When I posted before Christmas I mentioned wanting some pictures of Christmas lights. I was able to get them and realize a long-unfulfilled desire to photograph something in my home town at the same time.
North School Park in Arlington Heights, IL was built when I was in my early teens, and ever since it has been home during December to an elaborate display of Christmas lights. From the day I first read David Hobby’s guide to shooting Christmas lights, I have wanted to photograph North School Park in its winter glory, but could never quite make the time on multiple trips to visit my parents. I finally got my pictures last week, when we visited for my younger son’s birthday. Mother Nature was kind to me and (literally) iced the cake with a foot of snow. The train shown above, of course, is my kids’ favorite.
Capturing the windmill above took some trial and error, as well as defying diffraction with an aperture of f/22. I’m long overdue to buy some ND filters to allow longer exposures at smaller apertures.
By the time I took this frame, the twilight had deepened enough to give me 20 s @ f/16. Still need those ND filters….
It was when I edited these pictures that I finally decided I like my new D7100 a lot. Not that the D90 couldn’t have done a good job, but there is a combination of smoothness, sharpness, and deep dynamic range in the D7100 files that the D90 just can’t match. I’m looking forward to the next time I go photographing at dusk.
I was given the gift of a new Nikon SLR body as an early Christmas present, which meant I had to decide whether to jump to FX or stick with DX for a while. I have two DX-only lenses which I use quite frequently, and one of the FX equivalents would cost much more than I can afford to pay; moreover, both body and lenses would, in general, be noticeably heavier. I decided to stay DX and went for a D7100. A tripod plate from Really Right Stuff soon followed, and tonight I locked it down on the tripod for a seasonal image.
The image above was assembled from three exposures, with the sharp candle in each hand-masked in. A little extra blur was applied to the bokeh to disguise prominent diffraction rings; I have seen them before but never as noticeable as here. So far I am pleased with the image quality and handling. My technique will have to be upgraded a bit to make the best use of those 24 megapixels, but that was only to be expected.
I’m itching to use my new toy for some landscape work and pictures of local Christmas lights. Hopefully I’ll get to do that soon and report back.
I made a large print of one of my train pictures as a birthday gift for my younger son, and took it to be framed at a local framing establishment attached to a garden center. Their display of pumpkins outside caught my eye:
I wanted something simple, and I got it; in terms of the graphical elements, this is a point enclosed by a frame-within-the-frame. I had updated my camera’s firmware the previous night and forgot that the update would reset image mode back to JPEG, but Fuji’s JPEG engine on the X series cameras is the best I’ve ever seen from a camera vendor. I couldn’t have done the color or dynamic range better from RAW.
Contrary to the University of Illinois’ reputation for political disengagement, I found some more current affairs graffiti on a recent photowalk:
Sometimes one picture will trigger an association with another in my library, and the connection between them can be quite obscure. Our friends protesting the NSA above made me think of a picture taken last year that I finally decided to publish:
I leave articulating the connection between them as an exercise for the reader.
The Greeks were wise to relieve the intense catharsis of a tragic trilogy by appending a satyr-play to it. For me, at least, this experience of diachronicity needs comic relief:
I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that the most interesting part of photographing graffiti is not the images by themselves, but interactions between the images that are perceived by the photographer, and expressed by juxtaposition or collage. I’m curious to see if and how this idea alters my approach to my graffiti collection.
The leaves are changing here in Illinois.
Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs are my favorite of his works. The second song, “September,” speaks of golden leaves falling from an “acacia” tree, by which is meant the black locust or false acacia; this thornless honey locust on the way to the bus stop suggests the same idea.
The maple trees on the west side of Goodwin Avenue start turning early. I think this poor tree is dying, but ere it goes it gives us variegated leaves against a very blue sky.
My wife used to be the organist for a couple parishes that shared a pastor in southern Champaign County. Weekends involved a lot of driving, including driving a much younger John around if he fell asleep between Masses. One Sunday morning in 2010, while in pursuit of naptime, I drove past the ATC radar tower on the west edge of Willard Airport and visualized the photograph above. It took me two tries to succeed; the first time around I came too early and the rich warm colors of the sunset had not yet appeared, but this time I remembered to set out later and nailed it.
Patience, preparation, persistence — leave any one of them out and you miss the shot you want.
I am privileged to live a mere half-hour’s drive from a very well-supported railway museum. The Monticello Railway Museum has an enthusiastic and devoted crew of volunteers, an excellent machine shop (so excellent that other railway museums have paid them for their work), and legions of fans, young and old, who come out on the weekends for a ride. In the middle of September every year they have one weekend with all-day passes, extra trains running, and extra amusements for the kids, and our young railfans have made it for the past two years.