Will I Ever Take a Good Picture?

My journey trying to take good photos.

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UMASS Walkabout 5/25/2014. Plus jpg out of camera vs my edit from raw comparison.

Went to visit my daughter yesterday. We spent the afternoon together and went out for lunch and for ice cream. In between we went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus to see the ducklings and of course we took our cameras. It is hard to get a good picture of the little guys. I only took 36 pictures. I think that is the least I have ever taken when I went to take pictures. I have taken more of a single flower on the side of a trail!

My first keepers of the day were of a turtle. The pond was in the process of being dredged so it was very low. I am not sure if this guy was floating or walking across the muck.


Then Anna noticed another turtle by the bridge. This turtle was walking on the bottom of the pond.



Got two shots of the ducklings with Mom. I am happier with my turtle shots.



I shoot raw+jpg and when I go thru my photos from a shoot I look at the jpg versions to pick what I want to keep. Then I edit the raw photos. I have never compared my final edits to the jpgs out of the camera so I decided I would do that here. The only edits in the jpgs were from cropping. I wish I could figure out how to be able to rollover the image to switch between jpg and my edit but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to do that in WordPress. I don’t think I can do it in the free version since every time I try my edits are deleted. If anyone knows how to do it let me know. If you have no idea what I’m talking about check this blog post by Jeffrey Friedl where he does what I am looking to do. Scroll down to the picture of the X-Rite Color Checker Passport photo.

Blog that shows mouseover views.

The first turtle picture. First is jpg out of camera and then my edit.




They both are good. Looking at them in LR where I can switch back and forth the biggest difference is the change that was done by applying lens correction. The lens correction corrects the distortion from the lens I was using (Canon EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6). This correction caused the rock in the top right of the shot to be removed from my edit. If you can’t find the rock here it is.UMASS_05-25-14-Edit

There is also a bit of difference in the brightness of the photo. Look at the mud/dirt in the foreground and the green highlights in the water.

Here is the second turtle picture. Again first is jpg out of camera and then my edit.



I think in this one my edit looks better.

Now for the second of the duck shot. first is jpg…



Both are fine. The dirt looks lighter in my edit but not by much.

For the turtle underwater picture I thought I would go back and try to edit the jpg to see if I could make it look like my edit. Here is the result.


Close but I’m getting some weirdness on the left hand side. So in this picture at least editing from raw helped. I also edited the first turtle picture and got the jpg from camera very close to my edit so in that case shooting raw didn’t make much difference. For what it is worth here is the jpg with edits.


I should have taken pictures of the ice cream we got. I know I ordered a small sundae but I was expecting a bit more than one small scoop of ice cream in it. Anna got a small cup and it looked all of 4 bites. It was good but for the price not worth it.


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Tower HIll botanic Gardens 5/21/14

Tower Hill is open on Wed. evenings and it is very convenient to stop on the way home from work. I took a lot of pictures and it took me a long time to go thru them. I still don’t trust myself to take a good picture and I take four or five shots of almost every subject. Then I get home and they are almost always all good or all bad. If they are bad no problem into the trash they go but if they are all good I can’t figure out which one I want to keep.

The gardens are just starting to grow. It will be interesting to take pictures again of the following two shots in a few months and then compare them:



The plants in the above photo bottom center were a bit wilted. I like trees and here is a Dawn Redwood. I didn’t know Redwoods would grow here in New England. According to Wikipedia it is a native of China and grows to two hundred feet.


Not sure what happened to these hostas. Looks like something took a nap in them.


Couple of plants had a tough winter. I don’t think the second one is going to make it.



The Magnolias were in bloom. Quite the flower!


Here is my favorite picture of the day. A grouping of potted plants.


A bit closer.


When I was taking the pictures I thought I would like the second one the best but once I looked at them I like the first one.

Here is one of the greenhouses that the plants winter in. Just a few plants left to be taken outside.


This looked much better in person:( I can’t take a picture of a free standing flowering bush/tree and have it come out nice.


Heading into the woods I found this on the side of the trail.


I should have moved that leaf in the bottom left before taking the picture. Another wildflower; I have taken pictures of these at Hodges in years past. I can’t quite get the white in the flower to look correct.


After taking the above picture I was walking down the trail and I heard a very loud gobble. Looking to my left there were two turkeys. Usually when you see turkeys they don’t get upset but they start walking away from you. Not these guys. They posed for a few minutes.


