Thursday, April 22, 2021

New Kaleidoscope Images


A friend's FB comment that maybe she should try this with some of her fireworks photos prompted me to encourage her to give it a go and to do a few more myself. The above is one I did in response to her comment. I stopped at what I call a 4-way, flipped and blended horizontally and vertically because I thought a 45° layer would be excessive. An optical kaleidoscope would have 6 or 8 depending on the angle of the mirrors inside the tube. I followed up with this one, another 4-way.  

I tried adding a 45° layer but it made the center too bright (I had to burn in the center of the above image) and then I tried using Darken as the blending mode for the 45° liyer in the one below.

I like it. 

Since posting these on FB I am suddenly getting ads in my feed for "Kaleidoscope filters", digital programs that supposedly automate the process but as I look at the results they use in their ads I note that they are almost all 'bug eye' effects, more like a multi faceted lens effect than a true kaleidoscope which is just two strips of mirror reflecting each other. The kaleidoscope I had as a kid had a bunch of colored plastic or glass at the end of the tube that produced different patterns as I turned it and the colored bits fell into different relationships. I had thought I would try making a true kaleidoscope with just a clear lens at the other end instead of glass bits. That way I could use whatever I pointed it at to create images. The Photoshop virtual kaleidoscope method is easier than fabricating a lens.

This, as anyone who follows my work knows, is not my usual style. Even fireworks are not something I spend much time photographing but it is a fun way to while away the return to winter that we are experiencing the last couple of days. I might even try the technique on some of my nature images just to see how they come out.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Playing with a Kaleidoscope Effect


A friend on FaceBook posted a photo that he had altered with a kaleidoscope effect in Paint Shop Pro and I wondered if I could do that in Photoshop. Apparently PSP has an automated way of doing it but Photoshop expects you to know how to do it yourself, step-by-step. It turns out that it isn't hard. I found a YouTube video at that takes you through the process. The result above is a bit different however because I started with an already modified image that I had turned inside out (see that looked like this...

And the orginal was this photo cropped square...

I decided to see how the kaleidoscope effect would look if I started with the cropped original that was not 'inside out' and got this...

I did not follow the YouTube instructions exactly. He tells you at several points to duplicate the current layer and either flip or rotate it 45° and then make the blending mode of the upper layer "Darken". I experimented with the blending mode to get the effect I liked best. Bear in mind that not all blending modes will result in the upper layer showing all the detail in the layer beneath so look carefully at the result to insure that you are getting the full kaleidoscope effect.

I suspect that the same steps would would work in other editing software and you could create an action to run the whole process. If you wanted to play with the blending mode like I did, you could insert pauses at the appropriate points and simply resume the action after you had chosen which blending mode you wanted.

These photos are all copyrighted. If you want to share them, please link to this post. Playing in Photoshop is a good way to spend time during the pandemic. Enjoy, get vaccinated and stay healthy.


Monday, October 12, 2020

King's Falls


The photo above was made by my grandfather and namesake, James Hackett at Kings Falls in the township of Denmark, NY. The woman on the left is my grandmother, Carrie. The couple on the right were friends that appear in other photos my grandfather made. The photo was made at least 100 years ago.

There is a dam at the top of the falls now and the site is not open to the public but today I had an opportunity to go to the falls myself with the permission of the land owners. Below is a photo I made from a camera position similar to my grandfather's.

You can see bits of the dam over each of the side slots in the falls. Although Grandpa Jim chose the best view point, you can't shoot the same view today without getting at least a little of the dam in the picture. I shot this one as low to the water as I could in an effort to avoid the dam. His was clearly made from closer to eye level. The falls themselves have changed in the last 100 years as well. The raised flat area on the right where my grandmother and their friends were standing is no longer there. There have been other smaller changes to the shape of the falls as well.

Having made this trip to the falls I am impressed by how adventurous my grandparents were. It is no small trick to get to this point. You have to descend a very steep bank, then I had to wade flowing water that came more than half way up my calves. I was grateful for my hiking shoes and trekking poles.  They did it wearing leather soled dress shoes and the women had full length skirts. I can't image how they climbed up there to pose in that attire.

