Northwest Passage (7)

Prince Regent Inlet, one of the several choices now available for transiting the Northwest Passage, is packed with historical locations some of which date back almost two millenia.   It is also brimming with potential for wildlife sightings.  However, we were also experiencing some heavy weather with strong winds and choppy seas, so the plans for a landing at Fury Beach to observe the 191st anniversary of the scuttling of the HMS Fury had to be—well, scuttled.  (Those interested in further details about the Fury and Edward Parry’s search for the Northwest Passage can find more here.)

 

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Polar Bear, Unimpressed by our Little Armada

But Plan B turned out pretty well.  A sheltered bay was located that included a polar bear walking along the beach.  Zodiacs were launched and the bear cooperated by staying put, relatively close to the shore.  It was working on a carcass of an unidentified animal and as long as we didn’t get too close, it seemed uninterested in us.

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(Tight Crop, Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 and 1.7x tele-extender, handheld, 1/200th sec. @ f/4.8, ISO 800)

That evening, our ship hosted the crew of the s/v Vagabond, a 47-foot sailboat especially fitted for overwintering in the Arctic.

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S/V Vagabond

We had passed them a few days earlier and our captain arranged for them to come aboard for a presentation on their research work and what life is like living on a small boat in the Arctic winters.  It was an unusual crew, Eric Brossier, his wife France, and their two charming daughters aged 6 and 8 years old.  Their main activity is data gathering for a variety of research institutions on a wide range of topics.  They also derive income from providing logistical support for filmmakers, photographers, and others.  More on the Brossier family can be found here.

Later that day, another Zodiac run took us to Fort Ross, the site of an abandoned outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

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This outpost was built in 1937, abandoned 11 years later

The organization has a long history in North America, dating back to 1670.  The original land grant was equivalent to 40% of the total land area of modern Canada.  Known first as the dominant fur trader in North America, it is now a major international retailer, owning such subsidiaries as Saks Fifth Avenue.  More about the company’s history can be found here.

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HDR image of interior of living area

Approaching the southern tip of Somerset Island the next day, another Zodiac excursion took us into Hazard Inlet.

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Overlooking Hazard Inlet

 Here we had our first chance to walk on tundra, something akin to stumbling across an enormous sponge with hidden crevices and random sogginess.  Over a thousand years ago, small populations of both the Dorset and subsequently the Thule cultures lived here long ago.  The Dorset people arrived in the Arctic as early as 500 BC and were displaced by the Thule (arriving between 900-1100 AD).  The Thule are the ancestors of the modern Inuit inhabitants of the Arctic.  Scattered archaeological remains of the settlements could still be seen, including gravesites with skeletal remains forced to the surface by cycles of freezing and thawing over the eons.  We were starting to notice a theme of the difficulties humans have had surviving in this harsh environment.

The tundra seems hospitable to the small flowering plants scattered about.  They were already fading in anticipation of the approaching winter, but aging boulders were festooned with colorful displays of lichen.

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Lichen on Boulder

 

Next up:  Bellot Strait, named after a charismatic French explorer who searched in vain for the lost Franklin Expedition

 

 

Graffiti–Is it Art?

 

Waiting for a plane in Paris….

My journey to the Northwest Passage had a few preliminary steps required to actually reach the vessel on which we would make this expedition.  Step 1 was to fly to Paris where we would connect with the charter flight that would take us to Kangerlussuak, Greenland, where our ship would be docked.  This charter would be the sole opportunity to get there. To ensure we did not miss the connection, we scheduled our flight from Washington to arrive in Paris 3 days before the charter’s departure date.

Luckily, the first step was uneventful and so we had some extra time to explore one of our favorite cities.  Friends who are spending a month here this summer invited us to join them on a tour of street art in the 13th Arrondissement.  Perfect!  We knew next to nothing about street art and even less about the 13th Arrondissement.

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Our guide (center), the i-Tele camera man (left) and members of our group

For map buffs, our starting point was 29 Rue de la Butte aux Cailles.  After a pleasant lunch at Chez Nenesse (we had a lengthy chat with Clement Boyer, who bought the place about a year ago), we joined our guide Jean Christoph who was being interviewed by French television (i-Tele).  Apparently our group would be followed for a feature show on less well known tourist attractions.

