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Simply being alive makes me feel thankful. I'm thankful for a God-given joy of being able to show people, through my eyes and limited skill set, a universe that both surprises and rewards me. I hope I can inspire others to look at the world with a new perspective, and find the love, the humor, and beauty of both God's and Man's creations.
This blog is about my passion for light-drawing. That is what the word photography literally means from its Greek parts, drawing with light. Like all other things in life, I am still learning and experimenting. Sometimes, I fail, and sometimes, I surprise myself.
In any case, I hope these stories amuse, entertain, and inspire you to just get out and draw with the light you have.
We who live here in Oregon, along roughly the line of the 45th parallel, were very fortunate to be under the path of totality during the total eclipse of 2017. I had experienced eclipses before, several partial, one annular, and one total that was completely obscured by heavy clouds in 1979. But this was my first experience of totality during a clear day, and it was absolutely stunning. A partial eclipse of even 99.9% is no match for 100%. You are completely blown away by what's happening all around you. The temperature drops significantly. Animals become quiet and some prepare for sleep. The day begins to dim, transforming into a strange grayish tone all around. Sometimes, mysterious "shadow snakes" appear on flat, smooth areas. Under leafy trees, curious crescent-shaped shadows appear.
And then, all of a sudden, totality! The day is no longer day, it's something else. You take off your eye protection. By the naked eye, you see a black hole in the sun, and the sun's super-heated atmosphere, the corona, spreads its glowing rays all around the disk. It is quiet all around you. Street lights may have come on. The horizon is ringed by a 360-degree "sunset", yet you know the sun is above you. Stars and planets appear in the sky. And you gaze upwards in awe.
All too soon, the process is reversed. A pure white flash appears where the moon begins to move past the edge of the sun. It's time to put your solar eye shields back on and watch the sun reappear. Little by little, the world returns to its normal state, and because of the majesty and wonder of the event you just experienced, you are a little sad that it is gone. Yet, you are still euphoric at having experienced one of the most amazing phenomena in all of creation. The glow of the experience will stay with you for the rest of the day. And the memory of it will never leave you.
The next total solar eclipse for America is scheduled for April 8, 2024, traversing the USA from Texas to Maine. If you are able, I strongly encourage you to try to experience it in person. It is unforgettable and truly breathtaking.
Back in the late 1960s, I worked for American Broadcasting Company in Hollywood, California, as a page. We were a part of the Guest Relations Department, and were responsible for managing studio audiences, TV show ticketing, backstage security, and so on. I worked on many classic TV shows, including The Hollywood Palace, American Bandstand, The Lawrence Welk Show, General Hospital, The Dating Game, and The Newlywed Game. However, I was assigned to one show more than the others, and that was The Joey Bishop Show, ABC's late night attempt to compete against Johnny Carson. I can truly say it was the one job on which I had the most fun, ever, and I have many fond memories from it.
At the time, I owned a couple of Polaroid cameras. One was a big, rather ungainly camera that had the capability of using color film. The other was a smaller, more portable, black and white only camera, called the Swinger. Needless to say, management frowned on us carrying cameras while on the job, so my photo opportunities, while numerous, were not easily taken advantage of.
Consequently, I have only one photograph of myself in my page uniform. It's a small black and white shot of me standing in front of the studio where the Joey Bishop Show was taped. I have always wished I had a color shot. The black and white photo didn't do our uniforms justice. The uniform we were required to wear included a red blazer with black lapels, an ABC logo patch on each shoulder, and black pants with a red stripe running the length of each pant leg on the outside seam. All of us pages hated it, and wished we had uniforms like the NBC pages with their classy navy blue blazers and gray slacks.
In comes colorize-it.com, an easy way to transform black and white photos into color. It, of course, isn't perfect, but if you have some simple photo editing software, it gives you a head start and saves a lot of time. Below is the picture of me in my page uniform, taken in April 1968. On the left is a scan from the original b&w Polaroid print, and on the right is the output from colorize-it.com. I then spent about 10 minutes of additional editing work in Adobe Lightroom.