I think this one wanted to know why the sign, which had pictures of birds you might see, didn’t have a picture of a turkey.

Here is the second turkey.


A few more shots.



Then a bit further along the trail I ran into more Turkeys. These acted more like other turkeys I have seen. As soon as they saw me they picked up the pace.


Some pretty white flowers on the side of the trail.


Remember this field from a few weeks ago?


Here is what it looked like before.


My attempt at trying to get something a bit different than a scenery shot.


Not sure if I like it or not.

A couple of shots of the Systematic Garden.




and from the Tower HIll website a picture someone with better skills than I took. Note this is shot from a different angle then mine.

Picture of fountain.

My last picture of the day.


I like the way this picture came out.

Well that is all for this trip.



A trip To Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Went to Tower Hill Botanic Garden again yesterday. I had received an email saying the Daffodils were in bloom. They were also having an African Violet show/sale. Wasn’t that interested in the African Violet show but I did want to see the Daffodils. I was all ready to go on Saturday but it rained so I went on Suday (4/27/2013). It was an overcast day that was a bit on the chilly side.

I do not take good landscape pictures and was curious to see if I could get some good shots of the Daffodils. I took a walk on one of the trails before heading over to the Daffodil field. Here is a picture I took looking towards where the vegetable garden will be.

TowerHill_04-27-002From another view.

TowerHill_04-27-012As you can see the weather wasn’t the best but I didn’t have to worry about the sun casting shadows.

I checked out the apple orchard.TowerHill_04-27-003-Edit-2You want to read the sign don’t you?TowerHill_04-27-010

I hope to go back when the trees are in bloom. My first view of the Daffodils.TowerHill_04-27-025and my best shot of the Daffodils:(TowerHill_04-27-047-Edit-2Much more impressive if you were present. I tried a few shots from low looking thru the field and they were even worse than this one! Oh well.

Here is a picture of the coloring that I liked the best. I really liked the orange center.TowerHill_04-27-059There is this bust on the trail. It is something about youth and age but it creeps me out.


Not sure why but I always take a picture of the gazebo.TowerHill_04-27-033Here is almost the same shot from last summer. I can’t wait until things green up.TowerHill_07-25-2013-020Here is a picture of The Systematic Garden. Won’t be long before the plants start to grow!TowerHill_04-27-086-EditA picture form a different view from last summer.TowerHill_07-25-2013-074Last week was school vacation week and there were activities for the kids. One was a Story Walk, Fairy Houses and Spring Fling Scavenger Hunt. I took pictures of the Fairy Houses. Some were a bit worse for the wear but I think I got all of them but one. TowerHill_04-27-091
















All the fairy houses were amazing. I liked the Gourd House and the Tree House the best. While I was taking the pictures a family started to walk thru. Judging by the exclamations from the little girl the  fairy houses were a hit!

Here is a picture I really wanted to come out. It is a panorama of 3 shots stiched together. It is a bit out of focus though. TowerHill_04-27-216-EditI wasn’t that interested in the African Violet show but I did walk thru. There were a LOT of plants. Not a good picture but this gives you and idea.TowerHill_04-27-255Here is a picture of one of the plants.TowerHill_04-27-251

They even had violets in bottles.TowerHill_04-27-289

I had read in the paper a few days ago that Tower Hill was participating in trying to create a disease resistant American Chestnut. It said that the chestnuts had come from various seed orchards including one at Tower Hill. So I thought they had trees that were somewhat resistant to the blight. I asked where the trees were and was told where they were but also informed that the trees were infected. I was disappointed. Here are a few pictures of the chestnuts.TowerHill_04-27-303



As you can see they have the blight. I remember a tree near my house when I was a kid that looked like the second picture. Just a bunch of small shoots. I don’t remember it ever having any nuts. If you look in the bottom left of the first picture you can see the husks from the seeds.

At this point I was pretty much done for the day and it started to rain. If it was going to rain it was nice that it didn’t start until I was a few minutes from calling it a day anyway.




Went out on the porch last Saturday (4/12) and the crocuses were blooming so of course I had to take some pictures. More to get back in the picture taking mood since past experience has shown me that crocuses are not my best subject. I only took a few shots and ended up with three I like. The reason I find crocuses hard to take pictures of is it is hard to seperate the background from the flower. 







