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Mike and Kara’s Wedding

January 17, 2013

Mike and Kara were married on Black Friday (November 23rd, 2012).  The were married at St. Joseph’s Church in Windsor, CT and held the reception at the rustic Barns at Wesleyan Hills in Middletown, CT. Clearly fans of country music, Mike wore his cowboy hat and Kara had her boots on for much of the reception.  All the guests seemed to have a great time and many of them stayed until the very end of the reception when they lit sparklers while Mike and Kara ran through the procession.

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Shooting RAW

June 29, 2012

When I first thought about buying a DSLR camera I had never heard of the term “RAW”. I just assumed all cameras shot JPG files and that was it. While researching camera models and learning more about editing software I learned about RAW and it’s advantages.
First, let me explain what RAW means. By setting the camera to shoot RAW photos, all of the image information captured by the sensor is saved to the file. That’s it. The camera does nothing else to that file. Once the file is copied to a computer, software is required to read the file and process it. On the other hand, when the camera is set to shoot JPGs, the information captured by the image sensor is then compressed into the JPG file. As it compresses the information, the processor in the camera applies sharpening, contrast, saturation, white balance, etc. to the image and then discards any extra information which helps it reduce the file size. One obvious difference then when shooting RAW versus JPG is the file size. RAW files are not compressed like a JPG, so they will be larger files.
While, the RAW file size may seem like a disadvantage, that is also its greatest advantage over the JPG. Because the extra image data hasn’t been discarded, there is much greater flexibility for editing the image using software. I find that no matter how advanced the camera technology is, the camera still gets it wrong sometimes. While you can edit a JPG file, the image quality begins to degrade as you make changes to settings like exposure and white balance because there is no data to work with. For example, if a photo is underexposed, the RAW file still contains the information about what is in the darker areas of the photo and they can be brightened up. In a JPG, those darker areas are just dark and you are basically trying to brighten up something that just isn’t there. As a result, the image quality goes downhill quickly.
In order to process RAW image files, you will need software like Apple Aperture, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, etc. All of these will handle JPG files too, so don’t think you only have to shoot RAW in order to use one of these programs. I personally feel that everyone should use some type of photo editing software anyway, even if its just to get rid of red eyes. Once the RAW photos are edited, they can be exported as JPG files for emailing, posting on the web, printing, or whatever.

Here are a few examples in which I was able to take advantage of the RAW image while editing them using Lightroom 4. The before image on the left is straight out of the camera with no editing done at all. These were all taken with a Nikon D60.

You can see that this first image was a really poor exposure. My kids were using the camera and accidentally switched it to Manual instead of Aperture Priority. The manual setting was f5.6 1/4000 ISO 400 so the picture ended up quite underexposed. I actually increased the exposure by 2.5 stops. Normally, I don’t get this bad of an underexposure myself, but this is a nice example of what you can recover with the RAW file. Increasing the exposure this much does result in a bit more noise, but with some extra noise reduction, you can counteract that.

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This image below is a good example of adjusting the white balance of the RAW file. It was shot with Auto White Balance, but you can see that the before shot has a bit of an orange/yellow color cast to it. This a typical result when shooting indoors with some type of artificial lighting. I cooled off the white balance and reduced the orange and yellow saturation levels a bit to get a more normal looking color. This produces better skin tones as well as more accurately depicting the colors in the scene. Take a look at the white trim around the windows and the white radiator in the background. You can see how they actually look more white now also, instead of a yellowy white.

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This last shot was just “okay” out of the camera, but by bumping up the shadows and increasing the saturation of the sky and grass (increased the blue and green saturation levels), it’s a better photo.

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I encourage you to try shooting RAW photos if your camera can support it. Almost every DSLR camera these days can shoot RAW files. Some of the more advanced point and shoot cameras can even shoot RAW. Give it a try and have fun editing the photos!

Foto Friday #12

March 9, 2012

I have been using my iPhone camera a lot lately and decided to see what kind of photos I could make with it. Using the Camera+ app, I made these photos of things that you may not even notice normally. I think you can make pretty cool photos even using an iPhone if you pay attention to lighting and composition.

