Kite Festival

Since 1967, there has been a kite festival in Washington, DC. The festival was started  by Paul E, Garber, the first head of the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, a man who spent his life helping to preserve world aviation heritage.   Garber’s powers of persuasion were legendary–the festival’s location on the grounds of the Washington Monument became possible only because he convinced the DC Government to abolish its law against kite flying on the Monument’s grounds.

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2015 Kite Festival

In 2011, the Smithsonian turned over the responsibility for running the festival to the National Cherry Blossom Festival organizers and it was renamed the Blossom Kite Festival.

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2007 Kite Festival

AfterBefore Forum–Week 42

It’s Friday morning on the east coast of the US, so grab a cuppa coffee and check out the latest offerings on Stacy Fischer’s post-processing extravaganza, or as the cognoscenti describe it: AfterBefore Friday Forum.  This weekly event is open to anyone wishing to share their creative techniques whether the image comes from a smartphone or NASA’s Hubble Satellite.   Comments, suggestions, critiques are all welcome and encouraged from anyone who drops by.  You can see the other submissions at Stacy Fischer’s ABFriday Control Center.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 42 Before

Original Image Before Post-processing

The annual kite festival on the grounds of the Washington Monument will be held tomorrow, March 28 (weather permitting).  To get myself in the mood, I pulled an image from a previous running several years ago.  The original RAW image is shown above. Although there are no actual kites in this picture, I was attracted by the color and motion of these flags flapping in the wind.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 42 Before 01Partial section of ACR Window

As usual, the first step in the workflow was opening the image in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and making some basic adjustments (see screenshot image above).   First, the white and black points were set (always my first step), followed by toning down the Highlights a bit and opening up the Shadows.  The Clarity and Vibrance were set at my usual choice of +30.  The result is shown below, obviously not terribly different from the original.

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Image after ACR Adjustments

Next was a journey through the wondrous world of Photoshop’s Filter Gallery (see image below).  Given the infinite variety of possible effects, a reasonable strategy is trial and error.  After a few attempts, it seemed like the “Paint Daubs” choice (red arrow) had some possibilities.  I picked a brush type (blue arrow) and made some adjustments in the Brush Size and Sharpness (yellow arrow).

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Partial section of Filter Gallery Window

The results looked OK, so I clicked that button to activate the filter.  But I still wasn’t entirely thrilled, maybe one more step for a  little pizazz. Using the sequence: Image>Adjustments>Posterize, the dialog box shown below appeared (superimposed here over the image being adjusted).  This slider is pretty sensitive and a slight move can bring significant changes. It seems to work best with an image that has lots of different colors.  I made only a tiny move, a 4 on a scale of 0-255 (red arrow).

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Posterize Dialog Box.

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Final Image after Posterize

So that’s it. Let me know what you think.  Meanwhile, if you are in the Washington, DC area and t is before 10:00 EDT on March 28th and the weather is really nice and there is a good breeze, head down to the Washington Monument and check out the kites. Otherwise, check out all the other submissions to the ABFriday Forum by clicking here.  

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls was the final destination of our journey south last month.  This is one of the great waterfalls on our planet, wider and taller than Niagara Falls and, because it is actually a combination of many separated falls, second in width only to Victoria Falls in Africa. Victoria has an uninterrupted curtain of water one mile wide.  But the one waterfall that would dwarf all others, if it still existed, is the virtually unknown Dry Falls in the state of Washington, USA. With a width of 3.5 miles and a height of 400 feet, it once carried ten times more water than currently flows through all the rivers of the world.  But that was more than 10,000 years ago.

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The Falls as seen from the Hotel’s Terrace (Argentina Side)

Iguazu Falls cannot be seen all at once unless you are riding in a helicopter.  In fact, you have to travel to another country to see a significant portion. The main feature, the Devil’s Throat, is in Argentina but some spectacular sections are in Brazil.  To appreciate the scale, one should experience both.  Access to most of the sections is not difficult, as long as you don’t mind walking a fair distance in very hot and humid conditions.  It didn’t help that the tour gave us very little time to explore the spectacle, let alone devote enough time to photograph it.

