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Low Light Photography

30th March 2019

It’s Dark Down There


Mammoth Cave National Park, located in central Kentucky is the world’s largest system of caves extending more than 400 miles. On a recent trip with a few of our grandkids, we stopped there for a few hours to explore some of the caves.



here are the grandkids adorning the park sign

at this entrance way we had to descend about 30 steps

We arrived at the park too late to reserve a spot on one of the various guided tours. Instead we opted to take the self-guided tour.



The beginning of the cave entrance is lighted by daylight with handrails and a cement walkway. Continue walking and the outdoor light slowly disappears.

Electrical lights provide the only illumination inside, but they are relatively dim. We were surprised by the width of the cave at this point – about 30 feet side to side.


As you can see, we’re walking alongside the cave walls. The pathway is mostly hard dirt but there are cement pavers in some parts of this cave.

At this point, the cave widens considerably and the ceiling varies between 30 and 50 feet high. You’ll also notice that this area is well lighted.


One of the park rangers points out this small bat hanging from one of the cave walls. He tells us that there were hundreds of the bats at one time but they are no longer found in large numbers.

This part of Mammoth ends after about one-quarter of a mile. As we turn around and walk back towards the entrance way you can visualize the darkness of these caves.


This short clip shows the large size of the so-called “ampitheater” within the self-guided tour cave.



The steps from the cave. The self-guided tour is an easy way to explore Mammoth when you’re time limited.

Here is the wife and grandkids relaxing after their cave diving experience.



For those interested, these photos were taken with a Sony A7 III camera using a 24-240mm lens. In most cases, the ISO setting was 16000 or 32000 and taken handheld with a shutter speed of 1/15 or 1/30 and aperture as wide as f/3.5. I think the photos are of pretty decent quality considering the cave environment.

 

 



 

 

 

 

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Brightening My Winter


Winter weather in Michigan consists of lots of snow, cold and blustery temperatures and dark, gloomy clouds for weeks on end. You can imagine that I’d welcome getting away for a few days to a warm and sunny place.

Luckily, it’s just a three hour plane ride from the chills of Grand Rapids to swaying palm trees of Ft Lauderdale. I’m happy to feel the warmth and see the cloudless sky after quickly changing my attire into shorts and a t-shirt. Then I’m off to Everglades National Park.

As usual I have a camera in tow. My goal is to photograph the snowless foliage that lines the paths along the Everglades. Without any fanfare, below is a group of pictures that help to shed the Michigan winter blues.





















Of course the Everglades has much more to see and explore than its amazing foliage. I’m also a lover of birds but I’ll save those photos for another article.

 

 



 

 

 

 

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Iceland – a city view

15th October 2018

Reykjavik – the capital


Like many others, I have a bucket list of places that I’d like to visit. Over the past few years, my list has grown shorter as I work my way around. But high up on the list was my wish to visit Iceland. Early this month I finally made the trip to this island nation that sits way north, close to the Arctic Circle.

From Detroit, you can reach Iceland in about six hours. That makes it a shorter flight than one to either London or Paris. Ahead of time, I understood the weather to be quite variable but on the wet, cold and windy side. When I arrived in early October the temperature was about 40 degrees but the strong winds made it feel much colder.

I was prepared for the rain but wasn’t for the cold and wind so ended up purchasing a warm winter parka before setting out to explore Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and main city. Its population of 125,000 represents about 1/3 of the entire country. It sits along the western coast and is surrounded by beautiful mountains.






















I hope you’ve enjoyed the colorful and picturesque city landscapes, architecture and very walkable areas of Reykjavik.

 

 



 

 

 

 

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Tag Along Pal

09th October 2018

Just Migo and Myself


I just hopped off a plane after visiting with two of my long time friends – one in France and the other in Belgium. On the flight back to the US, I shortened my bucket list by spending a few days in Iceland.

I had company on this trip – my grandson Verek’s fluffy partner. Migo was my traveling companion.

Both Migo and I got to visit some of the well-known places in Paris, Brussels, Antwerp and Reykjavik. Here are some of the snapshots of Migo that I brought back for Verek.






















Verek now has a scrapbook to remember the travels of Migo.

 

 



 

 

 

 

Fuji Instax Cameras

29th March 2018

Instant Cameras on the Comeback Trail


When I was growing up, Polaroid instant print cameras were very popular.

After I bought my first SLR, my next purchase was the $19.95 Polaroid Swinger. The size of a small loaf of bread, the Swinger produced small black and white prints (about 2″ x 3″) in a mere 60 seconds. Instead of spending hours in the darkroom to see the results of my picturetaking, the Swinger provided me the instant gratification that today’s digital devices now deliver.

