Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Archive for August, 2009

A Leap of Faith

Posted by Ben on August 31, 2009

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This is another photo from our community trip to the Cascades last weekend.  This shot comes from the waterfall that gives the Cascades park its name.  The mountain stream feeding the falls and the pool below it is frigid, even in August.  And while most people look forward to cooling off after the hike, the numbing cold of the water is pretty extreme.  In my three years of experience now, I’ve found the best idea is simply to jump in and get the shock out of the way quickly.  I managed to get a pretty good shot of a group of community members jumping off the base of the falls into the pool.

There’s a lot of energy in this shot.  You’ve got the ones in front leaping into the air, the ones to the left just getting ready to make the jump, and, in my opinion coolest, the waterfall behind them all.  I was surprised how clearly this picture came out.  It was taken at about 8x zoom (from across the pool) while I was hand-holding the camera, so either my hands were remarkably steady for this, or the Image Stabilization feature of the camera works wonders.  According to my camera, this was taken with a shutter speed of about 1/400th of a second, quick enough to freeze the motion of the jumpers and a good portion of the waterfall.  Seeing the falls frozen like this as opposed to a blurry time-lapse shot emphasizes to me just how much water is actually coming over the falls, the power with which it’s moving, and it’s really neat to be able to pick out individual drops of water coming down.

In more personal news, after my post last night, I decided to go out and play some ultimate frisbee.  Unfortunately, I took a pretty hard fall during the game and tried (unconsciously) to break my fall with my hands, which was a mistake.  I went to the health center on campus this morning where I had some x-rays taken of both wrists.  Luckily, they couldn’t find any fractures in the wrist, but my left wrist was put into a splint for protection.  And while I’m glad that there weren’t any fractures, I’m pretty bummed that I’m going to be out of commission for a few weeks.  The splint pretty much knocks me out of frisbee, dancing, and running for a while.  Also, I can’t really hold my camera very well, so there probably won’t be any new pictures for two weeks or so.  I’ll probably try to go back through my archives to find some more cool ones to post for the coming days.

-Ben

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Making up for lost time

Posted by Ben on August 30, 2009

Well…my estimate for the amount of free time I would have this past week turned out to be a little too optimistic.  I had forgotten just how much time homework really takes in 4000 level math courses.  But, while I haven’t had time to update the blog this past week, I have been trying to get out and take pictures in order to break in some of my new equipment.  Since arriving at school, I’ve gotten a new GorillaPod flexible tripod, a UV filter, a circular polarizing filter, and an adapter that attaches to the front of the camera to use these new filters.  That being said, here are some of my shots from around Blacksburg this past week:

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Taken one evening out at the duck pond.  Roughly a 15x zoom from the edge of the lake.  I really like the clarity of the ripples on the water around the duck and how you can see them spreading out from the center.

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Also taken at the duck pond, but on a different evening.  Looking out towards the golf course from the far bank of the pond.  I think the colors and the reflection are awesome in this shot.

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Great Blue Heron down in the duck pond at about 20x.  This was one of the first shots taken with the new tripod (I had it wrapped around a rock).  I had to use a pretty long shutter speed for this one because of the low light.  It was a tricky shot, but I learned where the delayed shutter release controls are.

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Sunset taken from the fire escape.  Nice color and a little bit of symmetry along the horizon in the middle.

Sorry there’s not much in the way of insightful comments on these pictures, but more should be on the way soon.

-Ben

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Milestones

Posted by Ben on August 22, 2009

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Well…my apologies for the latest pause in pictures.  Life has been a little hectic.  I finished my summer internship last Friday and then moved back to school this past Wednesday, spending most of the days in between packing and running errands.

This picture comes from our dorm’s annual community building hike to the Cascades.  It started off as a fairly dreary day, but luckily stopped raining before we got to the park.  About three quarters of the way to the falls, I spotted this butterfly sitting on the railing of a small bridge, opening and closing its wings with a surprisingly steady rhythm.  It gave me a really good opportunity to experiment with my new camera.  I started off at the far end of the bridge using the full 20x zoom on the camera to get pictures, but the angle of the shot wasn’t very good.  Very slowly, I made my way across the bridge, stopping every few feet to take another shot, just in case it flew away.  I was also able to pull the zoom back as I got closer, reducing camera shake and making the pictures a little more clear.  This picture was definitely the best of the set, and was taken from about three or four feet away.

