The worst family photo you never took?

Here we are in the 2017 Holiday Season, and I’m thinking about the oft-dreaded family photos and family photography again.

This is the fourth time around for the main points of this post. I’m posting it early this year so you’ve got some time to let it sink in, or perhaps share it with “that” person.

I think that family photography relevant every holiday season, and you’ll probably see it every holiday season as long as this site is up.  It will change as I change throughout the years, no doubt.

Hopefully, maybe, possibly, it may inspire someone out there.

The topic of family photos is relevant not just during the holidays, but every day…  I’m reminded of that as Papa Frog is not here this Christmas.

It’s a bit of a history lesson, and a life lesson.  Enjoy.  Ponder.  Reflect…

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What’s the worst family photo you never took?

If you’re thinking about the worst family photos you ever took, go back and reread that last line and think about it.

It’s probably the time of year, besides wondering what to write about, that led me to this topic.  We have a “family photo wall” that’s set up something like a family tree.  All of the family photos are in black and white – as most of the originals were.  I have yet to find a good photo of my Great-Grandmother to put on our family photo wall.  That still bugs me.

And then, there’s a song I haven’t heard in a while that always puts me in one of those melancholy, reflective, contemplative moods – “Time Passages” by Al Stewart.  Take a ride on the Wayback Machine and check out this video on YouTube of Al and Shot in the Dark performing the song back in 1978 when it hit the radio waves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRKyGhgoNE8

So, where am I going with this?  Isn’t the topic family photos?

Well, way back when, some families were great with taking family photos during the holidays – or any time for that matter- and some weren’t.  Some stored their family pictures well, and some didn’t.

All things considered, if you go back let’s say 50 years ago – family photography was a lot more complicated than it is today.  There were flashbulbs to load in the flash gun, and then exposures to calculate and settings to set on the camera.  Fast forward to the Instamatic camera that took 126 roll film and flash cubes!  An absolutely (well, almost) people-proof system that while easy to use, unfortunately didn’t necessarily take great pictures – but preserved memories to stimulate the mental hard drive nonetheless.  And then the 110 roll film cameras became a brief rage because they were small.  Never mind that so were their negatives, which meant that their practical use was limited.

Fast forward a bit to 1976 and Canon’s AE-1 35mm film camera.  It was the first “camera with a brain” (a microprocessor) and it forever changed amateur photography.  Load it with film, put the lens on the automatic setting, put the flash on and set it to automatic, set the shutter speed to 1/60 of a second – and indoor family photography changed again.  (My AE-1, passed down from my Father, is a few feet away as I rewrite this.)

41 years later, we have digital cameras in our phones as well as DSLR cameras that represent the great-great grandchildren of the AE-1.  Most people are using digital instead of film these days.  The cameras have great metering systems, automatic flashes, flashes that adjust their brightness for the scene, red-eye reduction settings.  It’s actually pretty easy these days to take a good (great?) picture.  Maybe it’s not so good for professional portrait photographers, though.

In the old days, you had to wait days or hours to see if the pictures were good or not.  More often than not, if you weren’t happy with your results, you didn’t get a chance for a “do-over” until the next family gathering.  Even then, you may not have been able to catch the picture again.

Perhaps the best thing about digital photography is that you can look at your picture seconds later and see who had their eyes closed, or mouth open, or who was making a funny face or obscene gesture.  If you don’t like what you got – yell at everyone (politely, of course, because it is the holidays) and take the picture again.  And, repeat as necessary…

Filum is practically free in the form of memory cards.  No – that’s not a typo.  It’s film as my maternal Grandfather called it.  It’s Pittsburghese.  Don’t believe me?  Look it up!

And – no more having to spend $3.00 extra per roll for 1-Hour processing of your 4×6 prints.

So, where am I going with this?  Well, I’m almost there now.  Thanks for bearing with me.

OK, I’m there now.

Here goes:

Take pictures this family season.

Lots of them.

Get ‘em with their eyes closed, or with that glob of gravy on their chin.

Get ‘em when they’re groaning or while they’re sleeping.

You could even get ‘em when their smiling. (Hopefully that’s with an image you got from Laughing Frog Images 2017 holiday sale!)

Just get ‘em.

That way, you can always talk about the worst family photo you took.

It’s better than lamenting about the photo you never took.

That could well be the worst one…

Oh – I almost forgot – this post could be a great pre-holiday gift for someone you know.  Don’t be afraid to share it.

 

Puukumu Stream meets the Pacific Ocean

Puukumu Stream meets the Pacific Ocean is one of my favorite images.  It has a bit of an unlikely story behind it.

I was on a hiking photo tour of Kauai with Kauai Photo Tours.  It was a bit of a last minute thing that Mrs. Frog encouraged me to do, so while I had my basic photo gear that I travel with (Nikon D-7100 body and Tamron 18-270mm and 10-24mm lenses), I didn’t have what I would take on a planned landscape shoot.  (That’s another post and discussion!)

