Saturday, June 29, 2013

Be careful NOT to over do....

One of my new photo delights is discovering Topaz Plug-In tools.

Yikes. It can turn a simple photo into a work of art.

Well, that might be a stretch.

But it can open up shadow areas and add a strong emphasis on detail not really noticed before.

Oh course, it is possible to go too far.

You can make the effect too obvious. It then draws attention to itself.

I brought up some pictures I took a few summers ago on a trip to D.C. and had fun re-visiting that visit.

It is possible to work on a recent photo and make it appear to be a postcard from the 1950s.

Not that that's a bad thing.

Of course, the newer cars give it away.

Is that a Prius?

A Smart car?

The flags have 50 stars.

I like the effect it had on my picture at the Korean War Memorial.

The reflections of the visitors on the wall on the left are more prominent.

The soldiers wearing long ponchos are more dramatic.

Even the green grass and trees appeared more vibrant.

There are "sliders" that allow me to add or subtract individual hues or the overall scene. Or add "micro contrast" clicks.
The Vietnam Wall was enhanced with my new process.

The engraved lettering seemed to "pop out" more as the  minute changes were made.

The Memorial itself produces a tremendous response and these tweaks in my photo add to the stirring setting.

This is the Summer travel season and I hope people go up to Washington and see the monuments, museums and memorials.

I was able to go into the US Supreme Court because it was not in session.

The last few days it must have REALLY been crammed with people as historic decisions were being handed down.

This staircase was an OK picture but, using these new enhancement tools, it really became a beauty.

Something about marble and polished brass just go together.

Oh, I just remembered to pull up a shot of the newest memorial - to World War II - and give it a pictorial boost.
It's been a delightful morning, going back to Washington, DC again.

Gave me a chance to experiment with these post production tools.

Someone complained that these kind of changes alter the photo from what was actually seen.

Well, I was doing that back in the 1950s with my darkroom at home.

Now I just have newer tools.

(Click on the photos for more details.)
Like many things in life, use these enhancing steps in moderation.

Don't go overboard.

People will notice.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"When the moon hits your eye...."

We all saw it coming.

A SUPER full moon was to rise on Sunday night so my Photography Group looked skyward.

Some were on High Battery downtown, others took pictures at home from their backyards.

Another was overlooking Bohicket Creek near the Edisto River.

A few "tested" the moon the night before and had some fantastic SHARP results.

The real 100% moonrise was delayed by clouds close to the horizon and a general fuzziness caused by thin wispy clouds.

As I walked toward High Battery by White Point Gardens, I hoped I would be able to locate the group members who said they would be there with their cameras.

Yep, there they are.

Waiting patiently for the appointed hour, it had a party atmosphere.

People moved their tripods about, trying to anticipate when the moon would pop over the horizon and drift above Ft. Sumter.

Passersby stopped to ask "What's going on?"

"Why are you all here," asked a lady from Ohio.
She was in town, enjoying the sights and this moon crowd was an added attraction. She pointed out that we were not facing the area where the sun would set.

Group member Rick Coakley had brought his longest - and largest - lens to capture the moment.

Another member, Tim Terrrebonne, on the left, got wrapped up in the moment and went to retrieve his camera, tripod, etc. from his car.

He reminded others that a lens could fog up for a few minutes with the change in temperature and humidity from car to seawall.

His did fog but he was able to see it clear before the moon appeared.

Tim had taken a great shot a few weeks before so he was an experienced moon stalker.

The rest of us spread out along the elevated portion of the Battery, watching the higher-than-normal tide lap against the wall.

Some practiced by focusing on passing yachts and other vessels.

Someone asked, so I mentioned that Ft. Sumter is about 3 miles directly in front of us.

The moon would be 238,900 miles away so setting focus on "infinity" would probably work best on our cameras.

Reading up on the subject, it was suggested that a landmark or object be in the picture to show a sense of scale.

The 3-masted schooner probably would not be in the same place when the moon rose.

It turns out that most of us on the Battery zoomed in to fill the frame  with the orange-colored globe.

My brother Dennis set up his camera in his Summerville back yard,

He saved driving all the way downtown and caught the moon as it peeked over the horizon above a neighbor's house.

One of the nicest shots I've seen was shot over Bohicket Creek.

Taken just after the moon cleared the low clouds.

It is seen extra large because it was closer to the earth than usual.