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The above image has been spared by municipal cleaners who have been instructed by local authorities to paint around certain works.  But other graffiti-ists have left “tags,” one obnoxiously (the X-mark on the subject’s face) and one as a humorous response (the smiley face to the right.

First, we learned some terminology (apologies to Jean and others who know what they are talking about—I did not take notes).  Tagging, graffiti, and street art are different components of painting things on public spaces which is almost always illegal.  Tagging can be defined as a basic form of graffiti where the writer would sign his name or signature with the usage of spray paint.  While tagging is more of a representation of self, graffiti or street art is a painting or other medium that can be seen as an artistic expression (or at least an attempt at such), a graphic design, or socio-political commentary.

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The stenciled text is an example of graffiti as political commentary, this one in reaction to the recent terrorist events in France.

Since its origins in the 1980s and earlier, street art has become increasingly accepted in many places, especially in locations such as the 13th arrondissement of Paris. A number of street artists have become internationally known, such as American Shepard Fairey who is best known for his iconic “Hope” graphic image of Barrack Obama.  His story is summarized by Wikipedia.

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Commissioned works by two Street Artists (Shepard Fairey  with “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” at upper right and C 215 with the painting of the cat)

A French artist known as “invader” does not reveal his true name and who works with tile and grout rather than spray paint favored by the vast majority of street artists.  More about him can be found here.    His name is derived from the Atari video game “Space Invader” and his tile “invaders” can be found all over Europe and in a number of other countries. A map is on his websitehttp://www.space-invaders.com/home/

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There is much more, but I have a plane to catch.  This may be my last post for a month, but who knows?  In the meantime…..

Keep Shooting…..

 

 

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.

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

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Channel 7 was on the scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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Everyone wanted to know what was underneath these hatches.

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Some more than others.

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 Some of the crew performed maintenance duty….

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and others charmed their guests by posing for pictures….

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and others kept alert for evil doers…

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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….

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.

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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.

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 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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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)

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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……

Happy Birthday, Eiffel Tower

Today marks the 126th anniversary of the opening of the Eiffel Tower.  What better way to note the occasion than to post one of my first images of it?

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Eiffel Tower at Night (May 13, 2006)

The tower was the main exhibit at the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair), held to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution.  The arched bridge in the foreground is the Passarelle Debilly, a footbridge constructed for the same Exposition. Both were intended to be temporary structures, but fortunately both escaped that fate. The bridge, however, was moved from its original location not far away to where it stands today.

To see a few more pictures of Paris check my website here.

ABFriday Forum Week 24

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 24 Dual Lead Image        After Post-Processing  Image                                   Original Before Image

This week’s After-Before Friday episode features a trip back in time and a shameless promotional message.  First up, the time travel segment which takes us back to the early days (at least for me) of digital photography.  It was way back in 2004 when, unlike Odysseus, I finally heeded the Sirens’ song of photography’s future and purchased a Nikon D70.

Let’s just say that immediate satisfaction was not my experience with this new medium.  Back then, I thought RAW meant something uncooked.  Fast Forward to the present and the challenge for this week:  pick an early specimen from my 2004 pathetic efforts and give it the 2014 Photoshop CC treatment.

The subject is probably familiar to many—the iconic Mont Saint-Michel on the Normandy coast of France. The image was taken about 2 months after the D70 was purchased.  Considered a reject at the time, the image had languished untouched on my hard drive until now.  A larger version of the original JPEG is shown below.  (Technical: Nikon D70, handheld, with a Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 lens extended to 50mm; exposure: 1400th sec @ f/10, ISO 200)

Robin Kent ABFriday Before Week 24

Original JPEG (sRGB) Image

Being a JPEG, the normal route for a RAW image was not available.  However, Photoshop CC has a Camera Raw Filter that provides the same tools. The screen capture below shows the adjustments made using this “filter.”  The adjustments are marked with red arrows.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 24 Before Camera RAW

Adjustments in the Basic Settings Tab

The image still seemed flat, so I deployed the Gradient Filter, (see  magenta arrow). First, I dragged the cursor downward from the top (yellow arrow) to darken the sky. Next I dragged the cursor upward from the bottom (green arrow) for a second filter to darken the water.  The settings for both gradients are displayed on the right side (red arrows).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 24 Before Gradient

