Posts tagged ‘photography’

Resort with Spectacular Views

I don't like to recommend destinations that are really expensive (why get people excited about a place they can't afford to visit) but we splurged this weekend on the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona.  It is the most spectacular location I have ever seen for a landlocked (ie non ocean-front) resort.  It is almost impossible to do it justice in photos, because it sits at the end of a box canyon and is surrounded on three sides by red rock walls.    Some pictures are here in the google image result.  Expect to pay $300-400 and up for a night, though you will get a very nice room even for the lower rates, and large casitas for higher rates.  As is usual for resorts, meals are crazy expensive -- its hard to get through breakfast, for example, for less than $20 a person.  But the views and hiking and everything else here are just beautiful.

One of the things I enjoyed was the resort had a native american climb onto a local rock outcropping a couple of times a day and play peaceful flute music that echoed around the resort.  You can see a group gathered around to watch (update:  A reader was nice enough to Photoshop out some of the haze using a levels command trick he taught me a while back -- you can compare below to this original)

enchantment1 copy

It freaked me out for a while because I would here this low-volume music as I walked around the resort and I could not figure out where it was coming from (I kept looking for hidden speakers until I figured it out).

As an added bonus, the night sky is totally dark -- you are out in the wilderness about 15 miles from Sedona and out of site of any other habitation of any sort and almost completely surrounded by canyon walls.  As a result, it is one of the few places where us city folk can see the Milky Way in all its glory (below is my amateur photography (you may have to click to enlarge to really see the Milky Way, but its there).

click to enlarge

 

The restaurant there is quite good and there are excellent tables on the deck outside to watch the sunset.  But if you want a slightly different Sedona experience (though equally expensive) the Restaurant at the L'Auberge resort right in the town of Sedona on Oak Creek is terrific.  The food is great and the location on the creek is very romantic at night.  Here is the view from my table right around sunset.

laub

You can't get closer to the water than that!

Postscript:  If you like the idea of creekside dining but don't want to blow a hundred bucks a person for dinner, I have eaten at a much less expensive, much less highbrow restaurant that had a very similar location.  It is the Rapids Lodge Restaurant at Grand Lake, Colorado, and is a great place to eat on a trip through Rocky Mountain National Park before you turn around and head back to Estes Park.  Here is the view from our table there:

click to enlarge

 

PPS:  Other US resort views I like:  Highlands Inn, near Carmel;  Hapuna Resort, Big Island, Hawaii;  Sanctuary Resort, Phoenix, AZ (though the rooms really need an update);  Trump Hotel, Las Vegas (located right on the bend of the strip so the strip view rooms look straight down the strip at night).

Update:  In the spirit of equal time, a reader writes that the Enchantment Resort ruined Boynton Canyon.  Its impossible for me to say -- I never knew it in its pristine state.  I will say the resort itself does a pretty good job of keeping a low profile in the canyon -- no buildings that I saw over 2 stories tall, most of the old trees are preserved.

The Urge to Control

This is the personality of the people we are electing to higher office.  They have such an urge for control that they will not allow cell phone pictures taken of them in public.  By personality, these people have to control everything.  Is it really any surprise when they turn around and read our email?

From the article at the fabulous Photography is Not a Crime:

Hillary Clinton’s henchmen snatched a smartphone from a man who had photographed her giving a speech in Miami Thursday, deleting the image before returning the phone.

“That’s American politics,” one of the individuals in charge of preventing the presidential hopeful from being photographed told a Miami Herald reporter covering the meeting.

No, that’s Russian politics. Or Chinese politics. Or Cuban politics.

By the way (and I could be wrong here) Carlos Miller strikes me as much more Occupy than Tea Party in his political preferences.  But he obviously doesn't pull any punches on his issue (legality of public photography) when his team is involved.

A Short Rant on Over-Saturated Photography

I was at a couple of art shows during my vacation, and saw a lot of photography.  A staple of photography are the shots of Italian allies and colorful sea villages.  I have one on my wall that I shot myself, the classic view you have seen a million times of Vernazza, Italy.  My wife observed that these photos at the shows looked different than mine (she said "better").

