Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Waking up in Las Vegas

Sunrise, Las Vegas

Sunrise, Las Vegas

At some point during all of our trips to the southwest we visit our son and daughter-in-law (Chris and Marilyn) in Las Vegas.  Not only is it always great to see them for a few days, it gives us a chance to rest and unwind a bit.  Not to mention getting a chance to eat some real food.  They don’t live far from the Suncoast Resort and Casino (in Summerlin) which happens to have a restaurant called SC Steakhouse.  The food there is amazingly good.  I’d hazard a guess that you won’t find anything like it in Webster, NY (or Rochester for that matter).  And where in Rochester can you eat at a great place and walk downstairs and play some slots?  Hint: nowhere.  I’m going to miss that place……

And Chris had a special treat waiting for us this time.  We went to see a show at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand.  Brad, if you remember, played Ray Romano’s brother in the TV comedy “Everybody Loves Raymond” a few years back.  He was funny in that show, for sure, but he’s hilarious on stage.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard.  If you ever happen to go, just don’t sit near the front.  A lot of his act involves people in the audience.

The photograph, by the way, is looking east toward the strip at sunrise (from about 6 miles away).  If you look very, very closely you can see the Stratosphere (on the north end of the strip) on the left side of the frame and Mandalay Bay (where I used to work) on the right.  Essentially, that’s the whole thing.

Anyway, we’ve left LV and are heading for Monument Valley.  Then it’s on through southern Colorado and then on towards home.  And winter.  As far as the weather’s concerned, I think I’d just as soon stay here.

Little Wildhorse Canyon

Little Wildhorse Canyon, Utah

Little Wildhorse Canyon, Utah

About halfway between Moab and Torrey, Utah you’ll find two very interesting places to visit.  One is Goblin Valley State Park – containing some very strange sandstone structures that look a little like, well, goblins – and another nearly adjacent spot called Little Wildhorse Canyon.  The latter is a very tight slot canyon that can make you feel a tiny bit claustrophobic, if you happen to be affected by that kind of thing.  It was, of course, formed by water (and debris) flowing rapidly down hill following heavy rains (over thousands of years).  Not a place you’d want to be if rain was in the forecast.  You might remember the 7 hikers who died near Zion NP a few weeks ago.  They were in a similar canyon – and got caught.  There’s simply no place to go when the water arrives – and it doesn’t arrive slowly.

Little Wildhorse Canyon

Little Wildhorse Canyon

Embarrassingly, I almost didn’t get into the darn thing.  There’s a fairly high rock formation (5 or 6 feet?) at the bottom end of the canyon that you have to climb to start the hike.  I couldn’t get up the stupid thing.  Fortunately, another couple came through (from the upper end) and offered to help.  And this is the embarrassing part – the guy was 84 years old.  So here’s this guy who’s actually quite a bit older than I am pushing my butt up the side of this rock.  Very sad.  Actually, he was in excellent shape.  He and his wife live in Alaska where he walks every day – even in the winter.  I don’t know if I believe that, but he sure as hell didn’t look 84.  If he was that old, there’s hope!

Little Wildhorse Canyon

Little Wildhorse Canyon

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to walk the whole thing.  Poor Barbara was waiting for me back in a very warm parking area at the trailhead and probably would have roasted if I’d done the whole thing.  But my little hike was enough.  The place was nearly empty of hikers and very, very quiet.  The good news was that it was also very, very dry.

Lunar Eclipse in Capitol Reef

Moonrise and Partial Eclipse, Capitol Reef NP

Moonrise and Partial Eclipse, Capitol Reef NP

Every time we head out the door on one of our journeys I promise myself that I’ll post something at least every other day.  Try to keep up with the “daily adventures”.  And then I don’t.  Heck, I can barely keep awake when I’m looking at images at night.  Posting seems impossible.  So the days (and places) pass by.  I just tell myself that I’ll do it tomorrow.  But don’t.

