* That’s “Do-It-Yourself Over-The-Air Digital Television: Too Damn Many Three-Letter Acronyms,” if you’re keeping score at home.

Today’s post reaches back into the archives for an unusual image: a homemade TV antenna.

After the digital TV cutover in 2009, I plodded along for a while with a store-bought antenna that brought in only 2 channels, and even those had issues from time to time. While looking for something better I came across information on the Gray-Hoverman antenna, an update of an old design specifically for the UHF television band. The full antenna uses reflectors as well as aerials, but I’m lazy and didn’t want to put in the effort to properly cut and space the reflectors; thus, my antenna uses the aerials only.

Even without reflectors, it’s the best antenna I’ve ever used, easily bringing in the local stations with almost no hiccups. I thought it deserved a picture, and I hit on the idea of a little shaft of hard light from the right, modulated a bit by on-axis soft fill. Even better, by masking in a second frame I got Sheldon Cooper to keep the TV screen from being a huge expanse of nothingness.

Visiting Warsaw (Sort Of)

When I posted about my thunderstorm picture, I said that I wanted to take more time to demonstrate that rural Illinois is not boring, and possesses rather a subtle beauty. Of course, you can always wait until blue hour to really amp things up.

Warszawa Sunset

The Warsaw family owns this land, right across the tracks from the church where my wife works. The church’s fall festival/potluck had just completed and we were on our way home, when I saw the moon rising over this barn and needed to turn back. The mosquitoes were fierce and I had not prepared with bug spray; I consider it a miracle that I brought back anything usable.

At the tail end of blue hour the full spectrum of white light can be seen painted across the sky, as it was when I photographed another crescent moon in a sunset two years ago. Back then, I discovered that the Cross Process 2 preset in Lightroom 4 did just the right magic to separate out the colors, and I used it again here. The image above is layered from three “prints” of two exposures:

  • First exposure for the grass and barn, tonal modifications only.
  • First exposure for the barn with the Cross Process 2 preset, to get a little bit of the wild sky colors into the white paint.
  • Second exposure for the sky, with the Cross Process 2 preset.

The Warsaw clan is numerous here, and the daughter-in-law of this farm’s owners, who is a photographer herself, asked for a print before she even saw the result. She still wants it having seen the result 🙂 and I’ll be happy to oblige.

Rocket Glare

The technical side of fireworks photography is easy and repeatable: low ISO, small aperture, infinity focus, bulb shutter, remote shutter release. The artistic side is much harder; one must find the right location and angle, and time the shutter to get the optimal part of the explosion. One also depends on the skill and imagination (or lack thereof) shown by the pyrotechnicists.

The fireworks people who do the annual Independence Day show in Champaign always seem to send their rockets up into exactly the same part of the sky, so I’ve begun shooting individual bursts and making composite images in post. Here’s July 4, 2011, viewed from the back patio of a friend’s house:

Pretty Boomy Things

In 2012 I was at the same friend’s house but didn’t get the composite I wanted out of that session, and in 2013 I had to stay home during the show.

This year, I was finally able to shoot from the east side of Assembly Hall:

Pretty Boomy Things II

Without the twilight behind to define Assembly Hall’s silhouette, I could not have made this picture. I haven’t given much thought to 2015 yet, but I know that I don’t want to repeat myself.



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.

Back to the Future

“90% of everything is crap.” When I consider my photographic output, I think the proverb is generous; 99% of the photographs I’ve taken are crap. All photographers take many more pictures than they keep, and even fewer of those get published. On his first assignment for National Geographic, Joe McNally shot about 1200 rolls of film (or 40,000+ exposures), only to edit down to 80 frames for publication. That’s an awful lot of rejects, and it gives me pause when I consider the amount of old cruft and failed experiments I’m keeping in my file. I’d free up a lot of bits if I just deleted it all; on the other hand, I’d miss opportunities to use new skills when I acquire them.

Clair de Lune

This picture was taken in 2009, when I didn’t know much about combining multiple exposures in post. I tried to make it work and then let it sit for two years, until I had more patience. (I didn’t yet have a graphics tablet, though, which would have made the whole process ten times easier.) A little tweaking and cropping to a favorable aspect ratio produced something that, I think, captures the tranquility and sense of mystery the cloudy moonlit scene conveyed to me almost three years ago.