Smartphone Sunset

Here’s a little “how to”post.

I was at Ontario (CA) International Airport at sunset recently, and saw the sunset, and you can guess what happened next.

Out came my Lumia Icon, and I made a few images.  Let’s take a look at them, and talk about how you can make great smartphone sunset images.  Both images were shot on “auto” and are straight from the camera.

WP_20150311_19_02_52_Raw 420 wmDetails of the above image: ISO 80, f2.4, 1/40 second.

WP_20150311_19_04_28_Raw 420 wmDetails of the above image: ISO 64, f2.4, 1/12 second.

So – how did I get the “ooh, aah” first image and get a “so-so” second image?

Many (most) smartphones allow you to select a focus area by selecting the area you want the camera to focus on by tapping the screen with your finger.  This also controls where the camera meters (measures light)!  Proper metering is the trick to great smartphone sunset images.

In the first image, I selected the brightest area of the sunset as the focus and metering point.  As a result, the camera thought everything was really bright and reacted accordingly – this caused the camera to let in less light.  This made most of the image darker, and allowed the reflected color in the clouds to appear in the image.

In the second image, I let the camera decide everything.  The result is “blah”, at least to me.

The images are shown in the order they were taken.  There are 90 seconds between the two – I was taking images and metering off of different points.  The first image is the best of the bunch.

Next time you see a great sunset, try this!  It’s a way to control your smartphone camera for sunsets even if there are no control options.

(This simple technique will also work for sunrises.  It will also work with pocket digital cameras that allow you to lock on to a focus point.)

Remember, film is cheap these days.  Shoot often, and have fun.

This concludes your smartphone sunset lesson.

As always, shares and likes are appreciated, and don’t forget to visit Laughing Frog Images for your decorating and gifting needs (and your own indulgences).


With a sneer of derision…

Ever get “that” look from a cat who really doesn’t care if you think it’s a nice cat or not?

As Dr. Sheldon Cooper would say – “a sneer of derision.”

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In the category of pictures that say a thousand words, I think this qualified as one of those looks…

And, perhaps there were only four words behind that look “Pretty kitty my a$%…”

All that said, if I come back in life as a feral cat, I want to make sure I end up at the Lihue Marriott on the island of Kauai….

Fifi Awakens

Wondering just what the title is about?

Well, now that I have your attention…

I recently had the fortune/privilege of seeing the only operable Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber in the world (at least as of March 2015), Fifi.

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It was a strange day in some ways.

On one hand, there was the awe of what was the biggest and baddest bomber of its’ time.

There was the awe of watching her awaken from a slumber and prepare for flight.  The smell of unburnt fuel as the revolutions built, the puffs of sweetly acrid smoke dissipating into the air.  The vibration at my feet.

The realization that not only was I watching a machine, but one made for war.

As I said, it wasn’t just a “let’s go take airplane pictures” kind of day.  It was a day of reflection.

There were World War II Veterans there, including at least one who flew in one of Fifi’s kin, a member of a P-38 Ground Crew, and a P-51 pilot.  There were people of all nations and colors.

Many cheered when Fifi’s fourth engine reached full revs.  I wonder if they were cheering for Fifi as she is or what she represents to each of them.

It made me think of something related, but not.

My mind went to the the smiling boy I remember from across the street went to war as a young man, and didn’t come home.  I was probably reflecting differently than most that day.  I’ll stop there, because we all reflect upon war and loss differently.

But, let’s look at Fifi for what she is – an aircraft of a bygone era.  Technologically, the B-29 was at the leading edge of bomber design at that time.  And, I got to see her fly in 2015.

If you’d like to learn more about the B-29, click here for Wikipedia’s page, and here for Boeing’s page.

If you’d like to see Fifi as she awakens, click here to be taken to the Laughing Frog Images YouTube page or click here to be taken directly to the video.  It’s not the greatest video in the world, as I had to hold my phone above people, and try to keep it steady for about four minutes – so I apologize for the technical quality, but not the content.

