Sunday, April 21, 2019

Horse Week was fun, now I'm in Air Show mode.

Horse week was Fun!  I learned a lot.  I think a lot of my shots came out better than I expected, due to the subject.  I stressed the cameras a bit, getting out of my normal comfort zone with speed and ISO settings.  Looking forward to going out again later this year.  However, it's now time to put away this subject for a while.

So now I'm in Air Show mode.
Next weekend I'll be in Beaufort, SC for the MCAS Beaufort Air Show.  
I don't recall flying into MCAS Beaufort back in the day, but I'm sure we had plenty of flights out in the time of Desert Storm.   With one runway over 12,000 ft we could have really loaded up.  I do remember I had more flights out of Pope AFB, just up the road, that runway was relatively short at 7,500 ft and was always a challenge.  Sorry, old man memory kicking in.  Back to the present.
The big draw here will be the Blue Angles.  There will be other military demos such as a F-22 Raptor and a F-35B (STOVL) Lightning II.  When I was stationed at Okinawa in the early '80s, I saw the Harrier in action.  ***Crap, another old man memory rabbit hole.  I need to come up with a warning when those kick in.***  I thought that the Harrier was kinda neat?  This Lightning II should be awesome!
One of the other performers is named the Class of 45.  These are two WWII fighter aircraft, F4U-4 Corsair and P51-D Mustang.  I saw a few Mustangs in Reno, and don't get me wrong, I'm in awe just thinking of wave after wave of these planes doing their thing in their time.  However, I have never seen a Corsair in flight.  Or on the ground with props turning and engine doing it's thing.  I'm thinking the sound will be nothing short of amazing.  Pity the fool that gets in my way of a money shot.
I'm sure the other performers will be fun to watch as well, but my head is in the military stuff.  The show will be fun.
Weather information, five days out:

I see upper 70's in my future!
I will be going with a good friend from the Pelican days.  (Maybe I'll get a Pelican shot?)  He is a veteran of this show, I'm sure we'll be in great position.
I'm just trying to keep in mind my rules, below 1/180 for the props.  Over 1/2000 for the Blue Angles, except Fat Albert.  The rest will take care of itself.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Jump Up Close

And now for something a little different.  All of the horse eventing images so far have lots of added scenery in the image.  I wanted to try to get a bit closer to the horse, while still having the understanding there was a jump involved.
I came across this one and what caught me was the mane flying free.  Once I saw this, I went back through the other images only to find many of the horses had shorter manes than I have hair.  And those with longer manes were not jumping.  Is there a correlation?  Maybe?
The only problem in this image was this wasn't a close up to begin with and would require a pretty good crop.  But you have to try.
I did some enlargement work through On One prior to the crop.  It's not a foolproof process, but I think it helps a little.  
This was shot at f/5.6, later in the day.  There was some shadow fixin' that was required.
The horse is pretty much all white.  I hate to say unfortunately, because it is a beautiful creature.  So it is not unfortunate, but all that means is you have to look harder for definition.  It is there.  But the flying features are there.  Ears froward.  Mane in zero gravity.  Both the rider and the horse looking for terra firma.

I think it framed out well.  Looks good on the monitors.  But note to self that I'll soon forget, don't be afraid to get in tight.

The paint version turned out really well.  The white of the horse works here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Flat Jump

OK, the title is a bit odd.  I often struggle with titles.  Seems like a simple thing, but how do you come come up with multiple names for essentially the same action?  I have Jump in the Sun, because for some reason the sunlight caught my name.  There's pressure here.
In this image, the illusion to me is the jump is more for distance than height.  The rider and the horse seem to be on the same page.  This isn't their first jump.
This jump also has the flower pot accessory, how cool is that?
Photographically speaking, this jump has a flower pot accessory.  How cool is that?  That shade of red doesn't appear anywhere else that I can remember.  This shot was in the almost overhead sun.  It was baking the green grass and the jump wood.  It was set for a -1 EV, and all that did was increase whatever shadow there was on the subjects.  Nice challenge.
This image needed more than the usual amount of help.  The grass was barely green.  The jump was washed out.  And the shadows needed a little boost.

