Ulysses S. Grant: Overdue Repair Job

Ulysses Grant 02

The Grant Memorial, Guarding the Capitol’s West Front (November, 2014)

The massive memorial to Ulysses S. Grant, like so many of Washington’s monuments and memorials, has long suffered from neglect.  (See, for example, a January 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal).   Now at last, as reported in today’s edition of the Washington Post, a restoration project is underway.

Ulysses Grant 01

Scaffolding for the Grant Memorial Restoration (August, 2015)

When I first photographed the memorial I knew much about Grant, but nothing of the history of the statue.  But I had available a most valuable resource: James M. Goode’s imposing reference, “Washington Sculpture” and found a story that fascinated me.

In 1901, a young, unknown sculptor, Henry Merwin Shrady, submitted design for a prestigious commission: a memorial statue of Ulysses S. Grant and the largest ever commissioned by the US Congress at that time. His 22 competitors were experienced, well-known artists and a furor erupted when the 31-yar old was selected.  He was selected a second time when one of the losers demanded a retrial.

Ulysses Grant 04

Artillery Group, on South Flank of Main Statue (January, 2010)

This one work would consume Shrady for the rest of his life, which tragically ended 20 years later and just a few weeks before the memorial’s dedication.  Before he began his work, Shrady conducted intensive research on Civil War history, immersing himself in the details of uniforms, military practices, and the anatomy and physical movement of horses. He was loaned actual uniforms by the secretary of war. West Point and other military schools conducted special drills for him to observe artillery and cavalry maneuvers.  And he investigated much, much more in his unending efforts to bring authenticity to even the smallest aspects of his work.

But despite his premature death, the memorial Shrady produced was unlike any other in the U.S. up to that time. It is vast, with a base 252 feet wide by 71 feet deep, and was the largest bronze-casting project ever undertaken. At its center stands an equestrian statue of Grant. Flanking him, albeit some distance away, are clusters of warriors: a Cavalry Group to the north and an Artillery Group to the south.

Ulysses Grant 06

Cavalry Group on North Flank of Main Statue (November 2014)

(Note the tarnished green stains and missing sword blade; note also the face of the fallen soldier under the hooves of the lead horse-thought to be a self portrait of the artist)

Shrady obtained numerous postponements, fending off demands for deadlines while dealing with numerous challenges such as a fire that destroyed the foundry responsible for casting the bronze components and political fights over the proposed location of the memorial.

Ulysses Grant 05

Artillery Group at Twilight (November 2014)

Ulysses Grant 03

Setting Moon, Grant Memorial and Washington Monument

I’m looking forward to the completion of the renovation project, the memorial will have a totally different look, and new opportunities for photography.  But when the scaffiolding is taken away, those who live here should go back and take a close look at what is by far the most dramatic work of sculpture in the city.  In the meantime,

Keep Shooting……

 

 

ABFriday Week 57

This week’s ABFriday Forum was in serious jeopardy of not happening because our usual hostess (Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing) is out of town this week.  However, a heroic rescue by Loré Dombaj of “Snow’s Fissures and Fractures” has made it possible for all of us to continue.  As usual, this week’s forum allows pparticipants to submit an example of  how they transform an image to reveal their creative vision.  You can see all of the others at Loré’s post here.  And as always, you can get all the guidelines for participating in this forum by checking out Stacy Fischer’s site here.

Sometimes its a good idea to go back and review the image files from a major shooting session to see if a good image might have been overlooked.  This week’s submission to ABFriday is an example.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 60 Before

Before Image (Original RAW File)

The above image apparently escaped my attentiona few months ago when I was selecting images for an exhibit. on Antarctica.  But this image caught my eye during a subsequent review of the image files a couple weeks ago.  I remembered the scene as being much more colorful and thought there might be some potential.

The scene was taken as our boat was heading north in the Gerlache Strait at about 10:45 PM. The sun’s last light hitting the top of the mountain was similar to the alpenglow effect I had seen in the past.

