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Chromatic Aberration

August 11, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Sometimes, weird things happen to light when it travels through glass. 

Just look at the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for an example.  When light shines through a prism, you can see the spectrum of colors.  You can actually see a lot of things if you listen to that album correctly, but let’s not go there.

Of course, glass is used in camera lenses.  In photography, the job of a lens, as you know, is to focus light on to your camera’s focal plane (the sensor or film).  But sometimes lenses have problems focusing all the colors that are magically contained within a ray of light to a single point on the sensor.  Some colors of light, like blue, tend to refract (bend) more than others, like red.

When this happens in photography, and screws up your shot, it’s called chromatic aberration, and it can be depicted in a very simplified way like this:

Chromatic aberration (CA) causes “color fringing” in a photograph.  An unwelcome purple (or sometimes green, or even red) fringe of color appears along the high-contrast edges in a photo.   CA could occur with practically any lens.  Some lenses use “low dispersion” glass to minimize CA.  It’s most common (or so I’ve read) in zoom lenses with a variable aperture.

I thought I had a good example of CA to share with you.  But after combing through my archives, I couldn’t find any.  I’ve definitely seen it happen in my own photos though.  Fortunately, many photo editing tools (like Lightroom, my tool of choice) can correct for it.

That’s all I can say about chromatic aberration.  The optics and mathematical theory behind it can get complex.  What I’ve said here represents the sum total of my knowledge on the subject. 

What I do know is that photography is all about light, and the way light behaves is amazing.   This is just one example.  For better examples, read up on quantum physics.   You’ll learn that light is both a particle and a wave, and it essentially moves independent of time, and light “decides” how it’s going to behave based on how we observe it.   Sounds crazy, but it’s all proven science.

That all has nothing directly to do with chromatic aberration I suppose. But it’s really mind-blowing stuff, when you think about it.

Think about it while listening to Floyd and your head might literally explode.


Porches in Perspective

August 04, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

For this blog post, I had plans to write a long discussion on the use of "perspective" in photographs.  Particularly, the use of near vs. far objects, and the employment of converging lines.

But as I started to write, I realized that I don't know as much about that subject as I thought I did.  Not enough to speak with authority about it, anyway.  (My friend Joe probably knows a lot about it, since he uses perspective in his paintings.)

I also realized that a discussion about perspective is an awfully long way to go to introduce a couple of nice photos of porches.

And that's exactly what I've got here - two images of front porches which I shot from the side, rather than looking straight at the structures in question.  Doing so gives the image some nice depth and visual interest.

So, rather than yammer on and on about the concept of "perspective", how about if I just show you the photos...

First, the front porch of the Nittany Lion Inn at Penn State University:

Nittany Lion PorchNittany Lion PorchThe porch of the Nittany Lion Inn, on the campus of Penn State University.


There's nice crisp lines in that image, converging to a "vanishing point", thereby providing perspective and depth.

Next, the quaint front porch of a home in the quaint village of Woodstock, in the quaint state of Vermont:

Woodstock PorchWoodstock PorchThe front porch of a home in beautiful Woodstock, VT.


The straight lines in that image aren't as pronounced.  But the vertical posts on the porch, which get smaller as they get farther away, gives the eye a good feeling for the depth of the scene.

All of this really boils down to composition.  If I composed these images by shooting straight at the structure, the resulting photo would still be ok, but not nearly as interesting.  Standing to the side and letting the porches stretch off into the distance is much more pleasing to the eye.

Some people may prefer to do these types of shots differently.  It's really all a matter of your perspective.



Pink Flower #2

July 28, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Since we're still in the heart of summer, I thought I would post a summer flower shot.

And, since we're still in the heart of summer, I think a summer rerun may be in order. And it's not because I'm too busy to create a new photo this week.

No, really.

I mean I am.  But that's not the reason.

It's just because I like this shot, and it hasn't appeared on this blog before.  It's a photo that I took back in 2012.  I wanted to share it with you, my loyal blog readers. 

I named this image "Pink Flower #2" (in that artsy way that some artists name their paintings):

Pink Flower #2Pink Flower #2The water droplets on these pink flowers really add to this shot.

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I actually liked this shot so much that it made it into my official portfolio - see the "Nature" gallery.  (If you're wondering if there was a "Pink Flower #1", the answer is yes, but it didn't make the cut.)