This was planned and snapped by member Elizabeth Gayle Lewis Wenner and is included in the album posted by the Photography Group.

The link is at the top of the page.

There was a second chance to shoot a slightly smaller Super Moon on Monday night.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

Focus was NOT affected by the moon being closer.

It was still 384,400 km away.

Give or take a few kilometers.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

On a happier note .....

OK, the water is back on so let's move on to more cheerful blog items.

I was late coming to this meme but Cat Beard gave me something to share with my cat.

They like it when you take their picture.

Even when they are used to simulate a fuzzy beard.

Her tiny nose became mine.

Please notice her curled "Taco Tongue." That was a bonus for the picture.

She likes to please.

My brother Dennis got two fast shots before she squirmed her way outta my hands.

Members of my Photography Group had a busy weekend.

A bunch of us caravaned to Port Royal for a full day down in Beaufort County.

First stop was St. Helena's Island at the Penn Center.

History, beautiful moss-covered oaks and a nearby church ruin.

Does a weekend start any better than this?

one of the members - Rick Coakley - had the "biggest gun" on this jaunt.

He was prepared for a stop in the Wetlands egret rookery in Port Royal.

Talk about intrusive!

These birds were gathered to nurture their young'uns.

A handy boardwalk brought us close enough to the hundreds of white and tri-colored birds to observe aviary activity with our eyes and cameras.

Even my small P/S was active, using my 20x zoom.

Like most small digital cameras, the viewing screen on the back is difficult to see in bright light.

Larger DSLRs have a nice viewfinder and they can track fast action which was not likely with my Canon SX 260HS.

I had planned ahead though and now had a viewfinder loupe I hold over the screen.

It has an adjustable lens so I could take off my glasses and concentrate on following the birds in flight.

Also was able to experiment with shooting in "bursts" of 5-6 shots per second as they flapped around.

Our goal for the day was to wander the shrimping boats dock area of Port Royal.

We were fortunate to have "Phil", a local resident and photographer, join us and help us find areas and interesting targets for shots.

We also had printed out a walking tour for the town.

There was a boardwalk area I missed but members walked up stairs of a 4-story structure for a fantastic view from above.

My GPS was starting to be tired of my lack of knowledge of local geography. I could hear it in the recorded voice.

Many restaurants had signs boasting "Local Shrimp" and I could believe it. I had some later.

Tide was low when we arrived, but by the time we were were seated at 11th Street Dockside restaurant, the boats were bobbing at the piers.

We wandered around and snapped local history and many residents were pleased to pose for our curious cameras.

The restaurant filled quickly with locals and out-of-towners.

I chose to start with steamed peel & eat shrimp.

How could I resist?

Perfectly seasoned and good sized.

A visiting Charleston diner looks at shrimp differently than, say, someone who lives in the Midwest.

When I lived in Kansas City, Missouri, many years ago, there was a local restaurant that featured fresh, live Maine lobsters.

They were flown in daily we were told.

Kansas City also featured "Operas In English."

The planned sunset shoot was thwarted by low clouds that didn't break up. In fact, a storm was approaching Savannah but we did not get any rain, just some short sprinkles.

I drove back to catch a music show at the Pour House. It was to start at 11pm. I stopped for a coffee.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones was touted as having the moves and sounds of Otis Redding.

He and the band grabbed the audience right away.

After just a few bars into his first song, the crowd surged forward and enjoyed every bit of the 75-minute show.

Paul announced, after coming back for an encore, "That's all the original material we have so we'll do some covers I think you'll enjoy."

He did and we did.

It was his first time ever in Charleston and he had caught a Saturday night starring spot at the PoHo.

I look forward to his next visit.

They'll have more songs then than their initial 4-track  EP disk.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Deceased People Don't Need Water....

Turned on the tap this morning around 10am and nothing came out.

Not a slow drizzle.

No drip, drip, drip.


I pay the bill automatically each month through a program with my bank so I went outside to see if some construction on my street might be to blame.

Nope. Nothing going on out there. Hmm.

Fortunately, I had already started my coffee.

I called the Charleston Water System to report a problem.

Talking to a live person is hard to do these days, but eventually a "Customer Service" rep came on the line.

She fumbled around - I actually heard some papers rattling in the background - and told me   "Your service has been cut off."

But, I sputtered, the monthly payments are done automatically by my bank.

"Ah," she answered, " we have just learned the person named on the account has died."

Well, she had me there.

