Alan Pelletier Photography

Landscape and Travel Photography

Patience waiting for the scene

This past weekend I traveled to Newport RI for some night photography of the Milky Way at Brenton Point State Park. My wife came along to enjoy the scenery as its one of our favorite spots in New England and to get some great seafood. We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday and checked into our hotel, then proceeded downtown to find dinner. After checking out menu’s at several locations we decided to try Clarke Cooke House along the waterfront. Dinner was exceptional followed by some Gifford’s Ice Cream at Sprinkles ice cream shop around the corner.

We then drove over to Castle Hill Lighthouse to capture sunset. The lighthouse is located near the Castle Hill Inn, but public access is provided. Being summer the Inn is very busy and parking is limited, but they did provide free parking at the entrance of the road at the intersection with Ocean Avenue. From the parking area it was only a 10-minute walk to the lighthouse.

70mm, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 100

Upon arrival at the lighthouse the sky was filled with large dark gray clouds in the western sky. As it was approaching time for sunset it appeared it was going to be a lackluster event. Nonetheless, I proceeded with taking some photos. My first setup attempted to capture the sunset behind the lighthouse, but with gray skies I was only able to take a images in a different direction without the lighthouse where lighter cloud coverage and developing colors provided more interesting photos. I took several photos, but was tempted to pack up my gear as it appeared the western sky was not going to deliver.

36mm, f/8, 1/3s, ISO 100

As the time for sunset passed, I notice another photographer setup on the other side of the lighthouse that provided the composition I had in mind with the emerging colored sky in the background. I quickly picked up my tripod and walked further down the trail looking for access to this location. I found a narrow trail through the brush that lead me to the location and quickly setup my tripod as the colors in the skies were really starting to pop. I took numerous compositions in both portrait and landscape format.

38mm, f/8, 0.6s, ISO 100

As mentioned earlier I wanted to get some photos of the Milky Way and met several other photographers at Brenton Point State park later that night. I arrived around 10 PM and the night sky was partially obscured by clouds. By the time I got my camera set-up the clouds had substantially thickened and was really only able to take one set of photos of the Milky Way. We waited until 11:30 PM, but it was apparent the skies were not going to clear as confirmed my our weather apps. Instead of throwing in the towel for the night, we decided to take an opportunity to photograph the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.

58mm, f/2.8, 13s, ISO 3200

We proceeded to the Jamestown side of the bridge to get a better view of the bridge at night. We parked at Taylor Point Lookout and walked down a narrow trail to rocky edge of Narragansett Bay passing several fisherman done for the night. The bridge was beautiful with its lights casting a glow across the water and onto the rock ledges where we proceeded to setup our cameras. There were also fewer clouds that provided more interest to our compositions. Grabbing several photos of the bridge at night certainly made up for lost opportunity at Brenton Point and was I able to get back to the hotel at a reasonable early time of 2 AM.

32mm, f/16, 323s, ISO 100

For some additional technical information regarding the photos above all were taken with my 24-70 mm f/2.8 Nikon lens with my Nikon D750. The sunset photos at Castle Hill Lighthouse were taken without any filters and processed with a combination of Lightroom and DXO Nik Collection Color Effex Pro 4. I’m particular fond of using Color Effex Pro 4 as it gives me the detail and colors I desire for my photos. Unfortunately, the images of the Milky Way were shrouded in heavy clouds and I was only able to salvage a single image of a portion of the star field taken at 58 mm and processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. I took several images of the Newport bridge at different exposure settings and settled for a long exposure of approximately 5 minutes to use a small aperture of 16 to get the starburst effects for the lights and low ISO to minimize noise. I used Lightroom to edit this photo. If you have any questions about photographing the Milky Way or long exposures or my processing technique for any of the photographs, feel free to contact me.

Recent Photos – Traveling the Turquoise Highway

Going to New Mexico this past May I had several compositions in mind for some photos. One was finding some southwestern or Spanish mission style churches. This was my second trip to the “Land of Enchantment” with my previous visit to beautiful Santa Fe. During this previous trip and my May visit to Santa Fe, I was inspired to photograph more churches like the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi
Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi

Prior to my trip a fellow photographer who lived in New Mexico suggested that I take the Turquoise Highway from Albuquerque north to Taos my final destination. Formally known as State Route 14, it’s a scenic 50-mile drive north to Santa Fe passing through the towns of Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos. From Albuquerque you drive east on Interstate 40 to Cedar Crest to start the journey on the Turquoise Highway.

