Close to Home


Since I’m on the road today, this post combines the monthly One Friday Focus, sponsored by Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing Blog and a short piece inspired by a conversation last week with a fellow photographer.  Meanwhile, I’m off on another short trip this weekend, hopefully to capture a few images of the Milky Way over the Atlantic Ocean.  So once again, this post will serve double duty.

Last week Kim, a fellow photographer in the Great Falls Studios organization, described her specialty as photographing wildlife in her backyard.  Later, while reflecting on what she had been saying, I realized that I had been doing only a little of this over the years.  Other than a major effort on a pair of nesting bluebirds, I have not really concentrated on seeking subject matter just outside my windows.  Her stories made me think that perhaps I should look harder.  But for now, I decided to search through my files for some images that I already had taken to see what did happen to catch my eye.  The one rule: they had to have been taken from a spot within 100 feet of my house.   So, for what it is worth, here they are:

Kent June 2016 Solar Halo

Solar Halo

(Technical: Nikon D200 with 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 18mm handheld; 1/1,000th sec. @ f/16, ISO 200)

Kent June 2016 Snow

Snow on Tree

(Technical: Nikon D200 with 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 120mm handheld; 1/160th sec. @ f/6.3, ISO 200)

Kent June 2016 Magnolia


(Technical: Nikon D800E with 60mm f/2.8 Micro lens on tripod; 1/100th sec. @ f/8, ISO 400)

Heron D-16-05-21-5862

Blue Heron Taking Flight

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 70mm on tripod; 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 3200)

Kent June 2016 Butterfly

Tiger Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower

(Technical:  Nikon D800E with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 70mm handheld; 1/1250th sec. @ f/6.3, ISO 800)

Bluebird D-16-05-02-9754

Female Bluebird Bringing Dinner

(Technical: Nikon D800E with 50mm f/1.8 lens; 1/2000th sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 800)

This image was taken last month but is the same birdhouse used in my post a year ago.  I was planning a new approach this year.  Readers may recall that previously I had used a 200mm focal length lens on a camera inside the house and an off camera flash about six feet from the nest.  The flash was triggered by a wireless remote system (Pocket Wizard) but a single flash only provided a small amount of fill light.  This year, I planned to use Nikon’s wireless remote that would trip the camera’s shutter and place the camera about 10 feet from the nest.  I would be able to fire the shutter in continuous mode (not feasible with flash) while remaining inside the house. Unfortunately, I had only one day of shooting thanks to a sustained period of rainy weather.  But should the birds return next year, I may have better luck.

One Friday Focus

This month’s image was another interesting challenge, many thanks to David Croker for providing it.  As a reminder, the 1PF Challenge is sponsored by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing and anyone can participate.  Details can be found at  Visual Venturing .

David’s original RAW image is shown below.  It offers a variety of possibilities and started as usual  by going through some standard steps of image prep (setting B&W points, highlights, shadows, etc. in Adobe Camera Raw).  Following this,  I opened the file in Photoshop and tried several approaches such as a straight black and white print which looked very nice, but I finally decided to go on a more radical direction.

2016 06 1PF Original

This usually means a foray into the Filter Gallery, which is fast becoming my “go-to” place for this monthly event.  Needless to say, I do not possess a single plug-in app so my choices are somewhat restricted, comparatively speaking.

But I digress.  The tool I picked is the so-called Glowing Edges under the “Stylize” Tab.  Although I have used this one before, it behaves quite unpredictably (at least for me) so the results can be quite different in each case.  There are three adjustment sliders to control the effects and the final settings were: Edge Width: 2;  Edge Brightness: 17; and Smoothness: 8.  It was starting to look pretty decent, but the lovely blue sky in the upper portion was now a black void and desperately needed help.  Rather than just crop it out, I used the clone tool to copy sections of the lower clouds.  This, of course, created a new problem–the newly created clouds were not reflected in the water below.

The solution was to select the upper clouds, then copy them into a new layer.  I then used the Edit–>Transform–>Flip Vertical function to flip the layer and then I dragged it down to the bottom of the image.  An actual reflection should be softer and not as bright as the original object so I used the gaussian blur tool and a decrease in the opacity of the layer to create a look that matched the reflections that were already there.  The final image is shown below.

Robin Kent 2016 06 1PF Final Final

Thanks again to David for providing this month’s image and thanks also to Stacy for keeping this herd of cats heading in a generally productive direction.  Be sure and check out the other contributions at June One Photo Focus.  One again, there will be an amazing variety of interpretations.  In the meantime,


Keep Shooting….

