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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Artillery Group at Twilight (November 2014)

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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.

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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.

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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…..