Welcome To The Redesigned AginPhotography.com

I started my web site primarily to display some galleries of photos I have taken over the years. Using Adobe Lightroom made it very easy to create the galleries but required me to make large galleries with multiple photos. I realized I wanted a way to post small numbers of photos. A blog made sense. I quickly decided that I could use WordPress to build the blog. As I started using WordPress I realized that it should be the engine for my entire web site, hence a complete redesign within 24 hours. As you will notice the galleries are not yet working. I need to experiment with the best way of embedding a Web Gallery from Lightroom within WordPress. Any ideas would be welcome. One feature I'm looking forward to having used is the comments. Please use them so I know that someone is looking at my website.

Hidden Behind the Camera As Usual

Life is too short to be running from home to work to home to work...

We all need a way to express ourselves and capture the beauty in our lives, I channel these efforts through a camera lens.

Priorities

Those of you who followed AginPhotography in the old design know that updates have been few and far between. I had no way of telling stories or making small updates. By adding this blog I am able to add postings in a very small amount of time. Some will be about photos I have taken, others will be my thoughts on different aspects of photography. Still others will have a personal nature although I plan to create a separate website for that. All will be from the perspective of the photography amateur.

My daughter playing dress-up

As I add to this blog I will be balancing many priorities for my time and the picture above shows two of the biggest. My daughter and wife. Given everything else in life I am aiming to average at least one post per week. Some weeks will be more and some less. As long as this blog provides me an avenue to show my photos and tell my stories I'll be happy.

Galleries Are Now Working

The galleries from the old design are now working. While I am going to continue improving them they are already better than on the old web site. At the end of the day the solution was very simple for making Lightroom work with Wordpress. Don't integrate them, just embed the Lightroom output. My gallery pages consist of an inline frame sized to fit the gallery output. Simple often works best. All the coolness comes from Lightroom because I used Turning Gate's TTG Shadowbox template with titles and other stuff turned off. Stay tuned for new galleries although I make no promises about when they will appear. Art Update: PicLens doesn't want to work with the galleries. Might be a Lightroom problem. Update2: PicLens is now working if you have the plug-in installed. I found PicLens Plus, a version of the WordPress plugin by Shack Dougall that addresses the problem with embedded images.

While My Wife Slept

Part of the reason I started this blog was to post my pictures and tell the stories behind them. This is the first of I hope many such postings.

Our Trip Through Southern UtahIn September 2004 my wife and I took a trip through southern Utah and northern Arizona. We started in Las Vegas and drove to Grand Junction, CO. But we didn't go straight, we visited places that are just incredible. We hiked down a slot canyon into Zion National Park, visited Bryce Canyon, drove through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, saw the Grand Canyon north rim, boated on Lake Powell, gaped at Monument Valley, Canyonlands and Arches National Park. It was quite the trip and I took photos the entire time.

See all my postings about this trip


Near the end of the trip my wife just wanted a day to sleep in and I wanted to shoot at sunrise. So she stayed in Moab while I went to Mesa Arch. We had gone out the previous morning with a local photographer but I wasn't satisfied with the pictures (I'm still not). A comment to professionals who may read this posting, just because you're bored going to the same places all the time for sunrise, your clients may have never been there and deserve the best spot. Other than his choice of sunrise location he was a wonderful guide.

But let's get back to my story. I drove out to Canyonlands in the dark and walked the short hike to Mesa Arch. There was already a photographer there with a better setup than me and a professional guide. I thought I remembered where the sun would be rising from the previous day and just assumed the other photographer was shooting for a different angle (turns out he was shooting for the glow on the bottom of the arch). So the sun rose and I clicked away but realized I wasn't getting the shot I wanted. I was out of time so I started moving the tripod around, looking for the right shot. The picture below was well after dawn but it captures the moment.

Mesa Arch At Sunrise

I had not been to the site before but some places are so beautiful it's easy to get great pictures. Moving to the side gave me a chance to shoot the underside of the arch and it is quite a sight.

A View Of Mesa Arch At Sunrise

Art

Freezing For Cherry Blossoms

Last year (2007) I took advantage of our proximity to DC and participated in a Washington Photo Safari's Workshop for the Cherry Blossoms at dawn. I arrived early on a very COLD morning and had a chance to wander the monuments of DC before dawn. There's something very quiet and serene at that time. It came through in the photos.

The workshop ended up being a good education during which I didn't get any good pictures of the blossoms. The problem was that peak flowers passed very suddenly and right before the workshop. The trees had flowers but they were not the best.  Regardless I enjoyed the morning.

Towards the end of the workshop however we took some time to shoot the Tulip library. This is an area near the tidal basin where dozens of different varieties of Tulips are planted each year. While lying in the dirt I took my best picture of the Washington Monument.

But fate had one more picture left for me. As I was walking back to my car on the other side of the tidal basin I saw another walker admiring the view. One quick picture and the morning was captured.

My Brother-In-Law's Wedding

So it's been a few days since I posted a blog entry but I have a good reason. I was in Tampa at my brother-in-law's wedding. Everything went incredibly smooth and it was great. I'm not going to go into details here about the wedding but I do want to share a few pictures I took with my Canon Point & Shoot.

One of the stops was a visit to the aquarium with my daughter.

