Monday, January 20, 2014

Images from a night of restlessness ...

I had a few nights of irregular sleep this past week; I'd crash early while watching television, only to wake up in the very late evening unable to fall back to sleep in my bed. So I decided to get outdoors and walk, appreciating the night vistas I might come across.

I didn't start either walk with the intent of taking pictures. But now that I've grown accustomed to carrying the cell phone with me at almost all times, I turned to it on two occasions when the snowscapes and landscapes grabbed my attention. You saw one example of that in the previous post -- the shot of the moon through some tree branches in Garfield Park.

It happened again Saturday night, which came after a long day of light snowfall. I started out intending only to walk the two blocks or so to drop off some mail in the neighborhood mailbox. But as I neared the box, I felt refreshed ... and eager to maximize the exercise opportunity. I reminded myself that I had the camera phone in my pocket, motivated by the iPhone shot of the moon several days before ... and of images I posted here from the very heavy snowfall two Sundays ago.

On Wednesday night, I took only a handful of pictures, one of which was the one of the moon. That walk took me as far north as Manual High School at Pleasant Run and Madison Avenue. But on Saturday night (technically, as it turned out, it was early Sunday morning), I couldn't stop snapping photos. I counted 60 frames when I pulled up the images at home afterward. With one exception, the pictures you see here are the results of that Saturday night/Sunday morning walk-through my neighborhood, Garfield Park-South.

For those who might actually live in the neighborhood or are familiar with it ... and who would like to figure out how I arrived at various places ... my course started at the north end of Allen Avenue near Southern Avenue and proceeded south past the mailbox to Cameron Street, east on Cameron to the north-south alley just west of Shelby Street (behind Dinner Bell market), where I turned south and walked two blocks to Albany Street before going east for a short jog to Shelby Street. From Shelby, I walked north to Yoke Street, where I turned west and walked to Manker Street, then north on Manker to the east-west alley between Willow Drive and Southern Avenue before completing the jaunt.

In most cases, I tinkered with the images only slightly in post-processing. Curiously, even the slightest post-processing adjustments in contrast or color significantly lightened the sky in many of the images. You might not believe they were taken after midnight, but I assure you, all of them were (except the new one from Wednesday night that I include here). And in at least three cases, the sky color changed from a dark bronze to a pleasant, light blue.

The images are noisy and a few reflect a focus softer than I'd normally settle for. iPhone obviously needed a high ISO and slow shutter to give me something to work with. I ran all of shots through Noiseware in post-processing, but it really didn't seem to mute noise that much in this batch.

It was hard to pick a favorite from the batch. I lead off with one of them, a vista looking east down Cameron Street from a point just east of Allen Avenue. I enjoyed the framing, the mid-point street lighting ... and the tiny red stoplights at Shelby Street at the far end.

Above and below: Views from two sides of the same home. I so much liked the way this was illuminated, that I wanted to show it from both sides. I believe this home is on Cameron Street.

Above: The crossing pattern grabbed my eye here. I'm not sure where this was taken.

Above: This image was another of my favorites. The way the snow dresses up the bushes in the yard, the home's neat architecture, and the spot door lighting all worked together to make this a neat composition.

Above: Any tinkering with the contrast or color on this image, taken along Albany Street, I think, made the sky incredibly bright, so I left it alone. 

Above and below: The grill (above) and hood (below) on these vehicles are what nudged me to photograph them. I took the one below in both available and flash; I used the flash version for the post. Is it me, or does it look like a frown face on the hood below? 

Above: Recent bad weather has thrown off the pickup schedule for recyclables in neighborhoods everywhere.

Above: I was interested to see how much detail the iPhone would give me of the steam drifting off this machinery in the alley west of -- and parallel to -- Shelby Street.  

Above: My original destination for the late-night/early-morning walk Saturday/Sunday.

