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Woodstock Inn

February 04, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

During the cold winter months, I often spend time looking through old photographs for hidden gems that I may have overlooked before. Usually they're travel shots from the previous year.

I found a few of those from a visit to Woodstock, Vermont last fall. If you haven't been to Woodstock, just picture a typical charming, quiet little New England town, and you've got it.

We weren't there long - we were passing through on the way to New Hampshire - but while there we strolled around town, taking in the atmosphere. Part of that atmosphere included the Woodstock Inn, a gorgeous historic and stately resort inn in the heart of town.

I only grabbed a few shots while there. But I thought these three images captured the relaxing atmosphere.

A sunny day lights up an interior staircase...

Woodstock StaircaseWoodstock StaircaseAn interior staircase at the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, VT.


Bicycles waiting to be used...

Woodstock BicyclesWoodstock BicyclesBicycles at the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, VT.


A relaxing front lawn...

Woodstock Inn LawnWoodstock Inn LawnThe front lawn at the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, VT.


I generally stay away from posting travel "snapshots". But I thought these photos captured a warm, relaxing feeling that feels good to look at - now that it's cold, gray, and snowy outside.

Six more weeks 'till Spring.


P.S. Just to be clear, I'm posting these images because I'm a big fan of New England. But that feeling does NOT extend to a certain professional football team in that area. 'Nuff said.



Seasons of the Dogwood

January 11, 2018  •  1 Comment

I've mentioned before that our dogwood is a good-looking tree. And I've certainly featured it on this blog plenty of times.

Here I go again.

Sometime early last year (or so), I decided that it would be nice to get a shot of the tree at the heart of each of the four seasons. My goal was to stand in the exact same place, holding the camera in the exact same way, in order to capture the same composition of the tree each season.

I tried to create an image of the tree that represented each season -- bright white blossoms in the spring, green leaves in summer, vibrant red leaves in autumn, and snowy branches in the winter.

When I got all four shots, I cleaned them up and realized that they were really just ordinary shots of a tree. Not very exciting.

Then I decided to get artsy. I thought it would be a good idea to convert the images into something that looked like a painting. There are lots of ways to do that, but I discovered an iPhone app called Prisma. The app provides lots of different filters that transform ordinary photos into artistic images. (And yeah, I know I'm using the term "artistic" rather liberally.)

So, after doing some basic processing on the images in Lightroom (cropping, contrast, and saturation), I moved the images to my phone and carefully chose Prisma filters for each photo that highlighted the aspects of each season. I then brought them back into Lightroom for a few more adjustments (highlights, shadows, and vibrance).

The resulting four images are below.


Dogwood in SpringDogwood in SpringA dogwood tree in spring. (Photograph processed with an artistic filter, with additional post-processing in Lightroom.)



Dogwood in SummerDogwood in SummerA dogwood tree in summer. (Photograph processed with an artistic filter, with additional post-processing in Lightroom.)



Dogwood in AutumnDogwood in AutumnA dogwood tree in autumn. (Photograph processed with an artistic filter, with additional post-processing in Lightroom.)



Dogwood in WinterDogwood in WinterA dogwood tree in winter. (Photograph processed with an artistic filter, with additional post-processing in Lightroom.)



If you have a favorite, let me know.



Christmas All Over Again

December 24, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

It's that time of year. In the words of the late, great Tom Petty, it's Christmas all over again.

This blog has been quiet for a while, and has actually been relatively quiet all year. It's been a rough year, personally, and my photography has taken a back seat.

But I'm hoping that 2018 will be a better year. And with that will hopefully come more photography, and a more active blog.

To kick that off, I wanted to make sure I posted my annual Christmas photo. As sometimes happens, I have more than just one Christmas image to share. There are actually two this year.

The first is an image of our beloved dogwood tree, all decked out with Christmas lights. I decided to isolate the tree and its lights while darkening (and de-saturating) the background, with a slight vignette around the edges of the frame, to emphasize the tree (especially the lights) and establish the nighttime setting.


Dogwood at ChristmasDogwood at ChristmasA dogwood tree is illuminated with Christmas light.


The other image is a more standard shot. A red bulb hanging on the same dogwood tree above. These close-up images with a shallow depth-of-field, and with blurred Christmas light "bokeh" in the background, are actually pretty easy to create. But at Christmas I think a classic approach is ok, so, here ya go...


Red BulbRed BulbA red Christmas bulb hangs on a tree on a crisp December night.


So there you have it, your 2017 Christmas images, courtesy of all your friends at "mark ali | photographs".

Have a Merry Christmas, and let's hope for a happier New Year.



Jackson Falls

October 22, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

While in New Hampshire recently (for the wedding of my amazing niece), I was able to get some shots of one of my favorite nature photo subjects - a waterfall.

Jackson Falls in Jackson, NH is my favorite type of waterfall. It's in an intimate setting, and the water flow is relatively slow (or at least it was the weekend we were there). The water level allows you to walk almost anywhere to compose photos. And the multi-level rocky terrain provides lots of different miniature scenes for great shots.

Here's the best images of "miniature scenes" I captured from Jackson Falls:


Jackson Falls Close-Up #1Jackson Falls Close-Up #1A small portion of Jackson Falls in Jackson, NH.



Jackson Falls Close-Up #2Jackson Falls Close-Up #2A small portion of Jackson Falls in Jackson, NH.



Jackson Falls Close-Up #3Jackson Falls Close-Up #3A small portion of Jackson Falls in Jackson, NH.


My favorite parts of these shots are the bits of color provided by the moss and the fall leaves. If they weren't there, these would be dull images of white water and brownish-gray rocks. A pop of color makes all the difference, and that's what I looked for.

