Friday, January 16, 2009

It's Too Cold for Dogs

Jack in Hobbs Woods, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

Winter is in full force here in Wisconsin. Yesterday I took the dogs and my camera out to Hobbs woods to take advantage of the fresh snow. Thanks to the zero degree thermometer reading the dogs and I had the woods all to ourselves. Maria (my girlfriend) said it was too cold to bring the dogs out. The dogs disagreed. I think they would have stayed out all day. Too bad the weather had all the rabbits and squirrels hidden away.

Technical note: I have been experimenting a lot with getting pictures of my black dog Jack in the snow. Here's the technique I've developed over the last two months.

1) Shoot in RAW.

2) Set the the camera to manual and find an exposure that puts the snow on the far, far right of the histogram without over exposing. A few over exposed specs are OK. They can be recovered in the RAW converter. Also, snow is white. A couple little overexposed white areas are OK.

3) Using the photoshop RAW converter set the white balance using the white balance dropper. Click the dropper in a neutral area in the snow. Click around some different spots until you find a good looking white balance.

4) Set the black point slider to zero. You need as many pixels as you can muster to render a black dogs fur.

5) Open the photo into photoshop and make a duplicate layer. Use the shadow highlight adjustment on the new layer to bring out details in the black dog and the bright snow. Mask the layer to taste, or keep the adjustment global.

6) Do some sharpening to the dog's face, and add a little saturation to the dog. This makes it pop out.

7) Your done

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nobody is Looking

Out the right side of the aircraft you can see the Grand Canyon.

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

Since I am on first year first officer pay right now I’ve had to substitute orders from with trips to the Library. Yesterday we went to the Fond du Lac public library to get some books for Ella. I picked up a couple photography books also. One of the books was by the photographer Eliot Porter. This might reveal my compete ignorance; I had never heard of him before. Here’s a Wikipedia link for those readers as undereducated as me.

The book is full of gorgeous color prints. As I looked through the book I began to notice that none of the photos had a pure white tone. Even photos of snow didn’t have a single speck of white that matched the white of the paper the photos were printed on. The pictures still looked marvalous. This set me to thinking about my own photo editing techniques. I always strive for the white areas in my pictures to be pure white after post process. For me figuring out a white point and a black point is the starting point for setting the correct contrast. None of Elliot Porter’s photos had a pure white and they still looked perfectly natural and realistic. Many of his landscapes feel like you could walk right into them. Maybe I don’t need a pure white either.

That brings me to the photo at the top of this post. It’s lake Havasu, Arizona. I took this picture three days ago, but I didn’t edit it until this morning. During the post process I did my best to make this photo look like an Elliot Porter print. Notice, there is nothing pure white in this picture.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Buddhist Fish Offering

Walleye in a Bucket, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

I talked to my dad on the phone yesterday. He said an eagle ate the remains of the Walleye that we left on the ice.

OK, the story is actually more complicated than that. We didn't leave the Walleye on the ice. We put the head skeleton and tail in a grill that was next to an ice shanty across the lake. The fillets are safe in my dads freezer. Why would we leave a fish carcass in our neighbors grill? First of all, it was my dad's idea. I was just along to verify the story.

The people across the lake run a mechanized ice fishing outfit. They set up twenty tip-ups with the aid of a snowmobile and motorized ice auger. Then, once they are set up they do their fishing from the comfort of a heated ice shanty and they cook brats outside on their grill. It's all peachy for them. My dad does his fishing in the open air with the cold north wind howling. He drills his own holes with an ancient man-powered ice auger. And, he only puts out his legal limit of three tip ups.

If you caught the biggest Walleye in the lake would you tell your competitors across the lake about it, or would you sneak across the dark-frozen lake in the middle of the night and leave the remains of the trophy walleye in their grill? Imagine their surprise the next afternoon when they went to cook up some Johnsonville Brats and watch the Green Bay Packers in their heated shanty. The leader of their outfit opens the grill and takes a step back in horror at the first site of the frozen carcass in his grill. After a few seconds his reeling mind begins to comprehend that he has been outfished and outsmarted. He looks around for tracks in the snow. Where did these people come from? But, we were too smart for that. We walked confusing circles around the ice shanty and ended or mission backtracking down a packed snowmobile trail. There are no tracks to follow.

In the end the bald eagle got to eat the fish remains. The guys with the shanty left the fish on the ice and the hungry eagle found it a couple hours later. My dad said the eagle carried the fish into the tree above our cabin and ate it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rocky Mountain National Park Locked in Winter

I took this photo two days ago while flying high above Rocky Mountain National Park. The sun had set a five minutes earlier, but enough alpine glow remained for me to get this shot.

I've spent some time in Rocky Mountain National Park so I can give you a little tour via this photo. The ridge on the left bottom is where Trail Ridge Road crosses the mountains. The main ridge in the center of the frame is the continental divide. At the end of the center ridge is Long's Peak, the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is me on top of Longs Peak.

I photographed these guys two summers ago. They're probably sleeping somewhere under all that snow right now, or maybe they're in a coyote's belly?

More Las Vegas Real Estate

Las Vegas Trailers, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

Here's another photo from my walk around Las Vegas. This storage lot is located walking distance from The Strip.

