Category Archives: Georgia

More Computational Photography

As an Electrical Engineer and a long time photographer, I’ve been interested in computational photography for a while.  You can read some of my  earlier posts on the subject at this link. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

…”digital image capture and processing techniques that use digital computation instead of optical processes.”

I’d change this slightly from”instead of” to “instead of or in addition to”, but that’s a small quibble.

Moore’s law keeps driving the computing capabilities in phones and cameras ever higher and it’s fascinating to see what companies do with the extra potential.

Towalga River below High FallsTowalga River below High Falls, Georgia. Composite – iPhone default live view and Long Exposure, merged in Photoshop

I made the image above on our recent trip using an iPhone 8+ and Apple’s “Live Photo” mode. After I made the photo, I edited it on the phone and enabled the “Long Exposure” effect. The Long Exposure effect of blurring the moving water is computed from ~3 seconds worth of frames that Live Photo captures.  This is Apple’s web page explaining the feature.  Here’s what it looked like before I changed the mode – it’s not nearly as photogenic:

Towalga River below High FallsDefault iPhone live view

Until iOS 11 added this feature, I wasn’t too interested in Live Photos.  Now, I’m watching for places to use it. You can get a better image with your high-end camera and traditional optical techniques, but this is easier and a lot of fun to play with.

Here are some hints:

  • Pick a suitable subject:  moving water, traffic on a road, blurring people in a crowd, etc.
  • Motion blur with a traditional optical approach requires a slow shutter speed – either low light or using filters.  Since computational methods works by processing multiple frames, you can use it in bright light without filters.
  • Apple says it works on their newer phones (6+ and later).  You’ll need to have iOS 11 (or later) installed.
  • The Long Exposure effect has to align Individual frames and then crop where there’s no overlap so you’ll lose pixels around the edges.  Ideally, use a tripod – but that sort of defeats the idea of pulling your phone out of your pocket, doesn’t it?  Just hold the phone as steady as you can to minimize cropping.
  • Make several exposures and pick the best one later.
  • Long Exposure resolution seems to be lower than default iPhone photos.  This isn’t a huge problem for the moving parts of the frame – they’re supposed to be blurry.  For the static portions, you can load both versions into layers in Photoshop and use masking to paint in higher resolution where you want it.  I did this for the first photo above.
  • You can set a Long Exposure photo as your wallpaper.  You’ll see the static Long Exposure version until you press on it from the lock screen.  Then it changes to show the three-second animation – cool!

I hope Apple enhances this in future updates.  It’d be good to have some control over the blur effect.  3 seconds is nice, but some subjects will look better with less (or more?).

iOS 11 includes other updated computation photo capabilities (e.g. portrait lighting) – but that’s a subject for another day.

Photography’s changing fast – it’s a wonderful time to be a photographer, isn’t it?  In today’s digital world, many advances are likely to be computational and not optical.  Keep up – don’t be left behind!

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Indian Springs State Park, Georgia

Indian Springs is about six hours by car from Central Florida.  It’s east of I-75 between Macon and Atlanta and well worth the drive.  Lynn discovered they have cabins and suggested that we go up for a few days to see if any leaves are changing.  They definitely are!

ColorColor

I think peak color will be in a week or so. We get very little fall color in Florida – so it was a treat to see.

The cabins are nice – some of the best we’ve stayed in.  They must have been refurbished not long ago.  They have two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, a screened porch, and are fully furnished.  And the location  on a gorgeous lake was wonderful. This was the view just a few steps from the back porch:

Good morningGood morning (three Frame vertical panorama)

There were other things to see in the park too.  This creek runs along the road by the entrance.

Big Sandy CreekBig Sandy Creek  (using the new iPhone “Live Long Exposure” mode)

And we spotted this cemetery from the 1800s along the road to the cabins.

At rest in the woodAt rest in the wood (Infrared)

We saw a few deer and although I didn’t put much effort in, several kinds of birds.  We had some fun watching (and listening) to Canada Geese on the lake.  I managed to make this video one morning around sunrise.  The flock took off just as the sun started to hit the lake.