I took my drone but did not use it, a decision I regretted on my way home. When I first saw how close the zig-zag dam was to the top of the falls I thought there was no way I could get a good aerial view without the dam in it and put it out of my mind while I went about making my other photos. It was a foolish and preemptive decision on my part. I should have at least attempted it and seen what the possibilities were and I regretted my failure to try on my way home but I was halfway home then so... Perhaps I will be allowed to go back another day and try a drone photo or two.

The other photos from today are below.

Autumn color among the rocks.
The falls as seen from a peninsula to the left to the falls.
Autumn color near the bottom of the falls.
Along the road on the way home.
I hope you enjoy the photos. I am happy to have been allowed to make them and share them.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Things went right at the VIC...


This outing was inspired by Donnelly's ice cream. The season is almost over and I have been down to the Adirondacks very few times this summer due to the pandemic. Wednesday's flavor is chocolate twisted with vanilla, my favorite and I wanted to try my idea from the last post at Lampson Falls of making a drone panorama that looks straight down at the bottom and pans up to the horizon at the top of the pan. 

I got the ice cream first (priorities you know) and then went to the Paul Smiths VIC. The panorama above was made on the boardwalk through the marsh on the Boreal Life Trail. It is a selfie of sorts because that's me at the bottom.

Farther on where the boardwalk and Barnum Brook come close to each other I launched the drone again for this straight down photo of some water lily pads and a couple of Bullhead Lilies.

Part of what appeals to me about drones is shooting straight down because  it reduces the landscape to patterns and I am attracted to pattern. A woman passing by was sufficiently offended by my drone to comment that that was the last thing she expected to see there. Perhaps I was a bit defensive but I told her I had checked and they are allowed. Personally I don't get the animosity toward drones. I understand that the buzzing sound can be annoying but they fly for a very short time. Mine has a 30 minute battery but to get any significant number of photos in the field you have to plan what you want to shoot and keep your individual flights as brief as possible. I also try to use it when no one else is around but I didn't see her coming. 

Later I went to the boardwalk across the end of Heron Marsh and made another panorama of that but I stepped back out of the straight down frame at the bottom of last shot. I don't like this one as much. The boardwalk is too straight to be interesting and there is too little else that stands out but I consider it a 'study' for another try in early October with autumn color. All those tamaracks in the middle will be orange and the forest on the horizon will be colorful. I will redo this view this then.

In between I shot a number of my usual intimate views of plants and mushrooms (below). A couple out walking with their children and a stroller (yes, most VIC trails are stroller friendly, at least if you have the type with bike type wheels) asked while I was photographing a white mushroom "Is that a Death Angel mushroom?" and I had to confess that I can't identify mushrooms. I just photograph them because I find them interesting.
Edit: I have since confirmed that the two white mushrooms below are "destroying Angel" mushrooms, Amanita verosa.

Destroying Angel

Destroying Angel

In the process of creating the panoramas in Lightroom I discovered that even though the individual frames were JPGs, the combined image was DNG, a RAW format. As I have noted before, one of the things I about the Mavic Mini that I was disappointed about was that it didn't save the files as RAW files. I don't understand that because all digital images start as a RAW format. They are converted in camera to show them on the screen just like editing software converts RAW so that you can view it to do edits. Why the manufacturer of a drone or camera chooses not to allow saving the RAW data and only the converted JPG file escapes me. When digital photography began I suspect it was to save space on memory cards but in recent years the cards have so much space (my drone card is 128 GBs) that it is no longer a concern. In any case, the conversion back to RAW in panoramas is enough to tempt me to shoot all drone stills as at least two frame pans.

Enjoy the photos and thanks for reading. 

Sunday, August 09, 2020

A Bumbler's Outing


After a long absence from the blog I'm back.

On Friday, Aug. 7th I decided to go to two waterfalls I hadn't visited in several years. It didn't go well. Shortly after arriving at Greenwood Creek I spotted some Cardinal flowers on the island below the main waterfall and because the water was unusually low I decided to rock hop to the island to include them in an image of the falls. Unfortunately, I slipped and fell in the brook. I managed to keep both my camera and cell phone dry but I was pretty much soaked and bruised. The photo below was the result of what I was after and is included only because it is part of the story about my day. I don't consider it a success as a photo. I should have placed the flowers to the right and I should have gotten down lower to the ground so that the right flower would have been in front of the rock face on the right plus the feeble flow of water coming over the falls was disappointing. Because I was very wet, sore and generally disgusted at that point I decided not to try for another shot. 

