Computational Photography at KSC

You may know that I’m very interested in computational photography (image capture and processing techniques that use computer processing instead of / or in addition to optical processes). My last post on this was about a year ago (https://edrosack.com/2017/11/26/more-computational-photography/), and things are still changing very fast!

Lynn and I went over to Kennedy Space Center a few weeks ago with MaryKate and our nephew Ted.  I thought I’d try out the new iPhone XS and use some of the resulting photos as examples to discuss updated capabilities.  So this post isn’t really about KSC – if you’re not interested in computational photography, feel free to just look at the photos or go on to something else.  Or if you’d like to see some other posts about KSC, please look at the links   on this search page:  https://edrosack.com/?s=Kennedy+space+center.

Mercury-Atlas rocketMercury-Atlas rocket: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 when he launched in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft on an Atlas rocket.  Smart HDR  mode, ISO 25, f/1.8, 1/22000 sec

In this first photo, I deliberately shot into the sun.   I wanted to see how it handles very high contrast situations.  I have the camera’s “Smart HDR” mode enabled in settings and I used the Lightroom CC iPhone app to shoot in RAW mode.  The file it generates is a .dng file that includes the Smart HDR processing.  I waited for the photos to sync to my desktop computer and processed them there.  I think the colors and exposure in both the sky and shadows look excellent.  I’m amazed that even the writing on the capsule in the shadows looks good.

Here’s another example that shows the amount of flexibility and recoverable detail that’s present in these RAW files.  This next image is the default capture with no editing.  You can see that with even with Smart HDR on, the extreme contrast causes loss of detail in the highlights and shadows.

This next one is the same image after editing the RAW file – there’s much more of the scene visible in this version.  In situations such as this, the secret is to shoot and process RAW files!

Here’s what Apple says about Smart HDR:

Leveraging multiple technologies — like faster sensors, an enhanced ISP, and advanced algorithms — Smart HDR brings more highlight and shadow detail to your photos.” Apple

I’d say it does that!

I’d also like to comment on the enhanced bokeh effects (blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image) and adjustable depth of field.  DPReview has a good article comparing iPhone bokeh to a high end portrait lens.  You can read the article yourself, but the bottom line is it compares very favorably.  And these capabilities aren’t just for people portraits.  Some examples:

Atlantis shuttle rear viewAtlantis shuttle rear view.  iPhone XS rear camera, Portrait mode, ISO 640, f/2.4, 1/30 sec

Shuttle robot arm close upShuttle robot arm close up.  iPhone XS rear camera, Portrait mode, ISO 640, f/2.4, 1/30 sec

In these images, I adjusted the simulated aperture after the images were taken to focus viewers’ eyes on the subjects.  It’s very easy to vary the amount of blur in the background to get the effect I wanted.  I’ve also used the “portrait mode” for actual portraits, and while it’s improved from earlier versions, you can still see issues if you look for them.  For example, the depth map and processing has occasional (but fewer?) problems with stray hair around faces (blurs them when they should be sharp).

I use an iPhone, but Android users also benefit from developments in computational photography.   For instance the Pixel 3 phone has a “Night Sight” feature that is reportedly amazing.  See this article for details:  https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/14/google-pixel-night-sight-launch-sample-photos-comparison/

I hope Apple can add a similar algorithm!

Should you give away your non-phone cameras?  No, not yet.  Phones are still at a disadvantage in some ways:  Lens selection and sensor size are two important ones.  And the interfaces on dedicated cameras are better and allow quicker control.  But in some (many?) cases, your phone is an excellent photo (and video!) tool.  And they’re going to get better.  Just make sure you’re up to date on how to use the latest functions.

You can read more about this at the Apple iPhone XS Camera specifications web page.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

You Otter Visit Homer, AK

Editors note: Today we have an update from our roving correspondent MaryKate. This post features some new friends she made on her Alaska visit back in September – enjoy!


I wrote a post awhile back about my Labor Day trip to Alaska and the majestic Orcas we observed in Seward with Seward Ocean Excursions.  But there was so much amazing wildlife on the other stops of our trip that it deserves another post.

After Seward, we drove three hours down to Homer.  I was excited to visit Homer since I’ve only been there once, and it was so foggy that I didn’t really get to “see” Homer.  This time though, our weather was simply beautiful!