But this image of moonrise on the night of the lunar eclipse really got to me.  The moon had just risen and was roughly 50% eclipsed by the earth’s shadow.  I saw totality as well, but I like this photograph because the horizon is still visible and the moon was behind some high, wispy clouds.  No “blood-red” coloration occurring yet, but by the time that that happened there was nothing to see but moon.  Well, you could have used a wide lens, but then the moon gets a bit small.  The focal length here is about 300 mm.

Anyway, I like this one even if it is a bit noisy (ISO was 6400, I think).

One other small point: if you want to see an eclipse the way it was meant to be seen there’s no better place than the desert southwest.  It actually gets dark at night here!  In fact, it’s the one place where there are “official” world dark area designations.  If you even just want to see stars at night, this is the place.

“You’re not in Kansas Anymore”

St. Fidelis Interior

St. Fidelis Interior

Not too long ago our good friend E. Brooks Moore (Meandering Passage) posted some notes on his recent trip through Kansas.  In it, he mentioned stopping in Victoria, Kansas to see the Cathedral of the Plains (a very large church in a very small town).  I commented that we’d been by this town and its church a number of times but had never stopped to see it.  Well, a couple of days ago we had another opportunity.  We didn’t miss this one.

It was a good choice.  As I said, Victoria is a really small town (I think the population is about 1500?).  The church is huge by comparison – its twin towers can be seen from a fair distance, including cars and trucks passing by on I-70.

The town was settled by German speaking immigrants who’d lived in eastern Russia in the late 1800’s.  When told in 1875 that they were going to be subjected to taxation and conscription into the Russian army, they left.  They eventually wound up in Kansas.  Many of their descendants still live there.

Altar at St. Fidelis

Altar at St. Fidelis

While commonly known as the “Cathedral of the Plains”, it is technically not a cathedral (since no bishop is seated there).  It received that nickname when William Jennings Bryan visited in 1912, just a few years after the church was dedicated.  To its members it is simply St. Fidelis.

In any case, it’s a beautiful church.  If you happen to be traveling across Kansas on I-70, be sure to stop.  You won’t regret it.

Goodbye Windows, Hello Utah

Sunrise, Zion NP

Sunrise, Zion NP

Yes, I’ve been “gone” a while.  Blame it on my old computer.  The damn thing died.  Just decided one day not to run anymore.  Literally.  The hard drive simply quit.  Wouldn’t spin.  Just sat there making strange noises.

Panic city.  Since we were only a couple of weeks away from heading west again, things could have gotten ugly pretty quickly.  How can you process images when you have no computer?  How can you even know if you got anything worth processing?  That screen on the back of the camera just ain’t big enough.

So it was time for a quick decision (well, “quick” for me anyway).  Go buy a new Windows 10 PC or finally make the big switch to Apple?  Take another chance on a Windows system with the potential for blue screens and frozen programs?

After about 30 seconds of deep thought I headed off to a nearby Apple store and purchased a new 15″ Macbook Pro.  The nice little machine that I’m typing this on right now, here in the middle of Missouri.  On our way to Utah.

Good decision, I think.  At least so far.  It’s different than my old Windows machine, but not all that different.  So far, I think it’s a bit easier.  And faster.  Of course that’s partly (mostly?) because it’s a lot newer, has more memory, and a nice SSD hard drive.

So after years and years of fighting with Windows I’ve finally given up.  Goodbye Windows and hello OS X Yosemite.  I guess it’s never too late to switch.

And now maybe I can actually start posting stuff again………

Heaven help us, Silly Season is Back

Windstorm near Great Salt Lake, Utah

Windstorm near Great Salt Lake, Utah

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

                                                                                           George Orwell


One big problem with growing older is that everything around you seems to happen faster and faster.  One day you’re complaining about the summer heat and the next day there’s just 10 more shopping days till Christmas.  Life flies by.  We have no say in the matter.  And apparently the same is true for Presidential Elections.  I mean, we just had one of those, didn’t we?  President Obama beat that Mormon guy.  Except for the off-year elections – which most Americans virtually ignore – all the silliness stopped.  We were safe for another 4 years.  All of the politicians stopped promising us high paying jobs (a promise none of them could keep) and a federal government that actually functioned (really, really unlikely to keep that one) and we all went back to worrying about gas prices.  

