I hope you had a chance to attend the annual Cracker Christmas at Fort Christmas Historical Park a couple weeks ago. It’s a fun activity with a lot to see and a lot of vendors selling unique items. If you couldn’t make it this year, keep it in mind for 2020. And don’t forget that you can visit Fort Christmas throughout the year.
Christmas Post Office
This park in east Orange County includes a reproduction of the 1837 Fort built near this spot. It also has 7 restored historical homes that preserve the ‘Cracker’ architecture of the area. The park gives us a glimpse into Florida pioneer life. It’s a little like traveling back in time and photo ops abound.
NO Chickens Allowed
Volunteers often dress up in period costumes and demonstrate what life was like back then.
During the festival, there are even more folks showing us aspects of other times.
Civil War Re-enactors
Here’s a photo hint that helped me when I was there: Scan your frame to check the composition for distracting or out of place items that might spoil your image. In this photo of the two soldiers, I noticed Airstream trailers behind their tent so I shifted my viewpoint so they weren’t visible in the final image.
In the kitchen
And in this photo of the kitchen, there was initially a modern Yeti cup on the stove. I was glad I was able to re-make my photo when it was removed. Much easier than removing it in Photoshop!
Many of the homes are decorated for the season and you can photograph things in December that don’t exist the rest of the year. A fabulous time to go!
Merry Christmas to all!
Anyway, a fun short photowalk. You can read more of my Fort Christmas posts here. And you can see more photos from there in this album on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Merry Christmas to everyone and enjoy spending time with family and friends. And don’t forget to make some photos with them!
Guitars are another long-time fascination of mine. It began when my folks got a piano and my sister started lessons. I must have been jealous because Mom and Dad bought me a Harmony Guitar (but no lessons!). I learned a lot with it and kept it for over 30 years. I finally sold it at a garage sale sometime in the late 90s – wish I hadn’t.
When people ask, I usually say that I “play at” guitar. I think the small amount of natural talent I have comes to me from my Mom’s side of the family. Her father played in a band on the radio in the 1930s.
Granddad Harrison’s Band, about 1939. He’s the one in the middle with the fiddle.
Anyway, Martins are a sort of ‘holy grail’ for guitar players and I wanted to visit. Since we were already in Pennsylvania, I talked Lynn into stopping by the C. F. Martin & Co. Factory in Nazareth. They have a wonderful behind the scenes tour and I signed us both up.
Ed, outside the Martin Guitar Factory. Lynn said I looked like a kid in a candy store!
We got there a little early and spent some time in their museum. It’s interesting to see guitars that many of my favorite musicians played. Martin started in 1833 and their collection of memorabilia and more than 200 instruments show off the history and timeline of the company.
The factory tour itself was wonderful and lasted about two hours. Our tour guide (Ben) was the retired plant manager. He certainly knew a great deal about how they’re built.
Panorama from a walkway overlooking the factory
The first thing I noticed walking in to the factory was the delightful aroma. I won’t soon forget the smells of all the wood being worked.
I built a guitar (from a kit) once, so I’m familiar with how they go together. But seeing the factory in action, with its blend of hands-on craftsmanship and modern machinery / robots was spellbinding.
Robot Neck Carving
Using machines on some pieces (e.g. necks) increases the accuracy and precision of the parts and fit. And they can apply finish and polish without exposing humans to the fumes and dust.
Robot Body Polishing
There’s still a lot of hands on work, especially in their custom and Retro Series guitars.
Hand carving top braces
Custom back and fretboards
Almost done – these are waiting to be strung up and tested
They’re very photo friendly on the tour. They don’t want you making any video, but photography is fine, except for a couple of locations (they’ll let you know). The light is pretty good inside. I used ISO 400, f/1.8 – f/2.8, and my shutter speeds varied from 1/13 sec. to 1/200 sec. You’ll need to be careful if something’s in motion, but otherwise image stabilization should take care of the slower shutter speeds in dimmer light.
The 1833 shop is next to the museum and sells Martin branded items. And their “Guitar Maker’s Connection” is located in the old Martin Factor a little bit away from the main site. The behind the scenes tour is $25, requires a reservation and begins at 9:30. Highly recommended if you’re anywhere nearby. Check Martin’s site for more details.