As usual, the image was first opened in Adobe Camera RAW.(ACR) and the adjustments were fairly standard (setting the black and white points, reducing Highlights, opening up the Shadows, adding some Clarity and Vibrance). Then, in Photoshop CC, two Curves Adjustment Layers were added, one to increase the contrast of the mountain and snow, the second to darken the sky.  A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to slightly increase the saturation of the sky. Next a bit of the sky was cropped out for balance in the composition and, as a final step, a gradient layer was used to darken the sky (Blend Mode: Soft Light).  Now it looked like the scene I saw that night. Robin Kent ABFriday Week 60 After

Final Image

Thanks again to Loré Dombaj for organizing this week’s After Before Friday Forum.  Please visit her site to see all of the other submissions by clicking here.

Crescent Moon, Lincoln Memorial

A setting crescent moon at twilight usually can be best captured about 3 days after the New Moon. I went down to the Reflection Pool last night to see if I could catch it with the Lincoln Memorial.  The timing on this composition is a little tricky because you need the moon to be close to the Memorial shortly after the sun has set. This doesn’t happen very often.  There is about a 15 minute window when the building’s lights, the twilight sky, and the brightness of the moon are in balance. The moon was a little more to the left of the Memorial than I would have liked, so I compensated by moving to the right (northeast) corner of the Reflection Pool.

Lincoln Moonset 02

Photographed at 8:23 PM

The photograph above is a merge of two images so I could include the reflection of the moon in the water.

Lincoln Moonset 01

Photographed at 8:36 PM

The sunset was at 8:01 PM and I appreciated Mother Nature’s positioning of the clouds to add interest without obscuring the moon. There was very little wind, so the surface of the Reflection Pool was almost mirror-like.

For those with a technical bent, both images were photographed with a Nikon D0800E on a tripod.  The first image was captured with a 24-70m f/2.8 lens set at 62mm, 1/5 sec. @ f/9, ISO 1600.  The second image (also a 2-shot photomerge) was captured  with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens set at 105mm, 3 sec. at f/13, ISO 1600.

OnePhoto Focus (and More)

This is the first Friday of the month and that means it’s time for Stacy Fischer’s OnePhoto Focus, where photographers from all over take their turn on the same image.  The range of interpretations is truly impressive, and you can find the links to the other submissions at Visual Venturing.

But first, a quick trip to the front yard where some butterflies seem to be evaluating the worthiness of some flowers growing there.  Hard not to pick up the camera and walk 30 feet to the subject.

Butterfly 01

Cabbage White

Butterfly 02

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Butterfly 03

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Female Dark Form)?

I am not certain about the identities of the above three butterflies, especially the one immediately above.  If there are any experts out there, I would be most interested in any corrections they might have.  At any rate, all three photos were taken with a Nikon D880E, handheld, using a 28-300mm  f/3.5-5.6  lens.  Various focal lengths and shutter speeds, all shot at f/9.0, ISO 1600.

Now back to our regularly scheduled post, OnePhoto Focus.

This month, the challenge image was submitted by Katie Prior.  Many thanks to her for allowing us the use of her photograph, shown below.

Robin Kent 1PF August Before

Original Image by Katie Prior

As usual, I opened the image in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and made a series of fairly standard adjustments (setting black and white points, claity, and vibrance).  The result of this first stage is shown below.

Robin Kent 1PF August Before 02

Katie Prior’s Image after ACR Processing

This is a case where I got caught up in the process and failed to keep notes.  After opening the image in Photoshop, it seemed that Black and White would be the most promising approach, so my first step was to create a Black and White adjustment layer.  I then added a few Curves Adjustment layers and a gradient layer, but while the image was becoming more dramatic as a pure B&W, it seemed to missing something.  So I used another Curves Adjustment layer but instead chose (I think) the Cross Process preset. That made it a little more interesting.  I then switched tactics and began to simplify by turning off the Black and White Adjustment layer and then all but two Curves Adjustment layers (removing 6 in all).  At the end, the image had only 3 layers, the background layer (as it came from the ACR), a standard Curve Adjustment layer, and the Cross Process layer.

