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Goodbye Dear Friend

PatchIf you are a regular follower of my blog, you know that Tanya and I are animal lovers. For years we loved our Newfoundland, Carson, and our two cats, Patch and Sugar. In June 2013, we lost Sugar to cancer. Later in that year, Carson passed away as well. Last Saturday, it was Patch’s turn. While Carson and Sugar both died of natural causes, Patch was struck by a car as he was crossing the street to come see me as when I came home from shooting a wedding. As he lay stricken in the street, I petted him, hardly containing my tears, and called Tanya, who had just left the house on an errand.  She was able to get back home in a few minutes, and we were glad we could be there comforting Patch in his final moments.

Patch was the best cat I’ve ever known. He was loved by everyone in the neighborhood. My neighbor across the street, Brad, who confesses to not liking cats, told me yesterday that even he loved Patch. Patch was about as friendly as a cat can get. He loved being around people, any people. We often heard stories about how he freely wander into other people’s houses. Before we moved to Tacoma, we had a neighbor who left his door open and a bowl of cat food in his dining room just because he like to have Patch come in to visit (he later stopped this after opossums came in for the food). We often thought we would lose Patch someday because he would visit someone we didn’t know and they might adopt him (he didn’t wear a collar – it was impossible to keep one on him for more than about 2 hours). Besides investigation other people’s houses, he would also jump into cars if someone left a door open. One of Tanya’s favorite Patch stories describes how she once answered the door for a repairman and as they were talking, she saw Patch checking out the cab of the repairman’s truck from the inside.

Patch was totally at ease with dogs, probably from growing up with Carson (they were best buddies, often sleeping together). But Patch was not against taunting dogs for his own amusement. He liked to prance back and forth on a neighbor’s lower roof, just outside their living room windows, and drive their inside dog crazy. Though he didn’t seem to care one way or the other about Nahla, our new Newfoundland, he did act as if to approve having a dog in the house again when we brought her home last year.

Patch had the loudest purr of any cat I’ve known. In fact he was a purr machine – just about anything would set off his purrs. He’d walk into a room, see me or Tanya and start purring immediately. A small treat, a quick pet, even a look from across a room, all set him purring.

He was also a toucher. If I was to sit down next to him, he’d usually stretch out a paw to touch my arm or leg. He’d often go lay down by Carson and reach over and place a paw on Carson’s leg or foot. When I read a book in bed, he’d lay on my chest, but always reach a paw up to touch me on the upper chest or neck where the bedclothes didn’t cover.

After Sugar and Carson died, Tanya and I brought home Nahla and a new kitten, Tuck. Replacement pets if you will, though they really aren’t. Now with Patch gone, we may get another new cat (it is clear that Tuck misses Patch as well). But there will certainly be no replacing Patch.

The car that hit Patch didn’t even slow down. I feel sorry for such callous, uncaring people. They had to have known they hit something. But I’m not bitter. Patch was 16 ears old and had a great life. He was my good friend, and I miss him dearly.

Goodbye Patch; I hope you have fun with Carson wherever dogs and cats go in the afterlife, and be nice to your sister too.

5 Years Ago – Pinnacles National Monument (no make that Park)

Pinnacle PoppiesFor various reasons I haven’t picked up my camera in about six weeks and it is driving me crazy. David duChemin recently wrote a blog post about tending the fire that really spoke to me and I promised myself I’d get out this weekend. But life got in the way. My son Brooks, and otherwise healthy 26-year old, had his lung partially collapse without an apparent reason on Thursday and is now in the hospital. He may get out tomorrow (we hope). With this, Tanya and I have been spending a lot of time driving back and forth to Seattle to visit Brooks in the hospital. So, no photography this weekend.

So instead, since it has also been a few weeks since I posted, I give you some shots from five years ago this month, when Tanya and I drove to San Diego to see daughter Janelle when she was going to university. Along the way we stopped for a couple of hours at Pinnacles National Monument, which in 2013 became a National Park. I don’t imagine much changed when it gained park status, except perhaps more visitors. When we were there in 2010, it was rather out-of-the-way and quiet. I hope it still is. I’d like to get back some day and spend more time exploring. When we were there in 2010, the wildflowers were blooming. Spring is such a wonderful time of year. Enjoy these shots from Pinnacles National Monument Park.

Pinnacle LupinePinnacle Poppies and Lupine

In Celebration of Pi Day, I Give You Phi

Golden spiral overlay in PhotoshopToday is Pi Day. I’m not sure how Pi relates to photography, but Phi does. Pi the ratio of  a circle’s circumference to its diameter, an irrational number approximately equal to 3.14159. Phi is also an irrational number, approximately equal to 1.61803. Phi is also called the golden ratio. It is the ratio obtained when a line is divided into two unequal parts such that when the longer part is divided by the smaller part the answer is the same as when the whole length is divided by the longer part. (It makes much more sense when you see it as a diagram.) Pi and Phi are somewhat related in that the product of the two numbers (phi times pi) is found in golden geometries.

I am not a mathematician, but I suspect the product of Pi and Phi is related to golden geometries because Phi is an expression of the golden ratio. And the golden ratio is special in photographic composition. Phi, the golden ratio, presents to the human mind a very pleasing relationship. Besides photography, it is found in architecture, painting, and music, as well in nature.

