I’ve Got Sunflowers on a Rainy Day

Rainy, humid morning. My initial thought was I’d slip on some waterproof shoes, a rain jacket and go stomping through Pomerance Nature Preserve but, when I opened the door and felt the oppressive, 95% humidity, I said ‘no thanks. I’ll just go early to the coffee shop.

Getting out of the car at Aux Delices I spotted the sunflowers next door at Porcelanosa and decided I could make them my subject for the day.

2021.08.19: First picture – lens fogs up just as I’m about to press the shutter release and suddenly I lose not only a clear shot, but also a bit of the focus

I ran into an unexpected problem early on: the humidity and relative heat outside the car caused my lens to fog up almost immediately when I removed the cap. The first pictures I tried to take (the one above being the first) didn’t come out so good. Patience, however, is not only a virtue but allowed me to wait until the temperatures of camera and outside evened out. Then, I was able wipe and keep the condensation off the lens and proceed.

2021.08.19: Sunflower seen from behind – after the lens cleared

Last year I had taken pictures of the sunflowers growing here using my iPhone. Today I had my Olympus with a 14-42mm lens which allowed me to get some decent shots from fairly close (about 7 inches), so I concentrated on trying to get some detail shots.

I know nothing, really, about sunflowers – or flowers in general – and, so, every time I take a close look at them I’m amazed by how otherworldly they seem…

… and by seeing something I’d never noticed before, like disk florets: the center of the sunflower pictured below is a field of flowers inside a flower! Maybe nothing new to anyone who knows anything about them, but it’s been all I can think about since I took these pictures, just adding to that otherworldly feel for me.

So, though I didn’t get to go on my usual morning walk, it wasn’t a water morning: I not only got to take some nice pictures, I got to learn something new as well!

Equipment: All pictures taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M5III (mostly set on auto) using an Olympus M.14-42mm lens at various focal lengths and edited using Snapseed on my tablet while drinking coffee.

Ordinarily I like to use aperture priority so that I can get some depth of field – for example, I would have liked to capture the church in the background in a couple of shots – but it was a bit breezy and the flowers just wouldn’t stand still for a longer exposure.

Thirteen Exercises – Part 3: Four Corners

INTRODUCTION/RECAP: I recently read an article called ’13 Creative Exercises…’, yada-yada, by Todd Vorenkamp, yada-yada, link to the article at the bottom, yada-yada, this is my attempt at the third exercise. (See this post for a full explanation)

Exercise 3: Four Corners

The instructions for Exercise 3 were simple: Choose one subject and place it, where it exists, in each corner of the frame for four images.

I can already hear your sighs of relief: whew! Only four images. Sorry, I took about fifteen! Cheer up, though, I’m only going to post eight.

It took me a while to get this one done because I had hard a hard time coming up with a subject to photograph.

My reading of the instructions were that it had to be something that either couldn’t move or, at least, wasn’t going to move while I was shooting it. Okay, fine: I could do another tree or some more mushrooms, but the whole point of my doing these was to move away from that. Then, the other day, I’m walking around town (Greenwich, CT) and spotted Melvin.

The gallery opens at 10:30 yet, here is Melvin: 6:30 in the morning, impatiently checking his watch, anxious to pick up that new sculpture for his foyer.

Melvin is a statue standing in front of Cavalier Ebanks Galleries (not his real name, I named him after my late father-in-law – both solid men). Always looking at his watch as if waiting for the galleries to open, he is possibly the second version of the statue – I’m pretty sure there was a different one in front of the gallery at it’s original location before it moved three blocks up Greenwich Avenue (I remember him wearing a suit).

I cornered Melvin in the four pictures below.

Exercise Image 1 – Lower Right Corner: Looking down Greenwich Avenue
Exercise Image 2 – Upper Right Corner: Ground level, looking at the gallery storefront from the street
Exercise Image 3 – Lower Left Corner: from beneath the sidewalk bench
Exercise Image 4 – Upper Left Corner: Looking up Greenwich Avenue

So, I promised (threatened?) eight pictures. The four exercise shots plus the featured and the introductory images make six, below are two bonus shots.

