Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lightning Strike

I submitted a slightly lighter version of this shot to the Capture Cincinnati book, which comes out today.  I'm not sure if any of my photos are included, but this is one of my favorites I've ever taken.

I was on my porch trying to catch cloud-to-cloud lightning very late at night when this one lit up the sky and scared the hell out of me.  I scurried back inside with the massive steel tripod with which I had been tempting fate.  It's a single 1-second exposure, a very lucky catch.

From Covington Blog 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is this art, or an abandoned bonfire frame?

I'm not sure what this stack of driftwood on the riverbank today is... perhaps Covington's version of crop circles? I should have twisted up a couple of those Blair Witch totem twig/wicker dolls and left them scattered around to complete the vibe.

From Covington Blog 2009

Reviewing the post, I realize that the perspective and the very short lens makes it look like a little campfire stack. I didn't walk down to see it up close, but it looked taller than my 6 feet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Star falling through a hole in the clouds

From Covington Blog 2009
It was almost completely overcast at 5am when I tried to catch the Leonid meteor shower, but I did capture a couple through brief gaps in the clouds. Tomorrow is supposed to be raining here, but Asia may get a brief outburst of up to 500 per hour as we pass through the debris trail left by the source comet in 1466.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween in Covington - the legendary Downunder party

The zombie crawl starts at Molly Malone's, where I'm told they are going to have the makeup and clothes to turn you undead if you don't already have a costume.

The Downunder has built quite a reputation for being where the real Halloween madness unhinges, between Amy's and Anna's boundless enthusiasm and artist Bret Schulte's occult summoning of assorted voodoo priestesses and sundry critters of the night. Bret proposed to his fiancée at the hotel where the Shining was filmed, and they plan to have the wedding there. Need I say more?

Well here's more anyway... live music by the J. Dorsey Blues Revival.

I didn't take all these photos... I let the crowd pass around my camera each of the nights.

The Kermit costume has its own growing reputation since I donated it to Amy's collection of Big Heads. As a warm up for the Halloween when I made it, I wore it while singing "Rainbow Connection" at Downunder's Tuesday karaoke night.

From Downunder Halloween

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blue Moon this New Year's Eve - December 31st 2009

We'll have a "Blue Moon" on New Year's Eve this year, going by the currently most popular definition of the term, meaning a second full moon within a single calendar month.

That definition is, itself, a misinterpretation from the 1940's, popularized in the 1980's, and debunked more recently once the sources were finally tracked down. But the new definition has stuck and won't be going away.

Still, it's interesting. All the more so to me... I was born under a blue moon. Yes, I feel a particular affinity for the Soprano's theme song.

The moon won't actually look "blue" (unless we have another Krakatoa between now and then), but for a red moon, here's one that I took of the full lunar eclipse on February 20, 2008.  The bright object in the bottom left is Saturn.

I shot the image standing in the middle of 3rd street in Covington with a normal lens, exposing for 5 seconds, which is why Saturn has the smeary star-trail.  For even more info you don't need, the blueish tinge around Saturn is a common problem for astrophotography... "fast" lenses curve the light enough on very bright objects that they get a halo of violet where the UV is pulled into the visual spectrum.  I've got a v-fringe filter that mostly eliminates it in my telescopes, but I wanted a wide enough field to include Saturn, so for this shot I just used a normal camera on a tripod.

From Covington Blog 2009
(Note... I know the link for this post reads "2010".  Before we get another yearly refreshing Mars hoax, I should state that was a mistake I corrected immediately, but I guess the link for the post was already forged.  I always think of New Years as the coming year.  I guess I have an after-midnight cognitive bias.  So to be clear, it will be a second full moon in a month on 12/31/2009.  And the moon will not look blue.  I'd advise bars to stock up on oranges and Blue Moon beer for the event.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Starburst streetlamps

I believe I took this at the same time as the flood photo below... the continuing sleet created interesting atmospherics. Bone-cold and moody, it was definitely a night for black and white.

From Covington Blog 2009

...update: after the jump, the hardy ducks who shared the night with me...

High water

The river's likely to get pretty high if we get more rain through the rest of this week. I'll take some shots of it, but until then here are a pair I took a few winters past:
From Covington Blog 2009
From Covington Blog 2009

A sloppy panorama

This experiment wasn't quite successful... I need to reshoot the series at a longer focal length.  The "fisheye" effect of a wide angle lens made the panorama of stitched images uneven, and the Scripps building (the kids in my family call it the "Darth Vader Building") leans like the tower of Pisa.
From Covington Blog 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

A few simple steps to crisp images

I was asked in email just how I managed to get such a sharp photo of the skyline... I have a few simple tips to share:

First, it was a nice windy day, which blew out the typical Cincinnati late summer haze, and that makes a huge impact.

Second, use a tripod. If possible, not one of the ubiquitous, convenient, and light aluminum ones, but a heavy, sturdy steel or carbon fiber monster. They're less expensive than you might think, and especially in low light make it even possible to shoot worthwhile images. I got a knock-off of a Manfrotto system with the quick-release plate off Ebay for a third of the retail price, and less than I had paid in total for the half dozen crappy tripods I went through before deciding to get one I wouldn't be throwing away.

