Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Back in the States

So.  Research (plus a small desire to see family and friends around the holidays) brought us back to the states.  My wife needed to do some raiding of the US archives for her masters degree in Northern Ireland...It doesn't sound too legit, but it is.  really.

Friends and family...and constant travelling...sure occupy much time.  Especially when everyone wants to see you all the time...I would have thought that three months is an okay amount of time to be away, apparently parents feel otherwise.  So I've been busy.  Very.  I still got my daily photo...It's just been a long time since I last posted.  So here is all that has happened since the last post.

A trip to Central Park in New York City

I got back to Ephrata just in time to see one of the older buildings in the town being brought to its knees.

Saw a father and son doing some late night fishing at Middle Creek.

Saw the close to empty Speedwell Forge reflecting some beautiful setting sun light

Set up some Lionel trains around the Christmas tree with my brother.


Day after Christmas! (last day I feel like I can get away with Christmas-related photos)

In the key of T(ea)...My brother and I have spent much time jamming, passing the string, key, vocal, and now washboard duties back and forth.  Yea.  He got me a washboard for my birthday.  Best present ever.

My 70-200 F4 L series lens arrived today.  My Christmas/birthday present to myself.  I only had a minute to try it out, but a quick handheld shot of the moon produced this, so I am more than happy with it.  Expect a review sooner or later.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Birds, Their Nests, and a Carousel

Belfast's Christmas Market was host to the obvious and necessary baked goods, Christmas decorations and myriad types of ciders...but it also had a carousel.  This was taken on the 17th.

I came across an empty nest on the 18th.  This bird has flown.

Today, a big old magpie was sitting on a roof, visible from my main living room window.  I've been trying to get a good shot of one of these birds for a long time now.  They are extremely camera-shy, so for now this shall have to do.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Holga Lens!..For My DSLR!? SWEET (and some other stuff)

Queen's University Belfast's Lanyon building is fairly old.  The wear and tear on these somewhat ferocious looking/somewhat cute gargoyles at its main entrance are proof of that age.

Yesterday I had the hope of shooting something winter-related.  I found a bird in a tree.  Though that may not be very winter-esque, I think the out of focus/soft focus look kind of helps.  Also, the evergreen tree is the only plant in the picture that has leaves.

That was Wednesday's and Thursday's...and now for today's.

So, Holga makes lenses for some of the more popular DSLRs now.  I found this out about a month ago and immediately picked one up for my wife who likes that vintagey, light-leaking, vignetted look (but has no time or desire to put towards post-processing).  I got it with the intention of giving it to her as a Christmas present, but when I recently was at the front door, receiving an entirely different package from the delivery guy, I saw the HolgaDirect name at the top and realized we would have to exchange some gifts a tad earlier than planned.  I had an odd feeling I knew what was in that box.  After convincing her to exchange, we were baffled that somehow, out of the millions of perfectly reasonable gifts to get each other, we somehow managed to get each other the exact same thing.  It's not like either of us ever mentioned wanting one of these, or knew they existed!  So now we have two Holga lenses for Canon.

The lens seems to create the Holga effect fairly well.  I've only spent an hour messing around with it, but so far I'd have to say I rather enjoy it.  I will give an in-depth review of it soon, but for now you can see what it's capable of by checking these images out...

 There was only a slight amount of post-processing on this shot.  Just a little bit of contrast adjustment.  Also, I cropped it slightly, making it harder to see the vignetting on the right side.

  These three were cropped but not post-processed at all.  You can see the vignetting on the top corners of all of them. 

I'll pull some shots straight from the camera, no post-processing, when I do a full review on the lens.  That way you can see exactly what this lens is capable of.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Fun With Macro Photography

The subject in today's photos isn't anything special.  More important than an impressive subject was the proximity to the subject.  I wanted a chance to get up close and personal using my new macro extension see what they are actually capable of.  Mind you, these are extension tubes that I purchased for less than $7.  I found mine on Ebay and it came with free shipping.  Just search for 'macro extension tube'

 with the type of camera you want it for.

Here is a little review of these tubes:  Though I haven't had a chance to use them extensively, they seem like they do exactly what they are meant to do.  That is, they move the actual lens further away from the sensor (you will need a lens in order to use these tubes) and thus create a larger representation of your subject on the sensor.
The extension tubes fit nicely onto the camera body-turn until it clicks- (or at least nicely onto the Canon camera body) and then the actual lens turns and clicks right onto the end of the tubes.  The tubes come in a set of three, all of which can be stacked upon themselves, each additional tube moves the lens further from the sensor.  Each individual tube in my set has a number on it, 1, 2 or 3 (besides that there is no writing, branding or instructions)...and when all are stacked upon themselves the tube becomes approximately three inches long (the width is the same as the width of the connecting ring on the camera body).
When connected, shooting manually makes the most sense.  You lose control over your aperture due to the fact that no electrical signals are transferred through the mostly metal tubing.  As limiting as this is, macro photography seems to be a style of photography that almost demands the use of a tripod.  This allows you to have more freedom with your shutter speed, and makes it and your ISO your main methods of controlling lighting.  Flash can also help, though the built in on-camera flash does not seem to work for what I want...I would definitely recommend off-camera flash when possible.  Macro ring flashes also seem to work wonders.  I do not (yet) have access to one, so I can not say for sure how they would work with these extension tubes, though I really can't see what problems they would pose.
Image quality seems rather good.  Especially for the fact that the set cost me less than $7.  I don't know if having your lens further away from the sensor would affect the image (it definitely does open your camera body to potential dust (try to brush out the tubes before connecting them...anything in them could make it's way into the camera)) It doesn't seem like the image was affected...My results were exactly what I would expect from Canon's "Nifty Fifty," just with a much closer image than I could normally get with the 50mm.