Bonus Image 1: Across from Melvin is Saint Mary Church built 1900-1905 of stone cut from local quarries.
Bonus Image 2: Looking across at St. Mary’s Parish House

link to 13 Creative Exercises article on B&H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/13-creative-exercises-for-photographers

Thirteen Exercises – Part 1: Don’t Move

Introduction


The other day I received the B&H Newsletter, something I usually ignore – I normally ignore emails from vendors unless I have an order in process – but the first words of the subject line caught my attention: 13 Photo Exercises Guaranteed to Jumpstart Your Creativity… Again, stuff I usually ignore. Not because I don’t think I could use the help, but every time I start reading one of these, they tend to be full of silly advice like ‘wrap your camera in aluminum foil and stick it down your trousers to take a picture of the the nearest building.’ However, I’ve been feeling a bit stuck in a rut: taking photographs of the same flowers, plants and buildings, so I thought ‘why not?’ and started to read.


SIDE NOTE: If you don’t know B&H (B&H Photo, Video & Pro Audio), they’ve been around as a physical store in New York City for ages (AGES!) I remember rummaging around their store on West 17th back in the late 70’s and 80’s. I’m pretty certain that’s where I bought both my first SLR, a Yashica TL-Electro X and my second, the Canon AE-1.

I wonder whatever happened to the Yashica – literally have no idea. I remember rushing out to buy it after seeing a great add in Playboy likening it to an iceberg: the greatest parts are hidden beneath the surface! As for the Canon, I still have one, but not that one – the original was stolen by an old girlfriend’s drug addict neighbour, giving him, I’m sure, minutes of enjoyment).

Wouldn’t you know it, you can find almost anything on Flickr


Digression, digression, digression: sorry!

Anyway, just wanted to say that a year ago, when I started to become interested in photography again, I was happy to find they were still around AND on the Web. I enjoy their site mostly for the links to product reviews, how-to videos and articles. Their prices aren’t any better or worse than other places and, when comparison shopping, I find their prices about the same as Amazon’s so I tend to buy from them out of loyalty to ‘an old friend.’
[SIDE NOTE NOTE: they’re no longer at 17th street, but there is still a brick and mortar store in Manhattan near Penn Station]


The email linked to an article by Todd Vorenkamp and, as I read through his exercises I found myself thinking… ‘well, this might be fun… and this might be fun too!’ I eventually decided that I would go through each of the exercises and bore you all with my attempts.

At the bottom of this post I will put a link to Todd Vorenkamp’s article for anyone interested.

Exercise 1: Two Dozen

The instructions for exercise one were: Pick a location. Stand in one spot and make 24 unique photographs while standing in the same place. You cannot move your feet.

Image 1: From ground level, looking south at picnic tables and trees. Shooting from the ground-level is something I enjoy; it allows me to view the world from a different perspective.

I did this in Bruce Park in a parking space on Wood Road, facing south toward the picnic area. Now, let me tell you how I cheated:

  • three shots in I actually moved my feet to go back to the car and get a second lens, BUT… BUT, I outlined where my feet were and made sure to stand in the exact same location and foot-placement when I got back, and
  • I actually took 32 shots because of subject movement – a cardinal that was hopping picnic tables and a tree (yes, I’m certain it was the tree that moved).

This was fun and slightly challenging. The first few shots were easy, but after a while I found myself thinking hard about what to shoot next (the cardinal’s sudden appearance gave me momentary relief).

I wouldn’t say any of these pictures are particularly creative (or, for that matter, even even particularly interesting), but … eh (🤷🏻‍♂️)! Lucky you, I only picked 10 to show here.

Image 16b: Cardinal on a picnic table. The Cardinal is the mascot of the Greenwich High School sports teams. Had always associated it with St. Louis starting to work here in the late 80’s and eventually moving to town. Honestly, though, I can’t say I remember seeing so many around as I have this year.
Image 17: Looking straight up. Branches over my head.
Image 19: Cobblestone Curb (or kerb, if you prefer). Within the last year they’ve redone the parking area on Wood Road – actually, I should say ‘they added a parking area’ since whatever might have been there was just street. The parking area is differentiated from the street by use of cobblestones (you’ll see this in subsequent images)
Image 3: I always thought you don’t poop bag where you eat. Bruce Park is very dog friendly
Image 4: Morning routines: a woman goes on her daily walk and the trash gets picked up. This shot gives you a better idea of the new parking area at the park. Last year, this street was completely closed for several months and for, some crazy reason, when they opened it again all this cobblestone made me so happy. Still does. I’m a bit of a nut.
Image 7: Picnic Table Legs. One of the reasons I moved to get that other lens was to take this picture (cropped because, since I couldn’t move, there was some extraneous stuff on the left).
Image 18: The lens I replaced on the hood of my car (Olympus M. Zuiko 14-42mm, because you wanted to know, right?)
Image 15: Dropped lens cap
Somewhere between Image 4 and Image 5: Probably the most creative thing I did all morning. I had four pens in my pocket and I used them to mark the positions of my feet so I could return to the exact spot and foot-placement after getting my other lens. (Who carries four pens in their pocket?)