The reason was quickly apparent, and I am seeing this more and more in the Photoshop world -- all the artists have pumped the color saturation way up.  I had to do this a bit, because the colors desaturate some when they get printed on canvas.  But these canvases friggin glowed.  I see the same thing in nature photography.  Is this an improvement?  I don't know, but I am a bit skeptical.  It reminds me a lot of how TV's are sold.  TV pictures tend to be skewed to over-bright and over-vivid colors because those look better under the fluorescent lights of the sales floor.  TV's also tend to have their colors tuned to the very cool (blue) color temperatures for the same reason.  None of this looks good in a darkened room watching a film-based movie.  Fortunately, modern TV's have better electronics menus and it is easy to reverse these problems, and my guess is there is less of this anyway now that many TV's are sold online based on reviews rather than comparison shopping in a store.

I am left to wonder though how this new super-vivid, over saturated photography would look in a home, and how it wears with years of viewing.  Am I being a dinosaur resisting a technological improvement or is there a real problem here?

New York Attempting to Make Contempt of Cop a Felony

One of the great revolutions in civil liberties has been the handheld video camera.  Time and again police that have taken individuals to jail and charged them with things like resisting arrest have been shown, through video evidence, to be lying their asses off.  It is depressing to see how many cases exist where video evidence directly contradicts the police story, and to think how many people have ended up in jail before such video evidence simply because the cops wanted them there and manufactured an incident.

One thing that accumulated video evidence shows is that many police officers seem to think the law makes them the dictator of the everything in a hundred yard radius around them, and they tend to get incensed when any citizen does not immediately respect this made-up authority and follow their every order, legal or not.  Further, it is clear that there are many officers who have absolutely no qualm about beating the crap out of someone with no immediate justification and then blaming the victim, knowing that their fellow officers will back them no matter what outrageous facts they make up.  Only video evidence is slowly breaking through this practice, which is why the police tend to fight back so hard against photography of their public actions, and why in-dash cameras so often happen to be turned off just when they are needed.

Having watched numerous videos of police encounters at sites like PINAC, I have no doubt that this proposed New York law making it a felony to annoy police officers will be shamelessly abused by police (the law requires some sort of body contact but that is extraordinarily easy for the police to manufacture, and the text of the law does not even require the contact to be initiated by the citizen so accused).

Illustrating Pollution Articles with Water Vapor

I have written here before about how frequently steam plumes are used by the media to stand in as a proxy for pollution.  Here is another example, with extra points for artful photography and use of lighting conditions to make the white steam look dark and scary.

The Answer Is Always A More Intrusive State

Radley Balko linked this article about Virginia drivers being fined for not having proof of insurance, something that is actually not illegal in the state.  Apparently, it is illegal to drive without having insurance coverage, but there is no requirement to carry proof of insurance or any crime defined in law for not carrying such proof.

SO there is some "confusion", but note that the only confusion is in the mind of state law enforcement officers, who are attempting to exceed the law.  The obvious solution, to me, would be to educate the officers and prosecutors on the damn law.   Of course, agents of the state have a different solution (emphasis added)

Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney Michael R. Doucette agreed that failure to have proof of insurance while driving is not illegal.

"Rather, the offense is having an uninsured motor vehicle and not paying the uninsured motorist fee of $500 per year," Doucette said.

Doucette said requiring drivers to present either proof of insurance or proof of payment of the uninsured vehicle fee would go a long way to clear up the confusion. The General Assembly has considered such a mandate at least three times, but has never passed it.

Get it?  The best way to solve the problem of the state exceeding its authority is to just give the state new powers and criminalize more things so its actual authority matches it's desired powers.  I fear that this will also be the state's answer for the fact that photography is not a crime.

Recent Photography

I am a terrible photographer and seem to struggle getting any good pictures.  But with a little patience and some study, my yield has gone up, though it still is well under 20%.  Just for self-motivation, rather than any sense anyone out there is interested, here are a few of my recent photos that I thought came out pretty well.  A couple are experiments with HDR photography.  As usual click for enlargement:

Cinque Terre.   The HDR process in the first one really brings out the details, but like a sharpness filter turned up too high, the image falls apart when zoomed too much.

The next one could have been awesome if I had waited, say, 12 hours for the sun to be in the right place

This is the town of Portovenere

And at night, which was beautiful but I tried a zillion exposures and could never get quite what I wanted

I loved all the little winding staircases.  I struggled to capture the romantic element that attracted me to them.  This one came out the best, but still failed to get what I wanted

A couple of views from the roof of the Milan Duomo.  I really loved walking among the flying buttresses and thought these made interesting subjects.  These are probably my favorite shots from the whole batch. They are both HDR shots.

