Oh yes, I have more fireworks photos for y’all!

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 06B

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 07C

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 08B

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 09B

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 10B

Photo Information:

Location: Chicago, Illinois; Navy Pier
Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon Nikkor 300mm f/4

As for how I shot these photos, well…first and foremost, you need a tripod, there’s just no other way to do this. Not only is this night shooting (and over long time periods, but I’ll get to that later), I was also shooting with a large, unwieldy telephoto lens; don’t get me wrong…I love the lens for what it allows me to do, but it’s damn near impossible to hand-hold; luckily, the lens has its own built-in tripod mounting point (the lens itself is heavier than the camera it was attached to, so you need to support the weight of the lens, not the camera). I kept the lens aperture set at f/16 or f/22 – it’s difficult to determine critical focus at night and at a distance, and even more so when your subject doesn’t appear for very long; the small aperture gives you maximum depth-of-field, and greater likelihood that if your critical focus point is slightly off, it won’t matter so much for the final results. I used the ‘B’ or Bulb setting for the shutter speed, and just counted off 5, 10, or 15 second exposures; naturally, this means that you’re basically hoping for the best with each shot. The subject being fireworks, however, it’s impossible to predict what the shots will look like beforehand, so you just have to cross your fingers and hope they turn out. During the more active portions of the show, I didn’t stop to check the results of each shot, and just kept sequentially shooting until the show ended.

Enjoy!

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Okay, so it appears my plan to post more frequently has gotten slightly derailed. Again. Sorry, folks…unfortunately, the two paying jobs I have are not photography-related, and well. They pay the bills, so I suppose I should focus my efforts there…which leaves my poor blog languishing without my loving attention. If it makes y’all feel any better, I’m not particularly happy about this, but hey…gotta do what ya gotta do, right? Anyways, to make up for it, here are some festive images for your viewing pleasure. That’ll make up for my lack of attention here, right?

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 01B

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 02B

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 03B

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 04B

D80 CHI Fireworks 2012_07-04 05B

Photo Information:

Location: Chicago, Illinois; Navy Pier
Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon Nikkor 300mm f/4

And yes, for those of y’all who were following the news of the heat wave that hit the Midwest and other areas right around the time, it was a balmy 95 degrees when I shot these photos (around 9pm, mind you). I made sure to bring my 2L Camelbak bladder with me, so I was well hydrated for the show (hey, I’m crazy…not stupid).

As for the photos themselves, I shot these from the northern end of Belmont Harbor (check it out on Google Earth…you’ll be able to figure out where I was sitting). For those of y’all who are familiar with Chicago geography (and those of y’all who, y’know…can check out a map), you’ll note that Belmont Harbor is a few miles north of Navy Pier – hence my decision to lug my 300mm telephoto lens. And my heavy, but dependable, Manfrotto tripod. The result? While I couldn’t hear the fireworks, I sure could see ’em pretty well…much better than the folks who were sitting behind me and spent half the show trying to figure out how to make their (presumably) point-and-shoot camera 1) autofocus on the fireworks (yes, I know how silly that sounds…but that’s what they were trying to do), and 2) turn off the flash (or turn it on…I’m not sure if I heard that part correctly, since I was paying more attention to what I was shooting).

In case you’re wondering about the proper technique for shooting fireworks, I’ll mention that in a later post (don’t worry…it’ll follow relatively soon…ish – I’ve already edited a number of shots from the show, so I have some to share for the next couple days).

Enjoy!

Yes, I’m back to this camera again…although I do intend to restart posting select digital photos, as well – I’ve been neglecting them for far too long.

ZecaBettax CHI HP5+3200 InlandSteel_Night01B

ZecaBettax CHI HP5+3200 OneNorthLaSalle_Night01B

ZecaBettax CHI HP5+3200 RiverNorth_Night01B

Photo Information:

Camera: Zeca Bettax
Lens: Schneider-Kreuznach 105mm f/4.5 Radionar
Film: Ilford HP5+ EI3200 (120)

Photo 1:
Location: Chicago, Illinois; Chicago Loop

The subject of this photo is the lobby of the Inland Steel Building (completed in 1958 and designed by Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM)) – at night!

Photo 2:
Location: Chicago, Illinois; Chicago Loop

This is the entry to One North LaSalle (completed in 1930 and designed by Vitzthum & Burns) in the Financial District along LaSalle Street in the Loop. The Art Deco details aren’t easily seen this late at night, but the effect of the streetlamps on the façade was rather interesting.