All in all I really think this is worth the $7.  Definitely.  It allows you to change the distance between your sensor and lens (three different possible distances) giving you the "macro" look without having to dish out big bucks for a lens specific for this style of photography.  Not dishing out said big bucks means you don't get control over your aperture, but for me, that is a small price to pay.  It is likely that if something like these extension tubes didn't exist, I would never get to try macro photography.  This allows me to test the waters, see just how much I like it, and hey, if I hate it I can throw them away without feeling like I just lost any money, let alone significant money.  Give them a go...what could you possibly lose?

Like I said, the subject wasn't nearly as important as the proximity to it.  I grabbed the first thing that I thought might look interesting macro-ized.  All of these pictures were shot using a 50mm lens (on my T1i, so figure in the 1.6 crop factor) and I had all three extension tubes between my lens and camera.  The final images were all cropped to some extent.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Macro, Mountains and Music...also a portion of the alphabet

I purchased some macro extension tubes a few weeks ago.  They were delivered on the 9th and I immediately put them through some basic here are the results of that first day.  I will definitely be using them again soon, so look forward to a more in depth "review" of them...but for now judge them based on these photographs.

I believe the last one is a pretty little daisy bud...all closed up.  To me, though, it appears to be something else entirely.  By letting you know what I think it resembles, I will be making my age, demographic, and interests extremely apparent...unless of course you don't know what it is I'm referring to (which is probably for the best).  It's the head/mouth of a Taxxon.  You know, from the Animorphs?  K.A. Applegate and, I was addicted to those books as a kid.

Moving on.  It recently snowed for the first time here in Belfast.  I posted a photograph of the nearby mountain covered in snow on that momentous occasion.  Well, by Saturday just seeing it in the not so distant distance wasn't good enough.  My wife and I donned appropriate hiking attire and headed towards the snow covered mountain.  It was crazy to think that the last time we were on the mountain, we were comfortable wearing t-shirts...This time our sweatshirts and jackets were far from sufficient.    

Yesterday we were lucky enough to get to go to the annual carol service in the Great Hall of Queen's University Belfast.  It was a beautiful service with a very talented chamber choir singing some traditional and common as well as some more obscure Christmas carols.  It was interesting to hear, and try to follow along with the Irish versions of the classic ones...some of which had slightly different melodies.  

Here are some pictures of the Great Hall...

Today I came across all but one of the rest of my Urban Alphabet letters: X and Y.  Here they are...

One to go.  I might actually finish this project soon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Colorful Architecture

I saw this building spewing vibrant colored lights out of the windows the other night.  I knew I could do something with the bright colors...the interestingly shaped building was a plus, making these architectural shots less generic.

The second photograph didn't undergo any color manipulation.  Shooting through the grated balconies allowed me to capture different layers each with different colors...all of which are extremely vibrant.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

As the Sun Rises

I work from my living room in Belfast.  It's pretty spectacular.  What isn't so spectacular is the winter daylight hours here in Northern Ireland.  The sun rose around 8:30am this morning.  It set right at 4pm.  That is not a lot of bright, light-filled hours.  Working during all of those hours makes it hard to get a daily photo... unless my subject is in my living room with me.  I'm sure as we get further into the winter months and less light is readily available, I'm going to have to make sure my subject is indeed in this room with, though, I quickly ran out before I started to work...hoping that the rising sun would prove useful.

I know I have a similar rooftop shot, but this one has a sunrise as a background well as the remains of a recent snow...and a steeple.

 I also came across this section of a brick wall which worked wonders for my urban panorama project.  I love the abstract feel of the rectangular painted portions.  I am also a fan of the fact that I could print this as a ten foot by thirty foot a rather high resolution.

