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Refuge

Throughout the United States, we’re blessed with a wonderful set of places, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  We had a chance to visit several recently. These images are from the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the coast of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, not far from Hatteras.  The Refuge provides a home or a stopping point for millions of birds and other sea loving critters, each year.  We saw plenty of those folks during our visit, but I was struck by the use of the term “refuge.”  Perhaps its really a refuge for humans.

Just behind us, the damage to this fragile place wrought by Hurricane Irene was still clearly visible.  When you stepped over the dunes, however, that all seemed so far away.

Thanks to those who had the fore site to understand that our environment nurtures us on many levels.  It’s not just about biology.  FYI, you can get an App for that. The Park Service has released their “MyRefuge” app, available for free, from the App Store for those with i-devices.

Tech Note:  These were taken with the Nikon D3s and a 70 -200 mm lens.  I was dragging the shutter here, down to around 2 seconds, to get the smooth surf look. That required the use of about five stops  of neutral density filtration on the front of the lens. It was, however, a very difficult shooting situation as the sun was blinding. It was like shooting with film, in that the LCD on the back of the camera was useless.  I ended up shooting a number of these images, and praying.

Misty Manteo and a Lightroom 4 Warning

Hanging around Manteo, North Carolina, on the Outerbanks, courtesy of  Al, Donna, Chester and Maya.  Very relaxing and wonderful (thanks!) but the light has been a struggle.  The vegetation is popping here, too early as it is in many other parts of the U.S.  However, you wouldn’t have known in this morning.  The ocean of course brings with it humidity, stark contrasts between hot and cold, and fog.  It looked like it was clearing around 9, so I thought I’d try some infrared shoots, going for a different look in an area that has been photographed, a lot!  Infrared though, at its best requires sun, shadows and chlorophyll.  In the absence of those elements, things can get tough.  Nevertheless, the marsh and the sea tried to be helpful, as did a passing boat.

Design elements, shapes and leading lines are still visible.  The Causeway Bridge and the NC State boat ramp near by also helped out.

And some more relaxed ducks.

We will continue to be vigilant, for other opportunities as they arise.

Incidently, in the image above, “One of these things is not like the other” (with apologies to Sesame Street).  Can you spot it?

Tech note and tech word of warning:  Images captured with an infrared converted Nikon D200, converted to black and white in Lightroom 4, and tweaked with George De Wolfe’s PercepTool, which is a very powerful set of Photoshop actions that I highly recommend.

Now for the tech word of warning!  I am a huge fan of Lightroom, and Lightroom 4 looks great to me, so far, with one rather substantial exception.  This is technical, but I’ll try to make it brief.  Those of you who use Lightroom know that you can easily send an image into Photoshop for pixel level work, etc.  Up to this time, that image was then rendered in Photoshop quite nicely using whatever tonal changes you made in Lightroom.  In other words, where you started in Photoshop reflected exactly where you left off in Lightroom.  That is not the case using Lightroom 4 at this time. If you send your image into Photoshop CS5, you will find that the images does not look like it did in Lightroom 4.  This is a major problem and my perusal of the various Adobe internet fora suggests to me that Adobe is on the case.   However, the problem has not yet been fixed.  What to do?  When you hit control or command E to send your Lightroom 4 image into Photoshop, you will get a warning dialogue box saying that because ACR 7 is not installed, you must choose between several options before you go into Photoshop.  One of those, thankfully is, “Render using Lightroom Adjustments” or words to that effect.  That’s the right answer.  If you are like me, and blythely turned that warning dialogue box off, you can go to Lightroom preferences and look for an icon that allows you to “reset all warning dialogue boxes” or words to that effect.  It’s always something when it comes to software isn’t!  And don’t even get me started on Nikon Capture NX2 and Nikon software support.  I would not recommend that one two punch to my worst enemy.  Nikon makes great cameras, but their software is problematic and their technical support for software is poor, at best.

How Warm Is It?

Being laid up with a cold is bad for one’s photography, but does provide opportunities to think.  It’s very warm.  Almost frighteningly so, for the most part.  But how unusual is this?  Naturally I was drawn to my catalogue of images from this time last year and the results were fairly surprising.  These are from late March, and early April, 2011.  The first is from Hadwen Arboretum, March 28.  It had snowed a few weeks earlier, but the snow was gone and the ground was largely bare.

From Grafton, Massachusetts, on April 2.  Getting some fog as the humidity rises in the air and the warmer temperature nears the dew point.  The evaporation of what’s left of the snow is helping in the formation of the fog I would guess.

So it was starting to get warm last year maybe two or three weeks later than this year, but still, in spite of all the snow we had in the winter of 2010-11, the warm up was relatively speedy.  If you really want to know how things stand, here is a chart of the global temperature published by (and courtesy of ) NASA.  This is a measure of the overall temperature from around the globe, so local fluctuations, which are considerable, are largely smoothed out.  This is a measure of climate, rather than weather.  You can find the link to NASA’s press release here.

Notice anything?

Watercolor Dreams

I’m not normally drawn to extensive post processing of my images.  Frankly, too often, the results are not particularly pleasing.  It can be so tempting the put the pedal to the medal in photoshop or a range of other image manipulation software tools “because you can.”  That being said for well over a hundred years photographers have been engaging in all sorts of image manipulations on a routine basis, so I don’t view the quandry as an ethical one, unless of course you are engaged in photojournalism, product photography or scientific photography. I recently had the chance to take a course with a wonderful photographer, Deborah Sandidge, who is explicit in that her goal is to use the images she captures in the field to create art and she will use the computer in whatever way serves that end.  It was a fascinating experience for me.  I used her suggested techniques to process a number of images for her critique.  Then I just let the images go.  Didn’t publish them, didn’t even look at them.  Since the photo ops have been decidly absent the last few weeks, due to work, flu, etc. etc. I decided to revisit them, and let them see the light of day.  It’s a pretty random assortment, but we’ll see what you think. (Click for a better view.)

From the White Mountains….

You can get a sense of where I’m going with this.  The inspiration is watercolor. From Central Park….  The tool in use is a Photoshop Plugin called Topaz Simplify.

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From our own Elm Park…

I was reading an interesting comment today from the print master George DeWolfe, in his work, Black and White Printing, also a book I would highly recommend.  He makes the point that the image captured by the camera is actually two dimensional, and as such, doesn’t reflect reality.  Our mind processes what we see, which is two dimensional, and changes what we see into a three dimensional experience.  Post processing in digital imagery takes that two dimensional image in hand, with the goal of making it both three dimensional, and emotional as well.  It seems to me the only real limit has to do with how we define our comfort zones in photography.  It is always interesting to me to think about how much many of us cherish the stark reality of a good old black and white print.  But, wait a second.  There is nothing realistic at all about a black and white print.  The world is in color.  A black and white print is inherently a massive abstraction.  Perhaps it comes down to personal preference.