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.

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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.

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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)

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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….

Twilight and Beyond: Photography at Night (Part 2)

In the first installment of this mini-series, I suggested including the moon in a night scene as a way to add interest and provided a few examples.  In this segment, we’ll look at the moon in a little greater detail.

In the Washington, DC area, capturing images of a full moon rising has become increasingly popular, largely due to the availability of mobile “apps” to help you be at the right place at the right time.  The general approach is to find a location from which one can photograph the moon perfectly positioned in relation to one of the major monuments.   The image below was captured at the most popular of these locations, on a hill in Rosslyn, Virginia directly in front of the Netherlands Carillon.

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Moonrise, Washington, DC (September 5, 2009)

An image like this is not as easy to obtain as it would appear, even with the help of an app like TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris). Aside from the obvious need for good weather, the time between the moonrise and sunset are critical as is the precise location of the moonrise.  In the case of this image, it was actually taken on the night after the full moon.  On the previous night, the weather was cloudy, the moonrise was 13 minutes before sunset and well to the right of the Lincoln Memorial. On the night of this image, the moonrise was 13 minutes after sunset at the perfect azimuth reading—85.5 degrees.  This photograph was taken about 10 minutes later, very close to the end of civil twilight.

For those wanting to know when the next such opportunity comes, they might want to mark their calendars for October 15, 2016.  It is the night before the full moon and the moon will rise 2 minutes after sunset.  That’s a little closer than ideal, but the azimuth reading is close to perfect, at 84.1 degrees.  Not as good as September 5, 2009, but worth a try if the weather is favorable.

A word of warning:  You will be sharing this location with as many as 100 other photographers, all with tripods.

The Jefferson Memorial is probably the second most popular spot for a moonrise image, often attracting 30-40 photographers on a promising evening. The advantage here is there are more vantage points along the sidewalks of the Tidal Basin.

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Moonrise, Jefferson Memorial (July 31, 2015)

(Technical notes: Moonrise 2 minutes after sunset at Azimuth 106.2 degrees; photograph taken 18 minutes after sunset.)

A similar alignment will occur on April 22, 2016 with a full moonrise 3 minutes after sunset at Azimuth 105 degrees.

One of the challenges in photographing a full moon is exposure.  Once it gets well above the horizon on a clear night, an exposure chosen to capture a twilight scene will often result in an overexposed moon. This will happen even with illuminated buildings as the primary subject.

Night Photos Jefferson Fireworks

Jefferson Memorial, Full Moon and Fireworks (April 4, 2014)

(Technical notes: Moonrise 21 minutes after sunset at Azimuth 99.1 degrees, photograph taken 63 minutes after sunset.)

Tactics for resolving this issue can range from hoping for a light cloud cover to blending two separate exposures in Photoshop or using the HDR bracketed exposure procedure.  Another method is to try for a crescent moon.

Night Photos Lincoln Moonset 01

Crescent Moon with Lincoln Memorial (August 17, 2015)

Photographed 35 minutes after sunset.  Note:  In this case, the photograph is taken in same direction as the setting sun.  Therefore, the twilight blue lasts longer than when you are pointing in the opposite direction.

Always consider possible locations when you travel.  Apps like TPE can be really helpful if you check the destination before you go.  For example, Mother Nature had kindly scheduled a full moon during our visit to Paris in 2014.  A check with TPE revealed that it would be possible to have it in a picture with the Eiffel Tower.

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Full Moon and Eiffel Tower (June 13, 2014)

(Technical Notes: Moonrise 8 minutes after Sunset at Azimuth 119.5 degrees. Photograph taken 50 minutes after Sunset. Twilight tends to last longer in Paris than in Washington, DC.)

The next full moon will be on February 22nd.  Pick a spot and …

Keep Shooting….

Crescent Moon and Jefferson Memorial


Last night was Friday the 13th, and I was hoping to get lucky with the crescent moon as it was going down in the western sky.  Catching a crescent moon at twilight is kind of tricky, because you have several factors to consider.  For example, if you want to capture the rising crescent, you will be shooting at dawn a couple days before the New Moon. If you want a moonset, then it will be at sunset a couple days after the New Moon. Other factors include the location of the moon on the horizon, size of the crescent, and the time of the setting or rising sun.  All of these can be determined with one of the various smartphone or tablet apps such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE).