Homer, AK Panoramic View

iPhone Panoramic View from our Rental (Homer Spit is in the distance to the left) 

While in Homer, we ferried from Homer down to Seldovia on a 7 hour Seldovia Wildlife Tour aboard Rainbow Tours.  While it was towards the end of the tourist season in Seldovia, it was worth the trip just for the wildlife and views from the ferry, and there were plenty of photography opportunities.

Sea Otter in Kelp

Sea Otter in Kelp

My favorite photo from the trip was this Sea Otter in Kelp.  Sea otters sometimes wrap themselves in kelp like this to anchor themselves and relax a little.  While sea otters are very common in Alaska, and friendly enough that they make great photography subjects, I thought that the composition of this shot made for an especially interesting photo.  If you click-through to the Flickr album, you can see the progression of the sea otter unwinding himself from the kelp to swim away.

Sea Otter Floating AwaySea Otter Floating Away

When we were almost back to Homer, we saw a raft of otters.  I’d seen several of these on our trip, but all were too far away to photograph, so I was glad to catch these guys.

Raft of Otters

Raft of Otters

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog post.  Now – go be amazed by wildlife and you otter make some photos!

©2018, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Orlando Balloon Glow

The Orlando Balloon Glow was last weekend in Baldwin Park.  Thanks Kevin M. for telling me about it!  Lynn and I had never been to anything like this.  It was fascinating to see the process – especially at dusk, and it made for a compelling photo op.

The action took place in a large field in Blue Jacket Park, which can accommodate a big crowd with good viewing for everyone.  It started around sundown when air blowers began inflating the balloons.  Scout the layout so you can catch some of the activity in good light or against the sunset.

Dusk inflationDusk inflation.  iPhone XS back camera, 4.25mm, 1/200 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 32

Once they’re partially inflated, propane burners light up and provide heat needed to make the balloons float in the air.

Hot AirHot Air.  Olympus E-M1 MII, 40mm, 1/10 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 500

The light is challenging.  There’s very high contrast with bright flames against dark surroundings.   You’ll need to balance aperture and shutter speed with ISO and image stabilization to eliminate motion blur and get sharp, well exposed images.  I’ve added my setting info to these photos to give you an idea of how I shot them.  These were all made hand-held.  If you don’t have image stabilization, you’ll probably need a tripod.

Heating upHeating up. Olympus E-M1 MII, 40mm, 1/10 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 500

The balloons strain against their tie downs and then rise into a blue hour sky.

Blue hour balloonsBlue hour balloons. Olympus Pen F, 17mm, 1/3 sec @f/1.8, ISO 500

Once they’re ready, you can purchase tethered rides on some of the balloons.  The event also features Orlando area food trucks, a retail village and activities for kids.  We splurged for paid parking and were glad we did, since space was tight for all the cars.

And one warning:  There were a lot of ant hills in the field, so be careful where you step – especially after dark.  You may want to wear closed shoes instead of our typical Florida flip-flops.  Just sayin’.

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel (it may be pay walled), organizers hope to bring a full-scale balloon festival to Orlando in 2019.  I’ll be watching for that!  I have a few more images here on Flickr in this album:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157703724477924

This was a very colorful, unique, and interesting Central Florida Photo Op.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

News Flash!

The Pacific Whale Foundation is holding a charity auction ending very soon on Monday, November 11, 2018.  They have over 100 donated items up for bid (at this link).

As readers of the Central Florida Photo Ops blog, you might recognize two of the items. MK and I have each contributed one of our whale photos as an 11×14 inch modern metal print with float mount from mpix.

MK’s photo was featured on the blog in February 2018 ( https://edrosack.com/2018/02/24/majestic-maui-migration/).

Humpback Whale Spy Hopping

Humpback Whale “Spy Hopping”

You can see the auction listing at this link:  https://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/item-detail.cfm?auctionID=3324&ItemID=606667&viewType=1&style=46&font=1&catName=Art

My photo is from way back in September of 2009 (https://edrosack.com/2009/09/20/north-to-alaska-ch-1-intro-and-wildlife/).

Breaching humpback whale near JuneauBreaching humpback whale near Juneau

And you can see this auction here:  https://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/item-detail.cfm?auctionID=3324&ItemID=606672&viewType=1&style=46&font=1&catName=Art

Pacific Whale Foundation is a 501(c)(3) IRS tax-exempt charitable organization dedicated to protecting our oceans through science and advocacy.  MK and I both strongly believe it deserves our support.  If you get a chance, please check out the auctions and consider bidding on these two prints to help out this worthy cause!

Thank you!!!

