Monthly Archives: May 2012

Space Shuttle Discovery

With NASA’s Space Shuttle program having ended and commercial space beginning to take off (literally, go Space-X!), I thought it a good time to share my personal history with the Space Shuttle Discovery.

The Space Shuttle Discovery sits at Launch Complex 39A awaiting the launch of STS-133.

I had a few chances to see Discovery, more than most Americans it would seem. I witnessed her final launch and her goodbye flight.

Space Shuttle Discovery launches for mission STS-133.

These shots were all taken with a point and shoot but with a subject like this, even taken with a phone these would be nice pictures.

Discovery sits in the Vehicle Assembly Building while being prepped for transfer to the Intrepid museum in NYC.

It is sad to see the shuttle program end but I am excited to see the next space pioneers wow us with their accomplishments.

Discovery says a final goodbye to Florida as it leaves atop the 747 based carrier aircraft.

Playalinda Beach Florida

I’ve ordered a real DSLR finally but for the moment, you have more point and shoot glory for your viewing pleasure. Playalinda is one of our favorite beaches around here due to the more remote nature of it. Typically it has only locals which is a good thing. Being located in a national park there are no services at all except for latrine style bathrooms.

There are only a couple things not perfect here. The abundance of fishermen is the first. They are nice but their lines and hooks can be a nuisance. The other is parking lot 13. Somehow that area at the end of the long beach has become an unofficial clothing optional beach. It doesn’t seem like its an issue for those that don’t want it, they stay in their own area, but still, we don’t push our luck.

Camano Island Washington

About two years ago we took a day trip to Camano Island located on the Puget Sound in Washington state. Here are some of my best images from that trip.

 

Sunrises

A couple of years ago I spent a week on the beach in Hilton Head Island South Carolina. I set out to capture a great sunrise photo with my point & shoot camera and did come back with dozens of nice ones. Here are four shots taken from the same place and roughly the same time of morning on two different days.

As you can see they are all different. This is due to a number of small things but ended up with drastically different shots.

The differences are due to:

  1. Different camera presets or “Scenes”
  2. Different post-processing presets in Lightroom 4
  3. Different cloud locations resulting in how much light is available
  4. Different sun elevations also resulting in how much light is available

So here you see four shots that are basically the same but very different. I believe all are dramatic shots that make nice sunrise pictures. The only post-processing I did was to apply a single preset, more work may have made the pictures even nicer.

The question is though, which do you prefer and why?

Space Coast Life

Rocket Launch

Here’s another where I was careful to set up the shot beforehand. Now, NASA doesn’t typically let you move launch pads around so in this case it meant getting myself in the right spot before the launch. From the time we moved into this neighborhood I knew the pond and gazebo would make a nice backdrop (or foreground?) for a rocket launch. I took watching a couple previous launches to determine where around the pond I would have to position myself to get the rocket ascending over it just right.

On this day the weather and the rocket cooperated to set up a very nice shot. In this case a better camera would have made the shot a little sharper but overall this one turned out pretty nice.

Artist Point Washington

A few years ago I lived in the Seattle area and we traveled around the western part of the state nearly every weekend. In looking for places to travel I heard of one destination that was said to be above the others… literally. The only problem was that it was only open for a few weeks a year. Artist Point is an incredible destination, if you make it. You are supposed to be able to see numerous peaks and sweeping panoramic mountain views.

My last summer in Washington we made two trips up there, right before moving to Florida. On the first trip, it was a nice sunny day, but the upper lot that has the big panoramic views was closed. What we could get to didn’t disappoint. We had a great time and took plenty of pictures, but knew we had to come back.

On the second trip the upper lot was open, but the mountain was locked in with fog. It was fun to play with my son in snow in August but there wasn’t a lot else for us at the top. The paths around the lower lot though had some great views with the overcast skys. Some of my favorite pictures are from that day.

The numerous hiking paths and mountain lakes make for some incredibly picturesque places.

There is no question that I’ll have to go back there one day.

Action shots are hard

So this may not be a ball game but getting a shot of a playing dog has to be about as hard. This is one area where having a real SLR would make a huge difference. Most entry-level SLRs can shoot 3-4 images per second but my point and shoot can take one image every 3-4 seconds. Big difference when trying to catch action. In this case it’s all about timing.

I like the way this turned out but it would have been nice to have a few shots to choose from. I do also like the way his body is hidden under the water and all you can see is his head going after the ball.

Cropping – how much is too much

Pretty much everyone these days know that a decent post-processing software is a necessity. In my opinion you even need to do a bit in software for family snapshots, even if using a free software. One of the biggest uses of this software is cropping, so you can attempt to straighten and / or bring more interest to the photo. This can be by moving the subject to a “thirds” line or removing unwanted objects from the frame.

But… How much is too much. When do you run into the bounds of resolution or practicality and should crop no more. Take the following example. I took this snapshot with a 12 megapixel point and shoot camera:

I didn’t like that the engine was surrounded by the road and all the other modern stuff. I also didn’t like that I hadn’t zoomed in at all on that shot. For the next shot I had done a much better job of filling the frame but by then the engine had moved farther into all of the obstructions, so that was the best I had to work with.

So, what could I do? Crop. So I cropped the heck out of the shot. I cut way more out of that picture than I think is practical but I am starting to get happy with the results. With this subject the added graininess actually enhances the picture for me.

So, what do you think, was it worth it or should I give up on having a nice shot of that engine until the next time I get to Mt. Ranier (which will be a while since I now live in Florida)?

For once I liked the TSA

I travel what most people would consider a lot and as such I go through airport security frequently. Very frequently.

I try not to worry too much about it and just be sure to give myself time to get through the line. I’ve also got my “system” down to get through the scanners and such as quickly as possible. But even then, it’s slow and cumbersome and well, totally awesome to take off your shoes and belt in the middle of a crown.

This morning was a bit of a different experience for me though.

I stood in line to get to the first checkpoint, where they check your ID and boarding pass like normal. Then, when the agent scanned my boarding pass the machine beeped a few times and she said “Oh, you have been selected for TSA Pre”. At that point she gets up and walk me over to a different line.

Well, a podium but no line, no line at all. From there I walked straight to a metal detector(not the dreaded backscatter) and was told I didn’t need to take off my belt, or shoes or take anything out of my bags. Just put them on the belt and walk through the metal detector and that was it.

I was through security in record time, it was great. I looked over my boarding pass and there didn’t appear to be anything on it showing if I had been approved so I guess I’ll never know until they scan my pass.

When it happens though, I’ll like the TSA that day 🙂

Quality Time

Man and his grandson bonding over a beer on the pier.

I really liked the two of them (man and baby) in this picture but the rest of it seemed way too busy to me. It really seemed that by dropping the color it brought most of the focus back where I wanted it.

I’ve not done much in B&W before but I see now why it is so popular for street photography and other busy areas. I guess if you can’t remove the background, you can at least make it less obtrusive.