Turquoise Chevy Belair

My first significant stop was the Town of Madrid a former mining made famous by the movie “Wild Hogs” starring John Travolta, William Macy, Tim Allen, and Martin Lawrence. Being a former mining town that pre-dates the State highway, the road narrows as you approach the town and then meanders through the center of town.

Maggie’s Diner

I obviously took photos of the Maggie’s Diner, which was actually built for the film and left as a gift shop in Madrid. I also wandered through the small town and visited several shops and purchased some amazing chocolate at Shugarman’s Little Shop.

Shops in Madrid

As I approached the town of Los Cerrillos I noted a turquoise dome church off the State Highway.  I quickly turned around and proceed toward the church.  It was just after midday and the side streets were very quire with no traffic, perhaps it was siesta time.  I took several shots of the front of St. Joseph Catholic Church from different angles, including a close-up of the wooden statute in the front of the church.  Afterwards I continued my trip north to Santa Fe and then onto Taos.

St. Joseph Catholic Church – Los Cerritos

For processing I primarily used Lightroom with the exception of the removal of some overhead powerlines that I prefer to use Photoshop. Being midday, I wanted to convert my photos into black and white images to take advantage of the contrast between light and shadow on the church. I used the black and white profiles provided in LR CC as they have numerous options to explore. I selected one that darken the sky and provided a nice texture to the clouds and desired contrast for the church itself. Making some final tonal and sharpening adjustments my black and white image was ready. For additional information on photography or my processing technique for black and whites, please feel free to contact me.

St. Joseph Catholic Church – Los Cerritos
Statue at entrance

Photo of the week

Blogging is something new to me and quite honestly time consuming as I found that I was writing long blogs about vacations and photography. This coupled with my need to carefully craft a blog post and reviewing it several times before I would release it was a daunting task, especially when posting on IG and FB each taking time along with all the other things in my life. So, I’m trying a new formula with a shorter blog post that features one of my recent photos that I have posted on my other social media outlets.

Waterfall at Day Pond State Park

Today’s photo features a waterfall at Day Pond State Park in Colchester, CT. I have seen numerous posts on IG of the waterfalls and being in my hometown, I needed to find it. After reviewing information on the CT DEEP website about getting to the waterfalls, I packed my gear and headed out. It’s about a 0.75 mile hike from the outlet of Day Pond, mostly downhill to the waterfalls. The waterfalls are comprised of several cascading falls with an overall drop of about 40 feet.

Being late in the afternoon and located within a fairly thickly wooded area, I did not need to use filters to create a longer exposure of the falling water. Depending on the volume of the falling water, I find that exposures between 1/5 sec to 2 sec typically give me the look I desire. For processing I used LR and PS with DXO Nik Color Effect 4 to provide the detail in the image. For additional information on photographing waterfalls or processing, please feel free to contact me.

Grand Canyon and looking behind you

It’s something I always need to remind myself when taking photographs, that’s to look behind me and all around for different subjects. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, especially when taking photos at the Grand Canyon. Obviously, my main objective during my last visit this past January to this wonderful location was to take pictures of the Canyon. However, one just needs to look around to find beautiful images besides those of the Canyon.

Shadow and Light
70-200mm, 120mm, f/11, 1/40s, ISO 100

When walking up to the rim it’s so compelling to just “click” away at the expansive beautiful scenes in front of you with so many incredible possibilities. Each location along the Canyon providing different views and perspectives from its sloping canyon walls to the numerous plateaus and an occasional view of the Colorado River. Different photographic opportunities to capture its immense size and tighter compositions that capture its endless textures and colors. How the sun produces new palettes of vibrant colors especially at sunset and sunrise. It’s ever-changing seasonal views with winter being my favorite as the snow provides contrast to the multiple colors of its geologic layers. My favorite photos of the Canyon included those at sunset with the low angle of the sun providing dramatic contrast and textures of golden light and dark shadow. Another favorite was from Navajo Point at the eastern end of the Canyon that provided fantastic views looking down into the Canyon at the Colorado River.

Navajo Point
24-70mm, 45mm, f/11, 1/8s, ISO 100

While I thoroughly enjoyed taking photos of the expansive beauty of this National Park, it was some of my other photos when I reminded myself to look around that were my favorites as well. This includes my recent IG post of a pine tree branch silhouette at sunset. A photo that I captured as I was moving my tripod to a new location on the rim with the light from the setting sun filtering through a pine tree that caught my attention. I took several photos, including those with the full tree and the Canyon in the background. But it’s this particular photo of the single branch in silhouette with diffused sunset colors that I ultimately posted.

