One of the most impressive parts of the Albany skyline is St. Joseph’s Church on Ten Broeck Street. But if you try to photograph St. Joseph’s Church FROM Ten Broeck Street, you run into problems with photographing tall structures from the street itself – the building looks tilted, as if it will fall backwards.
And as you can see from this picture, we do not possess the Leaning Tower of St. Joseph’s. Not really.
In 2009, I tried an experiment. It was Christmas morning, and I got up – drove down I-787 to downtown Albany – parked near the Palace Theater- walked back up I-787 with my tripod and my Nikon D700 and my old f/4.5 50-300 manual telephoto, and shot for about 20 minutes at St. Joseph’s Church, which was in perfect alignment. Yeah, it was Christmas morning … and yeah, I should have stayed home and enjoyed the holiday, but I was in a very bad emotional time in my life and I needed to go drive.
I do this on occasion. You might have noticed it if you read my blog for any reasonable period of time.
So here I am, on I-787 in 2009, and I got this picture out of the batch.
Okay, much better… I guess…
You know that feeling when you think you’ve created something spectacular, and then you shelve it and don’t think about it for a few years … and once you see it again, you say to yourself, “Self … you can do better than this.”
Yeah, I said that.
Said it a lot.
Okay, let’s try this one more time.
Sunday morning, 2016.
What can I do with this?
There’s some fall foliage in downtown Albany, so this might be worth a try.
People are sleeping. It’s not like I’m going to wake anybody up while doing this.
All I need to do is just get down there, grab my camera gear, get to that spot on I-787, shoot shoot shoot, get OFF that spot on I-787, and drive home.
I figured that if I caught the morning sunrise, the warm sunshine would land on the facade of St. Joseph’s Church and cause a beautiful glow.
Um… not with the cloud cover, Miller.
Oh well. I’m here already, may as well make the best of it.
Photos here and there. Then down from I-787 and back home.
And after some development and a little color adjustment here and there…
I got this.
Sweet tap-dancing… I got the foliage, I got the church, it looks like a foliage fortress in the foreboding fall.
I’ll take this for sure.
Put it in one of the short piles, either for Competition Season 2017 or Charity Season 2017.
And memo to self…
Come back in 2023 and try this again. Who knows what kind of photo can be achieved with this stunt?
For the past couple of months, my beloved Nikon Df camera was on the sideline, recovering from a broken shutter blade. And while I was still able to take pictures with my film cameras, I needed my Df back. I just do. It’s like driving a rental car when your personal whip is in the repair shop. Oh yeah… I remember that.
Anyway, my camera came back last week, with its new Chinese-crafted shutter housing. And I wanted to test the camera out… I really did…
Yesterday, I woke up, grabbed the Df, and drove to the Adirondacks. I didn’t know where my final destination would be, only that I would drive as far as I wanted, and would see where the road would take me.
It took me to Warrensburg. Apparently there were two things going on in Warrensburg this weekend – a big town-wide garage sale, and a blanket of fog over the nearby mountains. If I could get to the top of those mountains somehow… but I could not find any access roads to the mountain. Oh well, maybe this side road – no, the bridge on that side road is about to collapse. Maybe a little further down the road –
STOP, CHUCK, STOP!!!
That bridge along that side road was about to collapse. Turn the car around and get a photo of it, Miller!!
Okay. A quick look at the settings. Had to switch it back to manual settings. Slap on the Vivitar 19mm f/3.8.
Get this shot, Chuck. Don’t miss it.
Smooth. If the foliage had just turned sooner… that would be perfect.
I drove a little further through Warrensburg, just looking for something worth photographing. Something that would catch my eye. Drove for a few miles, then turned around. And as I rounded a corner, I saw what looked like an old house… with a few, shall we say, welcoming messages.
You can click on the picture for a larger image, so that you can easily read such phrases as “Thou Shalt Not Covet,” “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” “Beware of Vandal,” “Stealing Ain’t Cheap,” and “As Ye Sew, So Shall Ye Reap.”
Well, I didn’t see a sign that said “Thou Shalt Not Take a Graven Image Of Ye Olde Building,” so yeah I snapped a few shots.
On the way back, I drove past some place called Schoon River Campground. Maybe if it’s a campground near the Schroon River, I might be able to get some nice “reflective fall foliage” shots. A quick stop, a request for permission to access the Schroon River (permission granted), and off I went.