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Another Storm, Another Long Power Outage

November 12, 2011

It’s been a while since I posted on my blog.  Needless to say, I have been busy, but one thing that really put a damper on blog posts was the storm that started on Saturday, 10/29.  The snow started falling sometime around noon or so that day and carried on into the night.  It was very wet and heavy snow and easily clung to the tree branches and bushes.  Unfortunately, not all the leaves had fallen from the trees yet so there was even more surface area for the snow to stick to.  By about 4pm, the power had gone out.  I had a feeling we were in for a long haul with the outage since this was no ordinary winter storm.  In fact, it’s not even winter yet, technically speaking.  During the late night and early morning, we had trouble sleeping, because we kept hearing cracking and popping outside as numerous branches broke and fell on the the ground and power lines.  We were really worried about large branches or, even worse, a whole tree falling onto the house or deck.  We even saw what appeared to be lightning during the night, although it was sort of multi-colored due to the snow filled sky.  That was pretty freaky.  Fortunately for us, we only lost a few decent size branches and nothing actually hit the house.

Our crabapple tree laden with heavy snow.

By morning, we took a look outside and could see our power and at&t lines sagging precariously low to the ground because of the weight of snow on the branches of the tree that the wires ran through.  The sun was out and already starting to melt some of the snow, thankfully, and it wasn’t long before some of the trees and bushes were not as weighed down and began to spring back up to normal.  Unfortunately, this caused our at&t line to finally snap off from the house.

Our neighbors' tree hanging on our power line.

Snapped off at&t wire on right. Power lines still attached.

I could tell the power outage was extensive because even my iPhone had no signal.  Clearly the nearby towers didn’t have power either.  I decided to take a drive out and get some gas in the car, charge up my phone and find a signal somewhere to check messages and let my parents know we were okay.  The main road in Vernon had no power either which was bad.  During Hurricane Irene, the power had not gone out in the center of town.  I managed to find a BP station in Manchester that had just opened and filled up with gas.  I got fairly lucky with that because there were very few gas stations open and the Shell across the street already had a huge line that had formed.

After Irene, we had planned to get a generator, but we hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  I don’t think anyone expected another storm so soon that would cripple the power grid again.  I believe there were something like 875,000 Connecticut Light & Power customers without power after the storm.  That’s just crazy.  Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold outside at this point in the year, although it wasn’t exactly warm.  Our house got down to about 50 degrees after the first couple of days.  We didn’t have things too bad though because we have city water, a gas water heater and a large room on the back of the house that has a gas heater built onto the wall. So, while the power was off, we camped out in the back room to stay warm and we were able to take hot showers and even use the gas stove in the kitchen to cook.

This tree pretty much split in half and was laying in the road.

Other folks weren’t so lucky.  Quite a few people have well water that requires an electric pump and oil fired furnaces with integrated hot water heaters.  Those people couldn’t even flush their toilets after the first flush and had no way to take showers.  Temporary shelters opened up to allow people to stay somewhere warm and take showers.  At the office in Hartford, we never lost power, so people were bringing their kids with them to work as many of the schools were closed as well.

Our power finally came back on Friday evening (11/4) and we were practically jumping for joy when it did.  We had actually gone out to eat after being tired of trying to cook simple meals in the dark.  When we came home it was on.  It definitely sucks not having power.  I already have a call into an electrician about getting a transfer switch installed on the house for a generator hookup.  Of course, he’s swamped for the near future, but I’m hoping to get him over here in a few weeks to get it done.  I’m actually considering getting an automatic standby generator.  They are more expensive, but they run with natural gas and come on automatically when they detect that the grid power has gone off.  It would be great even if the power goes off for only a few hours.  The problem with power outages is that you never know how long they will last.  Could be 10 minutes or 10 days.

