Nov 032013
A Lens Test at a Familiar Venue

The Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 lens was eagerly anticipated by many Fujifilm X-Camera users.  Fuji has paid more attention than is typical in developing a line of prime (non-zoom) lenses for this line of mirrorless cameras.  With a wide aperture of f/1.4 photographers will have more options with regard to depth of field — which is a good thing.  This is a very nice lens.

Walkway leading to the entrance of the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center -- Near Dulles International Airport.

Walkway leading to the entrance of the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center — Near Dulles International Airport.  (1/600 sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200)

(Notes:  (1) Click on the images to see them more clearly — it makes a big difference.  The pictures in the blog body were automatically downsampled to lower resolution to fit the column width.  (2) All the larger images you see after the “click” were down-sampled in PhotoShop to 50% of original cropped size in order to save loading time.  (3) All the photos were shot with the fujinon 23mm f/1.4 lens on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 at the ISO values given in the picture information.)

NASM Udvar-Hazy observation tower viewed from the museum entrance.

NASM Udvar-Hazy observation tower viewed from the museum entrance.  (1/800 sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200)


Vought F4U-1D Corsair near entrance.  (1/20 sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 1600)


Republic P-47D Thunderbolt.  (1/25 sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 3200)

Concorde front landing gear detail.

Concorde front landing gear detail.  (1/80 @ f/2.8; ISO 1600)

Floor of the museum near the entrance with Japanese

Floor of the museum near the entrance with Japanese Nakajima J1N1-S Gekko “Irving”.  (1/20 sec. @ f/4.0.  ISO 1600)


Curtiss 1A “Gulfhawk”.  Notice the blue ceiling — the result of the differences in lighting, and my selecting a black point and white point (the pin striping) on the plane itself (warm light) which let the background go much cooler.  (1/25 sec. @ f/4.0; ISO 1600)

Walkway as airplanes land at Dulles.

Walkway as airplanes land at Dulles.  (1/300 sec. @ f/8.0; ISO 200)

Post Processing (PP):  Raw conversion by PictureCode’s Photo Ninja running inside Adobe Photoshop CS6 — includes Noise Ninja and some adjustment for detail and highlights.  Continued PP in Photoshop including conversion to a PSD file, curves (for a black point and, if available, a white point),  cropping,  color balance, etc.  A final pass with NIK Viveza 2, which gives you a last chance to see how the image looks and adjust lightness, color, saturation, shadows, etc.  Then saving for Web JPEG in PhotoShop.

Feb 262012

A Saturday visit to two centers of art in Washington, DC.

The Phillips Collection

My favorite art museum in DC, this is the place to take visitors from out-of-town.  Located about a block from the DuPont Metro Station (at 21st and Q NW), Duncan Phillips started the collection in the family residence in 1918, and opened it to the public in 1921.

The most famous painting in the collection is Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”.  People really love this painting, and for good reason.

Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renoir)

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 18mm f/4 lens; ISO 800; 1/25 sec.

A detail of the ceiling and mantlepiece in the Music Room.

In the Music Room

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 1600; 1/15 sec.

The gallery rooms in the original residence are intimate and calming.  They stress that the furniture in the rooms is intended to be used, and these galleries are nice places to relax.

Gallery room in the original residence.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 1/30 sec.

Staircase in the Sant Building, looking out onto the courtyard.  This used to be an apartment building, and a complete interior rebuild was completed in 2006.  It added additional gallery space, an auditorium, a library, classroom, and workshop space.

Staircase in the Sant Building.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 18mm f/4 lens; ISO 800; 1/500 sec.

National Gallery of Art, East Building

Part of the immense Calder mobile (untitled) completed just before he died.  It weighs about 1,000 pounds but moves subtly in the air light currents inside the building.

Paintings and Calder Mobile

Leica M9 w/Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 lens; ISO 800; 1/90 sec.

On the main floor with Ellsworth Kelly’s “Color Panels for a Large Wall” in the background.

Main Floor of East Building

Leica M9 w/Voigtlander 15mm f/4 lens; ISO 400; 1/30 sec.

Painting, viewed from above.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 1/25 sec.

“Multiverse”, by Leo Villareal, is a light sculpture that lives alongside the underground moving walkways between the East Building and the cage/museum shop at the east footing of the West Building.  This shot looked awful in the Leica’s monitor, but it actually “cleans up pretty good” in the computer.  I need to go back and try a few more shots.

Leo Villareal's "Multiverse"

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 1600; 1/30 sec.

Dec 112011

Lincoln Memorial, May 2008

I stumbled across this picture while working on another project.

Not traditional composition and framing, which is why I like it.


It was shot with a Leica M8 and a Voigtlander 90mm lens.  The image is very low key, with no startling whites or deep blacks.  Typical for an M8 image, the DNG (RAW) file required very little post processing.