We were very happy these guys were small and behind glass

We were sitting right next to the cake and it looked great so I took a couple of shots.

After the bride and groom attacked

And I took lots of pictures of people. Here's just a couple.

Georgetown Photowalk

Sunday was a beautiful day for taking pictures. Warm, but not too warm. Sunny, but with clouds in the sky. A free day after my wife was away all week and I had our daughter all to myself. The timing was perfect for Jeff Revell's photowalk in Georgetown. For those who don't know what a photowalk is Jeff wrote a pretty good explanation here. In a nutshell it's a bunch of photographers gathering in a place and taking pictures while walking and socializing. Fun. This particular walk was in Georgetown and started with us all meeting under the Whitehurst Freeway and then walking along the C&O canal. On the back streets and along the canal there a thousand little details that make great pictures. There were also tourists who were confused by our presence. Was a politician jogging on the trail? Was it a Flickr meetup? I love it when you take a picture and three other people suddenly appear to take the same picture. I have to commend Jeff for his intricate planning so that we would arrive at one of the canal locks at the same time the park service boat ride was transiting. Great to watch and shoot, especially since the crew dresses in period clothes. Turning left we headed up to M Street which was teeming with people and traffic. A typical Sunday midday. I confess that I avoid Georgetown because the traffic and crowds are so bad. Walking back towards the Key Bridge I stayed on the shady side of the street, found lots of architectural details to photograph and a couple of us even got kicked out of the Lush store for taking pictures. Their soaps are so colorful they just screamed to be photographed. We then got to see a truck double parked on M Street in the middle of the day with the driver clearly not caring that he was making bad traffic worst. After taking a detour through Cady's Alley we ended up at the Philadelphia Cheesecake Factory. We got lunch some of the group went across the street to the park. I had to wait. Not only did I somehow end up near the end of the line to order but they seem to take a little longer making my food. By the time I got to the park everyone else was done eating :( We finished up our walk by returning to where we started and taking a group photo. We lost a few people along the way but overall everyone had a good time.

More of my pictures can been seen on my gallery page and the walk's Flickr group.

Major Change In My Life

So.... I had a little change in my life last Friday.  My company did some reorganizing and I was left on the outside looking in.  In a lot of ways this is a good thing but it still sucks!  So I should have more time to blog about photography and get out and take pictures.  We'll see since I spent today replacing closet doors in my basement.

My Experience With Better Photo

In 2004 I took a course with Better Photo. I was very happy with the experience but have not taken another course until now. Since I now have some time on my hands (due to my employment change) it seems a good opportunity to improve my skills. The course I took previously was Creating Visual Impact (Brenda Tharp) which I found very rewarding. The course works by reading instruction and then going out and taking pictures that use the lesson. You then upload the images to a community page where the instructor and other students provide feedback. The whole process is a great way to learn. The picture on the left was taken at a park in Great Falls, VA. A smaller park called Scott's Run Nature Preserve. There's a great trail to the Potomac and at one point there are stepping stones across a creek. What I didn't capture was how the water was smooth on one side and disturbed on the other. I want to go back to this park and take more photos. The picture on the right is a great example of a technique I learned as part of the course. The subject is just some flowers I had purchased and had in a vase with a blank wall behind. But by applying a technique of zooming during the exposure I created a dynamic and exciting image. I think the choice of subject also contributed.

For other lessons I took little trips to find interesting subjects. Sometimes I found inspiration in the middle of the road, like the manhole cover. Other times I found interesting details on roads traveled by many. The window below was on a small building alongside the C&O canal. The color combined with the building texture attracted my attention. It's also a good example of not centering the subject. It wouldn't be the same with the subject in the middle.

Overall I found the course to be a rewarding experience and many of the techniques learned continue to influence my photography. Which of course is the whole point. I am excited for my next course, Eight Steps To More Dramatic Photography (Jim Zuckerman).

I'm Taking Another BetterPhoto Class

I mentioned previously that I had taken a course in the past through BetterPhoto.com. I decided to take another course and decided on Eight Steps to More Dramatic Photography with Jim Zuckerman. We're now in the fourth week and while I have found the course material good I have been disappointed with the level of class interaction. There is none and I seem to be the only person submitting assignments. The first week was about finding a great subject and my initial pictures were not that great overall. I was focusing too much on the class subject and forgot all the other elements of making a good picture. After Jim's critiques I tried another picture of the same type of subject and am very happy with the results. The second week the lesson addressed picture backgrounds and how they are a key element that is often overlooked.  Nobody likes a tree coming out of their head.  In a couple of the pictures I blurred the background out of existance.  In another I created a collage effect by photographing a regular flag in front of a giant flag and then removing the color from the back flag in Photoshop.  Jim didn't really think that was a complimentary background but I like the way it looks. So far I am getting some good experience out of the class but have not been thrilled with the amount of interaction with other students.  Maybe it's how I've been working but I think a lot of the problem is that Jim has been somewhat slow with his critiques.  I'm not sure but I think the web site doesn't show pictures to other students until after Jim does his critique. Stay tuned for more as I work through the lessons.

