A Leg to Stand On …

I was introduced to the Venice Pier in March, 2011 by our friends Fred and Grace Whitehouse, by way of a great meal at Sharkey’s.  Fred thought I would be interested in the pier photographically, so the next morning we were back at the pier well before dawn so I could take some pictures.

The undersides of piers have always been appealing to photographers for obvious reasons, and the Venice Pier did not disappoint, especially as we also had a setting moon to include in the scene. This is one of the shots I made during the blue hour, as the sky began to brighten just a bit before sunrise and the moon was still prominent above the horizon.   My initial, unedited image appears on the right; I used a 10-24mm wide angle lens on my Nikon D300s.  In terms of composition, I wanted to create something of a spatial warp, using the tunnel effect of the underside of the pier to provide some apparent depth (like a time-tunnel) against the visual flatness of the water and the sky, I wanted to include the moon, and I wanted an extensive area of “negative space” on the left to offset the weight of the pier on the right. Once I put the image on the screen in post-processing though, I was not so sure that I had accomplished what I set out to do.  Since then I have revisited this image many times to see if I can get it to work.  I am now at version 5, and I think I have something to show.

One of the decisions about this image I have made over this time is to crop it into a square; one reason being that I often see the world in this format (I’ve always wanted a Hasselblad, but could never afford one).  The other reason is that I have been developing a series of images from this pier and other beach scenes that I want to present as a cohesive collection in a square format, and I wanted this image to fit into the series. In making this format change, I still needed to find an appropriate balance between the negative space and the pier, giving me two interlinked problems to resolve: First, I needed to remove the blank sky area on the upper right side of the image, as well as the unresolved structural element framing it, because they led the eye out of the picture.  I also needed to maintain a “footing” for the prominent piling in the center and not have it just disappear from view, meaning that the foot of the piling had to be evident on the bottom – a leg to stand on, in other words. The combination of the shaping of the moving water around the piling, and the left side of the footing at the base of the image provide the necessary foundation and give balance to the overall image.

As it appears above, I think I have hit pretty close to the right balance for this image. I have printed it at 11.18″x11.18″ on Epson’s Hot Press Bright fine art mat paper, matted it and placed it in a simple 20″x20″ black frame. I am very pleased with the results and will be hanging this image in Gallery 902 at the Workhouse Arts Center for our September show.

Thanks for stopping by.

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 ….


Boats ‘n Ropes …

Last week I spent a couple of days in Easton, MD at the invitation of my friend Charles Riter, photographing in areas I probably never would have found, if not for being with someone who is intimately familiar with the area and an excellent photographer, himself. It was nice to get a chance to photograph in places I do not see every day, but the best part was spending time with Charles and several of his local photo friends.  These folks have an informal photo club that meets for coffee on a regular basis, and they now have put together a group exhibition in Easton that is well worth seeing.

The two photographs included in this post are from an early morning trip we made to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD. It took me a while to get my bearings on the museum grounds (especially in the dark), but shortly after the sun rose, I found these two shots on the north side of the Small Boat Shed. The soft light, the calm waters, and the curves of the hulls and ropes drew my attention, and as I composed the images in my viewfinder, I knew they would be black and white.

I really wanted to create a dreamlike quality in this photograph, meaning I wanted the small ripples in the water to be smoothed out with a long exposure.  I had to be careful, though, to moderate the exposure so as to minimize any blurring of the boat as it rose and fell slowly in its mooring. My 8 second exposure at f/22 and ISO 100 turned out to be pretty much on the money, softening the water just enough, while the boat remained comparatively still and sharp. Post processing  was straight forward, making the black and white conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro2. In preparing the web gallery image, I put a 3 pixel black border around the print to visually separate it from the white poster frame I use for web display.

Chronologically, this second image was shot before the one above.  The shapes of the stern railing and the mooring line, along with the reflections of the sunrise in the water caught my eye. My initial thought was to make a longish exposure to smooth out the water, but the longest exposure I could muster at f/22 was 1/15 second. It seems my brain was on hiatus and I had not reset my ISO from 640, which I had been using earlier on before the sun rose.  As it stands, I think the resulting grittier appearance better reflects that it is a working boat, not a pleasure craft, and the structure and shading of the water give a more “industrial” feel to the scene.

Thanks for stopping by ….