Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goodbye Jack.....We'll Keep Looking Up (and get better)!!!!!

I remember staying up late and watching Dr Who on PBS (yes, we sponsored them just for the Dr Who, and they cancelled it after that season).  After Dr Who, Jack Horkheimer would come on with his short spot on interesting events in space.  These were short blurps about what you could find interesting in space (with a small telescope or even the naked eye).  I always enjoyed his spots, and even looked for them often on the internet.  Unfortunately Jack passed away on August 20.

I figured the fact that Jupiter was as close as it would be for a long time, I would take advantage of the event to get some space pictures as sort of my memorial.  Well, good thing Jack was good natured, and always encouraging (after my attempt it would be necessary).  I commented that I would post the pictures good or bad, and go over my struggles.

First the struggles.  I ended up with only one shot at it.  Weather and travel worked against me, and I was unable to get out for a second night.  Well, I setup the telescope and snapped a few pictures of the moon to get started.  Obviously a full telescope is not really needed for the moon, but it was more of a checkout.  A picture is below.  Note, I was not really as interested in a moon shot as Jupiter was my real target.

Even with just a quick take, I was able to get some reasonable detail.  This was with the wider lens (as the longer lense was too long and the moon was too big to fit in).  Additionally the moon is really bright (so it was a quick exposure).  The combination of the wider lens and the bright moon made this possible.

Now we discuss Jupiter.  Sure it is alot bigger than the moon, but it is also a lot further away.  In order to get any visibility of it, I had to use the longer lens.  What this means is that the image moves across the field of view much quicker (the longer lens has a smaller field of few, and since the earth turns at a constant rate, items move quicker in the smaller space).  Making matters worse is the fact that Jupiter is not nearly as bright as the moon (much smaller and furter away, so less reflected light).  This means a longer exposure is needed.  Dark and movement are the bane of the photographer. 

Additionally, a camera is very different from an eye.  An eye can look sideways more into the lens to find objects.  The camera sort faces forward (it is mounted to do that).  It can not look around, so the object you want the picture of needs to be near the middle of the view (easy for the moon, not so much for a smaller object). 

Now some of you are saying, I need a better telescope.  There are telescopes that will track objects in space to help overcome this.  Well, my telescope is capable of this, but unfortunately the callibration process is manual.  You start by pointing it flat towards the north.  Then it will find an object that is bright, and ask you to center the object in the frame.  It does this a few times, then wholla, it knows where it is, and can find and track anything in the sky.  My problem is not so much the telescope, but my location.  Living in the woods is nice, but has its drawbacks.  I tried multiple times unsuccesfully to calibrate.  My problem is that the horizon is so high for me that all I could see were trees (except straight up, which did not help with the calibration).  I wanted to try going out to a field or something, but never got the chance. 

So with no further belly aching, I will go with my poor pictures.

Note, it did look a bit better through the telescope without the camera.  Not as much color as we see in the pictures from Nasa, but you could see the lines etc (just more gray and white than the pictures).  Did not come out well in pictures.  However, I am not giving up, I will give this another go in the future (just probably not Jupiter).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall Fair Season

I was hoping to do a post on some stellar pictures in memory of Jack Horkhiemer (who recently passed on).  However, so far my results are laughable at best, so I am going to take a few more shots (yes I will go over my problems as well, might as well see the problems).  So in order to not leave this blog un-updated for too long, I decided to show some pictures of one of the things we all like about fall and that is the fairs. 

These pictures were all taken at the GDS fair.  A fair is a great place for color and contrast.  Every ride has its color and the flags and decorations.  These make for some great pictures.  In order to really make the colors pop, you will see that I bumped up the saturation (and vibrance) on each of these pictures. 

Another thing to keep in mind while taking fair pictures is to look up.  For example, look at the picture below.

There are alot of rigging and rides that stick up into the sky (which if the weather is nice, gives a nice background itself).  This was taken from a corner of the fair, to try and get alot of the high rides.  The jumper is in the foreground with the ferris wheel, zipper and slide in the background (I could have gottne the round up and the pharohs ride, but would have lost the slide, and not gotten the jumper in the foreground (with the nice colored flags).  I liked this picture better.

In addition to the randomness of a bunch of rides, also try and isolate some (as in below).

Here is the Ferris wheel (always a nice choice).  This really stands out because we have a nice blue sky.  Clouds would break up the image, but as it stands we get the Ferris wheel by itself.  It would have been nicer to get a few more colors in the Ferris wheel (and maybe not as much blue).  However, you have to take what you get.

There are other things at the fair, not just rides.  I like the old machines.  They do not run them all at once, but they all get going.  They actually had an old mixer setup and making ice cream (which they were giving away).

Instead of the normal picture in the front of the tent, I decided to take one from the back.  It is a different perspective of the equipment.  I sorta liked the pile of equipment in the wagon.  All waiting its chance to get out front to be shown off and operated. 

Oh, there is another fair tradition.  Not always the most photogenic, but definitely a popular event.

