Saturday, October 22, 2011

This blog is moving to

I've built (or am building) a new website at LytleDrive.  I'm using WordPress for my new website and it is a blogging tool with plug-ins for other things like photo galleries.  I might as well use that from now on as I hope to build a photo business (and perhaps software too).  So, see you there....


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Perspective on Perspectives

I've always enjoyed the examples shown in books about photography that demonstrate the differences in the images produced by lenses of differing focal lengths.  Recently I found myself standing under the Peabody Coal Company's conveyer where it crosses Arizona state route 160 west of Kayenta.  The conveyer belt moves coal from the mine south of the highway to a storage and railroad pickup facility north of the highway.  From where I was standing, I could see the conveyer structure stretching away from me to the storage tower.  I made a photograph using my wide angle (17mm on full frame) lens.

Conveyer to coal storage, 17mm lens

Next, I put on a telephoto (135mm) lens, stood in the same place, and made approximately the same photograph.  The difference in perspective is obvious, the steel poles supporting the conveyer seem compressed together in comparison to the wide angle shot.  The difference in coverage of the environment is also large, the wide angle lens shows much more of the high desert surrounding the facility than the telephoto image.

Conveyer to coal storage, 135mm lens

Having a wide range of focal lengths available gives me a lot of flexibility in my perspective.  As always, click on a photo to see a larger size.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sandhills cranes, Photographers, and Wildlife Refuges

I was in Socorro for a couple of days this week, on my way to visit family in Grants, NM. This time of year is good for seeing some of the migratory birds that winter at two wildlife refuges in the area. The larger of the two wildlife areas, Bosque del Apache, is an excellent place to see these birds and is much larger than the Sevilleta NWR at least as far as tour roads go, and Bosque has more water which is nice for reflections and morning flyouts. However, Bosque has become very popular with photographers and this time of year any place in the refuge where birds are accessibly close to the road is very busy with parked cars and lines of photographers. Some pro photographers even teach workshops at Bosque. On the other hand the small area available at Sevelleta isn't nearly as popular.

"A Siege of Cranes" Sevilleta NWR, NM
The photograph above was taken Tuesday afternoon/evening at Sevelleta.  I went into the refuge area and found myself the only one there, I drove down the road and found a large group of sandhill cranes in a field, across the road, and into the next field.  I estimated there were two or three hundred cranes in the group and they seemed to be relaxed because nobody was around.  I parked the car a distance away and approached he group slowly with my camera and telephoto lens handheld.  As I got close they began to get more nervous and began moving to a more distant field in small groups. At one point, a fairly large group took to the air and I shot this image as the cranes flew in the late evening light.

A group of sandhill cranes flies with a sunset backdrop
I went thrice to Bosque and once to Sevilleta and my best results came from the visit to Sevilleta because the access to the birds and the lack of crowds allowed for a more relaxed environment for both myself and the animals.  Fortunately, there was a very nice sunset the evening I was at Sevilleta, so that helped!

I have, generally, seen some different animals at the two refuges.  At Sevilleta, I've taken some very nice photos of American kestrel and at Bosque I've seen more hawks of various breeds so this might be an important consideration for the photographer interested in certain subjects.  I've also seen more deer at Bosque and took the photo below on the second morning I was there.

Mule deer, early morning, Bosque del Apache NWR
As ever, click on a photo to see a larger version.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Frost and Intermediate Landscapes

I just finished going through some photographs I took last weekend.  I drove up to northern Arizona to the Navajo reservation and then to a high part of the White Mountains.  I found snow in the Lukachukai Mountains and enjoyed this little taste of winter.  I've posted 26 of the photographs here.

Driving along a road near Chinle, Arizona, early in the morning, I noticed the sun sparkling off the frost on the dead flowers along the road and stopped to explore and photograph.  Some of the very small, frosty flowers were really pretty close up so I spent some time with my 300mm lens exploring.

This experience sensitized me to the possibility of photographing frost.  The following morning found me following a trail that leads east from Hannigan Meadow, AZ where I found a lot of heavy frost on some of the grasses in the meadows.  I was struck by the size and patters of the frost and spent some time photographing there.

Canon 5D mk II, Canon 300mm f/4, Canon 1.4x converter

Click on the images to see larger versions.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Logo work, social networking thoughts.

I've been reading a book called "The Whuffie Factor" by Tara Hunt which is all about marketing your business using social media.   She also talks a lot about business identity, logos, web sites, etc.  I've been thinking about these things lately too.  More than a year ago, I designed a logo for myself and posted to this blog about it.  More recently I've decided that that old logo is a bit complicated and I needed a simpler logo.  One idea I've had for a replacement appears in the current header of this blog, the LYTLEDRIVE text in green and orange with "photography from the heart" below it.  I've shown this to a few friends and most didn't like it much so I'm still searching for a logo.  I want to use the "Lytle Drive" idea because I've always liked it and plan to use it for my company name. Here is the logo without a byline:

The byline is something else, and I've been thinking about what it is that I'm offering folks, that is, what product do I make.  Photography, yes, but there are many forms of photography and I only do a few, landscapes, macro, people (mostly children).  I don't so much of the gritty street photography, or document disadvantaged people, etc.  Usually, I'm trying to make beautiful, aesthetically pleasing images to share, photos that I enjoy looking at myself.  So, I've changed my byline to "Finding the Beauty" which can mean finding the beauty in nature or finding the beauty in people, etc.  Here is the logo with the byline:

Generally I'm using ideas from a number of other logos I've looked at.  I suppose I should pay a professional logo designer to design me a logo, but I rather enjoy playing with ideas myself.  The graphic I'm using is available for free download at this link.  I've modified it a bit to work with my design.

