Back to Fort Hunt …

Ft. Hunt, which us about three miles north of Mt. Vernon on the GW Parkway, has an interesting history, from its construction during the Spanish American War and its role in the coastal defenses through World War I,  and then as a POW camp during World War II.  Ft. Hunt is now a park run by the NPS, known locally for its picnic and playing grounds, but what interests me the most are the remnants of the coastal gun batteries that were once installed there.  I go through Ft. Hunt at least once a week, usually on my bicycle, but a couple of weeks ago I returned with my camera to explore the gun batteries some more with a photo friend from my work days, Mike Fleckenstein.  We had tried for several weeks to get a weekend morning with a clear sky and bright sun in order to have the play of shadows and light on the poured concrete structures, but after several delays, we finally decided to go and take some pictures despite the predicted overcast .

We wound up spending the majority of our time at Battery Porter (named after a Lt. Porter, who died with Custer at the Little Big Horn).  While arguably the smallest battery, Battery Porter provided some interesting shooting.  The shot in today’s post shows the stairs leading from the ground level bunkers to the platform level that, at one time, supported a long range coastal gun.

When this scene was recorded, we were dealing with a bright overcast, which gave some dimensionality to the concrete shapes. This image was shot as a 3-image bracket, and then processed as an HDR image, in order to assure that I would be able to retain the detail in the shadow areas without blowing out the highlights toward the top of the stairs. The basic HDR image was generated in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 using the normal/realistic/natural settings and no other adjustments.  Given the monotone nature of the concrete, I decided the image should be black and white, and did the conversion in Silver Efex Pro 2, where I used Nik control points to darken the wall on the right of the image, and the concrete floor at the base of the stairs. I then used a series of control points to manage the transition from dark to light on the back wall following the ascent of the stairs.

I took several more photos there, but none that I am satisfied with.  I find these structures at Ft. Hunt very interesting, but they have been a challenge for me to describe photographically.  Fortunately, Ft. Hunt is nearby.  I need to spend more time there ….


Sometimes It Takes a Little Time …

It seems there are some photographs that just need a little time and aging before you can see their potential or worth – like wine.  That applies to today’s image of the Cable Grist Mill in Cades Cove, TN.

I had made a point of getting to the grist mill early in the day in hopes of getting to make this photograph before the main body of spring tourists and photo workshop groups showed up.  I had made a photograph of the mill’s water wheel last year that I was very pleased with, but I wanted to spend more time with the structure and photograph it more in context.  As it turned out, I was none too early in my efforts, so that even after just a few minutes, the first of the workshop groups were hovering to take over my vantage point.  They were very patient, even as I rushed through this five panel panorama, with each panel being shot as a 5-stop high dynamic range (HDR) image.

I processed the initial image, while still in TN, by processing each one of the five initial panel images into .TIF files in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, using the same HDR settings for each. I processed each using settings that would give me the most realistic rendition of the scene. I then photomerged the five HDR images into a panorama using Adobe Bridge and Photoshop CS6, after which I did some fine tuning of brightness and color balance using Nik Vivevza and Color Efex Pro 2.  I wasn’t really impressed with the color version of the image, but that really didn’t matter as I had intended to make the final image black and white, which I did using Silver Efex Pro.  The final image was OK, but nothing to write home about to my way of thinking, so I just filed it away for another look on another day. Maybe I just had too much effort and energy invested in it at this point ….

Six weeks later I began looking for some images to print and hang in the associate’s gallery at the Workhouse Arts Center when I came across this image again.  After several weeks of gestation, I was now ready to look at this image again, and this time I really liked what I saw as a good start on the way to the image I had in mind when I shot it. All I did was a little “dodging and burning” in Viveza” – brightening the door a little in order to draw the eye to it, and darkening down the large exterior wall of the mill and some of the sluice panels that were receiving direct sun light.  Now this image works for me, and I have it printed, framed and ready to hang. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Iconic Images …

I have been in Charleston, SC since Monday, and have been shooting with a Tony Sweet workshop since Tuesday morning.  On Wednesday morning, we went to Magnolia Plantation, arriving just as dawn was beginning to break.  This was my fourth trip to Magnolia Plantation, and for the first time I made a resolve to shoot a couple of the iconic images this venue presents. Both the images in this post were taken along Oak Drive, within about 100 yards of each other.

The first image is a single click, while the second is a three-shot HDR.  I have also been doing a lot of experimentation with mirror montages and am beginning to get some feel for how these work.  I will add a post about this technique later and include a gallery of some of my more successful experiments.

Thanks for stopping by.