Monday, February 28, 2011

Travel Spot: Gettysburg

Gettysburg Pennsylvania is the site of one of the most famous battles in American history, significant not only for being a turning point in the American Civil War, but also for suffering the most casualties in that war, with about 50,000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing. It was also the site, a few months later, of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, one of the best-known speeches in American history.

Gettysburg itself is a small town of about 8,000 in southern Pennsylvania. It is conveniently located, not too far from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. It has a quaint, small town feel, and is dominated by the battlefield memorial, which is much larger in area than the town itself, and largely surrounds it. The memorial itself is almost 6,000 acres, with 41 miles of roads. Because of the memorial, the surrounding countryside has a rural feel, with fields and trees, and the occasional memorial or statue jutting into the horizon.

In my opinion, the best way to see the memorial is by car, after purchasing an audio guide at the visitor's center. The battlefield is large, and there is so much to see, that any tour threatens to take hours (The National Park Service suggests a minimum of four hours), and the audio tour gives you the most control of your pace and what to see.

Across the countryside where the battle was fought there are over 1,300 monuments of various kinds, memorializing specific units involved or particular conflicts within the larger battle. Many of these monuments have striking statuary, as well as plaques and other memorials.

I have mixed feelings about battlefield memorials. As a pacifist, I object to anything that glorifies war or violence. On the other hand, memorials can also humanize such conflicts, and remind us of the suffering and loss inherent in war. Gettysburg is striking, if not beautiful, and will certainly provide much food for thought, no matter what your feelings are on the topic.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Winter Storm Time Lapse Video

Here's a time lapse video I made of the winter storm that blew through last night, as seen from my bedroom window:

Time Lapse: Winter storm at night from Paul D. Healey on Vimeo.

Painted Flowers

(click on any image to see a larger version.)

Although I'm no horticulturist, I have enjoyed taking pictures of flowers from time to time. I actually find it quite challenging, especially when working with live flowers in situ, as it were. Lighting is hard to control, for one thing, and focusing properly can be difficult. Be that as it may, I have found that pictures of flowers can often be very effectively rendered as paintings in Photoshop, as the examples here show. Above is a blossom I found in the Denver Botanical Garden, way back in 1983.
Next up are some flowers I found in La Croix-Valmer, in Provence, France, 2006. Finally, below is a shot of some leaves floating in a pool in the east garden of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo Japan, also 2006.
To my shame, I don't know what any of these flowers are called. If you do, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Proud Poppa

I headed to Iowa this weekend to see my son, Cory, who is taking a break from his career as a performing jazz musician to earn a Masters degree in jazz pedagogy. I was hoping to get some photos of the Iowa countryside, but the weather was atrocious, and I actually got chased out of town Sunday morning by an encroaching blizzard.

The occasion for the trip was the Tall Corn Jazz Festival at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In the picture above you can see Cory, on the far right, conducting his big band, the University of Northern Iowa Inglorious Jazzers. They were great. Below is Cory on the drums with UNI's premier band, Jazz Band I.
The next shot is that is the entire band Jazz Band I, with guest artist New York jazz pianist David Berkman on the piano.
In spite of the weather, and the lack of outdoor photography, it was a great weekend with some wonderful music.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo Of The Day

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at night, rendered as a painting.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Colorado Rockies

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These are the last of the pictures from my trip out west that I will be posting on the blog. Above is the back side of the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, on the right, as seen from Berthoud Pass, right on the continental divide. The view is to the north, toward Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here is a nice shot of Long's Peak, 14,259 feet high, taken from the side of Colorado Highway 7, just a few miles south of Estes Park.

Finally, another view view from Berthoud Pass, elevation 11,000 feet, this time looking south, directly down the continental divide. Beautiful weather up there, except when it's not.