I've gone from spot metering to center weighted for these shots.  Tough to tell if it is really helping or not.  Seems like it should.  I'm happy with the lighting in the camera, or at least I have a good idea of what it's going to do.  I've found on sunny days, all my Nikons respond well to a -1 EV setting.  For most of my sheltered life, that would work.  But with this horse event, there are more shadows than what I'm used to seeing.  The JPG conversions in the camera handle them OK, but with RAW processing, I think I can do better.

The real winner, to me, in this is the grass.  The green is there.  The jump isn't blown out, there is some good definition in the wood.  The subject works for me too.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Big Jump Landing

In my somewhat humble, but ignorant, opinion about horse jumps, this jump was one of more difficult jumps on the course.  The jump is about three feet high, to the untrained eye, and has a slope down landing.  Could have been the best shots of the day, but rookie camera dude mistakes made the image what it is.
I heard from one of the riders that they were going to take this jump.  Problem for me was I had the wrong camera/lens on me at the time.  The lens was too long.  I had to position myself too far away from the jump and not be in the landing area.  And I ended up behind some low hanging branches.  Not only did this image require a lot of tree branch removal editing, but for the second rider one of the branches caught the AF - and....  It didn't end well.  But the branch looked good.
Lucky for me, I'm used to missing the money shot.  I'll recover.

By this time in the day, I had opened my aperture to f/5.   That created a pretty high speed.  I was far enough away the DOF didn't kill the image.

Yea, that branch.  Other than that, I really like this.  If this was me on a quad, I'd be over the handle bars.  The rider and horse are good.

Monday, April 15, 2019


Last weekend's adventure to the horse farm and the Eventing practice grossed over 500 images.  
And I said I'd share them.
First step, get it a manageable number.  Down to 100, check.
Next, apply the necessary basic edits.  How to do basic edits for over 100 images?  I shot JPGs, but I don't do any in camera effects and the images really don't come out so well.  Not good enough to show.  With my name on it.  
For the RAW files I figured out how create a pre-set in ACR.  The important part was to set the light levels levels to AUTO.  It is doable.  And I added my usual starting points.  And I could do multiples.  Like 30 at a time.  Like in 3 minutes.  There is a time saver.
From that point, I needed to save the altered RAW files to a JPG format.  Found how to do that.  From there I had to touch up about half of the images for things like leveling and some additional light leveling work.
In all, about two hours of work.  Not bad.  Better than the camera JPG route.  At this pint, I can't see any reason to shoot JPG format any more.
Now for the dispersal.  I like Dropbox.  I have a few of the Club members doing a test of the page and download.  I should be able to send out the notices tomorrow that the images are ready.
Not only was the adventure fun, but I backed into some learning as well.
I need to get out more.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Horse over the Water Jump

Part of the Horse Event cross country course involves the horse and rider transiting through a shallow water obstacle about 30 yards in length.  The depth is only a few inches and there is a solid bottom.  It looks to be about then yards wide.  There are shallow and steep entrances/exits.  And there is a fairly high jump in the middle should one want to take it.
I hung around the water obstacle for a number of photographs.  Just about every participant for the day went through it a few times.  Get the horses ready for the cross country season.  For the most part, this exercise was uneventful.  Except.  One rider wanted to take her horse in the water from the steeper step.  And the horse wanted no part of that.  Instead the horse stretched its neck down below its feet to drink the water.  Almost pulled the rider right over.  Would have been funny, but not flattering.  No pictures.
I have a number of images of horses moving through the water at a quick pace.  I like how the water is disturbed and somewhat flying around.  Splashing.
While I was there, there were two riders who took the jump.  This is one of them.
There is water flying everywhere.  The only eye trick that gets to me is something I can't fix.  The horse has shin guards that are black with a blue accent.  Just looks odd (to me) in the image where it is.  The sun is right, there are greens and blues.  Did I say I liked the way the water was splashed?

I started the day shooting at a higher aperture, f/6.4.  later in the day I opened up to f/5 to see if bokeh was going to be an issue at a later date.  The evergreen trees just at the end of the water are OK.  To me, this is acceptable DOF.  The more open I can be, the better.  The speed a a bit high, but I wasn't going for any motion effect.  ISO 450 is right in the acceptable range.

This was a pretty simple edit.  The environment was good.  Lots of good light to work with.  Or not work with 'cause it was there.  No light compensations.  One of the few times it hit it just right.

