Cape Disappointment – Part 1, Lighthouses

This last week I took the Labor Day holiday early.  On Wednesday, I took a vacation day, left the house before 8:00AM, and drove down the Pacific Coast Highway to Cape Disappointment, the farthest southwest corner of Washington State. I spent the day exploring the peninsula and taking photos.  So this weekend, while the roads are jammed with motorhomes and boat trailers, I’m sitting here editing my photos, away from the mad rush and crowds.

There were three main areas I wanted to get photos of when I researched the park online before my trip.  The lighthouses, Deadman’s Cove, and the beach.  When I arrived, it was overcast and foggy.  Cloudy skies are both a blessing and a curse.  Clouds diffuse sunlight and make for more even exposures, but it also makes everything look very dull, flat, and gray.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse - edited in Lightroom 4 & NIK Color Efex Pro 4

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Here it is the last week of August, and the original RAW file of this photo looks like a scene in the dead of winter.  I didn’t try to warm it up, but I did use software to add a neutral density filter to the sky and bring out some of the clouds.  This was originally a white sky and very dark lighthouse. This lighthouse was built in 1856, and has had some modifications to it’s light since then. It is positioned right at the mouth of the Columbia River.

This next lighthouse is two miles up the coast. It was built because ships coming from the north could not see the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse very well.

North Head Lighthouse

North Head Lighthouse

I used Lightroom to get some contrast and sharpness into a very dull picture.  Then I used NIK Color Efex Pro 4 using the Pro Contrast tool and Graduated Neutral Density filter to get the most I could out of the sky. I usually do the best I can in Lightroom, and then use Color Efex Pro to get a little more out of the image. It’s been a learning process to know how far I can push a photo without degrading image quality.

North Head Lighthouse - no editing

North Head Lighthouse – no editing

Just for comparison, here is the original, un-edited image straight from the RAW file. Amazing what a transformation can take place with a little tweaking in software!

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Variations of a Scene: NorthPoint Bench

NorthPoint - HDR

NorthPoint – HDR

This place is on the northern most point between East Bay and West Bay in Olympia, Washington, hence the name.  It was very hazy last night, so no spectacular sunset this time. (See “Sunset at North Point” post.)  I did try some triple-exposure HDR photos, and this is one (above).

But  I did start playing with some different looks in NIK Software’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2.

NorthPoint - Cool

NorthPoint – Cool

This look may appear a little unnatural. I cooled the colors down and used a graduated neutral density filter.

NorthPoint - Warm

NorthPoint – Warm

This is also a somewhat unnatural but nice looking variation.  I really like the “Pro Contrast” tool and some of the bi-color or graduated filter effects in NIK Color Efex Pro 4.

NorthPoint - Sepia

NorthPoint – Sepia

I used NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 on this version. I wanted to get a very sepia, old-photo look, while still retaining contrast and sharp details. There are a lot of pictures I’ve seen around town and in the capitol building showing what the area used to look like 50 or 100 years ago. Many of them look like this.

Infrared with unconverted EOS 6D

I dabble in infrared photography now and then (see previous posts).  I’m fascinated with it for two reasons:

1. Most of the time, we photographers struggle to get our cameras to see things the way our eyes do, or at least to create an image we can edit to look like what we see.  But infrared photography shows our world washed in light our eyes cannot see.

2. It just looks cool! I love high contrast black and white, and infrared looks awesome that way.

I haven’t taken the plunge and spent the $300 or so to get a camera converted for dedicated infrared photography, so I was looking around the web to see if anybody is using an uncoverted EOS 6D.  I found some comments on forums, but not a lot of info, so I thought I’d do a post on how mine did.

Tumwater Historical Park - Uncoverted 6D & B+W 093 filter

Tumwater Historical Park – Uncoverted 6D & B+W 093 filter

My 12-year-old B+W 093 infrared filter has a 58mm thread, and all but one of my lenses is 67mm or larger. I can only use it on my EF 50mm f/1.8 using a 52 to 58mm step-up ring. So composing and framing is done by more walking around with the tripod, just like any prime lens.

Olympia Brewery - Infrared w/ EOS 6D

Olympia Brewery – Infrared w/ EOS 6D

The B+W 093 filter is rated at 830nm, so it’s really for pure black and white images. I believe the 570 to 720nm range is better for color infrared photography.  I used settings of f/4, 10-20 secs, and ISO400. I could raise the ISO for shorter exposures, but I’d need more noise reduction in post processing.

Capitol Lake - Infrared w/ EOS 6D

Capitol Lake – Infrared w/ EOS 6D

You’ve probably noticed, at 15 seconds, any breeze causes leaves to blur.  In addition, there is a sort of glow effect that is probably not due to motion blur. I believe this is common in infrared images.  The blinding noon sun made it almost impossible to see the screen on my camera, but looking at these images on the computer, I could probably improve them with the following changes:

1. Decrease the aperture opening from f/4 to f/8 or so (the black benches above suffer from a somewhat shallow depth of field)

2. Raise the ISO to 1600 (the EOS 6D is great at high ISO and its noise is much easier to correct than my 7D was)

I might end up with the same shutter speeds, because #1 decreases the light and #2 increases sensitivity. So I’d still have to contend with motion blur.

