Catching Up: Hermione Visit Part 2

Not being one to complain, we’ll skip all the details about my Internet’s provider’s spotty service this week and get right to a post that is about six days late.

Regular readers may recall my earlier posting about the midnight arrival of the L’Hermione in Alexandria, Virginia about two weeks ago.  The vessel, is a replica of the French frigate that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.  Details on its background can be found in my post here and in Patti’s “Displaced Beachbums” post here.

Hermione 11

The next morning, the public began to queue up for free tours aboard the ship.

Hermione 12

Channel 7 was on the scene.

Hermione 13

As were others who found the frigate a handy backdrop for themselves

Hermione 14

The gangplank wasn’t ADA compliant, but no one was complaining.

Hermione 15

Once aboard, you notice there are a lot of ropes everywhere.

Hermione 16

                Every rope (actually line) on the rigging has a function and a name,               such as the “mizzen topsail halyard.”

Hermione 17

There are two wheels, in front and in the rear (fore and aft, I believe).

Hermione 18

Everyone wanted to know what was underneath these hatches.

Hermione 19

Some more than others.

Hermione 20

 Some of the crew performed maintenance duty….

Hermione 08

and others charmed their guests by posing for pictures….

Hermione 21

and others kept alert for evil doers…

Hermione 23

with the help of local security forces.

L’hermonie will be in Philadelphia June 25-28, then will sail for New York City.  Details on the itinerary can be found here.

Keep Shooting….

AfterBefore Friday: Bluebird Bonanza

There are no written rules for the ABFriday Forum which is fortunate, because this post surely would be breaking them.

This Friday is the third Friday of the month, the new scheduled appearance of the Forum hosted by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing.  Participants from all over the world jointly publish posts to exchange ideas about transforming what their capture sees into what they see.

But the memo didn’t get to the pair of bluebirds nesting in a box about 30 feet from my desktop computer.  They set up housekeeping about six weeks ago, and the eggs hatched on/about 29 May.  When I saw that the parents were arriving at the same spot every 5 minutes, the idea for exploring a new photographic subject became irresistible.  Those with some knowledge of avian biology can see where I’m going with this.  The youngsters would be fledging during the third week of June.

So, in a pathetic attempt to follow at least a semblance of the ABfriday Forum Procedure, the image below will be the Before Image.

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before

Early Attempt (very tight crop)

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/640th sec @ f/10, ISO 1250)

My goal was to capture the birds in flight, and I thought that knowing their precise destination would make it relatively straightforward.  Such was not the case. My intention was to balance a decent depth of field with an ISO that wasn’t too extreme but still allowed a pretty fast shutter speed.  (See technical data above)  As the result shows, it was necessary to go back to the drawing board.

How about adding an off-camera flash close to the nesting box?  Well, the standard sync speed of the Nikon is 1/250th sec. In other words, that is the fastest shutter speed for normal flash operations.  However, there is a  setting deep in the menu called Auto FP High Speed Sync.  (Details at Nikon.com here)   It enables one to shoot flash up to the camera’s top speed of 1/8000th sec.  There is a certain irony that it took a bluebird to lead me to this piece of knowledge.

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before 02

Male Bluebird Removing Trash from Nest

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/4000th sec @ f/2.8, ISO 3200; off- camera SB-800 flash for fill light)

But the sync setting is only part of the problem.  With the flash about 25 feet from the camera, I would need a wireless remote trigger and, of course, the capabilities of the old PocketWizards I owned were not up to the Auto FP Sync technology.  I decided to purchase the  PocketWizard Flex TT5 for the flash and Mini TT1 for the camera.

The main difference with the second image is the high shutter speed.  It didn’t take long to figure out that 1/3200th sec. is the minimum speed for a bluebird in flight.  A single flash adds some fill, but not much else.  So that limits the depth of field and forces a high ISO setting.  Compromise may be out of style in politics, but is required in photography.

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before 03

 Female Bluebird Bringing Food

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/8000th sec @ f/4.0, ISO 3200; off- camera SB-800 flash for fill light)

The above image shows the maximum sutter speed for the Nikon D800E.  Exposures varied widely, depending on the amount of sunlight striking the scene.  The flash was not powerful enough to be the dominant factor. (Note to self, save $$ to buy more flashes and transceivers.)

