Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Recent Photography Award

December 2012 News

Note:  It has been a while since I wrote on my blog.  During 2013 I will do much better with at least a monthly submission.  Today, please accept this little bit of self promotion.  Recently, I won a Silver Medal and several honorable mentions at the Wisconsin Area Camera Club Organization Fall 2012 Competition (WACCO).  I thought I would speak briefly about this competition and link you to the photographs that received awards and honors both with a link to my website photo gallery that has an Honors and Awards Category as well as the WACCO Website.

On November 3, 2012, there was day long judging by a three judge panel of numerous submissions.  The categories included nature, insect, and open categories of Large and Small Print as Monochrome or Color as well as Projected images.  I submitted 4 large and small color prints each, 2 large monochrome prints and 12 projected digital image (4 Mono and 8 Color).  I won both 1 Silver Medal and 1 Honorable Mention in the Large Monochrome Print Group.  I won 4 Honorable Mentions in the Projected image categories as well as 2 Honorable mentions in the Large Color Print Group along with 1 Honorable Mention for a small color print.

To see those images visit my website www.jdroachphotography.com and click on Photo Gallery and then click on Honors and Awards in Photography.  The Silver Medal Winner is a view of Milwaukee taken downtown and converted to Black and White shown also a thttp://wicameraclubs.org/index.html

This image was originally taken in color with my D700, 28-300mm lens at 28mm, as a 13 second exposure, f/13, ISO 200 using auto white balance.  The color image (shown below) was converted using Nik Silver Efex Pro to get the black and white rending I sought.

I hope you enjoy seeing these images.  I humbly thank all those who have inspired me, offered great and excellent suggestions to me both at BetterPhoto.com, Nikonians.org, and at my local Milwaukee Camera Clubs and the Chicago Area Camera Clubs in Elgin and Crystal Lake.  Thanks everyone.

John D. Roach

December, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Note:  As many of you know, I worked on macro and close up photography during the Winter 2011-2012 and into the early Spring 2012.  During, Spring I also started to participate with others going out at least once a month to do night photography.  Night Photography is always an exercise in total manual control to get the best exposure and light capture as possible.  The last time that I had done night photography was in late 2010 while in Chicago.  The following is a brief review of my experiences in March and April of this year with night Photography with some comparisons to my Chicago work with an introduction to the concept of white balance.  I plan a series of articles about white balance during the coming months.

Twilight in Milwaukee:

Night Photography
(A Study in White Balance)

White Balance in photography is something that many digital camera owners don’t understand or use.  I admit that early on in my photographic study, I had little appreciation for it, because I didn’t understand it.  It is an area that we all need to understand because it dramatically affects the results of an image we create.

While white balance settings are important at anytime, it wasn’t until I started to experience how light occurred before sunrise and after sunset and at night that I truly began to appreciate how important the white balance settings are.   Simply put, white balance is a way to get the colors in our images as accurate as possible straight out of the camera.  It is possible with digital photography and the post processing software such as those created by Photoshop to adjust it after the fact.  However, we need to keep in mind that after the fact means just that.  We are working on memory to determine what the color was when we took the picture.  Sometimes we cannot remember what the color really was.

Why do we need to get the color right in your shots?  It is all about examining shots after taking them where we find an orange, blue, yellow, etc. look to them that might not seem quite right.  Image making with a camera is all about capturing the light.  Variations in how the sensor in the camera reads the light when the picture is taken is the reason why the looks like it is effected by different sources of light have and thus have a different ‘color’ (or temperature/Kelvin rating) to them.  Fluorescent lighting adds a bluish cast to photos whereas tungsten (incandescent/bulbs) lights add a yellowish tinge to photos.

Most digital cameras capture images based on how the light is interpreted by the camera sensor.  In a digital camera’s software, there are many ways to adjust how the sensor sees the light.  The range in different temperatures ranges from the very cool blue to warm like a candle is the setting of white balance.

The human eye adjusts automatically for it, but the camera sensor needs help.  It needs to be told how to adjust for light.  Indeed, the sensor can be confused when there are many different light sources.  Therefore, unless the temperature of the light is extreme a white sheet of paper will generally look white to us. 
However, a digital camera doesn’t always know how to adjust automatically and sometimes will need to be told how to treat different light.  However, currently, cameras are being made with ever improving internal software capabilities.  Sometimes the automatic white balance feature does a very good job of sorting out what is best particularly when the light sources are confusing such as at night in the city.

Different digital cameras have different ways of adjusting white balance so the photographer needs to use his camera’s manual to work how to make changes and by experience discover what works best.  Many digital cameras have automatic and semi-automatic modes to help you make the adjustments.