I nearly abandoned my outing at that point but the day was warm and after verifying that my cell phone was okay (I would need it on my next stop) I decided to make the best of things and see what photos I could get in spite of the low water. This site is mostly about the falls so the limited water also meant limited photo opportunities but I managed a couple of decent images.

Then on to Lampson Falls where I planned to do some drone photography. I bought a DJI Mavic Mini last spring but have done only limited shooting with it because the pandemic has limited my outings. I have gotten fairly proficient using it for stills though and that was my plan at Lampson Falls. I shot some straight on aerial photos including a pair that I stitched together (below). After processing it I wished I had shot at least 3, one of the horizon and the falls, a second of the falls and the water in front and a 3rd more or less straight down. I will have to go back and try that.

I then moved to a point of land to the right where there is a shallow cascade to photograph that. That's where the second mini disaster occurred. When you don't have suitable level spot to launch a drone you  can do it from your hand. I had landed my Mini on my hand before so I decided to attempt a launch from my hand which involved holding my left hand flat with the drone on it and both holding and manipulating the control (my cell phone with a controller attached) with my right hand. First you touch a small button on the left and then a large launch button appears mid-screen. To launch you press that one while a blue line goes all the way around the outside of the button, remove your finger and then the drone takes off. Except it didn't take off as fast as I expected so I thought I had perhaps removed my thumb too soon. My thumb did cover the top of the button so I wasn't certain the blue line had completed its circle. Thinking I had messed up I decided to grasp the drone and raised my left thumb and little finger to wrap them around the body of the drone... at exactly the same moment that the drone decided to launch. The left rear propellers hit my thumb and cut it open. The impact also damaged the propellers (they don't tolerate much abuse) so I had to land it and change two propellers while trying to avoid bleed on the drone. I wasn't bleeding a lot so I managed but the first time changing propellers in the field with one hand injured did not improve my mood. I was still wet from my earlier fall. Who says photography isn't dangerous. 

I did get everything working again and shot the shallow cascade looking straight down and a couple of views of the main falls from the side.

I'm partial to the shot with the trees on the left. Feel free to comment on which view you prefer. I went on to shoot several more photos (3 of which are below) with my non-aerial camera.

My prior experiences with joining the "Order of the Bloody Thumb" all involved carpentry but I guess it isn't exclusive to carpentry, just to general clumsiness.

My one regret on my choice of drone is that the Mini doesn't shoot RAW and the files don't have the dynamic range for editing that I am used to with my EOS M3. They are pretty good for JPGs though so it is a minor complaint. I tried converting one of the drone photos to RAW with Topaz JPG to RAW AI but I couldn't see a lot to difference. I think I should get a polarizing filter for the drone though. That would avoid the highlights blowing out.

Until my next (hopefully injury free) adventure, I hope you enjoy these photos. I am planning to add video of some of my outings soon (more stuff to learn). When I do I will link them here and on my Facebook photo page I have been posting photos there throughout my absence here and plan to continue (with greater frequency than blog posts) so if you are on FB you may want to "Like" that page so it will come up in your feed.

I'm also considering having a Patroen account for people want to support my photography. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Photoshop Filter Effects

I attended the opening of the juried show at Northwind Gallery in Saranac Lake last night and a couple of photographer friends asked my opinion of one of the works there, "is it a photograph or some other medium?". Upon examining it I was 99% certain that it was a manipulated photograph. It looked a bit like a painting but the surface didn't appear to have any of the physical texture of the paint. It was perfectly smooth like an inkjet print of a photo. OTOH it seemed to have an applied texture image that looked like a cross between film grain and paint stokes. I decided this afternoon to try to duplicate the effect with one of my photos. This is what I came up with.

After duplicating the base layer I went to my Topaz Texture Effects 2 filters and chose Vintage>Sharp and Gritty. I modified that by pushing up the grain sliders significantly. That gave me the sort of grain effect I was looking for but I was missing the painterly elements. I added a curves layer to increase the contrast then Used Shift/Ctrl/Alt/E to make a new layer that combined the existing layers and used Topaz Simplifier 4 to 'clump' pixels together for the painterly effect. I settled on 15 on the simplifier slider and turned off the Adjustments and Edges tabs that are part of the default effect. 