R Kent 1PF August After

Final Image

Please chack out the many other interpretations of Katie’s image by visiting VisualVenturing.com.  I haven’t seen any of the other posts yet , but based on previous episodes, there is no telling what kind of amazing creativity you will find–mystical scenery, romantic lighting, prehistoric creatures, perhaps even an appearance by the Loch Ness Monster.  But it will be entertaining.

Keep Shooting…….

Moon Over Jefferson Memorial

My previous post about a week ago featured a sunrise image of the Jefferson Memorial taken last April. So it might be appropriate to look at some additional images of the Memorial, but this time with the moon, especially since there was a full moon last night.

Jefferson Moonrise

Moon Rising over Jefferson Memorial (July 31, 2015)

The conditions may not have been perfect, but they were pretty close.  There was absolutely no breeze, so the tidal basin would produce a nice reflection.  The sky was clear, ensuring that the moon would be visible.

When photographing the moon, I prefer to use a telephoto lens to emphasize the dramatic effect of the moon.  The foreshortening effect makes the moon seem larger, especially if the camera is fairly distant from the primary subject which in this case was the Jefferson Memorial.  Last night, however, the location of the moonrise on the horizon dictated that the ideal place from which to shoot would be fairly close to the Memorial.  To get the entire Memorial, its reflection, and the moon in a single image would force the use of a lens no longer than 100mm.  But to emnphasize the moon’s size, it would be necessary to shoot with a 200mm setting.

The solution, of course, is to use the photomerge technique in Photoshop, Lightroom, or one of the several plugins available for this purpose.  The above image represents four separate images merged in Photoshop. (Technical data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 200mm. Four exposures each at 1 sec., f/16, ISO 400)

Now there is another way to acquire a larger moon, which is considered by some (including myself) as a form of cheating.  An example is shown below.

Jefferson Moonset

Moon Setting Over Jefferson Memorial (April 5, 2015)

In this case, the moon was exceptionally bright and would be extremely overexposed. While HDR might be one option, there was a 7 or 8-stop difference between the correct exposure for the overall scene and the exposure needed for the moon.  Instead, it seemed like a good opportunity to experiment with blending two separate images.  This involved shooting the overall scene with one lens and the moon with a separate lens and then combining them in Photoshop.  I’m not thrilled with the result, mainly because it looks faked to me but maybe that is because I know it was.  (Technical data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70 f/2.8 lens extended to 70mm; one exposure at 2 sec., f/13/ ISO 400.  Moon shot with 70-200mm lens extended to 200mm; exposure at 1/40th sec @ f/16, ISO 400)

The next full moon will be on the night of August 28th.

Keep Shooting…..

AfterBefore Friday Week 55

Today marks Week 55 in the AfterBefore Friday series managed by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing.  It’s open to anyone and participants share their approach of transforming one of their own images into its final form, an expression of their creative vision.  You can find links to all of the other participants here.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out one of the new tools that appeared in the most recent Photoshop CC upgrade.  Most writers have been rhapsodizing about the new “Dehaze” tool, but I have been far more pleased by the integration of the Photomerge capability into the Adobe Raw Camera (Version 9.1) process.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Before

Original Image (one of four)

The above image is one of four used to produce an overall image the front of the Jefferson Memorial at sunrise.  Longtime readers may recall that I used a single image from this set in ABFriday Week 44.  But that was to produce a much tighter crop. This week it will be a wider view to include the tree on the left side of the building and some balance on the other side.  Now, I could have captured all of this in a single image using a wide angle lens, but I wanted to avoid the distortion of an extreme wide angle and I also wanted to be able to make really big prints if the image turned out nicely. (Technical: Four images with a Nikon D800E; 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 42mm; Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 01

The Well-Hidden Photomerge Button

The screen capture above shows the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) display window with the  four RAW images opened as the first step for a photomerge.  In what must be one of the most obscure placements of a functional command in history, Adobe has seen fit to place this teeny little button in the upper left corner of the window, just to the right of the word “Fimstrip”  (Red Arrow).  If you select 2 or more images and then click on that little spot, you get the flyout menu (Yellow Arrow) that is displayed showing several options including “Merge to Panorama.”

