Snowstorm!

Peter's Cove, Blue Hill, ME

Peter's Cove, Blue Hill, ME

A pretty good snowstorm hit the area today, and I made a quick and risky stop on a barely plowed road to make this image of  Peter’s Cove. There was no time for a tripod due to the poor road conditions, and due to the fact Peter’s Cove is at the bottom of a hill. Hand held for 1/25 sec at f/11, ISO 200 and 24mm focal length . A snow plow coming down the hill beeped at me and I had to abandon further shooting.

A new website for Paul Andrew Photography.

My main portfolio site is hosted at paulandrewphoto.com, and has been constructed and maintained with Apple’s iWeb since 2003 (if memory serves me correctly). However, I’ve never been completely happy with the lack of customizability inherent in iWeb, and I’ve tried to find some simple web design software (short of Dreamweaver) that I can use to create a more elegant and simple web site.

Finally, I found a nice solution—Freeway Pro 5.5 by Softpress. I spent all day yesterday figuring out how to work the software, and once I made some serious progress, I became rather obsessed, and finished a working mock-up of the site, and didn’t go to sleep till about 3 am. (The down side of this was not so pleasant, as I had to get up at 6:30 to make breakfast for my kids and drive them to school this morning.) After dropping my kids off at school, I completely removed my old iWeb site and replaced it with the new improved version.

There are a few more pages to add, but the main work was going through my Lightroom library and culling through 1000+ images and choosing which images to include. I settled on about 7 black and white images, and 20 color images that I felt were a good representation of my work.

The interesting (perhaps somewhat demoralizing!) aspect of this process was how much more critical I have become of my own images. The more photographs I make, the more my older photographs seem to become flawed in some way.  The image above is an exception to this general trend—I still find this to be a well-composed and pleasing image. But that’s a subject for another post—after I have a good sleep.

Do you find the same dissatisfaction with your older images in general?

Canary Cove, Maine

During my semester break, I have been going through my image library—adding keywords, deleting bad images and picking images that I want to use when I eventually go on to redesign my portfolio at www.paulandrewphoto.com—and I came across this image that I made back in September of 2010. I pass by this little nub of an island many times each week, and for most of the time, it’s not very photogenic. The evening I made this image, a thick fog bank was lifting off of Blue Hill bay, and I managed to be passing by as this scene unfolded.

The fog erased the background from view, which is normally distracting and by doing so, created a simple, beautiful scene which allowed me to create an image that I think is worthy for inclusion in my portfolio.

The biology of seeing

I came across this lone maple leaf on a vast lawn of seaweed at low tide. To me this image is about texture and contrast. Not a gorgeous scenic, but an intimate pleasing composition. My eye is drawn to the bottom third of the image where the rock is peeking out amidst three waves of seeweed, and then my eyes naturally wander to the maple leaf and the dark upper patch of seaweed.

On page 78 of her book, “Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing”, Margaret Livingstone talks about work done by A. L. Yarbus, a Russian psychologist who put trackers on contact lenses on subject’s eyes and monitored where their gaze fell while they looked at a series of pictures. What he found was that people tend strongly to look at portions of the picture where there is fine detail and high-contrast. There is a striking picture on p. 79 of Livingstone’s book where she shows the results of Yarbus’ work. You can see superimposed on the painting exactly where one person looked.

I’ve never forgotten this, and now I try to pay attention to exactly where I look in a scene. A photographer I know (Richard Newton at Univ. of Massachusetts) once told me that a good photograph naturally leads one’s eyes around the image in a pleasing manner. I think this is good advice and Yarbus’ work tells us that we can use contrast and detail to help assist in making pleasing compositions.

Brooklin, Maine at 72 MP

My family has recently moved 3 hours north of Portland to a rental in Brooklin, Maine (hence the dearth of images this summer!). Here’s a beautiful point of land in Blue Hill Bay and mere 15 minute hike from our house.
Now, if the 72 megapixel header in the title of this post got your attention, you’re probably wondering what camera sensor I have gotten my hands on…the answer is that it’s not a new sensor, but a true resolution enhanced image created from 5 bracketed tripod-stabilized images fed into PhotoAcute, a great program for the Macintosh that can give (roughly) a doubled resolution image. That’s double in each dimension, or  not quite double, as my 21 MP image
only increased to 72 MP (a true doubling of resolution would create an 84 MP image). If I had the  time to post the 5 bracketed images here as well, you’d see that the program did a great job of exposure blending.
More frequently, if I find myself at a spot and I have some sense that I might have  a good image, I will take multiple exposures (PhotoAcute likes 5 or more) because in the back of my mind, I know that I can improve the image quality and size considerably using PhotoAcute. Also, it does a great job of increasing the dynamic range captured.
The downside is that processing five 21 MP images takes a LOT of time—about 8 minutes on my 3 year old 17″ Macbook Pro. It makes the cooling fans come on and it takes Lightroom3 a good few minutes to export a jpeg out of the 428 MB DNG file that PhotoAcute creates. Yes, it creates a DNG, which you can then touch up (if needed) in Lightroom 3.