The colors and the clarity of this picture blew me away when I got back to the room and transferred the day’s shots to my computer.  I really love the blue coloring at the bottom of the wings.  I was also surprised to see the black lines running through the wings.  There is a little bit of blurring on the tops of the wings (it didn’t keep its wings open for very long each time), but you can still see the orange spots which were pretty cool.  I also like the fairly narrow depth of field, causing the butterfly and only a little bit of the railing around it to be in focus.

Interestingly, this post represents a lot of milestones.  Firstly, this is my 50th post on this blog.  To tell the truth, when I started a few months ago, I figured I’d put up a few pictures and eventually just lose interest in the whole process.  However, in order to keep going, I had to go back through my old albums, picking out photos I like, and at the same time, figuring out the ones I didn’t like.  My first few posts here were really nothing more than a picture and a brief caption, but eventually I started taking a deeper look at the photos I posted here, making notes of things that worked well, both technically and stylistically.  I think that this analytical process has really helped me improve my photographic skills over the past few months

Secondly, this post is the first featuring a picture from my new camera.  As much as I enjoyed using the Rebel this summer, it was never really anything more than just a loaner.  By actually going out and researching, then buying my own camera, I feel that I have made a significant investment in my future as a photographer.  The new features have got me excited about experimenting with new techniques and learning new tricks as I go along.  I’ve also gone ahead and ordered a couple of filters and a portable tripod, giving me more options for shooting, and making it easier to stabilize some of the longer zoomed pictures with this camera.  This is definitely an important step forward for me.

Thirdly, and on a more personal level, this is the first picture from my Junior year here at Tech.  A new school year always brings with it the excitement of meeting new people, trying new things, and reconnecting with friends that I haven’t seen in a few months.  I know it also signals the return of a great deal of stress from a variety of personal, academic, and social sources, but I just have to believe that at the end of the day the positives are going to far outweigh the negatives; that the risks I take will more often pay off than leave me flat on my face.  I have very high hopes for the coming semester, and I also know that I have an amazing bunch of friends who can pick me up if I happen to stumble along the way.

-Ben

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A Distant Peak

Posted by Ben on August 13, 2009

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Short post tonight…I’m kinda tired, but still wanted to put up a picture.

This one comes from the trip to Switzerland, and is the view from near the summit of Monte Generoso, one of the mountains overlooking the town of Riva San Vitale and Lake Lugano.  This is looking in the other direction however.  From the valley floor, all you could see were clear blue skies, but once we got to the top of the mountain, we were able to see almost a wall of clouds, some of them fairly large thunderheads, coming towards us.

There are a bunch of things I like about this picture.  When I was taking it, my subject was definitely the mountain peak in the center of the frame.  Looking at it now though, I feel like it’s one of the least interesting parts of the picture.  Above and to the left of the peak, there are nice, clear, blue skies and puffy white clouds.  In the upper right, slightly more threatening looking clouds, casting shadows on some of the closer parts of the landscape.  The color of the mountains closer to me are also a very nice rich green, which I think is emphasized even more since they are partially covered in shadows.  In the more immediate foreground are the two buildings and the people sitting at a table.  It seems like while the eye might go immediately to the peak in the center, it would soon be drawn away to the more colorful and vibrant parts of the picture.  Though some might consider the picture too “busy,” I personally like the effect and that I was able to get so many interesting things into a single shot.

My new camera came in the mail Tuesday, but I’ve been too busy the last few days to really get a chance to play with it.  More comments on the camera once that happens.

-Ben

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Standing Alone

Posted by Ben on August 10, 2009

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This is another photo from my walk with Steph at the end of Freshman year, this one farther past the cornfield in the last picture from this set.  This tree is huge, and stands alone in the center of one of the fields out past the duck pond.  It’s definitely one of my favorite trees on campus, especially since they cut down the big one in front of Owens.  Even with things growing all around it, this tree sticks out like a sore thumb in the field.  I give this tree a good deal of credit in making me want to take up photography again.  I was out running late one afternoon through this field and stopped in the shadow of this tree.  Looking west, the trunk of the tree completely blocked out the disk of the sun and I could see rays of light shooting off to the sides.  It was also that really cool time of night when everything seems to have a reddish-gold tint from the sun low on the horizon.

The thing I like most about this picture is the colors in the sky caused by the setting sun.  They run from a fairly cool purple and blue in the top left to a much warmer orange along the horizon and in the top right corner.  It’s a little hard to pick out the smallish green leaves on the tree against this background.  I also like how the branch on the right side of the tree curves up and seems to follow the tops of the trees in the background.

-Ben

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