Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Last night I was with the rest of the NEWS 10 crew as we put on the "Light the Tree" special.  It was a long day, but at the end (and during the special) the tree was lit and the fireworks went off.  I managed to set down my video camera long enough to grab this shot.  Had to use a high ISO speed (3200) because I was without my tripod, so there's a fair amount a noise in this pic, still...  I'm pretty happy with the way it came out!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Walkin' in the boneyard

Last night, on the eve before All Hallows Eve, my wife Diane and I took a walk through Oakwood Cemetery to see if we could scare up any spooks.  Well I was there to take some pix, not quite sure what Diane's mission was.  She didn't even bring a stake or Holy Water for protection.  We didn't see any ghouls, but it could have been that we got out of there too early, as the only light we thought to bring was my flash for my camera.  Next time we'll be better prepared. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The mandatory flowing water shot...

Made it up to Thacher Park yesterday.  And although it was an extremely overcast day, I was able to get a couple of nice shots, including this little waterfall.  After I had gotten this photo from a nice safe position, I had climbed down on the wet and slippery rocks (I really have to get hiking shoes), to get a lower angle.  

Turns out, I should've saved myself the trouble.  I like the first shot better!  Yes, I know it's somewhat cliched, but now I can scratch "Flowing waterfall" off my photography checklist. 

Anyway, even though the sun only peaked out a couple of times, the colors were beautiful and it was a great day for a little hike!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You can go home again... on a ladder!

About 20 years ago, I took the above long exposure photo on (gasp) film!  It was from an overpass and gave a nice view of the highway going in and out of the city of Albany.  I always thought I could do better.  First off, I broke the rule of "thirds" by putting the skyline smack dab in the middle.  Secondly, the shot wasn't as sharp as I had hoped.  Even though I was on tripod, there must have been some wind or movement to cause the blur.  I had always planned on going back to that bridge, to try again.  Especially in these days of digital photography where you can take as many shots as you like and don't have to worry about using up film. 

Unfortunately, a few years after I took that original shot, the city erected this 8 foot tall fence...

The fence was much too tall for my tripod and the mesh was too small to shoot through.  Every once in awhile I would wonder if there was a way to get around that fence. After thinking about it for quite some time I recently came up with this...

I wrapped my monopod tightly around the ladder and was able to get just enough reach to shoot over the fence.  I wrapped an extra strap around myself and the camera and as I stood on the top rung, I rested the camera lens on the top of the fence to try to give it a little more support.  Even with that, whenever traffic crossed the overpass I was on, the bridge would shake a little, causing my long exposures to blur.  So I could only take the shots when there was no traffic on the overpass. The exposures were averaging about 20 seconds.  Long enough for the cars to travel the length of the curved road.

Now in that original shot, I felt that the white streak of the oncoming headlights was too much and that the red streaking taillights would have been better if you didn't see the the start of one of the trails.  Ideally, I wanted one lane of oncoming headlights and two lanes of the taillights.  This proved to be quite a challenge.  There were long stretches when there was no traffic at all.  These particular roads come from ramps that don't get that much action in the evening hours.  Also, my hands were getting a bit cold as the sun went down and my fingers were clutching the top of the fence for support.  At one point, a police officer stopped his cruiser and wanted to make sure I wasn't a jumper!  Once I told him what I was doing, he wished me luck and drove off.  And as luck would have it, I never got the exact shot I needed when there was no traffic shaking me and my camera around.  What I did get was a shot of the two lanes of taillights and three minutes later, another shot of the oncoming headlights.  Then, in Photoshop, I was able to combine the two shots into one...

 There was also some cleaning up to do.  I had to get rid of that crane that had been marring the skyline for about a year now. And because of the double exposure, there were some stars that were repeating their pattern because of their movement across the sky.  And later (after some suggestions on the RixFotos Facebook page), I also got rid of the sign.

After taking much care to get a level shot, I decided to tilt the whole thing to make it a little more dynamic. And I came up with 3 different variations. Here are the alternates...
By a small margin, the folks on Facebook, liked this full color one the best...
What I find interesting are the changes over 20 years. At one point, those little reflector signs from the original photo had been removed.  You can also see grass growing through the cracks in the pavement on the side of the road.  And finally, the dark trees hugging the curve now obstruct the highway a lot more than they did in the original shot.  Well, after much long windedness, that's about it.  All in all, I'm pretty happy with the new shot (all three of them)! 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

That baby's a classic!