For the week that the power was off, it’s almost like our lives were on pause.  We didn’t really get anything accomplished because we were just focused on doing what we could to eat and keep warm and still make it to work each day.  As much heat as CL&P has taken as a result of their repair efforts, I do have to give credit to all the men and women that sacrificed their time and came to Connecticut to help restore our power.  The guys that restored power to our neighborhood were from Maine and I saw repair crews from many other states as well.  These people worked day and night to get things back to normal as soon as possible.  Thank you to all who helped!

We had to drive under this tree for about a week until the power company finally removed it.

Lots of cable and telephone wires were broken.

Kyra looking very excited about the prospect of no power for days.

Foto Friday #11

October 14, 2011

As a kid, I was always thought earth moving equipment like bulldozers, front loaders, backhoes, etc were cool.  I can remember when houses were being constructed down the street from my house and my friends and I would ride our bikes down and walk around the construction site.  We would explore the half constructed houses, looking for scrap wood that we could take to use for building our forts. Of course, I’m sure there was some law or code we were breaking by doing that, but we didn’t know any better.  There would always be some kind of equipment parked there just begging for us to climb up on it and pretend we were operating it.  I think one time, we even found the keys for one machine and started it up.  We were too scared to move any of the controls though and turned it off right away.  I guess there is something about the dirty, rugged earth moving machinery that appeals to boys.

I was out at the Colchester Rec Park a couple of weeks ago and sure enough there was a big ole’ front loader just sitting there along with a huge pile of dirt.  I’m not sure what the dirt was being used for, because they sure didn’t fix up the nearby baseball fields with it.  Of course, I had my trusty little Nikon D60 with me and grabbed these shots.  I ended up applying a preset in Lightroom to really emphasize the grittiness of the machinery.  It’s a little over the top, but it’s fun to push things a bit.

I hope you have a great Friday!  I know I will since my new iPhone 4S is showing up today.  🙂

Nikon D60 AF-S 18-55mm VR @ f5.6 ISO 800 1/100 - 1/320

A Walk In The Park

October 12, 2011

The weather was just beautiful on Monday.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day to spend together.  With the craziness of everyday life caring for kids, working, etc, it’s always nice to take a break and just focus on each other for a change.  After dropping off the kids at her mom’s, Laggie and I went to have a nice lunch at Bricco Trattoria in Glastonbury.  It was the first time we had been there and we really enjoyed the atmosphere and the food.  We had brought our cameras with us with the idea that we would go for a walk after lunch and just take some photographs and enjoy the weather.  Laggie came up with the idea of going over to Wickham Park in Manchester, so we drove over and just walked around the various gardens.  We really enjoyed our time together there and it was definitely great to reconnect for a while and just be together.  Days like this are what I live for.

These are some of the photos we made while we were at the park:

A structure from the Oriental Garden - photo by Laggie

Me trying to get a decent shot in the Oriental Garden - photo by Laggie

The white bridge in the Oriental Garden

Tea House in the Oriental Garden

Another structure in the Oriental Garden - I liked the reflection on the water

Lion's head fountain in the English Garden

Me - photo by Laggie, obviously...

Laggie working the shot of a little cherub statue in the English Garden

Cherub statuettes in the English Garden - photos by Laggie

A small pagoda fountain and beautiful reflection in the Lotus Garden - left photo by Laggie, right photo by me

Laggie in the Lotus Garden. We found some really nice light there.

I think this is some kind of lantern. This was in the Lotus Garden. Love the green in this image.

Foto Friday #10

October 7, 2011

For today’s photo, I went back to an older catalog of photos. This is an image from a shoot I did with Kevin more than a year ago. The location was actually Kevin’s idea. It was an old run-down mill in Manchester. This place was a great location for photography. Lots of spots throughout the place that provided a gritty look. Perfect for a rugged guy like Kevin.
This shot was made using just a Canon 580EX II flash firing through a white umbrella to camera right. I triggered the flash using Radio Popper JrX’s. I don’t remember the exact power level used on the flash but it was probably about 1/8th to 1/16th.
Happy Friday!

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