The positioning of the flowers makes this image work.  The foreground flower, slightly offset, is in focus.  His buddies behind him are progressively out-of-focus (depending on how far away they are).  And the greenery in the background is completely out of focus.  It gives the image some nice depth.






Alexandria Reflections

July 21, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Alexandria, Virginia is a great little town just outside of Washington, DC.  Its Old Town area is steeped in history - not to mention lots of quaint shops.  (So quaint, in fact, that they should probably be called "shoppes".)  There's brick sidewalks and historic buildings everywhere you look.

So, of course, that translates to a lot of photo ops.

A focal point of town is Alexandria City Hall, topped by an historic clock tower.  On a sunny day, it's easy to get a great shot of the tower.

I was doing just that a few years ago when I remembered an old photography adage - always look behind you.  It applies mostly to outdoor photography, and the point (as I interpret it) is that you should not get fixated on what's in front of you - remember to look behind you and all around for alternate shots.

In this case, what was behind me was an old window to a building with a dark interior.  Since it was a sunny day, the window acted like a mirror.  Rather than get a straight shot of the clock tower, I got this much more interesting image:

Alexandria ReflectionAlexandria ReflectionThe Alexandria, VA City Hall clock tower, reflected in a nearby window.

Old paned windows like this are ubiquitous in Old Town, so this image captures two iconic symbols of Alexandria in one shot.

I'm glad I turned around.




Sepia, What Is It Good For? (Part 3 of 3)

July 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

So far, in this 3-part series of blog posts, we've seen a couple of photos that, in my humble opinion, clearly look better with a sepia treatment.

In this last installment, I present to you a photo that looks good in both color and sepia. 

Again, in my humble opinion.

This image, like the others, is from Casa Loma in Toronto.  It's the conservatory, a room filled with natural light, and plant life.  The image is a small panorama, taken with an iPhone.

Here's the color photo:

Conservatory, Casa LomaConservatory, Casa LomaThe conservatory, at Casa Loma in Toronto.


And here's the photo with a sepia treatment:

Conservatory, Casa Loma (Sepia)Conservatory, Casa Loma (Sepia)The conservatory, at Casa Loma in Toronto (rendered in sepia tones).


No doubt the sepia photo, like all sepia-toned images, has an aged feel to it, and that lends it a certain cool factor.

But in this case, unlike the others, I think this image is better in color.  The full color image allows you to "feel" the warm sunlight coming through the windows.  And natural plant life always looks better in vivid color, as does the stained glass dome.

But you be the judge.  Let me know what you think in the comments (or email me directly).

I'll try to get back to non-sepia shots next.  Old-timey photos are nice to look at once in a while, but color photography is here to stay.


Sepia, What Is It Good For? (Part 2 of 3)

July 17, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

So what, in fact, is sepia good for?  "Absolutely NOTHING" might be your knee-jerk response to the title of this post (if you know the song).  But in fact sepia toning is good for something.  It simply makes an image look old, by simulating the appearance of an aging photograph.

According to Wikipedia, sepia is "...a reddish-brown color, named after the rich brown pigment derived from the ink sac of the common cuttlefish Sepia."

Sort of makes you want to treat it with a little more respect, doesn't it?

Actually it's kind of disgusting - the definition, I mean.  The actual fish is even more disgusting - Google it and you'll see what I mean.

The sepia effect is great though, and can really add character to a shot.

In my last post you saw a sepia treatment applied to an image of an old-style telephone.  The image was made inside Casa Loma, a Gothic Revival mansion in Toronto.  I showed you both the full color version and the sepia version of that image.  In my opinion, the sepia version was superior in that case.

In the next image, also from Casa Loma, we see a bedroom - called "Sir Henry's Suite", referring to Sir Henry Pellatt, the Canadian financier and soldier for which the house was built.  You be the judge - is the image better in color?:

Bedroom, Casa LomaBedroom, Casa LomaA shot of "Sir Henry's Suite" in Casa Loma, in Toronto (rendered in sepia tones)., in Toronto.


Or is the image better with sepia toning?:

Bedroom, Casa Loma (Sepia)Bedroom, Casa Loma (Sepia)A shot of "Sir Henry's Suite" in Casa Loma, in Toronto (rendered in sepia tones).

I'll give away my answer this time - I prefer the sepia version here.  In this case, this is not a great photo.  It could be focused better, and I couldn't remove all the noise (graininess).  I took the shot quickly, while crouching down, in low light, with an iPhone.  But I thought it was good enough to illustrate this point, since the grainy and slightly unfocused aspects make it look genuinely old when rendered in sepia. 

My 2018 copyright in the corner sort of spoils the illusion.  But try to ignore that.

As before, let me know what you think in the comments (or email me directly).

There's more to come - stay tuned for the third and final installment of this series. 


Sepia, What Is It Good For? (Part 1 of 3)

July 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Simon & Garfunkel once said "Everything looks worse in black and white". 

The song was "Kodachrome", a tune that every photographer is familiar with.  They changed "worse" to "better" during their 1981 concert in Central Park.  No doubt a nod to their advancing age. 

Or they just forgot the words.

Anyway, the decision to apply a monochrome ("black and white") treatment to a photo depends on many things. Probably the most important, I think, is the color and contrast in the image.  Some images really pop in monochrome, some don't. 

Also important is the mood of the photo - or at least the mood that you're going for.  A great variation on the standard monochrome treatment is "sepia" toning (pronounced "see-pee-uh").  An image rendered with sepia toning has more of a reddish-brown coloring, and generally has the feel of an old photo, or at least a photo of an old subject.  So if that's the mood you'd like to achieve, sepia will probably get you there.

I applied a sepia treatment to some interior photos taken while visiting Casa Loma, a Gothic Revival mansion in Toronto.

Sometimes, a monochrome/sepia treatment helps a photo, sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes it's better with, sometimes it's better without.  Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.

I'll share both the color and the sepia images here, and let you decide.  I won't hit you with them all at once - we'll start with one image in this post, and follow up with the others in the next few posts.

So, let's start simple with this image of an old-style telephone, nestled in a nook in the wall in one of the rooms of the mansion.

The color image:

Telephone, Casa LomaTelephone, Casa LomaA telephone inside Casa Loma, in Toronto.

And the sepia image:

Telephone, Casa Loma (Sepia)Telephone, Casa Loma (Sepia)A telephone inside Casa Loma, in Toronto (rendered in sepia tones).


You be the judge - which is the better treatment?  Is the color image more pleasing to the eye?  Or, does the sepia image add a historic feel to the photo?  Let me know what you think in the comments (or email me directly).

Stay tuned for the next few images...



A Clear Shot

July 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

As a history buff, I like to visit places with historical significance.  Since I'm specifically an American history buff, those places are often battlefields - because, let's face it, many of the key events in American history involved fighting -- with either somebody else, or ourselves.

That "fightin' amongst ourselves" (as Charlie Daniels once put it) refers, of course, to the Civil War.

If you know me, you know that Gettysburg has a special place in my heart.  So much so that I have a special collection of photos dedicated to it.  Since this past week marked the 155th anniversary of the battle, I thought I'd share a photo from that collection that's never been published on this blog.

A Clear ShotA Clear ShotA Confederate cannon aimed directly at the Union lines at Gettysburg. The clump of trees on the horizon represents the focal point of Pickett's Charge on Cemetery Ridge.

It's titled "A Clear Shot".  It depicts a Confederate cannon aimed directly at the Union lines at Gettysburg.  The clump of trees on the horizon represents the focal point of Pickett's Charge on Cemetery Ridge.

I rendered the image with a sepia tone, to give it a 19th century kind of feel.

You can imagine that a cannon (probably not this one) may have been positioned right here and used prior to Pickett's Charge (July 3, 1863).  At around 1:00pm that day, an artillery bombardment ("cannonade") of about 150 guns began firing on the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge.  The barrage continued for 1 or 2 hours, and it's been called the largest in the history of the western hemisphere.  (It could be heard from many miles away.)

It was largely ineffective, with most shots sailing over the Union lines.  Pickett's Charge (which followed) failed too, and the Union won the battle, and later the war.

You could argue that this image doesn't really show a "clear shot", since there are tree limbs hanging in front of the gun.  I'm no artillery expert, but I'm fairly certain this bad boy would blow right though those without any problem at all. 

The title is, of course, a play on words - the "shot" I'm referring to is the photo itself.