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before 04

Female and Male Bringing More Food

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/6400th sec @ f/4.5, ISO 3200; off- camera SB-800 flash for fill light)

Having drawn the line on spending additional cash for gear, the results depended largely on luck.  Three factors would have to be favorable: Would the sun be unblocked by clouds or the shade from trees?  Would the birds stay within the narrow channel defined by the depth of field?  Would I react quickly enough when they arrived? Short answer: “Usually, No.”   I now have even more respect for fulltime wildlife photographers who have far less control over shooting situations than I did in this case.

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before 05

Third Fledging Leaves the Nest

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/4000th sec @ f/6.3, ISO 1600; off- camera SB-800 flash for fill light)

As proof of that, I was quick enough to obtain only a single image of one of the fledglings as it left the nest and began its life in the wider world.  But if you are curious, you can take a peek at a video clip that was recorded at the time on a separte camera.  It shows the departure of two of the fledgings.  Click Here to see the Video.  Who would have thought that the 2nd body I bought for Antarctica would come in handy for photographing bluebirds in Virginia?

Not much post-processing discussed here but there are a lot of examples of exceptional work by the other participants at Stacy’s Visual Venturing site.  Please check them out.  In the meantime,

Keep Shooting….

USAF Memorial at Night

The U.S. Air Force Memorial, sited on a promontory overlooking the Pentagon with a commanding view of the Washington skyline, is becoming an increasingly popular stop for busloads of students visiting the nation’s capital.

USAF 02

 

Following its dedication in 2006, it seemed few people knew of its existence, but it seems to have been discovered in recent years and the hours around sunset seem to be especially popular.

USAF 04

The memorial is the last major work designed by James Ingo Freed, who also designed the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  It features three stainless steel spires that soar skyward, evoking the “bomb burst” maneuver perform by the Air Force Thunderbirds.

USAF 03

View to East with Honor Guard Sculpture on Right

The small vertical spire in image above—between the left and middle spires of the Memorial–is the Washington Monument.  The lower two-thirds of the Memorial’s spires are filled with concrete and the upper portions are hollow.  Each spire has a transition section between the concrete-filled and hollow segments containing a one ton lead ball that is allowed to roll in a steel damper box.  This feature is intended to stabilize the spires in high winds.

USAF 01

I visited the memorial earlier this week, and the high humidity combined with the floodlights on the South Inscription Wall made for a rather dramatic effect.

Tonight, and every Friday night during the summer, the USAF Band will perform a free concert for the public.  Click here for details

 

Keep Shooting….

The Hermione Arrives in Alexandria, Virginia

The French-built replica of the 18th Century tall ship L’Hermione, whose namesake brought the Marquis de Lafayette to America in 1778, tied up at the waterfront in Alexandria this morning, shortly after midnight, to the cheers of a small but enthusiastic crowd of well wishers.

Hermione 01

The Hermione Docks in Alexandria, 12:48 AM June 10, 2015

The replica, built with exacting detail to match the original frigate which played such a significant role in the American Revolutionary War, is on a  goodwill tour of  US cities on the east coast.  Details about the ship and its journey can be found at the excellent post by Patti on her “Displaced Beachbums” blog.

These photos were made under some rather difficult lighting situations.  The frigate, following a short stay at Mount Vernon, had to pass under the Wilson Bridge to reach Alexandria.  The draw bridge opens its spans for ship traffic only at midnight for about 15 minutes and only, from what I understand, about once a week or on special occasions. Sailing vessels must proceed through the gap under motor power so the sails had to be furled.  (By the way, I apologize to nautical experts for any mis-use of technical terminology–this is not a topic with which I can claim more than rudimentary knowledge).

 

Hermione 04Wilson Bridge opens for the Hermione  (12:04 AM)

There isn’t much ambient light at midnight, so the frigate is barely visible. (Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, extended to 200mm; exposure: 1/4th sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 3200).

Hermione 03

The Hermione Draws Closer (12:12 AM)

Hermione 02

Turning for the Final Approach (12:23 AM)

The Hermione will be in Alexandria through June 12 and then departs for Annapolis.  I suspect it will be a midnight departure.

Keep Shooting…..

One Photo Focus–June (and More!)

This week markes the first anniversary of Stacy Fischer’s ABFriday Forum and I’d like to take the oppportunity to congratulate Stacy on the fantastic effort she has given over the past 52 weeks.  As usual on the first Friday of the month, the ABFriday gang will all be working on the same image.  And this month, the image is being provided by none other than Stacy herself.  It will be very interesting to see how each participant handles the challenge, and you can find links to all of them by clicking on VisualVenturing.com.

This post also has a totally unrelated second story below abou a couple of my favorite bridges.

But first, the starting image for One Photo Focus is shown below,and  will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the exclamation: “Shazbot!”  Yes, the house is the very structure that served as home base for the famed TV couple, “Mork and Mindy.”

