Friday, November 15, 2019

Ruby Sunset

It's often said that "the best camera is the one that you have on you."

Opinions differ somewhat as to the meaning of this.  For some, it means that any old camera that you have with you is better than none.  For others, myself included, it means that should a potentially good image present itself, you shouldn't be afraid to use what you have on you. Be it a phone or a point 'n shoot, don't pass up a great shot because you don't have your big fancy camera on you.

Wednesday evening was such an occasion.  I had just gotten out from an appointment, and I was struck by the most awesome sky.   "Red sky at night, sailor's delight."   What made this more delightful was the way that the setting sun illuminated a gap between two buildings -- Ruby Memorial Hospital and the WVU Health Sciences building.  The light reflected off of the windows on Ruby, creating an impressive arrangement of leading lines.

Could this shot have been better?  Certainly, if I'd had my Cannon 77D and one of my better lenses, I could have improved on the exposure.  But all I had was my iPhone Xs, and that's what I used.  And as for composition, I couldn't do anything about the white picket fence, which leads the eye away from the other lines.  It's a feature we'll all have to live with.

On a positive note, there was very little lens distortion in this shot, as you can see from the relatively straight vertical lines.  The electric lights are somewhat overexposed but not glaringly so (no pun intended).

Given the technical deficiencies of an iPhone picture, another school of thought would have me concentrate on the artistic nature of the shot.  Yes, I dare to say there is some of that.   So, not to leave well enough alone, I tried simplifying the photo using the BuzzSim filter from Topaz Studio. I saw this mainly as an attempt to smooth over the JPEG "noise" of the original.

Each shot has its merits.  I'll let you be the judge as to which you like better.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Up, Up and Away

It's been a busy week for me and my camera.   Last Saturday, it was Bridge Day and last night it was "night glow" for the Balloon Festival.  Night glow is what they call it when a bunch of hot air balloons fill up at night and light up on the ground.

This year it was at the Morgantown Mall.  I arrived early to catch a decent parking place and some dinner.  The night glow area was roped off between the old Sears (now, temporarily a Halloween store) and Lowes,

Some people started filling up while it was still daylight.  Here's one of them -- a very cool cat.

Once it got dark, they turned off the lights in the parking lot and let the visitors mill around amongst the balloons.  I really like to photograph the red balloon.  Here's a nice view of a number of balloons lined up and lit.  It was a lot like trying to photograph fireflies.   They all lit up and blinked independent of one another.  I had a few lucky shot where I caught several lighting up at a time.

Saving my favorite for last. The flames on these are overexposed, but it's still a nice shot.  I touched it up a little bit with Topaz Studio.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Bridge Day 2019

On Saturday, October 19, I drove down to the Bridge Day festival near Fayetteville, W.Va.  The festival is one time of the year when the New River Bridge is closed to vehicular traffic, allowing an assortment of base jumpers and rappellers to do their thing, while a massive throng of spectators crowd themselves along the bridge.   Vendors hawk their wares on either end of the bridge.

The sky quickly clouded over by the time I arrived late in the morning.  Still, the view from the bridge is quite spectacular.   The New River gorge, below the bridge is part of a national park.

It was a struggle to work my way through the mass of people to get myself close enough to get pictures of some of the jumpers.   I had to practically hang from the bridge railing to get some of these shots:

There is a visitors center on the north side of the bridge, which gives a different view of the activities.  Check out all of the rappelling lines.   There are four rappellers in this shot, along with one base jumper who is just starting to deploy their parachute.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

On Friday before Labor Day and again on Labor Day, I took a hike down the trail to the Henry Clay iron furnace at Coopers Rock.

These days, it's pretty rare for me to come across a new plant.   And this one is doubly notable, because it's also an orchid.   Meet the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens):

This shot composed of two different shots that were combined in PhotoShop is not very good, but I wanted to be able to show the entire plant.

Most of my shots showing the leaves were blurry.  I need to stop farting around and use my tripod!  This is the best of the lot:

I wanted to show the leaves because of their reticulated pattern.  Oddly, when I tried to find the origin of the orchid's name, the emphasis is on their resemblance to the plantain.

Sadly, I missed catching this orchid in bloom.  Here's the inflorescence as I found it:

I was surprised to read that Goodyera pubescens is considered to be the most common orchids native to eastern North America.  How is it that I've only now stumbled across it?

Thursday, September 5, 2019

SX-70 Alpha 1, Model 2

In an earlier posting, I described the Polaroid SX-70 that I recently acquired.  I ordered a laser-cut leather skin from Etsy, and over the Labor Day holiday I started on removing the old skin.

I watched some YouTube videos about removing old skin, so I did not go into this unprepared.  However, I'm not particularly proud of my results.

I got some Pro Power Goo and Adhesive Remover, which was recommended in one of the how-to videos.  This helped some, but  the old glue was incredibly stubborn.    I used a straight-edge razor scraping tool and I tried to be as careful as I could in removing the skin and adhesive, all the while being careful to not get any of the Power Goo into the camera.  The glue was like a rock.  I managed to slip a bit along some edges where I left some scars.  I used a dremel tool to smooth out those scars, but the end results were still far from perfect.

Here's the finished product.

I'm showing the side with the worst scarring.  Note the left side of the triangle above the bellows.

Did I ruin this camera's resale value?  Maybe.  Probably.  It's still one hell of a nice camera, though.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Morning Woods

On Friday, August 30, I was hiking back up from the Iron Furnace at Cooper's Rock State Park.  Off the side of the trail, my eye did see something a bit unusual.

It appears that a branch or another tree altogether was growing out from a crack in the main trunk and reentering about a foot or two up above.

If you believe in pareidolia and your mind is in the gutter, you may see something of a different nature.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Y.A. SX-70

Yet another SX-70.

I acquired this in the nicest of ways.  A co-worker, who knows I am into old cameras, asked me if I could give this unusual looking Polaroid a good home.  It came from an old nearby industrial facility that is being torn down.  As you can see, this isn't your mother's SX-70.   It has been customized for scientific photography or perhaps quality control.  The entire addition is of a sturdy metal construction.

The addition on the front says it's from Technical Enterprises of Gainesvill, Florida.  There must have been a bunch of these produced at some point, because it features a model and serial number.  The lens assembly on the front looks like it's configured to attach to another tube, such as a microscope.  There's a remote shutter control attached.

I didn't know if this camera was any good.  It was frozen into an open position, and I could not collapse it down.   Looking through the view finder, all I could see was blackness.  I carefully removed all the Technical Enterprises hardware and discovered an Alpha 1, Model 2.   

Lo and behold, I can now see through the viewfinder, and I can close down the camera.  This one has lugs for a carrying strap and a socket for a tripod mount -- something my older model is lacking.   I looked up the serial number and I found that this one is three years younger than my first SX-70.

Serial Number :5J825789173
Config :Alpha 2 Electronics & Alpha 'K' Focus Wheel
Model :Model 2, SE, Sears or Alpha 2
Birthday :Sep 25, 1978

Cosmetically, the leather trim is cracked in places, and it's considerably worn around the tripod mount area.   I'm thinking of plopping down $20 for laser cut replacement skin that I found on Etsy.

I'm now running a pack of Polaroid Originals color SX-70 film through it and the results so far are quite good.  Better, I dare say, than my Model 1.   I shot this Polaroid of the nearby Marriott:

The one problem that I've found so far is that the focus stops a bit short of infinity.  Until/unless I can fix this, there won't be many landscape shots in its future.

I will be giving this camera a good home.

Edit:  see the update here.