Camera RAW Gradient Filter

 Finally, it seemed that a vignette would help focus the viewer’s attention on the central subject.  A comment on a previous ABFriday post had pointed out that Camera Raw has a vignette capability (I believe it was Emilio, correct me if I’m wrong) and so I thought I would give it a try.  While I still think I have more flexibility with shape and position using other tools in Photoshop itself, I have to admit this is pretty quick and easy.  I may have overdone it here, but a little practice will probably help.  The screen capture below shows the settings for the vignette tool which is located on the f/x tab (red arrow at top right).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 24 Vignette

Camera Raw Vignette

That was it, and I believe the final image below t is an improvement over the original.  Comments and suggestions are most welcome. Thanks again to Stacy and the other contributors to the Forum.  Please check out the other submissions at this week’s ABFriday Forum Week 24

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 24 After Ver 2

Final Image

And now for the promised promotional segment.  If you haven’t already heard, the After-Before Friday Forum is in the midst of a hotly contested “election.”  Readers can vote for one of eleven “Before” images displayed at Stacy Ficher’s VisualVenturing blog.  The image with the most votes will be post-processed by 11 photographers who submitted those images.  The winning image will be announced on November 7th.  Then the 11 participants will all work feverishly on the same image and the 11 “After” results will be posted on November 14. Preliminary voting results “leaked” by the commissioner of the election indicate an extremely tight race among 3-4 of the candidates, but only she knows their identities.  So get over there and vote if you haven’t done so already.  The polls close at midnight EST on November 4th.

After-Before Friday Forum Week 22

Robin Kent Before Week 22 Giverny

Original Raw Image

Stacy Fischer’s blog VisualVenturing hosts the weekly After-Before Friday Forum that provides a unique opportunity for photographers to exchange ideas about post-processing their images.  There is always something new to learn from this exchange. This week’s Forum will be up later this morning and can be found here.

My submission for this week’s Forum was taken a few years ago in Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France.  It was a cloudy day which can be really helpful for photographing flowers. But, as usual, the gardens were crowded with visitors so the best strategy was to search for individual blooms.  This little fellow was seemingly calling out for a portrait so I gave it a try.  The “Before” image above is the original RAW file with no adjustments.

A quick inspection indicates that, unless some special effects are being considered, the image does not seem to require any heroic measures.  The standard workflow began with the Adobe Camera Raw dialog window.     It seemed that the image needed to be a little darker overall to capture the mood of the cloudy day and also could use some added contrast.  The contrast slider by itself was too harsh, so after experimenting with a combination of the Whites, Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, and Contrast controls the most appealing combination resulted in the settings shown in the screen capture below.

Robin Kent Before 02A Week 22 Giverny

Adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw

 The changes were as follows:  Exposure decreased to – 0.40;  Contrast increased to +35;  Highlights decreased to -28;  Shadows decreased to -3;  Whites decreased to -15;          Blacks increased to +11;  Clarity increased to +24;  Vibrance increased to +27.  The resulting image is shown below.

 Robin Kent Before 02 Week 22 GivernyImage After Adobe Raw Adjustments

The image was then opened in Photoshop.  The only step remaining was to create a vignette to help bring the viewer’s attention to the central subject and give the image a little more depth (3-D effect?) to separate the subject from the background.  There are many ways to create a vignette and these were the steps I followed (see image below).

Robin Kent Before 03 Week 22 Giverny

I used the Elliptical Marquee tool to select an oval shape around the central flower, making sure the “Feather” was set for a high number (usually above 50 pixels).  But since the area to be darkened is everything outside the oval selection, the next step was to click on SelectàInverse.  (See yellow arrow) I next opened a Curves Adjustment Layer, set the Blend Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 50%, and changed the layer name to “Vignette.”  (See red arrows).  The curves histogram was not changed from the default setting.  Depending on the effect you are looking for, there is a lot of flexibility by using the controls for feather in the selection and the amount of opacity in the layer.

The final result is shown in the image below.  As you can see, the difference with the vignette is quite subtle.  Thoughts from readers would be welcome.

Robin Kent After Week 22 Giverny

Final Image with Vignette Added

Once again thanks to Stacy Fisher for keeping the Forum on track.  The other submissions can be found at her Visual Venturing post here.  Please check them out.  And don’t miss this Forum next week; there will be a “twist” to the proceedings.   Stacy has sworn us all to secrecy, but it should be fun.