Working on these photos makes me want to hit the road again. I can't imagine what it would be like to live with this kind of scenery every day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rain and Fog Out West

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The sky, and weather, are favorite photographic subjects of mine. On my trip out west last fall I had the good fortune of going at a time when that area gets intermittent rain. It has its downsides, but overall I like it. Above is a mesa in northeastern Arizona becoming engulfed in a storm.
In the picture above, taken just a few miles east of the previous one, I was trying to get a classic "on the road" picture. It was probably not the best idea to do it while driving at 70 miles per hour, but the shot came out well.

Driving in Northern New Mexico a few days later I encountered what looked like a long, low cloud bank, that suddenly became pea-soup fog. I drove right into it, and then after about 10 minutes, out of it again into bright sunshine. Very strange. This is a shot from the leading edge of the cloud bank, with the morning sun peeking underneath.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday Afternoon

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Saturday started out sunny, but by the time I set out in the late afternoon to take some pictures, it had clouded over and become a bit bleak. I headed out anyway because I wanted to scout out some good locations in the east-central Illinois countryside to take some night sky pictures. On the way back I came across these scenes: Above, the sun struggling through the clouds over a distant farm, and below, an old grain drying bin beside the road. I guess the lesson is that you can find pictures no matter what the weather.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back to Monument Valley

Monument Valley under a setting full moon, October, 2010.
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I have been going through pictures from my trip out west in October, looking for shots I haven't worked with. My stay at the wonderful View Hotel in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park was incredibly fruitful. The picture above is one of the benefits of the hotel, and insomnia. It shows the valley from my hotel room balcony as the full moon was setting, about 4:00 a.m. The exposure was 30 seconds at f8.0, and ISO 1600.

Rock outcropping, Monument Valley, October 2010.

Later that morning I drove the scenic drive through the valley on the Scenic Drive. It was partly cloudy, and the clouds made for some dramatic lighting at times. I particularly like the lighting effect in this shot.

Monument Valley, October 2010.

Finally, a Panoramic view of the entire valley, from the far end of the Scenic Drive. Once again, I think the mixed clouds lend a nice lighting effect to the scene. For what it's worth, this panorama is made from a single tightly cropped wide angle shot (28mm), rather than by stitching together several normal shots. Normally, cropping a wide angle shot in this way runs the risk of showing lens distortion at the right and left ends, but this scene was far enough away that cropping worked fine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Back in Colorado

Sawatch Range, central Colorado, October 2010.
(Click on an image to see a larger version.)
I've finally gotten around to doing  some processing of all my pictures from my October trip out west, especially some bulk HDR processing. It's brought me into contact with some shots I'd overlooked previously. Above is a shot of the Sawatch range of the Rockies in central Colorado, looking across the northern tip of San Louis Valley.

Highway 7 road cut south of Estes Park, Colorado, October, 2010
I remember this road cut from when I was a little boy, when we would take a day trip from our cabin in the Rockies near Boulder up to Estes Park. Shooting into the sun here, but with HDR processing it came out well.

More shots from Utah and Arizona soon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Photo Of The Day

Julien Dubuque's grave, overlooking the Mississippi River near Dubuque, Iowa. Rendered as a painting.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Travel Spot: Midsommar in Sweden

Being snowed in by an historic blizzard has my mind wandering back to something opposite: Experiencing the Swedish midsummer celebrations in Helsingborg in 1990. The Swedish Midsommar is one of the most important holidays of the year. Most of the celebrations take place on Midsommarafton, midsummer eve, and these are dominated by community dancing around the may pole.
People wear traditional costumes, and girls wear garlands in their hair. After plenty of communal dancing, along with breaks for picnicking and drinking, everyone sits down to watch demonstrations of traditional dances.
By late afternoon the public dancing ends, and people prepare for the real celebration: A traditional dinner of new potatoes, sour cream, pickled herring, herbs, and plenty of schnapps or vodka. After that, a round of parties, with eating and singing, lasts late into the night. Fortunately, even in far southern Sweden, where I was, the sun doesn't go down until about 10:30, and the sky is still light at midnight. If you stay out partying until it's dark, you've had a full night.
Here's to you. And remember, summer is coming.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Photo Of The Day

Oil storage tanks, Dubuque Iowa, 1989.
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