And here are the spires on the same roof:

The Grand Canyon and Sedona

Haze seems to be my never-ending enemy of good landscape photos.  I have tried filters of various sorts.  In the shot below, I tried HDR which really cut the haze but left the tree in the foreground as a blur (due to its movement between the photos that were combined to make the picture).

Wow

The Last Days of the Tsars

Some really nice pre-WWI color photography from Russia.  I am a sucker for old color photos.

Tilt-shift Photography

Never heard of tilt-shift photography until today, but it is cool.  Here is an example - real scenes are digitally manipulated to look like it is a model.  Which in fact is exactly the opposite of what I try to achieve with my model railroading.

Update:
The video seems to have left the building.

May still be linked at engadget

Thanks to My Readers -- The Solution for White Non-Fluorescent Paper

Thanks to my readers, I have cracked the problem of finding white non-fluorescent paper, which I will post here for the benefit of future Google searchers.   At first I tried some natural bond paper, and it didn't fluoresce, but it added too much yellow to the final product.  I was just in the middle of playing with Photoshop to see if I could compensate, when Agesilaus said that this was a concern in archival and art photography and what I wanted was OBA-free paper.  OBA is the term for a class of optical brighteners that fluoresce and are used in most papers, and because they can cause fading, artists and photographers create a market for OBA-free paper.  It can be expensive, like 70 cents a sheet, but since I can put most all the signs and details I need on a sheet or two, that is no big deal.  Here is one source, not surprisingly from the comments, a photography outlet.

Thanks everyone!

PS - TJIC thought the scorpion thing was creepy.  It sort of is, but it beats shoveling snow.

Making Up The Law

It is easy to find examples of police enforcing made-up laws.  Here is an example from the Department of Homeland Security:

"There are certain things that the press cannot do when it comes to national security, and filming federal buildings is one of them," said Luis Martinez, a spokesperson for the Dept. of Homeland Security.

This is a total crock.  If it were true, no tourist would ever leave Washington DC -- they would all end up in jail.  Via Carlos Miller, who is doing a great job blogging about the growing efforts by police to make public photography illegal.  Mr. Miller, by the way, is still fighting in court against charges that he committed the ultimate no-no (as far as police are concerned) -- photographing a police officer in public.

Police have decided that the way to avoid having problems like the Rodney King beating which was caught on film is too.... prevent anyone from filming them!  The police can fix just about any evidence, they will back each other up in even the most outrageous of stories, but the one thing they can't fix is video, so they want it banned.  Lacking cooperation from legislatures in actually banning video, they have decided to ban it de facto if not de jure through their actions on the streets, hoping a cowed public will not question their actions.

Government and Architecture

This is apparently the strange palace the US Government built to house Civil War pension records (c. 1918)

29723upreview

To my untrained eye, it reminds me of  this resort swimming pool in Florida (they sure don't build 'em like this any more):

4a03475apreview

Cool Photo Concept

Friday Picture

Love this picture of 30 Rock, via Shorpy (including full-size image)

30-rock-small2

In the Future, Only Governments Will Own Video Cameras

Having heard that Phoenix has been coming down hard on folks for the "crime" of photographing in public places, The Northern Muckraker went to take a look.  The Photography is Not a Crime blog has a partial transcript:

Hester: I'm free to go, correct?

Guard 1: Not yet.

Hester: Am I being detained?

Guard 1: Are you videotaping my building?

Hester: Am I free to leave?

Guard 1: You're are free to leave, go "¦  but if I catch you videotaping the building again you will be arrested by the Phoenix Police Department.

Hester: On what charge, sir?

Guard 1: On charge of "¦ we'll talk to the Phoenix Police Department about it.

Guard 2: You're not supposed to videotape any federal court building.

Hester: What law?

Guard 2: National Security Act.

Guard 1: Oklahoma City, that's why.

Guard 2: It all comes down to Homeland Security and all that.

Guard 1: If you want to talk to our Homeland Security people, we can arrange that right now and we will detain you.

