Monthly Archives: December 2010

Goodbye, Kodachrome – we’ll miss you.

Madonna, Child, tulips

Kodachrome slide made in Munich, Germany in May of 1980.

Kodak discontinued the manufacture of Kodachrome slide film in 2009 and yesterday, the last Kodachrome film processing machine in the world (at Dwayne’s Photo in Parson, Kansas) was shut down.  You had to be careful with it – but when well exposed, Kodachrome rewarded us with wonderful, detailed slides that exploded onto projection screens.

Kodachrome is also known for its storage longevity.  I re-scanned one of my Kodachrome slides today to see how well it’s held up since I made it over 30 years ago – quite well, I think.  I don’t have many other things still around that I owned that long ago.  Do you?

Madonna, Child, tulips

Madonna, Child, tulips

©1980, 2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Intro / Description

I apologize for not publishing  a post  last weekend.  We’ve had a very busy week with family and the Christmas holiday.  I’ll try to make up for it today with this Central Florida Photo Op review of Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme park.

Dawn at Hogwarts Castle

Dawn at Hogwarts Castle

Islands of Adventure is right next to Universal Studios and City Walk and is one of the newest theme parks in the Orlando area.  It opened in 1998, and this year (2010), Universal added a new “island” to the park – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  This much awaited addition has been extremely popular and is a must see for Harry Potter fans.

Ollivanders wand shop

Ollivander’s wand shop

The park also has a Port of Entry and 5 other “islands”:   Marvel Super Hero Island; Toon Lagoon; Jurassic Park; The Lost Continent; and Suess Landing.  Depending on your interests these will be more or less appealing to you.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints: The line to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey winds through Hogwarts Castle and has many, many photo ops along the way.  Be prepared so you don’t hold up people or lose your place.  Most of the photo ops are at close range, so use your flash and fire away.

Tripod/Monopod:  I did see one person using a tripod, but I think it’s very impractical.  When you’re inside and need it, you won’t have time or space to use it because you’ll be in a ride queue.  Outside you’ll have plenty of light, and the crowds will make setting up very difficult.  And the less equipment you have to carry on the sometimes cramped rides, the better.

Lenses:  Nothing too extreme is needed – a mid range zoom is enough to capture many fine images at this park. You can use a flash too, so you don’t have to worry too much about fast, heavy lenses.

Best time to visit:  Winter is a great time to visit, since you’ll be blessed with fine Florida weather.  If you time your visit right, you can even see some color in our trees.

Fall colors

Fall colors

Pick a day when no fronts are coming through and you’ll avoid the rain.  If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, you’ll want to research strategies for the best ways to get in quickly to this area – it can get quite jammed with muggles.  We arrived at the park before it opened, made straight for the area and did pretty well.  Other people have had luck avoiding long lines by going late at night just before the park closes.

Muggles crowd in Hogsmeade Village

The muggles crowd in Hogsmeade Village

Other:

Several rides at Islands of Adventure will get you and possibly your photo gear wet.  Take precautions when riding Popey & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Jurassic Park River Adventure.  There are lockers where you can store your gear.  I wasn’t comfortable taking expensive camera gear through wet rides or leaving it in lockers, so I made do with my small Canon S90 which I could protect in my pocket.

The Mythos restaurant in the Lost Continent area is rated very highly and has some of the best  theme park food in the world.  It’s also fairly reasonably priced.  We very much enjoyed our meal.

The Tempura Shrimp Sushi appetizer at  Mythos Restaurant

Tempura Shrimp Sushi appetizer

Summary

You can click on any of the photos above to go to Flickr, where you can see a larger version.  The link to the rest of my Islands of Adventure photos is right below.  You can look at all of the photos from our Christmas holidays in this Flickr set.  Thanks for stopping by.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157625691192000/
Website: http://www.universalorlando.com/Amusement_Parks/Islands_of_Adventure/islands_of_adventure.aspx
Address / Phone: Parking Garage:

6000 Universal Boulevard

Orlando, FL 32819

Main Number: 407-363-8000

Longitude: -81.46228

Latitude: 28.47399

View in Google Maps

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Harry Potter fans can’t go wrong in this point and shoot paradise.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

My Favorite Photos of 2010

I hope that all of you and your families and friends are having a joyful and happy holiday season!