2015 06 01A Before

Contrary to the approach I have followed in recent ABFriday events, I decided to play it straight this week, so the steps were quite straightforward and do not need to be shown in step-by-step fashion.  I used Adobe Camera RAW to correct much of the overexposure, then opened the image in Photoshop, removed the dirt piles wioth the Clone Tool, and added two Curves Adjustment Layers to fine tune the contrast and eliminate the remaining overexposure on the Queen Anne Tower.  The final touch was a modest gradient to furthen darken the sky (blend mode = soft light).  The final result is shown below. To check out the other submissions, go to Visual Venturing and you will see some really creative approaches.

2015 06 01A One Photo Focus Before 05A

The “After “Image

On a different subject, the normally boring subject of bridge repair made news this week, involving a bridge in Washington, D.C. and another in Paris, France.    But the news in both cases has significance to photographers because both structures are highly popular photographic subjects and therefore is worthy of some attention.

Memorial Bridge 01

 Memorial Bridge at Sunrise, View from Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC

Here in Washington, The Arlington Memorial Bridge was discovered to have some serious structural deficiencies and a partial closure was abruptly implemented on May 29th.  One lane in each direction will be closed for 6-9 months while emergency repairs are made.  In addition, vehicles such as buses and trucks weighing over 10 tons will no longer be able to cross the bridge.  Details were reported by the Washington Post.   This is not a typical highway project, because the Memorial Bridge is considered by many to be the most beautiful bridge in Washington.

Memorial Bridge 02

Memorial Bridge at Dawn, View from Mount Vernon Trail, Virginia

Memorial Bridge 03

Moonrise, Memorial Bridge

 Three days later In Paris, city officials began dismantling the wire mesh railings of the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge that has become famous for the so-called “love locks” attached by couples as a symbol of their love for each other.  Details on the event were reported worldwide, including the New York Times.

Pont des Arts 01

Pont des Arts in 2006 (No locks anywhere)

As the images above and below show, the Pont des Arts by itself is not particularly photogenic, but its proximity to the Institut de Paris (shown below) and the Louvre on the opposite side of the Seine makes it hard to resist.  The padlock craze began in 2008 and grew slowly at first.  When the 2010 image below was taken, it and one other pedestrian bridge had 2,000 locks in place which works out to just a lock or two per day.  But a few weeks after the 2010 image was taken, Paris officials announced the fad was getting out of hand.

Pont des Arts 02

Pont des Arts (on left) and the Institut de France in 2010

Pont des Arts 03

Pont des Arts, 2014

Four years later, the love-locks were everywhere.  More than 11 bridges in Paris were bulging with thousands of padlocks, with an estimated 700,000 on the Pont des Arts alone.  During our 2014 visit, one of the panels of the Pont des Arts collapsed from the weight of the locks (about 1,500 pounds). And it was just as bad at the Pont de l’Archevêché, near Notre Dame (see below)

Pont de l'Archvechet 01Pont de l'Archvechet 02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pont de l’Archevêché in 2014

Perhaps urban hiking could benefit from a variation of the motto seen in the National Parks: “Take Only Photos, Leave Nothing Behind.”   But whatever you do……

Keep Shooting……

ABFriday Forum– Week 51

Week 51!!! 

Next week is the 1st Anniversary Edition and that will be extra special but there never will be another Week 51.

The AfterBefore Friday Forum has been adroitly managed by Stacy Fischer for 51 consecutive weeks, allowing anyone with an interest in image post-processing to participate.  Guidelines and this week’s edition are available for all to see at her Visual Venturing site.

My submission this week takes a look at one of my favorite tools in Photoshop, the Photomerge process.  If you have never tried this, it’s really easy to do.  For example, let’s stay with the theme of last week—“Road Trip”–and use a location that is a little further west:  Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Montana.  The late afternoon sun made the colorful boats stacked on the dock a natural subject and the result of the first image taken is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 51 Before

First Image, Unprocessed RAW File

But while this was a reasonably decent image, it didn’t seem to convey the great expanse of the scene that I saw.  Thinking a panorama format would do the trick, a second shot (same exposure as the first) was taken with the camera swung to the left but partially overlapping the first image.