Speaking of old vehicles, (see last post), last Summer I was visiting my sister and her family out in western Ohio and one evening her husband Jack and I jumped in the truck to search out some dilapidated barns when we came across this beauty...
There was a bunch of people hanging around outside and I asked if they wouldn't mind if I took some shots of their barn.  The woman who seemed to be in charge (at least of the kids that were running around her) said that would be fine, and folks always want to take pix of the barn.  So, while I left Jack with the job of making small talk I started snapping away.  When I rounded the corner, I saw an old Mercury sitting inside...

I went in to take a closer look.  The thing looked like it had been sitting there for years.  I took a couple of shots, trying to find the best angle, when one of the gentlemen who had been on the property said, "Do you have permission to take pictures of that car?"  I had said that I had asked permission to shoot the barn and I assumed it would be ok to shoot what was inside it.  (Never assume!).  Apparently the folks that stay in the house are renters and the barn doesn't really belong to them.  The guy said that the owner of the car wasn't around and that maybe I should go back to the outside of the barn.  He then told me that he had offered to buy the car from the owner, but he wasn't selling.  Really, did the thing even run?  It looked kinda like a wreck!  I acted sort of interested as I went back to taking shots from the outside, but I was kinda bummed.  I had only taken a couple of pictures in there and I felt I hadn't quite gotten "the shot."    The messed up Mercury reminded me of those possessed cars in those Stephen King books, like Christine and From a Buick 8.  I kind of felt it was a missed opportunity.

Anyway, I finally went back to the pictures tonight, to see if there was anything worth salvaging.  This was the best shot I had gotten of the car...
 It was ok, but it wasn't exactly evoking the mood I had felt when I discovered it.  The backlight was way too bright.  I should've taken the shot at dusk and even lit the car.  So I started messing around in Photoshop.  What I ended up with looks more like an illustration from a horror comic...
Again, I wish I had been able to take a few more shots, but I think I captured the moodiness I was hoping for and even given the car a little life.

Click on any of the pix for a bigger view!  And don't forget to visit the website at!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

HDR: Round 2

Looking back at those small previews on my last post, I was a surprised that the pictures didn't look all that different.  The changes are more subtle.  This time, I went a little farther with HDR shots and hopefully will demonstrate better what it can do for a photo.  Click on the images for a bigger view...

This is the original shot of an old tractor in a field.  I got a nice blue sky with the polarizer filter (not to mention some weird pattern effects in the windows that weren't visible with the naked eye), but the details in the shadows are pretty much lost.  Here's the HDR version...

Now, you can clearly see the inner shadow areas of the tractor, although the wheels on the left seem to have a bit of a blue cast to them.  It probably wouldn't hurt to do a bit of color desaturation on them. The sky is also a more even blue.

Then, I took it a wee bit farther...

This time those tires were REALLY blue, so I took my own advice and turned them back to grey.  One thing I noticed, is that I really start to get a lighter haloing effect where the skyline meets the trees, especially on the right side.  All in all, its looking less like a photograph and more like an illustration.  Another thing that you probably can't see in the preview is that the more the effect is applied, the noisier/grainier the sky gets.  Anyway, thanks to John, the owner of the tractor for allowing me to shoot it!

Next pic.  Before HDR...

I wondered if this one would present a problem with the moving water, since I am combining 3 shots for the HDR effect.  Overall, I was pleased, but I did go back and brought in some of the more natural looking water from the original shot in a few troublesome areas.  There still is a bit of lightening of the sky at the tree line. Not sure if I'm ok with it or not.  What I do like is that the colors really pop!

Ok, now hopefully when I hit "publish" on this Blog-thingy, all the shots won't look the same again!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Foray into HDR

Yes, I'm late to the HDR party.  I finally downloaded the Photomatix HDR Demo and gave it a whirl. 

For those unfamiliar with the term (and there probably isn't many of you left) HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  Essentially, it can allow you to see photographs more like your eye remembers seeing the original scene.  You have probably noticed that when you take a picture of a sunset, either the sun is washed out, or is you exposed properly for the sun, all the other detail in the photo is too dark. 