The water flow itself is depicted differently in the first shot, where a faster shutter speed (1/250) captured the "details" of the water. The second and third shots used a much slower shutter speed (1/25 and 1/20, respectively) to smooth out the water.

The third shot is my favorite. It may make it in to my Nature gallery.



Backyard Bokeh

August 20, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

As I've discussed in the past on this blog, the photography term "bokeh" refers to an out-of-focus area of an image. A photo is often considered to have "good bokeh" if those areas have a smooth, silky look, or are generally pleasing to the eye.

I could describe the many ways that the word "bokeh" is pronounced, but that's a whole other discussion that I'd rather not get in to.

I could also discuss the many ways that good bokeh is achieved. But I don't want to make this an instructional post. I'm also no expert on the subject. I just know the way I do it.

It all has to do with depth-of-field - i.e. the in-focus depth of the image. Therefore lens and aperture choice have something to do with it, as does your distance to the subject, since they all affect depth-of-field.

The other day I decided to take advantage of a nice day and grab some images in my backyard. I used my telephoto lens (my favorite), and I was able to frame some shots in such a way as to generate some nice green background...backyard...bokeh.

Here's the best three shots of the day.  (In the first two images, the green background is actually just the grass in my backyard.)

Flower and Green BokehFlower and Green BokehA backyard flower in front of smooth green bokeh.

Golden Rain Tree LeavesGolden Rain Tree LeavesA close-up of leaves from a Golden Rain tree.

Orange FlowerOrange FlowerAn orange flower captured with great background bokeh.


Good bokeh makes for a good background, and good backgrounds are necessary for good photos.

That's pretty good - somebody oughta put that on a coffee mug or something.



Steel Ford

July 22, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I'm a photography fan, obviously. But I'm also a fan of writing. I enjoy "wordsmithing" a message, in an effort to express an opinion or convey a feeling in an engaging and eloquent way.

As a case in point, I rewrote the preceding sentence about 3 times before I got it just right.

Anywho, the reason I bring this up is that my love of writing is the reason this blog often contains so much verbiage to go along with the images.

But I need to remember that, technically, this is a "photoblog".  So, by definition, it is to contain photos, with brief captions, and that's it. There should be no need to babble on and on about some obscure topic that's remotely related to the image in question, or the camera equipment used to create the photo, or the location at which it was taken, or the post-processing that was performed on it, resulting in run-on sentences with multiple clauses and seemingly no end.


So, here's a photo:

Steel FordSteel FordA 1936 Ford sedan, made of stainless steel, on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

It's the front grille and lights of a stainless steel 1936 Ford sedan on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA. I did not apply a monochrome treatment to it - this is the true coloring, with a little enhancement of the yellow/orange reflections from the overhead lights, which I thought was a nice effect.

'Nuff said.



Flowers in Vibrant Black and White

June 24, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Flowers are all about color. But I recently saw some flower shots by other photographers that were rendered in monochrome (black and white), and that inspired me to try the same thing.

That's really just a polite way of saying that I ripped off their idea.

Let's say I was inspired.

This first shot is interesting because it's got that "repeated pattern" thing going on -- in other words, the flowers in the background look a lot like the one in the foreground.


Monochrome Flower #2Monochrome Flower #2A standard flower shot, rendered in monochrome.


Next we have what I think is a hydrangea. It's a big flower with a lot of detail, so I thought it made a good candidate for monochrome.


Monochrome Flower #3Monochrome Flower #3A standard flower shot, rendered in monochrome.


The last one is my favorite, just because of the detail in the flower petals, the various degrees of light and shadow, and just generally because I think it's a cool shot. I think it's the best of the three shots.


Monochrome Flower #1Monochrome Flower #1A standard flower shot, rendered in monochrome.


These were all taken at Longwood Gardens, and I've got a ton of flower shots from that day. Most of them are really best seen in vibrant color because, of course, that's how flowers look their best. But I chose the 3 images above for a monochrome treatment because I thought the color(s) of the flower itself weren't as important. There was enough interest in the shape of the petals, the setting of the flower itself, and the light and shadow in the photo.

I swear I'm trying to get away from these flower images, but they seem to keep filling up this blog. I wish I could tell you what's "coming up next", but things are very fluid at this point, so I have no idea what images I'll have available to post next. There's a good chance it'll be more flowers, but you never know.

As I like to say, stay tuned.




May 23, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I shoot a lot of flower images. I know it. I can't help it. They're colorful, they stand still, and let's face it, people love flower shots.

Still, I thought I'd shake things up a bit by posting some plant life shots without big colorful flower petals - images that are instead mostly greenery.

These shots were all taken along a hiking trail at Watkins Glen State Park (NY).

First, we have some greenery that's familiar to most - the classic fern. I saw this little guy where you see most ferns - in the shade of a tree.


Watkins Glen FernWatkins Glen FernAn image of a forest fern captured near a trail at Watkins Glen State Park.


This next shot is a little abstract. These are lily pads, floating on a pond. It's almost disorienting to look at, because there's no frame of reference - I filled the frame with the lily pads.


Lily PadsLily PadsLily pads in a pond at Watkins Glen State Park


Finally we have a shot of a wild flower. I know, I said I was getting away from flower shots. But I meant those bright big-petaled flowers. This little fellow has just a touch of yellow, and I was able to get a nice, blurry, greenish-yellow background.


Watkins Glen WildflowerWatkins Glen WildflowerA little yellow wildflower near a trail at Watkins Glen State Park.


As it turns out, "Greenery" is actually the name of the Pantone "Color of the Year" for 2017. Who knew?