And last but not least.  Yesterday's urban alphabet was fine and all...but I was not extremely pleased with the 'S' that I came up with.  I found a much better one today.  Here it is:
Much better.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finally Trying to Finish a Series

It's about time that I finish up an old series.  My Urban Alphabet.  I started it awhile ago and really want to finish it, I have far too many partially completed projects.  So I went at it this morning with a vengeance.  A rather effective vengeance, apparently...I got eight letters.  Leaving me with three to go...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Belfast's First Snow

It's December...has been for a few days.  I really would have expected some good snow by now, but I guess I don't yet have a good grasp on Belfast/Northern Ireland weather.  Well, late last night, and into the early hours of this morning, Belfast was treated to its first snow.  Not a lot, but enough.  Enough for me to grab my camera around one in the morning and get my first snow shot of this 365 photo-a-day blog.  And then, after waking up, grabbed it again and shot the beautiful, now snow covered, mountain that we have as a neighbor.

The 1:00am shot is a tad more abstract, sporting bokeh snowflakes illuminated by a street lamp and one green "spot" (for lack of better term...maybe piece?) of bokeh from a nearby green motion detecting light.

And here is the nearby snow covered mountain that I woke up to.  I must sled down that.  I must.  Also, I must get a better telephoto lens.  I'm shooting with a really old, less than great quality 70-300mm.  I'm looking into the 70-200 f4L series Canon lens.  Not the version with image stabilization.  Any thoughts?  Should I just save up and get the stabilized model?  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Birdmen and Panoramas

Today was rainy.  Very rainy.
This did not stop us from taking a walk to Lagan Meadows, though.  We walked until we couldn't stand the rain anymore, then turned around and made our way home.  While there and during the slight lulls in the wet weather, I did my best to get some shots.  Here is a man that was surrounded by birds no matter where he went.  My wife has been mentioning that I need to get some more natural-looking is my best attempt.  Two people, some birds, a river and some trees...I wanted to make it black and white but she said no.

While there I also had the chance to start a project that I've been meaning to do.  I want to create "urban" panoramas.  I figure this means mostly walls of graffiti, but I have no intentions of limiting it to that.  I just know that what I've been considering is very specific.  My goal is to be able to print really large panoramas from these shots...which are a bunch of individual shots that are stitched together, none of that 1 x 8 cropping of a regular 15 megapixel image.  For instance, this shot, when printed at its maximum size (with reasonable resolution for something so large) would be an awesome 2 feet x 35 feet.  Now I just need to find somewhere capable of printing it for me.  

I cut it down into two pieces so that you could actually see some detail. 

Anyone know of a good place to print something that is 35 feet long?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rapid Fire Week

Starting with November 27th.  Rapid fire.  Here we go.

The 27th was a nice day out for my wife and I.  We went to Londonderry/Derry, which is a walled city.  A beautiful place with much to see, much of which is either historical or political...sometimes a combination of both.  I would have loved to get to an elevated vantage point so as to get a shot of the actual walls encircling the city.  But no such luck.

Just some stuff from walking around the city all day.  The middle shot is a portion of the wall...that was a lookout "tower" of sorts.  I loved the way the sun was bathing it in light.

I also found this.  It says Hector.  Not actually my name...but there is a good story for why I use it.  One you won't get to hear in this rapid fire post.

The 28th.  Belfast has a wonderful Christmas Market set up in the middle of the city.  I have posted about it before.  Well, I figured I'd try to get there before it was open on Monday and try to get some shots of it in a state of abandonment/emptiness.  If it wasn't for a few people, it would have been both of those...

The 29th seemed like a good day to catch up on my "books I've recently read" list.  I'm trying to make the shots pertain to some element of the books.  Candide, by Voltaire, is a book that was given to me as a Christmas present many years ago by some close friends of mine.  Not reading it immediately was stupid on my part.  I read it in about two hours and really could not figure out why I could not get into it any of the other times I had started it.  In Our Time, by Hemingway, is a collection of some of his short stories as well as a running collection of his Nick Adams stories.  Many of the short stories in it were written about Ronda, Spain. A beautiful place that my wife and I recently me more than enough reason to read it.  

There was a public sector strike throughout the UK on November 30. As a result, there was a sign in front of my wife's University telling students to skip class...  

I found this old lock in an old greenhouse on the 1st of December.  

After some basic post-processing of the image, and after some cosmological thoughts (my brother had recently commented on my site about quasars and how they give us a view into the past) I decided to attempt a slightly "cosmic" looking image.  Here is my result.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a pretty impressive find.  Brooks England is a company that has been making bicycle seats (I think they go by saddles here) since 1866.  Though it may not have been that old, I came across a bike that looked like it was at least 60 years old.  I got some shots of the bike, but they didn't turn out that great.  The seat, on the other hand, did.  Or at least I feel like it did.  Perhaps I'll stumble upon the bike at another point in time and will get a good shot of it, but for now...

Another Christmas Market opened up today.  We were there fairly early, buying our ornaments for our Christmas wreath.  One stand had beautiful hand-woven/bent baskets and ornaments made from willows.  We ended up getting a star from them.  This was one of their other interesting creations...

While we were browsing, two men filled the air with Irish songs (and also Clapton songs) played on guitar and fiddle.  Here's the fiddler...