The weather has been pretty gloomy here this weekend, so I didn’t get a chance to go out and make any new photos. I thought it would be a good time to jump the gun and put together my second annual “Favorite photos of the year” post.

One again, I’ve gone through the photos I made in the last 12 months. I use Lightroom to rate them from 0 through 5 stars. My rating system definitions are:

  • 1 star – The photo is interesting
  • 2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others
  • 3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot
  • 4 stars – My favorite photo of a year
  • 5 stars – My favorite photo (ever)

Photos without stars are seconds or not so good versions of other photos. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. I’ve used this system consistently, and it seems to work for me. Of course, this is all subjective and my opinion only. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve chosen.

Again in 2010, I was really blessed with a huge number of photo opportunities. On my hard drive in my 2010 folder, I have about 11,700 files (not all are photos), taking up 145GB of space. Of these:

  • 5997 of the 2010 images have been cataloged in Lightroom. Many of the rest are source images for multi-shot panoramas or HDRs, or high rate bursts that I selected from.
  • 1139 are rated 1 star or higher
  • 639 are 2 star or higher
  • 88 are 3 star or higher
  • 1 is 4 star, and
  • None are 5 star (I’m still not done taking photos yet!)

Of the 88 that are 3 star or higher, I’ve selected 10 images to include in a gallery of my favorite 2010 photos. You can click on each of these to go to Flickr, where you can see a larger version. One interesting difference from my 2009  Favorite Photos post is that all the ones this year were made in the Central Florida area.

So, here we go…

My #10 favorite 2010 photo is: Waving Gator. Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving! No, I didn’t Photoshop the wave. The gator really did it all by itself. I have witnesses.

Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving!

My #9 favorite 2010 photo is: Roadside Flowers. Wildflower photography is a little different in Central Florida than some other areas of the country. Some might say it’s more challenging here, and I doubt anyone comes to Central Florida specifically to photograph wildflowers. None the less, wildflower photo ops are around here too if you keep your eyes open. These are along the Florida Turnpike. I saw them while driving home from Gainesville, Florida and just had to stop and photograph them.

Roadside flowers (IMG_0713)

My #8 favorite 2010 photo is: Cattle Egret in Flight. For once, I was ready when this bird flew close by. Right lens, correct camera settings, and paying attention. I could almost feel my camera nail the shot. I wish I felt like that more often.

Cattle Egret in flight

My #7 favorite 2010 photo is: One Second Koi or “One second, Koi” or “One second Koi?” I don’t usually make this sort of photo. On this occasion, I decided to experiment and I was very pleased with how it turned out.

One Second Koi

My #6 favorite 2010 photo is: Sunrise, fog, palms, pond. This scene is close to the north-west shore of Lake Jessup. On this particular morning, the mist in the distance and the clouds on the horizon shaping the sunlight drew my attention.

Sunrise, fog, palms, pond

My #5 favorite 2010 photo is: Burning waters @ Orlando Wetlands. We were at Orlando Wetlands Park back in late September before dawn. It was raining very softly, but not enough to discourage us from hiking out to Lake Searcy and capturing this scene. I like the light hitting the flowers on the left, the rain cloud in the distance, and the dawn colors in the sky.

Burning waters @ Orlando Wetlands

My #4 favorite 2010 photo is: Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three.

We have a local camera club and three of us decided to go over to the beach to try to photograph the Perseid meteor shower. My two friends went out on the beach while I stayed up on the boardwalk. At one point I looked down and could barely make out this scene in the dark. I like the way the camera’s LCD is lit up and draws the viewer’s eye to the two photographers. I also like how the three strangers (who were watching for meteors) look like they’re watching my friends.

I was using ISO 1600 and my “nifty 50” 50mm lens at f/1.8 to keep exposures as short as possible (I was trying to prevent the stars from trailing), and I had focused manually at infinity. All I had to do was switch on live-view, re-compose, and zoom in on my friend’s white shirt to manually re-focus. Fortunately no one moved very much during the 4 second exposure. It’s really amazing how modern cameras can capture scenes that are barely visible to our eyes! And yes, we did get a few meteor photos. (Grasshopper and Donuts are nicknames for the two photographers in the scene).

Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three.

My #3 favorite 2010 photo is: Cyprus tree and knees. I wanted to try the Nikon D7000 on some landscape photos, but didn’t really have time to go anywhere special. This tree is very close to my home – along the shore of Lake Jessup in Central Winds Park. Cypress trees make very good photo subjects since they can provide both near and middle distance content for a scene.