©2018, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Veterans Day 2018

Lynn and I were able to visit Gettysburg for a short time on our way home from  Pennsylvania last July.  It was a bright and sunny day, but you can’t help but feel somber  thinking about what occurred there.  Over a brutal three-day battle, the two sides suffered more than 46,000 casualties and it’s said Gettysburg marked the turning point of the Civil War.

Field of battleThis field of battle is quiet now.  Near the site of Lincoln’s address, Gettysburg National Military Park

Shortly after the battle, Abraham Lincoln delivered the  Gettysburg Address.  His closing words are especially appropriate on Veterans Day and every day:

"... that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Every year in the United States, we pause on the 11th of November to honor the service and sacrifice of all men and women who answer the call. To our veterans and to those serving today – you have our deepest gratitude. We honor you for your service and sacrifices.

Gettysburg“Army of the Potomac, Second Corps, Artillery Brigade, Battery I First U.S. Artillery”

Especially in today’s world, those who choose to volunteer for the military endure long periods far from home and loved ones.  They live in conditions without the comforts that we take for granted.  They face danger and conquer fear to protect our freedom and way of life.  In far too many cases, they give their all – sacrificing life and limb.  We owe them.

Some previous Veterans Day related posts:

Thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go out and thank a veteran!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

St. Petersburg, Florida

Lynn and I recently spent a pleasant couple of days over in St. Petersburg.  Here are a few photos and some background info.

Dali Museum:

I’m a long time fan of  Clyde Butcher and wanted to visit his “Visions of Dali’s Spain” exhibit at the Salvador Dali Museum.  I enjoyed viewing his very large black and white prints up close and the juxtaposition with Dali’s work was fascinating.  If you can’t make it over there, you can view the photos, watch a video about it, and learn more at this link:  https://clydebutcher.com/pc/photographs/dalis-spain/.

Dali Museum InteriorSalvidor Dali Museum Interior

He used a digital camera for this project instead of his normal large format film approach, and I thought it was interesting that the results are so similar.  If he hadn’t explained this in the video, I wouldn’t have suspected he didn’t use film.

Chihuly Collection:

Lynn mentioned wanting to visit the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center.  I’d heard of Dale Chihuly and his blown glass art work before, but I’d only ever seen a piece or two in isolation.  This is a different and much better experience.

Float Boat, 2007Float Boat, 2007

The artwork itself is exquisite with amazing form and color.  Seeing it in this setting, where it’s been professionally arranged and lighted was amazing!

Ivory Basket with Oxblood Spots, 1977Ivory Basket with Oxblood Spots, 1977

Glasswork can be very difficult to photograph.  The illumination has to show the form without reflecting hotspots and obscuring details with shadows.  In all cases, this lighting was perfect and the shadows enhanced the view and revealed even more details.  I think photographers can learn quite a bit studying these displays.

Morean White Seaform Set, 2010Morean White Seaform Set, 2010

I really enjoyed seeing this. If you get a chance, go.

Waterfront:

I managed to get up for sunrise one morning while we were there.  I debated driving down to Fort Desoto, but ended up taking the easy way out and explored the nearby waterfront instead.

St. Petersburg North Yacht BasinSt. Petersburg North Yacht Basin

There’s construction in the area, so I picked viewpoints to hide that.  I liked the view above of the north basin at dawn.  And the mid-day reflections and clouds  in this next one caught my eye too.

St. Petersburg Central Yacht BasinSt. Petersburg Central Yacht Basin

It was a short, but lovely visit.  You can view more photos from our trip in this album on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Cocoa and Merritt Island – 20 Oct 2018

I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last weekend with Kevin K. and Kevin M.  On the way, we stopped by the Cocoa Beach Pier for sunrise.

Anticipation Anticipation – two surfers waiting for waves at dawn

This year, Florida red tide’s been found in many spots along both the gulf and Atlantic coasts.   Normally, it’s a Gulf coast phenomenon and I don’t remember a year when it spread so far up our east coast.  We’d heard reports of red tide and fish kills reaching Brevard County and Cocoa, so we were concerned about conditions at the pier.  But when we were there the red tide wasn’t noticeable.

Neath the pierNeath the pier

Next, we grabbed some breakfast and then headed up to MINWR for a quick pass through Black Point Wildlife Drive.  Conditions in the refuge have been pretty quiet this summer and we wanted to see how the bird population is doing.  There still aren’t a lot of birds around, but the variety is improving.  We saw the usual wading birds, Redish Egrets, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Blue Wing Teals, Osprey, Belted Kingfishers, a Sora, and a Merlin.