Third, use the lowest ISO you can.  I had the ISO at 100 for that shot.  (That does reduce noise, but the serious techies on astrophotography forums tested CCDs against CMOS and along the way found that under some conditions ISO 200 captured more faithfully than ISO 100 for some Canon models.)

Now getting into advice which only really applies to DSLRs... Fourth, crank down the F-stop to get a deep depth of field. The lens with which I took that shot is F/3.5 wide open, and I had it cranked down to well past F/6. It's just like squinting to see better, as my brother pointed out when his daughter was asking about the relationship between camera settings.

Fifth, if possible, use a remote so you aren't jiggling the camera yourself when hitting the button. I got an IR remote for my camera for $20 on Ebay. Once again, knock-offs rule.

Sixth, if you're really serious about a landscape shot, go into the custom settings and enable "mirror lock-up." That way, when you hit the 2 second delay button on the remote, the mirror flips up, then the camera waits a moment for the vibrations from the mirror-slap to stop before capturing the image.

Seventh, shoot in RAW format.  It's a good habit to shoot everything in RAW if you can - you'll be amazed at what you can recover from shots that in jpeg would be useless.  And you never know what you'll need later - I once did a bunch of black and white head shots for a friend auditioning for a role, and he later came back and said they wanted color shots.  Even though I had the camera set to black and white, because I was shooting in RAW format the color was captured and it took me all of five minutes to convert them instead of going through another photoshoot.

As a side note to the RAW advice, if you're not satisfied with a shot that was the result of a lucky moment but underexposed or blurry, do the first processing in the manufacturer's own software, which often has noise reduction better tuned to the specific hardware than more general image processing packages.  You can then transfer it to another software in a loss-less TIFF for further work if you like. It needn't be expensive like Photoshop... I use the freeware, open-source GIMP for serious work, and Picasa for fast touch ups.

Last, and this goes back to apply to all digitals, take many, many shots to get the one good one. Looking at my files, I took 45 shots of the skyline in less than ten minutes that afternoon. Of course, that was mostly in bursts of 3, since I was using automatic exposure bracketing (which gets an overexposed and underexposed frame for every normal one, providing the raw material for stacking them into HDR composites like that below.)

Anyway, I hope that helps!

(I really need to take a look at this template... sorry the text formatting is so screwy.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sunny Cincinnati Skyline in HDR

Because it's fun and really brings out the details in the clouds, here's the below skyline shot (stacked with its exposure-bracketed siblings) in HDR:

From Covington Blog 2009
And the original for convenient comparison:
From Covington Blog 2009

Sidewalk Astronomy

Comet Holmes is back in the news.  If you don't recall, that's the comet that suddenly, and unexpectedly, outgassed a cloud of material in October 2007.  It quickly became visible to the naked eye, even from large cities.  Before fading, the visible cloud grew to larger than the Sun, and in our night sky was half the size of the full moon.

Here's a shot I took of the comet from right in the middle of downtown Covington on October 29th, 2007.  I captured the image with a Canon DLSR attached by a t-mount to a small telescope:
From Covington Blog 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Further info on the vacancy below

Just a bit more information about the Riverside Drive vacancy below... the queen bee of Covington tells me that the owner is a wonderful and interesting person, having spent many years with the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Truth in advertising

While I'm not coming back to blogging to be a real estate agent, and don't know the owners or current residents of this apartment building, I had to laugh at the obvious truthfulness of the "river view" note on the sign:
From Covington Blog 2009

From Covington Blog 2009
John Roebling himself could have held my camera bag while I took the picture:
From Covington Blog 2009

Here's the Google streetview of the location:

View Larger Map

Bee lunch

Bee collecting in the alley between Governor's Point and Daniel Beard's (founder of the Boy Scouts) childhhood home:

From Covington Blog 2009

View of Cincinnati

To get away from the HDR, as much as I love playing with the technique, here's the view from the roof of Governor's Point today (no I don't live there, but it's a delightful community):

From Covington Blog 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cincinnati Blog: Covington Jim Returns to Blogging!

Great thanks to Cincinnati Blog for noticing this site stirring back to life:

Spooky HDR of the old Booth Hospital

Thanks for the compliments on the shot of the bridge.  Here's another HDR image with the spooky turned up to 11:

From Covington Blog 2009
The original William Booth Memorial Hospital was converted to residences, and now is the Governor's Point condominium complex in the heart of the historic district on Second Street.

Here you can find a series of postcards showing the various incarnations of the building from 1905 to 1960.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reboot of Covington Blog

Covington Blog is rebooting. The focus is now on Covington and the surrounding region.

So... we'll start off with the gateway to the city, its most recognizable structure.  Below is the Roebling Suspension Bridge, connecting Covington, KY to Cincinnati, OH.  It began construction in 1856, and by 1866 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.
From Covington
The image is an HDR (High Dynamic Range composite) created from three photos taken in August, 2009.