Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Posts Tagged ‘Landscapes’

A Frozen Prism

Posted by Ben on February 7, 2010

We ended up with another couple of inches of snow in Blacksburg this weekend.  Unfortunately, they ended up with a couple of feet of it up in Baltimore, so my interview has to be rescheduled once again.  Oh well.  I spent most of the morning and afternoon catching up on some reading and working on my research project, which I think I actually made some considerable progress on.  Anyway, I was getting a little bit of cabin fever around 4:00 and went out to take some pictures.  I actually have a bunch from the last couple of days that will probably end up here eventually.

This icicle was hanging from one of the trees along the path out to the duckpond.  This was shot in “super macro” mode, with the icicle just barely away from the end of the camera.  I really like the way this one turned out.  The background, while blurry, is still fairly recognizable.  All of the details of the icicle are also nice and clear, especially the bubbles trapped inside.  I also think it’s kind of cool how shooting into the sun caused the left half of the sky to be blown out while the right half of the sky is exposed pretty nicely.  It was completely unintentional, but the icicle makes a great division between these two.  The image seen through the icicle also turned out nicely; it seems like you can make out one of the trees on the right side of the picture going up the left side of the icicle.


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A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by Ben on October 31, 2009


Those of you that know me here at Tech have probably noticed that I haven’t been around much the last week or so, or that when I have, I’ve been pretty stressed out.  I had a huge project for my Computing Systems class which I probably spent about 30 hours between Tuesday night and Friday night working on.  I also had a big test in my Real Analysis course Wednesday night.  That being said, it’s been a hectic week, and I haven’t had much time for anything fun, with the notable exception of teaching my first Salsa class Monday night.  Sometimes, I wonder exactly why I put so much pressure on myself to do so much, and I wonder if it’s really worth it or not.

But luckily all of that is behind me now, and things are starting to look up again, at least until we get our next project.  We had our annual Main Campbell Halloween party tonight which was a lot of fun, and luckily I was able to spend all afternoon working on a costume rather than on that project.  I’m also looking forward to a big salsa workshop tomorrow afternoon.

So, the title of the post has two meanings, the first from the way I feel after making it through the last week, the second from the effect of the shot itself.  It wasn’t actually taken through a tunnel, instead just through a poorly lit archway.  I really like the effect from the stone archway, a jagged frame for a nice scene.  It also turned out nicely that there wasn’t any light falling on this side of the arch as it gives it a really nice solid feel.  The scene through the arch also turned out really well.  The colors are nice and vibrant, and the sky isn’t completely blown out like I thought it might be when I took the shot.

Hopefully things will be getting back to normal during the next week or so, and I’ll be able to get back to doing a lot of the things I enjoy, hopefully both running and dancing again, not to mention taking some new pictures.


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Posted by Ben on October 11, 2009


It seems like most of my recent posts have started with an apology for the preceding days of silence.  This one is no different…sorry for the delays yet again.  I can only hope the next few weeks won’t be nearly as hectic.

My adventures last weekend took me exploring along wolf creek in southwest Virginia.  I stopped off at a national forest marker that had a short trail leading away from it.  The trail ran through the woods for a few hundred feet then crossed the “creek” over a really cool looking wooden bridge, from which the above image was captured.

As you can probably tell, this is not your typical picture.  Instead this is what is called an “HDR” or High Dynamic Range image.  To generate one of these images, you need to use the exposure bracketing feature to capture an underexposed, overexposed, and properly exposed version of the same scene.  You then feed these images into special software, either Photoshop, or in my case the trial version of Photomatix Pro (hence the small watermarks in the picture).  The software takes the three images and merges them together into something like what you see above.

This was my first real attempt at this procedure, and I think it turned out fairly well.  The tree limbs were moving in the wind between the three shots, so that creates a little distortion around them if you look close enough.  I really like how the surface of the water and color of the trees in the distance turned out.  The software had a little trouble with the sky, and I’m not entirely sure why, but it’s not that noticeable.  I’ll probably end up experimenting with this technique a little more in the future now that I know how to set it up.

Below is one of the original photos that was used to make the HDR.  This was the normal exposure one:


Sorry there aren’t any random pseudo-philosophical ramblings tonight, I have to be in a certain mood to crank those out.

Hopefully I’ll be returning to a more normal schedule here over the course of the next week or so.