(Side note 1:  Actually, not really.  The silliness got toned down a bit but never actually stopped.  Turns out that politicians from both parties can be pretty darned silly anytime – even if they’re not in an election cycle.)

(Side note 2:  That’s not really true, either.  In reality, they act like they’re always in an election cycle.) 

It’s all relative, of course.  Full-on silliness has ramped up and returned with a vengeance.   Somehow the calendar has fast-tracked to late summer, 2015, and all of these crazy folks are back in Iowa eating corn-dogs and other deep fried heart stoppers.  Pretending that they actually like Iowa in the summertime and just love all the nasty food that they’re consuming.  (I’ve always wondered who’s responsible for keeping an ample supply of Tums on hand.)  The actual election is still over a year away, but “Silly Season” is in full swing.  Now, just to be clear, I’m not advocating for any candidate here.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t like any of them.  On either side.  They’re all kind of loopy.  For sure, there are more loopy Republicans in the “race” (17, I think) but the Democratic candidates (3 or 4?) seem just as nutty.  Especially Hillary.  The former Senator and Secretary of State acts like we all owe her the job, that shes the “Chosen One”.  Well, that won’t fly.  I don’t care how much money she has in her war chest.  She ain’t Bill.  And telling everyone that her little email crisis is “irrelevant” won’t fly either.  Generally speaking American voters aren’t all that bright, but they’re not completely stupid.  They’re smart enough to realize when someone is trying to pass themselves off as American Royalty.  If she continues to act like that, she’ll lose.  By a lot.

Side note 3:  Sadly, you can make the case that some American voters are, in fact, completely stupid.

To be a little more specific, about 20% – 25% of them are dumber than a box of rocks.  I know this because that’s the percentage of potential Primary voters the opinion polls consistently give to Donald Trump.  He may never get more than that but it’s enough.  Enough to win a few primaries and scare the bejesus out of mainstream Republicans.  Here’s a guy who wants to deport roughly 11 million people, including children who were actually born in the United States.  That, of course, would require a constitutional amendment.  And billions of dollars to actually do it.  So while most people thought that Mitt Romney’s “voluntary deportation” was a little nuts, Trump is literally talking about rounding up babies and sending them back to wherever their parents came from.  Well that’s compassionate.  And somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 potential Republican primary voters agree with him.

Oh, what the hell.  Only about 15 months to go.  By November, 2016 we’ll all probably be crazy.     




Behind the Veil

Behind the Veil (4795)

“There was a door to which I found no key: There was the veil through which I might not see.”

                                                                                            Omar Khayyam


“Hope is nature’s veil for hiding truth’s nakedness.”

                                                                                      Alfred Nobel


I’ve photographed this waterfall before, but this was the first time I’ve seen the mist on the back side of the U-shaped cataract going straight up the far wall.  It usually billows out, sometimes soaking anyone standing where I happened to be that day.  And since I was using a long lens the “veil” that it was forming looks much closer than it actually was.  In black and white I think it looks a tiny bit spooky.  

After the Storm

After the Storm (1863)

“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?”

                                                              Rose Kennedy

“It’s not easy being Green”

Sunrise, Dead Horse Point, Utah

Sunrise, Dead Horse Point, Utah

“It’s not easy being green.

It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.

And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy

sparkles in the water –

or stars in the sky”.

                                                                                    (Written by Joe Raposo for Kermit the Frog)

Landscapes and Micro 4/3

As much as I like my Olympus OMD EM1 and its inherent benefits (lightweight, flexible, weather resistant, less expensive lenses, etc.), it does have one serious drawback, I think, for anyone who takes a lot of landscape type photographs.  Its aspect ratio is 4:3.  The images are damn near square.  For a lot of things, that’s fine.  It works as well as or better than other “native” aspect ratios.  For landscapes, however, not so well.  It’s like taking a movie made in a 16:9 format and watching it on an old nearly square TV.  It just doesn’t look right.  At least not to me.  Some things are just meant to be viewed “wide”.  