Pine Tree Silhouette
70-200mm, 122mm, f/11, 1/15s, ISO 100

Another photo that I posted from my trip was that of a raven. While not the most intriguing birds to photograph, unlike the California Condors I photographed at Horseshoe bend during a visit to Lake Powell a few years back, I do find them to be fascinating. From their distinctive call that reminds me of the desert southwest to the sound of the air flowing over their wings as they fly overhead. Usually, upon hearing them I stop to find and observe them. If you observe closely in the right light you can catch a hint of blue or teal in the feathers. They are somewhat comical when interacting with other ravens. A symbol of southwest they represent change/transformation and the bearer of messages and magic to many Native Americans.

Raven
70-200mm, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 400

Photographic Tips: When taking photographs into the sun I often take a bracketed set of 3 photos using the auto bracket feature of my camera. I typically use 1 stop intervals providing 2 underexposed photos in addition to my normal exposure. This ensures that I capture the full dynamic range of the scene that I can process as an HDR photo in either Photoshop or Aurora HDR. In the case of the pine branch silhouette, I selected one of the underexposed photos as a starting point. Turning down the shadows and blacks to ensure a dark silhouette. If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to contact me.

Snowy Owl at last

I primarily take landscape and travel photos and occasionally expand my photographic subjects to include street photography and wildlife. In regards to wildlife, I’ve been pursuing the goal of capturing an image of a snowy owl for the past two winters. Well, this past weekend I achieved that goal with a trip to Sachuset Point Wildlife Preserve in Middletown, Rhode Island.  Several times this winter I would check online for a recent sightings of this beautiful visitor from the north and noted a consistent sighting at the Wildlife Preserve. I would also check to see if they were any other sightings along the Connecticut shoreline.  Well, being the middle of February it was apparent if I wanted to get an image of a snowy owl, I’m going need to go to the owl.  So, I packed my camera gear and made the 1.5-hour drive to Rhode Island this past Sunday.

I’m looking at you
Tamron 150mm-600mm G2, 500mm, f/6.3, 1/800s, ISO 200

The weather was perfect and the drive through rural western Rhode Island to Newport beautiful with plenty of photographic scenes along the way.  But I had a goal, a visualization of taking an image of a snowy owl, so no additional stops or photos.  Approaching the wildlife preserve I started going through my camera settings, my plan of attack.  Thinking about how I’m going to find this owl(s) as I have made several trips without success.  Well, actually I did see a snowy owl at Hammonasett State Beach in Madison, CT last year, but this owl was too far away to pull off a decent image, even with my Tamron 150mm-600mm lens.  Note to self, wanting to see an owl and taking a decent photo is not the same thing.  For this trip, my anticipation was to not only to see an owl, but to get some great photos.  Anyways, my question on how to find this owl was quickly answered as I approach the parking lot to the visitor center. To the right of the building, a large crowd of people was gathered and I was pretty confident I found the owl.     

Grabbing my camera, monopole, and my two longer lenses consisting of my Nikon 70mm-200mm and the Tamron lens I was ready.  The most difficult aspect of photographing the owl was actually finding a location among at least 100 other people without getting in the way of other cameras.  Evidently, everyone there also was aware of the recent sighting of this particular male snowy owl that made the visitor center home since Christmas.  The owl was sitting on some solar panels, only 50 to 75 feet from a hundred cameras and phones pointed at him.  He was not put off by all the attention, rather he appeared quite comfortable being in the spotlight.  Well, that was perfect for me, once I found a decent location I fired off several hundred images of my little friend.  I was obviously quite excited and realized after reviewing my images later that day I probably could have been a bit more selective in pressing the shutter release. I had plenty of shots with only a partial face and only one eye, but what I really wanted was a head shot with both eyes in perfect focus; fortunately, I got those as well.  It was thrilling to capture images of this beautiful owl and great to achieve my goal.