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Posted by Ben on September 28, 2009

I have always felt that spontaneity is something that has been seriously lacking in my life.  It’s very rare for me to leap into something headfirst without sitting down and thinking it through.  And while caution is all well and good, sometimes you do need to throw it to the wind.  Too often I’ve let my head talk my heart out of something, rationalizing it away as too risky or just not worth it.  And the worst part is that I don’t even realize that it’s happening most of the time until it’s too late and I’ve missed my chance.  I feel like far too many of my regrets are from things I haven’t done and wished I had rather than things I have done and wished I hadn’t.  Sometimes the consequences are known, like deciding whether or not to go to a party with friends.  Other times, there’s just no way to know, for example in telling someone you care about just how you feel, and boy, have I talked myself out of that one too many times to count…

Anyway, you’re probably wondering, if you’re actually reading this, “Hmm…usually the first thing is a picture…”  Well, I’m getting there, I promise, there’s just a little more needed as an introduction here.

The last couple of days here in Blacksburg have been pretty miserable weather-wise.  Don’t get me wrong here, the football game in the rain yesterday afternoon was one of the best ones I’ve been to since coming to Tech.  But it did my heart good to see the sun poking through the clouds again this morning.  I also realized over the course of breakfast that I didn’t have any homework due tomorrow since my Advanced Discrete Math professor had been out of town and hadn’t given us an assignment last week.  Almost on the spot I made the decision to just take a nice drive through the country this afternoon.  A quick google search for “southwest virginia scenic overlooks” gave me my destination: Big Walker Lookout Tower.  Ten minutes of fiddling with google maps later, I had a route there and back.  Of course, I opted for the more scenic way since it was such a nice day.  I scribbled down some notes on a sheet of paper, grabbed my camera and my iPod, and was out the door.

Here’s a link to the route I ended up taking (slightly different than my original plan after missing a turn on the way back):
If you zoom in enough on point B you can see a good aerial view of where I ended up!

I started off heading North on 460 until I got to the town of Narrows, where I veered off to follow Virginia Highway 61 to the west.  This was a really cool little two lane road that pretty much runs parallel to the Va/WV state line.  There was also a creek that runs alongside the road for most of the way that I drove on it.  After all of the rain we’ve gotten over the past few days, it was running pretty high and fast, but there weren’t many places to pull off the road to take pictures.  I drove past a lot of farms and pastures down in the valley floor, and it was really cool to be able to look up at the steep mountain ridges on either side.

Once I got to the town of Rocky Gap, I turned South onto Scenic Highway 52 (judging, by the name, that it would be prettier than just taking 77).  There were quite a few stretches on this road that made me remember just how much I love driving through the mountains; both the scenery and the twisty roads.  Eventually I made it to where I was going.  I rounded a curve on the mountain and saw a giant 120 foot lookout tower ahead of me.  After parking my car, I rushed up the steps to the top of the tower and was rewarded with a magnificent view, and some pretty strong winds.



I think one of the coolest things was the shadows moving across the floor of the valleys from the clouds above.  Everything was beautifully green.  I bet in a couple of weeks when the trees start to turn that the view would be even better.  At the bottom of the tower was a swinging bridge that didn’t really go anywhere, but was fun to walk across.


In addition to the tower and bridge, there was a really neat old country store.  They had everything in there from crafts to homemade jams to ice cream (which was quite tasty).


I spent a while there talking with a couple of the other visitors, some of whom seemed to be regular customers of the ice cream shop, and a few of the people working there.  All of them were really nice and very pleasant to talk to.  Eventually though, I decided it was time to head home, so I took off down 52 again until I hit State Road 717 heading east.  This was another little two lane road that wound its way through a valley between two high ridges.  At one point, I made a quick stop along the side of the road to take some pictures of some horses out in a field that had the sun shining down just right.  I didn’t get any really good pictures, but as I was getting back in the car, one of the horses decided to come investigate the strange person at the fence.  Not wanting to miss a chance at a good close-up photo, I got back out of the car.  By the time I made it back to the side of the field, all three horses had decided to come see what was going on.  Out of the three, my favorite was the lighter brown one.



The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful.  More beautiful scenery and winding mountain roads until I hit Highway 100.  I missed a turn, but it ended up being alright, I still ran back into 460 eventually.

Overall, it was a great day.  I think it did me good to get out of Blacksburg, which has been a little stressful over the past few weeks.  It also did me good to get out and explore places that I had never been before, which coincidentally gave me a great excuse to just go out and take pictures.  However, I think what did the most good for me today was actually making the decision to just go out and do it.  Sure, it may have been a better use of my time academically to stay in and get some work done ahead of time, but I’ll deal with those things later.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to find, or make, the time to do this again soon, maybe once the leaves really start changing colors.


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A Distant Peak

Posted by Ben on August 13, 2009


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.


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