All pictures taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III with either M. Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 or Panasonic/LUMIX 45-200mm f/4-5.6 lenses…

Link to Todd Vorenkamp’s 13 exercises: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/13-creative-exercises-for-photographers

Recovering From Carelessness

This morning I took a few pictures of the sun rising over an area called ‘Swamp Vue.’ To do so, I put my camera on ‘manual’ and took a few shots at different settings finally getting the shot I wanted with the aperture at f/22, the shutter speed at 1/160 sec, and the ISO at 250.

Swamp Vue

Usually, when I do this, I finish by setting the camera back to ‘auto’ before replacing the lens cap and turning the camera off. Well… I forgot to change the settings. Walking a little farther up the road I came to a bed of Chinese Roses (rosa chinesnis) and took a couple of quick pictures without paying attention to the settings. This is what I got…

When I got home later I was disappointed to say the least. Wondering whether I could rescue the shots, I transferred them to my iPad to go some quick editing with Snapseed – I figured if I could make a halfway decent job of it, I’d try a little harder later on my laptop.

I started by fiddling with the brightness, ambience, highlights and shadows; decreased the grain; then one thing followed by another. The results are passable – definitely worth spending more time on

Undressing Magnolia at Breakfast

Magnolia Blossom was lying under a tree at Pomerance Park when I met her, near the ruins of Wyndygoul, the old Seton home.

A chance encounter, almost didn’t see her, almost stepped on her actually.

I found her interesting and took her home where I set her on my desk then proceeded to ignore, and eventually forget, her as I worked.

I found her there this morning as I was getting ready to go out for my morning coffee. She was pretty much as I had left her. Though having lost some of her freshness and looking wilted, she was still attractive, interesting, still so full of colour.

I took her out to breakfast.

Alone together in the upstairs room of the coffee shop, I began to undress her.

[Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0]

56mm; f/13; 4.0s; ISO 250
20mm; f/4.3; 1/60s; ISO 400
22mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 400
70mm; f/5.5; 1/160s; ISO 1600
25mm; f/4.7; 1/60s; ISO 320
20mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 320
150mm; f/5.6; 1/160s; ISO 1600
25mm; f/4.7; 1/60s; ISO 320
150mm; f/5.6; 1/160s; ISO 1600
22mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 250
150mm; f/5.6; 1/200s; ISO 1600

all images edited in Snapseed: Cropped or expanded to 5×7 ratio; a little vignetting, detail reduction to give a soft focus look

Jim Hates Being Photographed – That Don’t Bother Me None, Tho

2021.01.28: Jim hates having his picture taken, so we worked out a compromise

One thing that’s happened this past year has been the great reduction of my social circle. It was never big to begin with – a group of women I usually sat with for morning coffee during the week, a bunch of regulars I would see and talk to at various pubs and restaurants, a couple of guys I would have coffee with on the weekends – but now it has diminished to, essentially, 7: two people I see daily for coffee, two couples my wife and I see occasionally, and one other guy – a crazy-talented artist who drops by with paintings every once in a while, the intervals between which have increased since, after nearly a year of unemployment, he found work.

2021.01.29: Jim hates having his picture taken

One of my coffee friends is Jim. I’ve known Jim at least three years. We became friends a through mutual appreciation of alcohol – a friendship which developed over the years over our common interests in software development, politics, art, whisky, and general conversation.

2021.01.30: Jim at breakfast not having his picture taken

In a recent post I mentioned my inability to stop taking pictures. This includes pictures of people I’m hanging around with. Jim presents a problem. He doesn’t like having his picture taken – at least not candidly and with the frequency that I take them. I decided to turn this reticence into a sort of regular feature of my Instagram posts.