Cyprus tree and knees

My #2 favorite 2010 photo is: Cormorant at the Circle Bar B. These birds have been posing for me lately. I think it’s amazing how pretty they look in the right light.

Cormorant

And … my #1 favorite photo of the year 2010 is: Ponce Inlet light, sunset, bird. Imagine if you will, a perfect dusk scene with sunset colors drifting up from beyond the horizon. In the distance is a photogenic lighthouse that’s illuminated just enough to make it stand out against the bright sky. Beneath your feet, slow-moving Atlantic Ocean surf rolls up on rocks. You spot a bird in the surf and hope it will be still while your shutter remains open for the seconds necessary to record the image as your mind’s eye sees it – tack sharp from foreground rocks all the way to the distant lighthouse, with silky smooth water reflecting the dusk sky. Imagine coming home and seeing the image that you imagined right there on your computer screen in all it’s glory. That’s what happened to me last August.

Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird

I’ve uploaded these photos to this Flickr set, and you can click this link to watch a slide show. When you watch the show, you might want to click the “show info” link.

Thanks for looking.

All content ©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Correcting blur with Topaz InFocus

Introduction

Topaz Labs recently introduced their InFocus plug-in to refine detail, increase clarity, and rescue blurred images.  It uses deconvolution and micro texture in addition to the more common unsharp mask algorithm.  If you go to the Topaz website, you can  read much more about this and their other plug-ins, download the manual as well as a free 30 day trial, and also examine some very impressive examples of this software at work.

So, how well does the plug-in actually work with a real world example?  I decided to give it a try.  I selected a photo of a hawk that I made recently.  You can see the full image here on Flickr.  I was happy with the original photo and most of it is sharp, but the bird’s feet are blurred – I think it was shifting positions when I made the photo.

Here’s a crop showing the appearance before I used Topaz InFocus:

A portion of the image showing the hawk's blurry feet.

And this second crop shows the improvement after processing with InFocus:

The same portion of the image, showing the improvement after processing with InFocus

Conclusions and recommendations

InFocus helped me remove a great deal of the blur in this photo.  The improvement is good, but not perfect and not quite as dramatic as some of the samples on the Topaz site.  It’s very possible that a more experienced / knowledgeable user could do more with this image.  I’ll be looking for other examples to try it on and  re-reading the manual / watching the tutorial videos to make sure I know how best to use it.

One thing I did notice while playing with the software:   The InFocus settings needed to de-blur the hawk’s feet couldn’t be applied to the whole photo without introducing artifacts.  I ran a duplicate layer through InFocus and then selectively painted it onto the bird’s feet in Photoshop.  You  may need to do this too to get the best results.

Should you get a copy of this software? Well I bought one.  It seems to work better at de-blurring than I’ve ever been able to do with Photoshop’s built in tools.  It’s also quite handy for capture sharpening, even when a photo isn’t obviously blurry.

If you do buy it, spend the time to learn it so you can get good results.  You can find the manual and tutorials here.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Return to Seaworld

We went to Seaworld again at the invitation of the United Way group here in Orlando.  They very graciously organize the visit each year to thank people that contribute to the charity.  We almost didn’t go due to the weather.

The harbor area at Seaworld
The harbor area at Seaworld

There was a cold front coming through with a strong line of showers ahead of it. When we got out of bed, it was north of us but moving south fast. We decided we’d go anyway and timed our arrival for just after the rain came through. The park wasn’t very crowded. I think the weather discouraged many people from going.  As you can see above, it cleared up nicely.

We’re not into roller coasters any more so we didn’t do many of the rides and spent most of our time just walking. I practiced with the D7000 and a wide angle lens. The photo above was made at an 8mm focal length – it’s a challenge to frame a scene with an 8mm lens and not have everything tilt in from the edges.

Here’s a couple more from yesterday.

Wood Duck - Aix sponsa
Wood Duck

Demoiselle Crane - Anthropoides virgo
Demoiselle Crane

Seaworld is a pleasant place for a walk and offers a number of different photo opportunities. You can see other photos I’ve made at Seaworld in this set on Flickr.

You can read other posts I’ve written about Seaworld here: 2007, here: 2008, and here:  2009.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.