Week 3 Of My Better Photo Class

I am so far behind on blogging that I'm writing about week 3 while thinking about taking photos for the week 5 assignment. Maybe I'm not THAT far behind. So week 3 was about color surprises. I had some existing pictures that I thought would be good examples but using them would defeat the purpose of taking the course. Instead I decided to combine taking pictures with our trip to Boston for a wedding.  This means I would have to use an opportunistic method of photography since we don't heavily schedule our trips based on my photo plans and this one was about a wedding and seeing friends. However, I did get some good pictures from the trip including the picture to the left.  This photo was taken from the pier at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art.  For those not familiar, it's the new museum cantilevered over Boston Harbor.  There was a floating barrier and the orange of the barrier provided a nice contrast to the dull ocean.  You also got a nice contrast of textures from the ripples. The second photo here was taken while walking along the cliffs at Newport, RI.  We had gone down to Newport after the wedding and wandered around the town and then toured The Breakers.  No photography was allowed inside the mansion so you'll just need to go yourself.  There is also a cliff walk which is probably even better when there isn't any haze.  But my understanding is that's a rare day. As we were walking along the path the was the wall of a patio.  I liked the lichen color and how it contrasted with the stone.  I also liked the geometric pattern.  Together they created something different.  I gave the lichen a color boost in Lightroom but the composition was done with the camera, no cropping tricks. Next week in the class we covered the Classic Landscape Technique.  I had some difficulty with this one and haven't gotten Jim's critique yet so stay tuned.

Week 4 Of My Better Photo Course

Well ... again I have been remiss in posting.  I would say I will try to be better but I'm probably not going to deliver.   I'm not giving up on my blog but I do need to get on a schedule. Week 4 of my course was several weeks ago but I still remember the trouble I had.  It was about the classic landscape technique.  In a nutshell the classic technique is a beautiful landscape with a strong foreground subject.  The landscape is the canvas but they tend to be vague without a strong singular subject. I decided in order to get the pictures for this assignment I would go up to Great Falls, MD.  It's not the more common VA side and in retrospect that might have been better.  The problem was that there is only a single place to see the falls from MD while lots of places from VA.  This means there was no good foreground subject.  However, the MD side provides more than just the falls.  There are some islands plus the C&O canal.  At the end of the day I ended up with pictures that do not include the falls. The picture on the left was taken right on one of the waterways below the islands.  I used a polarizer to expose the rocks below the surface but because this uses a very wide lens the polarizer could only work on part of the water.  I really like the combination of visible and mirrored water.  The sky was a different problem since the day was completely overcast.  Great soft light but I had to colorize it in this picture. The second picture was near the park entrance.  The clouds parted a little and allowed some setting sun the come through.  I thought the change in texture added a great division and draws your eye forward to the log. Overall I enjoyed getting out and taking pictures.  There were other shots that didn't fit the assignment but also spoke to me. Next up in the course ... Cities At Twilight.

I Want The Canon 50D

Canon has thrown off my schedule. I was looking ahead to Spring 2009 to upgrade my camera which is when I figured the 50D would be released. But now Canon's gone and announced it for Photokina. While I enjoy using the Rebel XTi I feel like it could be faster and more configurable. The 50D appears to deliver. The other difficulty I have with the XTi is that I get concerned using ISO 800 or higher even though I know 800 is very usable. Higher usable ISO means to me that I can have faster shutter speeds delivering similar image quality. Actually better quality since higher speeds means less camera shake. I'm looking forward to the reviews of the 50D and seeing it in stores.

Visual Realia's Photowalk In Gettysburg Is About To Begin

I'm sitting in a small coffee shop in Gettysburg waiting for the Photowalk to start in about an hour.   I haven't been here since I was a kid and don't remember ever coming to the town.  After the walk I'm going to drive around the battlefield.  Maybe I'll visit Little Round Top. Watch for a blog entry after the walk.

The Gettysburg Photowalk Was Great

Sunday was the Photowalk put on by Andy Smith of Visual Realia in Gettysburg, PA. It was a great opportunity to a visit a place I had not been since childhood. Even then we toured the battlefield and didn't really look in town. We met in the center of town and walked to the train station. Passing an old theater along the way. I love that so many old theaters are named The Majestic. Once we reached the train station we encountered some of the more interesting old buildings of the walk since right afterward was and old building with a Gettysburg Photo sign. Lots of interest and age. That's also when we had our first encounter with the fraternity boys. It appears that Sunday was also the end of rush week at Gettysburg College and the crowds were having fun. Lots of running and shouting. The Seminary On Seminary RidgeNext on the walk was Gettysburg College itself. Quite the beautiful campus. Lots of older buildings with some artwork scattered around. Even the adirondack chairs were photogenic. This is where we congregated for our group photo. Heading back into town we encountered the female side of rush week. A group of young ladies dressed in black dresses and acting very properly. Quite different from the men. We then took a longish walk up to Seminary Ridge. Yes, our first encounter with the actual battle. A long of people decided not to walk up the hill since it was so hot. Returning to town we walked down a street with some beautiful old houses and eventually came to a couple of churches. One was having a Mexican festival but the second was more interesting. It was old with red mortar between the stones. I thought of might have been there during civil war nut then I saw a stone with the date 1888. A man walking by told us it was the memorial church and there were memorial plaques inside. We decided to go in. Inside they were just closing up after services and they showed us the area where families had put stone in memory of loved ones who died in the battle. It's quite a sight. We returned to the square and the Photowalk was over. After lunch I decided to drive around the battlefield.  Because I am familiar with that aspect of the battle I decided to start at Little Round Top.  I was amazed at how small an area thw 20th Maine occupied.  The other aspect of the battle field that struck me at the Devil's Den is how many memorials are on the battlefield.  They're everywhere!  You can't blame the Park Service since they predate the whole concept of National Parks.  Despite the nearby restaurants and the highway running down the middle you can still appreciate the incredible land for a battle. For more pictures see my Gettysburg gallery.