About 12 years ago, when I had moved in to take care of her, I had made my mom's monthly water bill part of  my automatic payment plan at my bank.

"But," I protested, "isn't cutting the water off a pretty drastic way to handle a simple name change?" Then I asked her to please have the water turned back on.

Nope, not that simple. I had to bring a copy of mom's death certificate to them before the water would flow again. Mom died a year and a half ago.

She said a letter had been mailed, telling me they would cut off the water if the name of the deceased stayed on the contract.

Huh? I had not seen such a notice.

After I went to the North Charleston office, showed the death certificate, my driver's license (with my two pictures on it) and the current bill - showing it would auto-pay in July, I was told a person would be sent to turn the water back on.

I asked when and Tony, the guy at the counter, said it was hard to say.

He didn't know where the guy was who goes around turning things on and off but a notice was going to the dispatcher.

Back in 2008, when my street was really torn up, I never lost water, gas nor electricity.

Now a simple name change had me sitting here at 4:00 in the afternoon, getting thirsty and wanting to pee.

Around noon, Tony had called to correct a statement he had made about me getting a letter from them.

Seems it had been returned by the post office, marked addressee deceased.

I said to Tony, that should have told them I was unaware of the problem and maybe someone could have picked up the phone.

He suggested I call a supervisor to get a time frame on when the turn-on guy would arrive. I called 843-727-6800.

Eventually the same "service" rep answered and I started my tale.

She promptly put me on hold.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

The kitchen tap is open so I know water has not returned yet.

I bet they close right at 5:00pm.

**UPDATE: The water came back on at 7:30. The night dispatcher - Margaret - was the only person at Charleston Water to say "sorry for the inconvenience."

I had placed several buckets on my deck in the rain. Toilets COULD be flushed.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

ND2 Saturday....

Saturday it was time to do another tutorial on Neutral Density filters.

The Summerville version drew more members of the Photo Group than the weekday one at Folly Beach.

In fact, our crowd drew a crowd.

You gather a dozen photographers with bulging gadget bags, large cameras on tripods - and a serious air - and people stop to ask "So, what's going on?"

Six people also asked for information about the Photography Group, so we may have picked up a few more photographers and wannabes.

The fountain where we gathered (near the parking garage) is right next to the Farmer's Market so lots of people were around.

We were using dark filters on our camera lens so we could take long exposure pictures on a sunny day.

It's a beautiful fountain and different exposures showed it differently.

In some the water flowed smoothly.

In others, it became a misty, moody centerpiece next to booths selling fresh corn, bright red tomatoes and fuzzy Carolina peaches.

We had a total of 16 turn out for the demonstration and how-to guidance.

Rudy Lutge, the same fellow who led the seminar at Folly Beach, went through step-by-step.

Then he answered questions and we got started.

Rudy went around making suggestions and adjustments until we all felt comfortable.

Meanwhile, shoppers carrying bags of produce wandered by and some children wanted to get their hands wet. Hey, why not?

Rudy had explained there are other ways to be creative with long exposure photography.

Earlier I had gone online for some background.

Found a shot of a "speeding shopping cart" so I tried a 1/10 of a second picture with my camera in a shopping basket at Trader Joe's in Mt. Pleasant.

Yes, I spoke to the manager first and explained what I hoped to do.

He asked "how fast will you be pushing the cart?"

I went into more details. I'll push the cart pretty slowly and the shelves on each side will blur, creating the illusion of fast speed.

One of the beauties of using digital is, after a few shots, I was able to show him what I had taken.

He agreed I had not bothered anyone and, I think, he was impressed.

Rudy mentioned this type of shot as well as how to make a room filled with people appear to be empty by using long exposure.

Grand Central Station in NYC is a busy place but if you take a photo lasting several minutes - the place is deserted.

Well, except for a few people who did not move during the exposure.

For example, the Farmers Market would not appear empty because of people staffing in each booth and the slow, meandering pace of the shoppers.

After the instructions, we were sharing tips and showing the results we were getting.

One member, David, was showing a hand-held device that covers the screen on the back of the camera and it becomes a viewfinder.

In bright light, those screens are hard to see and this provides a way to block out the light, see a perfect image and makes it easier to focus.

I had never heard of such a thing. I had used a towel draped over my head and camera when we were shooting at the beach.

His is much better option.

(Click on the photos for more detail).

I am going online to shop for that viewing aid.