Photo 3:
Location: Chicago, Illinois; River North

This is the view from Wacker & Lake, facing northeast towards the south end of the Mag Mile at the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The pair of buildings that dominate this location are, of course, the Wrigley Building (left; completed in 1924 and designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, & White) and the Tribune Tower (right; completed in 1925 and designed by Howells & Hood) – I challenge you to find a better pair of historic buildings elsewhere!

Enjoy.

Guess what…I can also use this camera at night…without a tripod! [1]

ZecaBettax CHI HP5+3200 ChicagoTheater_Night01B

ZecaBettax CHI HP5+3200 CTA-Randolf&Wabash_Night01B

ZecaBettax CHI HP5+3200 FirstNatlBankOfChicago_Night01B

Photo Information:

Location: Chicago, Illinois; Chicago Loop
Camera: Zeca Bettax
Lens: Schneider-Kreuznach 105mm f/4.5 Radionar
Film: Ilford HP5+ EI3200 (120) [2]

The subject of the first photo is, of course, the Chicago Theater, which is located on State Street, just south of Lake. The second photo is a view of the CTA Randolph & Wabash stop seen from State and Randolph. The third photo shows part of the First National Bank of Chicago Building (completed in 1969 and designed by Perkins & Will with C. F. Murphy Associates; later the Bank One Building, and now known as the Chase Tower); you can clearly see the curving concrete base and the multi-story lobby (behind the glazing).

Enjoy.

Notes:

[1]: Of course, this was just barely possible, even using Ilford’s excellent HP5+. I had to push the film pretty well to the limit of its push capacity (Ilford publishes processing times for pushes from EI400 to EI3200). The primary issue here is that the Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar lens is a fairly slow one (f/4.5), so even with the extreme push, I still had to set the shutter a 1/30s, which is just barely suitable for handheld shooting.

[2]: As I’ve mentioned before, push processing is not without its downsides…the most substantial of which is the amount of time needed to process the film (generally, each push adds roughly 50% to the amount of time the film needs to soak in the developer – dependent on the developer, of course). It also makes the film grain much more apparent in the finished negatives – which, again, I still much prefer to digital noise – as well as substantially increasing contrast. I have another roll of HP5+ that I intend to use for more night shooting, but if I use it with this camera again, I may have to extrapolate processing time for EI6400, just to squeeze a little more out of the slow lens.

Okay, one more post, since I seem to be able to function (more or less) despite my illness, mostly, I think, due to the witches’ brew of coffee, black tea, and orange juice I pumped into my system this morning. I’m sure it’ll all come crashing down soon enough. In the meantime, though, here’s another photo!

ZecaBettax CHI Acros100 CityByTheLakeNight01B

Photo Information:

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Camera: Zeca Bettax
Lens: Schneider-Kreuznach 105mm f/4.5 Radionar
Film: Fuji Neopan Acros 100 (120)

I’m fair sure I’ve posted photos with this view before, but with my head as stuffed up as it is, I can’t recall when. The view is from the Museum Campus, pretty much at the very tip of the artificial peninsula at the Adler Planetarium. I like photographing from this location as opposed to the nearer vantage point at the Shedd Aquarium, as the latter has a park between it and the Loop, while the view from the Planetarium looks out across Lake Michigan, with the city immediately beyond. Given that I’m prone to seasickness, this is likely as close as I’ll ever get to photographing the city from the Lake.

Given the limited number of shots I had at my disposal (the Bettax takes only 8 6×9 cm shots per roll), I took a few test shots with my DSLR to verify the exposure prior to shooting with the Bettax. Thus, I only needed the one shot on film – basically, this could be considered a digital version of shooting a test Polaroid prior to shooting the actual photo (which is, of course, now impossible in its original form, as Polaroid no longer manufactures instant film). Also, unlike most of my photos that I crop to 8×10 proportions, this one maintains the original 2:3 aspect ratio of the original, as I wanted to preserve as much of the skyline as possible.

Enjoy.

I like seeing things at night, don’t you? [1]

D80-CHI_ChicagoTheater01-2010_12-06B

Photo Information:

Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX
ISO Equivalency: 100
Color Setting: Vivid

This, of course, is the Chicago Theater on State Street. [2] In Chicago, in case the sign didn’t give that away.

Enjoy.