New York City

First Friday!  One Photo Focus and More!

This year is really speeding by; I can’t believe it’s already May.  I’ve just returned from a short trip to New York City and it’s also time for Stacy Fischer’s monthly OnePhoto Focus Event, so this post will be serving double duty.

In the case of NYC, I managed to squeeze in brief visits to three of the city parks in between some other business.

NYC D-16-04-30-5620_22- RAW Pano

The Pond, Central Park, Early Morning

NYC D-16-04-30-5666_68-RAW Pano

William Seward Monument, Madison Square Park, Early Afternoon

William Seward, a New York native, was Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln, but is probably best known for his role in the purchase of Alaska, originally described by his critics as “Seward’s Folly.”

NYC D-16-04-30-5766_74Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain, Bryant Park at Twilight

Josephine Shaw Lowell lived most of her life in New York City where she founded a number of progressive reform organizations during the 19th century including the still operating National Consumers League. Her husband, a Union soldier, was killed one year after their marriage and one month before the birth of her daughter. She never remarried. The fountain, installed 8 years after her death, is said to be New York City’s first major memorial dedicated to a woman.

NYC D-16-04-30-5784_901 RAW Pano

Bryant Park at Night

Bryant Park, located between 5th- 6th Avenues and 40th-42nd Streets, has had an interesting historyover the past 240 years. Retreating American rebel forces under Geaorge Washington passed through this area in 1776 as they fled the British in the Battle of Long Island. In the mid-1800s, it was the site of a massive resevoir, part of a city water distribution system considered one of the great engineering feats of the 19th century. Shortly afterwards, the city’s first major tourist event, the Crystal Palace Exhibition was inagurated next to the resevoir and attracted over 1 million visitors. During the Civil War it was an encampment for Union troops.  A few decades later, the space took on its current name to honor William Cullen Bryant, who was the longtime editor of the New York Evening Post, a civic reformer, and romantic poet.  A major redesign in the 1930s created the space as we see it today.  A detailed history on the park can be found here.

OnePhoto Focus


This month’s image was a lot of fun to work with, many thanks to Julie Powell for providing it.  As a reminder, the 1PF Challenge is sponsored by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing and anyone can participate.  Details can be found at  Visual Venturing .

As usual, I first opened the RAW file in Adobe Camera Raw and followed a standard workflow (Setting black and white points, etc.) before opening the file in Photoshop.  The starting point is shown in the image below.

Robin Kent January One Photo Focus Original

Original Image, after Adobe Camera Raw Adjustments

At this point, I thought a late night sci-fi interpretation might be interesting, so I experimented with the Filter Gallery for a few minutes and settled on the following steps:

A duplicate image of the Background Layer was created and I then applied the “Glowing Edges” filter to the Background copy layer (Filter–>Filter Gallery–>Stylize–>Glowing Edges).  The settings were Edge Width=2; Edge Brightness=17; Smoothness=8.  The layer’s opacity was reduced to 61% to allow a certain amount of the original scene to soften the dramatic effect of the filter tool.   I then created yet another copy of the Background Layer and then applied the Trace Contour effect (Filter–>Stylize–>Trace Contour).  The Level was set at 89 and the Edge was set at “Upper.”  The opacity of this layer was set at 13% to give the filter just a slight effect on the image.  The final image is shown below.

Robin Kent 2016 05 One Photo Focus Final

Final Image

Thanks again to Julie Powel for supplying us this image and thanks again to Stacy for managing this monthly event.  It is always great to see what others have done with the same image, so check them out at OnePhoto Focus May 2016.  In the meantime,

Keep Shooting…..

Cherry Blossoms at Peak


The cherry trees were entering the peak phase today and the tidal basin was lined with photographers at sunrise.  Last night, however, there was a full moon and only three of us (photo colleagues Joan and Cynthia) were shooting in this new location.


Full Moon, View from Virginia Shoreline

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 165mm; exposure: 2.5 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 400; taken about 35 minutes after sunset)

While the moon was rising the cherry trees were hard at work, getting ready for this morning.  Both of the images below were taken before sunrise this morning.


Dawn, Tidal Basin

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 24mm; exposure: 5 sec. at f/16, ISO 800; On-camera flash at reduced power to provide slight fill on blossoms, taken about 35 minutes before sunrise)


Dawn, Jefferson Memorial

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 48mm; exposure: 0.5 sec. at f/16, ISO 800; On-camera flash at normal power to provide fill on blossoms, taken about 25 minutes before sunrise)

I suspect none of the photographers there were thrilled to see all those cranes to the left of the Jefferson Memorial.  They are in the early phases of a major development along the waterfront on Maine Avenue.  I suspect most of us will be using Photoshop to “disappear” them.

The blossoms will be with us for a few more days, weather permitting.

Keep Shooting….

It’s Later Than You Think

Spring is arriving early in Washington, DC this year and time is running out for those wanting to partake of the annual visual treats that emerge after winter every year.  The cherry blossoms still have a ways to go, but there is much to be seen already.  A good place to start is the Smithsonian Institution’s Enid Haupt Garden on Independence Avenue.  I visited it late yesterday afternoon and found the magnolia trees in perfect condition.

Smithsonian 01

Moongate Garden and Smithsonian Castle

(Nikon D810 on tripod, with 24-70mm f.2.8 lens extended to 26mm; exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/16, ISO 400; two vertical images photomerged)

When I moved to the opposite side of the Moongate pool, another opportunity presented itself.

Smithsonian 02

Magnolia Tree and West Wing, Smithsonian Castle

(Nikon D810 on tripod, with 24-70mm f.2.8 lens extended to 50mm; exposure: 1/30th sec. @ f/16, ISO 400; approximately 45 minutes before sunset)

The above image is a view toward the north.  But there was more.  The setting sun occasionally found an opening in the clouds and provided a few brief illuminations of the Arts and Industries Building to the east as shown in the image below.

Smithsonian 04

Magnolia Trees, Enid Haupt Garden

(Nikon D810 on tripod, with 24-70mm f.2.8 lens extended to 66mm; exposure: 1/13th sec. @ f/16, ISO 400; approximately 40 minutes before sunset)

Update:  A check on the cherry blossoms early this morning (March 11) showed that it will be at least a few days before they are ready for their moment to shine.

Summer Pursuits

If you are a photographer based near the city of Washington,  July provides many photo ops beyond the well-known fireworks extravaganza that happens on the 4th.

For example, there is the fairly well-known field of sunflowers in Maryland’s McKee-Besher’s Wildlife Management Area (Maryland DNR website).  Since the weather forecast for the fireworks was iffy, I decided to zip over to that field on the 4th to see if they had been planted this year and, if so, how long it would be before they were ready to be photographed.  It was a good thing I did.

Sunflowers 03

Approaching Storm, Sunflowers (July 4, 2014)

The plants were so vigorous this year that one needed a ladder in some spots just to get a clear view of the entire field.  I had neglected to take a ladder on the scouting trip so I returned with one the next day for another go.

Sunflowers 01

Morning Fog, Sunflowers (July 5, 2015)

Sunflowers 02

Soft Light, Sunflowers (July 5, 2015)

The morning light with the fog provided a completely different mood than the previous afternoon.  While a ladder is helpful, to get higher one needs a camera-equipped drone or, in my case, a friend with such a device.

Drone 01

Drone, Awaiting Orders

This was purely an experiment and requires a skill set I do not possess, one completely different from still photography.  The owner was in charge of where it went and what it did.

View from above

The image above is a still photograph taken by the drone’s camera.  One can get an idea of its potential, however, by checking out this link to an unedited clip of one of the flights.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Washington, DC, the lotus blossoms were at peak in Kenilworth Gardens, according to a fellow photographer who was there on July 3rd.  Here is an image from a previous visit.

Lotus 01

Lotus, Kenilworth Gardens, Washington, DC

But Kenilworth will have to wait until next year, a kayak race over Great Falls was scheduled for July 11, and I wanted to check out the practice runs on the two days before the actual event.   The advantage of the practice runs is that the race day crowds are absent.  The downside is that you don’t know exactly when the boats will be coming down.

Kayak 01

Navigating the Fish Ladder, Great Falls National Park, Maryland

The Fish Ladder is a tricky course as can be seen from a 35-second video taken shortly after this run.  Listen for the thuimp when the lead boat collides with the wall.  The race course was on the Maryland side this year because the water level was too high for the classic run through the center line, known as the Fingers, shown below.

Kayak 02

Navigating the Fingers, Great Falls of the Potomac (July 2014)

Whether running the Fish Ladder or the Center Lines, this event is an extremely dangerous undertaking.  A competitor died in 2013 during a practice run over the falls.  The event organizers go to great lengths to ensure the safety of the kayakers, but the power of the river is impossible to tame completely.