Week 5 & 6 of My BetterPhoto Course

Week 5 of BetterPhoto was about twilight and nighttime photography.  I decided that I should go to the National Mall for this assignment.

World War II Memorial At Night

I wondered the mall from before sunset until after it was completely dark.  Walking all the way from the museums up to the Lincoln Memorial and back is quite a long trip.  Along the way I got in some great tourist watching and enjoyed a concert by a military band.

As it got darker some of the classic images emerged. Sunset reflected in the Vietnam memorial provides the haunting feeling that you feel while there.  The other picture is at the base of the Washington Monument.  By being low and using a wide angle lens it captures the size of the structure more than any shot from a distance.  Shortly after I took this picture I was told I could not use a tripod within the ring of flags.

Overall I enjoyed going down to the Mall and shooting at night.  It's fascinating seeing the mood of the area change as first the ball players finish their games and then the tourists drift off to dinner.  Finally there are just late roamers and photographers.

Week 6 was about taking pictures of the same subject using both a telephoto and wide angle lens.  Because I was on vacation at the beach I didn't get a chance to do the assignment.

iPhone Pictures

In preparation for entering Scott Kelby's iPhone book contest I've been periodically using the camera on my phone.

Touchdown? ... No!  I did it? ... Yes!

Please leave comments letting me know what you think.

Week 7 & 8 of My BetterPhoto Course

I\'m TiredThis is the last post of my Better Photo course series.  I had planned to post weekly to follow my course but that didn't happen.  No excuse! The subject of Week 7 was capturing motion.  Trying to communication activity through a static medium.  It's not always easy. The pictures on this page were taken during a family vacation to Lewes Beach, DE.  My main purpose was of course to capture keepsakes of my family and friends but I also knew I had a class assignment. The picture on the left was taken at a little amusement park in Rehobeth Beach.  They had all sorts of rides that were perfect for my daughter who's 2½ years old.  She loved the rides but was tired from a full week of beach and fun. The wives went off for an evening out so the Dads took the girls to the amusement park.  This was the last ride before we went to dinner and Abby was tired.  But she enjoys carousels and Daddy was right there. This picture was from on the carousel and the motion is conveyed not only by the blurred background but also the overexposure of the background.  I feel it draws you into her face.  Trust me, she was having fun. The second photo is from one of our many visits to the beach.  Our friend Gary was having a great time in the waves. Part of what I like about this photo is that it effectively has a two-tone, textured background.  It helps to draw your attention straight to the splash which is the real subject. I only wish I could have gotten a picture of the wave winning. Week 8 of the course was about shooting into the sun.  I found the lesson very interesting but because of other demands on my time I was unable to shoot the assignment.  I will remember this lesson for the next time I go to shoot a sunrise or sunset.

I have a great picture of a sunset from a cruise ship that demonstrates why you need more than just the sunset.  You need some other point of interest and use the sun to enhance the beauty that is already there.

This concludes my series on the Better Photo course.  I may take another class but for general skill building I find workshops better.  What I might take with Better Photo is a class on using a flash.  That's an area I need improvement.

Does Equipment Matter?

It seems there are lots people obsessed with what sort of equipment you have. There are also two schools of thought about the importance of equipment. It's all the photographer and the equipment is important. I say it's somewhere in between.

Better equipment only matters if the photographer can take advantage of the additional capabilities. What?!? Let me explain.

The skill of a photographer is being able to visualize a picture and then capture it.  Obviously, some photographers are better at visualization than others.  Back before digital the visualization was even more critical because your only opportunity to see the image was days later when the film came back from processing.   But visualization is still very important. So based on my comment you would think I believe a good photographer can use any equipment and that is not the case.  Because even if a photographer can visualize an image they still need to capture it.  And that's where equipment matters.  A picture with a small depth of field is going to be near impossible with a point & shoot because the focal length is so short you can not get a shallow DoF. In a previous post I mentioned I wanted the Canon 50D.  I still do and here's why.  I am able to visualize pictures that I fail to capture.  On example is low light, low noise pictures that freeze motion without flash.  That requires better focusing, better metering and usable higher ISO.  These are all things the 50D should do better than the XTi. The bottom line is:

Equipment matters if it allows a photographer to capture the image they visualize.

Scott's Run Nature Preserve

On Tuesday I went out to Scott's Run to take some pictures.  I went there a few years ago and really liked the waterfall where the creek empties into the Potomac river.  Having a spot like this is great since it's so close to DC. A real hidden gem.

First Impressions Of My Canon 50D

In an earlier post I mentioned my desire for the new Canon 50D.  Well I went ahead and purchased it in late October.  The recent photowalk in Harpers Ferry was my first outing with the camera.  This provided a great evaluation.