Those eyes
Tamron 150mm-600mm G2, 550mm, f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 320

Photography tips:  

Using the Tamron 150mm-600mm can be a challenge hand holding this lens for a long period of time.  Having a monopole was a saver for me, not only in terms of providing a more stable platform for my camera and giving my arm a break, but it also takes up far less space than a tripod, especially with a large crowd.  To capture bird images, I recently have been experimenting with using the auto ISO setting, allowing the camera to automatically adjust the ISO to provide the correct exposure as the light changes.  One less thing to worry about and focus on your subject. In the case of my Nikon D750 you can specify both a minimum and maximum ISO range (200 and 1600 respectively for this particular day).  In addition, as I primarily use aperture priority, I also specified a minimum shutter speed to ensure I get good focus (1/500s).  This is also set in the same menu as the auto ISO feature in the case of my camera.  Check your camera manual to see if you have the same features and how to set it up. 

If you have any questions drop me an email.   




​Sunset tour of South Maui – February/March 2018

A re-post from my blog page at my former photography web page.

Sunset Kamaole Beach
Nikon 24-70 mm, 44mm, f/11, 1/15s, ISO100

Aloha! Earlier this year my wife and I spent two wonderful weeks on Maui at the end of February and beginning of March. It was our second trip to Maui and we stayed in Kihei, which is known locally as South Maui. We stayed in a studio apartment that was only a short walk to Kamaole Beach Park and within walking distance of numerous shops and restaurants. Much of the time was spent relaxing on the fabulous local beaches, but I did get some time to take photos.

Early morning rain soaked hibiscus
Sigma Marco 105mm, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO400

The weather included sun, clouds, and rain on most days and not in that specific order, which provided fantastic opportunities for photography each day. Fortunately, most of the rain was light and fell after dark.  Being on the southwest end of the island most of my photos were taken at sunset. I did try to get out twice for sunrise; however, with Haleakala looming in the east at elevation 10,000 feet all of the pre-dawn colors were long gone by the time the sun made its appearance.

One of the many things I enjoyed was the number of beaches and their accessibility. It seemed like there was a beach every half mile where we stayed, beaches we visited included Kamaole, Kalama, Ulua, Baldwin, Makena, and Kanaha. Access was not limited to just that from the streets as most of the resorts that dotted the shoreline in between the beaches provided public access along the shoreline as well.  Providing beautiful walks along the ocean that we took full advantage of, including two long walks to Wailea from our resort.

Sunset Ulua Beach
Nikon 24-70 mm, 27mm, f/11, 1/13s, ISO100

Each beach offered a unique quality or experience that we enjoyed, such as Makena State Park Beach that our niece is named after.  It is a large crescent-shaped beach with the remnants of a volcanic caldera located at the north end of the beach.  Here on our first day, we spotted 45 sightings of humpback whales as it was peak season of their annual migratory visit to the Hawaiian Islands. We participated in two whale watch tours with Ultimate Whale Watch in Lahaina.  The whale watch tours were excellent with the second being more memorable as it provided more favorable weather with plenty of whales, including one group with over 10 whales.  For the whale watch tours, I brought my new Tamron 150-600 mm telephotos lens that provided the reach to get some spectacular shots.  Getting the shots was a challenge despite the long lens, the primary issue was the inflatable tour boat that constantly moved, not knowing where or when the next whale would surface, and taking photos among other photographers on the boats as well.  I chose to use aperture priority, continuous shooting mode, and auto ISO compensation and setting this feature with a minimum shutter speed of 1/500sec in hopes to improve my chances to get sharp images.  While this did provide some great images, the number of out of focus or missed photos greatly outnumbered by winners, which is expected. 

Whale Tails
Tamron 150-600mm, 500mm, f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO100

Another highlight of our visit was finding green sea turtles at Baldwin State Beach located near Paia. A friendly passenger on our flight to Maui mentioned that sea turtles can be frequently seen at this beach. We were not disappointed as we made three separate visits and spotted beached turtles each time.  The turtles typically beached themselves at the north end of the beach and were not bothered by all the beachgoers, including pesky photographers like me.  I used my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens to get tightly cropped images of the turtles.

Taking a break
Nikon 70-200 mm, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO320
Kite Surfer at Kahana Beach
Tamron 150-600mm, 450mm, f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO100

 

Other activities that we enjoyed included visiting downtown Lahaina with all the different shops and vendors.  Three we made our second visit to the Lahaina Inn one of our favorite restaurants on Maui. We also made stops to Lappert’s Ice Cream shop and fell in love with Lava Java for our morning shot of caffeine. I also enjoyed photgraphing the kite surfers at Kahana Beach, a popular destination of the more advanced kite surfers.  For these photos I used my new Tamron 150-600 mm telephoto lens, and probably spent nearly 2 hours sitting on the beach firing off hundred of action photos. Lastly, we frequented several local fish restaurants in search of the best fish taco and found that Paia Fish Market served the best fish taco and was conveniently located a mile from where we stayed.

 

Pleasant Surprise

You visualize a photograph and arrive at the location only to have the weather conditions throw a curveball, instead of a gorgeous sunset you’re faced with thick clouds.  That’s happened to me plenty of times and as I have done before, I simply adjusted my expectations and took some photos.  Thinking, who knows perhaps one of the photos will turn-out.  My recent image posted on IG of downtown Hartford is an example.  

Downtown Hartford
70 mm, f/16, 1s, ISO 100

I had wanted to capture the buildings and city lights along the Connecticut River set against a beautiful clear blue evening sky after sunset.  Checking the weather forecast before I left work to take photographs, I knew to expect clouds instead.  Nonetheless, I still drove to Great River Park in East Hartford and found a location for my composition. Using my 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens I decided to grab an image of the Connecticut Science Center and Gold Building.  I also noticed that some of the trees along the Connecticut River still had some yellow autumn leaves that would complement my image.  I also took several long exposures to smooth out a high flowing Connecticut River to hopefully enhance my photograph.

I downloaded the photos the next day and made some quick Lightroom adjustments.  However, that feeling that I didn’t get the shot I planned impacted my decision to set aside this photograph.  A few days ago I was reviewing my images taken the last few weeks a came across the photo and upon a second look, I decided it was pretty decent.  I made some more adjustments and posted it on IG.  It turned out to be a popular photo,  a very pleasant surprise.   Fortunately, I took a second look as I usually do.  It’s that second look that provides fresh eyes and in this case settling aside the disappointment of not getting that initial image that I visualize. 

Looking around Summerville South Carolina

Glorious sun light
Iphone 8+

I spent Thanksgiving with friends in Summerville South Carolina, my third visit since they moved from Connecticut. It’s located about 45 minutes outside Charleston and is one of the more popular communities near Charleston.  I brought my camera gear, but choose not to get a car rental and drive to different photo locations as I have done on previous trips. My decision not to get a car rental was in part due to my short stay only through the weekend and my effort to find images that are readily around Summerville instead of driving to popular photographic locations at one of the great beaches in the state. 

 

Downtown Historic Summerville
122 mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 400

In doing so I wanted to improve my skills in finding different compositions.  I also wanted to take photos of the Thanksgiving dinner itself, the preparation of the food, the table settings, and other images to capture one of my favorite holidays.  I wanted the photos of Thanksgiving to be creative rather than your typical snapshot.  It would also get me out of my comfort zone of taking landscapes that I typically capture.

Focus on the silverware
190 mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400
Green Bean Salad
140 mm, f/4, 1/1200s, ISO 1600 

For Thanksgiving, I used my two workhorse lenses a 24-70 mm f/2.8 to capture the dining room and kitchen and my 70-200 mm f/2.8 telephoto lens to isolate subjects within the dining room and to take close-up images of the food. For the dining room shoots, I used a  shorter focal length to provide a sense of size and openness within the dining room.  Being indoors with both strong light and shadows I was frequently changing my manual settings, particularly my ISO settings to ensure a proper shutter speed to get sharp images.  I took photos in both portrait and landscape format to give me different perspectives of my subject.  When working with the telephoto lens I wanted to isolate and compress my subject, selecting longer focal lengths with larger aperture settings. 

Thanksgiving Table
90 mm, f/4, 1/320s, ISO 1600

Taking photos of the food was a new experience for me, which I actually enjoyed and upon reviewing my results may consider taking more photos of food.  My telephoto lens was my obvious selection as I wanted a tightly cropped and compressed image of the food.  I also wanted to use the light and shadows to add ambiance to my images and help emphasize the subject.  Section of a larger aperture to create a shallow depth of field also helped draw attention to the subject by creating separation from the background.

Curving the turkey
200 mm, f/4, 1/500s, ISO 1600
Autumn Decoration
200mm, f/4, 1/400s, ISO 400

The next day was Black Friday and instead of navigating through crowded box stores and malls we decided to browse the smaller stores in the historic district of Summerville.  As my wife and our friends were going in and out of the local shops I set off on my own to find some photos. Walking around the shops and side streets I searched for compositions opening my mind and eyes to potential subjects. Looking for unique items, patterns, and visualizing smaller compositions within larger subjects. It was partially sunny providing some challenges in setting my manual settings depending on the presence of the sun. This provided different images such as back lighting of trees hanging onto their autumn colors or diffused lighting to capture the tonal quality of an image. All my photos were captured with my 70-200 mm telephoto lens. 

Outdoor Seating
200mm, f/3.5, 1/1600s, ISO 400

For the first 30 minutes, I did not press the shutter release but soon started to capture images especially those zoomed in close to focus on certain elements within a subject.  Perhaps it was different location and subjects that presented themselves to me that took time for me to visualize.  It’s easier to visualize sweeping landscape photos or as I like to call them National Geographic photos.  Finding beautiful photos in the smaller details of our surroundings can be more difficult, but we just need to look around because they’re all around us.     

Kale
200mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 400

Also finding beautiful images in places where we live or work may not be easy or seem ordinary compared to images posted on Instagram of exotic locations around the world, but again we just need to open our eyes and mind to the beautiful images around us.  This experience of looking around and finding pleasing photos was very rewarding and I encourage those new to photography to do the same.  Where ever you are there’s a photo to take and as they say the best camera you have is the one with you, including your phone, which I use myself.  All images posted were taken with my Nikon DSLR camera, except the first photo of the American flag taken with my iPhone, which is my favorite photo.  

Apple Cider and Pushing Myself and ISO

Clyde’s Apple Cider Mill

Recently, I visited  Clyde’s Apple Cider Mill in Old Mystic Connecticut to sample some apple cider and take photographs.  I enjoyed my visit and taking photographs as it was not my typical landscape subject.  First a little more about Clyde’s, it’s the last steam-powered cider mill in the USA that’s been in operation since 1881 according to their website.  It’s listed as a National Historic Landmark that is still family owned and recently featured on NBC world news.  The old cider mill is a very popular destination, especially being located near other attractions such as Mystic Seaport, and the Mystic Aquarium.  The parking lot is usually full, so plan on parking on the side of the street as I did during my visit.  

At Clyde’s, you will find the old mill house where they press apples into apple cider, a store to purchase all sorts of apple products, wine tasting, as well as other vendors providing kettle corn and craft items just to name a few.  They also sell hard cider located in the basement of the old mill house.  One of their main attraction, besides watching them make the cider is trying their apple cider and apple cider donuts at the store.  I indulged myself in a cup of warm cider with two donuts that I enjoyed sitting on the porch taking in the sights and sounds of the place.  

After enjoying my mid-afternoon treat I explored the old mill house to take some photographs.  The apple press was not operating as they schedule breaks in between actually apple pressings, a good opportunity to photograph the equipment inside without crowds.  

Peering into the Old Mill House
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 2500

Peering through some open windows and doors I was fascinated with all the older equipment and the overall feel of the old barn with all it’s exposed roughly sawed wooden timbers, much like the old barn when visiting my grandparents in Maine.  I also was intrigued by all the light and shadows inside the barn and how they played with the old equipment and items hanging on the walls.  Normally I have my tripod with me, but not this trip.  Determined to take some photos I proceeded to challenged myself to get some photos without my tripod or any flashes or lighting.

Shadows and Light
70 mm, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 2500

Using my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens with vibration reduction and setting a high ISO, higher than I’m accustomed to using.   I started taking photos of the old metal press first, checking my results and adjusting my aperture to get a soft background while keeping a higher shutter speed as I was hand holding my camera and trying to lower the ISO as much as possible to reduce noise.  I chose to spot meter most of my photos, exposing for the highlights to avoid blowing out bright areas of the scene.  I also bracketed a few sets of photos using 5 shots with 1-stop intervals providing 2 photos overexposed, 2 photos underexposed, and a single neutral exposed photo.

Apple Press 
120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 4000
Spiining Wheels
102 mm, f/8.0, 1/320s, ISO 2500

Next was all the piping, valves, flywheels, and belts that look interesting in the lighting, how the black cast iron metal and brass fittings provided a contrasting effect, and the oil sheen on the equipment glistened in the light.  I also visualized how the photos would look like as black and white images.  Some of this equipment, in particular, the flywheel and belts reminded me of my grandparent’s farmhouse where they had an old White engine that turned a sharpening wheel.  I can still remember the old engine sputtering as it turned the sharpening wheel.  

Fly Wheels and Belts
120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 4000

Looking around I noticed all the wall hangings and how the light and shadows were creating interesting images, including these clay jugs hanging from the ceiling.  Using my lens to zoom in and out, capturing different aspects of the interior of the mill.  Then I walked around the other buildings taking additional photos.

Old Jugs 
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 2500

Downloading my photos the next day I was eager to see the results and how the higher ISO would impact my images.  In general, I was shooting with an ISO between 2500 and 6400.  Certainly not that high given that newer cameras can go much higher.  However, as mentioned higher than I typically use and with subjects having lots of detail framed tightly using my telephoto lens.  I processed the photos in Lightroom (LR) and upon inspecting the first few images I was impressed with the quality of the images.  Looking closely and did notice noise in the images, but after making adjustments, including noise reduction and sharpening in LR, I was very pleased with the final results.  While I did take several bracketed shots and processed them as an HDR images, I felt the results were not realistic and preferred selecting a single image to work with that provided more realistic results.  

Valves and piping as B/W
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 2500

As for my Black and White photos, again I used LR to convert my color images.  Typically, I make a virtual copy of the color image and reset my settings to start with the flatter image and then convert to B/W photo.  I like to apply different presets, and adjusting the contrast and tonality of the image to enhance the darker and lighter areas as well as the texture in the image.  

Wall Hangings
70 mm, f/8.0, 1/320s, 2500 ISO

An important take away from this experience is knowing how far I can push my camera’s ISO setting and still get quality results, especially without a tripod.  I recommend experimenting with your camera’s ISO setting to determine it’s upper limits and still get acceptable photos.  Please let me know what processing method you use to reduce noise in your images.  Or other tips when shooting in low light situations. 

York Maine and the Seacoast Century

In September I traveled to York, Maine to participate in the Seacoast Century hosted by the Granite State Wheelmen. The event is held each year on the third weekend of September and this year marked the 45th edition of this awesome cycling event. Riders choose from 25, 50, 65, and 100-mile routes, with the 100-mile route navigating along the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine coastlines. All rides start and end at the Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire with over 1,000 riders registering this year with options to ride either Saturday, Sunday, or both days. I have participated in this ride almost every year and have participated in at least a dozen. I typically ride the 65-mile route with a detour to visit Nubble Lighthouse making it about a 75-mile ride to the lighthouse and back to Hampton Beach. This year my wife Shawn joined me and we left Friday afternoon after work with a car packed with cycling and camera gear. We stayed in York Maine one of my favorite towns in Maine. A beautiful coastal town with a quintessential New England fell, wonderful beaches, and of course the ionic Nubble Lighthouse.

Waiting for sunrise

York Harbor Sunrise

I was up early on Saturday and wanted to take some quick sunrise photos before the ride. Not having a lot of time I quickly drove to York Harbor. Garbing my camera gear I notice a fair amount of high-level clouds on the horizon and quickly scanned the beach for compositions. I was immediately drawn to the rocky coast to the left as I approached the ocean, noting several large buildings part of the York Harbor Inn. Identifying my potential composition I set-up my tripod and camera. However sky was still colorless, so I took some quick photos to frame my image consisting of the rocky coast and the York Harbor Reading Room. Then waited for the sun to make its dramatic appearance, but as the sun approached the horizon the colors only slightly improved. Beginning to think that sunrise was going to be a bust, the colors started to pop and quickly filled the sky. Being patient always pays off. I took several photos with my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens and several with my Nisi filters for some long exposures. I probably spent about 45-minutes taking pictures and finally decided to pack-up to make it to the bike ride. 

Golden Sunrise

As I walked to my car I looked back and notice a family walking on the beach in silhouette against a golden sunrise. My camera was packed, so I quickly snap a few photos with my iPhone and the results were pretty decent, so much for my Nikon.

The Ride

I arrived at Hampton Beach State Park a bit late after 8 AM when all riders are required to be on the road, guess I had too much fun taking photos and most of the riders had already departed.  The weather was mostly clear and a bit cold, low 40’s, but forecasted to rise to the upper 60’s in the afternoon.  After deciding what layers of clothing I needed for the ride, I picked up my registration package, filled my water bottles, and headed out of the parking lot turning right onto Route 1-A to Nubble Lighthouse.  There were only a few cyclists were on the road, but having done the ride so many times I knew the route.  As usual being on the coast, there was a slight headwind to challenge me.  As I approached North Hampton I began to warm up, especially my fingers and ready to enjoy the rest of the ride.

Ocean Boulevard

Entering North Hampton I  passed by the Beach Plum ice cream shop that I typically visit post ride for a well-deserved chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  From North Hampton, the ride proceeds through Rye with awesome views of the ocean where I stopped several times to take some quick pictures with my iPhone.  Continuing along Route 1-A the ride enters Portsmouth taking Route 1-B to the New Castle area.  I particularly enjoy this part of Portsmouth with all the older New England style homes and great views of the harbor.

New Castle

After passing Prescott Park, riders cross the Piscataqua River and enter Kittery Maine.  The route in Maine takes Route 103 passing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and stopping at Fort McClary State Park for a rest stop that provides snacks, water, and other goodies.  A bike mechanic is also available to address most mechanical issues.  Leaving the rest stop we continue north on Route 103 to York passing the Wiggly Bridge, a small pedestrian bridge on the York River.  Riders then turn onto Route 1A passing York Harbor then onto Long Sands Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand and ocean.  The 65-mile route turns back before reaching Long Sands Beach, but I always continue on to reach Nubble Lighthouse, after all, it’s only a few more miles.

Long Sands Beach

Prior to getting to the lighthouse, I took a detour to join my wife and ride together to the “Nub”. At the lighthouse, it was crowded as usual with the parking lot full and at least two tour buses offloading passengers with cameras in hand. We rested for a short time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and weather and took more photos. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was being renovated and was completely wrapped in scaffolding.  After we proceed to Short Sands Beach looking for lunch, passing the pavilion we looped back around to Long Sands Beach and stopped at the Stones Throw restaurant and got a table directly in front of the beach. After having fish tacos and relaxing, I decided not to head back to Hampton Beach, but cruise around York for the afternoon. I still managed to get in 50 miles for the day. During our exploration, we hike the Cliff Walk at York Harbor a beautiful 1-mile walk out and back along the rocky Maine coastline. We saw plenty of Monarch butterflies fluttering among the flowers along the walk, a common sight during the weekend.

Short Sands Beach

Portsmouth

That evening we meet some friend for dinner in Portsmouth,  a fun town with a historic downtown area with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. I usually make going to one of their great restaurants part of my annual traditions, nothing’s better than having a great meal after a long ride. We meet at the Dolphin Striker on Bow Street and dined on fresh New England seafood. I had Haddock Piccata served with spinach, leeks, tomatoes, and fettuccine. Both the food and conversation was excellent, including a conversation with the owner. For dessert we went to one of the local bakeries, Breaking New Grounds coffee shop and enjoyed some dark German chocolate cake.  Another great bakery  is Popovers serving their namesake large popovers along with other fabulous baked goods.  In year’s past, I have eaten at several other great restaurants such as Jumping Jay’s Fish Cafe and Surf Portsmouth for seafood. Another favorite is the Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro & Bar a very popular restaurant serving very tasty and satisfying dishes such as their pineapple fried rice, which I would highly recommend.

Sunday fun day

Long Sands Beach Sunrise

Sunday morning I got up early again to take photographs of the sunrise this time at Long Sands Beach. So hard to get up before sunrise, but never regret it afterwards. The sky had plenty of high-level clouds, great potential for dramatic, sunrise.  It was fairly windy and the temperature had dropped significantly from the previous day. Parked my car along the seawall and set-up my gear. Sunrise was very dramatic with lots of reds, yellow, and blacks offering great drama and contrast. For my photos, I used my Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens without filters.  

Sand Piper

I return to the hotel and we went out to breakfast at St. Joe’s Bakery off Route 1 and enjoyed a freshly made bagel egg sandwiches.  After we drove to Long Sands Beach for a walk along the beach.  The temperature was much warmer and the sky was clear.  There were a fair number of others strolling along the beach, some with their dogs, and a lone surfer.  Afterwards, we paid a visit to Stonewall Kitchen conveniently located next to our hotel.  We sampled some of their jams and other products and purchased a few jars of jams.  We also purchased some freshly baked scones with wild blueberries and enjoyed them in the outdoor courtyard with some coffee.  Outside in the courtyard was a flower garden with Monarch butterflies fluttering around, which I spent time taking photographs. 

Long Sands Beach
Monarch butterfly

Afterward, we went to the outlets in Kittery and picked up some bargains then drove to Portsmouth for a late lunch at the Green Elephant restaurant. Before sitting down for lunch we spent an hour walking around Prescott Park taking some photos of the harbor and the beautiful flower gardens. Lunch at the Green Elephant was fantastic as usual and as we started heading home south on Route 95 we witnessed a brilliant sunset. 

Prescott Park
Portsmouth Harbor