Ruined Butterfly

Not long ago my fiance found a butterfly in a parking lot. It had expired and was fluttering like a leaf in the wake of passing cars. Her heart went out to it, but she also knew I would want to see it. After she brought it home lying on some tissue paper, I sat looking at it and thinking how similar it was to many buildings I’d photographed: intricate and beautiful yet eaten away by the relentless elements and time.

Using a mag-lite for backlighting and some coarse cloth to help diffuse it, I set my camera to aperture priority and took a fairly long exposure to bring out the delicate wings. A little adjustment in Photoshop was used to to tweak the colors.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/5, 1/5

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Vanguard Tripod and Coal Cellar

The funny thing about ruins is how… well… “ruinous” they are. Sometimes they are so run down that a photographer might fear for her safety if she enters too deeply in.

This abandoned coal cellar is a prime example. Set amid a ghost town in the middle of a national park, this place looked about ready to collapse at any moment. And yet the sunlight shining in was so interesting, I knew I would kick myself if I failed to get the shot. That’s why I was glad I’d brought along a very special tripod.

The Vanguard Alta Pro, available from Amazon by clicking Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Alloy Tripod Legs with Multi-Angle Central Column System, allows for the detaching of the central post and reattaching it at an oblique angle. For the above shot, this meant that the camera could peek into the cellar while I remained outside. A wireless shutter release completed the ensemble and allowed for a shot that still provokes my thoughts today.

Never forget to observe safety first when exploring these haunting old buildings.

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Ruin in the Hills

When I look at old photos, ones that are yellowing, crumbling, dusty, I can’t help comparing them to my own work.

Because I love old things. I actively seek out ruins and aging structures because I wonder at the hidden history of our world, the things that will never be recorded in any textbook: the memories and events that centered on the rearing of barns and houses, the families and neighbors that flourished and vanished, leaving the buildings behind to sag and weather under the twin hammers of time and the elements.

And some day the structures too will vanish and only the images will remain. What memories will they create?

Exposure Data: ISO 200, f/8, 1/320

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7D Amazon
I’ve mentioned the Canon EOS 7D on this blog before because I can’t say enough good things about it. And now that I’ve become an Amazon affiliate, I have an extra incentive to talk about my beloved workhorse. ;)

I chose the 7D to be my main camera for several reasons that are important to me as a professional. First of all, as you probably noticed if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, I often take my camera into places where debris is likely to fall on them and where there are some sharp edges, rocks, and other detritus that has the potential to pummel a camera body. Second, since my interests include wildlife, a high burst rate is a must. Third, my workflow is helped by the ability to customize the 7D’s menus so I can quickly get to functions that I use a lot (card formatting and flash settings are the ones I use the most).

And since the 7D Mk II is supposed to arrive in September, Canon’s lowered the price on this camera. So now is the time to bag one for yourself!

If you decide that the 7D is for you, I’d very much appreciate it if you used my Amazon link to buy it. Yes, I do get a commission if you use my link to purchase the 7D from this post. A shameless plug to be sure :), but frankly I would love to be responsible for a fellow photographer purchasing this particular body. And hey, feel free to drop me a line and tell me about your experience with it. I’ll swap stories with abandon!

To purchase the 7D, please click this link: Canon EOS 70D 20.2 MP Digital SLR Camera with Dual Pixel CMOS AF and EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM Kit

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Murder of Crows

My latest cemetery hunt led me to a charming Jewish establishment not far from Saratoga Springs. From the old iron gate to the lichen-encrusted monuments, it was to me solace after a hard day’s work.

And then when I saw a crow (how appropriate) I began to recite Poe’s “The Raven” to myself. The crows were cautious but kept looking at me with curiosity. Did they know I was talking about them? Hmm…

Wildlife photography is as challenging as they come. Animals follow their own agenda and only patience or happy circumstance will lead you to the shots that speak to you and your viewers. Thankfully, circumstance rewarded me this time; and I was in time for dinner. :)

For this shot, I had my 18-270mm zoom set at maximum focal length. My camera was set at high speed burst mode as well, to increase my chances of catching a dramatic “pose” from my subjects.

Exposure Data: ISO 160, f/7.1, 1/800

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I’ve seen flowers bring sighs of contentment, smiles from loved ones, and poems from artists. Works of art in themselves, even the humblest of these living treasures make natural subjects for the camera.

Because flower photography in many ways resembles other forms of still life, there are a few fairly simple rules to follow to make these shots stand out.

1) Use a fairly shallow depth of field. Usually f/5.6 is good on a standard lens while f/16 might be better on a macro lens. Just be aware that if the dof is too shallow, some interesting parts of the flower itself might be out of focus. This is especially true in macro photography. Ultimately, the photographer is the judge.

2) Whenever possible, shoot RAW. It solves the problems of unpredictable white balance requirements and makes sure that there is no compression loss.

3) When composing, try to eliminate distractions. A shallow dof will help here. Also remember to zoom in or out to help the subject dominate the image and avoid objects that are inherently distracting, such as objects that are brighter than the subject.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/100

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The Orb - A Peaceful Interlude

An ordinary scene can sometimes provide unexpected beauty. And a change in perspective can be as simple as just looking through the viewfinder. One late afternoon, after a hurried day of running about on this errand and that, I passed a small church I’d gone by many times. The graveyard nearby never seemed particularly interesting to me before, but I felt up for a challenge. So I wandered around a bit, disturbing a cottontail or two and looking around for that one shot that would please me.

As it turned out the sun was slightly occulted by a stone orb and the lens flare created a glint effect that somehow complimented the scene. In the end, the shot looked dreamy and half-real, a reflection of the peaceful scene I found around me.

Exposure Data:
ISO 100
.5″, 1/8, 1/30, 1/125, 1/320, 1/640

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Image  —  Posted: July 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
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