He further observes that the National Security Act, passed in 1947, does not seem to have any mention of video recording.

Update:  Apparently, according to an official Houston PD statement, photographing and taping a police officer is sufficient probably cause for being charged with "assault on a police officer."

Mr. Haven admitted to verbally disagreeing with Officer Dickerson. He also admitted to photographing the police vehicle and Officer Dickerson, and taping their conversation. Under these circumstances, it is not unreasonable for Officer Dickerson to have believed that Mr. Haven's relevant actions, taken as a whole, constituted more than "speech only" [and therefore constituted sufficient probable cause for arrest]

Comments

Several people have said they have had difficulties with comments.  I don't know if it is a real problem, or if it is just that I was gone on Sunday and a bunch of stuff piled up in the moderation queue  (any comment with multiple links goes to a moderation hold for me manually to check for spam).  I will look in to things.

Update: Several comments on the post about police and photography creepily were sent straight past moderation into spam.  I have recovered them.

The Original 9/11, Except it was on 9/16

This was a bit of history I never knew:

wall-street-bomb

"Wall Street bomb." Aftermath of the explosion that killed dozens of people in New York's financial district on September 16, 1920, when a horse wagon loaded with dynamite and iron sash weights blew up in front of the J.P. Morgan bank at 23 Wall Street. The attack, which was attributed to Italian anarchists, was never solved. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection.

This is from Shorpy.com, a blog that has daily posts with really nice photography from the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The photo above is actually just a thumbnail - go to the original post and click on the full size image.  All of their photos are posted in huge, high-resolution scans.

Definition of an Activist

Activist:  A person who believes so strongly that a problem needs to be remedied that she dedicates substantial time to ... getting other people to fix the problem.   It used to be that activists sought voluntary help for their pet problem, and thus retained some semblance of honor.  However, our self-styled elite became frustrated at some point in the past that despite their Ivy League masters degrees in sociology, other people did not seem to respect their ideas nor were they particularly interested in the activist's pet issues.  So activists sought out the double shortcut of spending their time not solving the problem themselves, and not convincing other people to help, but convincing the government it should compel others to fix the supposed problem.  This fascism of good intentions usually consists of government taking money from the populace to throw at the activist's issue, but can also take the form of government-compelled labor and/or government limitations on choice.

I began this post yesterday, with the introduction above, ready to take on this barf-inducing article in the Washington Post titled " Fulfillment Elusive for Young Altruists In the Crowded Field of Public Interest."  Gee, who would have thought it difficult for a twenty-something with no real job experience to get someone like me to pay you to lobby the government to force me to pay for your personal goals for the world?

Fortunately, since it is a drop-dead gorgeous day outside, TJIC has already done the detail work of ripping this article apart.  Here is one snippet, you should read the whole thing:

So the best they can imagine doing is "advocating".

Here's a hint: maybe the reason that your "sense of adulthood"
is "sapped" is because you haven't been doing anything at all adult.

Adults accomplish things.

They do not bounce around a meaningless series of do-nothing graduate programs, NGOs, and the sophisticated social scene in DC.

If you want to help the poor in Africa, go over there, find
some product they make that could sell here, and start importing it.
Create a market. Drive up the demand for their output.

Or find a bank that's doing micro-finance.

Or become a travel writer, to increase the demand for photography safaris, which would pump more dollars into the region.

Or design a better propane refrigerator, to make the lives of the African poor better....

One thing that disgusts me about "wannabe world changers" is that
mortaring together a few bricks almost always is beneath them - they're
more interested in writing a document about how to lobby the government
to fund a new appropriate-technology brick factory.

Special mutual admiration bonus-points are herein scored by my quoting TJIC's article that quotes me quoting TJIC.

I will add one thing:  I have to lay a lot of this failure on universities like my own.  Having made students jump through unbelievable hoops just to get admitted, and then having charged them $60,000 a year for tuition, universities feel like they need to make students feel better about this investment.   Universities have convinced their graduates that public pursuits are morally superior to grubby old corporate jobs (that actually require, you know, real work), and then have further convinced them that they are ready to change to world and be leaders at 22.  Each and every one of them graduate convinced they have something important to say and that the world is kneeling at their feet to hear it.  But who the f*ck cares what a 22-year-old with an Ivy League politics degree has to say?  Who in heavens name listened to Lincoln or Churchill in their early twenties?  It's a false expectation.  The Ivy League is training young people for, and in fact encouraging them to pursue, a job (ie 22-year-old to whom we all happily defer to tell us what to do) that simply does not exist.  A few NGO's and similar organizations offer a few positions that pretend to be this job, but these are more in the nature of charitable make-work positions to help Harvard Kennedy School graduates with their self-esteem, kind of like basket-weaving for mental patients.