Tehnical note: When taking photos in bright midday sun it is easy to get tricked by your camera's LCD into underexposing. Under exposed shots look better on the LCD when viewed in a sunny area. If you're bracketing and don't pay attention to the histogram you could easily fool yourself into underexposing a whole series of pictures. I've done that a few times in the past. Now whenever I shoot in the sun I pay close attention to the histogram. For this photo I based my exposure off the white in the trailers. I made sure there was a spike on the right side of the histogram as close to the edge as possible without overexposing. This spike was the white trailers. I took a few bracketed shots over and under just to be sure I got a workable image. And of course, the underexposed frame looked best on my LCD. However, when I got back to my computer and downloaded the photos the image with the whitest yet not blown out trailers looked best.

Why do underexposed photos look best on the camera's LCD? I am not sure but I have a theory. First of all underexposed photos are darker so they are easier to see in bright sun. Secondly, I think the camera actually does a little post processing of its own when it displays the photos. I could b wrong, but I think most cameras set a white point and black point, kind of a rough levels adjustment, to the photos displayed on the LCD. This is used strictly for the LCD display and isn't saved for to the file data. That's why your images always look contrastier on the LCD than they do once they're downloaded. This white point setting adds saturation just like it does in photoshop. That's why the underexposed photo has more saturation. A sharper correction was made to create a white point and black point in the underexposed image. Therefore there is more saturation in the underexposed photo in the LCD display and it still looks good because it has a black point and a white point. You don't notice the image is messed up until you download it onto your computer or take a second to analyze the histogram n camera.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The State of Utah Should be Paying Me

Sunset Above Utah , originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

Is this Utah week? I have to admit that I am getting tired of scrolling down my blog and seeing one after another aerial photos of Utah covered in snow, but I can't resist posting another. I got this photo yesterday while flying from Las Vegas to New York (again). The sun was setting and our jumpseat rider was yammering on and on about how he once stood up to the base chief pilot. Blah Blah Blah. Meanwhile, I was getting some great shots of the desert ridges below.

I have one more shot from yesterday that I want to post, and we are flying to Vegas again today. Look out for more Utah shots.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Apocalypse or Las Vegas?

Do you remember that guy that told you to invest in real estate because they aren't making any more land? Remember when he told you about how he got in on a new condo project in Vegas for only $40,000 down. He said it was a can't miss money maker. Well, the construction on his condo is now finished, and he has one month before he has to start paying the full mortgage on his unit. If only he could find a buyer things would be OK.

Are you interested in luxury living only minutes away from the Las Vegas strip? This unit is conveniently located near miles of low rise nondescript office buildings. The homeless people living in the adjacent vacant lot promise to not build their shanties taller than two stories which means your view of the strip will not be blocked. Owner will consider short sale or mortgage take over.

The Sun Rises on Bruce Springsteen

This is sunrise on the coast of New Jersey. Somewhere down on the shoreline is Asbury Park, home of Bruce Springsteen. This is what the end of a red eye flight looks like. Bruce Springsteen may have been born to run, but when I took this photo I felt born to take a nap at the JFK Double Tree.

For me flying the east coast at sunrise feels like coming home. I plowed these same skies while working at PSA for 8 years. As much as I love the American west I must admit that the east coast offers prettier aerial sunrise photos than the west. Many mornings in the east there are broken layers of cirrus clouds that create a gentle pastel sky that contrasts nicely with the dark blue Atlantic Ocean. I guess I dont have to choose sides -- I can like both the east coast and the west coast. A fan of the visual arts can like both Ansel Adams and Winslow Homer. Have I just lost my small amount of blogger cred proclaiming my admiration of those two guys?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Electronic Flight Bag

Electronic Flight Bag, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

This gadget is one of the joys of working for my new airline. It's an electronic flight bag. Basically it's a tablet PC with all of our maps, charts, and company manuals loaded into it. Because we have these EFBs installed on all of our aircraft the pilots no longer have to carry heavy chart cases. The best part is we no longer have to do manual and chart revisions. In the old days pilots would have to spend an hour or two each week doing revisions to their charts. Now, all that is done by the maintenance department with a simple upload to the electronic flight bag.

I took this photo this morning on at the top of our descent into New York JFK. We were just finishing the red eye flight from Las Vegas. The chart on display is the LENDY5 arrival to JFK.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Kolob Canyons, Utah

Kolob Canyons, Utah, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

Last week I promised more aerial views of the Utah desert. I come through on my promises. This is an aerial view of the Kolob Canyons region of Zion National Park. The red rocks are the Kolob Canyons. If you visit Zion National Park I recomend spending a day at Kolob Canyons. The area is as spectacular as Zion Canyon, but it lacks tourists, and there are some great sunset photo opportunities for all you landscape photographers. Here is a photo I took in the Kolob Canyons a few years ago. If you look hard at this enlarged view of my aerial photograph you can spot the rock formation that I photographed so many years back.

When the Wolves Don't Eat You

Outagamie county Airport, originally uploaded by Gamut's Edge.

We made it through a week at the Cabin in the wild north woods of Wisconsin and none of us were eaten by wolves, including the dogs. A pack of wolves moved into the woods behind our family's cabin two years ago. Walking in the forest has taken on a new level of excitement. None of us has seen a wolf yet, but we have seen tracks, and my brother, a certified wolf howler, has gotten the wolf pack to howl a response. They are out there.

As you can see from the photo leading this post, I am back at work now. The picture was taken at Outagamie County Airport in Appleton. I commuted out of there this morning. The snow plow was out cleaning up the endlessly blowing snow. As I write this post I am listening to the endless chiming of the slot machines at McCarran Airport here in Las Vegas. In a few hours we depart for New York.