While on our cruise a couple of weeks ago, we spotted Santa testing out some alternate transportation. I really like the color scheme, but I’m worried he’ll get tired pedaling this all around the world. Hopefully the elves can talk him into using his sleigh and reindeer.
I hope all of you have a joyous and happy holiday season and a wonderful new year! I really appreciate you following my blog again this year.
Thanks for stopping by. Now – go enjoy spending time with family and friends. And make some photos!
It’s getting chilly outside, presents are starting to show up, and we’re hearing carols on the radio. Family and friends are arriving soon and before we know it, It’s a Wonderful Life will be on TV around the clock. Whether you celebrate Christmas or another winter holiday, family gatherings are the greatest photo-op of the year!
Mom, me, Dad – Christmas, 1955
Gather folks up and make photos and maybe even some video. Include everyone and make sure you get yourself into a few. Don’t put it off and don’t take no for an answer. Technical perfection isn’t even required. You and people you love will cherish the photos anyway.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some family photos! And share them – someone will be very glad you did!
Springtime color – Flowers in a courtyard in St. Augustine, Florida
Lynn mentioned she’d like to spend a night or two in St. Augustine and I readily agreed. It’s one of my favorite, must do photo ops. She made reservations at a Bed and Breakfast (http://www.44spanishstreetinn.com) just behind the Columbia Restaurant and we headed up there last weekend.
I’d been feeling a little sick, although not bad enough to cancel the trip. I was looking forward to going back to Marineland Beach (earlier posts here and here) and perhaps the Alligator Farm (many posts here).
We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday and checked in. It was a lovely place and extremely convenient. Strolling around town before dinner, I warmed up my camera with a few photos including the one above.
I woke up feeling worse on Sunday morning and decided to sleep in. We were staying one more night and I figured I could always do sunrise the next morning. After a wonderful french toast breakfast and some cold medicine, we set out to explore on the Old Town Trolley. We’d never done that before and I was glad we did this time. Riding the entire route, we got to locations we hadn’t seen on previous trips. It was also very nice to just sit there and still be able to make some images. My energy was very low and I was indisposed to walking around.
I had a small camera bag with me, and shot mostly with my infrared camera. I like the way it rendered the old buildings. It was out and ready when I noticed this fellow riding in front of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
Infrared bicycle pirate – commuting to work?
I tried searching for ‘infrared bicycle pirate’ photos on both Google and Flickr and didn’t find any. Apparently they’re a very rare genre. Perhaps I should specialize.
Monday morning came with my symptoms getting worse and once again I couldn’t get up for sunrise or even make it to the Alligator Farm. I guess that means we’ll have to schedule another trip. I’m feeling a better as I write this and hope I won’t have to go to the doctor tomorrow.
I’m happy I made a few images I like. If you’re sick (indisposed) fight your lack of desire (indisposition) to make photos. You can look at other photos from St. Augustine in this folder on Flickr.
Happy Easter and thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – don’t be or get indisposed – go make some photos!
Lynn and I went out to the Fort Christmas Historical Park this morning and met Nancy T. there for the 39th annual “Cracker Christmas”. There are craft vendors and historical demonstrations and it’s a great way to revisit some of our Florida history and maybe find a few unique gifts for friends and relatives.
The Union School – Originally established in 1906, it was expanded in the 1920s and used until 1969.
I was glad to go since I was hoping to make some photos for a blog post. I haven’t done any photography all week until today. Which is why this post is a bit late.
Victrola and RCA Victor record
One of the small buildings at Fort Christmas has a nice display of Victrolas and Edison phonograph machines. They have recordings too and it was a treat to listen to one of their wax cylinders from the late 1800s or early 1900s.
There was live music too:
Skeeter Creek band
Other things I enjoyed seeing were the tractor displays:
And even the old furniture, some of which was very ornate.
Dragonfly and flowers chair
There was plenty to eat, too – although we left before lunchtime.
This post is a first for me. All of the photos are from my iPhone (in JPG mode no less!) with a bit of Lightroom magic added. I also carried my micro 4/3 cameras, but for some reason ended up not using them. Curious.
If there’s one person who loves travel as much as me (or more), it’s my cousin Phil. That’s why I was so excited for our whirlwind adventure to China! Our journey was just five days, so I had to pack lightly, but I wish I could have brought my Dad and more camera equipment with me: the photography conditions were tricky! Since he couldn’t be there with me, he processed my photos after, and has joined me in this post with photo hints. So here it is: Central Florida Photo Ops official furthest-away post ever!
