Moonrise over Washington, DC

When you are trying for the classic moonrise over the city of Washington, DC, everything has to go perfectly.  Several of us made the effort on October 26th, knowing the weather would be bad on the following night, the night of the full moon.

We also knew before we arrived that conditions would not be perfect because the moon was coming up 15 minutes before sunset and it likely would be too high in the sky by the time the twilight blue was at its peak and the illumination of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and US Capitol were in balance with the ambient light still in the sky.  We also knew that the clouds could pose problems.

But, when we arrived, there was an additional problem.  The Marine Corps Marathon had been held on the previous day and our chosen location (near the Marine Corps Memorial) was also the location of the finish line for the race.  A massive disassembly effort was underway.

Moonrise 01

Unexpected Obstructions, 20 Minutes before Moonrise

Moonrise 02Another Surprise

Moonrise 03A

Passing Truck, 4 Minutes after Moonrise (not visible yet)

But, aside from the occasional passing vehicle, there was nothing that was directly obstructing the view.   By 6:15, the official time for the sunset, the moon was already pretty high and it was still too bright to see the illumination on any of the buildings below us.

Moonrise 04

Clouds obscuring the moon at Sunset (6:15 PM)

At 6:30, the twilight was a nice blue color, the clouds had abated, but the moon was too high.

Moonrise 05

Ideal Twilight, 15 Minutes after Sunset (6:30 PM)

So the only solution was to back off the focal length, and take the full scene and then do some post processing cheating.  The image above was taken with the telephoto zoom extended to 200 mm and the moon in its actuual location at the time.  The image below, taken a few seconds later with a 145 mm focal length, shows the moon in a decent location.  But it was just “moved” down during the postproceesing from where it was at the time the image was taken.  Not a bad result, but not something I will post on my website or offer for sale.

Oct 26 Moon

“Manufactured” Moonrise over Washington

Lessons Learned:

  1. If one wants to capture an image of the moon rising over the “Big Three” (Lincoln, Washington, and US Capitol), the specific location is right in front of the Netherlands Carillon a short distance south of the Iwo Jima Memorial.
  2. Using the well-known app “The Photographer’s Ephemeris,” the moon should be rising at an Azimuth reading of about 85 degrees.
  3. For ideal twilight conditions along with the lighting of the “Big Three,” the moonrise time should be about 15 minutes after sunset.

Keep Shooting….

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.

Journey to Antarctica – Part 4

First, a quick update on the Herndon ArtSpace Fine Art Photography Competition.  I was quite pleased on Saturday evening to receive a 3rd Place Award for my “Clearing Storm, Yosemite Valley” image (see my previous post here).  Maybe I should do this more often…or should I quit while I’m ahead?   Anyway, back to the saga of the White Continent……….

Antartica Map 03 Version 2

It seems that every Antarctica trip veteran we met before our departure had a different story about the weather.  Although we’ve been there only once, it’s pretty easy to see why.  Even when conditions are not extreme (i.e., enormous waves, huge storms), the weather is still volatile and often localized. This combination can make things very interesting. The following sequence of images on our passage through the Lemaire Channel is just one example.

Antarctica 19

Lemaire Channel, Looking South at Sunrise

Antarctica 20

Lemaire Channel, Looking East  (One Minute Later)

Antarctica 21Lemaire Channel (25 Minutes Later)

Lemaire Channel is about 7 miles long and a mile wide at its narrowest point. Because of the closeness of the sheltering mountains, it can be as smooth as a lake.  Icebergs, however, can block the passage especially earlier in the season.   Our destination was Petermann Island, home to another colony of Gentoo penguins and no iceberg congestion interfered (two images below).

Antarctica 22

Gentoo Penguin Surveys His/Her Domain

Antarctica 23

Gentoo Penguins on Petermann Island

Petermann Island was the southernmost point of our expedition, even though we would not have complained had the captain decided to break ranks and continue on. But such was not the case and that evening we retraced our route through the Lemaire Channel. On the positive side, we were treated not only to some very nice evening light by the setting sun but also the spectacle of a rising full moon (images below)

Antarctica 24

Sunset, Antarctica

Antarctica 25Alpen Glow, Antarctica

Antarctica 26

Moonrise, Antarctica

Next—Paradise Bay and Beyond

Holiday Season in Washington, DC-Part 3

Holiday Decorations abound throughout the city of Washington and it is impossible to photograph them all.  But one local blogger, the DC Bike Blogger, who gets around amazingly well, has cataloged a number of those that can be seen this year.  You can find his list here.