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About 15 minutes walk from the Hotel

I’ll refrain from describing all the logistical lessons we learned, but anyone who has questions can raise them as a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Partial View of Devil’s Throat

As the images suggest, the walkways take you very close to the edge of the falls.  The lack of any reference objects makes it difficult to gauge scale. The falls facing each other above are actually part of a continuous loop that goes around behind the camera.  I would guess it is at least a 200-foot drop in the view here.  To give you a sense, the image is a photomerge of 4 separate images taken with my wide angle zoom at 26mm.

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Grey Crowned Crane

OK, the above image is not a waterfall.  But on our way over to the Brazilian side of the falls the tour company included a stop at a bird “sanctuary.”  It was actually OK if you didn’t desperately want to see (and photograph) Iguazu Falls.

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Iguazu Falls, Brazilian Side

After the tour of the bird sanctuary and the lengthy processing through Brazilian customs, we finally arrived at Brazil’s national park for Iguazu Falls.  This was quasi-familiar territory since I had discovered Google has a “Street View” of this park during my pre-trip research. (Click Here to see it)  So I knew where to ask that the bus drop me off to maximize the time I had available.  The image above shows the view from the top level of the multi-level viewing structure.  There is an elevator from this point that takes you down

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Iguazu Falls, Brazil

to here, the lower viewing platform.  The dress code here is somewhat different from Antarctica. From the photographer’s right, there is a ramp that takes you to other viewing locations but I decided to concentrate on this spot.

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Iguazu Falls, Brazil

The above image is a 2-image photomerge taken from about the same spot as the 4 young women in the previous image.  Again, this is a wide angle image (24mm). For the majority of these images I was using a high shutter speed (1/5,000th sec. above).  But since I had a tripod and a variable neutral density filter, a time exposure seemed like it might also be interesting.

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Iguazu Falls, Time Exposure

I would have liked to stay and continue taking pictures but the bus back to Argentina was about to leave so it was time to go.

AfterBefore Friday Week 41

Welcome to AfterBefore Friday, the Forum hosted by Stacy Fischer which allows participants to illustrate that the work isn’t done when the shutter clicks.  My submission is described below, but be sure to check out ABFriday Headquarters because in addition to this week’s submissions, you will see the unveiling of next Month’s candidate image for the OnePhoto Focus Event.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Dual

                   After                                                              Before

I’ve been told that using the histogram on your digital camera simplifies the work in post-processing, it’s just a matter of trusting the graph instead of your eyes.  It seems this is true.  For example, I found a scene this week that is not particularly noteworthy but it provided an opportunity to work on a combination of some troublesome exposure issues—a bright blue sky, a white sculpture partially illuminated by a bright sun, and a dark brick building in shadow.  The subject is the Smithsonian’s  recently renovated (but empty) Arts and Industries Building.

I don’t have an easy way to display the camera’s information screen here, but those who want to know more can easily do a quick search on the terms “using the camera’s histogram.”  In brief, I wanted to ensure there was detail in the shadows while not blowing out the sky or the white sculpture.   After some trial and error I settled on an exposure 1.3 stops darker than what the camera’s meter was telling me.  The image preview on the LCD looked really dark but the histogram was saying “don’t worry, the detail is all there.” The Before image below is what came out of the camera.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Before

Before Image

Following normal workflow sequences, I made a few changes in Adobe Camera Raw, setting the white and black points, setting the Shadows to +100 (to open up the darker areas), and setting the clarity and vibrance to the usual values of +30.  The result is shown below

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Before 02

After Adobe Camera RAW Adjustments

Moving into Photoshop CC, only three more small adjustments were needed.  The two bits of roof on the left and right edges were removed with the clone tool.  Second, I selected the brick building and used a Curves Adjustment Layer (Blend Mode=Normal) to make it brighter (see white arrow).  The red area in the image below illustrates the mask blocking the effects of the adjustment to the sign.

 Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Before 05Curves Adjustment

Third, I selected the decorative tiles including the sign and used a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to enhance their colors  (see arrows).  The red area in the image below illustrates the mask blocking the effects of the adjustment.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Before 04Hue/Saturation adjustment

And that was it.  The brick front of the building could have easily been lightened even more but the tones were an accurate representation of the late afternoon shadows. The final image is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 After ver2Final Image

Be sure to see all of the other submissions at Stacy’s Visual Venturing Blog here.

Scouting Report: Getting Ready for Spring

The signs are unmistakable: the calendar says March, sunrise is coming earlier each day, the temperatures are rising, and the snow is disappearing.