There are several other places to see in the area.  High Falls State Park is just to the east and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is to the west.  We’ve explored several state parks in Florida, but after this experience, we’re going to expand our target zone!  And Indian Springs is definitely on our “go back” list.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Jacksonville Jaunt

Although there’s no official definition, Wikipedia’s article about Central Florida (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Florida) says Jacksonville is outside the region. I also consider it to be outside the region – it’s such a long drive and I seldom go up there. But there are a great many photo ops around the city and it’s well worth exploring.

Which is what MK, Lynn, and I did last weekend.  And it was a great weekend for a day trip to national parks and monuments since August 25, 2016 was the 100th anniversary of the National Park System.

Our first stop (other than breakfast!) was at the Fort Caroline National Memorial, which was one of the first French settlements in America (around 1562).  The rangers were setting up to serve National Park birthday cake when we were there.  The rain started coming down pretty hard and I’m trying to control calories, so we moved on.

Fort Caroline rampart Fort Caroline rampart. Along the St. Johns river near Jacksonville, Florida.

I haven’t used my infrared camera for a while and brought it along this time.  Most of the photos I liked best from this trip were IR.  Kingsley Plantation is a well preserved / restored example of pre-Civil War Florida homesteads.  Zephaniah Kingsley moved there in 1814.  The site does a good job describing life during those times, including the use of slave labor to produce cotton, citrus, sugar cane, and corn.  Tours inside the plantation house are by reservation only and were full so we’ll have to see that next time.

Kingsley Plantation - main house Kingsley Plantation – main house. 5 frame infrared panorama

On the way up to Cumberland Island National Seashore, Lynn discovered Amelia Island Light in Fernandina Beach.  We managed to find it in the middle of a neighborhood after a wrong turn or two.  I’m glad we went by – I thought the vultures flying around the structure were photogenic.  I’m also glad I could add it to my collection of Florida lighthouse photos.

A kettle of vultures around Amelia Island Light A Kettle of vultures around Amelia Island Light. I combined birds from several infrared exposures to capture as many of the birds as possible in my image.

You get to Cumberland National Seashore via ferry from Saint Marys, Georgia.  The ferry’s also by reservation and runs only twice a day, so if you want to spend time on Cumberland Island, plan in advance.  I wandered down the street while MK and Lynn finished in the gift shop and found this interesting old building.

An old building on the street in St. Marys Georgia An old building  in St. Marys, Georgia, across from the ferry dock. Single infrared exposure.

This was a long drive from Winter Springs, but well worth it.  We have lots of ideas for where to go back and spend more time.

If you’re interested, here’s one other blog post that includes photos from near Jacksonville (Little Talbot Island State Park).  And here’s a folder where I’m collecting images from that area.  Coincidentally, they’re mostly infrared.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Georgia vacation report

Lynn and I spent a week in Georgia this month.  She had a school reunion and we wanted to visit the north Georgia mountains for a few days beforehand.  We have fond memories of weekend hikes along the Appalachian Trail when we were in college.  I can report that the area is just as pretty as I remember, but the trails seem a lot steeper now.

We stayed in a cabin at the Enota Mountain Retreat, between Helen and Hiawassee.  This was only a few miles from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.  The Cherokee people called this mountain Enotah.

Brasstown Bald is in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and there’s a small entrance fee at the parking area, but if you have a National Park Service Senior Pass, you can use that.  The 0.6 mile paved trail from the parking area to the top is very steep, although a bus runs between 10am and 5pm.  We arrived after 5 on our first day – it was well worth the hike to the top.  The spectacular 360 degree view was the best one we saw.

The view from Brasstown Bald
The view from Brasstown Bald – This is the highest point in the state of Georgia (4,784 feet). 5 frame infrared panorama, B&W.

Compare that to a very similar view from an un-modified camera to see how the infrared sensor helps cuts through the haze.