As I said, it isn't perfect. The program has to make lots of assumptions about colors. In my case, it assumed the color of my coat correctly as red. Unfortunately, it misjudged the ABC logo in the background. The logo was actually blue. But if I didn't tell you, would you have known? Of course not, so it's not so bad. Having a colorized picture of a precious memory that is 95% correct is much better than nothing.
I recommend giving it a try. You have nothing to lose. Just upload your test photo to the web site using its "Upload" button and see how well it does. There is a purple bar that is displayed on your photo that you can slide back and forth, allowing you to see the "before" and "after" images. And then you can download the result back to your computer. What's more, it won't cost you a penny.
We're a couple weeks late on this. A new grandchild. Unexpected health issues. Customer demands. Life happens. In any case, here's our attempt at looking back on some favorite shots and favorite moments that took place in 2016. We hope you enjoy them.
We also wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2017.
If you'd like to see our previous year-end videos, please click here to jump to 45th Parallel's YouTube Channel.
Maybe I'm nostalgic. Maybe I'm just biased because it's my birth city. I don't know, but this video timelapse of Los Angeles is the best I've seen so far. It's simply magnificent.
Have a look, full-screen, full HD.
I've played with shooting lightning in the past. Usually, a tripod is required, and an aperture open for 20 to 30 seconds. The exposure is treated as a flash shot with the light source being the lightning itself.
But what if you don't have a tripod handy and you're experiencing some spectacular electrical discharges? You can always try to react to the lightning as quickly as possible and fire off a shot. This is really hit and miss. Our reaction times are typically not fast enough, and in the excitement of it all, we'd have a tendency to shake the camera as we jam hard on the trigger. It would be better to shoot in a high-speed burst mode. You'll be more able to capture some secondary flashes, as in this shot.
This is where Panasonic's new GX8 camera can really help. I recently purchased one to explore the world of Micro-Four-Thirds photography. Panasonic has a shooting mode called 4KPhoto, which essentially allows you to select frames out of a 4K video file. Each frame is 8 mega-pixels, so it's large enough to make 8 x 10 prints. Normally, moving subjects in a video stream need a slight bit of motion blur to make the video smoother to our eye. But 4KPhoto frames retain all the settings of the camera that we would use for stills, so are as sharp as we want. We just need to review each frame and pick the one that captured the exact moment we want. Panasonic makes this a very easy process in-camera. Or, simply import the 4KPhoto video file into Photoshop or Lightroom, and analyze the frames there.
One feature of 4KPhoto is that it can actually get a picture before you press the shutter release. It's as if the camera is reading your mind for getting the shot you want. What it's really doing is very clever, although it does tend to slurp up a lot of battery juice. It's continuously recording one second, or 30 frames, of video into a FIFO buffer. FIFO means First In, First Out. The buffer never stops filling, because just as the last frame is recorded the first frame is erased, so room in the buffer is always available. Then, when you press the shutter release, another one second of video is recorded and attached to the FIFO buffer. Both pieces, now one file, are saved to your memory card. You now have a 60-shot burst of 8 mega-pixel pictures to choose from, taken before and after you pressed the shutter release. No matter how slow your reaction time, the odds of you getting the shot is now much better.
This is fantastic for capturing that one precise moment that is so difficult with fast moving subjects like children, wildlife, and in this case, lightning.
Now, back to me. Once I figured out how to activate 4KPhoto mode in my GX8, and adjusted my desired settings, I went out into the night where the lightning bolts were flashing every 30 to 60 seconds, or so. (Please don't do this right under the storm. Lightning is extremely dangerous. My storm was many miles away. It was so far away, you couldn't even hear any thunder.) Of course, some bolts were more spectacular than others. With my camera solidly steadied against a rail and post, every time I saw a bolt flash I pressed the shutter release, trying to do it as smoothly as possible.
Click: 60 exposures. Click: another 60. And so on. After about 10 minutes I had accumulated what I thought were enough frames to have captured at least something.
After importing all the 4K video files into Lightroom, I was able to quickly scan through each frame for something interesting, and save the frame for further processing. I threw away many frames that were totally black, and also many that just weren't what I was looking for, like the picture above with no bolt.
The four best shots are shown below. The first two show some blurring of the lightning bolt, and I think that was from my excitement and jabbing the shutter so hard early on. The other two came after I calmed down and got into a more deliberate and smoother execution.
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