Here are some of the White Balance settings that are commonly found in digital cameras:
  • 1.  Auto:  this is where the camera makes a best guess about the light for each shot on an image-by-image basis.  For many situations, it’s worth considering, but it is important to experiment with other settings based on the lighting and the individual camera.
  • 2.  Tungsten this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is used for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as bulb lighting).  It generally cools down the image’s colors
  • 3.  Fluorescent this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up the image.
  • 4.  Daylight/Sunny/Fine Weather:  not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as ‘normal’ white balance settings.  Frequently, this is better to use than automatic white balance when shooting during the day, at sunsets, or sunrises.
  • 5.  Cloudy:  this setting generally warms things up a touch more than ‘daylight’ mode and will provide a pleasing tonality when the grey day exists.
  • 6.  Flash:   the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in this setting warms up the image.
  • 7.  Shade:  the light in shade is cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this setting will warm up the image some to adjust for that distinction.

In most cases, an accurate result using the above preset white balance modes will get the colors right.  It is important to practice and create in your own mind what works for your camera.  Remember, not all cameras are the same in the way they see light.

Some cameras have the ability for the photographer to adjust the while balance with his or her own pre-set adjustments.  A white or grey card is a way to do this wherein the photographer takes a picture of the white or grey card in the existing light.  That image then is used as the basis for adjusting the temperature of the scene so that the sensor can more correctly discern how to compensate for the light and provide the best color rendering.

This introduction and examples of my experience is the beginning of a tutorial on white balance that I will share with everyone.  As we go forward, I will explain the following in more detail:

1.      Definitions and concepts for reading white balance and color.
2.      Visible light as tiny portion of the electromatic spectrum that humans can perceive – with graphic examples
3.      RGB vision in humans – early investigation by Newton and others including the ability of the human eye and brain to perceive color – using examples.
4.      Kelvin scale – the range of color temperatures with examples.
5.      Shooting in RAW vs. JPEG and the impact on the ability to adjust the color.
6.      Why is it so hard to get the color right after you got it wrong – can humans really remember color effectively to do this?
7.      Explanation of each white balance pre-sets including the white and grey card pre-set process.
8.      Discussing about exposure, light, white balance, incident, and reflective light metering.
9.      Night Photography and the hazard of getting the color right!
10.  Color management – managing color from image capture to printing of an image.


When I first created images at night, I new little about white balance and how important it was to establish the correct tonality.  During an evening in October, 2010 I began to experiment. 

At first, since I wasn’t sure what the white balance should be, I left it on Daylight setting or shot in Automatic.  Sometimes the color worked and other times it didn’t work.  In the end, I discovered that it was best to practice with various settings for white balance then pick what appeared to work best.  In some instances, I corrected the white balance later in post processing to get the color the way I thought was best for what I was trying to communicate.  Here are view images from that first night photography outing back in 2010.

Chicago "L" Trains passing at night (daylight white balance...perhaps too warm):


Picasso’s Chicago Sculpture (manipulated later in post processing to capture the feel):

 Various Loop Buildings (automatic white balance not far from wrong):

 Chicago Board of Trade (daylight white balance and a bit too warm perhaps):

Note:  A fine art dealer in Chicago purchased this image from me for a client.  That is in spite of the white balance was at times being challenged by some photographers who saw the image.  It just shows that color, light, and tonal effect is very subjective.  Art is very much in the eye of the beholder.  I happen to like the warm colors of the image, but the night scene was really cooler then this image depicts.

In March, here in Milwaukee, I practice using various tungsten and fluorescent white balance setting to determine the results.  The following are examples taken north and south respectively at the State Street and the River of this effort:

 In April, after several discussions with photographers in a local Milwaukee camera club as well as my fellow Nikonians at www.nikonians.org I elected to use automatic white balance again with pleasing results.  The following are some examples: 

Dancing through Life display at Marquette Park (late blue light image):

Two variations of the River Walk looking south toward the City along the Milwaukee River:

Wow, I Guess I missed the Bus (a study in motion)

Looking East on Kilbourn (study in light and motion):

 I post this introductory information and images to show how much white balance can affect the results one gets when taking pictures at night.   While at first it might seem like, for night photography, an argument in favor of automatic white balance, I will just say, it works with my Nikon cameras very well when there are many confusing light sources.  However, I highly recommend capturing images in RAW and using several different white balance experiments to determine what works best. 

Note:  Soon, I will be developing a series of articles to post here in this blog about white balance both during the day and at night.  It will also to be posted in my local camera club newsletter.