Which one do you like?

As I was walking back into the house I saw a few more by the stairs. They were darker and I wanted to see how the color showed up so I took a couple of quick shots. Here is the one that came out the best.


The color did come out nice. Note what is in the lower right though. It is a snake. I didn’t even notice it when I took the picture. I would have been very surprised if I had stuck my hand down to clean things up a bit! I usually do a bit of preparation like moving twigs or leaves. In the first three shots I also used a diffuser. Here is a shot of the setup.



Nothing exciting but it was nice to be taking some pictures!



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Coming out of hibernation

As I have mentioned before I don’t like taking pictures in the winter.  I like taking pictures outside when it is warm! Here is a picture I took one morning before work on 2/19. Not the type of weather that I like to go out and take pictures.


and looking the other way.



I did find a great place to take pictures though. Tower Hill Botanic Gardens. I have posted pictures before from Tower Hill last summer; here and here.

I joined Tower HIll so now I can go whenever I want. I went twice this winter. Once on 2/2 and again on 3/1. On the first trip there was an art exhibit by Mary Kocol. It was interesting but not my cup of tea. The pictures were all taken with a toy camera. I actually didn’t get any pictures from this. I was there to look not take pictures although I did have my camera and took some shots in the greenhouses but embarrassed to say none came out.

My next trip was to the Camellia Show. I am not sure what I expected (plants with flowers on them probably) but what they had was cut blooms in bowls of water. There were a lot of people and I’m not comfortable taking pictures in crowds because I feel like I am in the way. Folks were really nice and if they noticed you taking a picture they would pause while you shot away. I felt like I was ruining other folks experience.

I did get some nice pictures. Nothing that would make me think I could quit my day job and become a professional photographer though:)

Here are a couple that I liked:




Like I said, blooms in bowls of water!

Here was a nice arrangement.


This one didn’t come out very well (think I should have shot down on this rather then level) but it shows the amount of flowers there were.



Another shot showing the presentation.


Here is a picture of the winners although it doesn’t look complete since there are extra ribbons (that I really wanted to move out of the picture:))


My favorite shot of the day wasn’t even part of the show, just some plants they had in the same area.


That was it for the show. I went to one of the greenhouses and took some more pictures. Here are the ones I liked.

These were huge!


Nice place to sit and relax. My camera froze up on me and I sat here while I tried to get it to work. I was a bit worried because it stopped working after I changed a lens and I was afraid I broke the camera! No worries! I turned it off and back on and it came up. My battery died a bit after this so that might have been part of the problem.


When I sat down the plant that was leaning over the chair bit me. The leaves were very hard. I tried to take a picture of the leaf but they didn’t come out good (I was hand holding the camera).



That’s all for today. Hopefully the weather will warm up and I’ll get out to take more pictures!


Tower Hill Botanic Garden Trip 2

Went back to Tower Hill on Wed (8/14/2013) to try to get some sunset pictures. Last time I went sunset was just a little past closing time so I didn’t get any sunset photos. It was very breezy and it was tough taking pictures of the flowers since they were moving all over the place but surprisingly I got some good pictures. Lately I have been taking pictures of groups of flowers from up close. Here is my first attempt of the day.

I really like this sunflower. Edit 8/18 – informed this is a daisy!


The only other flower picture I took.

ImageI spent some time in the vegetable garden. I think this is kohlrabi? I am not sure though.


Then a picture of kale.


The reason I came today was for the sunset so I did some practicing. There were clouds so I had high hopes that I might get a good sunset!

ImageBack to the vegetable garden. It was getting close to sunset and I am facing east here but sometimes you get some nice shots looking away from where the sun is setting. I can’t figure out which picture I like best so I’ll post them both.



I wish I could have got both the shed and the bench in the same picture!

Then it was off to see if I good find a good sunset photo. After scouting around earlier I thought the only good place to shoot was at the entrance so off I went to the entrance. Here is one of my first shots. Like the previous two garden shots this is processed in NIK HDR Pro 2.


I took a LOT of shots of the sunset. Here is a slideshow. It actually looks better if you hit the forward arrow rather then play since play takes to long to change pictures.

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I have a folder of this days shoot that is over 8GB! A lot of that is that each of my sunset photos is actually 4 photos. One is the HDR processed picture and then the 3 photos that I took in a bracket (0ev, -1ev, and 1ev).