The view from Brasstown Bald
Color view from Brasstown Bald – Looking a bit to the right of the IR version. Also a 5 frame panorama, 

Good vistas don’t seem as common here as they are for instance in the Rockies.  The small roads have places to pull over, but the view is often blocked by trees.  Which makes the outlook from Brasstown Bald exceptional.

North Georgia also has a huge number of waterfalls – but some are more difficult to find, get to, and see clearly than others.  There are four on the Enota Resort grounds.  The trail to this one was steep and muddy in spots and led up along the side of a ravine to this spot  across from the falls.  We couldn’t find a viewpoint with a clear view through the trees, although there were other paths that we didn’t have time (or energy) to try.

Hidden falls
Hidden falls – Along a trail inside the Enota campground.  ISO 200, f/8, 0.6 sec.

We did visit other waterfalls that are easier to get to and see.  There’s even a pull off just outside Vogel State Park where we could view a large waterfall from the road (no hike!).  Anna Ruby Falls is on federal land inside Unicoi State park near Helen.  The paved path to the falls is about 1/2 mile long and not too difficult with resting places along the way.  We also visited Amicolola Falls near Dahlonaga after our wonderful lunch at the Smith House Restaurant.  This falls also has a relatively short and easier paved path to a wonderful open view.  But the hike might be even easier when your stomach isn’t so full!

Amicolola Falls
Amicolola Falls – Near Dahlonega, Georgia.  ISO 100, f/16, 0.1 second.

I used a variety of shutter speeds on the waterfalls and I think 1/10 to 1/2 is the range to play in to make the water look best. Unless you find a pool of swirling water – where a longer exposure might be better.  Try different shutter speeds while you’re there so you can pick the best result when you get home.  Most of the time I could get my shutter speed in range by adjusting ISO and aperture.  I did have a variable neutral density filter with me that I used a couple of times – it was handy when the sun was out.  Most of the time it was cloudy enough so that I didn’t have to worry about using the filter or fight the extreme contrast of sun shining on white water.

As far as wildlife goes, we didn’t spend a lot of effort looking and we didn’t see many animals.  I was able to photograph one new life bird:  a Louisiana Waterthrush.  Lynn found it foraging on the ground outside (while we did the laundry!).

After our time in North Georgia, we headed to Atlanta for the reunion.  For various reasons, my photo ops there were limited, but we did have a nice vantage point from our hotel room.

Incoming storm
Incoming Storm – Atlanta.  During a long exposure needed to capture this ominous cloud rolling in, I also caught a flash of lightning.

One place I’ve heard great things about but didn’t get to visit is the Georgia aquarium.  I’ll have to save it for next time.

All in all, an exceptional, relaxing, and photogenic trip which we both thoroughly enjoyed.  These and other Georgia photos are in this  album  on Flickr, where you can view larger versions. Also, if you haven’t seen last week’s post about the Narcosee Indian Mound, please take a look at that.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Ceremonial Cherokee Indian mound

The Nacoochee Indian mound is just outside Helen, Georgia.  Lynn and I were up there on vacation last week and happened to find it on our way out-of-town.  Of course, I had to pull over for a photo.

I like the setting, the look of the mound, and the hills and clouds beyond it.  It seems very spiritual to me.

Nacoochee Cherokee Indian ceremonial mound, just outside Helen, Georgia
Nacoochee Cherokee Indian ceremonial mound, just outside Helen, Georgia – This was the center of the Cherokee town of Gauxule, visited by DeSoto in 1540 while searching for gold. The mound is 190 feet long by 150 foot wide by 20 feet high. Research beginning in 1915 showed that the Cherokee people buried their ancestors on this spot and lived on the land around it.

My grandparents on my mother’s side both lived in North Carolina and Georgia and had some Cherokee blood in their background.  I wonder if any of my distant relatives lived and died near here?

I haven’t had time to organize / process photos from this trip. Hopefully I’ll get to that this week and have a better report ready for next time.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.