I have a few examples of Christmas decorations in this post, but all were taken in the past because I still have a few gifts to purchase today.

XMAS Washington National Airport 2007

Christmas Tree, Reagan National Airport, 2007

XMAS Canadian Embassy Xmas Tree 2010

Christmas Tree, Canadian Embassy, 2010

Union Station D-13-12-26-4981_83

Christmas Wreaths, Union Station, 2013

After-Before Friday Forum Week 20

Robin Kent After 02 Week 20

The Kennedy Center “After” Image

I am happy to once again submit an image to the After-Before Friday Forum sponsored by Stacy Fischer of Visual Ventures.  The Forum allows photographers an opportunity to compare examples of how they process their images to accomplish their creative vision .  Sometimes the changes are substantial; other times they can be minimal.   My submission for this week’s Forum is somewhere in between.  The fountain is in the Georgetown section of Washington DC but the Kennedy Center in the distance is the subject of the photograph.   The image below, the “Before” image is the original RAW file before any adjustments have been made. (Technical data: Nikon D700 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 70mm; exposure: 2.0 secs @ f/13, ISO 200)

Robin Kent Before 20

Original RAW Image Before Adjustments

 A number of issues are apparent when comparing the RAW image to the scene as I originally saw it.  Most importantly, the sky is too bright and does not have the actual twilight blue of that evening.  The screen capture below shows the adjustments that were made in the ACR window (red arrows).

Robin Kent Before 02 Week 20

Adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW

The most important change was in the white balance.  As always, I had used Auto White Balance which usually does an excellent job.  In this case, the color temperature was moved from 4850 down to 4150 to obtain a “cooler” look, and the tint increase from -23 to -7.  The other adjustments were:  decreasing the Highlights to -57; increasing the Shadows to +12; setting the white by increasing the Whites to +13; adjusting the black point by decreasing the Blacks to -23; increasing the Clarity a substantial amount to +53; and increasing the Vibrance to +37.  These brought the image close to what the scene looked like on that evening.  It was then opened in Photoshop CC.

Robin Kent Before 03 Week 20

Curves Adjustment Layer

Not much more was needed.  First, as shown in the screen capture above, was an overall curves adjustment layer (red arrows) for a slight increase in contrast.  One of the optional presets, “Linear Contrast” seemed to work best.  The next step was to add a little more punch to the colors with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (red arrows) shown in the screen capture below.

Robin Kent Before 04 Week 20Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer

The final step was to decide whether to remove some or all of the figures standing or sitting along the water’s edge.  Some had moved during the 2-second exposure and the lack of sharpness was distracting.  A combination of the Edit>Fill> Content-Aware tool and the Clone tool removed the blurred figures while leaving those that had kindly remained still during the exposure.    The “After” image is shown again below.

 Robin Kent After 02 Week 20The Kennedy Center at Twilight

Once again, thanks to Stacy Fischer for sponsoring the Forum.  Please check out the other submissions at her Visual Venturing.  And if you aren’t following Visual Venturing already, you might want to click that “Follow” button now, because I understand she is planning to announce a special feature for the Forum in the next week or so.

After-Before Friday Forum

Kent ABFriday After Pan (Week 19)

The Final Image (After)

For the past four months-plus Stacy Fischer of VisualVenturing has sponsored the After-Before Friday Forum where photographers can display examples of how they process their images to accomplish their creative vision.  Sometimes the changes are substantial; other times they can be minimal.   My submission for this week’s Forum is an example of minimal change (if you don’t count the photomerge steps).   The “After” version shown above has undergone a few adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw and the only actions taken in Photoshop were a simple Photomerge, a cropping, and some sharpening.  The scene is the city of Pittsburgh taken from the sidewalk across the street from a restaurant where we had stopped for dinner (Details on location are at the end of the post)

Kent ABFriday Before (Week 19)

Original Raw Image (left side)

 The image above is one of the two photographs that were merged.  Both had the same exposure (Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 70mm; 1/6th sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 1600).  The reason for the high ISO and wide-open aperture is the moving boat in the river.

Kent ABFriday Before 02 Week 19

Adjustments Made in ACR Dialog Window

Opening the images in Adobe Camera RAW, I made only four adjustments, the same for both images.  The screen capture above shows the changes (red arrows).  The specific settings were:

Highlights: Decrease to -39; Shadows: Increase to +45; Clarity: Increase to +18 Vibrance: Increase to +14.