Still reading Complete Digital Photography by Ben Long and he uses the trick of setting white balance by using a rock also!

That’s all for today.

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Last weekend I attended the NECCC photo conference held at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst MA. This was my second year attending and I had a great time. I went to a total of 13 talks plus the keynote speech by Nevada Wier. The keynote speech was definitely the high point of the weekend. What an amazing life Nevada has had.

My favorite talk was Chance, Necessity or Insipiration- the Why’s of Composition by David Akoubian. I liked his definition of a picture vs an image:

“A picture is nothing more than capturing a moment in time, a fraction of a second possibly. An image is capturing a memory of a moment in time, capturing the feelings and emotions of that moment in time when the photographer releases the shutter. ”

I have struggled with how to describe pictures that I post. I have used the terms picture/shot for something I just took quickly and photo as what David defines as an image. To give an example of (using David’s definitions) a picture.


In this picture I wanted to capture that I saw a cat on my hike. Nothing fancy, just something I could put in a post on my hike.

An image is something I spend time on, I look at the subject and try to figure out what is the best angle to shoot from, do I need a diffuser, should I use a tripod… Then I can spend anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour trying to get everything just right. Here is what I consider is an image.


Might not look like it but I spent quite a bit of time getting this image. As I learn more I think of more things. I like printing my images and have found I am not leaving enough room at the edges to be able to properly frame/crop the image. So now I think “Am I leaving enough room for cropping or to change the aspect ratio (ie 4×6 vs say 8×10).

I took many other classes including two on macro photography and another couple on printing your images.

I borrowed a 16-35mm f2.8L II USM lens from Canon. One of the classes I had already taken by the time I borrowed the lens was Wide Angle Magic – The Good, The Bad, and Ugly by O. Truman Holtzclaw so off I went to take some photos. I had a difficult time with this lens. When  I borrowed a 300mm lens last year I took quite a few good photos. I came to the conclusion using a wide angle lens is harder than I thought. Here is my best image from my walk about with this lens. The background isn’t nice but the flower looks great.


Here is another one. I think using my macro lens would be a better lens choice:)


In the class we were told you need a foreground element in the picture. FOREGROUND, FOREGROUND, FOREGROUND is what the instructor kept telling us! And by foreground he meant real close. Well this duck didn’t take the same class because he wouldn’t let me get close:(


The lens was nice (expensive at $1699). I don’t think I’ll be getting one though.

Here are some more pictures I took while at the conference. Heading back to the dorm at the end of the day on Friday I came across a rabbit who posed for me. This is hand held at ISO 6400 for .3 seconds. Not bad if I do say so myself.


Here is the picture straight out of the camera with a bit of a white balance problem.


I have found that using the white balance tool on a rock is almost as good as a grey card. I clicked the white balance tool on the rock on the bottom right to correct the white balance. I bet using any of the rocks would work. Around my house just about any picture that has the ground in it has a rock that you can use as a built in grey card!

I did my picture taking either heading back to the dorm at the end of the day or early in the morning before breakfast so I took most of my pictures as a bracket. I have a Canon camera which takes a braket of three shots. I usually take +1ev, 0ev, and -1ev but I mixed it up a bit just to experiment. Then I downloaded the NIK bundle package which includes HDR processing and came up with some nice images. My first one.

ImageNot bad but I don’t like the grass.  In this series I took +-2/3ev and I liked the grass in the +2/3ev photo so I took the grass from that photo and replaced the grass in the above picture and ended up with this.


I like this. Then I thought what would I have ended up with if I just took one photo and manipulated it in Lightroom. I did that and ended up with this.

ImageI decided I liked the HDR version with the grass replaced better than any of the other versions although I have to admit the Lightroom edited version only is a very close second. The Lightroom version took all of 2 minutes to do while the HDR version was much longer.

My next picture is also HDR.

ImageI like the way it came out.

Another HDR version with the grass replaced with one of the bracketed shots. I don’t like how the grass comes out in the HDR versions!


A shot of a new building.


Here is a picture of the Durfee Conservatory.


One last HDR image. I think this one came out the best since it has a bit of color from the sunrise.

ImageOk that is it for the HDR images! I came upon this house in the middle of campus. Not something you expect to see.


I found this interesting. I think the curb here is protected from skateboarders. That is the only reason I could come up with for the black things on the curbs.


Well that is all for this post.