MK and Phil on the Great Wall – Mutianyu
First, we visited Shanghai – If you have the chance to go, I highly recommend the Shanghai Museum, and then a meal at the Living Room restaurant on the 87th floor of the Park Hyatt Shanghai. From there, you’ll find sweeping views of the Bund and the Huangpu River, and on a clear day like we were lucky to have, you’ll gain an amazing appreciation for just how large the city is.
My Dad lent me his polarizing filter, but I enjoyed the meal so much I didn’t think to use it on this shot while we were indoors.
View from the 87th: Shanghai
Editor: A polarizer can be useful to darken skies, reduce the fog / haze in a photo, and eliminate reflections when shooting through glass. It doesn't always work - success depends on the conditions (amount and direction of the light). I always try to carry one with me and use it if I remember. I processed this image through DxO Optics Pro for sharpening / noise reduction. Then in Lightroom, I adjusted the exposure, and contrast, straitened buildings, and used clarity and dehaze adjustments along the horizon with a radial filter to lessen the haze. Here is a "before version":
The highlight of Beijing was, of course, the Great Wall of China. There are several places along the wall you can easily visit from Beijing. We chose Mutianyu for its sweeping views (and it’s reputation of being less crowded than nearby spots). While we had perfect weather in Shanghai, fog almost completely enveloped us at Mutianyu. But every once in a while the fog would shift and we’d get a quick but miraculous glimpse of just how Great the Great Wall is.
Mutianyu is about an hour from Beijing. I recommend hiring a private driver – we used John Yellowcar – for about $150 USD, we had our own private driver/translator/tour guide for the entire day. We thought this was a great value for a 10-hour day trip. While there are restaurants and souvenirs at the wall, bring water/snacks and wear comfortable hiking shoes! Also remember that haggling with vendors is accepted and expected at the Wall.
Misty Mutianyu Watchtower
The fog was too thick for the polarizing lens, so I tried to take as many photos as I could and hoped my Dad could help when I got home! Here are some pointers from him on how he was able to save these photos, and in hindsight, things I could have done differently to make the photos even better.
Winding Wall and Watchtowers – Mutianyu
Editor: MK faced some tough photo conditions. Fog greatly reduces contrast and the amount of light. It also diffuses the light so that the polarizing filter won't be much help (sorry MK!) and the filter itself also reduces the amount of light getting to the sensor by 1 or 2 stops. About the only thing I could recommend is to be careful with exposure (sometimes fog can cause underexposure). I processed this photo like the previous one. DxO Optics Pro and Lightroom. In these conditions, clarity and dehaze adjustments are again very helpful. I used quite a bit of dehaze in this image. It's easy to go too far - be careful. Here's the "before version" of this one:
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may have seen my earlier posts on computational photography. If not, you can review them at this link: https://edrosack.com/?s=computational+photography. The term refers to using software algorithms to supplement or replace optical capture processes. Common examples are multi-frame panoramas, focus stacking, HDR processing, post capture focus, and other techniques. You can read more about it at this link on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_photography
As phone capabilities increase, their computational photography power is growing. Camera phones have long been able to do on the fly panorama and HDR capture. And here’s an example of a new capability that arrived on the iPhone 7+.
Apple calls this “Portrait Mode”. It’s available in Beta on the iPhone 7+ in the latest version of IOS. Since the 7+ has two cameras separated by a small distance, it provides the info necessary to compute a “depth map” of pixels in the frame. The software uses this to selectively blur pixels based on distance to add a “Bokeh” (shallow depth of field) effect that helps with subject isolation. For comparison, here is the non-computed version of the image. You can see that the background looks very different.
All isn’t perfect. The algorithm has problems around small features at the boundaries. Look closely at the next frame and you can see blurring issues at the edges of the reed.
The processing blurred parts of the reed that we wanted sharp. For the first photo above – I cheated and used Photoshop to correct the problems. Maybe in future versions the software will be better.
Here’s one more example. This is Lynn, rocking an election day t-shirt. First, the portrait mode version.
And finally, the original. In this case, the software did much better, with no obvious blurring issues. These two are straight out of the camera with no processing on my part.
It’s fascinating how photography and computers are merging. For someone who started out programming a large room sized Univac in FORTRAN with punch cards, the power and ability that fits in my pocket is just stunning. I’m glad to have it with me.