Pros:

Most of these relate to moving from the XTi but some are also applicable if coming from a 40D.
  • The Screen! It blows the screen on my XTi away.  No comparison.  The screen on the XTi was adequate for reviewing histograms and looking at data.  But I couldn't evaluate image quality, even zoomed all the way in.  The 50D screen has a high contrast, high resolution and I can easily see the quality of the image, even zoomed out.
  • Speed! This camera is fast and I don't mean focusing.  Every aspect of the operation is fast and responsive.  Especially when I review images.  There is no delay as I change image or switch settings.  It just responds.
  • Custom Modes. While other Canon cameras have custom modes on the dial this is my first experience and I love them.  One of my major complaints is when I make changes to settings I sometimes forget to change them back and the next shot is awful.  I set C1 to my defaults which allows me to quickly reset.  I used C2 for HDR capture.  This was set the same as C1 except for exposure bracketing and drive speed.
  • Physical Size. I'm not sure I should list this is a pro since it's a bigger camera than the XTi.  What's important is I didn't really notice the extra size and weight.  The physical design is excellent and Canon was smart to leave it unchanged from the 40D.  What I discovered coming from the XTi is that once you start carrying a camera bag with several lenses the difference in the camera body isn't that much of an impact.  We're still talking same lenses.
  • High ISO Noise. I shot the entire Photowalk no lower than ISO 400.  I bumped the ISO as high as 1600.  I would never have done this with XTi due to sensor noise but I haven't found a problem yet.  This allowed me to take pictures I couldn't otherwise.
  • Megapixels. I don't consider the full image number of pixels an improvement since the XTi provided plenty for all my purposes but it does come into play when I brought the images into Lightroom.  There were several pictures that could have used tighter composition.  Here the increase in pixels comes into play as it allows me to compensate for photographer shortcomings/laziness (should have changed lenses).

Cons:

I haven't found any major Cons.  Most of these are nits.
  • Price. The 50D is not cheap!  Since it's new there aren't any reliable deals but I did get a discount by using Microsoft Live Search.  I'll end up with almost $100 off, free shipping and no tax.  Still it's expensive but does this really belong on this list since it's a one-time hit.  There's no recurring fees.
  • New accessories. Wooops, more costs.  I needed a new UDMA memory card, the batteries are different, my remote shutter release doesn't work, my Sunpak flash doesn't work, I'm going to spring for an L-bracket and maybe a different focusing screen.  More money :(
  • File size. More megapixels means more more storage needed.  I filled an 8GB card on the Photowalk.  I admit I took a lot of pictures but still.  Yikes.  I need to buy a second 8GB.
  • Live View got disabled. I think this is related to how I had the C1 and C2 set but this should be universal.  I need to make sure it doesn't get disabled regardless of my use of the mode dial.
  • New Order Needed For Exposure Bracketing. Canon includes two orders for exposure bracketing, -/0/+ and 0/-/+.  However, the 50D is so fast that when you lower the camera to look at the screen all you see is the last of the three images and it is the least usable.  Canon needs to add a third option, -/+/0.  This way the image on the screen after shooting a burst is the most usable.
So those are my initial impressions.  This is just my opinion and other results may vary.

Harpers Ferry Photowalk

On Sunday 11/2, Jeff Revell led another of his wonderful photowalks.  This time it was to the town of Harpers Ferry, WV.  We had beautiful weather but lousy parking.   I've been to Harpers Ferry before but always for rafting trips.  So while I knew the history of John Brown and Meriwether Lewis I had never wandered around the town. More pictures from other participants are available on Flickr.

And finally, my first real attempt at an HDR image.  I captured lots of images sets but find the processing difficult.

More images are in my gallery page.

Inaugural Fireworks Meetup

On January 20th we get a new President and the inaugural is going to be BIG!  I've heard the crowds may fill the entire Mall.  As part of previous inaugurals there have been huge fireworks displays although I have not been able to confirm them for this year. Since these are huge displays launched different from other events I suggest a meetup near the Iwo Jima memorial (or Netherlands Carillon) to take pictures.  I would like to find out if there is any interest before going further.  Please leave comments to let me know interest.

Another Upgrade ...

I have been frustrated with my computer, not a new thing but I decided to take action. My first move was to experiment with adding a second monitor in addition to my 24" widescreen. I had a spare in the basement and moved it upstairs. It's an older LCD and refuses to calibrate but it did get me hooked on two screens. The second consideration was should I upgrade or buy new. I decided to upgrade the video card to see if that improved the performance in Lightroom. If it didn't (and it didn't) I could use the card in the next computer. Since I already had 4GB of RAM I was convinced I needed to bump the processor. At this point upgrading doesn't make sense. So it was off to Dell's website to see what they have. There are pros and cons of Dell but overall they make good machines.  Looking at their choices I decided I liked the Dell Studio desktop. Dell Studio XPSHaving decided on a model with a high-end Core2Quad processor, I started waiting for a deal. Two weeks ago I decided to pull the trigger ... But that same day I got a flyer in the mail. There was a new Studio XPS desktop coming on 11/17. It used the new i7 processor and would not be an outrageous price. So I waited and on Monday put in my order.
  • Intel Core i7-920
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (I'm willing to Vista a chance)
  • 20" widescreen monitor to replace the old LCD as a second screen
Now I have to wait again. It doesn't ship until mid-December. One final comment. I paid with a Dell Account so there's no interest for 12 months. I'll pay for the computer next fall.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

I hope everyone enjoyed a relaxing and satisfying Thanksgiving. I went to my mother's and enjoyed Turkey, Christmas Lights and the Crayola Factory.