Hmm… There’s a few spots here and there, the foliage hasn’t completely changed yet, but ooh here’s a funky looking tree branch. I’ll shoot this in black and white.
Man, I’m so glad this camera is back in my arsenal. It felt like I was buck naked without it.
Hey, maybe if I step on this mossy part of the shore, I can get a better shot of this tree branch.
Right foot. Hmm… ground feels kinda squishy. No big deal.
Left foot. Hmm… ground feels kinda sticky. Ahh, this is nothing to worry about.
Right foot. And what I thought was a mossy shoreline was actually a soupy mud bog. And I discovered this the second my leg sank into the mud, all the way to my kneecap.
Okay, that’s a warning. Time to turn around – one step further, and my left leg sank into the mud. Again, all the way up to my kneecap.
Deep breath. You can get out of this. Remember your Boy Scout training, Miller.
Hmm… My Boy Scout training consisted of going from campground to campground, asking the other troops if they had any left-handed screwdrivers or cans of striped paint.
Don’t worry, though. I was able to wiggle my way out of the mud and made it home safely. The driver’s side floorboards in my car will need a detailing, and those jeans have enough mud on them to open a day spa.
Honestly, if that was the worst thing that happened, I’m okay with it. As far as I’m concerned, the best thing that happened was that my Nikon Df camera and I are back together.
And if these pictures I took on Sunday aren’t “competition season” worthy…
At least they’re a start. A muddy start, but a start nonetheless.
It was early last August, and I knew something was wrong the moment the heartbeat stopped.
A quick check. Nothing.
I tried other options. Nothing.
Not a sound.
Not a beat.
Please Lord, no.
With all the horrible things in my life that have turned 2016 into a big mucky mess… this can’t add to the pain. I can’t have this happen.
And this isn’t even covered by my health insurance. Thanks, Obama…
So if this really IS happening…
I need a specialist to save this patient.
A quick phone call.
Come on, pick up… pick up…
Good. Allen Wade is there. Allen is my camera tech, he’s cleaned the sensors for my Nikon digital equipment, and he’s tuned all my film cameras, from Kodak Red to Raskolnikov.
“Al,” I said… “I think my Nikon Df is dead.”
A few days later – CameraWorks is only open to the public three days a week – I dropped the Df off at CameraWorks’ Latham-based repair shop.
Allen called me later with the news. “You’ve got a busted shutter blade.”
Now this sounds serious… but it could be worse. Although shutter blades are difficult to repair, especially on digital cameras, one can replace the mechanism with a new shutter assembly. Allen would need to remove the entire shutter assembly inside the Df, and replace it with a new shutter component. It would need to be a Df shutter; Nikon camera gear isn’t as interchangeable as Eli Whitney’s rifle assembly line.
All Allen needs to do is acquire the replacement shutter assembly.
Which … unfortunately … brings up another issue.
Prior to 2013, independent camera repair shops could purchase repair parts directly from Nikon. That changed in 2013, when Nikon stopped selling a la carte camera repair parts, choosing instead to license Nikon repair work to less than two dozen “Nikon Certified” shops around the country. Yeah, that’s like being told you cannot replace your car’s transmission at an AAMCO shop; you would need to bring it back to your dealer or to one of fifteen specialty transmission shops around the nation.
Luckily for me, Allen is a very resourceful camera repair technician. At first, he tried to contact any of the other camera repair shops or outlets to see if they had a Nikon Df that was in a “parts only” status, that he could maybe cannibalize the shutter assembly from that camera and place it in mine. Essentially, a shutter transplant.
“Unless I can find that shutter for you, Chuck,” he said, “I don’t think I can repair your camera.”
And then… when all hope seemed lost…
I started puttering through eBay auction sites. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a junked Nikon Df whose shutter assembly is still functional.
I called Allen and told him about the shutter. He said if I could send him the eBay link, he would order the part.
Listen, I don’t care if my Japanese camera has a Chinese shutter inside. Have you seen the camera equipment in my possession? I’ve got a freakin’ United Nations of photography in my apartment. Cameras from Ukraine and from Germany and from Rochester and from Binghamton. Interchangeable lenses from Russia and from Japan and from South Korea. Film from Austria and from Vietnam and from Canada and from God knows where. And if I can operate a camera that hails from the People’s Republic of Binghamton…
Now I wait. The part had to arrive from China. Then, once Allen got the part, he had to take my Nikon Df apart, remove the broken shutter, install the new shutter, reassemble everything, and test the results.