2021.01.30: Jim not having his picture taken during a recent writing workshop – the cork pictured is from a bottle of Brenne, a French single malt

In addition to morning coffee, we meet regularly for dinner at the couple of places we feel safe going to, and almost weekly on Thursdays for a <air quotes> writing workshop </air quotes>. The reason for the air quotes is that, actually, it’s my wife attending a writing workshop while Jim and I discover the benefits of good whisky (Scotch, mostly, but bourbons, ryes, and others are welcome).

Anyway, thought these would be fun to post here. All photos taken with my iPhone XR Rear Camera (ISO and shutter speed whatever the hell the phone thought it should be) and edited in Snapseed using a combination of filters – including ‘tune image’, ‘details’, ‘curves’, ‘vignette’, ‘brush’, and ‘vintage’ – sometimes more than once each.

2021.02.02: Attempting to avoid having his picture taken, Jim tries to blend in with my morning paper
2019.11.06: A rare unobstructed picture of Jim

Snow Bounding

Monday we had a large snowfall here in southern Connecticut – the largest in five years. By some reports we got 14 inches, by all we got no less than 12. Not a lot by some standards, but certainly more than we’ve become accustomed to here.

2021.02.01: Brookside Park, Old Greenwich, CT (Canon Rebel T2i – 27mm, f/5, 1/1000 sec, ISO 800)

Around 3PM, snow still falling heavily, wind gusting to 30 miles per-hour, I got cabin fever, bundled myself up, and went out for a walk – initially just around the property, eventually about six miles around town. Of course, I had my camera and phone for pictures.

2021.02.01: Walking up Marks Road, Riverside, CT (iPhone XR, Front Camera, 2.87mm, f/22, 1/121 sec., ISO 50)

Though the selfie above doesn’t show it, except for the occasional wind I was pretty comfortable.

2021.02.01: Skiing on Riverside Ave., Riverside, CT (iPhone XR, Rear Camera, 4.5mm, f/1.8, 1/184 sec., ISO 25)

I was happy to see I wasn’t the only person out. There were people enjoying the nearby Bruce Park and I was passed by a woman cross country skiing down Riverside Avenue.

In my editing of these pictures – all on Snapseed after transferring them to my iPad – I tried to give them a winter postcard effect through the combination of a number of different filters, sometimes using the same ones more than once.

I may have mentioned before that, in addition to Snapseed, I use GIMP on my desk- or laptop for editing as well, but I must say I was surprised (and continue to be surprised) by the variety of effects I can get out of playing around with so simple a tool as Snapseed, which I once dismissed as a silly phone app when my daughter first recommended it. But, then again, my daughter, recommended it and she knows what’s what, so I had to give it a try.

I hope you’ll enjoy these efforts as much as I enjoyed both the walk, taking the pictures, and the editing.

2021.02.01: Swamp Vue, Riverside Avenue, Riverside, CT (iPhone XR Rear Camera, 4.5mm, f/1.8, 1/217 sec, ISO 25)
2021.02.01: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Riverside Avenue, Riverside, CT (iPhone XR Rear Camera, 4.5mm, f/1.8, 1/98 sec, ISO 25)
2021.02.01: Old Farm Structure, Riverside, CT (iPhone XR Rear Camera, 4.5mm, f/1.8, 1/244 sec, ISO 25)
2021.02.01: Old Farm Structure, Riverside, CT (Canon Rebel T2i, 55mm, f/6.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 100)
2021.02.01: Ada’s Kitchen and Coffee, Riverside, CT (iPhone XR Rear Camera, 4.5mm, f/1.8, 1/320 sec, ISO 25) [SIDE NOTE/FUN FACT: Ada’s was at one time Riverside, Connecticut’s first Post Office. It eventually became a candy store run by Ada Cantavaro until her death at the age of 88, a very popular establishment with the kids attending the near-by elementary and middle schools. After her death, her family restored it and opened a deli in this location, keeping her name.]
2021.02.01: 127 Winters and Counting, 98 Riverside Ave., built 1894 (iPhone XR Rear Camera, 4.5mm, f/1.8, 1/235 sec, ISO 25)