Tropical Storm Irene Photos from Burlington, Vermont

Burlington was very lucky with tropical storm Irene. When she was a hurricane and the path was uncertain, we didn’t know if it was going to come up Lake Champlain and destroy cities along both sides of the water or if it was going to veer out to sea. Ultimately, Burlington received heavy rain for about 24 hours combined with some sustained winds.

The rest of Vermont has devastating flooding. There are covered bridges that have washed away; towns that are under water; roads that no longer exist; and significant damage to farmlands. We expect the rivers to swell over the next day or two, so I suspect the real extent of the damage is unknown at this point. Suffice to say, there will be a lot of people who need a lot of help over the coming days, weeks, and months.

Church St. in Burlington, VT during tropical storm Irene.

The extent of the damage I’ve seen in Burlington has been limited to a few small & medium sized branches, leaves covering many sidewalks, and a potted plant that fell from a second story porch.

Art Landscape Music

HDR in Rhode Island

And now, for something completely different. While I was in Rhode Island, I decided to try some HDR photography. It’s not something I do a lot of, but with this particular vacation I wasn’t willing to take the time to set up a shot when the light was right, so HDR seemed like a good solution. My mom has this theory of gardening – you learn when the best time is to transplant, cut, prune, etc., but you do it when you have the time. If it works out, great. I guess photography is the same way. I knew this was about the worst time of day to shoot and the cloud cover wasn’t going to be ideal. I didn’t have a tripod or neutral density filter on me so I couldn’t do any long exposure experimentation, so I thought I’d see if I could make some HDR “paintings.” The processing on these is a bit over the top and that’s by design. I’d like to print some of these on canvas and give them the feel of a painting.

For those of you who don’t know what HDR is, it stands for High Dynamic Range. The human eye is capable of adjusting very rapidly to a scene that contains very bright and very dark elements but the camera has a fixed range of brightness that it can capture in any single exposure. HDR is a way of tricking your camera into acting more like your eye; you take multiple photos at different exposure levels and merge them together. I don’t normally talk about technique or gear, so if you want to learn more you’re probably best off reading Trey Ratcliff’s HDR Tutorial.

So, one afternoon in Rhode Island we wandered over to Watch Hill to check out the lighthouse on the point and this is what we saw…

HDR photographs don’t have to be over the top. This next photo is much more subtle, but the texture in the wood and the color of the hedges really stands out in this version. It’s not perfect – you can see some halos in the upper left (I think a result of my lack of a tripod, but it could also be how I processed the photos.)

My opinion of HDR is changing over time. In the beginning I was fascinated; then it got really popular and I started to hate it. Now, I see it as a tool to keep available. The nice part about it is that you don’t have to bring any extra gear with you when you’re out shooting. A tripod is really all you need and it’s a good idea to travel with one of those anyway. I’ll continue to experiment with it and refine my technique.

It was certainly fun to shoot some new things while on vacation. So much of my time is spent taking photos of people — either weddings, portraits, parties, events, sports or otherwise — that I forget it can be fun to make images without people as well.

It’s probably opening a can of worms to ask, but what do you think about HDR? Useful? Interesting? Gaudy? Drop me a comment below.

P.S. – if these look familiar to you, it’s probably because we’re connected on Google+. I signed up just before going on vacation and decided to try using it while I was away. If you’re on Google+, too, add me to a circle and we can figure out a new platform together. If you’re not on Google+ but want to be, I’d be happy to send you an invite so you can sign up.


An afternoon and three evenings in London

I arrived in London on a rainy morning after a red-eye flight. My hotel wasn’t ready yet, so I dropped my bags off with the concierge and took a walk. That was the theme of my stay in London as after work each evening I would drop my bag off at the room and go for another walk, usually in a different direction to check out a different neighborhood.

When you’re walking solo, it’s easy to cover a lot of ground. On the first day, I headed towards Parliament, Big Ben, and The Victoria Tower Gardens.

When I crossed the river, I was immediately greeted with the most British of signs.

And of course, no trip to London would be complete without a photo of a red double-decker bus.

Around the corner from my hotel, I saw something new to me; a rack of bicycles available for rent. Every morning, the rack was nearly empty and in the evenings it would fill up again.

I couldn’t resist a photograph of this guy — his hair matches his shoes.

After a rainy start to the week, I was presented with two perfect evenings of warm temperatures, sunshine, and blue skies. I took advantage and strolled around Southbank enjoying the street performers and musicians.

This shot makes me think “Mark Twain.” OK – wrong country & all, but the mood just fits.

While walking along the south bank, watching the skateboarders, a little girl came up to me and asked to have her photo taken. I obliged and showed her the result. Her mother was calling for her to return but she gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek before she ran off.

On the second sunny evening, I walked toward Trafalgar Square and then over to Covent Garden to enjoy more street performers like Tom.

This guy was impressive; he had an audience member hold his arms out in a circle for a long time. During this time, he was sizing up position, height, etc. acting like he was going to jump through it. Two of the other performers I had watched earlier had a part of their act where they said they were going to run around the circle and jump up onto something, but both ended up with a humorous execution of some sort. I figured this guy was going to do the same thing, but no, he up and jumped through the guy’s arms without so much as brushing them.

Stylistically, I had some fun with HDR photography and wide angle lenses – two things I don’t use that often.

I don’t do a lot of traveling, but I’d go back to London in a heartbeat; it’s a great city.

Nature Photograph

It just keeps coming; Vermont flooding gets worse

The rain keeps coming, the rivers are raging, and the lake is rising. I’ve taken to going on a quick walk at lunch time or at least making a brief stop on the way home to check out some of the flooding in the area. Today, I stopped at the IBM dam on the Winooski River. Last October I had stopped here to snap some photos of the flooding we were experiencing then. Conveniently, I had taken some photographs a few weeks before so I had some nice before and after shots of the river. I decided to stop at the same location today to see how it compared. I think, actually, that the river was probably flowing faster in October.

I think this next photo gives the best comparison to what things looked like last September and October in the same place.

I was intrigued, today, with the way the bubbles danced as the water cascaded over the falls.

The flooding in the Champlain Valley and on Lake Champlain is definitely worse right now. You only have to see these aerial photos to understand that.  I think, though, there was more water coming down the Winooski last October. What do you think? Drop me a comment below and let me know.