Oh yeah. That sounds simple. Now describe the infield fly rule.
Last Wednesday, Allen called me. “Hey Chuck.”
“Please tell me you have good news,” I replied.
“We got a problem.”
“I took your camera apart, and I can’t put it back together again.”
Oh, just great.
“Just kidding with you, Chuck, she’s all back together and better than ever.”
Yesterday, I picked up the camera. Allen had it all back together again, he demonstrated a few shots to confirm that yes the camera was functioning up to spec, and he even threw in a free sensor cleaning. “A mechanic shouldn’t put an engine in a car without at least cleaning the engine,” he said.
And THIS is why I trust CameraWorks with my camera repair work. And so should you.
FTC DISCLAIMER: At no time did I receive any discount or additional benefit for mentioning CameraWorks or its services in this blog. This is an unsolicited, unbiased and independent report of using CameraWorks’ services with regard to my camera equipment. I have no material relationship to any brand or person mentioned in this post.
Last week, after photographing the nighttime sky up in the Adirondack Mountains, I came home, popped the SD card into my computer, and – the card crashed. I couldn’t pull any files from the disc. In fact, the only files I was able to retrieve were a few scattered images that my computer automatically uploaded from the chip to my DropBox account.
And one of the salvaged images was a breathtaking shot of the Milky Way nebula, framed by a tree line.
But what about the remaining files on the disc?
Well… apparently Chuck got lucky. I took the disc to another computer, popped the chip in, and although the machine asked if it could format the disc for me (I politely said no thanks), it did at least allow me access to the disc’s directory. I quickly copied all the files onto a DVD. Then I brought the DVD to my Photoshop CS6-loaded computer, and saved the DVD’s contents to my archival directory.
Because in addition to that one shot, I did attempt a panorama shot – eight or nine images along the lakeshore. Not all of the pictures blended properly after I imported them into PhotoShop, but I was able to assemble this four-image capture.
Not bad… but the one image I caught before was better.
Okay, let’s pull this image out of the disc – I tried to photograph the Milky Way along the side of the highway. No cars in sight. Nothing. And then, as I got ready to capture the image in what I hoped would be a nice long exposure…
I hear a car.
Then I see the headlights of the car.
Luckily, I was on the SIDE of the road and not in the MIDDLE of the road… but still…
I decided to let the car’s headlights illuminate my scenery, and…
Yum. I wonder how this would fit in the short pile in 2017. Just a thought…
But I’m still liking the original shot of the Milky Way.
And after much contemplation and thought, I decided to “flip” the original color picture into a B&W construct and enter it in competition in that format. Oh yeah, and it also gets a real name, as in The Heavens Above, The Forest Below.
And in case you’re wondering, I’m definitely entering this in competition. Just haven’t decided where.
Maybe my computer was smarter than I thought. Maybe it knew the one picture that would work amidst the dozens of photos I took on that cloudless, moonless night.
I took a few more photos, then ate some breakfast at a nearby eatery called the Funky Pelican. I asked the server for the local morning cuisine, as I could eat bacon and eggs back home. She recommended I try the shrimp and grits. I’m glad she did.
I went back to the car and swapped cameras – this time pulling the Nimslo for some three-dimensional film photos. Since there were birdies on the beach – mostly they were swiping bait from the fishermen – I waited until I could catch a bird and shoot it.
And you know by “catch” I meant photograph, and by “shoot” I meant photograph. Right?
Oh look, there’s a little black bird on the pier. Stay still, little black bird.
Come on, Nimslo, do your best. Get me a shot of that little black bird.
Got it. Okay, now I need to get this person’s name and have her sign a release form so I can enter this picture in competition season 2017 and …
Oh, crap. She walked away. Dang it. Seven other lifeguards in red swimsuits. No fair.
Oh well. I may not be able to enter this photo in competition without a signed release…
But it still looks nice on the blog.
On Wednesday, I drove to Daytona Beach, checked out Daytona International Speedway – took a tour of the grounds, almost saw Danica Patrick there – and then drove over to the white sands of Daytona Beach. For an additional $10, you can drive on the beach sand, just like the stock car drivers did in the old days – although now you must maintain a 10 mph speed limit, have your lights on (at high noon, no less) and keep one side window open while driving.