Copyright (c) by John D. Roach, May 15, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Some New Thoughts and an Update about my Retirement
Upcoming Plans for my Nikonians Blog and my
Bumming Around the World with Camera in Hand Blog

For a couple of years prior to retirement I followed a path of discovery.  That was a period when I pursued finding out what I wanted to do when I retired.  The things to do that slid down my “funnel of opportunity” were narrowed down to photography, travel, and writing.  My plan was to focus on developing those three key areas of interest.  That meant I would find the many things that I wanted to do under each category.  In brief, that meant learning photography and buying the gear I needed, traveling based on a list of places I wanted to see, and writing travel articles.

It was important to me that I not use the term “Bucket List,” which is so common today.  I felt that retirement was a commencement not an ending.  It was an opportunity to do things I hadn’t had time to do earlier in life, or never fully pursued.  For me, retirement meant that I would define the key areas of interest and then find how to make them satisfying in all regards.

As those of you who have followed my progress into retirement, I retired 20 months ago, and while I continue to succeed quite well in implementing my initial plan, I daily discover that my life is like moving in a boat as it flows along a river.  I had set the course of my retirement some time ago, but there are now many stops along the way and occasionally excursions up some unknown estuary.  Those stops allowed me to gather unexpected opportunities to enhance the plan.  For example, I now have two blogs and a photography website.  I attend camera club meetings and participate in competitions.  I even win sometimes.  I have traveled to places I never planned to go such as Cuernavaca, Mexico and Dominican Republic.

I am doing things in photography, such as digital post processing, that I never expected to do.  That work include a considerable amount of flower photography such as seen in my most recent blog as well as the two following images:

I now write about travel, but not for travel magazines as I had planned.  Rather, I write my own blog and feel quite satisfied with that endeavor.  In fact, this is part of one blog, and soon I will be adding to my photography blog (a series of articles on specific areas of photography that I want to learn more about and concurrently write for a local photography club newsletter to help my fellow club members.  Writing requires lot more time than I desire to embrace, since it takes away from my first passion—the photography.  However, I will still write some and it is a way to learn and share information.  My next series of photographic articles at my Nikonians Blog (www.blog.nikonians.org/jdroach) will be about color management, white balance, and how to capture the right color when making photo images.

Thus, with the blogs I can write when I want to and write about what I want talk about without the pressure of specific deadlines.  Furthermore, based on my many varied interests it will be a way to continue to tell my friends what I am doing, thinking and pursuing in retirement both regarding travel and photograph both locally and worldwide.

In closing this long overdue blog update, I want to briefly share with all of you that I have entered again the Union League Club of Chicago Annual Photography Competition.  The judging will occur April 24, 2012.  Of course, I hope to receive some consideration for my work.  However, it satisfied me greatly to realize that the work I submitted this year (see below) demonstrates personal growth in my chosen retirement “career/hobby.”  I observed that my studying during the past two years is starting to pay off.  I have progressed further along the path of becoming a good photographer.  I hope you enjoy the following images:

I will be following up soon with more photography articles on this blog also and continue the Vietnam Stories here at http://blog.jdroachphotography.com.  There will be a series of articles about Milwaukee including its architecture, Summer Fest, and many other interesting things such Street Photography along Brady Street and other areas of the City.

Copyright by John D. Roach, April 23, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Flower Photography! A fine way to keep your photography alive when it is bitter cold outdoors.

While I will occasionally photograph outdoors during the winter, I figured this winter I would try something new both to beat the cold as well as further develop my image making skills.

I decided to take some courses in flower photography.   I learned from some fine photographers just how hard it is to capture images that look great.  I have only begun to discover the possibilities.  However, I did learn that flash does not help much even indoors, since the light is too harsh.  Furthermore, it is always best to use natural light even when indoors.  However, if you carefully select artificial light, there are possibilities with studio lighting to help capture light in a way that will enhance how a flower looks.   The following are a few that I think were somewhat successful with some description of how I took the picture:

Shooting through the Purple.

The image was taken with a Nikon D700 and a 90mm macro lens.  The objective was to do some selective focusing on one of the purple daisies while keeping a fairly shallow depth of field around the subject image.  This enabled the image to contain a large amount of purple that guides the eye toward the daisy that is in fully in focus.

Delicate Curves

This image was taken with the D700 as well as the 90mm macro lens, also.  The object was to focus on the undulating delicate curves of the rose and create an image that doesn't show the entire rose, but rather gives one the sense of beauty in the lines and curves of the delicate petals.

Gracefully Aging Chrysanthemum

This image was taken with a D700 but here I used a 28-300mm lens at 300mm.  The goal was to capture the inner beauty of this flower even as it started to show signs of aging.

White Rose

One of the many things that are so important is to work an image many different ways.  In this case, I started with a bouquet of about 10 white roses.  I photographed the flowers at many different angles from inclusion of all the roses to just selecting part of one rose.  This is on that particularly liked where I selected a very nice angle to capture the full essence of one of the roses.  This was taken again with the D700 and the 28-300mm lens but focused at 105mm using natural window light.

