Lightsphere: You should have one!

You’ve heard me mention the Lightsphere several times as a fantastic tool for diffusing the light from your external flash, and I’ve said once or twice (or more) that I’d tell you more about it.

Well, it’s time.

I don’t remember where I first read about the Lightsphere.

I just know that like many, I’ve had problems with my external flash being too bright, or too direct.  I don’t have those problems any more – at least as long as I don’t forget my Lightsphere.

The Lightsphere is a creation of a gentleman by the name of Gary Fong.  Gary’s website includes tutorials on lighting and cameras, as well as his broad line of lighting products and accessories.

By the way – I don’t know Gary Fong, I’ve never met Gary Fong, and I’m not getting anything for plugging this product.  I have a Lightsphere.  I use my Lightsphere.  I like my Lightsphere so much that I think it’s worthy of sharing with you to help you improve your own photographs.

I have the Lightsphere Universal, Cloud.  This produces warmer images than a regular flash, and diffuses and softens the light.  I thought about some other descriptive adjectives and words to throw at you to fill space, but I think you get the point.

gary fong lightsphereExcept when I forget it, I never use my flash without it.

If you have an external flash, and have problems with hot spots and uneven lighting – the Frog recommends you check out the Lightsphere and decide whether or not having some strange looking hunk of flexible plastic/acrylic in your camera bag that you have to explain to people is in your future…

NJT Gallery added

Next in the new galleries showing images of railroading in the Northeast Corridor is a small (for now) gallery of New Jersey Transit (NJT) trains and EMUs.

What’s an EMU?

Well, it’s not an animal, at least in this case.  EMU stands for Electric Multiple Unit, and the reality is that an EMU is a self-propelled passenger car (with or without a control cab) – an EMU doesn’t need a locomotive to move.

NJT operates passenger trains moved by diesel-electric locomotives, electric locomotives, and EMUs.  This gallery is a small sampling of what moves through the Newark International Airport station that is shared with Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor.

NJT operates commuter trains on routes that date back over 100 years.  Trains run on lines formerly operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Erie Railroad, Lackawanna Railroad and Central of New Jersey Railroad.  I think that’s it – but it’s possible that the Lehigh Valley Railroad might be a part of that group as well.  Unlike what happened out here in California where they put the rails back in where they tore them out, there’s a long history behind the services provided by NJT.

I thought initially that this would/could be a larger gallery.  As I selected the images for this gallery, I also became more aware of the limitations of iPhone photography, at least with the 4S.  What looks great on the phone’s screen…  But hey, the iPhone is today’s version of the Kodak Brownie or 126 film Instamatic, and it can do some wonderful things.  That’s another possible post…

But this is about trains – so back to the subject at hand.

You can learn more about New Jersey Transit from their website or from our friends at Wikipedia.

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You can check out the NJT Gallery on Laughing Frog Images and get a glimpse of how people commute in New Jersey.

Photographing Fireworks

Last year, the Frog published four posts on photographing fireworks.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, we’re going to give you the links to the 2014 posts here so you can prepare yourself now, and then head out in a couple of weeks and make your own great images of fireworks.

Photographing fireworks is hard, but it’s not, and it’s actually been made easier by digital photography – you don’t have to wait a week to get your slides back to see how well you did, or didn’t do.  It’s also practically free these days.

Yes, I know, it’s counterproductive to teach people how to take their own fireworks pictures when you’re trying to sell your images, but, hey, I’m not that kind of Frog…

So, here the posts in order, from what you need to how to make your images to free processing software to processing your images and impressing yourself, your friends and your family.

All we ask is that you share Laughing Frog Images as the source of your guidance and inspiration!

If someone else is the photographer in your circle, and you want some images of this year’s fireworks – please share this with them and help us with a little publicity in the process.

DSC_7871 adjusted in Picasa fbLaughing Frog Images wishes you and yours have a safe and happy Independence Day holiday.

Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor

As I’ve been moving and organizing and backing up image files, I stumbled across some iPhone images of passenger railroading on the Northeast Corridor, and I’ll be adding a few small galleries to share images of how others travel and commute.

The first of these galleries will be of Amtrak.

Several of these images are instant history, as the 900-series AEM-7 locomotives are well into their 30’s and are being replaced by new locomotives.

The AEM-7 is based on the Swedish Rc4 locomotive design, and was produced by the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors from 1978 to 1988.  You can learn more about the AEM-7 on Wikipedia and also on Amtrak’s archives which also discuss Amtrak’s other electric locomotives.  (Amtrak’s history website is well worth a visit on its’ own merits.)