Why A Camera Phone Is Better Than No Camera

Taken with my iPhone

Inaugural Fireworks Update

I haven't posted in a few weeks but I have still been thinking about this meetup.  Unfortuantely it doesn't look like it is going to happen.  Why?  Because it doesn't look like they are having fireworks for the inauguration.  There's been no information and now there is this article saying Grucci hasn't had discussions yet. I post another update if things change.

Two Wide Views Of The Inaugural

Two different implementations of the same photo have caught my attention since Tuesday. They're wide panoramics of Tuesday's inauguration with the ability to zoom into the details.

The first is a version done by CNN using Microsoft's Photosynth. The technology allows multiple photos from multiple viewpoints to be displayed almost immediately.  So far they have over 600 images contributing, however I find it very difficult to navigate.  "The Moment" can be viewed here.

The second is by David Bergman.  He used a Gigapan mount and stiched together 220 different images into a 1.5 Gigapixel (Yes, GIGA!) image.  It is easy to navigate and zoom into details.  I'm amazed at how many cameras were being used, even YoYo Ma got into the action.  It can be viewed on David's website or full screen. Overall I much prefer David's image over CNN's.  I just wish he could have captured more of the crowds.

I Will Be At Photoshop World In Boston

I have been aware of NAPP for over a year and when they announced Photoshop World would be in Boston this spring I thought that's great but I don't have the time.  Since then, circumstances have provided more time than I wish and I have decided to take this opportunity.  As long as I'm going I am also taking advantage of the opportunity to go on the Pre-conference photo safari with Moose Peterson and Joe McNally.  This is going to be an exciting time. I'm looking forward to the entire trip.  If you're also going I would it if you would let me know in the comments.

My Porfolio Review For Photoshop World

This week I am heading up to Boston for Photoshop World.  I am very excited for many reasons, one of which is the portfolio review on Wednesday.  I have selected 24 images for the review and printed them in a poster fashion on 11x14 pages using LR/Mogrify.  They look good.

I have included the other images after the jump but expect I will not have time to get through all of them.  I'm still working on the order they will be presented.  Any comments will be appreciated.

Bryce Canyon Firs

[nggallery id=8]

Cherry Blossoms

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This weekend we were able to go out and enjoy one of the great sights in DC.  The cherry blossoms.  Sure the ones around the tidal basin get all the press but there is more than that.  On Saturday, I was able to get a few pictures at the Cherry Blossom festival itself before we were driven off by the crowds (the bane of good weather).  Sunday we went to the Kentwood neighborhood in Bethesda for the best blossoms in DC.  These are spectacular and don't have the tourists.

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My First Poll: How Often Should I Be Posting

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Georgetown French Market

Georgetown has an annual affair where the merchants bring sale item onto the sidewalk and offer sales.  They call it a French Market.  Unless someone can explain otherwise, I'll just call it a sidewalk sale.

I heard about a photowalk on Friday and decided to attend.  However, I got there early and decided to just walkaround on my own.  Probably a good decision since I never saw any other people with cameras.  It wasn't very large but I did get some nice pictures.

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Tips From The Top Floor Is Heading Towards The Top Of The World

If you're not familiar with Chris Marquart you should check him out. He has been doing a photography podcast for several years and just launched a daily photo tips podcast. One of the more interesting things about Chris is that he is leading a workshop over the next month to a Mount Everest basecamp. This is seriously cool so I decided to include his update widget on my site.

2009 Flower Mart

The past weekend we visited the National Cathedral for the 2009 Flower Mart. There weren't a lot of flowers on display but there were lots of crafts, food and rides. Great photo opportunities.

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Went To Boston For The Weekend

This past weekend we went up to Boston for my wife's college reunion.  Being me I brought along my 50D and a couple of lenses.  I got some pictures around the campus but also while waiting on Newbury Street.  I am launching a new photo category "While Waiting For My Wife".

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Flags-In At Arlington National Cemetery

Every year for Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery places a flag in front of each grave.  This job is done by the soldiers of the Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, on the Thursday prior to Memorial Day.  This year I decided this was the right time for me to finally go to takes pictures at the cemetery.  Something I've been meaning to do for some time. Here are a few of the images from yesterday.

More pictures on my SmugMug gallery

Salute Our Troops On This Memorial Day 2009

As a veteran, Memorial Day holds a special place with me.  Some of the bravest and honorable people I ever met serve in the military.  The sacrifices they make to protect this country defy description. Let us remember our troops as we BBQ or watch parades.  Remember the time they spend away from their friends, wives/husbands and children.  Remember those deployed throughout the world.  Remember those who return home changed and remember those who do not return. End of speech.