So, our group is hiking down to the mouth of Puukumu Stream. Puukumu Stream runs north from the mountains of Kauai between Kahiliwai and Kilauea carrying rainwater to the Pacific Ocean.

My gear is in my bag.  We’ve crossed the stream and are heading north northeast to a small waterfall where the stream empties into the ocean.  And the group is moving.  And my gear is in my bag.  And the group is moving.  I look to the left and think “hey, that’s a great shot…”  And my Icon is in my pocket.  So, I stop briefly, pull out the Icon and snap a few in automatic mode, and then keep moving.

Puukumu Stream meets the Pacific Ocean on the north side of Kauai, Hi.

Puukumu Stream meets the Pacific Ocean on the north side of Kauai, Hi.

I thought it might have been a good grab shot.  And the more I looked at it later in the day, the more I realized that it wasn’t just a good grab shot, but that it was in fact a great shot!

This image was taken in DNG format with a Nokia Icon in Auto mode, ISO 64, 1/1500 second.  Minor post-processing took place in Perfect Photo Suite 9.

Puukumu Stream meets the Pacific Ocean can be found in the coastal and beach scenes gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

This image would be no ka ‘oi (“the best” in Hawaiian) as a metal print or on metallic paper in 1 high x 2 wide format (10″x20″, 12″x24″).

Symmetry at Sky Harbor

One of the benefits of today’s smartphones is that it’s easy to create an image as you’re walking along almost anywhere, like, for example, an airport.  As proof, I offer you Symmetry at Sky Harbor.

I was changing terminals one morning, and looked to my left and thought “there’s a picture there…”

Out came the Lumia Icon and I snapped a few pictures.

However, things just weren’t quite right in the Lumia’s original 16×9 (16 pixels wide for every 9 pixels high).

I had symmetry, but it wasn’t right.

When I got to my next gate, I opened the image in my Picture Perfect app and began to create the symmetry I wanted.  In this case, symmetry (at least to me) meant that the image needed symmetry as well.  That meant a 1:1 (square) crop.  So, that meant a little finger dragging to position the crop box and a simple tap to finish the image.

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I left the colors as the camera captured them.  The muted pastels of the building and the sky offer a stark contrast to the metallic-like reds and blues on the tails.

(I still prefer the classic “AA” image of American Airlines that dates back to the late 1960’s, but I didn’t get a vote when they changed.)

If you look closely, you’ll also see another element of symmetry – the auxiliary power units that appear just below the tail of every aircraft.

It’s all in the details, which in some case rely upon how long you look at an image to find them.

This may never sell as the cropped image is too small for much more than a coffee cup, and it may never win any awards – but I like this image, and that’s part of what it’s all about.

It may also give you some ideas the next time you see symmetry, or the potential for it, in your travels – airport or otherwise.

You can see this image in the planes gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

Thanks for visiting!

 

Astrojet

There was a time when air travel was civilized.  There was a time when there was a degree of decorum about it.  There was a time it was an event.

And then, there’s now…

American Airline paid homage to those times back in 2000 with the resurrection of the Astrojet livery applied to a Boeing 737 and 757.  It’s not paint – the aluminum is polished and the stripe and lettering are decals.

I’ve never seen the 757, but I’ve seen the 737 three times and flown in it once from LGA (La Guardia, New York City) to ORD (O’Hare, Chicago).  This is the first “good” image I’ve been able to get of the 737 Astrojet.  It’s at Gate D38 at DFW (Dallas – Fort Worth) International Airport.

The Astrojet livery honors the image applied to American’s first jet aircraft, a BAC (British Aircraft Corporation) 1-11.

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Admittedly, the Astrojet didn’t feel any different than any other plane, but it did make me think back to when flying was something special in my life and not a regular occurrence.

It also made me think back to the black and white pictures of early air travel – men and boys in suits, women and girls in dresses.  Dignity and decorum.  I’ve got to guess that the boarding process back then was different as well – orderly lines and civilized entry as opposed today’s cattle call and “What do you mean Group 4 isn’t first?”

Or, maybe the pictures were just figments of the public relations department’s minds?  Maybe it was as crazy as it is today?  Nah.  I have to believe that it was more civil.  I remember it being more civil even just 20 years ago.  Now, it’s rush-rush-rush and that look of “obviously you don’t know that I AM more important than you and I deserve to be in Group 1, not Group 4!”

Perhaps the only fun I find in air travel anymore is to watch people who try to defy physics by trying to shove a bag that simply won’t fit into the overhead bin.  They seem to think that if they push hard enough, or wiggle it, or turn it around, it’s miraculously going to shrink and fit.  And then, they get mad at the Flight Attendant because their bag doesn’t fit.  I see this play out on almost every flight I’m on.

There also should be a rule that if you can’t lift your own bag over your head, you shouldn’t be allowed to carry it on and try to place it in the overhead bin.  Just saying.  And no, for those of you that think this statement only applies to females, you’re wrong.  Been there.  Seen that.  Almost been hit by dropped bags more times than I can count.

