52-week Challenge: week 14

WEEK 14: Landscape: Zoomed in – Most landscapes are wide sweeping images. Try an alternative and zoom in instead.

I admit that this seemed counter-intuitive to me. I always associate landscapes with sweeping vistas, and therefore using a relatively wide lens like my 20mm (that’s 40mm equivalent on a 35mm frame). But the assignment seemed clear so I attached my biggest glass, the 200mm  (that’s a huge 400mm equivalent on a 35mm DSLR) and zoomed in on a woodland landscape near my home.

In order to make it more interesting I captured a little of the Spring grass and some spiky overwintering plants in the foreground, with the wooded landscaped valley behind.



52-week Challenge: week 11

WEEK 11: Landscape: Reflection – Find a way to show your landscape/natural beauty in reflection. The mirror world revealed.

I had contemplated this assignment ahead of time and even went to the dollar store to get a mirror for inspiration. Nah, I thought that would be too cheesy. Then I considered perhaps a reflection of the countryside in a pair of sunglasses, but that would require a willing model! My next brainwave came when one of my daughters decided she needed a ride to the shopping mall – use the car window to get a reflection of an urban landscape – brilliant!

Of course, things never work out quite that way, do they? Rather than dropping off my daughter and her friend I was told I could pick them up instead. This is always the worst of the two standard unpaid “Uber” roles for a parent as there’s no definitive meeting time or place. Ho hum, thinks I, I can still do this as I’ll get there a little early and take time to position the car for its job as photographic canvas.

I hadn’t anticipated how full the parking lot would be, nor the rain.

As I was driving around searching for a place I thought to reverse park in one space at the edge of the lot. This way I would be able to use my driving mirrors to get a shot across the road and modify my original idea.

As I did so, I saw the reflection of a this guy across the street begging money from cars at the stop signal. The light was fading fast and he was there only for a few minutes, presumably after a long day. The irony of the red and blue umbrella and the stars and stripes hanging limply nearby was not lost on me – a reflection of humanity in the world’s richest nation, perhaps?



A Story – Winter Hike

The snowfall had been unexpected and fairly heavy. It was not unusual for a few inches to fall in a day but the blizzard had deposited nearly 2 feet of snow overnight, and it was even deeper where it had drifted or, to be more precise, had been blown by the wind.

He had been obliged to break his journey and find shelter in an abandoned barn during the storm. Now he was behind schedule and the deep snow that covered the track would make journeying onward much slower. However, he had no choice as he had a valuable cargo to deliver in his backpack. Many people were relying on him getting through to the outpost, and his return to his kinsfolk with the medicine would be eagerly watched for.

He kicked some snow into the morning fire to make sure it was extinguished, and placing a wad of tobacco into his cheek, he pulled on the heavy pack, tightened the straps and wearily headed West…


~ Richard

A Story – The Watchtower

People had called him paranoid, and even mad when he had imported the ironworks and spent huge sums of money constructing the watchtower on the edge of his estate. They even went as far to call it his folly and suggest it would bankrupt him. Now, of course they saw that what he had constructed served a purpose, and for that they were grateful. They would soon forget though.
It was only because of the tower that the village was afforded sufficient warning to be saved. Or rather those who had listened were saved. Others, scoffing at what they thought were rantings of a madman, were not so lucky. The bright sunrise and calm sky belied the events of the night before. He had seen the signs of the impending attack and had manned the tower, safe in the knowledge that the silver cage built in the top that that been so costly would save both him and she who was so precious to him, his daughter. When he spied the ghostly riders on the horizon at sunset he sounded the alarm as he had promised to do. After all, they only ever attacked at night, as sunlight was their enemy.

Those in the village who heeded his sign had taken refuge where they could. Shutting themselves into deep cellars and being totally still was the only way to survive. Others, filled with fighting spirit and beer stood little chance. These were not mortal warriors and there was no blade in the armory that could cut them.

By morning the prophecy had passed. They would be safe for another ten generations, although the village would be counting the cost for at least two, and all would be forgotten after five. He wondered if the tower would still be standing when it would be needed again, his legacy for his descendants perhaps…


52 Week Challenge: Week 8

Week 8: Landscape: Wide Angle/Panorama – This is a great opportunity to explore panorama stitching and create a wide sweeping landscape.

Today was unseasonably warm, rising to 61°F (16°C) in the afternoon, so I took the opportunity after my Saturday taxi driving for the entire family over several hours to visit a local nature preserve while there was still some sunlight left and before the next round of vehicular collections was due.

I know the experts all tell us to use a tripod for panorama shots but, to be honest, I was in a bit of a rush, and I know I have pretty steady hands,so I initially tried using the in-camera panorama mode of my Panasonic GX8 to produce this quick image:


For everyday use I think it does a good job. The camera uses rapid fire mode and you simply pan it left to right. The only downside is that it produces an image only 1920px tall, so it’s a bit limited for printing.

So, over to the manual approach and the use of stitching software, as requested in this week’s challenge. I have used the free  Hugin image stitcher before which is very capable and allow for a lot of fine tuning. However, this time I used the much more intuitive (and free) Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE).

So the process is to take a series of shots when panning, ensuring that at least 30% of the image overlaps between frames. This gives the software a lot of ability to match elements in the images and so map them properly. By using the camera vertically I was able to get a panorama 5002px in height and 17695px wide. Big enough to do a lot with! The reason is wasn’t full sensor height was because I hand held and wasn’t perfect in holding it level throughout the series, so ICE had to crop it to get a straight edge. It’s all easy to do though.