Nov 122011

A Favorite Spot for Shooting

I go out to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport to test new cameras and lenses.  It is a challenging venue, and if things go wrong, they go wrong in a very noticeable way.   From the overhead walkway, this particular location always draws me.

Vantage Point

I like the open space, gray concrete, shadows, the pieces of “museum stuff”, and seeing what people are doing.

The camera being tested is the Fujifilm X10 — which hit the dealer shelves on Tuesday.  This shot was made as an EXR JPEG (EXR’s SN mode, for you Fuji geeks) with only a little bit of Noise Ninja in post-processing.  Everything else was done in the camera: 1/35 sec., f/2.5, ISO 640.  EXR makes all the selections once you decide which of three modes you will use.

The intelligence in cameras is getting a bit scary…The X10 produced a very nice image with almost no input from me.

Aug 142011

It’s been a while…

I’ve got a new camera — a Fujifilm X100.  This is a bit of throwback, since it emulates the classic 35mm, fixed lens rangefinder cameras of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  In practice, I think that the X100 will be both a complement to my Leica digital rangefinder camera, and a good camera to carry as the camera — when I don’t want all the other stuff.

With bad weather threatening today, I decided to take Metro down the the Phillips Collection.  I really haven’t taken the X100 out on enough trips so…

This first shot deals with my fascinations with motion and with mass transit.

West Falls Church Metro Station

Fujifilm X100, ISO 800, 1/6 sec, f/16

The gauze effect of the special shades at the Phillips Collection — looking onto the Hunter Courtyard.

Through a Window at the Phillips Collection

Fujifilm X100, ISO 400, 1/50 sec, f/5.6

And heading home on Metro, during a wait at one of the stations.

Metro Trains Halted in Station

Fujifilm X100, ISO 800, 1/9 sec, f/4.0

Jul 282010

This isn’t my shoe.  It was just sitting there.  Honest.

Tuesday morning — sitting on one of those granite Metro benches as I changed trains at Crystal City.

So I grabbed a shot with my phone in the two minutes before my train came.

I had to rest the camera on the bench because it is dark in there and flash would have been totally inappropriate.  The picture is still pretty cruddy.  So as much as I dislike doing it, I “rescued” the shot with PhotoShop’s Dry Brush — and the result probably says as much as an image more precisely captured and rendered.

I’m sure there is a story behind the shoe, but I don’t know if it would be at all interesting.

May 162010

(Actually, about eight pictures.)

Here is a little background on the photos in my slideshow “Dawn” which ran on World Hum

Capturing dawn presents some technical problems – photographic and geographic.  A “dawn” picture may be taken before the sun comes up, or after.  But somehow it has to meet our expectations of what dawn looks like.

One of the difficulties is figuring out where the sun will be coming up.  NOAA has a great web site that lets you calculate matters solar.  One thing you can do is calculate the azimuth of the sun (the point at or above the horizon, expressed as an angle, measured clockwise from north) observed from any particular point (e.g. If I’m standing at the corner of the Metro parking garage at sunrise, which direction will I face to see the sun as it rises, or an hour later, etc.).  Operationalize this information a couple of different ways:  (1) With a decent handheld compass, you can line up your camera in advance to capture the rising sun; or (2) by using Google maps, you can identity landmarks that can be used to align the shot.

Here is info on the pictures.  You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Maps to see some of my shooting positions:

Opening picture: I was looking for a general shot and figured that shooting across the water would be good.  I went to Google Maps and looked for a location down the Potomac from Washington, DC that would give me clear shot.  I picked the Virginia shore looking towards Fort Washington, MD.  The very faint light-colored vertical object near the water under the sun is the Fort Washington Light.  I selected a shooting position just off the bike path to Mt. Vernon using the NOAA site.  (38.711318, -77.051588) (Nikon D300 on tripod with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens; 1/250 @ f/8, ISO 800, 19mm.)

Philadelphia: This is one of those shots that makes you glad you remembered to take your camera along.  I was on a business trip and looked out the window early in the morning.  (Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder film camera, handheld with Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 lens.)

Commute: I tried this shot the week before from the top deck of the Metro parking garage in Vienna — but the sun was a little too far to the right (over that clump of trees).  I went to the NOAA site and found out that the following weekend was probably my only chance from that location until autumn.  On shooting morning I set up the tripod and made shots over a period of time.  I collapsed the tripod and had put it in the car when I looked back, and saw this.  No time for a tripod, but I used a stabilized lens.  (38.878309, -77.272347 ) (Nikon D300 handheld with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens – stabilization on; 1/125 @ f/4, ISO 400, 102mm.)