I continued forward. Okay, Leica Green, it’s your turn to shine.
Oh look, someone built some sand castles with a little plastic pail. Man, this feels great. I asked the family of sunbathers next to the sandcastles if I could take a photo of the sandy artworks. They said yes, and then handed me an iPhone so they could get in a picture as well.
“That’s a neat old camera you’ve got there,” one of the family members said to me.
“I know,” I smiled. “It is a neat camera, isn’t it?”
Dang, those lifeguards at Daytona Beach are strong, aren’t they? I’d better not joke about if this lifeguard was previously selling shoes and working in a shopping mall… #blottohumor
Back to the car, and this time I brought out the Rolleiflex. Yes, I’m going to shoot with every camera on this trip if I can.
I still wanted to capture some ocean birds in their environment. And unfortunately, these birds were a bit camera shy. Although they did enjoy eating bait from various beachgoers. And by “bait,” I mean Cheetos. No lie. These seagulls and pelicans and whatnot were more than happy to chomp on junk food.
I did get this shot of one bird soaking his little birdie toes in the surf.
Damn that’s so peaceful and serene. And I’m just feeling great. Smiling like I just discovered milk chocolate.
On Thursday, I started to head home, but first I made a pit stop at St. Augustine Beach. I picked up dozens of little beach shells for future projects. I’m always thinking of future projects, I don’t know why…
But now it’s time to bring my Russian ultrawide Krasnogorsk FT-2 camera into the mix. Come on, Raskolnikov, do your duty…
Wow. If I keep getting shots like this, I might stay in Florida and never come home.
A few steps around the beach… I grabbed the Rolleiflex and took a few more photos on the pier itself.
//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsAnd, of course, you know this final photo from my trip. My final photograph, which among all my treasures from this Florida vacation, this is the one that I’m going to enter into competition. I don’t even care that of the seven cameras I brought to this trip, this photo came from my eighth camera.
Yep. I’ve decided that one of my entered photos in Competition Season 2016 will include my BlackBerry PRIV’s camera.
As my annual photography “Competition Season” looms closer, I realize that I have some really awesome photos to pick from this year. Some of them have shown a strong depth and evolution in my photography; others have offered me the chance to take a chance. Fancy chance that.
One of my earlier photos, however, bothered me. I liked it at first… I really did like it… so much so, in fact, that I designated it for a couple of competitions.
And then, as Competition Season loomed, I was bothered by the photo. It didn’t show the colored foliage of the Adirondacks as well as I wanted. And it was hard to tell if the bridge was just spanning a river or a forest.
In other words … I had settled for “just good enough.”
That sound you hear is my high school English teacher, Bonnie Diefendorf, looking down from the skies and yelling at me to step up my game.
I went back to the photo array, and checked my available frames from that shot.
And I realized something.
Between the time I crafted that original photo and today, I had acquired a series of powerful photo software tools called the Google Nik collection. And after previously testing them on other photos…
I wondered what would happen if I used the Google Nik software filters on a picture from this roll.
I found a shot of the train as it was halfway across the bridge. A filter here, a filter there, a little dodging, a little burning, a little boosting…
Holy Delaware and Hudson, Batman…
Just so you have an idea of what I did to this picture… I boosted the color. The Adirondacks in autumn should have vibrant colors. Over on the right, I dodged some of the shadows to bring them out. I cropped out to show the wispy clouds and powerful stones and the blue sweet water.
And with that, I sent this picture – along with two others – to McGreevy Pro Lab to prepare them for one of the competitions.
Yesterday, I received word from McGreevy Pro Lab that the pictures were ready. Great. I’ll stop down and get them.
Normally, McGreevy wraps up my pictures and packs them so that I can’t see the finished product until I get home. This time, however, they had The Saratoga and North Creek Railroad facing outward, so I could see it immediately.
Readers… let me say this. This picture absolutely sparkles. A total winner all around.
And McGreevy even took the time to print up some sample 5×7 folding cards to show how The Saratoga and North Creek Railroad would look as a holiday card or a “special moments and occasions” card. I know it’s an advertising thing, and I understand it – but sweet Lord in holy heaven, this picture looks outstanding!
I guess it just goes to show. You should never settle for “just good enough.” Because if you know you can improve something … then you must make a good attempt to do so. In photos – and in life itself.
Take that with you this Friday. And I hope it spurs you all weekend.