At that point, I got the above image but had mostly lost the grain effect in the simplifier filter so I reduced the opacity of the top layer to 75% so that more of the grain effect would show and ended up with this
I'm not sure that the differences will be that evident in the blog post but if you click on either photo you can view it a bit larger and flip between the two with your arrow keys. I think I prefer the top photo because I like the smoother effect. I've never been fond of grain but this was an exercise to see if I could reproduce the effect I'd seen at the show. I don't think I matched it entirely but I came close and experiments like this are useful for expanding one's vision. Feel free to comment if you prefer one over the other and why you like it more.

The contents of this blog are copyrighted. Please do not repost any part of it without my permission. If you wish to share it, share the URL to this page. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Canoes & Cameras

Why canoes and cameras? This week I sold one of my canoes, a 14.5' tandem that we haven't used in years. Diane can't get in and out of it because of knee problems and it is too much canoe for just me. I have 3 (yes, three) solo canoes. More on that in a bit.

The camera part comes in because I was reading Kirk Tuck's* posts about his fond memories of a Canon G10 that he used to own and had just gotten another one that he was using yesterday. I owned a G10 for several years and a lot of the early posts to this blog were shot with it. Although it was prone to noise at ISOs above 400 it was a great little camera that would fit in a jacket pocket or a small waist pouch for hiking. That's where mine was when I fell into Indian Pass Brook several years back and the waist pouch wasn't waterproof. I sent the camera off to Canon and they offered to swap for a G11 in lieu of repair which I agreed to but the photo above was shot with the G10 while canoeing some time prior to its watery demise.

When canoeing with cameras I keep the camera(s) in a Pelikan box except when I am actually shooting and use a wrist strap as insurance against dropping the camera. Like Kirk, I have a fondness for the early G series Canons. I was disappointed when they stopped putting the articulating screen on them. The optical viewfinder is next to useless. I often shoot from odd angles and found the articulated screen helpful even in bright sun at eye level because I could turn it slightly downward to cut reflections. The G11 also has that style screen but my G11 needs repair and I have been debating whether it is worth the expense. I have looked at the Olympus Tough series, in particular, the TG-5, since they support RAW which was the main attraction of the G10/G11 for me. The TG-5 doesn't have an articulated screen which is understandable since it is waterproof to 15 meters. I don't think there is any way they could seal the swivels on an articulated screen but waterproof would be nice for canoeing (no further falls in the brook are planned) and it has 4K video which brings me to my latest notion that I 'might' try my hand at vlogging on my hiking/canoeing/photography outings. That is still very much in the formative idea stage. Among other things, I'd need to learn video editing before diving in, figuratively speaking.

About those 3 solo canoes; I have a 12' Native watercraft, an Old Town Pack canoe and a Hornbeck. Each has its good points. The Native Watercraft is stable. The aluminium framed mesh seat (very comfortable) is on the floor. You sit with your legs out in front of you kayak style. Because there is no deck, you can get awesome leg sunburns if you are foolish enough to wear shorts. BTDT. It has a tunnel hull that was designed with fishermen in mind. They advertise that you can stand up and cast from it and I have been assured by a couple of people much younger and more agile than I that it can be done. I have had the canoe for 12 years and have had neither the occasion or the nerve to try standing in it, but the stability makes it great for photography on the water. The hull itself is extremely tough plastic. I have shot over beaver dams in it going downstream. It is the heaviest of the three at around 50#.

The Old Town Pack canoe is one I lusted after for years and I finally bought the last one that Mountain Man in Old Forge had when Old Town discontinued that model because they couldn't get the hull material anymore. It is a traditional style canoe with a seat hung several inches off the floor of the hull and you sit up on the seat with your legs in front of you or tucked (one or both) under the seat or kneel with your butt against the seat. That (for me) is its main attraction, the ability to vary my position. As my doctors occasionally remind me, I'm old and if I sit, stand, whatever in one position too long I stiffen up painfully. I have literally rolled or crawled out of canoes after 2 or more hours on the water because I wasn't able to shift my position in the boat. In spite of that, as I thin out my belongings the Pack canoe will likely be the next to go in the thinning out process.

