Category: Project 365 – Photo-a-day

Photos that are part of the photo-a-day project.

Christmas Lights – Around Town (attempt #1)

Christmas lights were the subject of last night’s foray into picture taking around town. A friend’s home had good oblique angles and provided dark architectural landscape that her Christmas lights outlined and accentuated.  And, in most instances Christmas lights highlighted architectural shape against night’s darkness, making homes look like Gingerbread houses. Beyond this, Christmas lights add atmosphere and mood with their reds, greens, blues, purple and clear white colours, all of which have a gradient of reflection upon surrounding snow. So, I began the endeavour of capturing Christmas and the Christmas spirit around town.

Tonight, I’ve just read an article on the Strobist blog, ‘Photographing Christmas Lights,’ http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/12/how-to-photograph-christmas-lights.html  and it contains six recommendations for capturing the outdoor beauty of Christmas. One key concept is that Christmas lights reveal themselves best in fading ambient light following sunset and that the trick is to balance the Christmas lights against the ambient light. Here, framing shots would make intentional use of the sky as background to composition; I would need to shoot across the subject (lights) into the ambient light. And, where I began shooting Christmas lights at 8:30 p.m. I would need to move the photography three hours ahead to 4:30-5:30 p.m. to find the sweet spot of the ambient light fading into background glow. In terms of camera settings, where I had my white balance set to custom at K 10000, the Strobist article recommends using the tungsten setting to bring out a royal blue in the sky. I did use my tripod and took shots from low level, eye level and from the deck of my pick-up truck box as a means to find best angle of view.  Strobist recommends a low level shot so as to use much more of the sky as background in the composition. In terms of foreground in most shots I did utilize the light, reflective surface of the snow to create foreground interest; here, there may be better ways to explore foreground use.  In the shots I took last night snow tends to add the feel of a large blanket insulating the earth below it.

So, I’ll be out and about in the next few nights, right after work.

11 December 2010 – Photo Look-back

A few years ago I had a job requiring travel among the back roads of Alberta’s MacKenzie Municipal District No. 23, a region that would encompass three smaller European countries. It was a job in which I could pay attention to the region’s movement through the seasons in terms of weather, light and darkness. One year ago today, I took my camera and tripod out and away from High Level to revisit these same backroads, though for an afternoon and evening I remained oriented to the rural landscape between La Crete and Fort Vermilion, Alberta. I began taking photos in the mid-afternoon working my way from La Crete toward Fort Vermilion and then rounded out the evening with photos of main street High Level and its Christmas decor. Here’s a look back to photographs taken a year ago today.

Santa Day Fireworks

Midway through this December, Saturday afternoon, my daughter and I were in the Cab of my white 2000 GMC Sierra half-ton working our way through town and our list of errands. Not having read this week’s newspaper, The Echo, and without the town of High Level having a Twitter-feed we chanced upon the Santa Parade moving through mainstreet. Later, at supper, I learned about fireworks being among today’s events – at 6:00 p.m. the High Level Fire Department would begin a fireworks display. With all the night photography I’ve done, I hadn’t yet captured fireworks.  I found my blue folder of Night Photography notes from Darlene Hildebrand (Her View Photography http://www.herviewphotography.com/ ), skimmed them, briefly, put my Canon 60 D on top of my Manfrotto tripod, changed lenses to my Canon 15-80mm zoom and set the shutter release for a 2-second countdown.  The camera settings for the photographs I took are ISO 100, f-8 with an exposure of 13 seconds. I got to the fireworks site, aimed my camera into the sky toward an anticipated fireworks target area and made rough calculations for focusing to subject; using live view I adjusted composition area against where fireworks were bursting open and fell from; each of the 79 pictures taken are at a range of approximately 200-300 metres from the camera. Above, you’ll find some of the better exposures I snapped.

Refit & Refuel

Shell Service Station - High Level, Alberta

I’m going to study this picture.  It does capture a sense of this being an outpost and a place to refit and refuel in night’s darkest hours. The intent, however, was to capture something iconic, a gas station lighting the night … it being more of a beacon for a point of rest before continuing on, more something you’d expect listening to John Mayer sing ‘Route 66’. High Level’s Shell Service Station is open 24/7 year-round and is midpoint between Edmonton, Alberta and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. In terms of the shot taken, it may be that the 50mm prime lens limits what can happen with plane of focus and composition; more movement on my part would be needed to find the right location and composition. Still, I like the crispness of most parts of the photograph.  I may try a few shots looking more straight across to the service station one of these nights.

Highway & Town

Highway 35 ... Going North

This evening I was working with a prime lens, a Canon 50mm f1.4 lens.  I’m getting a sense for the distance to subject it accommodates.  With my 60D’s sensor having a correction factor of 1.6, the 50mm lens behaves more like an 80mm lens; so, this evening I’ve been putting distance between me and my subjects.  In this shot, I’ve created some blur (light trail) with a 10 second exposure and the tail lights of a vehicle moving through the photo from left to right.  Working with live view is helping focus manually to different parts of the landscape; this is f-10 for five seconds … I’ve probably focused on the second lamp post to the right.

I also listened to episode 6 of Sid & Mac’s Shutter Time podcast, a discussion with Randy Pond regarding social media and its uses – good discussion of flickr, google +, facebook, tumblr, wordpress and how an upcoming photographer would use them.

Grain Elevator

Viterra Grain Elevator - High Level, Alberta

The Viterra grain elevator in High Level, Alberta is the subject of this shot. Weather attracted me to this shot.  The day has been cold starting at -31C and warming to -17C this evening when this photograph was taken. The grain elevator shares railroad tracks with the local lumber mills and a sulphur car loading station. Steam blows from the mill from right to left (east to west) surrounding the grain elevator, blurring. In this shot I’ve used shallow depth of field (f-5.6) with an exposure of five seconds . The point of focus is the structure holding the light on top of the elevator; it is the clearest area of the photograph. Also, I’ve been using ‘live view’ on the Canon 60D as a means to find better, more crisp manual focus with regard to the subject. As I left the site, two deer crossed in front of me … perhaps having accessed grain spillage.

Painting Light

One of five shots, painting with light out in Fort Vermilion, Alberta. Note that by the front deck/porch the maglite has been turned back toward the camera and captures a streak of light.  Also, note the ghosting image of the person at the bottom right corner – that’s me, I’d been there long enough for the exposure to pick me up.

Old Bay House - Fort Vermilion, Alberta

Winter Sunset

In my first steps exiting school the following sunset confronted me. Using my camera free-hand and with tripod I captured thirty-three images, one of which I present here. For most images a wide aperture of f-4.5 allowed for freezing of the image. A smaller aperture of f-22 tended to increase the blur of moving clouds as well as producing a star effect from the lens’ shutter leaves through 30 seconds of exposure. This image is the corner of our elementary school with swings in the foreground. A colourful night.

Sunset through Playground Swings

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