I truly recommend that if flower photography is something that might interest you, go to the store and set the flowers up indoors with as much natural light or carefully defined artificial light and work the flowers over and over until you come up with interesting and creative scenes that capture the beauty and essence of the flowers.

John D. Roach
March 5, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Medieval Spain -- Morella: A Journey into the past

Blog Update:  My current posting is about a trip of over 10 years ago.  My wife and I travelled to Spain 10 days after 9/11.  We had had our trip to the Spanish Mediterranean regions and Barcelona planned for many months so we were not going to be deterred by world events.  Here is something I thought I would share.  I still have to work on my Vietnam stories and give an update on my retirement, but I just was remembering this trip and thought I would share with you some of the interesting aspects of the trip and a couple of old scanned images of the countryside.  I highly recommend going to Spain.  It is a fascinating country.

Morella:  A Spanish City of Ancient Origins

            When you suddenly see Morella in the fall mist from the distance upon making a turn on the road that meanders up to this ancient town from the neighboring farmland, you may be tempted as I to recall the cover of one of Sting’s Albums.  The picture showed a hill top fortress that is very much like that of Morella.  Sting’s music, particularly a Fortress Around Your Heart as arranged by the London Symphony Orchestra and included in this album, kept churning through my brain as I came closer to this wonderfully medieval town.

            The beginnings of Morella reach back in time as early as the Celts, Carthaginians, and Romans.  The Romans considered the town a fine and central location for protecting much of its domain.  Its high vantage point of over 1000 meters (3000 ft) allowed for easy monitoring of Rome’s subjects.  During the over 400 years that Roman controlled the region, the town attained the status of a municipality forming part of a much larger Roman province.  Upon the decline of Rome, the Visigoths occupied the town in 411, but left little to mark their stay over the next 300 years.  However, in 714, the Berbers took control and for the next 500 years, the city was mostly in Arab control except for the time El Cid established a re-birth of the town and re-built the castle during the 11th century.  Over the course of 3 to 4 centuries, the town was the site of many prominent battles in the varying campaigns of Spain seeking the removal of Arab control of its lands.

            As suggested by its history, Morella’s is filled with the both the horror and enchantment of the Dark Ages and Medieval Times as Spain came to be a well defined country and eventually a major power in Europe in the 15th and 16th Century.  Even once Spain become well established, Morella often was a city in the center of the various civil wars and eventually became the stronghold central to the Carlist resistance in the approximately 50 years of civil war during the mid-19th century.  Even during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, Morella was an important and strategic Republican (leftist leaning democratic) town that was eventually captured toward the end of that war by the eventual Dictator General Franco.

            Through all its history, Morella and its people have become among the most hardy, independent minded and resilient people of Spain staunchly proud of their city.  Today, even though its population had declined to nearly 3000 people from the nearly 10,000 inhabitants of 1900, the citizens support a thriving tourist industry as well as trade in woolen and agricultural goods.  In fact, the population has shown some rebound as many Spaniards see opportunity to find a home and good work in Morella as Spain transitioned to democracy during the later half of the 20th century.

            To see this bit of history and the culture associated with it, Morella is a wonderful day trip from the coastal towns of the Mediterranean.  Such towns include Castellon, Benicarlo, Alcoeber, and Peniscola among others.  All are within 100 kilometers (63 miles) of Morella.  Indeed, one the finest places to take day trips from is Peniscola (85 kilometers from Morella), which lies on the coast midway between Barcelona and Valencia.  That town is a tourist haven especially for Spaniards and a few Europeans.  It, too, is full of interesting history with it own medieval bastions as well as a wonderful beach and vacation vibrancy.  A tourist, who seeks some variety from the beach town resort, can head to the mountains, which they can reach by car or bus in about 1-1/2 hours and spend virtually the entire day touring the Morella’s castle, Roman ruins, churches, textile workshops, stores, and restaurants before arriving back to the coastal town in the late evening.

Some may find staying a few days in Morella more appealing.  In this way, tourists can receive a fuller flavor of this exquisite town.  One can only park toward the bottom of the town and then walk up the winding streets to stay in the town that flourishes below the castle.  Morella is full of folklore, which brings together the many cultural evolutions of the town as celebrated in colorful fiestas such as the Fiesta Sexenales in September every 6 years, and the annual celebration that commemorates in January, the re-conquest of the town for the Arabs.  One thing that is certain, when you visit this town, you will be stepping back into time Morella will be a fortress around your heart with lasting appeal.

February 2012 -- Article and Images by John D. Roach