Dusk - 1/20 @f4, iso 400, 41mm
#112736  The Jacksonville Landing - 1/13@ f5.6, iso 400, 135mm

#112740 The Waterfront at Night - 1/10 @f4, iso 400, 17mm

I had planned to photograph the fountain at night, but skipped it because the fountain was not working properly.   I fill finish up with two images of Friendship Fountain below, that I shot back in November.

#7_0288  Friendship Fountain  -  1/3 @f3.5, iso 800, 28mm

#110246  Friendship Fountain  -  1/10 @f2.8, iso 400, 15mm fisheye
(shot with 15mm fisheye lens, then straightened in photoshop)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Photographing Alligators (or not)

During my various travels photographing birds, I have for the most part ignored alligators when I've seen them.  This is mainly because they are about as plentiful as mosquitoes here in Florida and I feel that if you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all.  Up until a few years ago, we had a few gators in the pond that borders our back yard, so I hardly get excited when I see one. 

On many occasions where I've been visiting a wildlife sanctuary to photograph birds, invariably someone approaches me when they notice one of my rather large white lenses, to tell me they see an alligator that I should go photograph.  This always puts me in the rather awkward position of figuring out a polite way to tell them that I couldn't care less about photographing an alligator.  But keeping that thought to myself, I always thank them and tell them that perhaps I'll check it out when I'm finished with what I'm working on now.  I'm guessing that most of these folks are probably northern visitors.  I guess if I were in Maine and saw a whale, I'd get excited too.

Every now and then while photographing birds, I have also photographed the occasional alligator.  When I've done so, I did it with the thought that if I ever decided to take a closer look at gators I would have a few images to work with.  But unlike birds, gators all look the same to me with the exception of differences in size.  What sometimes sets them apart are different surroundings and/or colorful reflections in the water from trees or other foliage on the bank of the pond.

This past week at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I saw many gators, but two in particular that were close together that finally caught my interest.  They were facing opposite directions and the soft early morning light made them interesting, so I decided to snap a few shots.  One was a little larger than the other (probably about 8 or 9 feet in length) and was facing to the left,while the smaller one was facing the right.

#N_112154  - Shot settings: 1/1250 @f6/3, iso 400 at 500mm, hand held

When I later took a closer look at these images on the computer, I liked what I saw so I figured it was finally time to post a few gator photos.  These first two images show the same gator.  The image below is a close up cropped from the one above.
[click on any image for a larger view]

#N_112154c (cropped from the photo above)

The soft light and a bit of fill flash reveal some detail in the head shot, and that's what I liked about this particular image. 

The next image is the smaller gator that was facing the right.  If you are thinking this is just your typical average boring alligator photo, I pretty much agree.  This is why I seldom bother to even take pictures of them.

#N_112142 (1/1000 @ f6.3, iso 400, at 500mm.)

Although gators all look about the same to me, sometimes different surroundings make the shot more interesting than the gator itself.  I particularly like colorful reflections, as shown in the next few images. 

Thinking back, I knew I had some images with reflections from the Everglades National Park, so I dug them out to add them to this post.  The same gator is pictured in both images below; the first a little further away and the second as it approached me a little closer.

#N_80810 (1/500 @f5.6, iso 400 at 420mm)

#N_80811 (1/500 @ f5.6, iso 400 at 420mm) 

This last image may be my favorite of the few I have shot over the last few years.  I like the open  mouth, and the way we can see the roof of the gator's mouth in the reflection in the water.

#N_63432 (1/200 @ f5.6, iso 800 at 400mm)