Before I knew it, I had several Polaroids in my stable of cameras including the OneStep as you see on the right. This model popularized the square 3′ x 3″ format prints in both black and white and color.

For many reasons by the start of the year 2000, the Polaroid Corporation was on a downhill slide and its bankruptcy claimed their instant cameras and film as a casualty.


At about this same time, Fuji was developing their Instax line. Fuji has since introduced a series of cameras that are tailored to multiple markets. Various models of the Instax are available in many different sizes and dozens of bright colors as you can see below. They include models for children, teenagers and millenials. I had a chance to see many of these models and displays at this year’s annual Wedding & Portrait Professional International Convention and Expo where I learned about Fuji’s continuing commitment to instant photography.

 

Instax film is available in several different sizes and with colorful borders.

The board on the right shows a set of instant prints that might be displayed for an engagement – in real time.


Instax Square SQ10

 

The Fuji rep showed me one of their new models. It’s called the Instax SQ10 and Fuji dubs this an instant print camera with digital features.

As its name suggests, the prints are about 2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ square. The SQ10 has a digital sensor so it can capture images to a microSD card. You can edit and or enhance the images using the builtin LCD monitor. The SQ10 has 10 builtin filters and adjustments for brightness and vignette. Lastly you can immediately print one or more copies.

The SQ10 has a fairly fast f/2.4 aperture with autofocus, a builtin flash, a self-timer and automatic ISO setting from 100 to 1600. The film is packaged for 10 exposures.

The suggested price is about $230 and film about $12 per pack. For more information please visit Instax Square SQ10.


Instax Share SP-3

 

The rep also demonstrated the Share SP-3. This is a small, portable printer that uses the same square film as the SQ10.

It’s aimed at users who want prints of their smartphone photos. To use it you first install the SP-3 app onto your smartphone. The app then establishes an integrated Wi-Fi connection from the SP-3 to the smartphone.

The app offers several ways to customize the prints. There are adjustments for brightness and contrast, color and special effect filters, conversion to black and white and multiple ways to combine two, three, four or nine images on a single print. Additionally the time, date and location can be added to the print.

The SP-3 also lets you print images from a Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Google Photo account so you can share prints with others.

The suggested price of the SP-3 is about $180. It uses the same film as the SQ10 costing about $12 per pack. For more information, please visit Instax Share SP-3.


 

 

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

The Litra Torch

28th March 2018

Tiny LED Lighting


As I was walking through the WPPI Expo, the display to the right caught my attention. And so I stopped to talk to the rep. Here is a small aquarium filled with water. At the bottom are two small cube devices. Both of them were brightly shining to demonstrate that they are waterproof.

The small device is the Litra Torch – a cube about 1-1/2″ in size and weighing a mere 3 ounces. It provides up to 800 Lumens of continuous daylight balanced light but is also adjustable to 450 and 100 Lumens. With it’s 80 degree coverage, it’s usable with most wide angle lenses. The Torch also has a strobe mode – useful for special effects while shooting video.

There are a variety of options for mounting the Litra. The body has two standard 1/4-20 tripod sockets. Its back is magnetic for attaching to a metallic surface.

For close up work, you can attached the diffuser (see below). It includes a mount when used with a GoPro. Rep Andrew Siminoff showed me a GoPro mounted with a pair of Torches that was set up for video recording (see below right).

The Torch is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery that provides about 30 minutes of light at the high 800 Lumens setting.

Litra also has a set of accessories for the Torch including bicycle mounts, head mounts, several handheld mounts, miniature tripod and filters.



 

The Torch is an accessory that you can literally carry around in your pocket to provide a convenient light source. Suggested price is $80 and includes the diffuser, belt clip, GoPro mount, USB charging cable.

For more information please visit Litra.

 

 

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

Scanning Made Easy with the Epson FF-640

If you’re old enough to drink (alcohol that is), then you may remember the shoebox in the closet stuffed with family photos. They sit there collecting dust until someone brings up a past event that has you digging through hundreds of prints looking for the time that Uncle John took you fishing and you caught your first keeper.



Our family has been taking and collecting photographs since the 1920s. As the unofficial designated keeper of the archives, I’ve been slowly scanning these photos with the goal of organizing, documenting and distributing them to the many relatives and friends among our (very large) extended family.


About the year 2000 I acquired my first flat bed scanner similar to this one.