Falls Church Memorial Day Parade 2009

Some fun images I captured at today's Memorial Day parade in Falls Church, VA

iPhone App For Finding Sunrise Times

VelaClock Screen I have had an app on my iPhone for several months now that I thought was pretty cool. It gave me several photography related tools. But I recently went into it to find out a sunrise time and it gave me completely wrong information. Circular File!

I also realized that the only function I really wanted was sunset/sunrise information.  So I found a new application, VelaClock.  For $4 it doesn't do anything but give you clock information.  I especially like the twilight times and azimuths.  I find the list of locations limited but hope that will improve.

Website Redesign Is Now Live

A major reason I haven't posted any new entries in last couple of weeks is now available for your viewing pleasure.  The newly redesigned Agin Photography site is live.  The previous site was very blog centric with too much information on one page.  This new design puts images forward.  A couple of the new features include:
  • A simplified front page with a slideshow of my images
  • A cleaner blog page focusing on the core content of a post (image, poll or commentary)
  • Integrated SmugMug galleries which include the ability to purchase images (for personal use only)
I hope you enjoy the new design.

Trying Something New - AudioBoo

I found out how easy it is to setup a periodic podcast using an iPhone application called AudioBoo (iTunes link).  So I decided to give it a try.  I don't know how often I will be recording these or how organized they will be.  It's a learning process like most of what I've been doing.

Listen!

If you would like to subscribe you can use this RSS feed.  You can manually subscribe in iTunes by going to Advanced > Subscribe To Podcast ... > and enter http://feeds.feedburner.com/Agin/.

Flags, Parades, Picnics and Fireworks

Happy July 4th everyone. I hope everyone has some great plans for this weekend. Enjoy them and takes lots of great pictures. I will be going to see the fireworks from near the Iwo Jima memorial tomorrow. Say Hi if you see me and I hope to have some good stuff to share.

Flag Fireworks

Podcast Episode 2: Shooting Fireworks

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Episode 2 of the Agin Photography Podcast talks about shooting fireworks. Have a listen.

Listen!

If you would like to subscribe you can use this RSS feed. You can manually subscribe in iTunes by going to Advanced > Subscribe To Podcast > and enter http://feeds.feedburner.com/Agin/.

Fireworks! Fireworks! Fireworks!

I went to the Netherlands Carillon (which is next to the Iwo Jima memorial) last night for fireworks. Big crowd, big explosions and my daughter's first time. She loved it! Here are a few pictures from yesterday.

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My Camera Met My 3-Year Old

Last weekend I was uploading some photos to my computer and had my Canon 50D sitting on my desk with the card door open. My 3-year old daughter decided she needed some attention and with her feet pulled the camera off my desk. Baamm!! {insert discussion with daughter here} When I examined the camera I discovered two things. Canon makes tough cameras and the card door was bent. The camera had landed on the open door and it would not close properly. This was bad. I worked on the door a little and it now closes. Everything else about the camera appears to work properly. But that door worries me. It's not 100% and while it is usable I need to get it replaced. Earlier this week I called the local camera store (Penn Camera) and they told me they would need to send it out for repair and it would take at least 2 weeks. Not a good option since I need the camera for Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photowalk on the 18th. I called a different local camera store who does repairs and dropped it off there for an estimate. I got that the next day ... $225 to replace the door and it would take them a week to get the parts. So I made more calls to Canon. I got two different results, one number said they had no repair costs and the other (direct call to the repair facility) said it would be ~$200, 2 weeks and would include a complete cleaning. I also got the number of a local repair location, called them and got a quote of $105 plus it would take 1 week to get the parts. The good thing is the camera is fully functional and I can use it next weekend. But I have a decision. Do I spend more money and take longer for factory service (which will include a cleaning and complete checkup) or do I use the local repair facility and get the job done faster and cheaper. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

What I'm Bringing On Saturday's Photowalk

On Saturday I'm off to the Worldwide Photowalk and wanted to share some of the equipment I will be carrying. I've had most of it for some time but one item is brand new. First the existing stuff.
  • Canon 50D
  • Canon 17-85mm (My standard lens)
  • Canon 10-22mm (Should be useful in the Building Museum)
  • Canon 70-300 DO (My telephoto)
  • Canon 430 EX II (My flash)
  • Polarizer Filters
  • Assorted cleaning do-dads
  • A small reflector (I probably won't use)
  • All carried in my LowePro Stealth Reporter 200

So far this list is the same setup I carry most everywhere. But here's my new item.

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So why am I carrying this? Because a photowalk is no place for a full sized tripod (I've done it) but some method of stabilizing the camera is good to have. Beanbags are limited to finding a flat surface while the Gorillapods can wrap around poles. Of course this device has its own limits. Difficulty with vertical photos is one but since I already have an L-Bracket this issue is eliminated. The other problem is height. While it can get very, very low I will need to find a platform for higher shots. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Photowalking Rocks

On Saturday 7/18, I participated in Scott Kelby's Second Annual Worldwide Photowalk. The size of this event was astounding. Over 32,000 photographers in over 900 locations. Wow! I had a great time. [smugmug url="http://galleries.aginphotography.com/hack/feed.mg?Type=gallery&Data=8995630_PUW3T&format=rss200" imagecount="100" start="1" num="100" thumbsize="Th" link="image" captions="false" sort="false" window="false" smugmug="true" size="X2"] Photos from all the participants on the photowalk can be viewed on this Flickr page. Photos from throughout the world can be viewed on this Flickr page.

