Friday, August 28, 2009

Mossy Cascade Revisited

I promised more HDR images from St. Johns but house projects have kept me from my computer today. The above waterfall HDR photo is one I made Wednesday evening after returning from my outing. After shooting the St. John's images I waited out the rain in Saranac Lake and shot a few photos under an umbrella (perhaps I'll post one of those later after I process them) then went back to Mossy Cascade to shoot some B&W film in overcast light. I also shot a few more HDR images using my Canon G10. This is one of them. By shooting in overcast I eliminated the overexposed patches on the left hand embankment (see Aug. 15th below). Not quite as dramatic a view though. This is four exposures combined, then adjusted in Photoshop.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

St. John's of the Wilderness

I believe I mentioned in my last post that I had wanted for several years to photograph the interior of St. John's. I had seen the inside once. I happened to be passing several years ago when some workmen were doing repairs but I didn't have my cameras. Yesterday I got lucky again and passed when the sexton was doing some yard work and he let me in.

The image above is three exposures combined to span the range of brightness but that was only part of the problem. The interior lighting is very warm incandescent light but the light coming through the windows was very blue from overcast daylight. If I set the white balance for the interior lights the windows were all shades of blue with very little other color. Setting the white balance for the window light turned the whole interior shades of orange. In the end I set the white balance for the interior, added a 4th layer balanced for the window light which I masked out all except for the windows. That was made more difficult by the alter cross and candles which are in front of the windows. All told I spent well over an hour doing the computer work to create the final image above. This is only one of several I shot so I have more work to do. Be sure you click on the image above to see the larger version.


Awesome day. St. Ansel of Adams was on my right shoulder. The forecast was for "occasional showers" in the morning with clearing in the afternoon. I figured on doing some mountain photography between showers and headed toward Keene Valley. As I turned the corner at Paul Smith's I thought "I really have to drive over here some Sunday during church services at St. John's of the Wilderness and find out who I need to talk to to get permission to photograph the inside". I have photographed the outside many times under all sorts of conditions but it has always been locked when I went by except one time when I did not have my cameras with me (yes, there are times I don't carry my gear). The image above is a heavily modified digital panorama (two frames) that I made with my first digital camera.

As drove by St. John's I slowed down and saw a car parked out front so I whipped into the drive. The sexton was working at the side of the church. After introducing myself I learned that he was there to try to eradicate some grubs that were destroying patches of the lawn. When I told him what I wanted to do he offered to let me in and I spent the next half hour or so happily making exposures to turn into HDR images.

It was fortunate that I had that opportunity because the "occasional showers" turned into a morning long rain that would have confined me to my truck had I not had some interior photography to do. The afternoon was as forecast and I returned to Mossy Cascade to try some more HDR exposures plus some medium format B&W under overcast conditions. I got all the shots I wanted plus some bonus photos of things I ran onto along the way. Throughout the afternoon I had overcast when I needed it and touches of sun when I needed that. Whether by pure luck or divine intervention, it was a great day. The "photo" above is a teaser. I'll post some of the others over the next few days as I complete processing them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Charles E. Gardiner 1926-2009

Last week my father-in-law died. Charlie was a great father-in-law. If he ever had any doubts about me as a son-in-law he never voiced them to me. On the contrary he was always supportive and/or had constructive advice. He was a man with common sense and I respected his opinion.

Family was very important to Charlie. He had a phenomenal memory for family stories. It was largely his stories and the old Gardiner genealogy (written by Dr. Frederick Gardiner in 1930) that got me involved in genealogy. I remember his delight when I got him two large family tree charts for his birthday several years ago.

We only got to see Diane's parents about once a year. A couple of years ago when we visited Charlie & I went to the Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton. On our next visit I had planned to take him to an auto museum in Oshawa but he had been ill just prior to our visit and wasn't feeling up to it. "Next time' he said. There wasn't a next time. He will be missed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I went to Mossy Cascade Falls yesterday to shoot some HDR experiments. For those who don't know HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is a way of capturing a range of tones that are too broad for the gamut of your film or sensor by shooting multiple bracketed images, combining them into to an HDR image and then tonemapping (compressing) the range of tones to fit the gamut of possible tones in a print or on your computer monitor. Some people liken it to Ansel Adams Zone system for digital photography.

The advantage I see to HDR is that it can present a view that more closely approximates what the average person experiences when they visit these places. Photo nuts like me will go and shoot when the light is "right" meaning it is cloudy and could rain at any moment but most folks go these places on "nice" days when the sun is shining so the even tones with no deep shadows or bright highlights captured by us photographers don't really represent what the average person saw but neither do the photos they snap with their pocket P&S cameras because their camera can't handle the range of bright vs dark.