Isle Au Haut, Maine #1

Recently, my wife and I spent a day (sans children) hiking on Isle Au Haut, a 10 km ferry ride from Stonington, ME. Isle Au Haut has about 45 year-round residents, and much of the island is part of Acadia National Park. Due to it’s remoteness, it’s the least visited part of Acadia (actually, I don’t have any data on that, but I’d bet you a nickel it’s true). There are only two rangers on the island and part of their job (aside from being incredibly friendly and knowledgeable) is to make sure everyone that entered the park in the morning leaves at the end of the day on the last ferry.

This will be the first of several posts on the trip, and I’ll include a photo or two with each post.

Today’s photos, the ferns (A) and the beach rocks (B), are taken at Duck Harbor (southwestern part of the island), and Squeaker Cove, respectively.

Duck harbor was where I first noticed that Isle Au Haut has some of the largest uninterupted fields (except for large boulders and occasional trees) that I have ever seen. These fields are so densely packed with ferns (I believe in this case, hay-scented ferns) that they seem to have crowded out many other species of plants. The visual effect is amazing, and the soft overcast light made photographing the fields quite pleasingly simple.

After a short hike up and over Duck Harbor Mountain, we arrived at Squeaker Cove. Beautiful smooth granite stones line the beach, which inevitably prompts people to create little cairn scultpures, many of which you can see here.

Incidently, when we arrived at the next beach at Deep Cove, which is populated by similarly smooth granite stones, my wife stepped in such a way that two of the polished stones slid against each other and produced a noise we both spontaneously described as a squeak, hence our theory that this is behind the naming of Squeaker Cove.

I have no idea if this theory has any truth to it, but it’s a good sounding theory. So there.

I hope you enjoy the images. More about hiking on the island in the next post.

Breaking the rule; sometimes the subject is in the center!

My family (last weekend) stayed for several nights at Maine Huts & Trails’ Flagstaff Lake Hut which is on the northeastern shores of Flagstaff Lake. To the south lie the Bigelow Mountains (whose peaks the Appalachian Trial passes over). It’s a beautiful location where the nightime sounds are consist of owls and plaintive loons, and some of the darkest night skies I’ve seen.

The actual story behing the creation of Flagstaff Lake still leaves a bad taste in many people’s minds—read more at this link.
Despite the history, the hut is situated in a beautiful spot and landscape photography opportunities abound. Our first night there, a short walk down a peninusla, and we were treated to a peaceful sunet with some dramatic light.

I could see, as the sun lowered in the sky, that it was soon going to be behind the clouds and anticipated the rays of light, and deliberately underexposed this image slightly to help preserve highlight detail.

But how should I frame the scene? Conventional wisdom is to not center your subject in the frame (and for some people not to take a photograph of a sunset!); so if you say that the sun & the dark central clouds are the subject, I’ve clearly violated this rule. In many cases, this rule is a good one to follow, since a central subject placement can me very static (i.e. boring). So, is there another framing of this scene that would be better?

Perhaps, but my eye sees this image as well balanced with the heavy blacks at the bottom third of the image and the sky occupying the rest. Furthermore, the dark edges of the clouds form a “v” shaped (or a nearly oblique line rising from left to right). I find the shapes of the mountains make my eye wander naturally from bottom right to bottom left and then up toward the sun and clouds. The sharp contrasts lead my eye around the image naturally, and in a way that seems pleasing to me.

I like this image, and I think the framing works well. I think this image is a good example of when it’s a good idea to ignore the “rule” of avoiding central subject placement.

Technical details:  this image was 1/640 sec at f/8.0 70-200mm f/2.8L at 70 mm, ISO 100 -1/3 EV, processed in Adobe Lightroom 3  and converted to B&W using SilverEfex Pro.

Upper Falls, Cathance River, ME

I’m busy delving into the newly released Lightroom 3, organizing my library and doing some much needed keywording. In the course of doing so, I came across this photograph taken last fall at the Upper Falls, Cathance River, ME Thought it would make a nice blog post.

I must say that I am completely delighted at the image quality improvements in Lightroom 3. The new Lens Corrections are fantastic and I now have no reason to maintain my license for DxO Optics Pro, which is a time and money savings.

Only 1800 images left to sort through! My mid year resolution is to finish this task and never to fall behind on keywording and organizing again.