The School Year Begins!!!

So, the long summer vacation came to a grinding halt this past week and with it my ability to just go out and shoot on a whim.  In September, I have to be into school before the blue hour gives way to brilliant sunrise so there is no shooting on the way into school.  That will have to wait until November, when Daylight Saving Time gives way to standard time.  By the time the school day is done, I am so thoroughly exhausted that going out to shoot is one of the last things on my mind,.  Staging a mass uprising in Liechtenstein is somewhere below that on my list of thoughts but not too far.

Which leaves the weekends.

So yesterday, Saturday, September the 8th, my cat Jacky-Jack woke me at 4:30.  I would usually feed him and my other cat, Priya-Bean and then go back to bed for another few hours.  But this morning I decided to check the SkyFire plugin for The Photographer's Ephemeris  app and it showed a beautiful sunrise...way north of the mid-Hudson Valley where I live.  OK, no good.  So I checked and, to my surprise, it showed a brilliant sunrise forecast for my area.  So I figured it would be worth going out to capture it but not going far.

I slid into sweatpants and a sweatshirt, grabbed my camera bag and headed out.  I drove down Fostertown Road, briefly being stymied by the incredibly long light where it intersects with Rt. 9W and then turned right, then left to Balmville Road.  There I drove across the bridge over Interstate 84 and parked my car on the little shoulder at the south end of the bridge.  My car got a lot of suspicious looks as I was taking my photos as it is a rawthah exclusive neighborhood and my car looks like a dog turd on a bar of gold on that stretch of road.

I gathered my equipment and headed over to the bridge.  It has no ten-foot-tall fence sealing it in from ne'er-do-wells intent on casting objects down onto the highway below.  That makes this bridge unique in the area as it gives one the opportunity to do light trails that would be impossible on pretty much any other bridge.  So I set up my Feisol Tournament tripod, set my Fuji X-T2 with the 16-55mm f/2.8 lens on the Acratech ballhead, used my phone's built-in flashlight to aid in plugging in the Vello remote cable (my Canon one, along with the lens cap to this lens have gone missing since my last shoot) and set up my composition.

I would usually put myself in the middle of the divided highway but there is serious construction on I-84.  They are rebuilding the bridge over Rt. 9W about half a mile further down the highway above which I stood.  The traffic in the eastbound late is therefore diverted off to the right and therefore I set up over the westbound lane and composed the photo thusly.  I checked my phone because I can't wear a watch.  Like I don't wear ties because I can't stand to have anything touching near my neck, watches strangle my wrist.  It's a thing.  So I checked my phone.  5:50, still 40 minutes from sunrise.  So I stood there and took a shot every five minutes or so as the light to the east imperceptibly brightened.

A pickup truck passed behind me and then stopped.  And then backed up.  A window rolled down.  So I turned to the gentleman in the truck who wore a uniform of some kind with an American flag patch on his right shoulder.  He asked me if I had permission to be there.  I was standing on a public sidewalk so I was flummoxed...why would I need permission to be standing on a bridge on a public sidewalk?  But he assured me I needed the permission of the Bridge Authority to be standing there.  He said he could call and ask for me and then thought better and told me he'd just forget he saw me there.  He left.  I was still perplexed.

The light to the east got brighter and brighter but it became quickly apparent that there would be no sunrise colors.  So I snapped off my final shot, at f/10, 60 seconds to get the light trails and ISO 200, which is the base ISO of my camera.  The Fuji X-T3 will have a base ISO of 160, apparently.

180908 Light Trails I84.jpg

I then packed up my gear and went back to my car as someone in a ritzy SUV gave my crappy car the stinkeye.  I figured I was not welcome in this neighborhood and so I would cease my interlopery activities.  That was the only photo I got this particular morning and the weather is going south quickly these next few days so I will focus on updating the firmware and restoring my custom settings on my Fuji X-T2.  I need focus stacking to photograph the model train layout at my dad's house that we will be dismantling and selling over the upcoming year.



Dover Stone Church, 9/1/2018

A delightful drive out to the Dover Stone Church in Dover Plains, NY.  A warm but not obnoxiously so day, a touch of humidity in the air and Merrell water shoes on my feet.  A camera bag by my side and a tripod that would not remain dry for much longer.

One cannot park at the trailhead to this geological edifice, one must first park at the elementary school on the main drag and then walk about a block to the entrance, which doubles as a driveway to a private residence.  Ropes and signs abound admonishing against parking at the end of the drive.  People come and people go and I set up my tripod for the first shot.

A stone staircase with a single iron banister leading into a grove of trees, all lined on either side of a central promenade.  I set my camera on the tripod with an infrared filter screwed into the 16-55mm lens attached to my Fuji X-T2 mirrorless crop-sensor camera.  Why did I chose such a camera?  I had a full-frame Canon 5D Mark III.  The Fuji so much better suits the way I like to shoot and the images it produces work well with the way I like to edit.  A perfect match.  I plugged in the remote cable release and teed up the shot.

 From the top of the stairs.

From the top of the stairs.