Kent ABFriday Before 03 Week 19

File > Automate > Photomerge

The two images were then opened in Photoshop and processed through the Photomerge routine.  The screen capture above shows the command sequence which is under “File” on the main command line of Photoshop.  After clicking on “Photomerge” (red arrow), the Photomerge Dialog window appears as shown below.

Kent ABFriday Before 04 Week 19

Photomerge Display Window

The screen capture above shows the dialog window for the Photomerge routine.  If the images are open, click on “Add Open Files” (red arrow) and the image files will be listed (other red arrow).  Usually, the default selections of “Auto” and “Blend Images Together” (yellow arrows) will do the job.  Click “OK” and the system will chug away for a little while and then display the results.

Kent ABFriday Before 05 Week 19

The screen capture above shows a small portion of the merged image and the layers palette (red arrow) showing a separate layer for each image.  The white areas in the mask icons represent the section of the image that was used. The blue arrow shows a section of the irregular border created during the routine.

Kent ABFriday Before 06 Week 19

Merged Panorama Before Cropping

The image above shows the full panorama immediately after the merging is completed.  The borders are always irregular (red arrows), often much more than shown here.  The next step, before any further actions are taken, is to flatten the image.  The only remaining step in this example is a crop to eliminate the uneven edges, producing the final image shown below.  Sharpening should not be applied until the image is sized for printing.

Kent ABFriday After Pan (Week 19)

 Final Panorama

The location for capturing this image is across the street from the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto located at 1411 Grandview Avenue #2 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It is one of the better restaurants in the city and the window seats boast a view pretty close to this image.   Because the vista is pretty spectacular at twilight, it’s unlikely you will have the sidewalk all to yourself.  But if you are visiting Pittsburgh, this is a location you may want to check out.But before you go there, you should check out the other submissions to Week 19 at Visual Venturing.

Hidden Gem: Bartholdi Fountain

Bartholdi Fountain Blog 01

Bartholdi Fountain, Evening Light

Last Friday, a photographer colleague and I went into the city to take some photographs of the Bartholdi Fountain, located directly across Independence Avenue from the US Botanic Garden.  The fountain is located in Bartholdi Park, a two-acre garden managed by the US Botanic Garden. It is named after Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the 30-foot tall fountain which is the central feature of the park.  Bartholdi is best known as the creator of the Statue of Liberty. The fountain was originally commissioned for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and was brought to Washington afterwards.  It fell into disrepair but a 3-year restoration was completed in 2011 and the result was well worth the wait. (Technical data for above image: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 24mm; 5 sec. @ f/16, ISO 100; 5 separate images photomerged)

Bartholdi Blog 02

Bartholdi Park, April 2012

The park features a wonderful horticultural display that changes with the seasons.  Tables, with folding umbrellas and chairs surround the fountain and benches are placed among the plantings where one can enjoy a few moments of serenity a short distance from the US Capitol Building. The park’s website can be found here. (Technical data for above image: Nikon D700 on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm; 1/100th @ f/16, ISO 400)

Bartholdi Carla Steckley

Bartholdi Fountain by Carla Steckley

The best time, at least in my opinion, to photograph the fountain is during the evening twilight as shown above in the image taken by my colleague about 25 minutes after sunset.   (Technical Data: Canon DSLR on tripod with 13-85mm EF-S  f/3.5 lens; 1/20th sec  @ f/13, ISO 100)

It was an excellent evening for a shoot.  The weather was perfect, the fountain was illuminated and flowing normally, a fresh bed of pansies had been planted in the circular plot, creating a floral necklace around the basin.  The glass dome of the Botanic Garden across the street was being illuminated from within by a  green light.  A few people passed through the park while we there, but we were quite impressed  with a group of five (see image at top) who brought in a tablecloth, silverware, sparkling water, an assortment of cheeses, and other good things and had what looked like a wonderful evening as we moved around photographing the fountain.

Bartholdi Fountain Blog 03

Bartholdi Fountain, Looking Southeast

Twilight lasts only a short time, but sometimes the lights of the city will illuminate the clouds overhead with an interesting color.  The image above, looking in a southeasterly direction toward the Rayburn House Office Building, was photographed just before we left, about 45 minutes after sunset. (Technical data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 48mm; 5 sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

And on nights when there is a moon, clouds are less desirable as shown in the image below taken last year. (Technical data Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @70mm; 3 sec. @ f/16, ISO 800, 5 images photomerged)  This could have easily been a single image by bringing the extension back to about 35mm, but the moon would have looked quite small with that approach.

Bartholdi Fountain Blog 04

Full Moon and Bartholdi Fountain, June  2013