So what is being done to provide more pretend-you-are-making-an-impact-while-drawing-a-salary-and-not-doing-any-real-work jobs for over-educated twenty-something Ivy League international affairs majors?  Not enough:

Chief executives for NGOs, Wallace said, have told her: "Well, yeah, if
we had the money, we'd be doing more. We can never hire as many as we
want to hire." Wallace said her organization drew more than 100
applicants for a policy associate position. "The industry really needs
to look at how to provide more avenues for young, educated people," she
said.

Excuses, excuses.  We are not doing enough for these young adults.  I think the government should do something about it!

Update:  Oh my God, a fabulous example illustrating exactly what universities are doing to promote this mindset is being provided by the University of Delaware.  See the details here.

HDR Photography Test

I have never been satisfied with my pictures of the rock formations on my parents ranch.  They have always lacked the depth and detail I saw in nature.  I played around this week with HDR photography, which uses multiple exposures of the same image to bring out more contrast and detail.  Here is a closeup of the rocks.  I also got a nice effect with the clouds, combining multiple exposures with small cloud movement.  (click for higher resolution image)
Hdrengagementweb

Relatives in for a Visit

Unfortunately, it was long distance and dark, so conditions were not very good for photography.  Still waiting for that perfect photo-op, but it's surprisingly hard when most family visits we get are at sunset and sunrise.

Coyote1

Update:  By the way, for any of you dog photographers out there - is there a good way to get rid of the bright eye / green eye in dog (or coyote!) photos that is the equivalent of human red eye?

My Pumpkin

I had meant to post pictures of my pumpkin, and just forgot.  Here are a couple of my world pumpkin, which I carved by thinning out the pumpkin where the landmasses are, but not carving all the way through, such that the skin over the land was more translucent.

Pumpkin1   Pumpkin2

(click on pictures for larger view).  I didn't have a tripod handy so my long-exposure night photography is kind of shaky.

Its a Chicken-Little World

Over the last two days, Phoenix put out an order to boil tap water before drinking and not to bathe or shower.  Many restaurants closed for the two day period, and many many people went out and loaded up on expensive bottled water.

What I found interesting was that through the whole "crisis", and now after the fact, Phoenix officials continued to say that they thought the water was safe, that they had not gotten any bad test results, but that people still shouldn't use the water "as a precaution".

Given the current state of liability and torts, I probably would have done the same in their shoes, but is this really the world we want?  There are costs to shutting off water in a city of 2 million plus people.  Shouldn't those costs be justified by some real risk? 

When I was an engineer, my job was often to rule on whether some condition was "safe".  Every day I had to make decisions like "should we shut this part of the plant down, or can we keep running it safely".  Certainly we wanted to err on the side of safety, but ruling every little concern as cause for shutdown would have caused the plant to be shut down almost all the time.  In that job, I had to take responsibility and make a decision, balancing risks and costs.  People want to say that shutting the plant (or the water system) at every hint of a problem is the "responsible" thing to do -- but in fact it is just the opposite.  It is an avoidance, both of decision-making and responsibility.

Unfortunately, no one wants to make such decisions anymore.  My wife's mammogram had something on it the doctor said he was 100% sure was just an artifact of the photography, but to cover his butt he said he had to get her to go have a biopsy (painful, expensive, and time-consuming) which was of course negative.  We are loading the economy down with risk-defense costs, an invisible tax that is already hammering the medical field.

But beyond just the costs, at what point does this hair-trigger defensive posture lead to a chicken-little syndrome where no one pays attention to warnings any more?  I know that the next time we get a warning about Phoenix water, I will be much less likely to be careful, because I remember that the last time nothing was really wrong with the water.  How many people pay attention to homeland security alerts any more?  Do you even bother to read warning labels any more, on the off chance it is a useful warning and not a "this toaster should not be used as a water ski" type warning?