Notes:

[1]: Let’s just ignore the part where I was walking around at night while it was a whopping 15° F out, with the wind chill around 5. Yes, FIVE. Winter up here is fun!

[2]: The theater was designed by Cornelius & George Rapp and completed in 1921, and refurbished in 1933 in preparation for the World’s Fair. See here for additional information (Wikipedia article).

Y’know, from the Latin incandescere, meaning to glow.

D80-CHI_Bonfire01-2010_09-25B

D80-CHI_Bonfire02-2010_09-25B

D80-CHI_Bonfire03-2010_09-25B

D80-CHI_Bonfire04-2010_09-25B

D80-CHI_Bonfire05-2010_09-25B

Photo Information (All):

Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon Nikkor 85mm f/1.8
ISO Equivalency: 1600
Color Setting: Vivid

Okay, to be fair, the Latin word for “to burn” would probably have been more appropriate, but hey. It’s my post, after all, so I can call it whatever I want!

As for the photos, I was sitting roughly five or six feet from the fire, so using the 85mm lens allowed me to capture some close (but not too close) shots of the flames. Nice, aren’t they? Unlike the fireworks photos I shot a few months back, I kept the white balance setting for these as Daylight, even though I was clearly shooting at night, and at a glowing (yes, incandescent) subject. The first few test shots I took revealed that there was little difference between the Daylight and Incandescent white balance settings for the fire, so I left it set for Daylight. Still looks like a nighttime fire, don’t it?

As for the shooting itself? Not much to tell in that regard. Fire being as inherently chaotic as it is, I didn’t have much opportunity to “mold” it into whatever compositions I wanted. In the end, I shot a little over one hundred photos, and selected the best ones for editing and display. Naturally, a good number of those shots won’t be used, either, but that’s the nature of this sort of shooting – and this subject, for that matter.

Oh, and regarding the fire itself, it was set in a firepit in the backyard of one of my friends’ current residence. This being Chicago, and there being rather stringent regulations against doing such things in the city, I won’t identify who or where. It did, however, make for an enjoyable evening, what with the beer and s’mores involved…

Enjoy.

Because they’re pretty.

D80-CHI_NightLights02-2010_09-12B

Photo Information:

Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX
ISO Equivalency: 1600
Color Setting: Vivid

Yes, I know…not much else to say about these except that they’re pretty. Found ’em at my former neighbor’s apartment – we’re still friends, even though I no longer live across the “porch” where these are currently located.

And no, I’m not really that much more satisfied with the high ISO results from my D80, but I do occasionally use the setting when I have no other option (hey, I’d lug my tripod around with me, but the damn thing weighs 12 lbs, and is rather bulky).

Enjoy.

This year, due to budgetary constraints and such, the City of Chicago hosted not one massive show at Navy Pier (as per the typical year), but three smaller shows at locations along the lakefront – one on the southside, one at the Museum Campus downtown, and one on the northside north of Montrose Harbor. This was rather fortuitous for me, since I’m far too lazy to head downtown to Navy Pier, but Montrose Harbor is a (relatively) convenient hike from my apartment. Hence, it was much easier for me to attend the annual Independence Day festivities; additionally, the separate shows meant that each one drew a less-than-epic crowd, so it was much easier to set up my camera and tripod at a convenient vantage point. The following are some of the results.

D80-CHI_NSideFireworks03_2010-07_04B

D80-CHI_NSideFireworks07_2010-07_04B

D80-CHI_NSideFireworks17_2010-07_04B

D80-CHI_NSideFireworks21_2010-07_04B

D80-CHI_NSideFireworks25_2010-07_04B

Photo Information:

Camera: Nikon D80
Lens(es): Nikon Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 & Nikkor 85mm f/1.8
ISO Equivalency: 100
Color Setting: Vivid

A note on the exposures: I set the shutter speed to “bulb,” and basically winged it for each one. The average exposure time was roughly 10 seconds, the shortest being 5 seconds, and the longest being just over 15. Due to the vagaries of manual focus at night for an indeterminate range, I set the aperture to the minimum setting for the lens (f/16 for the telephoto lens, and f/22 for the wideangle); this helped to ensure that I had crisp focus, even if I wasn’t spot-on with the focus ring. [1] Obviously, the fact that I had the camera set to ISO 100 [2] and used a small aperture means that I needed to use a slow shutter speed to compensate. [3] I set the white balance to Incandescent, and I think this tended to work well for the color exposures; [4] even so, I found it appealing to increase the saturation just a bit for each photo, since, well, these sorts of photos really are all about the colors. Considering that this is the first time I’ve ever photographed fireworks, I think the results turned out quite well, don’t you?