What can they possibly think of next? Do you use computational photography techniques? Do you like or hate them?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go compute some images!
I haven’t been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in a while (the last time was back in May!) and I miss the place. So I left around 6pm yesterday and headed over.
Along Gator Creek Road
It was raining at our house in Winter Springs. Over on the coast, it was dry, but threatening. The clouds were just awesome – I even spotted some that looked like Mammatus clouds.
Next time I’ll leave a bit earlier – the light was a little dim for bird photography but I did see a few. I’m usually there in the morning and they behave differently in the evening. It was interesting to watch them going home in formation to roost for the night and to spot groups perched in trees and lined up along power lines.
… Well, some film failures and a small favorable film finish.
I’m a sucker for old cameras. I recently came across two that I ended up buying.
A Zorki 6 35mm film camera made in 1962 in the Soviet Union
This first one is a Soviet “Leica” clone I found in an antique store. I’d heard of them before, but never held one. It seemed to work, and since I’m a sucker – I bought it. I got it home, put in a roll of film and tried to take a few photos. The shutter is inconsistent and started running very slowly. First failure 😞. If you’re interested, there’s more info about the Zorki 6 at the Camera-wiki article at this link.
I ran across this next one at a different antique shop. It’s from Germany in the mid 1950s, and came with a clean Zeiss Sonar 50mm f/1.5 lens. I like the shutter speed range from 1 second to 1/1250 second (including T and B). The built-in selenium light meter still works too and no batteries are required. I’m always a bit leery of messing with these old cameras in the store. So I didn’t actually open it up or try to do too much investigation while there. It also seemed to be in pretty good shape and I went ahead and bought this one too. Yes I’m a sucker.
Zeiss Contax IIIa ‘color dial’ 35mm rangefinder film camera
I was able to find a manual and much more info about it online. You can read the Camerapedia article at this link. The first problem I ran into was a missing take up spool. So I tried to use a spool from a 35mm film canister, but the film wouldn’t reliably advance. Second failure 😞. More research turned up many used Zeiss Contax take up spools for sale, and I bought one from Ebay. Several days later I loaded up yet another roll of film and started clicking away again. This time the film advance worked. I finished the roll and anxiously shifted to Cinderella photography mode (see below*).
And yeah! Some of the frames were good. But many had weird light leaks. I inspected the shutter curtains carefully and saw a gap between them on one side. When the film is wound, the gap moves across the frame and if the lens cap is off, it partially exposes and ruins the film. Third failure 😞.
I can’t fix this. But I bought one more roll and this time I covered the lens each time I wound the film. And finally I was able to get some decent exposures. Favorable Finish on the fourth roll!! 😊
Here are three frames from the camera, along with comparison digital images I made at the same time. I think the camera works pretty well for 60 years old!
MK in the back yard (Film is on the left, click for larger versions) – I really like the way the Zeiss Sonar 50mm f/1.5 lens renders both the background and subject.
A Pine tree at sunset – (Film is on the left, click for larger versions) – The color rendering is different, I think digital might win this one. Different film would give different results.
In the garden (Film is on the top, click for larger versions) – The Caladium leaves were in the sun and the B&W film seems to have handled the highlights better. The subject isolation in the film version is better here too.
So, can I draw any interesting conclusions from this exercise?
Buyer beware – 50 and 60-year-old mechanical devices may not work like new.
There are no new parts for most old cameras and few people know how to work on them. Unless you’re willing to go to a lot of trouble / cost, they are what they are when you get them.
You can buy a film camera with a warranty (KEH.com does this). It would be less frustrating.
Film holds up pretty well (at least at web resolutions). I scanned these frames in with a desktop scanner and I could get better quality (at greater cost) with a professional drum scanner. Anyway, I think current digital cameras beat film hands down for convenience and quality.
The “film” look can be pretty nice. I think the film portrait of MK came out better than the digital version. This is mostly due to the Sonar lens and 35mm film size.
Film cameras can be frustrating, but they are fun to play around with. And film and old lenses definitely render scenes differently than digital cameras.
For me, film is definitely a hobby as opposed to something I would use all the time for my photography.
But film is enjoyable to play with. This Contax is usable if I’m careful and I might take it out and load it up from time to time. It reminds me of the rangefinder that my father gave me as my first camera.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!