Most of the factors looked promising for the crescent after sunset on the 13th.  It was two days past the New Moon and, according to TPE, it would be lined up fairly well with the Jefferson Memorial with the Tidal Basin in the foreground.  The size would be a little smaller (<5% illumination) than I would have liked and a bit higher in the sky (9 degrees), but otherwise there seemed to be a lot of potential.  So I headed down to the Tidal Basin to see what would happen.

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(Technical Data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 125mm. Five separate exposures at varying speeds (0.3 to 0.8 sec) @f/8, ISO 400; Images merged in Photoshop during post processing)

I started shooting about 10 minutes after sunset and stopped about 55 minutes after sunset.  The best results were at about the 35 minute mark, seen above.  Those looking closely will see the three spires of the USAF Memorial on the right side of the image.

 

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…..

AfterBefore Friday Week 55

Today marks Week 55 in the AfterBefore Friday series managed by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing.  It’s open to anyone and participants share their approach of transforming one of their own images into its final form, an expression of their creative vision.  You can find links to all of the other participants here.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out one of the new tools that appeared in the most recent Photoshop CC upgrade.  Most writers have been rhapsodizing about the new “Dehaze” tool, but I have been far more pleased by the integration of the Photomerge capability into the Adobe Raw Camera (Version 9.1) process.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Before

Original Image (one of four)

The above image is one of four used to produce an overall image the front of the Jefferson Memorial at sunrise.  Longtime readers may recall that I used a single image from this set in ABFriday Week 44.  But that was to produce a much tighter crop. This week it will be a wider view to include the tree on the left side of the building and some balance on the other side.  Now, I could have captured all of this in a single image using a wide angle lens, but I wanted to avoid the distortion of an extreme wide angle and I also wanted to be able to make really big prints if the image turned out nicely. (Technical: Four images with a Nikon D800E; 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 42mm; Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 01

The Well-Hidden Photomerge Button

The screen capture above shows the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) display window with the  four RAW images opened as the first step for a photomerge.  In what must be one of the most obscure placements of a functional command in history, Adobe has seen fit to place this teeny little button in the upper left corner of the window, just to the right of the word “Fimstrip”  (Red Arrow).  If you select 2 or more images and then click on that little spot, you get the flyout menu (Yellow Arrow) that is displayed showing several options including “Merge to Panorama.”

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 04

Preview of Photomerge Process

If you click on that command, a preview window quickly appears as shown in the screen capture above. The ACR process has chosen which of three “projections”  it believes will produce the best result which, in this case, was “Perspective”  (Red Arrow). If you are not happy with that one, you can click on one of the other two to compare the results. It also provides a preview of an “Auto Crop” (Yellow Arrow) which essentially cleans up the ragged edges of a typical photomerge process.  A very nice touch, I thought. The image below shows the result when this box is unchecked.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 03

Auto Crop Unchecked.

In some cases, one may decide to handle the cropping on their own, but it obviously did a fine job here.  Once you are happy with the result,  click on the “Merge” command and it quickly goes to the “Save As” function as shown in the screen capture below.  Just give the file the approapriate name and select the folder in which it is to be saved.  So far about 60 seconds have passed.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 06

Saving the Merged image

As shown the Screen Capture below, a new thumbnail of the photomerge has appeared in the filmstrip (Red Arrow) and is ready to be processed like any other RAW file.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 05

ACR Window after Save Command is Executed

From here one just uses their standard workflow.  In this case I used the follwing settings: Highlights decreased to -31; Shadows increased to +73; Whites increased to +57; Blacks increased to +16; Clarity increased to +30; and Vibrance increased to +39.  The image was then opened in Photoshop, where I spent some time removing a few of the people on the steps.  The final result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 After

Final Image

Comments and Questions are welcome.  Please be sure to check out the other examples of post-processing techniques at Stacy’s post, ABFriday Week 55.

Keep Shooting…….