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 04

Preview of Photomerge Process

If you click on that command, a preview window quickly appears as shown in the screen capture above. The ACR process has chosen which of three “projections”  it believes will produce the best result which, in this case, was “Perspective”  (Red Arrow). If you are not happy with that one, you can click on one of the other two to compare the results. It also provides a preview of an “Auto Crop” (Yellow Arrow) which essentially cleans up the ragged edges of a typical photomerge process.  A very nice touch, I thought. The image below shows the result when this box is unchecked.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 03

Auto Crop Unchecked.

In some cases, one may decide to handle the cropping on their own, but it obviously did a fine job here.  Once you are happy with the result,  click on the “Merge” command and it quickly goes to the “Save As” function as shown in the screen capture below.  Just give the file the approapriate name and select the folder in which it is to be saved.  So far about 60 seconds have passed.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 06

Saving the Merged image

As shown the Screen Capture below, a new thumbnail of the photomerge has appeared in the filmstrip (Red Arrow) and is ready to be processed like any other RAW file.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 05

ACR Window after Save Command is Executed

From here one just uses their standard workflow.  In this case I used the follwing settings: Highlights decreased to -31; Shadows increased to +73; Whites increased to +57; Blacks increased to +16; Clarity increased to +30; and Vibrance increased to +39.  The image was then opened in Photoshop, where I spent some time removing a few of the people on the steps.  The final result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 After

Final Image

Comments and Questions are welcome.  Please be sure to check out the other examples of post-processing techniques at Stacy’s post, ABFriday Week 55.

Keep Shooting…….

 

Summer Pursuits

If you are a photographer based near the city of Washington,  July provides many photo ops beyond the well-known fireworks extravaganza that happens on the 4th.

For example, there is the fairly well-known field of sunflowers in Maryland’s McKee-Besher’s Wildlife Management Area (Maryland DNR website).  Since the weather forecast for the fireworks was iffy, I decided to zip over to that field on the 4th to see if they had been planted this year and, if so, how long it would be before they were ready to be photographed.  It was a good thing I did.

Sunflowers 03

Approaching Storm, Sunflowers (July 4, 2014)

The plants were so vigorous this year that one needed a ladder in some spots just to get a clear view of the entire field.  I had neglected to take a ladder on the scouting trip so I returned with one the next day for another go.

Sunflowers 01

Morning Fog, Sunflowers (July 5, 2015)

Sunflowers 02

Soft Light, Sunflowers (July 5, 2015)

The morning light with the fog provided a completely different mood than the previous afternoon.  While a ladder is helpful, to get higher one needs a camera-equipped drone or, in my case, a friend with such a device.

Drone 01

Drone, Awaiting Orders

This was purely an experiment and requires a skill set I do not possess, one completely different from still photography.  The owner was in charge of where it went and what it did.

View from above

The image above is a still photograph taken by the drone’s camera.  One can get an idea of its potential, however, by checking out this link to an unedited clip of one of the flights.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Washington, DC, the lotus blossoms were at peak in Kenilworth Gardens, according to a fellow photographer who was there on July 3rd.  Here is an image from a previous visit.

Lotus 01

Lotus, Kenilworth Gardens, Washington, DC

But Kenilworth will have to wait until next year, a kayak race over Great Falls was scheduled for July 11, and I wanted to check out the practice runs on the two days before the actual event.   The advantage of the practice runs is that the race day crowds are absent.  The downside is that you don’t know exactly when the boats will be coming down.

Kayak 01

Navigating the Fish Ladder, Great Falls National Park, Maryland

The Fish Ladder is a tricky course as can be seen from a 35-second video taken shortly after this run.  Listen for the thuimp when the lead boat collides with the wall.  The race course was on the Maryland side this year because the water level was too high for the classic run through the center line, known as the Fingers, shown below.

Kayak 02

Navigating the Fingers, Great Falls of the Potomac (July 2014)

Whether running the Fish Ladder or the Center Lines, this event is an extremely dangerous undertaking.  A competitor died in 2013 during a practice run over the falls.  The event organizers go to great lengths to ensure the safety of the kayakers, but the power of the river is impossible to tame completely.