Horse Jump in the Sun

I spent most of today culling down the number of images from yesterday's adventure from just over 500 to about 110.  Something I can work with.  Since my philosophy is 'spray and pray', I have multiple shots around each image that I saved.  I'm looking for the best image in the sequence.  Not everyone agrees with that strategy, but it is my time to 'waste'.
What I found is I like the fairly head on jump shots, or at least fairly close to head on.  This is my first time doing this, so don't tell me I'm missing most of the jump, that is the back half of the horse.  I'll figure that out on my own.
Most of the saved images are of horses and riders in the initial sequence of the jump.  And a lot look alike.  There is also somewhat of a challenge of positioning.  Can't always be where I want to be.  Again, my first time.  Go easy.
This image is one of the very few shots where I am perpendicular to the jump.  On reflection, I won't shy away from these, I like it.
The challenge of the this shot was the top of the jump was reflecting the sunlight.  I shot with 0EV, and am lucky to get away with it.  There is a little definition, so the surface is a little blown.  Also the jump behind the subject it too light - and distracts from the subject.  Other than that, the image takes care of itself.  There are some nice greens, natural.  And the dull oranges of fallen leaves.

One of the problems with shooting in manual mode is when you move from shadows to sunlight and don't make the corrections necessary, you can wind up with some interesting numbers.  Like a speed of 1/3200 second.  And ISO 1250.  probably could have dialed in some more realistic numbers.  Ha.
This is the camera JPG:

The surface of the jumps move the eye away from the horse and rider.  The dark of the horse's neck also plays games with me, so I'l like to lighten that up just a bit.
And this is what I came up with.

With those two changes, my eyes stay on the horse and rider, doing the jump thing.
And the paint effect:

So far, the paint effect is pretty good on these.

RAW Processing in Elements

In Saturday's trip to a farm for the Horse Eventing, I had a few conversations about shooting a RAW image as opposed to JPG.  One of the points of the discussion was centered around time and knowledge to process the image file.
I'm going to go through a very basic process to process a RAW file into an image in Elements.  This is Elements 14 and ACR 9.5.   Sorry, but that is the last version I have.  The current version should be similar.
By default, when a RAW file is opened in Elements, the Adobe Camera RAW plugin should open.
This image was shot with a -1 EV compensation because there will be areas of blown pixels.  If there was no compensation, the dark horse saddle pad would be blown white  where I know it was green.  The histogram is left which indicates the image is dark overall and we'd like to correct it.
What follows is Kurt's quick edit.
First select AUTO.  That selection will get is to what Adobe thinks are 'balanced' light levels.

When that is done, there are two real changes made.  The histogram shows that light levels are moving to a more even level.  And the saddle pad is beginning  to show blown (Red) levels.  The pad is now white instead of a shade of light green.
Leave it alone for now, there are other edits that are still to come.

Next step is to set Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation.  RAW file are somewhat bland by nature.  I have my starting points.

I set my Clairity and Vibrance values to 20 and Saturation to 10.  When that happens, the saddle pad increases the blown area.  
At this point my basic edits are done.  Other edits if necessary can be done depending on what I what to do with the image.  
But for this image, I would want to work on the saddle pad.  And in this case the edit is simple, use the Whites slider.

I moved the Whites slider from 10 to 17 and the saddle pad color has returned.
From here, click on the Open Copy button and that will open the file in Elements.  From there, accomplish your edits or save the image as .
For the most part after a few times through, this doesn't take that long.  I usually don't like to spend more than a minute or two on basic edits.  And it think it is worth it over that a camera will do.
This is the camera JPG.

I think my process is overall a better image.  The saddle pad is still problematic, but with a little extra effort I cold get more green out of it.  And since it is a RAW file, the information is there, just need to unlock it.
That's the quick process.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Horse Eventing