Jefferson at Sunrise

Jefferson Memorial at Sunrise, March 12, 2012

After all, it’s been 3 years since I got a decent image on March 12th.  So yesterday afternoon (March 12th), I made a scouting run into the city to check out a few sites for possible photo opportunities.  As I made the rounds, it appeared that conditions were promising for a sunset image (see below) so I kept my eye on the clouds building up as I explored the area around the National Mall.

The scouting findings may be of interest to photographers in the Washington, DC area, others can skip to the end and see what happened at 7:25 PM.

Solar Cycle:  For the next few days, the late afternoon sun (when skies are clear) will be providing some opportunities as it illuminates the Federal Triangle Buildings along the north side of Constitution Avenue and the recently renovated Arts and Industries Building on Independence Avenue.

Fountains:  As usual at this time of year, virtually all of the fountains are still shut down for the winter.  This includes the fountains and pool at the World War II Memorial and the Reflecting Pool between the WW II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.  In addition, the waterfall at the northwest corner of the Museum of the American Indian is dry and the waterfalls at the FDR Memorial are also turned off.

The Tidal Basin:  There is a significant amount of ice still in the Basin, but this should be melted in a few days.

National Gallery, East Wing: The large construction crane is finally gone, although there is still a considerable amount of fencing and construction equipment on the south and east sides of the building.  However, there are good angles on the west side of the building.

Ongoing Construction:  The US Capitol is still under scaffolding, of course, and the white plastic wrap covering part of the scaffolding has been altered for the worse (who would have thought that was possible) by adding a section with a tawdry taupe color.  The new African American Museum is still far from completion and news reports state that the opening date has been pushed back to early 2017.  There is better news a few blocks to the west where the interminable construction project for a relatively small flood control wall (17th Street and Constitution Avenue) is all but wrapped up.  The unsightly wooden fence on the northeast corner of 17th and Constitution is gone, leaving a rather graceful stone wall curving toward the Washington Monument.  Across 17th, the construction equipment has been removed and the landscaping seems completed.  However, there are still some chain link fences protecting the larger trees along 17th Street.

Upcoming Events

March 14: DC Rock ‘n Roll MarathonThe Start Time 7:30 AM likely will complicate efforts to photograph anything else so plan accordingly.  Details here.

March 20: The Equinox.  Check your Photographer’s Ephemeris app for an opportunity near you.

March 28: Kite Festival, the long-running kite festival will be in its usual location on the grounds of the Washington Monument starting at 10:00 AM.  For details, click here.

April 4: Full Moon. Check your Photographer’s Ephemeris app for an opportunity near you.

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Kite Festival

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Kite Festival

Sunset at the FDR Memorial

As the sun edged closer to the horizon last night, I made my way over to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial which is located on the west side of the Tidal Basin.  DC locals might think this is a strange location to capture a sunset, but I thought it would be a good backdrop for a specific feature at the Memorial.  The result is shown below.

Roosevelt Memorial

FDR Memorial at Sunset, March 12, 2015

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on tripod, extended to 24mm; exposure 1 sec. @f/16, EV = -1.0 ISO 400.)

The Memorial, on 7.5 acres chronicles the four terms of Roosevelt’s Presidency.  This section, with the five pillars and five panels on the wall, were intended to represent the social programs (New Deal) during his presidency. The design has been criticized as the “least successful” of the many sculptures in the Memorial, and I would agree that their intended symbolism is opaque.  Nevertheless, I have found them to be an interesting photographic subject.

Coming Soon–Iguazu Falls (Really!)

Journey to Antarctica – Part 5

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The Final Leg, Paradise Bay to Half Moon Island

The variability of weather and scenery continued as our ship moved north from Paradise Bay, to Neko Harbor, and then out of the Antarctic Zone toward Deception Island and the return to Argentina.

Paradise Bay lived up to its name as our good luck with weather—at least from the photographer’s viewpoint—continued.  And I’ve since discovered that the scenery of Antarctica also lends itself nicely to Black and White images.