If you’ve never been around trains powered by electric locomotives, it’s different because they’re quiet.  Very quiet.  If the engineer doesn’t blow the horn, sometimes your only clue is the sound of the wind created by the train.  If the wind is blowing the sound the other way, you might not even get that.  It’s actually pretty neat to experience it.

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I often travel by Amtrak between work locations in CT, NJ and MD – it’s really the only way to go.  Public transportation on the East Coast may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darned close if your basis for comparison is the Los Angeles area. The photo above was taken at the Newark International Airport Station (yes, we do have shreds of logic where different modes of transportation connect!).

Out here, the transportation planners seem to have figured out that it’s a good idea to put light rail transit (modern streetcars) in where they tore up the rails that carried passenger trains and electric streetcars long ago.  As Homer Simpson would say, “Duh”.  Makes you wonder why they tore up the rails in the first place, but don’t get me started…

So, if you’ve always wondered what the trains look like “over there” and you’re curious, waste a little time and head over to the Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor Gallery on Laughing Frog Images.


C-17 POTUS Support


OK…. here’s what that means:

McDonnell Douglas / Boeing U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport plane on President Of The United States support duty.

There are only so many characters I can use in the title of a post, and sometimes, you just have to work with what you have to work with.


I had my camera at work today (D-5100 and Tamron 18-270mm), and, as luck would have it, it was in my hands when I looked up to see a C-17 on approach to BUR (Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, CA).  It was big.  It was quiet.  And, I managed to get my lens cap off and snap a few before it was too late.  The President was in town, and the C-17 provides logistic support (limousines, etc.) when the President travels.

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This is only the third time I’ve seen a C-17, and the first time that I was able to photograph one.  It’s not something you see every day, that’s for sure.  This one is flown by the Air Mobility Command at Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA.

The first time I saw one was while I was driving south on I-5 from Seattle to Vancouver, WA.  It was on final approach to Joint Base Lewis-McChord which is south of Tacoma, WA.  Final approach means that the plane is low, and let’s just say that a C-17 can cast a shadow over your car and get your attention in a way few things can.  It’s not something you expect if you’re not from that area…

You can learn more about the C-17 from the Air Force website and also our friends at Wikipedia.

As I was surfing the web to learn more about the C-17, I came across an article published last week in the Los Angeles Times about the C-17 plant in Long Beach, CA.  The last C-17’s are being completed now and the plant is closing.  Airplanes can last a long time – the Air Force plans to be flying C-17’s into the 2040’s and beyond, and there just isn’t an everyday market for BIG cargo planes.  Another piece of history is written…



iPhone 6 cases now available

If you’ve been waiting to get an iPhone 6 until we had a case available for it, well, you can now go and get your iPhone 6!

So, how do you get your own?

First, surf around the galleries on Laughing Frog Images.  When you find that special image, simply click “Buy” up at the top and towards the right.  You’ll see the following screen:

flask galaxy 6 iphone 6

Click on the Flask at the bottom, follow the instructions to make it your own, and a few days later – enjoy your flask or see someone’s face erupt into a smile when they unwrap it.

If you’re not sure how to do this, and are intimidated by the process, we have a video for that.  Click here to see how to make your own iPhone 6 case.

Happy shopping!

Flasks Now Available!

As part of our ongoing quest to have something available for everyone on Laughing Frog Images, we’re pleased to announce that seven ounce stainless steel flasks are now available!

Everyone has a favorite beverage, and this is a great way to enjoy it!

If you have to get someone a gift and you’re finding yourself giftipated (explained in a post last holiday shopping season), here’s something unique and different.

If you’ve got THAT family event, and feel like you need….  Well, we won’t go there, but hey – we’re trying to move product here!

Anyway, if for whatever reason a flask seems to be the thing for you or someone else, and you’d like to get that flask and make it special with an image of a train, lighthouse, or whatever, we invite you to shop the galleries on Laughing Frog Images and get the image you want the way you want it on a convenient seven ounce stainless steel flask.

So, how do you get this flask?

First, surf around the galleries on Laughing Frog Images.  When you find that special image, simply click “Buy” up at the top and towards the right.  You’ll see the following screen:

flask galaxy 6 iphone 6

Click on the Flask at the bottom, follow the instructions to make it your own, and a few days later – enjoy your flask or see someone’s face erupt into a smile when they unwrap it.

Happy shopping!

Messy Birds, Happy Squirrel

We have several feeders just outside of the kitchen table for our winged friends – suet, socks for the finches, and mixed seed for the masses.

The feeders serve as entertainment for the cats, and, I have to admit, me and my camera as well.