I am working on a gallery of Fifi for Laughing Frog Images.  In the interest of being true to Fifi’s era, all of the images will be in Black and White.  There will be two versions of each image – one will mimic Kodak Panatomic X film (“Pan-X”), and one will mimic the grainy reproduction of a newspaper of the era.  It will be interesting to see what the feedback is on the two versions.

Automotive Safety Improvements

You’ve looked at the title of this post, and you’re wondering just what automotive safety improvements have to do with Laughing Frog Images.

If you think “nothing” – you’re right.

So, why the post?

I remember sliding around the metal floor of the “way back” of my Grandfather’s 1958 or 1959 Ford Station Wagon.  I have several memories of that car – and, since the Statute of Limitations for Child Endangerment has probably run out for my parents, I can probably tell them now.

Anyway… where was I going?  Oh, yes, it’s about automotive safety, and nothing about Laughing Frog Images.

A co-worker shared a video with me the other day.  It’s from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and it’s quite interesting.  And scary.  And, makes you realize that even if you long for the old days, you might not want to long for the old days of automotive safety.

The IIHS does some interesting things, like crash tests.  Some of you would characterize that more as fun than interesting…

The video shows the difference that 50 years makes when a 1959 Chevy meets a 2009 Chevy in the most unpleasant way.  It’s well worth the minute or so of your time to watch.

Click here to be taken to the video.

And, next time you see an automotive safety engineer, give ’em a hug…

The “Recent” Page (new feature!)

Thanks to Michael at Visceral Concepts, the Laughing Frog Images web gallery and store has a new feature – the “Recent” page.

Somewhere out there, someone is saying “huh?”

There’s actually a very easy and logical answer to that question.

Until the addition of this page, a visitor or customer had no way of knowing what had been recently added to the Galleries on Laughing Frog Images unless I wrote a post about the new gallery or images that I had added to the site.

You’d all probably hate me if I wrote a post every time I added a picture to a gallery – this is a better way for everyone.

Now, by clicking on Recent at the top of the home page – you can easily see any gallery that’s been added, or that’s had images added to it.

recent screen shot crop

We hope this new feature makes your viewing and shopping experiences more convenient and enjoyable.




Looking down at a frozen Lake Erie

As a significant part of the U.S. continues to be hammered by snow and cold, many of us don’t think about ice covering the Great Lakes and connecting rivers.  It does happen.

This hasn’t been a good year for the lakes or the lake boats.  You can check out if you’re curious about what’s been happening on the North Coast.

In early April of 2014, I flew from New York’s La Guardia airport to O’Hare in Chicago, and had a window seat.

As we were nearing Buffalo, NY, the pilot made an announcement about much of Lake Erie being frozen over, and that we could see it from the right side of the plane.  As luck would have it, I was on the “right” side for a change!

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What you’re seeing in this phone photo is Lake Erie in the foreground, and Lake Ontario in the background.  All that gray/white stuff in the center/left-center is in fact ice on Lake Erie!  You’ll see a squiggly gray line that splits in two and then rejoins itself toward the top right – that’s the Niagara River leading toward Niagara Falls.  Fort Erie and the Niagara Region of southeastern Ontario to the left of that, Buffalo NY and its’ suburbs and surroundings are to the right and in the lower foreground.  And, that’s dirt on the window in the very foreground as the sun sets to the west…

Something different to share and talk about is always nice. This is certainly different, and something that most of us have probably never thought about or heard about.

This image will never make it to the galleries on Laughing Frog Images – I know that.

But, sometimes a picture, regardless of the technical and aesthetic quality, is well worth sharing because of the thoughts, wonderings, and conversations it brings about.  This is one of those times.

Thanks for visiting.