I won the Hornbeck in a raffle. Its main attraction is weight. It weighs all of 18#. The seat is nothing more than a slab of foam glued to the bottom and a pad for your back on the thwart. I may enlarge that back pad. It's a bit small. I wasn't at all sure I would be able to get in/out of it but Peter Hornbeck has some videos online showing how to get in and out of his boats from either the shore or a dock and his method works. It isn't as stable as the Native Watercraft and is less spacious for my camera box but it is a delight otherwise and beautiful to look at.

In the end, if you want a recommendation of a boat for photography I'd have to say the Native Watercraft is the clear winner. The other two are great in their own ways and the Hornbeck is much prettier, but the stability, durability and space make the Native Watercraft (IMO) the best for photography on the water.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

To Tone Or Not To Tone, That Is The Question.

It has been a month and a half since I posted anything, it is snowing and blowing, I'm bored and playing with old images. This one is from 2006, an early morning shot of mist rising off the Saranac River above Franklin Falls. I have always printed this one in BW because there really wasn't much color and it was shot with a Canon 10D which didn't handle the noise at all well in this situation. Any attempt to augment the color turned to confetti. I was clever enough at that point to be shooting RAW (my earliest images with the 10D were JPG to my later regret) so there was some dynamic range to play with and I needed all I could get.

Since my original editing in Photoshop, I have gone to doing most of my editing in Lightroom and only use PS when I need layers to achieve my aims. I wanted to revisit this image because I wondered if the Dehaze slider would help reveal the tree that is roughly center and was virtually invisible in the mist in my original edit. The above required a combination of darkening highlights (I always do that ahead of Dehaze), then a modest amount of Dehaze, offsetting the prior two with some overall exposure increase, a slight curves modification, and a bit of dodging just left of center in the sky. I also made a toned version (below) because I wanted to see how a bit of warmth would work.

The toning is only in the shadow areas. I used the LR split toning function and left the highlight areas at "0" because I dislike toned highlights. It kills the whites IMO. It is a matter of taste that goes back to my darkroom days when we toned the silver parts of the image but the paper remained white. The shadow areas above were toned Hue 35 and Saturation 10. I sometimes go as high as 15 on the saturation or as low as 9. My aim is for a slight brownish/black cast, not sepia and the saturation varies depending on the image.

I am not entirely sure that the toning adds to this image. I think I like it but I have become accustomed to the BW version, a print of which I have had on my studio wall for many years after entering it in a juried show. Maybe I need time to 'warm up' to the toned version. ;-)
Click on the images for a larger version (1000 pixels wide) and comment which you prefer, B&W or toned. You can use the right/left arrow keys to flip between the enlarged versions.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Ice Palace in Saranac Lake 2019

I go to see the Ice Palace in Saranac Lake most years. They build one every year for the winter carnival. I had planned to go in conjunction with delivering some photos to a B&W show in Lake Placid in the latter half of next week but they are forecasting 40°+ and rain early in the week. That could wreak havoc with the Ice Palace so I decided to go now.

My favorite photo from today is the one above, a detail looking through the ice blocks. I shoot a number of such views every year, often of water weeds trapped in the ice but this year the ice is unusually free of water weeds probably as a result of dredging that happened over the summer in the area where they cut the ice blocks.

 The front entrance of the "Prehistoric Park" themed ice palace. There are some neat beasts inside carved from ice and thrones for the carnival king and queen with huge bones on either side.
 A panorama of the back section which is a small maze.
 The two below are of some broken ice blocks along the lakeshore in back of the Palace. I liked the way the sun shone through then and the patterns they made.

Friday, January 25, 2019

I was not lost, just misplaced.

About a week ago I was going to an appointment and missed a turn with the result that I was on a road that I had never explored before and I found some interesting things to photograph. It is just proof that you don't have to go a long way to find things to make images of. I was late for the appointment but went back later to make the photos. The first is "Harry's Garage" which caught my eye both because of the 'vintage' structure and the sign.

Farther on I found other interesting views that are posted below. The first is a 5 frame stitch and you should click on it to see it bigger. You can do that with any of the images but this one is better bigger. I plan to print it 32" wide (image area).

Old Schoolhouse

Sugar Shanty

Old Garage

Enjoy and if you want to share, share the URL to this page, please. Do not repost any part of this without permission.