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. 

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