Washington State Capitol - Infrared with EOS 6D

Washington State Capitol – Infrared with EOS 6D

I had to remove several “hot pixels” from the above photo, but that was because I shot about five 15- or 20-second exposures in a row. Sequential long exposures can heat up the sensor, causing some pixels to turn white. The solution is to take your time and give the sensor time to cool between long exposures. This would probably be more of an issue with exposures of several minutes (which I have not tried), but ambient temperatures are likely to be much cooler at night, helping to cool the sensor more quickly.

Overall, I am pleased with this test.  I thought the 6D would have such a strong hot mirror in front of the sensor that infrared photography might be nearly impossible to capture without a full conversion. Turns out the only real challenge is: a tripod must be used for every shot because of the longer shutter speeds, and longer exposures can cause moving foliage and clouds to soften up in places.  Now the question is: Do I spring for a larger 77mm IR filter, or convert a second body for infrared?  Hmm… how serious an infrared photographer am I?

Sunset at North Point

According to my phone, sundown was at 8:30pm last night.  I arrived at the point between “west bay” and “east bay” north of downtown Olympia just after 8:00.  They aren’t kidding when they say arrive on location early.  I was late!  By the time I set up my tripod, the sun was already behind the hill on the opposite shore.  But I got some good shots of the sky and water anyway.

Olympia North Point - EF 35mm f/2 IS

Olympia North Point – EF 35mm f/2 IS

Olympia North Point - EF 35mm f/2 IS

Olympia North Point – EF 35mm f/2 IS

I think this is really interesting.  The 35mm f/2 lens has a different look than my 17-40mm f/4L.  But that is partly due to the fact that in my excitement to capture the lovely sky, I failed to realize I had left the circular polarizer on from my last shoot. Duh!

Olympia North Point - EF 17-40mm f4L

Olympia North Point – EF 17-40mm f4L

I really love the angle I get with the EOS 6D, now that 17mm is really 17mm, instead of 27mm (on my old EOS 7D).

Olympia North Point - EF 17-40mm f/4L

Olympia North Point – EF 17-40mm f/4L

This spot was between a restaurant and a radio station. Oh! And you can see the white seagull poop on the rocks in the bottom of the frame. I might take one of these and do a single exposure HDR (as I did in previous posts), just to see how it turns out.

Heathfire Grill Restaurant & Puget Sound

Heathfire Grill Restaurant & Puget Sound

I do think my Tiffen circular polarizer is softening my images and possibly affecting the color/white balance.  I would have taken it off the 17-40mm if I had realized it was on before shooting these. It’s not the worst grade on the market, but it’s far from being one of the better ones, and after over 10 years, it’s probably time to upgrade. I’ve been looking at the Marumi Super DHG and B+W MRC F-Pro models. Both seem very high quality with lots of satisfied customers. Getting it in 77mm thread size means it will be more expensive though. But a step-up ring would allow it to work on the 35mm also. I just wouldn’t be able to use the hood at the same time.

All in all, I was away from the house for less than an hour.  After this last shot the color began to fade.  Next outing to this area will be a little later in the evening near the Swantown Marina on the east bay side.  Let’s really test the 6D’s lowlight capability and dynamic range on the sailboats and yachts under dock lights!

Washington State Capitol Building

This last week I took my wife and kids to the state capitol. We’ve lived five miles away for six years, so it’s about time we visited. If you’ve looked through my other posts you may have seen some of the infrared and nighttime HDR photos I took of the outside of the capitol building. This is some of what’s inside!

WA State Capitol Dome

WA State Capitol Dome

WA State Capitol Rotunda

WA State Capitol Rotunda

I thought it was fascinating that this massive structure of marble, brass, and plaster cost only 7 million to build around 1925, and yet some “minor damage” from a 2001 earthquake was completed for $128 million.

WA State Capitol "Custodial Room"

WA State Capitol “Custodial Room”

The doors to the janitor’s closet. Well, it said “custodial room” next to the door, but that’s the same thing right?

WA State Capitol Elevator Door

WA State Capitol Elevator Door

WA State Capitol Chandelier

WA State Capitol Chandelier

Our guide said this massive chandelier weighs 10,000 pounds! That’s like three of my cars!  The bulbs are low wattage, and only need to be changed every 10 years or so, even though they are never turned off.

WA State Capitol Lamp

WA State Capitol Lamp

In the corners of the upper floors, it gets dark because the light from the central rotunda is blocked by heavy marble walls. These lamps cast a dim light. I was intrigued by the shadows on the ceiling.

WA State Capitol House Gallery

WA State Capitol House Gallery

Down below the edge of the photo, rows of desks and chairs accommodate the house members when they are in session. The furniture has been there over 80 years.

Capital House Room

Capital House Room

Olympia is a clean and relatively small town, so sometimes it’s easy to forget we live down the road from the state capitol. This was an interesting field trip and a great test for the new EOS 6D in low light, indoor environments. I’m just amazed at how much detail I can pull out of the shadows without it falling apart!