Dulles: This shot happened in the opposite way from the commuting picture.  The selected frame is one of a few shots I made checking the camera setup — before the sun actually came up.  Shooting as the sun rose, the terminal “paled” out and lost that glow.  (BTW:  I emailed the airport authority media relations office ahead of time to advise them what I would be shooting.  They only asked that I call police operations when I showed up.  The police were very pleasant when I called them.)  (38.953767, -77.451961) (Nikon D300 on tripod with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens; 1/10 @ f/4, ISO 200, 32mm)

Car: I knew that I should have a road shot, so I rigged the Benbo tripod in the car.  I checked the map and saw some straight east-west stretches of Highway 7 west of Leesburg, VA.  As I drove west, I was checking my mirrors and saw that the time was right.  I made four laps back and forth between two overpasses.  A shot from earlier that morning is also posted on this blog.  (39.144473, -77.68791 to 39.143808, -77.655573) (Nikon D300 on Benbo tripod with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens; 1/320 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 800, 11mm.)

Krakow:  I discovered how nice it is to walk around Krakow early in the morning on the last day of my first trip there.  For these pictures I had another project in mind that didn’t really pan out, but the sequence of four worked out fine for this slideshow.  The first three frames show for a little less than one second each in the slideshow.  (50.062472, 19.936835) (Olympus E-1 on tripod with Zuiko 11-22mm f/3.5 lens; 1 sec @ f/8, ISO 100, 11mm.)

Zoo:  The National Zoo in Washington DC is open around the clock.  In the summer you can beat the crowds and beat the heat by showing up really early – and also find parking in their lots.  This shot just happened.  (Nikon F100, film, on monopod with Tokina 300mm f/2.8 lens

Airplane: This is the source photo for my blog banner and is discussed in an earlier blog entry.  From a technical perspective, this is an almost hopeless picture.  The one I used in the slideshow hasn’t been fixed up in PhotoShop like the blog banner version.  (Minox EC camera, film, handheld.)

May 032010

We’ve all been there.

Somehow, what we shot isn’t what we saw.  This especially seems to be the case with pictures from the cameras in cellular phones.

But with a little work using some inexpensive (or even free) software, you can bring those photos a little more in line with your memories.

Take a look here to see what I did to put a little more life into this picture.

(…And maybe this will lead to a little more in-depth work…)

Mar 282010

Good Morning!

Sea Lion and Keeper - National Zoo

A picture from August, 2002, at the National Zoo.

This was shot early in the morning, when the zoo was just waking up.  It’s the kind of shot you don’t get during the “regular” hours — one of the nice things about the National Zoo is that it’s open 24/7.  In the summer it is particularly nice to visit the zoo at the crack of dawn — and you can even find a close-in parking place.

This was originally shot on film using a Nikon F100 and a Tokina 300mm f/2.8 lens.

Mar 172010

It’s nice to be published…

(That’s not me)

This audio slideshow was published on March 11.  It started out as a class project for a Travel Writing clinic.

This is one of those projects that starts out as a pile of pictures (actually, a bunch pictures I picked from around inside my files).  You look at them for awhile and then kinda let them speak for themselves.

My title is “Ghosts” but the World Hum editors thought that “Travel Ghosts” was better for their site — and I agree.

Jan 112010

A quick test run with Ricoh’s very interesting GXR.

I like to test new cameras at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport.

The museum is a very difficult place to shoot since it is generally dim, has several different light sources (it is not unusual to have four light sources in a single picture) and the curved ceilings and all those airplanes make for some compositional challenges.  With shooting conditions right on the edge, the bad habits of a camera or lens (or photographer, for that matter) don’t stay hidden.

This WWII vintage Vought F4U-1D Corsair is one of the first planes you see as you approach the first overlook (on the right in this photo), and is one my regular test subjects from that vantage point.  But I also like this view from below since you can get visitors in the picture.  (As a side note, this is one of the few situations where you can somehow manage to get only one airplane in the frame.)

Most of my serious travel photography is done with a Leica M8, but it’s good to have a point-and-shoot camera available too.  The Ricoh GXR features different lens/sensor modules that slide into the camera body.  The module I have on my GXR is a 5.1-15.3mm zoom — which is equivalent to a 24-72mm lens in 35mm film cameras.  The GXR will replace my current GX100.  Ricoh cameras are a bit of a niche item in the U.S., with very few dealers.  However, Ricoh seems intent on designing cameras for more experienced photographers and their functions and control layouts are, in my opinion, the best of any compact cameras made.  The small sensor models suffer a little more from noise than other brands, but the GXR is quite improved over the GX100.  (I need to build some Noise Ninja profiles for making larger images, but you can’t really see any noise issues at this size.)

Dec 272009

…The Morning After Christmas

(A one-picture audio slide show)


I woke up about 2:30 a.m. on the 26th.  It was raining steadily and beating down the snowfall from the weekend before — probably 16″ to 18″ in my neighborhood.

So I decided to take a picture from one of the front windows.  And then I decided to grab a little bit of audio.

Later in the day I decided to put the two files together as a one-picture slide show.  Click here or on the picture to link to the slide show.

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