Proceeding carefully down the stairs so as not to upset my compromised hips, I made my way to the promenade, which itself was ripe for the shooting.

180901 Pathway to Stone Church.jpg

At the end of this lane is a shorter staircase up.  As I approached it, a line of young parents bearing younger children in their arms or sequestered in papooses.  My policy is that such people get right-of-way, so I waited patiently at the bottom of the stairs, standing aside for the families to pass.  They barely paid me any notice, one appreciative mother thanked me.  I made my way to the main path and through the woods to a recently rebuilt wooden bridge over the Stone Church Creek.  As I was wearing water shoes, such an edifice was entirely unnecessary.  A family with two small children were on the other side of the creek.  The boy and girl were playing at the creek's edge.  The boy wore blue rubber boots, the girl wore pink.  I walked gingerly to the center of the creek and set up my camera.  The composition was marginal but I needed to get my feet wet. so to speak.  The image I took was not worth processing, though I did import it into Lightroom later.

I crossed the creek and found the place where paths converged.  A signpost held two painted wooden signs for trails that led hither and yon pointing to worn paths off to the left and a bare white scribbled one above it that read simply "Stone Church" straight ahead.  People were walking out from that path and, after they passed, I entered.

The trail led beside the creek on its left side.  A slight incline to negotiate with occasional rocks to the side and the odd access to the stream.  I made my way to a set of small falls and waked out into the creek and set the camera up mere inches from the surface of the water.  Still in infrared.  As the summer provides monochromatic green, I choose to keep it monochromatic but with more contrast.

180901 Stone Church Stream 1.jpg

I climbed out of the water and further upstream.  A lot of folks took advantage of this nice day to come out and visit this location, so long exposure has the added benefit of blurring out people until they disappear, if the exposure is long enough.  And I was averaging about 30 seconds each exposure with the IR filter in place.  I made my way out into the creek at another spot.



 I particularly like this shot.  It took a lot of playing with the composition while in the middle of the water but it was worth it.

I particularly like this shot.  It took a lot of playing with the composition while in the middle of the water but it was worth it.

 A little further up the creek, no safe way to get into the water so this was from the rocks surrounding the edge.

A little further up the creek, no safe way to get into the water so this was from the rocks surrounding the edge.

Back out and continuing upwards, now dancing on flat rocks that now make up the path.  Most of the rocks are firm but the odd foot placement reveals a wibbly-wobbly one.  Careful steps, up and up and up.  The sound of happy voices, awed voices, elated voices.  The entrance to the cave/slot canyon that is the Dover Stone Church comes into view, the creek rolling out of the entrance which is teeming with human life.  People are also gathered outside the entrance, changing shoes, socks and trading stories.

I take a step around a woman who is standing in the creek's edge and get into the creek myself, the bite of chilled water on my semi-bare feet giving way to cool comfort around my ankles and calves.  I engaged in conversation with another photographer who specializes in drone videography.  I made my way to the center of the creek and set up for another long exposure.

 Through this 30-second exposure, some of the people at the entrance remained mostly still.  Their motion gives a ghostly effect.

Through this 30-second exposure, some of the people at the entrance remained mostly still.  Their motion gives a ghostly effect.

It was quite crowded in the cave.  Tricky rock-hopping to remain out of the water, parents swinging their little ones from rock to rock on their way out of the cathedral.  I waded into the water and started setting up shots.  Then...suddenly...

Everyone was gone.

I had the entire place to myself. 

For ten solid minutes. 

Can you imagine?

So I waded further in to get some photos.  HDR?  Sure, why not?  I brought illumination with me in the form of

Which is a wonderful tool for even illumination.  I used it to brighten the interior walls of the place.  A small twin waterfall spilled down the back wall.  I positioned myself for a four-exposure panorama, the camera positioned on the tripod in portrait orientation.  One shot.  Slightly rotate the ball head to the left.  Another shot.  Rinse, repeat.  Four exposures.  Using manual mode so that each exposure would be identical and stitch together flawlessly in post-production. 




 After being stitched with Adobe Lightroom.

After being stitched with Adobe Lightroom.

As soon as I got the shots, people started flooding into the chamber again.  That was all right, it was amazing to get what I had come for!  I made my way cautiously back out and put my camera back in my bag and headed down to the car.  I brought a towel with me that I used to dry off my feet, put fresh socks on and my shoes. 

I sat in the seat of my car, exhaled a single breath of satisfaction.  An evening at the computer would reveal a day well-spent in the woods.  As an extra bonus, I stopped by Palace Dumplings in Wappingers Falls for a delightful dinner of steamed pork and scallion dumplings.  A fitting reward for a day well-spent.

Why this is a blog and not a podcast.

I had all the intention in the world of starting a photo podcast back in the fall of 2017.  I had even recorded a few episodes of it.  But time is a jealous entity that pulls your attention in a million different directions.  I can write a podcast and record it and edit it and add post-work to it or I can post what I wrote for it.  So, a blog.  It's not a bad thing.  It's...something.  Something to get started with.  Welcome to the blog.  Comments and suggestions are most welcome.