I made several composites but in the end I chose this one, simply because I liked the texture of the corn (maize) field in the foreground:



#dogwood52 #dogwoodweek8

52 week challenge: week 5

Week 5: Landscape: Black and White – Look for a scene with great contrast that will make a great black and white.

The recent snow came to my rescue a second time in the challenge.  As I was driving home from an appointment yesterday evening I was pleased to still have what was left of the evening light available, so giving me an unexpected opportunity to make a start on this week’s challenge. I turned off the main route and took a few back roads on the Delaware/Pennsylvania border and was able to get a few shots. I was very short of time though and, due to having no place to park on these recently plowed roads, I had to resort the to taking some shots from the car. I was pleased with the composition of the shot below but, to be blatantly honest, it is not as sharp as it could be, since I was too rushed (lesson learned there!)


So this morning, on my way back home from an indoor hockey game I stopped off at another open area and put together this shot. I really wanted to capture the texture of the tree, fence and wispy clouds, but as I am still forcing myself to stick to my trusty 20mm f/1.7 lens I was forced to be a little creative. I took 3 overlapping portrait shots and then stitched them together using the free Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE).  

Therefore, I offer up not one, but two images for this week’s challenge, although technically the second image is actually 3 photos in itself!



#dogwood52 #dogwoodweek5

52-week Challenge: week 2

Week 2: Landscape: Traditional Landscape – Shoot a beautiful landscape and share it with the world. Find a nice foreground and don’t forget the sky.

I have been surprised at just how difficult this activity has become for me right out of the gate. I guess that’s why it was called a “challenge!” Although I didn’t make it clear in my first post on this subject, Dale’s list is broken into three types of photography: portrait, landscape and artistic impression. Personally, I feel I am fairly strong in the third category (artistic impression), as this is my comfort zone, while I am improving in the second theme (landscape), and the first category (portrait) is largely unexplored territory for me to date, other than through reluctantly granted periodic “family portraits”. In part, that’s why I took up the challenge in the first place – to push me into areas that I would not normally explore.

So, if I’m reasonably comfortable with landscapes then why was week 2 a challenge, after all it was a simple assignment? Well, to be honest it’s the  time pressure. I am trying to really focus on this challenge (no pun intended) and one image every seven days does not sound like a tall order, but in reality it is. Each day this week I have looked at the weather and my schedule and tried to plan a time to be outside for a landscape shot. Given that I also have a full-time day job to attend to and that my office, although not in the city, isn’t exactly surrounded by bucolic riparian scenery this has been a little difficult.

Nevertheless, today my time was nearly up so I girded my loins for the challenge and decided to get the shot before I arrived at the office.

We do have a small country park about a mile or so from my workplace so I drove there as the sun was coming up in anticipation of being able to achieve my aim. Last night was particularly cold and the car thermometer read 19F (-7C)  as I stepped outside this morning, so a little bit chillier that I’d like when dressed for the office. I took my trusty micro four-third Panasonic GX-8 from it’s bag and, although I am really obsessed with zoom lenses, fitted on the 20mm f1.7 (40mm equivalent), as the more “classic landscape” prime lens, so I am told. Strolling away from the otherwise empty parking lot the wind hit me. I swear my fingers seem to freeze instantly and my face began to sting. To be honest, these temperatures aren’t at all unusual in Pennsylvania this time of year but we have benefited from such a mild winter to date that I guess I am just not acclimated to it, yet!

Anyhow, I walked the park for as long as I could stand, tried to get what I would consider to be a serviceable, yet perhaps not overly inspiring, image for this challenge and then headed back to the warmth of the car.



#dogwood52 #dogwoodweek2

Graphic Art – Gursky Redux

This is a digital pastel image created on a blank canvas and inspired by the most expensive photograph in the world, Rhein II by Andreas Gursky. It fascinates me that Mr. Gursky’s photoshopped image was able to command such a staggering sale price and my digital composition pays homage to his great skill. I am indebted to my wife, Michelle, for aiding me with pastel technique and allowing me to bridge the real and digital worlds to create a digital pastel image from scratch using the free image software, GIMP.


Background to the original work

Rhein II is a photographic image created by German visual artist Andreas Gursky in 1999. In 2011, a print was auctioned for $4.3 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. (Although Peter Lik has reportedly sold an image entitled “Phantom” for $6.5 million in December 2014 this sale has not yet been verified).

The photograph was produced as part of a series of six depicting the River Rhine. In this image, of the second of the series, the Rhine flows horizontally across the field of view, between green fields, under an overcast sky.

Gursky digitally manipulated the original photograph to remove passersby and a factory building stating that “Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ, a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river.” Gursky produced a very large chromogenic colour print of the photograph, mounted it onto acrylic glass, and then placed it in a frame. The image itself measures 73 by 143 inches (190 cm x 360 cm).

The print was originally acquired by the Galerie Monika Sprueth in Cologne, and subsequently bought by an anonymous German collector. The collector sold the print by auction at Christie’s New York on 8 November 2011, for $4,338,500 to an anonymous buyer.

The work has been described by arts writer Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph as a “vibrant, beautiful and memorable – I should say unforgettable – contemporary twist on […] the romantic landscape” and by journalist Maev Kennedy in The Guardian as “a sludgy image of the grey Rhine under grey skies”.

Either way I thought it would be ironic to create a digital painting of this photograph in a retro-homage to this great artwork.


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