 

AbFriday Forum Week 44

It’s Friday already!  And that means it’s time for Stacy Fisher’s AfterBefore Friday Forum where photographers from around the globe gather in our Virtual Conference Room to exchange ideas on what we do after the camera’s image has been downloaded into our processing device.  That  device can be a big computer, a tiny phone, or a tray of odiferous chemicals (remember them?).  You can see the other creative efforts at Stacy’s Visual Venturing blog and I highly recommend you check them out.

But before we go any farther, I’m pleased to announce the winner of last week’s quiz: Janice Foreman, of  “Moments in Time“, an excellent blog that I have been following for some time.  She will receive a copy of “Washington, DC,” a small collection of images I have taken of the city as soon as I can gather enough stamps to send it to Canada.  If you want to see the answers to the quiz they have been posted in the updated version (right at the top) of the original post.  Click here for details.

I’ve been spending a lot of time down at the Tidal Basin this week as the annual cherry blossom extravaganza builds toward its climax.  But sometimes the not-quite-ready star of the show (cherry blossoms in this case) gets upstaged by the old pro (the Jefferson Memorial).  Last Sunday morning’s sunrise provided Thomas an opportunity to take center stage as the prime photography subject. And he did not disappoint.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 Before

Original RAW Image

The original photo was taken about 20 minutes after sunrise, and the golden light on the Jefferson Memorial looked really nice.  The original, unprocessed RAW image is shown above. (Nikon D800E, handheld with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 42mm. Exposure 1/160th sec @ f/16, ISO 400)

The adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW were straight forward, with the primary need for opening up the shadows and dark areas on the Memorial.  This was done by setting the White point to +60, and then, after setting the Black point, increasing the Shadows to the maximum value of +100.   The Clarity and Vibrance settings to +30, which is the usual amount for me. (See image below)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 Before 01B

Adobe Camera RAW Dialog Panel

The image was then opened in Photoshop CC, and the primary step was to crop the image to bring attention to the sun’s light on the stone surface.  Next, a very slight boost with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. The only remaining step was to add just a little impact to the sky.  I created a new layer and used the gradient tool, setting the blend mode for soft light.  (See image below)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 After

 

The gradient tool (as I used it here)  essentially mimics the effect of those neutral density graduated filters made famous by Galen Rowell and Singh Ray 15 years or so ago.  There are many, many ways to accomplish this in Photoshop and you will be relieved to know that this post is not going to discuss any of them.  A far more enjoyable use of your time would be to visit Stacy’s Forum and enjoy the submissions of the other participants.  You can do that by clicking here.

Cherry Blossoms-Now!

MMMaDespite the threat of rain, it was time for another dawn patrol to check on things in DC. After all, the entire city (or so the news played it) had experienced a power loss yesterday, who knows what conditions would be like around the monuments.  First stop, the Lincoln Memorial about 30 minutes before sunrise.  I figured with the dismal weather, there would be no one else about.  But what had been a deserted plaza two days ago was now filled with about 50 twenty-somethings engaged in an energetic calisthenics workout .  I managed to resist their enthusiasm and climbed the steps in search of a puddle that might provide an interesting reflection.

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Reflections, Lincoln Memorial

Shortly afterwards, the entire gang of exercise enthusiasts came up the steps apparently having completed their routine and intent on giving themselves a standing ovation for their efforts.  This was my cue to head over to the Tidal Basin.

The lights were still ablaze at the Martin Luther King Memorial and it was clear that the cherry trees  were making excellent progress.  In fact, they are ready to be photographed. So I obliged them, trying out a few new compositions of the Memorial with some of the trees as a backdrop.  The image below is a sample.

MLK 01

Early Morning, Martin Luther King Memorial

The conditions in the Tidal Basin itself were less positive.  The heavy cloud cover prevented any color from the rising sun and a medium breeze eliminated any chances for an interesting reflection in the water.  But as the image below shows, the trees are doing their part.

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Morning clouds, Tidal Basin

Finally, to provide a better idea of the status of the blossoms this morning, the image below shows a close-up.

Cherry Blossoms 01

If today’s forecast of temperatures in the low 50s holds true, the blossoms’ emergence will be a little less rapid.  My advice: get down there as soon as you think the weather is favorable for your visit.  The crowds will be there soon.