Today was a pretty good day for me.  On top of it all, I get to add a new blog Label.  Horse Eventing.  So the horse eventing I went to today was not an actual event, but the practice for the event later this summer.  (Way too many Events.)  So there were groups of riders on the course who were either practicing for themselves or for the horse.  It seems to me that there were riders of all ages and all types of horses.  Everyone moved in groups, and those with the younger set had coaches.  And some seemed to have their own posse.
But the day was great weather-wise.  Lots of great sunshine.
So photography related, where to begin?  I showed up on time, that was a good start.  Turns out, our little photographer group, could go most anywhere on the course.  Just stay away from the horses.
What I knew about horses before today was pretty much limited to John Wayne Westerns.  And not that I know more now, but today I have the real visual.  And the meadow muffins in the tread of my shoes are proof I was out on the farm.  (C is delighted about that.)
I was out today with two members of my photo club who knew much more about horses and the events that was the subject of the shoot.  Good time.
But where to start?  1/60?  1/200? 1/1000?  1/2000 jets?  I took around 500 shots and most were at 1/800.  I had only one shot where the focus was real off.  I had a sequence where a tree branch photo bombed the AF, and that was too bad, it was a very good sequence.  Other than that, all were in very good to great focus.  (This is was a good confidence builder for the upcoming Air Show season.)
The folks out there were real nice, many asking if the photos would be available.  And of course they will be.  I handed out many of my cards.
I shot RAW and JPG, and many of the JPGs are OK to post.  However, some shots in both formats needs some help because of shade from the helmet bills.
The first photo I wanted to work on and post had to have some of the problematic shade, and something unique.  And here it is.

This is the camera generated JPG.  Usual disclaimer, my JPGs are set to be bland.  But the image is also a bit on the dark side.  I'd set the exposure compensation to -1 because the sun reflection in this area was not playing nice on some of the rider's equipment and some of the jumps.

This image needs some advanced help with lighting to get the proper levels back.  But it is worth the time.  

That works for me.  And the unique part of this image?  The flying pony tail.
Like all photo shoots, I'm looking for 5 to 10 keeper shots by the end of the day.  And since this was the first time out, I was really hoping to make the lower end.  But I did get some very good 'action' shots - and some good stand around-ers. 
What would this look like painted?

That's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Eagle Shift Change at the Nest

This is another image in the sequence from Monday's Eagle paparazzi adventure.  At this point, the arriving Eagle is solidly overlooking the nest, and the departing Eagle is moments away from flight.  I am one lucky person to have seen this.  Certainly one of the top five nature events that I've witnessed in my life.  (I need to get out more.)  More story detail is in the Eagle Approach to Nest post.
Aside from the final image, this post will have to do more with the processing.  From what I've read, the minimum lens on needs for 'birding' is 600 mm.  Best I can do is 450 mm in DX or 600 mm in 1.3x.  
What will 450 mm get you from where I was standing?

That's all folks.  Maybe I just hang out with the wrong people.  I want to crawl in the nest, or at least arm's reach away.
Couple of things about this image.  This is Nikon's JPG of the shot.  To be fair, I have no image enhancements for the JPGs.  I usually don't play much with the camera JPGs, only using them for playback.  To get the best natural light levels in playback, the image should be Standard.  But you get the idea.  And this is why I shoot RAW.  Some will argue that RAW takes too much time.  I would argue with practice images don't take too much time and in some special cases, like this, the time is insignificant.
For me this is a great subject, two Eagles and a nest.  And I didn't mess up the focus.  Shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings were good.  I need to see the yellow in the Eagle's eyes.
How to get there.
First, the settings:

To get to the yellow in the eyes, I'd need a very aggressive crop.  The crop would not look good on one of the monitors, which is the final test.  The image would be somewhat pixelated.
Last night, worked on enlarging the total file through PhotoShop.  I wasn't real pleased with the end results.  There was some Youtubing involved.  The theory is to enlarge the image and then do the crop.  In theory I should be able to really zoom in on the area that I'm targeting.  PS didn't let me down, it does a lot of things very well, but other applications do some things much better.
And that's what happened here.  I used On One's resize to enlarge the image to 400%.  And then I did my crop.  This one shows up on the monitor real well.  And yellow eyes.