Merlin in flightMerlin in flight

While I was getting out of the car so I could get (it turns out) a not so good image of the Sora, a water snake swam right in front of it.  I didn’t even get to see the snake, much less photograph it by the bird.  Luckily, Kevin K. did – you can view his photo here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/34024553@N08/45404193252/in/dateposted/

Jim Boland is also seeing quite a bit of bird activity in MINWR.  He’s photographed a Peregrine Falcon, Merlins, Ospreys, Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and even Snail Kites along Playalinda Beach Road in recent weeks.

The cooler weather that’s finally arrived in Central Florida makes being outside and photographing more pleasant.  And it should bring even more bird species to our area to enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

What’s that in the back yard?

I was sitting in the family room on Friday afternoon when Lynn came in, saw these  birds behind our house, and asked me what they were.  If she hadn’t asked, I never would have noticed them.  Maybe my chair should face the window instead of the TV?

I quickly grabbed my camera and took a few shots through the window and screen and then went out on the other side of the house to get this unobstructed view.  I’m glad my birding lens was still mounted!

What're those birds in the back yard?Black-bellied whistling duck family.  There’s another adult and one more juvenile out of the frame to the right.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are common here in Central Florida year round, although I’ve never seen them in our neighborhood before.  They were previously known as the “Black-bellied Tree Duck”  since they’re often found roosting and nesting in trees.  They’re monogamous, which is unusual in ducks.  Also unusual is their high-pitched whistling call which you’ll remember the first time you hear it.

After adding a few minutes of excitement to our afternoon, this family strolled on down the street and disappeared.  I was glad they stopped by – maybe we’ll spot them again.

Thanks Lynn for asking about them and thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

It’s about time

How much time did it take to make the image you see here?  That’s an interesting  question – I’m glad you asked!

Short answer: 1.3 seconds.  Medium answer:  5 months.  Long answer:  13.8 billion years.

Rocks, water, light - and time - in black and whiteRocks, water, light and time – in black and white

To begin with:

  • Preparing for a photo trip and gathering what you need before you leave takes time.
  • Traveling to a location and back can be minutes or days – you have to decide whether the potential photos at a location are worth the time to go.  Or just go anyway and explore!
  • Once there, you sometimes see a spot off the path or a little further on and you have to decide if that image is worth the time and effort to get to.
  • Then for each photo, it takes time to set up for an image (tripod, lens selection, etc.) and you often have to wait for conditions or subjects to cooperate.

Only after all that do you get to decide on a shutter speed to control how long your exposure is  – in this example, 1.3 seconds.

Then, when you get home:

  • It takes time to go through all your photos, decide which ones are worthy of attention and process them.
  • You also have to spend time posting images and writing about them.

I made this image 5 months ago at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia and you’re just now seeing it.  And even before all that could happen:

And even before all that can happen:

  • The universe (starting ~13.8 billion years ago) and solar system (~4.6 billion years ago) had to form.
  • Life (3.5 billion years?) and humans (~2.5 million years) had to evolve.
  • Geology had to happen: Mountains had to rise up and erosion had to form rivers, and forests had to grow.
  • And civilization and culture had to progress to the point where leisure time is available to make photos for the fun of it and people have time to read blogs about them.

“Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.”  – Wikipedia

Each of us only has so much time and we have to decide how to spend it.  Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Viera Wetlands – 10/3/2018

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Viera Wetlands.  I had time last Wednesday, so I packed my camera gear and set out at “o-dark-thirty” to give my shutter finger some exercise.

My first stop was Rotary Park, on the Indian River in Melbourne.  It’s small, but I like it because it’s open before dawn and the cochina rock formations near the shore by the pavilion can add interest in the foreground.  Nature cooperated and painted in a superb sky.

Good morningGood morning

Next, I headed over to Viera Wetlands.  There were quite a few things to see and photograph.

Green Heron still lifeGreen Heron still life

Sora and snail snackSora with a snail snack

GrackleGrackle in good light

Dragonfly in flightDragonfly in flight

The roads through the wetlands have been closed for a while because of all the rain we’ve had here in Central Florida.  They’re open now, but in rough shape – lots of potholes to dodge as you drive through.

Speaking of all the rain we’ve had, I checked on the Lake Jesop Wilderness Area sunflowers again yesterday, and they’re very, very sparse this year.  There are a few clumps of flowers on higher ground, but the grand fields of blooms are missing.  The water’s still high and large areas are  still flooded.   Maybe next year.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved