Welcome to my Blog

The focus of this Blog will be to inform clients and visitors of recent assignments, client feedback, some technical information, and news from the photographic community. I hope you will find the Blog interesting and informative.

March 6, 2008

This is my first Blog entry to this site. I have just completed designing and posting this site to henstridgephotography.com. The design was done in Adobe Dreamweaver CS3, a program I had to learn from scratch. As this is my second attempt at designing and posting a web site, I had quite a bit to learn. Wow, “quite a bit” is an understatement! It is more like over fifty hours of interactive training with numerous challenges and back steps. Dreamweaver is a very comprehensive web site design tool once you learn how to use it. It would probably have been a lot easier had I had more knowledge of HTML and web design. I am a photographer not a web design expert. The learning process was greatly enhanced with the assistance of video tutorials provided by Adobe and Scott Kelby Training. If I had to do all of this from an instruction manual, I would have never started and probably hired someone to do this for a lot of money. Money better spent on photo gear to serve my clients better!

The supplied and online training offered by Adobe is good, but I cannot overstate the value of the training provided by Scott Kelby and his National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) colleagues. They are great! In the end that whole process was well worth the effort as I not only have a web site, but a greater appreciation of the design parameters and techniques involved in web site design and hosting.  More to come!

March 6, 2008

This is so much fun I had to make another entry. There a a few more tips I wanted to share with those folks new to digital photography. You “Pros” will just have to bear with me and tolerate my enthusiasm.

The most common cause of blurry photos is camera shake. Support your camera with a tripod or other stable object. A beanbag makes a good portable support for a point and shoot camera. The use a vibration reduction (VR) of Image Stabilization (IS) lens will increase your effective shutter speed by four stops. A good rule of thumb is that your shutter speed should not be lower than the focal length of the lens, i.e. a focal length of 200mm will require a minimum shutter speed of 1/200th of a second. If the available light is not enough to support this speed, you can increase you ISO. Going higher than ISO 800 will increase the digital noise (graininess) in your image.

Remember, most digital cameras have a 1.5:1 sensor ratio. This means that if your zoom lens is set to 100mm, you are actually taking the photo at the equivalent of 150mm using the standard 35mm film format of 36 x 24mm. This in reality this not caused by the lens but by the cropping effect caused by the smaller sensor on the DSLR camera. The size of the area exposed by a 35-mm camera is 36 × 24 mm. The size of the area exposed by most DSLRs, in contrast, is 23.6 ×15.8 mm, meaning that the diagonal picture angle of a 35-mm camera is approximately 1.5 times that of the DSLR. Nikon calls this effect the “Picture Angle” (Equivalent in 35-mm format is approximately 1.5 times lens focal length). You should verify this with your camera manufacturer or manual. The math works like this: The diagonal of the 35mm frame is 43mm (the “standard lens for most 35mm cameras is 43-50mm). The diagonal of the sensor on the DSLR is 28mm. 43/28=1.5.

I have been asked why the sensor for the DSLR is smaller than the older 35mm format. I really don not have a good answer except it probably boils down to cost. Keep in mind that a sensor rated at 10.3 megapixels has an array of little receptors measuring 3,872 x 2,592 pixels (10, 36,244 pixels). The average point and shot digital camera has even a smaller sensor and the “picture angle” can be as great as 6:1.

Another point to keep in mind is that most of your old SLR lenses for Nikon, Canon, etc. will work with the newer DSLRs, but the new DX lenses will not work with your 35mm camera. As the field of view of the DX lens is narrower it will cause vignetting on the 35mm frame. Make sure that the lens you use on your 35mm camera does not contain the initials “DX” in the specifications. I have probably written too much on this topic, but I have received several questions regarding this issue and I wanted to clarify my previous entry. Frankly, I was amazed that I received questions from site visitors as far away as France. You can obtain addition information regarding this issue at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixel  and http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/mpmyth.htm .

Another good tool to consider for your photographic tool kit is a unipod. They are light and easily transported. With a good, solid ball head and a vibration reduction (VR or IS) lens you increase your normal shooting range by at least 4 stops. They are easy to carry, especially when traveling, and they can turn many of those throw away blurry shots into keepers.

We recommend using an external USB or IEEE 1394 FireWire card reader to transfer your digital images to your computer. They are faster and safer than transferring directly from your camera. The typical USB 2.0 reader will transfer images at 400mpbs and the FireWire version a 480mpbs. Both are fast. We recommend either a Lexar or a SanDisk reader. Check out their sites for more information.

is is still too much fun. I hope this is not boring you. We all know that those digital cameras are great in the house or in the shade, but when you take them out in bright sunlight, it is almost impossible to see the image on those little LCD screens. Even the screens on the digital SLRs are tough to read in bright light. Well, there are a couple of accessories you can get to make your picture taking more fun. They are little pop-up shades that can be attached to the rear of the camera that will shade the screen. They are made by Hoodman and Delkin. For you SLS shooters Hoodman offers a loupe that will cover the entire LCD screen. I don’t leave home without mine. I have included links to direct you to their web sites where you can get additional information. If you want to purchase them online, I recommend B&H in New York City. I purchase most of my photo gear from them and have found them to be extremely reliable. They offer some of the lowest prices on the Web.

March 13, 2008

 Preserve Your Family Photos With These Restoration Tips
Your mother’s baby picture; your father in uniform; your grandmother’s wedding – these pictures can never be taken again. They are priceless and you’ll cherish them forever. Unfortunately, they can become damaged through improper care, neglect or a natural disaster. Here are a few tips to preserve treasured family photographs for future generations to enjoy:

  • To prevent photographs from sticking to the glass in humid weather, mat your photographs. Display or hang them away from direct light such as the sun’s ultraviolet rays and artificial light.
  • Acid-free paper and ultraviolet- resistant Plexiglas are better than standard mounting materials for preventing deterioration of photos.
  • A center hall closet on the main floor of a house is an ideal storage location for photographs. Basements and attics are too damp.
  • Ideally, rare photographs – especially from the 19th century – should be stored in individual protective covers. Archival quality boxes or photo albums are also suitable for larger collections.
  • Avoid magnetic photo albums. The pages can eventually deteriorate and stick to the back of the photographs, and the plastic cover sheets can discolor the image.
  • Polyethylene or polypropylene instead of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sleeves are preferred when storing photographs or slides.
  • Try not to write directly on a photograph – use an enclosure sheet instead. If you must write on a photograph, use a pencil.
March 21, 2008

On March 20, 2008, Kathy and I decided to see how the California wildflowers were doing this year. For the past two years, there had been a serious drought in the Southern California desert regions. Wildflowers were hard to come by during this time. This year brought plenty of rain and the desert is in full bloom once again.

We wanted to make a loop from our house through Joshua Tree National park and then down to the Anza Borrego State Park. We were a little to ambitious in our planning had time only for Joshua Tree NP. Too many stops for picture taking. Joshua Tree NP is located in the Mojave Desert between Interstate 10 and California route 62 in Riverside County. Its about 110 miles from our home so that accounted for a total driving time of about four hours roundtrip.

We entered the park from the south portal and traverse Pinto Basin Road though through the park to the North portal at Hwy 62, a drive of about 34 miles. For you Google Earth aficionados you can trace the route along Pinto Basin Road from N33°44’54.65’, W115°49’26.69” to N34°04’43.47”, W116°02’13.93”). There is not much to see on the map but there is plenty to see on the ground. The desert was awash with blooms. There were carpets of Desert Dandelions and plenty of blooming cacti and Canterbury Bells. The Joshua trees were just coming into bloom as the Mojave Yucca. We were able to catch a rare Sand Blazing Star and Beavertail Cactus. Rather than try to describe the beauty of the desert I have linked a slide show to this blog. Just click on the thumbnail of the Beavertail Cactus and you will be directed to the show.

If you are interested in keeping current with what is happening with the desert wildflowers you can visit the Desert USA web site. With Internet Explorer if you hold down the Control (CTRL) Key when you click the page you are opening will open in a new tab rather than as a new page.

March 30, 2008

After an enjoyable and photographically fruitful at Joshua Tree National park we decided to venture out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County. I had been watching the reports on the status of the wildflowers from the Desert USA web site and noticed the good reports were beginning to wane as the desert wildflower season was drawing to a close. All reports indicated that this has been a very god season for desert flora due to the winter rains, and we wanted to catch the flowers and blooming cactus before the desert heat did them in.

We left our home in Menifee at 8:00am sharp loaded up with camera gear and water. Our trip of just under two hours took us south on I-15 to California 79 where we turned southeastward to Borrego Springs. The weather was perfect, a cloudless morning with the temperature in the low 50s. The drive along CA 79 was very relaxing and the hills were green and covered with all sorts of interesting flowers. On the way we stopped along the highway by the Warner Springs Gliderport (N33° 17’05”, W116° 40’ 22” for you Google Earth enthusiasts) to take a few shots of the vast expanse of yellow Desert Dandelions displayed along the highway and on the adjacent hillside. (See the slide show for these photos). Click the Desert Dandelions at Left to view the slide show.

We arrived at the Anza Borrego Desert State Park Visitor’s Center just before 11:00am and the temperature had risen to 76 degrees with that same blue cloudless sky. It was perfect. We loaded up our gear and headed out into the desert to take our pictures. I had my GPS equipped Nikon D200 and Kathy was using the 12.1 Megapixel Nikon Coolpix P5100. Of course, we also had a few bottles of water to prevent dehydration. Even when the weather is cool, the dry desert air will quickly draw the moisture out through your skin causing you to dehydrate. Headaches and light headiness can come on before you know it. A full brimmed hat is mandatory.

We found the Barrel, Beavertail, and Cholla cactus in full bloom. The ocotillo trees were just about in full bloom and the Brittle Bush was everywhere. I have included plenty of examples in the slide show. After about 90 minutes of exploring and shooting, we took off for and area called Desert Gardens (33 20 49,-116 22 16, these coordinates are formatted for the Google Earth “Fly To” search field. All you need to do is copy, paste them into the search field, and hit Enter). One of the rangers had recommended this location as a good site for desert flora. We drove up DiGiorgio Road to the end of the pavement, looked and decided not to venture of the paved road into the sandy trail. I have an all wheel drive vehicle but a is said, “an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

We drove back down DiGiorgio Road through the orange and grapefruit groves. The citrus trees were in blooms the air was filled with their sweet aroma. It was great. I could not help but think of the line in the film “30 Seconds Over Tokyo.” The returning flyer Ted Lawson (played by Van Johnson) is sitting in the cockpit of a B-25 Mitchell bomber as they fly low over the orange groves of southern California with the cockpit window opened and he remarks that he could smell the orange blossoms and new he was home.  Orange and Riverside counties used to be rich with this aroma every March. The housing boom of the 80s and 90s drove many of the growers out to the Central Valley. I miss those orange trees.

We stopped by an abandoned grapefruit stand to ponder on the past when motorist would pass by and pick up a bag of those sweet desert pink grapefruit for two dollars a bag on the honor system. This is an area of the Anza Borrego where the industrious farmers and growers build irrigation systems to feed these lush groves in the 1920s and 1930s. This is very rich, sandy soil. All it needs is a few drops of water. It’s just another example of the riches of California.

Our final stop was for lunch in the picturesque town of Julian home to the famous Julian Pie Company. If you ever want to taste a great apple pie or some good apple cider, Julian is the place to go. Unfortunately, the apple orchards had not come into bloom so I have no photos of the many orchards in the area. We had a very enjoyable lunch at the Julian Grille on Main Street to end another great trip to see some of California’s Heritage.
APRIL 29, 2008
People have asked me “why are professional photographers so expensive?” As a member of Professional Photographers of America, I came upon this information sheet that I would like to share with you. It has been published on many web sites and carries no statement of authorship. However, the information contained in the article is right on the money. Take a few moments to read it and you will understand why professional charged the rates they do. You can download an Adobe Acrobat version of the article by Clicking Here.  For additional information you are invited to visit the Professional Photographers of America Web site.
APRIL 30, 2008

When you have photographs or prints representing treasured family memories you certainly want to preserve them. Most photochemical prints (the old darkroom type) will last 75 to 100 years if proper care is taken. A shoe box does not represent what I consider to be proper care. Nor do those clear vinyl sleeves you get from your local “Big Box” office supply store. Paper and printer manufacturers’ state that today’s quality ink jet prints will last as long as the photochemical varieties. Kodak states that their Professional series of ink jet papers (Glossy and Luster-E) have an archival life of 100 years. Epson goes one better by stating that prints made with their K3 Ultra Chrome pigment based inks in combination with their Ultra Premium Photo Paper will last more than 100 years. Ilford, Moab, Hahnemühle and others make similar claims. No one has really proved this yet as these papers and inks have been on the market for less than 5 years. However, I have seen well cared for photochemical prints that are 70 to 80 years old that are in perfect condition.

In order to achieve these archival claims you must take certain precautions with your treasured and expensive fine art and portrait prints. To assist you I have developed a Print Handling information sheet of Do’s and Don’t’s that you will find helpful. You can download theses Print Handling tips by Clicking Here. Another site where you can obtain print storage and handling guidelines is at Professional Photographers of America.   Once you are at the PPA site go to Selecting a Photographer>Restoring & Retouching on the left sidebar.

JUNE 10. 2008

On June 8, 2008 I had the privilege of spending the day with members of the California Historic Group while they portrayed members of the 1st Marine Division at Camp San Luis Obispo. The CHG is comprised of men and women who keep our history alive though participating in military actions focused on the World War II. These folks devote a great deal of their time and treasure to accurately portray and honor the deeds of the men and women who did so much to preserve our way of life and bring freedom to the world.

This particular day the CHG portrayed members of the 1st Marine Division’s actions in Operation Cartwheel, an operation that took place in New Guinea in 1944. What struck me was the attention they pay to details. Even the smallest items, such as the ration packs, are not overlooked. All uniforms, weapons, vehicles and military accessories are provided by the members and they receive no governmental support other than the use of the military base to conduct their maneuvers.

There ate hundreds of similar groups across the county keeping our history alive. There are groups on the East Coast portraying soldiers from the Revolutionary and Civil War. There are groups dedicated to keeping the old west alive and groups that portray our once enemies such as the Germans and Japanese.

My role on this particular day was to photograph their activities. To do so I was required to dress in the appropriate uniform and follow the rules of the CHG. It really turned out to be both a rewarding and fun day for me and I hope I they will invite me back again soon. To add some historic flavor and drama to the images I have converted some of them to black and white. To view these images click on the image at the left or Click Here.
OCTOBER 7, 2008

On October 4-5, 2008, I had the privilege of once again spending a weekend with the reenactors of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 101st Airborne Division. I can’t say enough to express my respect and admiration of these men. They devote a great deal of time and treasure to preserve our military history. To them their “Impression” is paramount. By Impression, I mean the authenticity of the uniforms they wear and the military gear they use. To a casual observer stumbling upon their encampment one would feel they had entered a time machine and traveled back 65 years to 1943 and World War II. Even the meals they eat come from authentic K-Ration packs. Their weapons are real and can shoot real bullets, albeit they carry out their missions using blank cartridges.

This recent reenactment event was dedicated to the airborne assault of the 506th in the early morning hours of 6 June 1944 on the flooded fields of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandie, France. This meant leaving the barracks of Camp Roberts, California at 0400 hours on trucks and being taken in the dark of night to the wooded areas surrounding the camp. To make the exercise as realistic as possible the men were scattered over a three-mile area in the dark of night and given the mission of joining up with other members of the company. Of course, there were reenactors portraying German defenders who were trying to capture or kill them.

To make this event even more special the reenactors were joined by five veterans of the 506th from Easy and Fox Companies. These vets made the real drop on the morning of 6 June. The vets were Bob Noody, Bob Janes, and Bill True of Fox Company and Don Malarkey and Ed Pepping of Easy Company. If you watched the HBO series “Band of Brothers” Don Malarkey (played by Scott Grimes) was one of the major characters in the series. Don won a Bronze Star for his action at Brecourt Manor, where Easy Company destroyed four German 105mm guns that were shelling the Fourth Division on Utah Beach.

To participate with these reenactors as a photographer is always an honor for me. Through their continuing efforts and dedication, they keep our military history alive and honor those who did not come home from WWII. Click Here to entry the gallery of photos from this event. May God bless all of these men and women who preserve our history.

The photo on the right is of Bob Noody, Fox Company of the 506th PIR. It was taken inside of a C-47 transport plane somewhere over the English Channel as they were bound for their drop zones in Normandie on the morning of 6 June 1944. Click Here to enter the gallery to see current photos of Bob and the other D-Day veterans.  To view my Newsletter with a more complete article on this event please Click Here.

Click on the photo for a larger image

Click Here for a larger Image of the five Veterans.

OCTOBER 17, 2008

Click on Image for Larger View


Statue of General George S. Patton and His Dog at the Entrance to the Museum
Entrance to the GPMM
The 5 Ton Relief Map

One of the lesser-known gems in Southern California is the General Patton Memorial Museum (GPMM). This Tank and Armor Museum is located at Chiriaco Summit on Interstate 10 about 30 miles East of Indio, California and is well worth a visit.

The GPMM was established (in association with the Bureau of Land Management) to honor the late General George S. Patton and the thousands of men who served with him at the Desert Training Center and in the North Africa campaigns of WWII.

The GPMM is near the entrance to Camp Young, command post for the Desert Training Center (DTC), also known as the California-Arizona Maneuver Area or CAMA, which was established in late March, 1942 (at the beginning of WWII). Then Major General George S. Patton established the DTC and was the first Commanding General of Camp Young and the Desert Training Center. The Desert Training Center was established to prepare Patton's First Army Corp for combat operations in North Africa.

There were 11 camps in the Desert Training Center. In addition to Camp Young (Major General George S. Patton's headquarters as Commanding General of the Desert Training Center) were Camp Coxcomb, Camp Iron Mountain, Camp Granite, Camp Essex, Camp Ibis, Camp Hyder, Camp Horn, Camp Laguna, Camp Pilot Knob and Camp Bouse. These camps were scattered about the massive base, which was the largest army base in the world during WWII. It was 350 miles wide and 250 miles deep, covering some 87,500 square miles (56,000,000.acres)

The Desert Training Center was disestablished on April 30, 1944. At it's height, in July 1943, there were 10,966 officers, 514 flight personnel, 604 nurses and hospital attendants, and 179, 536 enlisted personnel assigned for a total of 191,620. Today armor training is carried out at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

The museum site was donated by Joseph Chiriaco, one of the first area residents General Patton met when he arrived to set up the center. Chiriaco, a native of Alabama, came West in 1927 to see Alabama play Stanford in the Rose Bowl and never returned to his home state. After serving as a Land Surveyor with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) in 1933, he gave up his position with LADWP and purchased a parcel of land based on rumors that a new paved road would be built connecting Indio with Phoenix. On August 15, 1933, Joe and his soon to be bride Ruth, opened his gas station and general store at the Summit. He had one dollar in his cigar box till and that dollar remains at the Summit today. In 1945, with the assistance of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Joe and Ruth established a memorial to General George S. Patton and the Desert Training Center. Joe and Ruth passed away within months of each other in the spring of 1996.Today the café is still owned and operated by the Chiriaco family.

Exhibits display memorabilia from the life and career of General Patton. The exhibit halls include the many and varied aspects of military life with emphasis on the Desert Training Center and soldiers of World War 2. There is a huge relief map of Southern California that is worth the price of admission alone. The map weighs almost 5 tons and is so large that Mt. San Jacinto is almost a foot high

The museum is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas day. The hours are now 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. The cost of admission is $4.00 ($3.50 for seniors 62 and up). Military are free if they come in uniform

One closing comment: In March 2003, cowardly vandals defaced 19 tanks and symbols of American military power with their obscene anti-war graffiti. Click Here for more information.

Click Here for a gallery of photos of the Museum.  To see a more details of the GPMM Click Here to View the Newsletter.

OCTOBER 17, 2008

GPS satellites have been freely accessible to the world through the "public good" policy of the United States Air Force and their NAVSTAR Global Position System (GPS.) It is a system of satellites that broadcast a specific radio signal to connect to a receiver like this one. If four or more of the NAVSTAR satellites are in transmission range of the GPS unit, through simple mathematical calculations based on the distances between each orbiting satellite and the receiver, a 3-dimensional position on the X/Y/Z axes is determined. This in turn translates into latitude, longitude and altitude co-ordinates on a GPS receiver.
There are two new products on the market that will not only embed the geographic data of the location of your photo directly into the EXIF metadata of the image, but are great fun and extremely easy to use. The first is a new compact digital camera from Nikon, the COOLPIX P6000, and a slick accessory attachment (GeoPic II) that tethers to and is compatible with Nikon D2-series, D3-series, D200, D300, D700, Fujifilm S5 Pro, and IS Pro digital cameras with 10-Pin remote sockets.

I will start with the GeoPic II as I have a Nikon D200 and D300 DSLR. Paired with a compatible digital SLR camera from Fuji or Nikon, the Custom Idea GeoPic II presents a user with the ability to embed in images geospatial data in the form of GPS coordinates. Using the GeoPic II, GPS data is saved to an image's metadata during exposure. This system of geotagging is inherently more accurate and consistent when compared to GPS data loggers that match the time stamp on an image with the closest approximation of location based on a time stamp on the GPS tracklog. Furthermore, there are three primary modes of functionality that gives GPS data to the camera, even when not in GPS satellite range.

The GeoPic II has three modes of operation that each posses their own advantages. The Continuous mode keeps the GPS receiver active and constantly sends data to the camera. Low Power mode puts the GeoPic II into a standby mode when idle, thereby preserving the camera's battery power. The receiver is "woken-up" with a half-press of the camera's shutter release button. Finally, the Freeze mode is useful indoors, in large cities, deep canyons or anywhere else where a clear signal of the sky for the purposes of satellite signal reception is difficult or impossible to obtain. This mode will save a specific location to the GeoPic II's internal memory in order to have coordinates at the ready when subsequent images are shot.

When the GeoPic II is connected to a camera, the GPS module can nestle in the camera's hot shoe, or alternatively, on the camera's neck strap if a shoe-mounted flash or off-camera cord is needed. Additionally, this device permits customization of its operation though a series of options accessed through its onboard menu. A user's needs may be tailored to with a choice indicators and power management settings. Ultimately, the GeoPic II allows photographers to geotag their photographs in nearly any situation without requiring a great drain on the camera's battery, an active GPS signal, a multi-staged geotagging process or any significant weight or bulky additions.

In the past I have used a Garmin eTrek Vista with a serial cable attached to a special Nikon cable that connected to the 10 pin socket on my Nikon D200. While it worked well, it was cumbersome and a general pan in the butt to use. I always had a problem keeping the GPS receiver out in the open without it dangling like an uncontrollable snake. With the GeoPic II all of these little nuisances are gone and its fun to use. You can purchase a GeoPic II from B&H for $300.00. Now I have a GeoPic II and it works great! I tested the GeoPic II at several locations where I knew the correct WGS 84 positions and found that it had a horizontal accuracy of about 4 meters. Not bad for such a small compact GPS receiver.

The Nikon P6000 is a great new compact 13.5 Megapixel camera with a 4:1 optical zoom lens. The camera comes with a built-in GPS receiver that provides geotagging of your photos. It has a 4x optical zoom lens from 6.0-24.0mm (35mm [135] format picture angle: 28-112mm); f/2.7-5.9; 9 elements in 7 groups. The camera captures images in both JPG and Nikon Raw (NEF) formats and the maximum resolution is 4224 x 3168(13M), good enough for a 16x20 print at 240dpi. It offers a many other great features such as: Vibration Reduction, COOLPIX picture control for JPG enhancement, 2.7 inch high resolution viewing screen, hot shoe for Nikon external iTTL  flash units, and the ability to record high quality sound movies at  640 × 480 pixels with a frame rate of 30 frames per second. This is more than adequate for posting on your web site or YouTube. This is a great all purpose camera for travel, site photography and general family use.  You can buy them on line from B&H or Adorama for $499.95.

FEBRUARY 15, 2009

It’s been a little while since I have made an entry to this Blog. I have been very busy with my Pet Portrait endeavors and taking some on-line photography classes. So now it’s time to do some updating.

As I mentioned I have been developing a pet photography line of business and it has been going very well. I was able to team up with K-9 Assertive Training Kennels, the home of Thinschmidt German Shepherds. I have photographed most of their breeding dogs for both their Web site and for display portraits. The dogs are beautiful and it has been great fun. As they are a breeding and training kennel they have many clients who have purchased puppies from them. These pet owners come every Saturday for training classes so we have arranged to have a Pet Portrait Day once a month. I use a large room in their training facility and I can set up my lights and backdrops with plenty of room to spare. So far it has been a great experience. You can view a gallery of some of the pet portraits I have taken by Clicking Here.

In my last edition of my newsletter, the Aperture, I devoted much of the space to our trip to the California Route 66 Museum. It was quite an experience to go back to a time when California was truly the land of opportunity and our nation was moving westward. This visit has inspired me to take a road trip along the remnants of the original Route 66 in California. I have mapped out the route of the much of the original alignment from Victorville to Needles and I hope to explore it very soon. I plan to write some newsletter articles about the various things we see along the “Mother Road” and take plenty of geo-referenced photos for a gallery and posting on my Panoramio site so you can see exactly where the photos were taken. Two of the sites I hope to see are the agricultural inspection station at Dagget that was used in the filming of the Grapes of Wrath.  The other site is the Bagdad Café This is the location that was featured in the film Bagdad Café (also known as Out of Rosenheim) starring Jack Palance and Marianne Sägebrecht. If saw the film you must remember the scene where Rudi Coxx (Palance) stumbles into the café and by accident gets some of Jasmin’s (Sägebrecht) very strong Bavarian coffee and about dies. It’s a very funny scene, especially if you have had any experience drinking strong German coffee. Keep an eye on my Blog and look for future editions of the Aperture to see how I did.

Photo of Hunter one of the dogs I photographed on Pet Portrait Day,  To display a larger image click on the photo. To view a Gallery of pets Click Here

In March Kathy and I will be taking a 11 day cruise to Morocco and the Canary Islands. We will depart from Barcelona, Spain on the March 20th and will be visiting Malaga and Cadiz, Spain; Casablanca (I will try to find Rick's Café Américain) and Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. Tenerife is known internationally as the "Island of Eternal Spring" (Isla de la Eterna Primavera). The island, being on a latitude (28° North) of the Sahara Desert, enjoys a warm, all year round climate with an average of 22° - 24°C in the winter and 26° - 28°C in the summer and sunshine all year round. On Tenerife, there are no periods annually even during the winter months of cold, but neither are there periods during the summer of unbearable heat as there are in some of the Greek islands of the Mediterranean. I hope to get some great photos as the scenery in the Canary Islands is supposed to be as diverse as it is spectacular Again watch for upcoming Blog entries, galleries and editions of the Aperture for some great photos and informative articles.

Don’t neglect to click on the Links (shown in blue) for additional information or photos.

FEBRUARY 15, 2009

On February 20, 2009 Kathy and I decided to take a road trip to explore historic Route 66 in California. After our visit to the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, (see Newsletter Vol. 2, No.1) where we obtained some good guide books and maps, we decided to go all the way to the Arizona border. We left our home at 6:30 am and reached the Colorado River at 3:30 pm. Along the way we made stops to visit the historic Santa Fe Depot and Harvey House in Barstow, the former State Agricultural Inspection Station in Daggett, the famous Bagdad Café, the remnants of Ludlow, Roy’s Café in Amboy, Chambliss and finally ending our road trip at the Old Trails Arch Bridge over the Colorado River and Arizona border south of Needles.

The trip was a very rewarding experience for us as we traveled the original Route 66 three times in the 1960’s. The first time when we traveled Route 66 were on our honeymoon in 1960. Then we traveled from Kingman, Arizona to Chicago (see Newsletter Vol. 2, No. 1) and visited the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Meteor Crater near Winslow and numerous roadside attractions selling Navajo jewelry. The second time we traveled the Mother Road was when we vacationed to California in 1961 with my younger brother Bob showing him much of the attractions we had seen the previous year. The third time we traveled Route 66 was in 1962 when Kathy and I relocated to California from Ohio. We pulled a 4x6 U-Haul trailer with our 1961 Dodge in February, 1962 full of optimism and the spirit of adventure. The optimism was not in vain as we made a great life in California. I share a good story about the trip in my recent Newsletter (Vol.2, No. 2) about our arrival in California.

This being a photographic Web site I have to mention something about my photographic endeavors during the road trip. Because I wanted to accurately record the geographic position of each photo I took I used my 12 megapixel Nikon D300 with a Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 SX VR lens and a Custom Idea GeoPic II GPS Receiver attached to the camera. I mention this GPS receiver in my Blog. Just scroll up to Entry 11. The GeoPic II is a fantastic little GPS device that weighs less than 2 ounces (48 grams) and does a great job of embedding the geographic position of where the photo was taken (latitude, longitude and elevation) permanently into the image’s EXIF data. I have tested the positional accuracy of this GPS receiver by taking photographs right over points of known geodetic positions and have found the accuracy is better than 5 meters. This is about the same as one of those consumer GPS receivers used by hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Another really cool thing benefit to recording the  GPS coordinates of the photo is that if you are using Adobe Lightroom 2 to post process your images you can click on the little arrow shown next to the GPS coordinates in the Metadata panel and you will shown the position where you took your photo in Google Maps.. This is extremely useful for captioning your photos and remembering exactly where you took the photo when writing travel related articles, newsletters and Blogs. I have set a few of the links to photos I have uploaded to Panoramio so you can see the exact position of the camera when the photo was taken. To view more of these Route 66 photos on Panoramio Click Here and select the Route 66 tag from the list of tags shown to the right of the thumbnail images. This will display a gallery of all of the Route 66 photos I have uploaded to Panoramio. Then you can click on any individual thumbnail to display the photo and its location on the corresponding map at the left. You can zoom in and out or pan the map using the controls on the map. You can also click on the photo to see a larger view. Remember to use the “Back” button on your browser to return to the photo and map view and once again to return to the gallery view. Try it, it’s fun, especially for you GPS or map aficionados.  

To view a gallery of our Route 66 Road Trip Photos please Click Here. To Read more about this adventure Click Here.

APRIL 17, 2009

In this Blog Entry I want to share my experiences from a trip to Spain and an 11 day cruise to the Canary Islands and Morocco. Kathy and I took the cruise the last two weeks in March with our two daughters, Gwen and Lisa. The cruise was aboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship the Brilliance Of The Seas departing from Barcelona, Spain. After departing the port of Barcelona we would be visiting Málaga, Spain, passing through the Straits of Gibraltar to the Atlantic Ocean and the Canary Islands of Lanzarote and Tenerife. We would then reverse course and head for Casablanca, Morocco with our final port of call being Cádiz and Seville, Spain.

Thanks to my daughter, Gwen, we stayed at a great hotel located on a mountain (Mount Tibidabo) just to the north of the city – the Gran Hotel La Florida. The view of Barcelona from the hotel is nothing less than spectacular. (Click Here to see the location of the hotel). Two things we learned in Barcelona were the meaning of gaudy and how long it takes to build a cathedral. There are monuments to the architecture of Antoni Gaudí (sounds the same as gaudy) all over the city. Two of the more gaudy of Gaudí’s creations are Palau Güell (Park Güell) and Casa Batlló. The Casa Batlló is situated in central Barcelona on the Passeig de Grácia, the main shopping street in the city. Ignoring the play on words it is really a popular and unique tourist attraction. A must see when in Barcelona.

Another Gaudí work is the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or Church of the Holy Family. Sagrada Família is a massive, privately-funded Roman Catholic Church that has been under construction in Barcelona since 1882 and is expected to continue until at least 2026.Gaudí spent the last 15 years of his life working on this project and when asked of the extremely long construction period, Gaudí is said to have remarked, "My client is not in a hurry." After 125 years of construction the church is still a hard hat area that draws over 2.5 million tourists each year.

After 3 full days in Barcelona we boarded our ship, the 90,000 ton Brilliance of the Seas, on March 20th to begin our 11 day cruise to the Canary Islands and Morocco. This was the day we were waiting for as we knew we would be cruising the Mediterranean in a first class luxury hotel. Like most large cruise ships the Brilliance has just about every amenity you could think off. There are ten decks of cabins and suites accommodating 2,500 passengers and 700 crew members. We were in a balcony cabin on deck 9 which afforded us a great view of the sea and the ports we visited.

Day Two was an “At Sea Day.” We would have four such days where we sail all day to reach a distant port. The average speed of the Brilliance was about 18 knots (About 21 MPH) with a sailing time of about 12 hours each night. This means we could cover about 250 miles each night. With the distance from Barcelona to Málaga being about 600 miles we needed a full day at sail to make this port in the early morning hours so we could spend time in the city. I enjoyed these At Sea Days as you could relax and enjoy some of the shipboard amenities and activities. The weather was good so we certainly could enjoy the pool or Jacuzzis.

Barcelona Gran Hotel La Florida

Casa Batlló, By Night

Click on Image for Larger View

Day Three, Sunday March 22nd brought us to the city of Málaga, Spain. Málaga is located on the south coast (Costa del Sol) of Spain in the region known as Andalusia and lies about 90 miles east of the Straits of Gibraltar. Málaga is famous for three things. It is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, Tapas and German songs. There is not much I can say about Picasso except that everywhere you go in Málaga there is some monument or building dedicated to the cubists artist. During our walking tour of Málaga we stopped at three cafés for Tapas tasting and wine. Tapa means "lid" or "cover" in Spanish. A commonly cited explanation is that an item, be it bread or a flat card, etc., would often be placed on top of a drink to protect it from fruit flies; at some point it became a habit to top this "cover" with a snack. These were very tasty offerings and after three glasses of wine and some Tapas I did not know if I could make it back to the ship.

Day Four was another “At Sea Day” allowing us to recover from our overdose of Tapas. One of my great disappointments of the cruise is that we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar at night so I did not get to see the famous Prudential Insurance Company logo. I found out that most cruise ships pass these famous Pillars of Hercules in the dark of night so I did not feel slighted, only disappointed.

Day Five brought us to the port of Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Lanzarote, a Spanish island, is the easternmost of the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 125 km off the coast of Africa and 1,000 km from the Iberian Peninsula. Covering 846 km², it stands as the fourth largest of the islands. The island is volcanic in nature and is covered with black volcanic sand. The three more interesting adventures we had while on Lanzarote were the camel ride, tour of the volcano’s caldera and a visit to a Bodega (Spanish for a winery). The camel ride was fun, but very uncomfortable. Unlike the camel I rode in Gaza, where I was alone on the beast, this ride consisted of two platforms on each camel. Our camel, named Riki, was a most uncooperative animal that continually bounced up and down making my backside very uncomfortable. If this was not enough the camel that Gwen and Lisa were riding behind us (named Martín) continually slobbered on my shoulder. I think this is the last camel ride I wish to take.

The trip to Timanfaya National Park and the volcano was interesting. We were able to sample some volcanic sand that was dug up from about 1 foot below the surface and you could barley hold it in your hand as it was very hot. There was a restaurant nearby and the chef was cooking chicken on a grill from the subterranean heat of the volcano. After a stop on the Lanzarote’s Atlantic Coast and a chance to pick up a few souvenirs we visited the Bodega La Geria for some wine tasting. As Lanzarote is a volcanic island and the Northeasterly Trade Winds constantly blow over the island from Africa it is very difficult to grow the vines to produce the wine grapes. The wine growers manage to produce some fairly decent wines by digging a pit in the volcanic sand and planting some grape vines in each pit. They then construct a 3 foot stone wall around each pit to protect the vines from eroding sand. It’s quite a site to see acres of these protected grape vines dotting the island. I found Lanzarote to be a very picturesque island well worth the visit.

Day Six landed us at the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife on the island of the same name. Tenerife is the largest of the seven Canary Islands. It has an area of 2034 square kilometers, and over 886 thousand inhabitants of which 80% are engaged in the tourism business, which makes it the most populated island of the Canary Islands. Tenerife is probably best known for the 1977 airport disaster in which 583 people lost their lives when a Pan Am 747 collided with a KLM 747 on the runway in foggy conditions. This crash remains the worst aircraft accident in aviation history.

Day Seven was another At Sea Day, which was well needed. This was the day I took a tour of the galley and was amazed at the food preparation technology used on these ships. The thing that struck me the most was the measures Royal Caribbean takes to insure the safety and quality of the food they serve. They have 150 people serving 15,000 meals each day. This includes the main dining rooms, Windjammer Café, Chops Grill (a steak and chops specialty restaurant), Portofino Restaurant, Colony Club and room service. For ships departing from Barcelona all fresh fruits and vegetables are shipped from Holland and all other food products, including meat and fish, are shipped in from Miami. This applies to all ports of departure with different locations being used for the fresh produce only. All food waste is processed and discharged into the sea in international waters as fish food while all other waste is incinerated on board. They recycle all water and have a full treatment plant on board for processing sewage. These ships are really floating cities.

Sagrada Família, the northeast towers
Cooking with the subterranean volcanic heat
The peak of the snow covered Teide Volcano rising to 3,718 meters above the clouds

Day Eight brought us to the neat and tidy port of Casablanca where the scene is dominated by the Hassan II Mosque. Casablanca (Dar-el-Beida) made famous by the movie of the same name is the largest city in Morocco, but not the capital. That honor belongs to Rabat.  Casablanca is a city of over 3.1 million inhabitants that shows both an Arabic (Berber and Moorish) and French face. Almost all of the signs are in Arabic and French.

The major feature of our tour of Casablanca was the Hassan II Mosque with a stroll through the central market and a stop to buy some Moroccan goodies and spices. The Hassan II Mosque took 1,500 workers seven years to build at a cost of one billion dollars. It is the third largest mosque in the world and its minaret rises to 210 meters (689 feet). The interior of the mosque is composed of Italian marble, ceramic tiles, carved wood, Austrian crystal chandeliers and woven Moroccan carpets. The mosque is so large that there are three purification rooms. I guess the Moroccan builders were a little bit quicker than the Spanish guys in Barcelona.

During our stop at the Moroccan Cultural Store we ran into some fellows known as Water Sellers. These guys walk around with ornate costumes and hats with goat skin bags filled with water from Lord knows where. They offer passing tourists drinks from little brass cups hanging about their necks. As I did not buy any water from them I can’t comment on the price. They do, however. Offer to pose for photos with the tourists. I paid 2 Euros for a photo of Kathy and the water seller. I figured that paying for the pose was reasonable as they might cut my throat if I didn’t – just kidding. I usually give a small stipend to interesting street people when I take their picture. It’s only fair to compensate them for their cooperation. I think these guys were a bigger tourist attraction than the Cultural Store.

Our final stop in Casablanca before returning to the ship was at the Moroccan Spice Shop. This was supposed to be an educational stop, but it turned out to be more of a sales pitch to purchase spices and oils. They offered spices and oils that were claimed to cure everything from snoring and arthritis to male enhancement. All of these products were said to come from seeds, berries, leaves, roots or flowers growing in Morocco. They even gave several massages with some magic oil to several of the women. They seemed to like is and bought the oil. Yes, I bought some special seeds that when crushed, wrapped in a cloth and inhaled would clear you nasal passages and prevent snoring. No, it was not cocaine. I don’t know if it prevents snoring, but it surely opens your nasal passages. Casablanca was fun, but you really have to watch your wallet or purse. The greeter at the Wal-Mart, Ops, Cultural Store warned me to put my wallet in the zipper pocket of my photography vest.

Day Nine took us to the port of Cádiz, Spain and a day trip to the Andalusia city of Seville. The city of Seville has a population of over 700 thousand in the city proper and a history that dates back to Roman times, complete with an aqueduct. It also has a Starbucks coffee shop about every 200 meters. We arrived about 11:00 am on a rainy morning so our first stop when we got off the bus was at Starbucks for a coffee. As we walked through the city the weather cleared and warmed so it became a good day for walking and photos. There is a passage along the south side of the cathedral that is populated with some of the oddest modern sculptures that you can find. We were in Seville on a Saturday and by 1:00 pm the streets became choked with shoppers and sidewalk merchants, which made photography a bit of a challenge. You can see some of my Seville scenes in images 310 through 382 of my cruise gallery.

By the time we had finished with Seville we were thinking of the packing we had to do and the long flights home. Thankfully Day Ten was an At Sea Day so we could get our mind around the packing issue and start preparing for the trip home in a leisurely manner.

All of my photos were geo tagged with a GPS attached to the camera so the location from where the photo was taken is accurate. If you want to learn more about geo tagging photos see my Blog Entry 11. If you want to see the exact location where many of the photos were taken Click Here to enter my photos on Panoramio and select the Spain and Morocco tags on the right hand side of the page of thumbnails. When you click on a thumbnail the larger image will open with a Google map showing the exact location where the photo was taken. You can zoom in on the map of click the image again to see a full size image.

We really enjoy the cruising experience and are already planning our next cruise adventure. We are looking at a 15 day cruise from San Diego to Miami along the coast of Mexico and Central America and passing through the Panama Canal. I am especially looking forward the stops in Costa Rica, where I have spent some time during my business career. I love the scenery there and the opportunity for photography and jungle adventures. I hope we can do it in 2010.

You can view a full Gallery of images of the cruise experience by Clicking Here. To read a full version of the story of this cruise please Click Here.

The Hassan II Mosque dominates over Casablanca. Its minaret is the world's tallest at 210 meters (689 ft) and third largest mosque in the world.
Traditional water sellers on Avenue Hassan II
Click onAny Image for Larger View
May 21, 2009


After searching available hosting sites and printing services I have finally entered into a partnership with Zenfolio and Mpix. This is an advantageous service to my clients as I am now able to dramatically reduce the cost of prints. Not only have I reduced the cost of prints I have also added a full range of specialty items such as T-shirts, coffee mugs, canvas wraps, statuettes, full resolution digital downloads and a slew of other unique photo products.

I the past I have filled most of my print orders up to 13x19 from my studio using an Epson R2400 professional quality photo printer. This printer uses 8 ink cartridges and can produce beautiful color and black and white prints at a moderate cost. With this new partnership I can lower the costs of prints by a considerable amount. As an example the cost of a custom 4x6 print made in my studio is $6.00 (see our Custom Price List) and an 8x10 would cost $15.00. With this new partnership I can reduce the costs for a 4x6 to $1.95 and an 8x10 to $4.95 on Kodak Luster E paper. The major factors in lowering the costs are 1) reducing the time involved to create the custom print and set the cropping in Photoshop or Lightroom, and 2) the use of Mpix as a commercial lab.

Mpix is one of the premier commercial printing services in the United States. I have been using them for my fine art posters and large format prints for over three years and found them to offer the highest quality color and black and white prints. They even offer a very saturated metallic surface print. Through the use of this lab I can offer clients prints up to 24x36 inches.

Zenfolio is a Web hosting service where I will upload my client’s photos. The photos will be in password protected galleries where the client can select the photos the want to print and then choose the format, paper type and cropping. All the photos that I upload will be at full resolution so you will not have any problems obtaining a fine print up to 24x36 inches. There will also be galleries of my personal photos that will be available to the public in the form of prints and digital downloads. For the digital downloads you will have to accept the license agreement you be presented with during the checkout process. There are four possible licenses for the digital downloads. 1) a small file for use on your web site of Facebook page, 2) a full resolution file for your personal use, 3) a full resolution file for one time publication to 100,000 similar pages, i.e. a magazine and 4) a full resolution royalty free commercial license for stock photography. Don’t be concerned over the copyright watermark that shows over the gallery image. It will not be present in the licensed download.

Here is how it works. As the photographer I will contract with the client for a shooting session at an agreed upon fee. This fee will be paid at the time of the shooting session. Once I have acquired a series of digital images I will process these images in Adobe Lightroom and post them to the client’s personal password protected gallery. Once this is done I will send the client an E-Mail with a link to the gallery and the password. The client is free to share this link and password with whomever they wish. This is great for those distant friends and relatives. The client then reviews the posted images and selects those they wish to print or create specialty products from. These images will be added to the client’s Shopping Cart, just like any other online shopping service. During this selection process the client will select the print size and paper type. Once the client has completed their selections they will be asked to confirm the crop. As there are various formats and the digital image best fits a 1.5:1 ratio you will need to move the crop frame around to select the portion of the photo you want. You may also zoom in on any portion of the image. Once the crop is confirmed the client will continue the checkout process as they would in any other online store. The process is the same when ordering the specialty products such as calendars, puzzles, key chains, T-shirts, announcement and holiday cards.

There will be times when the client wishes a custom studio print. I will continue to offer this service. This is especially important when you want a pure black and white or fine art print. While Mpix can create a pure black and white print from the color image it is advisable that we create the black and white file from the Camera Raw file where we can adjust the tonality for the best quality black and white print. Once this process is complete we will upload the black and white file to the client’s personal gallery where they can then order a pure black and white print. There will be a processing charge of $30.00 for each black and white conversion. It is also strongly advised that files used for prints larger than 16x20 undergo this custom process to obtain the best sharpness and resolution.

While this is not the solution to all of our client’s photographic needs I believe that this partnership will offer my clients a lower cost for quality prints, faster turnaround time and a greater range of specialty products for your family and friends. Please visit my Zenfolio site by clicking here. There will still be a need for custom processing and printing. I think you will find it exciting and convenient.

JUNE 17, 2009


One of the annual events in Riverside County for the past 26 years is the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival. The festival takes place at the Lake Skinner Recreation Area in southwestern Riverside County each June. This year it held from June 5th though June 7th. The festival is probably is the single largest event in the Temecula Valley each and this year was no exception. While not as large or publicized as the annual Albuquerque Balloon Festival the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival is every bit as good and probably easier to get attend.  The setting for the Festival is the beautiful Lake Skinner Recreation Area in southwestern Riverside County about 40 miles south of the City of Riverside on Interstates 215/15 and 70 miles north of San Diego on I-15. If you are driving you will exit I-15 at Rancho California Road and then go east through the Temecula Valley vineyards. Once you are on Rancho California Road there will be plenty of directional signs along the way, so you can’t miss it. Come early as balloons fly best in the calm, cool and dry morning air. They don’t like hot, humid weather or wind and fog.

The TVBWF is sponsored by the business community in the Valley including the 34 wineries that consider themselves a part of the Valley. The Temecula Valley has been a grape growing and wine producing region for over 189 years and is home to some of the best known wineries in California. Wineries such as Callaway, Ponte, South Coast, Thornton and Wilson Creek are but a few of the better known vintners in the valley.  

The Award Winning Poster for the 2009 Fesitval. Click on the photo to see a larger image. Click on the image of the Festival Logo to enter a gallery of photos from the Festival

Kathy and I arrived at the Lake Skinner Recreation Area about 6:00 am on Saturday morning as the crowd was just beginning to fill the balloon launch area. As we were driving into the Lake Skinner area we noticed vans and trucks laden with balloon gear driving out. Our first thought was, oh no, not again, just like last year when there was fog, that the balloon rides would be canceled. They were not canceling the balloon flights, just moving to the vineyards to the southwest along Rancho California Road, where the skies were clear and little wind. We decided to hang out at the Lake Skinner balloon launch site to take photos of the remaining balloons. These balloons would be inflated and offer tethered flights to the public. This was a better place to take the close up photos of the activities involved in launching a balloon and learn more about balloon flight. My only regret is that I did not take a tethered flight so I could get some good aerial views of the festival site. Oh well, just another missed opportunity in my life.

We stayed at the festival site until 9:30 am and then decide to leave and get some breakfast in Temecula. On our way to Temecula we stopped several times along the road to get some great shots of the balloons over the vineyards and orchards in the valley. One thing to note is that there is a $5.00 fee for parking, but you can leave and return at no extra charge. Just hang on to your paid parking pass.

We returned to the festival grounds at 6:30 pm so we could see the balloon glow. This is always the highlight of any balloon festival. Once it is dark the balloon crews roll out their balloons and burners and inflate the balloons. The balloons and baskets are tethered and inflated to their full capacity. Once the balloons are fully inflated the pilots turn on those double propane burners full blast and light up the interior of the balloons. This is quite a sight to witness and a great photo opportunity. Naturally I took more photos that I really needed, but it was a lot of fun.

Click for a larger image

Tips for Photographing a Balloon Glow Event.
Photographing a balloon glow event can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be frustrating and disappointing. Here are a few tips that can help turn those disappointing shots into winners. First of all a comment about tripods. The “book” states that you should use a tripod for available light night shots. I won’t dispute that, but I elect not to use a tripod at these events when I am as close as I was to the balloons. Why, you ask do I propose this heresy? I don’t use the tripod, because it cramps my style.  I like to move around to get different angles and views of the glowing balloons. You may then ask, how do you get those sharp, well exposed images? The answer to that question is a little more complex. First, I have a good digital SLR camera (Nikon D300) with very good 12MP sensor. The sensor does not generate a great deal of luminance or color noise (those nasty little color splotches you see in the enlarged image) at higher ISO settings. I shoot every image in camera raw so the camera’s internal software does not mess around with the image. This means I have to process the image in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to obtain the final useable photo. Second, I use fast lenses that can stop down to f/4.0 or lower. Third, I use a vibration reduction (VR) or image stabilization lens (IS) whenever possible. I also practice holding the camera steady prior to shooting. This means placing your right or left elbow against your body and bending it upward to allow the hand to cradle the camera under the lens. This will give you the maximum stability for a hand held shot. And fourth, try to meter on the light from the balloon when it is glowing and then set that exposure. You want to properly expose the glow of the balloon and not try to meter on the background or ambient light. Let it go dark or even black. It highlights the balloon and draws the viewer’s eye to it.

The images of the balloon festival displayed in my galleries were shot at ISOs ranging from 400 to 1600 using either a Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 or Tokina 12-14mm f/4.0 lens. I have included the shooting data in the caption of most of my balloon glow photos so you can see how well my technique worked. For you folks using one those point and shoot digital cameras I strongly recommend that you go by the book and use that tripod. These cameras don’t have the mass to be held in the manner I prescribe and their lenses are two slow to get the shooting speed up to above 1/30 of a second. By all means shoot wide and do not zoom. You decrease the light passing through the lens and you magnify the slightest amount of movement. Shoot wide and crop in your processing software. Also, if you can, set the camera to manual and set your ISO to the highest settings the camera will allow and take a few test shots. Look at the little histogram (the thing that looks like a mountain range) on your LCD display screen. Make sure the mountains appear to be centered. This means you are capturing most of the digital data well within your cameras processing range. Once you have tested your shooting settings secure the camera to the tripod and gently press the shutter release each time you snap. I would recommend using the self timer to avoid camera shake from pushing the shutter, but the 10 second lag could cause you to lose the glow the instant the burners light the balloon. They are lighted for only 3-5 seconds. One more tip. Turn the flash off. It does not add anything and only tells the camera to do things you do not want it to do.

To read more about theTemecula Valley Balloon and Wine Fesival Click Here.  To view the Festival photos in a HTML Gallery Click Here. For additional scenes of the Temecula Valley, Temecula Old Town and the Vineyards Click Here.  When viewing the full size photos on my Zenfolio Gallery you can roll you mouse over the images and pointing to the Information symbol at the upper right corner to open dialogue displaying the shooting data.

July 29, 2009

On June 22, 2009 Eastman Kodak Company announced that it will retire KODACHROME Color Film this year, concluding its 74-year run as a photography icon. Over its 74-year production, Kodachrome was produced in formats to suit various still and motion picture cameras, including8mm, Super 8, 16mm, and 35mm for movies and 35mm, 120, 110, 126, 127, 828, and large format for still photography. It was for many years used for professional color photography, especially for images intended for publication in print media.

Kodachrome began its life as a very slow positive color film with an ISO (ASA) of 25. That meant that on a sunny day the average exposure would be 1/25 sec at f/16. The film produces rich color images with an estimated life of over 100 years. As time passed Kodak increased the film speed to ISO 64 and eventually to ISO 200.

Kodachrome, a standard of family slide shows, was popularized by Paul Simon's song "Kodachrome" in 1970.  "They give us those nice bright colors. They give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all the world's a sunny day...I love to take a photograph so Mama don't take my Kodachrome away."

Kodachrome was always the favorite emulsion of photographers shooting for magazines such as National Geographic and Arizona Highways. Remember those photos in National Geographic; they always had information pertaining to the camera used, film used and exposure settings shown under the photo. They continued this with digital images, but they no longer publish this information.

Kodachrome was used widely by photographers in the latter half of the 1900s due to its rich and vibrant colors. The film was made famous when a photojournalist, Steve McCurry, made the cover of National Geographic Magazine in 1984 with a portrait from Kodachrome film of a woman from Afghan with hauntingly brilliant green eyes. (Click on the image of the Afghan girl at the right to see more of the Kodachrome story.)

One of the issues with Kodachrome was that you had to have it processed by special laboratories (K-14). The main processing lab was Kodak. You would send your exposed 35mm canisters back to Kodak in those little yellow prepaid mailing envelopes and then anxiously await about a week for the processed and mounted slides.

Besides the advent of the digital popularity, Kodachrome was less popular than other films due to its complexity of processing.  Unlike other color film, Kodachrome is purely black and white when exposed and then the three primary colors are added in 3 development steps rather than built into its layers like other films. Dwayne's Photo in Parson, Kansas is the only remaining lab that can process the film and they plan to phase out developing Kodachrome in 2010.

During WWII Kodak introduced a new color film with a totally new structure and processing method. It was called Extachrome. Unlike Kodachrome this new film could be processed by small labs and serious photographers in their home labs. This new process was called E-6 and it opened the door to Kodak’s competitors. Companies like Fuji and Agfa were soon flooding the market with their own brands of E-6 films such as Fujichrome and Agfachrome. They all had their unique qualities such as saturation, ISO and grain, but their archival properties were no where the quality of Kodachrome. If you have some old E-6 slides lying around you will no doubt notice the faded, reddish color cast. The big advantage to Extachrome was the ability to push the processing to achieve ISOs exceeding 400 or 800. This was advantageous for natural low light photography. Another feature of the E-6 films was that they came in all film sizes up to 8x10 sheets.

One of the problems with Kodachrome is that it is difficult to properly scan a Kodachrome 35mm slide as  the emulsion is comprised of four layers and it is very thick. If you hold the emulsion side up to the light you will see a noticeable relief on the surface of the transparency. To scan these slides you need a very high quality film scanner that has firmware and software that will compensate for this thickness. This effect can sometimes cause a slight loss of sharpness in the scanned image when Digital ICE or a similar infrared channel dust removal function is used.

I have many original and scanned Kodachrome transparencies in my archives and all of them look as fresh as the day I received them from the processing lab. It saddens me to see the death of this icon of imaging. Youngsters just being introduced to photography will never have the opportunity to shoot with this wonderful film and will only think of photography as a digital art. Kodak is planning to maintain a gallery of award winning Kodachrome images where you can see the photos this great color film produced. Kodachrome, like the Edsel, Packard, Studebaker, Vegimatic, Hula Hop and Captain Midnight Decoder Ring, now joins the ranks of the graveyard of history.

You can read more about the death of this photo graphic icon in my newsletter by clicking here.  For a gallery of examples of scanned Kodachrome slides please click here.

Kodachrome 64
Kodachrome 35mm slide in cardboard mount
Afghan woman with hauntingly brilliant green eyes. Click on the image to see more of the Kodachrome story.
August 3, 2009

Since its inception in 1861 there have been 3,447 Medals of Honor (often called the Congressional Medal of Honor) awarded, of which 19 were double recipients, for exceptional valor and conspicuous gallantry in the course of military service to the country. All 3,447 names are engraved with gold lettering on a red marble wall at the Medal of Honor Memorial in a corner of the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California. Dedicated in 1999, the Riverside Medal of Honor Memorial is one of four sites, in the United States, recognized as a National Medal of Honor Memorial.

I had heard of the MOH Memorial so Kathy and I paid a visit to the Riverside National Cemetery last week. I can’t begin to note the many times I have passed the entrance to cemetery on the way to my son’s house. He lives about a mile away just off Van Buren Blvd. The cemetery is located on Van Buren Boulevard about one half mile west of the I-215 and the entrance to March Field Air Reserve Base. There is a large stone sign at the entrance, you can’t miss it.

Riverside National Cemetery is the third-largest cemetery managed by the National Cemetery Administration, and since 2000 has been the most active in the system based on the number of interments. It was established in 1976 through the transfer of 740 acres from March Air Force Base. The cemetery was dedicated and opened for burials Nov. 11, 1978. An additional 181 acres was transferred by the Air Force in 2003. The dramatic, meandering landscape features a central boulevard (LeMay Blvd.) with memorial circles, lakes, indigenous-styled committal shelters, and the Medal of Honor Memorial.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress, it is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On December 9, 1861 Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced SB. No. 82 in the United States Senate, a bill designed to "promote the efficiency of the Navy" by authorizing the production and distribution of   "medals of honor". On December 21st the bill was passed, authorizing 200 such medals be produced "which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War)." President Lincoln signed the bill and the (Navy) Medal of Honor was born.

Soon afterwards the Army followed suite and eventually all military personnel, including spies would be eligible for the Medal. On February 13, 1861 Army Assistant Surgeon Bernard J.D. Irwin rescued 60 soldiers of 2nd Lieutenant George Bascom's unit at Apache Pass, AZ. Though the Medal of Honor had not yet been proposed in Congress (and actually wouldn't even be presented to Irwin until 1894), it was the first heroic act for which the Medal of Honor would be awarded). On May 24, 1861, in Alexandria, VA Army Private Francis Edwin Brownell performed the first action of the Civil War to merit the Medal of Honor.

During the Civil War there were 1,520 Medals of Honor awarded including: 11 for actions at the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run), 20 for Antietam, 19, at Fredericksburg, 96 for Vicksburg, 52 at Petersburg, and 58 at Gettysburg. Other actions where the Medal was awarded are: 24 for actions at the Little Big Horn (1876), 109 sailors and Marines aboard the Battleship Maine in Manila Harbor (Feb 15,1898), and 29 for the Boxer Rebellion (June 20, 1900). On May 3, 1919 Sergeant Alvin C. York was awarded the MOH six months after the end of WWI. This would mark a milestone in the history of the Medal. It and its recipients would now be made celebrities by the press and films.

There are many other such stories like the heroic actions of Delta Force snipers Gary Gordon and Randall Shughart for their actions in Somalia, made famous in the film “Black Hawk Down” and the most recent recipient Ross A. McGinnis. You can read more about the Medal on the Official Congressional Medal of Honor Society web site.

If you are planning a visit to the March Air Field Museum take an extra hour or so to pay a visit to the Medal of Honor Memorial at the Riverside National Cemetery and pay honor to those who sacrificed so much for this country.

You can read more about this memorial in my newsletter by clicking here. For a complete gallery of photos please click here.

Medal of Honor Memorial
Entrance sign on Van Buren Blvd.
The Memorial from Nimitz Circle. Click on any image for a full size view.
October 31, 2009

After forty six years my wife, Kathy, and I finally made our much though off road trip along Historic Route 66 from Illinois to California. We had been thinking about this adventure for a long time and in October 2009 we finally made the 12 day trip. We flew to Chicago, the eastern terminus of route 66, rented a SUV and began out 12 day journey westward to Los Angeles. We wanted to take plenty of time so we could stay on the historic 66 as much as possible and avoid the Interstates. We wanted to visit the various route 66 state museums along with the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, a must see. I wanted to see all of the old and abandoned business, motels, cafes and filling station along this legendary “Mother Road.”

I did a great deal of research before I left and purchased maps and books from the Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California. Our most valuable guide, however, was the EX66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan, an absolute must for anyone wanting to make this trip. Jerry is an expert when it comes to route 66 and knows just about every mile of the road like the back of his hand. His travelers guide is easy to carry and easier to follow. He has detailed maps and descriptions of almost every inch of the road.


We planned to drive about 250 miles each day so we could take advantage of the daylight hours and allow for the numerous photo stops we would make along the way. We also planned for two overnight stays with friends in St. Louis, Missouri and Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were usually on the road by 7:30 in the morning so I could take advantage of the morning light from the east for my photography. The early morning and late afternoon light offers the best lighting for vivid landscape photos. To this issue I also decided to travel westbound along route 66 to avoid the strong morning backlight that would not be favorable to acquiring the photography I wanted and would also put the sun in our eyes. I felt westbound was more in tune with the historic nature of the road as that’s the way it was conceived and constructed. It is also the route Bobby Troupe wrote of in his famous “Get Your Kicks on Route 66: lyrics.

Kathy and I flew to Chicago where we rented a Ford Explorer SUV and drove south the Joliet, Illinois for the first night’s stay. Our hotel was near the junction of Historic Route 66 (Interstate 55) and the Lincoln Highway, US 30 (Interstate 80). I wanted to be near the junction of these two legendary American highways that meant so much to the development of this great country. The next morning (October 9, 2009) we began our exploration of Route 66.


Route 66 mural on the back wall of the Route 66 Hall of Fame, Pontiac, Illinois. Click on the image to enlarge

Our Ford Explorer was equipped with a GPS navigation unit, which I strongly advise for anyone making the trip. I also brought along my portable XM satellite radio so we would not have to fiddle with the AM or FM bands trying to keep a radio in station in tune. As a reference I used Jerry McClanahan’s EZ66 Route 66 Guide for Travelers, the absolute bible for anyone wanting to make a comprehensive trip along Route 66. This book is available at any Route 66 museum, tourist stop or available on Amazon.com. This was another reason for driving westward as that is how McClanahan’s book is oriented.

The weather on the first day was not very nice. It was a misty day with periods of rain. Once we arrived in St. Louis the weather cleared and stayed that way through Missouri. Oklahoma and part of Texas brought us the mist and fog again. By the time we left Amarillo, Texas we had magnificent weather with clear, blue skies for the remainder of the trip. The official end of my Route 66 tour was Ludlow, California as I had explored and written about the California section of Route 66 some months ago. You can find a photo narrative of this portion of Route 66 by clicking on this link. To read more about our adventure and the history of route 66 please click here.


The beautiful 1923 Rainbow Bridge over Brush Creek approximately two miles west of Riverton, Kansas on former U.S. Route 66,


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