That took care of the sizing issues.  I used ACR's Auto Levels for the most part for lighting.  I did some spot touch ups for exposure on the white hood and tail of both Eagles.
I joke with many of my photo club members that I don't want to spend more than three minutes one any RAW image.  I may have to re-think that philosophy.  I have a little more time than that invested here.  And I have to re-look at the Eagle Approach image.  Bet I can drill in a bit more.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Eagle Approach to Nest

Today's biggest decision for after work was to go for exercise walk or go Eagle watching.  Too nice a day to worry about health.
Turns out it was a good decision to ditch the walk.  I went out to my favorite Eagle paparazzi spot thinking that the excellent temperature and clear skies would have the Eagles moving around.  Not that I know a lot about Eagle habits, but the warm weather had me out and about.
Once I arrived at the park, I could tell this was the right thing to do.  It was as (critter) noisy as I'd heard it so far this year.  Bug, geese and other birds were all in symphony.
Compared to other visits, I was there just over an hour when I saw the unmistakable shape of an Eagle on approach against a cloudless blue sky.  It flew toward me, did a circle over my viewing area and a circle approach to the nest.
Two technical points about today, I wanted to do a lot of shots with the 1.3x frame size.  This would effectively extend my max viewing angle to that of a 600 mm lens.  I really need to know how much I can crop the image if necessary before it becomes unusable.  And I wanted to slay the other monster that attacks my wildlife images, the photo bombing trees that steal the auto focus.
I took just over 140 Eagle shots this afternoon.  I had only three shots that the focus was really, really bad.  I had another three where the trees stole the focus.  With the rest, the auto focus held on the moving subject through the branches.  Just like the Engineers drew it up.  For me, excellent results.
What I witnessed this afternoon was shift change at the nest.  Wow.  I was hoping the approaching Eagle would have some form of food for its mate.  Alas, there was nothing but empty talon.  When I saw the other mate leaving the nest, I figured out what was going on.
I still don't know if there are Eaglets in the nest.  In the past I've seen food flown in.  This was different.  This was two parents hunting.  The population in the nest may be more than two.
So, it was a great day to Eagle watch.  For the most part, I didn't screw anything up.  I have some great images with both DX and 1.3x frame sizes.  Even with a pretty good crop, this turned out well.

I was shooting at 3 FPS.  Part of me says I should have gone at a higher rate, but instead of throwing away over 100 shots, there would be more.  There is a sequence where I would have really like to had a higher rate, but we'll see what I can pull out of that one.  Today, definitely one of the better efforts.  And a lot of luck.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Penn Central 8620 (DMRRC)

This researching of train is fascinating.  And I'm now beginning to believe it was the train aficionados that created the internet as a device to store and share their information.  The amount of information that is available is somewhat overwhelming.  And so it is with the Penn Central 8620.  And in the small world happenings of life, it turns out that the PC 8620 and I have a connection.
The original PC 8620, a SW8, was built in February of 1953 by General Motors Diesel.  (Being built in February of the 1950s is close to a connection, but that isn't it.)  The unit was one of just over a total 370 built.  The 8620 one of was originally built for the New York Central Rail Road.  In 1968, the NYCRR merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form the short lived Penn Central.  The Penn Central went bankrupt in 1970 and later merged with Conrail. 
The SW8 was a diesel electric built for standard gauge with a 8 cylinder two stroke supercharged diesel engine rated at 800 hp that generated 600 kW of power.  The model was built between 1950 and 1954.  Some of the units were built for the US ARMY and found their way to South Korea.  One unit was owned by the US AIR FORCE for the Titan Missile Program.
 Anyway, going bankrupt in 70's is not our connection either.
What does connect us is that I found a number of pictures of the PC 8620, now the Conrail 8620, in downtown Pittsburgh in December of 1977.  I'm sure that sometime in December of 1977, I was dahn-tahn as well.  Small world.

This model has fared much better than the shots I found on line.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Eagle in the Nest

Yesterday I felt like the Eagle paparazzi.  I staked out my new favorite nest for over two hours waiting for some good Eagle action.  What a life!
I thought the only good action would be a fly-in.  How wrong could one be?
First, I found a great spotting location.  Didn't have to bang through a lot of underbrush.  Had a nice level spot with clear vision to the nest.  I'm guessing the distance was about 70 yards.  (Could be a new toy alert, range finder?)  Big enough for a chair.
I never saw a fly-in, but at some point I saw some movement int he nest.  Picked up the camera and fired away.  Haven't any clue if to the Eaglets have hatched yet, but guessing that is a few weeks away.  Thinking this was the female moving around.

This is pretty much the limit of my equipment.  This was effectively 450 mm shot.  And it is aggressively cropped.  But it looks good on the monitors.