Basically, when you shoot for an HDR photo, you take three pictures.  The first is properly exposed, the second is under-exposed so that the highlights are not blown out and the final shot is over-exposed to bring out the detail in the shadows.  Then you use an HDR program to merge the three shots together.  Depending on the settings you use, you can go from a more realistic looking photo (where the shadows and highlights are all properly exposed) to a more painted effect.  Just do a search for HDR and you'll see all the stunning images that can be created.

Ok, so with all that, here was my first attempt.  (Click on any of the pix for a bigger view) The first shot is the original...

Here's the first run thru with Photomatix...

You'll notice I really pumped up the color saturation, but also, you can see more detail in the big white cloud and also in the trees and rocks on the left side of the shot that was mostly in shadow.

I ran it thru Photomatix one more time with slightly different settings.  This time I adjusted the color balance to give it a slightly warmer look and brought out the shadows even a little more...

Not quite sure if either one of these shots quite does it for me and you can tweak endlessly.  Still, I'm anxious to continue working on these...  Maybe I'll head out tomorrow and try again!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Truth, Justice and the Albany way....

Some of you know that in my day job, I'm a videographer for a local news station. Well, these days it's not often that I have the time to do something a little more creative... or even fun... Well this story was the exception to the rule... enjoy!

Thanks again to the Albany Super-heroes for going along with every one of my crazy ideas! And keep on keepin' those streets safe!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Favorite shots for June

This first shot was taken at the Americade Rally in Lake George. It had been raining most of the day, sometimes really pouring. But as night fell the skies cleared up and I was able to get this shot through the spokes as another bike outfitted with neon lights zoomed past. I like how the blur of the cycle ihn the background kind or lines up with the spokes on the bike in the foreground!

Nothing like a great June wedding! I got a chance to see how the Canon 7D performed in low(ish) light at a high ISO. I was very happy with what the camera was giving me in the church, even when the ISO was set to 3200! Of course, it was tough to take a bad shot with such a beautiful couple as subjects! Now if only the official wedding photographer could have stayed out of my way through the proceedings! Anyway, CONGRATS to Pam and Tony and thanks for making Diane and I part of your special day!

Finally, last Monday on my way home from work, the skies cleared up after a light rain and I had a feeling there might be some nice sunset light. So I turned the car around and headed to my favorite (but scary) spot. It's the highest ramp that leads from I-787 to the Empire State Plaza. Not much room to pull the car over, and I had to keep an eye out for traffic, but it was worth the shot. Maybe one of these days I can get the State Police to officially block off the road for me so I don't have to worry about getting hit!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


So, Diane and I are walking around Boston and we decide to get some pix of us outside of the famous Cheers bar! After taking separate shots of each other, I saw another couple doing the same thing. I offered to take a picture of both of them if they would do the same for us.

I was of course, too polite to check his work. I mean, how much could he screw it up, right? This is what I got. Really, Dude? You're kidding me, right? Ahhh, a memory to treasure forever! I wonder if he does weddings?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Inner beauty... at the NYS Capitol.

The Capitol of New York State is such a striking building from the outside, that I often forget what a beautiful place it is inside as well. So, while the front of the building is covered in scaffolding during some needed renovations, I decided to take some shots inside one of New York's architectural treasures. I'm still loving how the Canon 7D is handling low light situations. All of these were hand held... No tripod!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hot Spring Night

Yes, it's been a long time since my last entry into the blogosphere. I hope that from here on out, I will get to this much more frequently...

In any event, there is nothing like a new camera to get the juices flowing again. This past Wednesday, I became the proud owner of the Canon 7D. I am still learning my way around it and so far I have been mostly testing in low-light conditions, since it is a pretty big leap from my 5 year old Rebel XT.

Anyway, Diane and I went out to the Snow Man Ice Cream Shop in Lansingburg tonight and I made sure to bring the new camera with me to take advantage of "Magic Hour." When we got there, the light was just about right and there were some nice ominous dark clouds hanging overhead, I should have taken some shots right then, but we decided to get in line and get the ice cream first. Not wanting to get ice cream on the camera, I left it in the car! The line was long and I kept watching as the light was quickly fading. By the time we had gotten back to the care, it was completely dark, but I thought I would take a few shots anyway.

I took a couple of shots at a high ISO (3200) and then dialed it back down for a few long exposures, to get some trailing traffic lights. Just then an ambulance zoomed by with all it's lights blazing and I caught it just as it passed in front of the ice cream shop!