Both images were opened in Adobe Camera RAW, but only minimal changes were needed.  So minimal, we won’t waste time on them.  Next, they both were opened in Photoshop and then the command sequence File–>Automate–>Photomerge was executed to bring up the display shown below:

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 51 Before 03

The Photomerge Dialog Box

The first step is to click on “Add Open Files,” (Red Arrow) which brings all open images into the list.  If any appear that are not supposed to be there, highlight them and click on “Remove.”  Most of the time, the “Auto” process will work just fine (Red Arrow.)  Make sure you click on “Blend Images Together.”  (Red Arrow) Then click “OK.” (Blue Arrow)   Something like the screen capture below will appear.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 51 Before 02

The process produces separate layers for each image used.  In this case we have only two (Red Arrow).  The image must first be flattened before any further work is done (Layer–>Flatten Image).  Next, a judicious crop removes the uneven edges (Yellow Arrows) and one is ready to continue with whatever additional adjustments are necessary.

Very little additional work was needed at this point.  A slight boost in contrast using a Curves Layer Adjustment (Preset: Linear; Blend Mode: Normal), then a neutral density gradient layer for the sky and mountains (Blend Mode: Soft Light), and finally, a teeny bump with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer (Saturation: +6).  The final result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 51 After

Please visit Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing Site to see all of the other submissions.  There are always many interesting ideas to be found.

 

Virginia Road Trip: Buzzard Rock and Thoroughfare Gap

Memorial Day weekend is great time to be in Washington DC—if you are a fan of motorcycles, parades, and ceremonies.  We decided to go the other direction on Sunday, heading west toward Front Royal and the George Washington National Forest.

We had heard about an “easy hike” near Front Royal, called “Buzzard Rock” that features a nice overlook of the Shenandoah Valley.  Not nearly as well-known as more popular hikes such as Old Rag, White Oak Canyon, or Dark Hollow Falls we guessed that it would not be very crowded.

Virginia 02

 Looking North from First Outlook

We arrived at the trailhead at 10:00 AM—later than advisable if you want to beat the crowds, but there were still a couple spots left in the small parking lot.  It’s a 4-mile roundtrip, with a gradual elevation gain of about 650 feet along a fairly well-marked trail.  It’s a pleasant walk up to the first overlook where one is rewarded with some nice scenery of the Valley below.  There is also a good view of a fish hatchery along Passage Creek (Image below).

Virginia 03

Fish Hatchery as seen from First Outlook

While the views at the top were nice, I would not place this trail on my top 10 list for Virginia hikes within a 2-hour drive of Washington.   But that’s OK, because the more interesting portion of the day was still ahead.

Our mission was to find the secret route to Chapman’s Mill, a massive historic stone structure that is in full view (about 100 yards away) of thousands of cars on Interstate 66.  My previous solo attempts had ended in failure, but now that I had the assistance of a skilled navigatrix and her wonder dog Smokey, I felt confident that success was finally within my grasp.

 Virginia 04The Ruins of Chapman’s Mill, (walls now stabilized and braced)

To give you a small sense of the challenge, Chapman’s Mill is located on Beverly Mill Road and once you drive past the mill on I-66 heading east, you must drive 8 more miles and then backtrack the same distance on State Road 55 to get there.

Virginia 05Partially collapsed Interior Wall (much work remains)

Chapman’s Mill was originally built in 1742 and, at 7 ½ stories, is thought to be the tallest stacked stone building in the United States.  The mill is located in Thoroughfare Gap, a narrow passage in the Bull Run Mountains.  The Gap was used by migrating buffalo and traveling American Indians long before Europeans arrived in the area.

Virginia 07

Detail of Wall, Showing Stacked Stone Technique

The gap quickly became a major route to the rich farmland of the Shenandoah Valley, was a strategic route in the French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War and its importance as a trade route was enhanced with the arrival of a rail line (still operating today) in 1852.Virginia 06

Interior View, showing Rusting Cogwheel (about 6-foot diameter)

The mill was a major food storage and distribution center for the Confederate forces until mid-1862 and was burned by the Confederates when they departed the area.  Rebuilt after the war, it continued to operate as a mill, passing through several owners until it ceased operations in 1946.

Virginia 09

Interior View Showing a Stabilizing Cross Beam

Abandoned for years, it escaped demolition in the 1960s from the planned route for I-66 through the efforts of local citizens and preservation groups.  In 1998, it was torched by an arsonist. The devastation was so extensive that the building seemed doomed to extinction.  But shortly thereafter, a non-profit group obtained the property and launched a restoration campaign.  Phases 1 and 2 (Stabilizing the walls, conducting archaeological research on the site) are completed and fudraising is underway to continue the restoration.

 Virginia 08Smokey, the Wonder Dog, Contemplates the Scene

 

The mill is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays.  Click here for more information.