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.
Each January, most photographers look back on the previous year and assess their work. I am no different.
Here is a slide show of my favorite shots from 2017.
I used the new Photos app that came with the Windows 10 Fall Creator's Update back in October 2017. The app has a built-in capability to produce relatively simple music videos using a set of standard royalty-free music clips and your own stills and video segments. It's pretty simple, not allowing for much in the way of detailed control of timing or audio levels or custom fade-ins and outs, but if all you need is simple and straight-forward, this free app will do the job.
Winter in Oregon can be such a wet, dreary time. Even Lewis and Clark complained about it. For them, camped near the mouth of the Columbia River, during the winter of 1805-1806, from December 7 to March 23, winter consisted of 106 days, only 12 of which were dry.
And it's still the same. This means most of the pictures we take in Oregon during winter can easily be with whiteout skies, especially when you have to boost the exposure by one or two stops to get your subject properly exposed. Sometimes, there is the additional irritation of ugly background objects that distract from the cleanness of the composition.
I'm not usually an advocate of replacing large swaths of an image with a large chunk from another image. I'm not really into composite imaging that much. I'm not saying it's bad or wrong somehow. I simply don't do it beyond some removing of trash or sensor dust spots, little things like that. As much as I may appreciate the artistry of compositors, and I do, I'm just not that good at it, so i tend to avoid it.
So, anyway, here I was driving home from a customer call. I was in an agricultural area near where I live called French Prairie, and out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of an American Kestrel sitting in a tree. So, I slowed down and pulled over. As I slowly rolled up to position the kestrel directly across from my driver-side window and rolled it down, it got scared. I barely had enough time to grab my camera and fire off a burst, hoping that the auto-focus had locked on. One shot, just this one shot came out. All the other 5 or 6 images were either way off the mark or terribly blurred. This is what I got, a pretty bird and an ugly background.
Another shot, a short 10 minutes later, was of a church with Russian "onion domes" as part of its architecture. There are several such churches in my area of Oregon, and I wanted to see if I could come up with an interesting composition. Unfortunately, the property is surrounded by a 6-foot fence, and it had started to rain, making the mud in front of the property all the more sticky and slick. The best I could do is flip the view screen down and hold the camera over my head, composing while looking like some sort of crazed scarecrow, hoping no raindrops landed on the lens.
Again, the sky was awful, but this time there was an added bonus of those ugly power lines, a power pole, and big black insulators. It simply destroyed the mood I had hoped to create.
What to do, what to do?
Well, it's Topaz Remask to the rescue. Remask is a really easy way to mask off areas in a photo that need to be replaced. You basically draw a line over the border between the area you want to keep and the area you want to replace. You can adjust the intensity and hardness or softness of the mask edges. Let the program calculate and overlay the mask. Then you select an image that will replace the part of your photo that your don't want. Adjustments and remasking are possible until you get everything just right. Then you export the new image. Your old image is preserved.
Here are the two images from above with new backgrounds applied to them.
I think you would agree, that even though the pictures are now a little fanciful, that they are certainly more interesting than the originals. Since I won't be trying to pass them off as "straight-out-of-the-camera" or any representation of "reality", I really don't see any harm in it, other than them being examples of the potential of digital art.
And I feel much better now that i have gotten rid of the hideous white skies.
I'm not quite sure whether this is a mistake or whether it's sexist or racist or what. One can't readily tell nowadays. Or maybe someone told Leica to "grow a pair".
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.
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