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.