Enjoy.

Notes:

[1]: As any of y’all who’ve taken photos at night can probably attest, this is a bit harder than it may at first sound. In this case, it was especially so, since I had little to no indication of the range to the “target,” and said targets were constantly appearing and disappearing! When dealing with point light sources at night, I prefer the look that a wide aperture produces, but in this case, the “star” effect from the small aperture is easily lost in the “bloom” from the various explosions, so I wasn’t much concerned by this.

[2]: Oh sure, I could have set this to a higher ISO setting, given that I was using a digital camera, but a) I have an extraordinarily sturdy Manfrotto tripod at my disposal, b) I wanted to capture some motion blurring in the fire trails, and c) I really, really don’t like digital noise, so if I can avoid this effect, I will.

[3]: As mentioned in the previous note, I wanted to capture some motion blurring in the fire trails, so the slow shutter speed was desirable, anyways.

[4]: These are, after all, burning materials that are falling to the ground – seeing as how the word incandescent means “glowing or luminous with intense heat,” this seemed like a good bet for the white balance setting!

Yes, I know…I’m blatantly ripping off the title of one of my favorite books, but there is a reason for that, as I’ll explain momentarily. Right now, though, enjoy the photo.

D80-CHI_Luna01_2010-06_24B

Photo Information:

Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon Nikkor 300mm f/4 [1]
ISO Equivalency: 100
Color Setting: Vivid

The reason I used the title above is that photographing the Moon from the surface of the Earth is actually a bit harder than one might imagine. Often, it is not entirely apparent that the Moon is a rather fast-moving object…but it is. From a relative standpoint, it appears to be stationary, but wait around just a few minutes with a long telephoto lens pointed at it, and you will notice that the Moon has moved in even that short span of time. [2] Additionally, the Moon is obviously quite a bright object in the night sky; if you’re looking to capture some stars in the background, forget about it. [3] Even scattered clouds may not show up once you’ve properly set your exposure for the Moon itself. Even with making adjustments, it is not quite a simple matter of checking the light meter and using those settings; to capture any detail on the surface, you’ll have to underexpose the shot – by as much as two or three stops.

As for the latter part of the title, Western lore tends to depict the Moon as a feminine deity, [4] which is just fine with me; I always felt that moonlight was more attractive than sunlight, anyways.

Enjoy.

Notes:

[1]: Yes, you read that right. With the 1.5x crop factor for using full-frame lenses on a DX sensor, the effective focal length of the lens is a whopping 450mm. Now, repeat after me, “Woohoo!”

[2]: Given that the Moon’s orbital velocity is approximately 1 km/sec, this isn’t surprising – for reference, 60 mi/hr = 96.6 kph; (96.6 km/hr) / (60 min/1hr) = 1.61 km/min; (1.61 km/min) / (60 sec/min) = 0.027 km/sec. Or the other way around, the Moon is moving at an average velocity of 3,600 kph, or 2,237 mph. Pretty fast for a giant ball of iron and assorted minerals, ain’t she?

[3]: I mentioned this last year in regards to the notion that the photographs from the Apollo Lunar Missions were faked, specifically, the mention that none of the photos taken on the surface of the Moon had stars in the background. The answer, of course, is fairly straightforward: since the Moon has almost no atmosphere, [*] there is very little atmospheric gas to absorb or scatter the incident sunlight. As such, the surface of the Moon has a very high reflectance value, not so much because the material itself is highly reflective, but because there is so much more light hitting the surface. This being the case, the exposure settings need to be adjusted to account for this additional reflected light, and due to the high contrast between the very bright surface and the dark background of space, the stars are easily lost between these two.

[*]: Yes, the Moon does have an atmosphere; apparently, it only adds up to approximately 10 metric tons of gas, or approximately 100 trillionth (1/100,000,000,000,000) the density of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level. Effectively, the Moon is surrounded by hard vacuum.

[4]: Luna (Roman), Selene (Greek), Chang’E (Chinese), and Coyolxuahqui (Aztec), to name a few. And no, I have no idea how to pronounce the last one. Do you?

[5]: For those of y’all who are unfamiliar with the title, the book is The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein; it is one of my favorite books, written by one of my favorite authors. Well, it’s actually a toss-up between this one and Starship Troopers.