New Videos posted to LFI YouTube

As I was moving and archiving files this morning, I came across a series of short videos I shot on my iPhone while waiting for a train.  I was actually at the station a little early that day!  I had actually forgotten that I took these.  I was always a little leery about “cell phone video”, but I’ve since learned (evolved?).

It’s kind of funny to say that you took these videos on your phone – at least to those of us of a certain age who remember the first mobile phones were the size of a shoe box!

And to others, it’s as normal as a sunrise.

And, who would have thought you could share things with the world in a matter of mouse clicks and minutes?

These are all short video clips of normal things if you travel by train on the Northeast Corridor.  For those who don’t, this is a glimpse into the life of some commuters’ daily routine between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD.

The Amtrak locomotives you see – the AEM-7’s – are nearing the end of their service lives, and within a year or two, catching them on video won’t be possible.  That’s what led me to post these.  They’re not the greatest quality videos – I get that.  But now, they’re memories.  And soon, they’ll be history.

These were all hand-held.  Yes, I know, I’m not using a tripod – but you can’t easily carry a tripod on a multi-city business trip.

You can check the videos out on the Laughing Frog Images YouTube Channel.



Sunrise Done Different

Most of the time you see a picture of a sunrise, the photographer is looking at the sun…

Always having to be different, the Frog presents an alternative way to capture a sunrise.  Look the other way!

While on vacation in Hawaii (before you East Coast folks start, it’s closer to me than Boston is right now…) on the island of Kauai, I awoke to a very bright day (which is easy to do when you’ve traveled west).

I looked to the east, and the sun was hidden by a cloud layer.  No shot there…

But, as I looked to the west, well, here’s what I saw:

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The mountains were in shadow, the clouds were lit by the sun, there was a faint rainbow, and the moon was still out!

Being 2015 and all, I did what most anyone would do – I grabbed my phone to take a picture!  I would have grabbed my camera, but the phone was closer and the rainbow was changing (for the worse) before my eyes as the sun rose behind me.

This image is straight from the camera’s raw file (Nokia Lumia Icon), and was cropped to a square image and converted to a jpg for posting and sharing.

I tried to play with it a bit in an editing program to bring out the rainbow, but as every action has a reaction, and the reactions were not favorable, I decided against that train of thought.

You can find the image here on Laughing Frog Images.

Thanks for looking!

Capturing Natural Expressions

If you haven’t figured it out, the Frog doesn’t take a lot of people pictures.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Personally, I’ve always has an aversion to being in front of the camera.  I’m much happier behind the camera.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are hams, photo bombers, and those who simply love having their picture taken.

But there are life moments we all want to capture, be they children as they grow up, pets, a family event, a party, or just a simple moment in time.

If you’re the photographer however, that moment for you can be like herding cats, seeking a blood donation from a rock, or anywhere in between.

Here are some tips on capturing natural expressions from the Write You On My Heart blog.

Although the main topic of the post is capturing the natural expressions of children, there are a lot of us out there who have never grown up, or at least we like to think that we haven’t!

The suggestions are perhaps a fresh look at photographing anyone, and well worth a few minutes of your time.

Tip #2 is along the lines of how I’ve photographed weddings – I hate lining people up for a shot, posing them, getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time, put their drinks down, etc., etc., etc.  I prefer to avoid the use of a flash whenever possible, and I like to shoot weddings with two “atypical” lenses.

  1. A short, fast zoom (70-200 f2.8, 70-210 f2.8, etc.) so I can catch people enjoying themselves from a distance – most of the time without their knowing their having picture taken.  I also like to “reach into” a scene, using the bodies and body parts of those in the foreground to frame the scene and capture natural expressions. It adds to the “being there” feel of an image.
  2. A fast wide angle (28mm f2.8, etc.) that allows you to be a part of a group on the dance floor or around the table – it gets you in there like you’re a part of the scene instead of being an outsider with a camera looking in.

Take a look at Write You On My Heart and my comments, and gather (or at least consider) a different perspective on how you make your memories.

Shoot well, and shoot often!