Update On My Camera Repair

As I mentioned in an earlier post my daughter pulled my camera off my desk and damaged the CF card door. It was still usable (and I used it on last weekend's photowalk) but it's not right.  Prior to the weekend I received three different quotes for the repair.
  • A local photo shop that does repairs: $200 ($300 with sensor cleaning) and 1 week
  • A local authorized Canon repair facility:  $100 and 1 week
  • Canon's regional repair center: $200 (includes full cleaning) and up to 2 weeks
I needed the camera back by early August so I evaluated the options and made my choice.  I decided to send it to Canon even though it was more expensive.  The deciding factor was not actually about the camera but about my lenses. Two of my lenses (the 17-85mm and 70-300mm) are several years old, have never been serviced and have been banged around a little.  I've wanted to get them cleaned, checked and serviced for quite a while.  The problem was I would lose them for 2 weeks and the 17-85mm is my main lens.  Well, if my camera is in the shop I might as well take the opportunity to send the lenses. Canon has received my equipment and I look forward to their evaluation.  I will post an update when I get them back.

Review Of The Joby Gorillapod Focus

As I mentioned in an earlier post I was trying out a new piece of equipment on last weekend's photowalk, the Joby Gorillapod Focus.  How did it work?  Let's consider the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Lightweight I didn't really mind the extra weight with my SLR kit
  • Adaptive to multiple surfaces I was able to use it on a sloped top of a wall.  It worked great on any surface.
  • Capable of Low Heights This HDR photo was taken on the Gorillapod with the legs splayed wide apart.  It was so low I had trouble looking through the viewfinder
  • Easy To Switch Between Vertical and Horizontal By using a Quick Release clamp with my L-Bracket it was very easy to take off when not needed and to attach in the correct orientation.  Jeff Revell had a Trekpod that used an easy magnet mount.  I think my setup was just as easy to use.

Cons:

  • Stability This does not replace a full tripod.  The legs tend to creep if used at too wide an angle.  This can be addressed through technique.  I suspect this will get worst over time as the leg joint loosen.
  • Support for Vertical Orientation Without an L-Bracket this will be very hard to use for vertical shots.  A ball head that allows the camera to swing to the side will shift the center of gravity too much for this solution.  This is just another reason if you shoot any percentage of vertical shots you should have an L-Bracket.
  • Needs a Better Carrying Solution I have a loop on the side of my camera bag that I put one of the legs through.  This turned out to be a real pain in the neck.  I think I will figure out a different solution.
  • Height I knew this was a limitation.  The Gorillapod is short and any eye level shots require another surface.
So what is my overall verdict.  The Gorillapod Focus is a solid support system for times when you are on the go.  It is not a capable as a full-sized tripod but I often do not want to take the full tripod, too heavy, too bulky, ...  The other comparison I can make is to a beanbag.  It is more capable than a beanbag but also more expensive. The bottom line is I am keeping it in my equipment bag and will use it.  It's much more portable than a tripod and more capable than a beanbag.  A good compromise.

Podcast Episode 3: Diopter Control

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On Episode 3 of the Agin Photography Podcast I talk about the diopter control on SLRs. Have a listen.

If you would like to subscribe you can use this RSS feed. You can manually subscribe in iTunes by going to Advanced > Subscribe To Podcast > and enter http://feeds.feedburner.com/Agin/.

My Experience With Canon Repair

I have been remiss in updating my blog. The only partial excuse I have is that we took a vacation to Oregon and I intentionally did not mention that my house was going to be empty. As I mentioned previously I sent my camera and lenses to Canon for repair and cleaning.  All three were returned within the two weeks quoted and went with me to Oregon.  The CF card door works just like new.  The more interesting question is if the cleaning had any impact and the answer is ... not that I can detect.  I should point out that I didn't think the lenses were dirty beforehand but was sent them as a general maintenance check. One important thing was that the camera setting were reset.  I set things back to where I liked them but on my trip I encountered settings I hadn't remembered.  Something to keep in mind. My overall conclusion is that sending it to Canon was not the right choice and I should have used the local Certified repair facility.  In the future I will use them for minor repairs and general cleaning.  I will reserve Canon for major or warranty work.

The 2009 Arlington County Fair Photo Competition

Street Player In Athens

This weekend is the Arlington County Fair.  An annual smorgasbord of carnival rides, craft booths and unhealthy food.  I am really looking forward to spending time there with my wife and 3-year old. Now this would not be a normal topic for this blog except that they also have competitions.  Flowers, fruit, cakes and other standard county fair type of stuff (no farm animals).  They also have a photography category. I decided to enter several pictures (11 total) into the competition.  They have different categories for color vs. B&W; digital vs. film (interesting!); and some for extreme alterations.  They also broke out by age so adults didn't compete against kids.  Most of mine were in the Digitally Taken, Color section for adults.  How did I do? 3 images received Honorable Mentions, 1 image came in 3rd in its class, 1 image came in 2nd in its class and 1 image WON its class.  But the biggest success was Street Player in Athens.  It was awarded Grand Champion which means it was selected as the best overall photo by an adult!

I love it!