Occasionally, the birds are messy.  Don’t know if it’s because they are digging for that special seed or what – the birds don’t say much to me.

However, when the birds are messy, someone else is happy – and that’s the squirrels.  The birds’ mess means that they don’t have to do much to dine – they just have to show up.

DSC_7274 sq c&c 480wmHere’s Ethel posing for the camera while she takes a break from breakfast.  Actually, I can’t tell you if Ethel is a he or a she, but there’s a story behind the name that the guy’s might appreciate.

We have two regular squirrel visitors, one has a healthy bushy tail – and has been given the name Ethel.  The other one, well, it’s tail is kind of scraggly – proverbially speaking, like someone’s gone at it a bit.  So, that’s Fred.  If you don’t get the Fred and Ethel reference, you’re showing your youth, or you’ve never seen I Love Lucy…

This image of Ethel has been added to the “peaceful (for the most part) critters” gallery on Laughing Frog Images.  Look for more of Fred and Ethel to be added over time.

Wander on into the image galleries on Laughing Frog Images for a while and take a break from reality, and who knows, get something for yourself or for someone who deserves something unique and different.


Cloud first, train second

So, there I am in Portola, CA last August.

It’s getting late in the day, and I’m standing on the South Gulling Street Bridge.

The passerby are friendly, and not at all curious about someone on the bridge with a camera.  After all, this IS Portola, CA on the former Western Pacific (now Union Pacific) Railroad, and I’m there during 2014’s Railroad Days.  It’s not the first time they’ve seen this…

I’ve got sunshine, great light and this absolutely killer cumulonimbus cloud with an anvil in the distance against a great blue sky.

There’s a westbound grain train at the east switch (see the white dot about 1/4 in from the right and about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom) waiting to enter the yard.

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I’m waiting.  The train is waiting for clearance.  I’m waiting.  The train is waiting.  We’re both waiting.  And waiting.

And as we’re both waiting, the cloud starts to dissipate.  I wait.  The train waits.  The cloud dissipates.

The cycle continues…

The cloud is now essentially formless.

And the train begins to move west….

C’est la vie…

You can find this image, and those of the train entering the Portola Yard in the Union Pacific – former Western Pacific gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

The 2015 Portola Railroad Days event is from August 21-23, 2015.

While in Portola, don’t miss the Western Pacific Railroad Museum.

Don’t forget to check out the Western Pacific Railroad Museum Gallery on Laughing Frog Images!

Camera and details: Nokia Lumia Icon 929, ISO 100, f2.4, 1/2000 sec, converted to jpg from a dng original.


Fine Art Posters added

Continuing the Frog’s quest to provide unique images for your perusal and purchase, we’ve just completed the first two fine art posters for Laughing Frog Images.

I’m drawing from the influences of other fine art posters that I’ve seen over the years – a monochromatic background, simple sans-serif title and description, and provocative black and white images.

Santa Fe 3751 Deconstructed 360w

UP 4014 DS Pomona 360w

The first two fine art posters are photographic deconstructions of two popular steam locomotives – Santa Fe 3751 and Union Pacific 4014.

The 3751 was deconstructed at the 2014 San Bernardino (CA) Railroad Days.  (There’s a full gallery dedicated to the photographic deconstruction of the 3751 on Laughing Frog Images – just click here to be taken there.)

The partially disassembled 4014 was further deconstructed at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds prior to her departure for Cheyenne, WY and eventual return to service.  The “DS” in the title means “Departed Station” in railroad-speak – she hasn’t departed Pomona yet, but she did depart her display home of 51 years to the staging point where these images were made, so I’m not stretching things too much…

For both fine art posters, the original images were shot in color with a vivid bias to mimic slide film and converted to black and white using onOne Perfect Photo Suite software.  I’m not going to lie to you – I don’t remember the settings used for the 3751 images (guess I should keep better notes).  The images of the 4014 were converted to a profile that emulates Panatomic X, an ASA 32 black and white film formerly manufactured by Kodak.  This film was also known as “Pan-X”, and was a fantastic black and white film known for a great tonal range and minimal grain structure.

There will be more fine art posters to follow as the scanning progresses.  Off the top of my head, the subject matter is probably going to be steam engines and “vintage” trains as long as I stay with black and white images.  However, the fine art possibilities are probably endless as I scratch my head and ponder the image galleries and those to be scanned.

You can find the posters in the Posters – Trains Gallery on Laughing Frog Images, and make one or both of them your own in any one of several ways.

As always, “likes” and “shares” are most appreciated!