The golden ratio has been used for art since practically forever. The Parthenon is covered with instances of the Phi. It can be found in artworks such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. It is even found in Darth Vader’s mask.

The rule of thirds works, in my opinion, because it is an approximation of Phi. If you take the sweet spot defined by Phi four times in a frame, you get a pattern similar to the rule of thirds, but a little less easy to define on the fly when looking through your viewfinder. Luckily, both Photoshop and Lightroom offer crop overlays that show the golden ratio grid.

The golden ratio can also be expressed in a spiral. A logarithmic spiral with a growth factor of Phi is known a the golden spiral. Again, both Photoshop and Lightroom also have crop overlays based on the golden spiral. The sweet spots of the golden spiral are also close the those of the rule of thirds.

It is easy to access these crop overlays in Lightroom. The various crop overlays in Lightroom are found under the Tools pull-down menu. Or when using the crop tool, use the shortcut of the letter “O” to cycle through the various crop overlays. When using the golden ratio overlay, you can cycle through the various orientations of the spiral (placing it in different quadrants of the image) by using “Shift O”. The same shortcuts are used in Photoshop when using its crop tool.

With a bit of practice, you can imagine the golden ratio proportions in your viewfinder, and you can always perfect the composition with the crop tool in Lightroom and Photoshop. So if you want to move beyond the rule of thirds, remember Phi – the golden ratio – a photographer’s compositional mathematical friend.

Golden Spiral overlay in Lightroom

Golden Ratio overlay in Photoshop

Golden Ratio overlay in Lightroom

 

 

Controlling Crowds

Lincoln MemorialOn my recent trip to Baltimore, I spent an afternoon at the National Mall in Washington, DC. It seemed to me, with cold weather and snow, as well as being on a Tuesday, there were very many people there. It may have been because the snow closed down the government, so a lot of people had the day off, and that it was sunny and not really that cold. Or it could be there is just always a lot of people there. It is a popular tourist attraction after all. Regardless, with all the people, it made it a challenge to photograph the monuments without a lot of people in my shots.

A great method to remove people from your shots is to use a really long exposure (typically several seconds to minutes). With a long exposure, people moving through the frame are not recorded. To get really long exposures, use a neutral density filter. As I was carrying my tripod and a neutral density filter, I was tempted to use this method to get a shot of the Lincoln Memorial during the afternoon, as it seemed to be the place with the most people gathered. However, even an exposure of several minutes (which I don’t think I could have gotten due to bright light) was probably not good enough in this case because a lot of people were standing in place for minutes at a time. A ten-minute exposure might have work, but I didn’t have the equipment with me for that.Vietnam to Washington

Instead, I came by later, after sunset, when there were many fewer people about. Then using an 8-second exposure, I was able to capture the monument without people (actually, there is the “ghost” of two people in the shot, but I can remove them later with cloning if I want).

Actually, waiting for evening is a great method for controlling crowds. Typically there are many fewer people about and the light is often better than in the middle of the day. In the shot of the Washington Monument from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I planned the shot during the afternoon when many people where in front of the war memorial wall, but came back after sunset to make the shot. I shot from this location for about 15 minutes, during which time, only one group of people passed.

Another method is to frame the people out of the picture, as worked for the image here of the Jefferson Memorial. Look for pleasing compositions above the heads of your fellow visitors. A corollary to this method is to shoot details, rather than the big picture, thereby cutting people out of your compositions.

Of course, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you want the entire building or you want foregrounds that shooting high above people’s heads cannot give. In that case you can try to go with a wide-angle shot. With a wide-angle perspective, you can make the people visible in the shot look much smaller and less of an obstruction, at least if they are not close to the camera. This method worked well for the shot of the Washington Monument with the flags.

Or you can just go to areas that are not as popular. By visiting less popular sites, you don’t only get the advantage of fewer people in the frame, you can capture shots that are more unique (rather than the same shot of the popular attraction that has been shot a million times). Very few people were visiting the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which is where I took the shot below of the Jefferson Memorial with the snowy tree in the foreground.

Travel photography presents many opportunities, including shooting interesting people and cultures. But sometimes, you views without the people in them. Using some of the methods described above can often allow you to capture shots people-free.

 

Jefferson MemorialWashington MonumentJefferson Memorial in Winter

Quick Shots: Frozen Annapolis

Naval HouseI’ve been spending the week in Baltimore while Tanya attends a conference. While winter has been very mild back in western Washington, it is very cold here. This morning, the low temperature was 2 degrees. This has not stopped me from getting out to do some photography. Here are a few quick shots from Annapolis, Maryland. Thanks to friend and fellow travel photographer Walter Rowe for suggesting Annapolis. It is a great place for travel photography, and I will have to get back some day when it is not so frozen. These shots were taken several days ago, when the temperature was only in the 20s. I’ll post some more shots from the trip after I get home. Meanwhile, enjoy these shots from frozen Annapolis.

US Naval Academy Chapel

Cadet

Winter at the Academy

Frozen Harbor

Ice

Statehouse

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