I recently bought software for creating and tonemapping HDR so I wanted to give it a try. I was mostly successful. I could've/should've shot at least one more frame on the underexpose side to pull the brightest highlights into gamut but it was a learning experience and mostly successful. I have a few blown highlights on the left embankment that I'm not crazy about. I'll have to go back another time and try again. Meantime this isn't a bad shot for a first try.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Today I thought I'd weed the garden path. The grass has been encroaching on the sides into the crushed stone and narrowed it by several inches on each side. 'Shouldn't take more than an hour' methought. As I was weeding the path I decided that I should pull the weeds between the flagstones at the entrance to the garden too. That proved harder since the creek stone I had used to fill the spaces between the flags had settled over the years and needed to be loosened in order to pull the weed roots. No point just breaking the weeds off. They'll just grow back. Then there were the weeds that had grown roots under the flagstones so I had to lift the flags. Of course then the creek stone got where the flags had to be put back and they had gotten filled with dirt and crushed stone from the path that had to be sifted out so I dug out the whole area, sifted and washed the stone, relaid weed block and reset the flags before putting the creek stone back between the flags. Some of the smaller stone had been lost in the sifting since my soil screen is ½" mesh and a lot of the stone was small enough to fall through with the dirt so I went to town to buy another 40# bag of yellow creek stone but they were out so I bought some crushed brick to mix with the remaining stone. That required rearranging the stone I had already filled back in in order to get a more or less even mix, but about 5 hours after I started my one hour job it was done and it looks pretty good if I do say so myself.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Health Care Debate

From today's "In 2008, U.S. health care spending is estimated to have been $2.4 trillion. It is projected to nearly double to $4.4 trillion in 2018."

So we'll be spending more than the 1.5 trillion that opponents are complaining that the proposed health care overhaul will cost over the next 10 years whether or not the health care plan President Obama wants is passed. The difference will be in how it is spent and what we get for the money.

Currently (according to some sources) 30% of all health care dollars go to insurance company overhead and profit . The CEO of United Healthcare (the largest of the health insurers) not only has a salary in the millions but has accumulated stock options of almost ¾ of a billion. Allegedly one of every 700 dollars spent on health care in the US goes into his pocket.

Many years ago I read an article in which the author said the way to get rich was to put yourself in a "gatekeeper" position, find something people need and position yourself between them and the thing they need so that you can collect a fee for letting them have it. That is what health insurance does. It adds nothing to the health care system, it simply acts as a gateway through which you must go to get health care. The health care you get is what the insurance company decides it is willing to pay for and that decision is based on preserving its profits.

Ideally an insurance system is one of shared risk, meaning that all members contribute and the money helps those who most need it. You may pay in more than you get back for many years, like the driver who has no accidents, but at the point where you do need it there are more resources available to you than you would have on your own if you were not a member of the insurance plan. That is the irony of the complaint by opponents who object to a public option on the grounds that it is socialism. The concept of shared risk though insurance is essentially socialist, a group of people looking out for each other. The only thing that makes private insurance different is that it allows the insurance company to add profit to the cost of the system and puts the decision making over who gets what benefit into the hands of those who own the company instead of people who are accountable to the insurance holders.

Personally I think it is sad that a single payer system is not one of the options on the table. According to several polls that is what most people would prefer. It would be the most economical. I often wonder if the 30% that is currently eaten up by overhead and profit would not be sufficient to cover all those who are not now covered. True, there would be overhead with a public option. Currently Medicare (a public insurance plan that covers everyone in the country that is over 65 and those who are permanently disabled) has an overhead of 3%. Putting everyone on Medicare would still save 27% ($756 billion in 2008) and that would go a long way toward covering everyone.

Addendum: A friend in Texas sent this link to a YouTube video of some Canadians commenting about the health insurance reform debate going on here in the US. As readers of this blog know I have relatives in Canada and while they have problems of distribution too, theirs are based on how to spread the services where they are needed rather than who can afford care and who can't. You may have to wait for some non-urgent services but if you need care it is there whether or not you can pay.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Last Rainbow Falls Shot(s)

Because of the extreme range of brightness I could not get this view in a single exposure so I shot six and combined them to get details in the full range of tones from the sky to the deep shadow areas at the bottom of the canyon.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Waterfall I Went For

As I said in my last post I actually went on my hike Thursday in order to photograph Rainbow Falls. I arrived later than I had planned and there was no sun at all in the narrow canyon that this falls comes over one side of. The best light for photographing this waterfall is overcast but then you have to leave out the sky or it is just a boring grey patch in the photo. Using some photographic wizardry (I don't divulge all my secrets to just anyone) I managed to get blue sky and even light on the falls.