Hmm, now what was it called?

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Last Piccolo-Spoleto Blues event....for 2013.

Cozy Home Team BBQ in West Ashley Saturday was the venue for my last 2013 Spoleto-Piccolo music event.

Nita B. and the Swingin' Soiree closed this year's arts festival for me.

The big "official" celebration of the end of the 36th Spoleto Festival USA was at Middleton Gardens Sunday night but this was closer to home.

And, it never rains at Fiery Ron's place.

Nita Belk was the Songstress and Tim Belk was on drums. Marc Brookshire on guitar and Bill Buck, bass.

Playing sax - and flute - was Jack Forseen.

Shades of Jethro Tull in its bluesy days.

We need MORE flute-playing in bands!

I figure, if you're a flautist, flaunt it.

Jack was great on the sax and kept his cool on flute as I edged in closer and closer with my camera.

The 5-person group came down from Charlotte, NC to give us two enjoyable sets.

If I were planning a soiree, I'd get in touch with Nita and the boys.

It says online that Nita got hooked on the blues when she bought a bass guitar and taught herself  to play while making soup in the kitchen.

There's a song title in there somewhere.

The band blends blues and jazz from the 30s, 40s and 50s as well as contemporary Chicago-style blues.

The band plays tight and she has a sweet voice.

The grit is there too on certain songs as she belts it out.

She stepped down to dance a moment or two with a hearty fan and drew nice applause after each song.

(Click on the photo for more details.)

Another Spoleto is in the books.

This one I tried to pace myself.

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

First time to TD Arena...and the new Gaillard.

So, look's like I'm all set for 2014 (or is it December of 2015?)

The new Gaillard will have less seats but better acoustics.

Fewer people will hear things better in the new place.

In the old one, I have chosen to be seated in the balcony, but also plopped down in the first row for the k.d.lang show last year.

Closer is better.

The Cistern Area for Spoleto events is another place where I usually buy a seat in the first row.

Yesterday, the weatherman convinced Spoleto to move the J.D. McPherson Show from there.

Some fears of electric guitars being played  outdoors in a thunderstorm.

As I thought would happen,  all the stage setup was moved to the TD Arena. Naturally the sun shone brightly.

J.D.said they were pleased with the change and reminded us they play there again tonight (Saturday).

It was my first visit to the C of C basketball court but it felt just like a Cistern Show...with the bonus of  air conditioning. Yeah!

It was an evening of great music with a passionate delivery.

The former school teacher from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, has a Punk resume. Mr. McPheron has found his Retro Sound musical calling.

He and the band mixed together elements of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry,  Led Zepplin and, yes, some punk roots from "The Pixies."

It was a rollicking time and, just past the halfway point, the gyrating dancers swiftly moved in front of the stage and the party was going on.

Chicago record producer - and superb bassist - Jimmy Sutton laid down a steady bass line to bring back the 1950s sound. Sax man Douglas Corcoran also came across the stage to play organ.

When the music is THAT strong, what heartless  (or brave?)  volunteer usher is going to stand in the way of all those dancing Happy Feet?

The crowd was a mixture of young and old, hipsters and their granddads, locals and visitors.

I talked with city natives as well as Spoleto fans who came from out-of-state.

One couple had come year after year, took a four year break and now drive in again for the arts festival.

They explained to a couple from New York the differences between Spoleto and Piccolo.

I could not have done better and I grew up here.

Spoleto began 36 years ago and Piccolo just turned 25 this year.

If you plan to go there tonight, the officials have honored those who bought reserved seats.

You can choose any seat on the basketball court floor itself - first come, first served -  and the others are in seats rising behind you and on two sides.

I have no idea where the dancers had been sitting but they slowly appeared, dancing off to the sides, until they surged to the middle.

Hard to resist the energetic thumping beat that was being laid down.

Little details caught my eye.

Raynier Jacildo played a "real" piano - an upright - and NOT the usual electronic keyboard. The organ also was a heavy monster that had been lugged onstage with wheels strapped to it.

Sorry keys can't compete.

The beautiful arena lobby was well maintained. The floors shiny bright and all the windows sparkling clean.
You go past the Cougar statue just before you enter into the lobby. 

It reminded me of the black Panther statue up in Charlotte, outside the football stadium, but the internet link explains the differences between the two cats.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

I hope you go see J.D. McPherson tonight.