Although a flat bed produces good quality digital images, it is slow and laborious to operate. Each photo is carefully placed on the glass top, the cover is closed and then the computer is instructed to start the scan. Owing to my lack of patience, I can scan only a couple of dozen prints using the flat bed at one sitting. Afterwards, I have to take a break. At this pace, it will be a long time to complete my archiving obligation.

NOTE: The flat bed scanner to the right is a newer advanced model that can produce very high resolution digitized images from your photos. It can also produce digitized images from film negatives (do you remember film?) and transparencies (slides).

For the many shoeboxes full of old photos that I have to organize, I’ve decided that speed is more important than high resolution. At this year’s WPPI Conference and Expo, I found a solution that is now helping me make progress dealing with the thousands of prints that have been collecting dust in the closet – the Epson FF-640 FastFoto scanner.


The FF-640 scanner connects to your computer with a USB-cable. The computer here is a MacBook but the scanner is compatible with Windows PCs as well.

Photos are stacked into the feeder face down. The guides on the feeder are adjustable and accommodate up to twenty or so photos of the same width.

The Epson software lets you specify the level of resolution – either the lower 300 dpi or the higher 600 dpi. While you can save hard disk space by using the 300dpi setting, I’ve always scanned at the 600 dpi setting since I’m not concerned about conserving hard disk space. You can also select a folder for storing the scanned images.



The photos are loaded into the feeder face down. The gray guides are adjusted to the width of the photos.

Here I’ve specified the name of the destination folder for the scanned image.


You can start scanning your stack of photos by clicking on the FastFoto software start button. Alternatively you can press the blue button on the FF-640. This is another nice feature since you can take as much time to load subsequent groups of photos into the scanner without having to reset the software.

When you’ve completed scanning one or more stacks of photos, the FastFoto software displays the digital images on screen. The software lets you enhance the brightness and contrast, remove red eye and restore faded colors of the original photo if you’d like to save editing time afterwards.


My mother often wrote “notes” on the back of the photos. The FastFoto has a built-in feature that lets you scan both sides of the photo so that you can keep the notes with the digitized image.

This is an example of a scanned image from a photo with a note written on the back.

The note refers to Steven’s school grade when the photograph was originally taken.


This is an old photo from the shoebox. The original was quite faded.

Thanks to the ingenuity of this scanner I can digitally record the imprint on the back of the original. The photo was processed in 1951!


Here is another old vintage b&w photo.

Conveniently annotated from 1950.

Below is a short video of the FF-640 in action. I can scan four or five dozen photographs with the FF-640 in about ten minutes. It’s an amazing time saver.

 


 

 

The FF-640 sells for about $650 – a considerable investment. However, I’m thoroughly happy with this scanner. It has saved me countless hours of time on my quest to archive the thousands (tens of thousands) of family photographs.

For more information, please visit Epson.

 

 

 


 

 

Summer Faces

31st May 2016

 


 

Just Faces

Here’s a small album of pictures that show you that Summer is here.

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 



 

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Feel The Fresh Air

05th October 2015

To be frank, it’s been a busy summer.

You can see by the dearth of recent articles that I’ve kind of neglected my editorial duties here.

The days are shortening and the air is getting brisk. Still I’ve been enjoying the outdoors and took a few snapshots to share that explain why I enjoy the Fall.






I hope you’ll be able to take a few minutes to take a deep breath of the fresh air of the Fall and enjoy the outdoors.

 

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 

 

 


 

 

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Mylio – Organization +

24th March 2015

Organizing your Collections

The proliferation of high quality mobile devices has given professional and non-professional photographers alike more alternatives for capturing, storing, managing and displaying their images. But at the same time using multiple devices has made it more difficult for them to keep their collections orderly.

At the Mylio booth at the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Expo I stopped to have a demonstration of their software and service that addresses many of the issues that crop up when using multiple devices.

Mylio bills its product as a rich photo management system to organize, edit, synchronize and safeguard a large collection of images.


Harry Wendt gave me a quick demo


Henry showed me that changes to an image on a laptop are immediately synchronized to a second computer, a tablet and a smartphone. You can choose to backup images to the cloud for additional security.

Mylio has three levels of service for $50/year, $100/year and $250/year that let you synchronize up to three, five or twelve devices respectively. The two higher levels integrate with Lightroom and let you edit RAW images as well.

As I was unable to spend more time at the demo, I plan to do a more lengthy review of this service as it seems to include many useful features.


For more information about this service, please visit Mylio.

 
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 


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