Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fireworks! Ohhhh! Ahhhhh!

It's been so long since I've posted here it seems like one of the last posts I did was of my pictures from last Fourth of July. Actually, that's pretty close to the truth. Also, there's a strange new interface. Not sure I like it.

Anyway, forgive me?

A lot of you may have seen these elsewhere, but for those who haven't, I present them for your approval. This picture was shot at my standard fireworks setting: ISO 100 at f/8 for 1.6 seconds. Over the years I've come to rely on this setting since it generally produces some pretty good pictures.  

That's not to say I'm afraid to try new things. Since the show was about 20 minutes long, I reset my camera to test the "burst" method I'd read about earlier this week. Using the burst technique, the camera is set to ISO 200 at f/11, but the exposure is set to bulb. In this case, the exposure is about 5 seconds and multiple bursts are captured. 

I kinda like it. 

The rest of these are back to the standard ISO 100, f/8 with slightly varying shutter speeds. I didn't want to rely completely on a new technique.

This final shot was a bit of luck combine with my keeping my head up as I was riding my bike home. I caught a glimpse of the almost full buck moon rising through the pines along the Potomac and had to stop. Even luckier, they were still shooting fireworks over in PG county. All the streaks of light you see at the bottom of the frame are boats heading down the Potomac after the fireworks. It was just like the Queen's flotilla. OK, maybe not.
If you'd like to see more of my fireworks pictures, head over to my Flickr page linked over there on the right side of this page. Hope everyone had a good Fourth, and I promise to try to post more. Yep, I know, famous last words. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Discovery in the skies over D.C.

I headed up to the Mall Tuesday morning to see a sight never to be seen again ... Well, at least until they fly Enterprise out of Dulles to NYC. Anyway, as anyone who reads this knows, I'm a space buff and the chance to see the space shuttle Discovery flown over the National Mall was enough to convince me to take the day off.

It was totally worth it. Seeing Discovery on the back of its 747 carrier aircraft was an amazing sight. I never got to see a shuttle launch, so I'm glad I saw Discovery on its way to an honorable retirement at the Air & Space Museum out at Dulles.

When I got to the Mall around 8:45, it was pretty deserted. That didn't last long. Within 45 minutes there was a festival-like atmosphere going on, and a cheer went up as Discovery made its promenade down the Mall.

After flying past the Smithsonian Castle, Discovery headed down toward the Capitol. I really like this picture because it reminds me of the opening of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In the movie (the original, not Keanu's remake), Klaatu takes his saucer right over the dome of the Capitol before landing on The Ellipse.

Without a doubt, these guys had one of the best views of Discovery. Always wanted to run a crane ... Oh well.

The sky, blue with puffy white clouds, was a perfect backdrop for Discovery's flybys.

This is probably one of the best pictures I got Tuesday. You can even see the T-38 chase plane just below and behind Discovery.

As we bid goodbye to Discovery and her sisters Atlantis and Endeavour, I think it's important for us to remember all they've done and, especially, what the future holds. I've heard comments about how shameful it is that America now lacks the ability to put humans into space. True, at the moment we can't. But, for the six years between July 1975 and April 1981, from the launch of the Apollo-Soyuz to Columbia's first flight, we were also unable to "slip the surly bonds of earth."

I look forward to the day, hopefully soon, when America will send its astronauts into space, either in NASA's Space Launch System or SpaceX's Dragon capsule atop a Falcon rocket. Until then, I'll be heading out to the Udvar-Hazy Center to pay my respects to Discovery.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Before they're gone...

I cut it kind of close this year, but I did get out for the annual Cherry Blossom Photo Shoot. It was an iffy proposition, what with the blossoms all showing up two weeks early and disappearing a week before the start of the actual Cherry Blossom Festival. There's going to be a lot of disappointed people visiting this weekend and next.

Even though the blossoms are gone for 2012, they will live on here (and on my Flickr page, link to the right).

The goal for this year was influenced by a call from my dad asking for landscapes of the Jefferson and Lincoln and a portrait of the Washington that he could frame together. Told him I'd do my best, although it was going to be tough getting Lincoln in the same frame as the cherry blossoms since, to the best of my knowledge, there really aren't any nearby. I did get some good ones of Washington and Jefferson, so I'll be sending those off to him.

One thing I did decide to do was concentrate on depth of field. Rule of thumb: Smaller apertures - the ones with higher numbers (yeah, I know) - give you greater depth of field, i.e., f/32 is deeper than f/14 which is deeper than f/2.8. But shooting small apertures at 1/30 or 1/20 of a second with out at least a monopod (which I left at home) can be tricky, to say the least. So, through a combination of adjusting aperture, shutter speed and "film" speed, I kinda pulled it off. For instance...
This shot of the Jefferson Memorial was shot at 1/180 at f/10 with a 400 ISO. The higher ISO - what we used to call film speed - gave me the ability to shoot faster at a medium aperture giving a middling depth of field.

This picture of our beloved, but cracked, Washington Monument, on the other hand, has a greater depth of field (both the blossoms and the monument are in focus). It has the same aperture (f/10), but a slower ISO (200) meant I had to slow down the shutter speed to 1/60 of a second. Basically, I gained three stops from the previous picture.

I could go into all the technical details of this picture (400 for 1/125 of a second at f/10), and how they did what and why, but I won't except to say the slightly slower shutter speed put the monument into slightly sharper focus than the first picture. It's one of my favorites. So I'll leave it at that and just enjoy looking at it.

And, finally, DCist liked this shot enough it chose it for a story earlier this week, The Great Cherry Blossom Massacre of 2012. I think the title speaks for itself.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Moonrise Over Del Ray

Been a while, hasn't it? I skipped an entire month of posting and, really, I do feel bad about that.

So, to try to make up for that, how about a couple of pictures of a bad moon rising over Del Ray last night? I first tried shooting these with my phone (I'm more and more impressed with that camera every day) but, sadly, it lacked the necessary flexibility to capture the moon. To fix that I darted inside, grabbed the real camera and started clicking away.

And this is what I got:

The power lines kinda got in the way, but what can you do about that? Nothing, that's what. These were all shot at about 1/30 of a second at f/10 or so. I was trying to balance going for a greater depth of field without having to run and get my tripod.

I am not unpleased with the results.
I got lucky on these next two as I was able to get the plane (just below the moon) while it was climbing out of National.

Well, that's all...for now. With the campaigns now in full swing in their fight for the hearts and minds (and fears, prejudices, hatred, stupidity, misogyny and intolerance) of America, I'm sure there'll be plenty to write about in 2012.