Above: On Albany Street just before turning north onto Shelby Street (below), where shortly thereafter I pass the two-story building housing Dant Insurance Agency (two below). This structure was rebuilt after being severely damaged by a tornado on the day of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race in 2004.  

Above: Vehicles in a used auto sales lot get no protection from the elements. 

Above: The entrance to the former Garfield Heights Church of Christ building just north of Berwyn Street. 

Above and next two below: Coming up on Dinner Bell Market on Shelby Street, just north of Cameron Street. 

Above and next three below: Different perspectives of Bethany Wesleyan Church, at the southwest corner of Shelby and Yoke streets.

Above: A conifer along Allen Avenue. 

Above: Also along Allen Avenue. This image is one of those in which the sky turned a pleasant blue with the slightest tweaking of contrast. 

Above: On Nelson Avenue, looking west toward the Allen Avenue intersection.  

Above: I think this one is on Manker Street, looking north from near Yoke Street.

 Above and next two below: More shots along Allen Avenue.

Above: A vertical orientation version of the scene depicted in the photo leading off the post. 

Above and next two below: Homes and a street vista on Manker Street. Incredible how bright the sky is, with just the slightest adjustment of contrast in the image. 

Above: This is the one image not taken during the weekend neighborhood walk-through. I took this on Wednesday night's walk, and it depicts a section of Manual High School in the upper right corner ... and Pleasant Run in the foreground. This was taken from the Madison Avenue bridge over the run.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The moon ... through the lens of an iPhone

I know my iPhone's camera has its limitations, but I continue to marvel at its ability to capture quality images under challenging circumstances. My experience is that your luck is hit and miss, although my luck so far has been more hit than miss. And this is significant, given that the photographer has no control over the camera's aperture and shutter speed settings. It's a virtual point-and-shoot, but one equipped with face-recognition capability, which I'm beginning to think carries over to distinctly bright things the camera sees in a composition.

Such as the photograph of the moon in this post, which I took Wednesday night, shortly before midnight, as I was out on a stroll for fresh air and exercise. I've tried to take images with the iPhone in very low light without luck, but on reflection, it occurs to me that none of those images had at least one distinct, bright focal point in the composition.

I've also had some impressive luck with it. Regular visitors here might remember the shots of the Eli Lilly complex after dark a couple months ago, or the photos of a blues trio in the low-lighted confines of the Slippery Noodle Inn from five months ago or so, when I took several pictures of the two blues bands performing there that evening.

Luck was with me Wednesday night for the moon photo. Skies were densely cloudy, but I had noticed on a couple occasions during my half-hour walk I'd gaze upward to explore something bright I'd suddenly noticed out of the corner of my eye. Every 5 minutes or so, the moon was darting through extremely small pockets of clear sky before sliding behind the clouds.

It didn't occur to me to try and photograph the sphere until I was on the home stretch of my walk. I was on the sidewalk along Pagoda Drive in Garfield Park, near the foot of the hill that begins at the Burrello Family Center. I glanced up at the sky and noticed the moon nearing an open pocket, and coming up on me to the right near the road was the large, expansive-branched maple tree that I've photographed on several occasions.

I pulled out the camera phone, composed and focus at a point where the pocket was framed between a couple of branches and held my breath to hopefully minimize any camera shake. When the moon slipped into the pocket, I released the shutter.

I uploaded the shot to my Facebook timeline just to have something to post for the day. The version on my camera photo look OK, but I had no idea -- until pulling up the Facebook post version on the computer screen after I got home -- that the image did as well capturing the detail that it did. I was stunned; it did not look nearly that good on the phone.

The version in this post has been edited and enhanced further in Photoshop Elements 10. I lowered the highlights, which improved the moon's finite shape and enriched the blue in the sky a bit. I also ran the image through Noiseware software then sharpened it slightly in Photoshop.

As always, to view a larger version of images in these posts, click on the image.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A winter's day, night to remember

Happy New Year, everyone!

I don't think I've ever used a first-of-the-year post to stop and extend such greetings, so I want to do that now.

