Portland at Night

I was helping my brother-in-law move some things out of his apartment in Portland, Oregon this last weekend.  I had about an hour to spare before loading things up, so I took a walk up the east shore of the Willamette River near OMSI.

I’ve learned over the last decade to listen to my wife.  She suggested I take my camera to Portland, and I told her several times I was fairly certain I wouldn’t have a chance to use it.  But she talked me into it and I’m glad I had it!

Portland, OR - 35mm, 3 sec @ f/11, ISO800

Portland, OR – 35mm, 3 sec @ f/11, ISO 800

What I did NOT have was my tripod. So I had to raise my ISO setting and brace my camera on the walkway or posts I found.  It’s always a balancing act and a compromise between the “trinity”: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO speed.  Fortunately, the EOS 6D is great for night time photos because the ISO can be fairly high without losing a lot of detail.  A smaller aperture in this first shot required me to hold my camera against the edge of a dock to steady it during the 3 second exposure. Half my shots were still blurry or soft and had to be tossed out.


Portland - 35mm, 1/15, f/2.8, ISO 3200

Portland – 35mm, 1/15, f/2.8, ISO 3200

For the above shot, I tried hand holding the camera without bracing it against anything. I used a higher ISO and wider aperture to get more light for the faster shutter speed.  Even with Image Stabilization, 1/15 of a second is stupid slow for hand held shots, so I pretended to be a sniper, breathing slowly out and squeezing the shutter very slowly.  Just trying to avoid any shake in my hands or body.  I did use a little noise reduction in Lightroom, but that’s a pretty nice looking shot for ISO 3200!


Portland - 35mm, 1/6, f/4.0, ISO 1600

Portland – 35mm, 1/6, f/4.0, ISO 1600

I did take some shots with my 17-40mm lens, but I found that the wider angle shots made the details too far away to truly appreciate, and 35mm allowed me to simplify my compositions enough to make them somewhat interesting. A strip of city lights across the middle of a frame just isn’t that appealing, but incorporating the bridges and getting a little closer helped a lot.


Portland - 20mm, 10 sec, f/11, ISO 800

Portland – 20mm, 10 sec, f/11, ISO 800

Here’s a shot I did use the EF 17-40 f/4L at 20mm because I wanted a little more sky and water. Interesting to notice the star pattern difference around the lights in this shot compared to the first shot with the EF 35mm f/2 IS.  Different optics and apertures… This is one of those shots I was bracing the camera against the edge of a dock and managed to keep it still for 10 seconds.

This is kind of a basic of photography, but it’s still interesting to note that over a 10 second exposure, the water closer to the camera is more blurred and it sharpens up the farther away you look. It’s all really moving about the same speed.  Which was pretty fast. I had my 7-year-old with me and told him to stay in the middle of the dock walkway. If he fell in, it would be a real trick to catch him and get him back to shore in the quick moving, frigid December water. Then we’d both have to deal with hypothermia.  Just gotta think ahead and try to prevent things like that.

I want to do more of this kind of photography in the future.  Preferably with a tripod, so I have more control over settings.  But it means getting out there on location just before the “blue hour” so the sky still has some color and isn’t completely black.  I’m very fortunate to have a patient wife who lets me take off on photo outings alone, or waits for me when I hold everybody up while I shoot something that grabbed my attention.


Christmas Balls

I haven’t done a shoot in weeks, and since it’s Christmas Day, I decided to choose an appropriate subject.

The Ball Family

The Ball Family

I put these Christmas deco balls on top of a bedroom dresser, with overcast window light.  The basic editing for contrast and sharpening was done in Lightroom, and the rest in NIK Color Efex Pro 4.  I used the EOS 6D with a EF 35mm f/2 IS.  Since the exposure was several seconds, I just sat the camera on the dresser in front of the balls so it would stay still.


Joseph, Mary, & Baby Jesus?

Joseph, Mary, & Baby Jesus?

For this image, I edited in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 and used the local adjustments to restore “selective color”.  The effect is cool because it does restore color, but not the same way the original photo looks.


"Oh no! Call 911!"

“Oh no! Call 911!”

In this shot, I used Color Efex Pro 4 to add a faded old photo effect.  I dropped a bulb but decided to make the best of it.

Digging for gold…

I haven’t posted anything here for a month. Work has been crazy and then we had the Thanksgiving holiday.  But thanks to me eating more sugary pies and cookies than I knew was good for me, I’m home sick from work, and have time to go “digging for gold”.  That’s what I call it when I look through old photos I’ve taken which may not have caught my attention the first time around.  I do more of this in the winter months, since I spend more time indoors.

I know, I’m a wussy.  Another thing I did while being sick was watch some National Geographic and BBC Earth documentaries.  These camera men are out there shooting  in the harshest conditions on the planet, yet I don’t take my camera out when it’s a little wet and chilly outside.  I’m ashamed of myself.

Alright, so what did I find?

Temple of Justice - Washington State

Temple of Justice – Washington State

I shot this in March 2012.  EOS 7D, 17mm, 10 secs @ f/8.0, ISO 100. I probably bypassed it because of the lens flare at bottom left. It was also the “normal” exposure of an HDR set, and sometimes I overlook those as single exposures.  I did not adjust the colors at all because I like the warm/cool contrast of the sky and incandescent lights. I adjusted shadows, highlights, sharpened, and used some distortion adjustments to compensate for the way 17mm optics bowed the pillars near the edges.

Here’s the thing: on an image like this, I could get crazy with raising shadows so every detail is easily discernible. But to me it looks less natural, and I prefer it looks close to the way it did when I was standing there. Some dark shadows are fine.

What a front porch! Because there weren’t any people around, you can’t really see how massive those pillars and doors are.  If you click on the photo to look closer, you can make out the “TEMPLE OF JUSTICE” just above the pillars. Directly behind me when shooting this building is the Washington State Capitol, which shows up in some of my other posts.

Olympia Brewery (abandoned) - Infrared & split-tone

Olympia Brewery (abandoned) – Infrared & split-tone

I took this photo in May 2013 with the old Canon Powershot G3 with an infrared filter over the lens. After converting the overly magenta original image to black & white and doing contrast and sharpening, I worked on a split-tone effect.  This applies one color to highlights and a different color to shadows.  It takes some of the punch and stark contrast out of the simple black & white, but I like the effect.

This building fascinates me because it used to be a brewery where they made and distributed beer. There is a newer building further up the hill, but both have shut down.  It’s part of the earlier history of the town which is no longer functioning, but is still around for us to see.