Of course the colors of the text and graphic will have to vary in some instances, depending on how it is used, but I think this is a pleasant and simple logo and I'll use it for now.  I plan to get some business cards printed using a few of my images on one side of the card and my logo and other info on the back.  I'll order the cards from Moo, they have some creative products available, including their MiniCards.  I can carry around a mini-portfolio on a small set of high quality business cards!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tucson All Souls Procession and ISO 6400

I went to the All Souls Procession in downtown Tucson on Sunday to experience the fun and make some photographs.  This event seems to be bigger every year (now in its 21st year) and downtown was humming with activity.  The event started at 6 PM and, earlier in the day, I thought I'd find a flash to mount on my camera so I could get better images in the low light (and with better color balance under the sodium lights). Calls to a couple camera stores didn't yield any luck finding a Canon 580EX II which I had decided to buy, so I ordered the flash on Amazon and went flashless to the procession.  I was using my 135mm f/2 lens on the 5D mk II so, as I had done at the fire dance the night before, I used shutter priority with the shutter speed set to 1/200 sec.  I looked for a place that wasn't directly under the sodium lights and found a place near some fluorescent street lamps, not the best, and darker than last year, but at least I wouldn't drown in low pressure sodium light which I find hard to correct for even shooting raw files.

Blue eyes and the veil and hat make a great look!
With that shutter speed and wide open at f/2, I found I needed to set the ISO to 6400 to get reasonable exposures.  Wow, I haven't really used this setting much so I was concerned about the amount of noise that I'd see in the resulting images.  I did get a fair amount of both luminosity noise and color noise but the corrections for these in Adobe Lightroom are quite good and I was able to clean up the noise to a level that is satisfactory.  Next year I'll have a flash and will try that option, but I'm fairly happy with the results from this year.

There was a lot of face paint but I really liked some of the paper machete.
I didn't stay for the final show at the end of the event.  This means I missed a lot of fire, but, well, I don't like crowds much and I wanted to watch Masterpiece on PBS (Sherlock Holmes).  I guess I'm just not a enough of a party person :-)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fire Dance! Tucson Celtic Festival

Photographing without a flash outside at night is always interesting.  I wrnt the the Celtic festival here in Tucson to see what it was about, I hadn't been before.  I got there late, about 6 PM, so I knew I'd be shooting in low light situations, I brought a fast lens.  At first I though I'd bring my 70-200 f/4L lens because it has very good image stabilization but then I thought I'd probably be shooting people performing so the image stabilization wouldn't help with moving subjects.  Then I thought I'd take the 85mm f/1.8 which is a nice fast and sharp lens, one of my favorites.  But, shooting performances means that I want to be able to reach into the scene and capture details of people's faces so I needed a longer lens.  Also, I wanted to use the 5D mk II because I know I can shoot it at ISO 1600 with good results.  I have a 40D too but it gets noisy at  ISO 1600.

Given these considerations, I took my Canon 5D mk II with my 135mm f/2L lens.  A problem with the 135mm lens is that it has no image stabilization and is long enough to require a fast shutter speed.  However, it seemed like the best choice in this case so I needed a strategy to keep the shutter speed fast enough to get sharp photos in low light conditions.  I decided to put the camera into shutter priority mode with the shutter speed set to 1/200 second and hope for the best.  I could have tried a slightly slower shutter but experience tells me that, for me, I need a 200th.

When I got to the event the place was flooded with light from a huge lighting system used for the horse races at Rillito park, I took a couple of photos, at f/2 and they looked fine.  When I discovered they were having a "Fire Dance" at 7 PM  I looked forward to it.  I figured that I could probably get some photos if the fire was bright enough.  What I didn't know was that they would turn off the bright lights for the fire dance.  I'm certainly glad these lights were turned off because it make the fire dance much more fantastic than it would have been with them on.  However, I didn't know how well my camera setup would handle the situation.  Well, it worked out fairly well.  Here is a photograph of one of the dancers blowing fire.  This was so bright that the camera stopped the aperture down to f/7.1 giving me more depth of field than most of the other images.

A dancer blowing fire,  1/200, f/7.1, ISO 1600
I tried to get photographs where the fire the dancer was handling was shining light on their face.  This worked out fairly well in most cases.  There were examples, however, where the dancer was facing away from me and I got a silhouette.  I shot about 250 frames, of which, I quite like about 18 of them.  This small percentage can be ascribed to a number of factors.  The camera focus sometimes got confused (I was using the center focus point and had the autofocus set to track focus).  Also, when photographing dancers, it is hard to predict their movements and I get it wrong frequently and get photos of their backs, etc.  I'll post a couple more examples from the shoot below.

A dancer swing chains of fire, I liked the silhouette. 1/200, f/2, ISO 1600 
Dancing with fiery hoops. 1/200, f/2, ISO 1600