What would a fair be without the metal bending of a smash up derby.  This was the first one the little guy watched (we normally do not attend, but enjoy the mostly empty fair while others cram in).  It was fun.  They did 4 rounds, they had a truck round.  3 of the trucks got hung up or stalled and came back at the end to bend some metal.

Well, after the derby it starts to get dark.  No need to put the camera away, fairs are normally well lit, and offer alot of good picture opportunities.  This one below was actually not night (but dusk).  I ran out to the car between heats at the derby (get some jackets it was getting cool).  The entrance offered a nice picture so I stopped and took one.

I like the lights and the color.  And some broken clouds add a nice background.  I probably should have tried to move around to the other side a bit, and taken a longer photo (with a few other rides on the side).  This would have reduced the sky a bit and added more color and light.  Next time.

Well, as I said, try it at night as well.  Here is an example of a night picture.
The Fair Princesses Palace is right in the middle (looks like a barn - but hold the negative thoughts, lets keep it nice).  I took a few pictures, but liked this one the best.  Another interesting one had the zipper as a blur in motion, but I preferred the defined structure.  Still alot of colors, now offset by the black sky.  You can see that there is plenty of light (some of those rides are moving - you can see if you look closely).  The picture was taken at an ISO of 400 appeture at f/4 and the exposure time was 1/8 of a second (I did brace the camera against a rail to ensure it was steady).  Another trick for long exposures is to set the delay to 2 or 10 seconds.  This way you can steady from the act of pushing the button before the picture is taken.

Fairs are bright, colorful and offer alot of picture opportunities.  So next time you go to the fair, take your camera, and dont forget to just look for some interesting shots.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Infrared Walk Through

Much like I did with the church, I thought it might be nice to go through an infrared project and my work flow with it.  Note, the fun thing about this is that you can really make your own changes, and come up with something nice, but at least this will be how I go about it (and experiment to see what I will get).  You can follow these steps and get reasonable results (or deviate and use your own settings as I will point out to get results that really appeal to you).  I am picking a subject that has not been on the blog before, and one that I think I would stop early on (and not take to completion as the next to last step actually looks the best). 

The picture was taken during the more recent trip (with the family) to Mohonk Mt House.  With the girls at the spa, I was able to take the little guy up the mountain to the tower.  Though I got some nice pictures from up there, the best infrared picture was actually of the tower itself. 

Before we begin, a note about setup.  I used the Canon SX210 for this picture (it is the only one I have setup to do Infrared).  I use a HOYA Infrared (R72) filter attached to an Adorama camera/filter adapter (allows us of standard filters that are 52mm thread type).  The adapter holds the camera and the filter in front of it, and can be mounted onto tripod (and I use the larger DSLR sized gorilla flexible tripod as it is easy to carry and stable with all this weight).  For processing I am using Photoshop CS4.  With that out of the way, lets get started.  Remember clicking on a picture will bring up a larger version of the picture.

Here is the picture as captured by the camera.  Notice the red shift.  Seems most of the cameras I have tested with the filter seem to shift to the red (though all a bit differently).  With the Hoya R72, there is a little normal light that gets through (but very little, looks black to me when I look through it).  This little light seems to mess with the white balance and shift the color to red.  Note, I say this because of some research I have done, it appears that changing the white balance can change the image (and other cameras do shift differently).  However, I have not experimented with it, because in the end, this image is not what I want to show (yeah even though I posted it here).

So here is the image converted to black and white.  For this I do not do anything too fancy (I just de-saturate).  I do bump up the contrast and the sharpening (as it helps with the look).  This image is much better than the above, and did not require any real effort.  So normally I save off a copy of the black and white version (to have it for comparison etc) then undo this step (go back to the first image above as I want access to that little bit of color information).

Now I play with the coloring a bit (for this example I used the auto settings in Photoshop CS4 - to show how that works, you can change the results quite a bit by using the sliders and coming up with your own settings).  Step one is auto color.  That cleans it up quite a bit. Step 2 is auto tone.  That leaves the image above.  I like this image, I think the sky is really nice.  If I were going for an image to publish, I would probably stop here.  Instead of using the auto functions above, I would use the sliders and pull out a bit of the darker red (not in the sky, but tinting in the building). I might even select just the building and perform the next step.

So some people really like the sky to shift back to the blue.  Doing this is easy.  Just go into Adjustments - Channel mixer.  Once in that pop up, select the red output channel.  Set red to 0, and blue to 100%.  Then select the blue output channel.  Set the blue to 0 and the red to 100% (basically flopping the blue and red collors).  Doing that yields the picture above.  Note, using someting other than 100% can change the hue a bit (and it is good to experiment, I was using the normal full swap for illustration). 

So it is possible for relatively little money to get some very artsy options in your picture taking (really changes people as well as landscapes, I will continue to play with this).  So go ahead, point the TV remote at your camera (hit any button) and see if it lights up in the screen (if it is good an bright, your camera lets alot of infrared through and you are almost there).  Then purchase a simple filter and a way to attach it and you are good to go.  Note, this can be done with better results on a DSLR, but it is not as simple, nor as cheap, so I am holding off on it (your DSLR will be permanently converted, and not do regular pictures anymore).