Many of us need a bit of happiness in our lives. Much of the Midwest has just come through one of its worst winter storm slams in history -- record or near-record snowfall in a 24-hour period quickly followed by a blast of double-digit subzeo temperatures.

I was one of those Central Indiana homeowners who elected to tackle Sunday's daylong snow dump by shoveling in intervals. Every two hours or so, I went out to clear my walks and paths, and each time, the heft of the wet snow made me thankful that I got out there when I did. I ended up shoveling six times that day, and it wasn't until trip No. 5 that I thought to take photos and grab a short video of the aesthetic spectacle that, until that point, I unfortunately neglected to stop and appreciate.

True, the terrible weather would wreak havoc on so many people's lives in the 72 hours plus. I'm not happy about that. On social media alone, I've read countless rants and verbal harpoons directed at city government snow-removal efforts. In government's defense, this was no ordinary weather system. Could it have been handled better? Possibly. But were the challenge -- and the odds -- to get it right and perfect extraordinarily more difficult for this system? Most definitely.

Thankfully, not having a Monday-Friday office job anymore, I was not among those who had to battle the elements ... and negotiate the treacherous thoroughfares on the daily commute. Late Wednesday morning, I made my first venture out of the house and onto city streets since Saturday. I went to the post office to get a small package weighed for postage and mailed. It was a short trip, one that took only marginally longer than usual, even though the streets -- main thoroughfares -- were pretty horrendous.

I'm really babbling off topic for this post, however ... which is simply to display some of the images I took late Sunday afternoon and, partially, to explore different "looks" and crops of the same scene. All the images were taken within a very short radius of my driveway on my last two trips to shovel. Photos and the one video (not shown here) that I took in the first shoot, which occurred late in the afternoon but while there still was a little daylight left, were taken exclusively with my iPhone. I also used that the second time, about two and a half hours later after darkness had set in, during my last shovel trip. I concluded the second shoot with some frames using my Canon 6D.

The very first shot I took after dark -- the one leading off the post -- was a reprise of a scene I'd taken earlier when there was daylight ... and it turned out to be my favorite of the day, even though the focus ended up softer than I'd sought. The image looks north from my driveway toward Southern Avenue and, in the background beyond the stop sign and streets lights, Garfield Park. No doubt the iPhone (whose aperture and shutter speed cannot be controlled by the user) required a shutter speed slower than I could manage without introducing some shake, or blur, into the image. Still, I thought the soft focus was a nice effect for the scene, so I posted it on Facebook. The little work I did with the image in Photoshop lightened the sky.

I went back to the house and grabbed my 6D on that last trip outdoors for the day and took some more images. Rather than lug out the tripod so I could use a better quality ISO, I hand-held the camera and boosted the ISO into five digit territory. I wasn't wanting or planning on being out there long; I wanted to get the shots and get back inside. The 6D images were marginally better.

Above: I took the image leading off the post and converted it to black and white, giving me this. 

Above and below: Slightly different vantage points of the same scene -- this time using the 6D ... and incorporating less sky in order to include, in the left foreground, a sliver of the snowpile where I deposited a lot of the snow I removed from that portion of my shoveling. This was the first shot I took using the 6D, and ISO was set at 800. The shot was extensively underexposed, so I boosted the midtone illumination in post-processing, which got me these ... while also introducing noise that I'd normally see at ISO levels of 2400 or more. I'm not sure I like the color version, but I do like the B/W version. 

Above: I boosted the 6D's ISO to 12800, and got this.

Above and below: Two more after-dark shots taken with the 6D, the bottom one reflecting a boost in shadows and midtone illumination. 

Above: The iPhone shot of the same scene leading off the post. This one was taken a little before darkness set in. 

Above and below: A couple more iPhone shots from the earlier shoot. Above, looking down the street toward a neighbor clearing the sidewalk with a blower. Below, standing at the top of my driveway and looking across the street.