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View from Zodiac, Paradise Bay

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Paradise Bay, Mid-morning Light

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Vicinity of Neko Harbor, Evening Light

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Neko Harbor, Evening Light

Deception Island, part of the South Shetland Islands, is considered one of the safest harbors in Antarctica.  I guess you could say that, except the island is the caldera of an active volcano and your ship’s captain must know exactly where that submerged rock is located in the very, very narrow entrance (see map).Deception Island Map 02

Map of Deception Island

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 Inside the Caldera, Deception Island, mid-morning

 We were told that the island got its name because sailors had been going past it for decades until finally one curious ship captain found the narrow entrance was hiding a perfectly formed harbor.  For us, the deception was the weather.  When we arrived, everything was very nice.  But a few hours later a snow squall spun up making it a little difficult for the Zodiac drivers as they maneuvered alongside the ship.  (Click here to see a Vimeo clip)  But please overlook my limited video skills.

Our last stop in Antarctica was Half Moon Island, a 400-acre speck of land that was home to a chinstrap penguin colony which we were bound and determined to see.

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Chinstrap Penguin Admiring the Snow

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Chinstrap Penguin Colony

Interestingly, Google has a lite version of its “Street View” application captured (on a much nicer day) from this location, apparently the sole basis for its claim that it has covered all 7 continents.  Click here for a view not far from my image above and, although you may have to rotate the scene with your mouse, you will recognize the jutting rock on the right.

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Fresh Snow, Half Moon Island, Antarctica

 

Next—Iguazu Falls

OnePhotoFocus-March 6, 2015

Today marks the unveiling of the third One Photo Focus Forum (say that 3 times fast), in which once a month, a volunteer army of photo-processing practitioners provides a wide range of interpretations of the same image.   Stacy Fischer, who has already demonstrated her extraordinary skill in herding cats with the AfterBefore Friday Forum, has stepped up to the next level of difficulty, known as loading frogs into a wheelbarrow. In doing so, she has gathered all of the interpretations into a single place for your viewing pleasure.  To see them all, click on her wheelbarrow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Original Image by Loré Dombaj

This week’s image (shown above) was submitted by Loré Dombaj and I must admit I was impressed by the challenge facing me.  Which is a nice way of saying I had no idea what to do.  So, I applied a common problem solving technique known as procrastination.  The Theory of Procrastination holds that the pressure of a short deadline will unleash one’s deeply buried creative power.

That didn’t work either.  But here are the steps I took, all in Photoshop CC.  First, I applied Robert Capa’s advice of getting closer and cropped off the top part of the image to concentrate on the section that was most interesting to me (image below). That one step changed the image from one that I liked to one that I liked a lot.  All of a sudden, the image is dominated by a tightly composed scene with a repeating circular pattern.  Plus, the dappled highlights are placed so perfectly that one is reminded of a painter who chooses where the light will be. The charming cherub is now rightfully the center of attention.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The principal objects in the photo (tables, cherub, and flower pot) all have a weathered, timeworn appearance that begged to be emphasized.  I called up the Filter Gallery and selected “Poster Edges.”  The screen capture is shown below. I adjusted the 3 sliders (red arrow) until I found the combination I liked and clicked OK.

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Photoshop CC Filter Gallery–Poster Edges

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAResult of Poster Edges Adjustment

The image was looking good, but it lacked warmth (see above).  A naked cherub wouldn’t be smiling if it was a cold day.  We should improve his mood with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.  I set the Saturation to +60 (red arrow) and left the blend mode at normal (yellow arrow).

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Photoshop CC Hue/Saturation Layer

Insert After Final Image

The Final Image below includes the use of an Unsharp Mask with the settings as follows: Amount: 131%, Threshold: 1.1 pixels, Pixels: 0. I found that a small change in either of the first two sliders made an important difference, although it is very hard to see at this size.  In fact, the small size displayed here doesn’t do justice to the image; a lot of the subtlety captured by Loré disappears.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Voila!

Final observations:  It turns out that the results of the Filter Gallery steps will be quite different depending on the size of the image.  The first time, I used the filter gallery before downsizing the image to 1,000 pixels wide and that is what you are seeing here.  An experimental repeat with the image downsized to 1,000 before the application of the Poster Edges brought a different result, one that I felt was too coarse and not nearly as attractive.  This is an excellent example of why Workflow (the specific sequence of post-processing actions) is important.  The same actions, implemented in a different sequence, can produce different results.

At any rate, check out the other interpretations of this image at Stacy’s Visual Venturing site.