Get up and dance if you can.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

2013 Spoleto potpourri....

Back to the golden days of radio.

Voices and Foley sound effects.

A piano and small organ provides ALL the music. A pin-pricked balloon gives a "pop" when needed.

The earth is doomed. In fact, the whole galaxy will disappear.

Good Grief!

Sitting in the sold out Sottile Theater  along with 600 captivated friends, we watched the live-action graphic novel develop with cartoons on the screen, clever sound effects and talented voices.

David Higgins is the voice of Timmy, Danu Uribe is the Pulitzer Prize winning authoress and Christopher Lee Gibson speaks as everybody else. Cami Alys is the Foley artists responsible for the correct sounds at the appropriate time.

Jason Neulander of Austin, Texas, is the writer/Director who created The Intergalactic Nemesis.

He welcomed the audience and expressed his happiness at being in Charleston and part of the famed Spoleto Festival USA.

General Director Nigel Redden had called him with an invitation which he gladly accepted.

During the intermission of Part 1 last night, Nigel could be seen mingling, chatting with fans and friends as the crowd returned to their seats.

The fate of earth still hung in the balance at this point.

A few days ago, a Spoleto-Piccolo music event brought me to Hall's Chophouse on King Street for an afternoon of Jazz.

Lead singer Lyndsey Goodman Moynihan  was joined by Jamie Harris on bass and "Uncle Joe" Wilson on guitar.

The banter between songs was humorous and showed the depth of their friendship.

And their love of music.

Leaving Hall's, I walked through Marion Square and saw a small crowd gathered to enjoy an impromptu bluegrass performance.

Spoleto does indeed bring together friends of the arts.

Did not interrupt the players to get their names but paused for a moment or two to listen and take a few pictures.

Hope they'll get in touch so I can credit them.

I'm scheduled tomorrow evening for a concert on the Cistern Yard area at the College of Charleston.

Andrea, first tropical storm of the 6-month storm season that just started, is also due to skim our coastline tomorrow.

My guess is the venue - to avoid a rain out - will switch to the TD Arena  This would be good as I have not been inside there yet.

Oh, TD stands for Toronto Dominion Bank, the new name after a local financial group was bought that had its name on the 5.100 seat venue. It opened in 2008 as home of the Cougars.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

The fire truck was heading elsewhere.

The TD Arena is fine!

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Making "good" even better...

Some members of my Photography Group have mentioned "Plug-Ins" a few times.

Usually during "Show & Tell" when we all suck in our breath and express admiration for a picture projected on the big screen.

My shots usually don't draw that level of appreciation.

I bought my first Topaz plug-in called CLARITY, hoping I could add some of that missing awe element.

This shot of the Ravenel Bridge was pretty good but now it surprises even me ... and I was there!

Same with this late-in-the-day picture of the Grand Canyon.

It was a highlight of a magical afternoon, evening, night and dawn on the South Rim.

This manipulation tool brings out many subtle shades of canyon strata that didn't seem so obvious in the earlier posting.

Once I found out the Topaz product was compatible with the Photoshop Elements 10 I have been using, I decided to give it a try.

It's part of a whole suite one can buy and download. I had been told that ADJUST would be a good first step then this was just announced.

It offered an introductory price of $29.99 (save $20) so I was eager to check it out.

I take a LOT of pictures in music venues with varied levels of lighting.

The Pour House has been visited by me 6 times in the last 14 days. The last show was a group of talented performers called the New Orleans Suspects.

They have played with the Neville Brothers, Professor Longhair, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Sax man Jeff Walker, was with James Brown for 12 years.

Yeah, they have the chops. And showed every bit to a happy, clapping Friday night crowd.

Here's keyboardist C.R.Gruver and drummer "Mean" Willie Green (in a 4-panel acoustic shield around his drum set).

"Ice Man" Reggie Scanlan and Jake Eckert on lead guitar  join the sax man in the ever-changing colored spotlights on the PoHo stage.

These performance shots were run through the Topaz plug-in to bring out certain colors or textures that had not shown before.

Out on the deck, ending just before the NOLA Suspects started, the Steel Rollers drew the faithful to a FREE themed night show that varies during the week.

A fan had written to ask where the name came from?

Not describing pieces of metal but from the name of a malt liquor beverage.

I've enjoyed both the band and the beer.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Did not use the Topaz treatment on the deck band. Well, not yet.

It may become part of all my favorite shots.

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