Case in point: a single image I took last week at the Lower Falls in Letchworth SP:

Lower Falls, single frame

Lower Falls, single frame

It’s not bad, I guess, but to me it feels overly compressed, like you’re looking through one of those old spyglasses or something.  Or like looking through a tunnel.  Even if I’d never been to this particular spot it feels like there’s something missing.  You’ve got the bridge and the river and the falls in the background, but what’s off to the sides?

For me, this one works much better (a 4-frame stitched panorama):

Lower Falls, 4 frame panorama

Lower Falls, 4 frame panorama

Not a mind-blowing image by any stretch, but the sensation of looking through a tunnel is no longer there (at least not for me).  There’s more perspective and more context.  There’s a long leading line emanating from the lower left corner of the frame that for me provides context for the bridge.  The stone bridge is the only place in the park that allows hikers to go from the west side of the park to the east side (or the other way around) without having to drive.  The path coming towards you leads to some stone stairs that climb up a fairly steep gorge wall.  And of course you get a much better feel for the gorge wall itself.  You get a better sense of the textured wet shale that is so characteristic of New York’s Finger Lakes region.  It’s not so easy to see on a video monitor, but it’s very apparent on a large print.

The only drawback is that you have to know something about shooting panoramas, even if it’s only 4 frames wide.  For one thing, you really should use a tripod.  In my opinion, handheld just won’t work.  Yeah, I know.  I’ve seen panoramas shot with iphones, too.  It can be done.  But I really don’t think they’re very good.  Only a tripod – if set up correctly – can insure that the system is absolutely level.  If your camera isn’t level, the best you can hope for is minimal cropping in post.  And only the tripod will allow you absolute control over the degree of frame overlap and focus continuity.

But you’re not there yet.  Even if you’ve got the whole system level you still have to worry about parallax and the nodal point.

Say what?  Parallax?  Nodal Point?  Sounds like a couple of places up on the Maine coast……….

Well, to be extremely brief, parallax has to do with how we (or cameras) see things.  How we see a tree, for example, depends on where we’re standing (our angle of view).  If we move, or if the camera moves, our point of view changes.  It’s not hard to figure out that this might have an effect on a panorama, since the camera’s position – its “point of view” – changes with each frame.  This is especially true if there’s a foreground subject included.  If that’s the case, you get something like this:

Panorama with Parallax effect

Panorama with Parallax effect

This was taken (as a kind of “practice” shot) on the Lake Ontario shoreline.  It covers roughly 180 degrees of view from west to east.  If you know this spot you’ll see the problem immediately.  The foreground sidewalk makes a V-shape as it passes the location of the camera.  In reality, the sidewalk is a straight line.  There is no”V”.  That’s photographic parallax.

The reason you don’t see that effect in the first panorama is because there is no foreground subject.  There’s nothing in the frame that’s close to the camera.  Which means that one way to avoid the parallax effect is to keep foreground objects out of the picture.

If you want a panorama with a foreground subject in it then you need to know what a nodal point is (and how to calculate it).  The nodal point is found where the optical center of the lens is directly above the axis of rotation.  In other words, if the axis of rotation is at the center of the tripod’s head, then the optical center of the lens – not the weighted center – must be, and remain, directly above that point.  If you do this, parallax becomes a non-problem.

Who said photography was easy.  In any case, it’s worth learning, I think, if you own a micro 4/3 camera and like to take landscapes.  I honestly think that this format is not well suited for landscape photography.  Unless, of course, you’re willing and able to create panoramas.  For me, it makes all the difference.

One last point.  It’s now possible to stitch panoramas (or create HDR images) inside of LightRoom.  Previously, you needed to take the individual images into Photoshop (or some other application) to do the work.  That usually meant creating a TIF file before returning to LightRoom.  Now you can do it all in one place.  And it creates a dng file in the process, which means that you still have a full-fledged RAW image.  That’s really neat.







Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150 other followers