This image of the Astrojet can be found in the commercial section of the planes gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

Lumia Icon on Auto setting, jpg image created from the dng (raw) image.

45 Seconds at EWR Station

One of the nice things about waiting to see a train at the NJT / Amtrak Newark International Airport Station is that you’re generally going to see trains, especially if you’re waiting during rush hour.

Occasionally, you’ll see multiple trains at once – I’ve been able to capture three trains at once in a still image.  Not a great still image mind you, or else I’d be posting and talking about that, but I’ve done it.  There are times where it’s a busy 45 seconds at Newark.  And there are times it all comes together.

So there I was with my trusty Icon, and a southbound Amtrak Acela was coming through.  So, I set up for it and started the video before the train entered the viewfinder.  There’s a neat thing that happens in advance of a fast moving train on continuous welded rail – the rails start to “sing” before the train gets there.  As I set up at a bit of an angle to the tracks, if you turn the volume up – you can hear this before you see the train.  It’s pretty neat.  I’m sure that there’s a technical explanation and term for this phenomenon, but I’m going to go with singing…

 

And the Acela slides on through the station.  Then, I hear another train behind me – I have no idea what it is or what track it’s on, and I can’t turn around without really screwing up this hand-held video.  So, I try to stay still and just keep the video rolling.  I let it roll until the northbound Amtrak is out of view.  Until 45 seconds at Newark are memorialized.

An Amtrak local comes into view, cab car first.  Ok, that works!  And then, in the golden light of late afternoon, I hear the “psst”s (yeah, I know that’s not a word, but I don’t know how else to try to phonetically describe the sound) of the locomotive – and I still can’t turn around to see it.  And then, an AEM-7 in push mode glides by me.

And I’m happy, because I finally got a great video clip of an AEM-7 in sweet light!  You see, the AEM-7’s are being replaced after 30+ years, and I don’t get an opportunity to see them very often, let alone get a video in sweet light.  For all I know, this is the last time I’ll get an AEM-7 on video.  So, it was a good day.

One day, I might even find that miracle tripod that you can take with you on a whirlwind transcontinental business trip.

In the meantime, enjoy, hand-held and all!

 

 

Everyone likes a cracker

At least this little guy (or gal) did!

Mrs. Frog and I were at a great museum that exceeded expectations – the Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo, NC.  There’s a recreation of a 16th century sailing ship, exhibits of the Native American inhabitants of the area, and interactive exhibits of the early settlements, among other things.  You know how sometimes you go to a museum with reservations (about going – not a scheduled time)?  I went in with a little bit of that attitude, and left with a different view.  This was well worth it, at least to us.

Anyway, besides all of the history stuff, there are friendly little critters running around the grounds.  Like squirrels.

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This guy/gal wasn’t the least bit bothered by the big two-legged things that invaded its’ home.  Indeed, it was quite content to have what appeared to be a mini-Ritz cracker or two.  As you can see, I was right there with my Icon as the cracker was carefully rotated and consumed.  As I’m sitting here typing this, I’m thinking to myself that this would have made an entertaining short video.  Maybe next time.

A couple of different images from this impromptu wildlife shoot will end up in the “peaceful (for the most part) critters” gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

Wander on in and check it out.  And maybe create a coffee mug or something else for yourself while you’re in there.

Happy browsing.  Enjoy!

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.

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.

Enjoy!

Sunset from the back of a plane

When I fly, I tend to get a an aisle seat.  I’m not always sure why, because my head and arms are regularly hit with nary a tinge of guilt on the part of those striking me.

However, I might want to start rethinking that.

When I replaced my old cell phone from the Dark Ages (it was a flip phone with no keyboard…) with a new smartphone, I chose the camera first, and then the phone.  I wanted a Windows phone so I could manage this site in Internet Explorer, so that somewhat narrowed my choices, but they weren’t bad choices.  I ended up with the Lumia Icon, which has a 20mp camera, and also produces a RAW image in .dng format.  It takes phone photography to a new level that I won’t get into here, because this isn’t about a phone or a camera – it’s about a snapshot in time memorialized in bytes.

More importantly, the Icon gives me the opportunity to capture some fantastic images without having to carry a camera with me all of the time.

Here’s a shot from a window seat in the back of a Southwest Boeing 737.  We’re heading east over Huntington Beach at sunset. As we turned east, I noticed the sunset and thought “there might be a picture here…”

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You can see ships waiting to get in to Long Beach Harbor in silhouette from the setting sun, you can see the waves headed towards the beach, the blue sky and darkness separated by the rain clouds.  There’s a lot going on here.

This is the jpeg file straight from the camera.  I haven’t played around with the dng file to what I might be able to do with it.  I didn’t have time to go to manual and select the settings as I would try to do for a sunset – so I metered off of the clouds above the sun and hoped for the best. ISO 64, f2.8, 1/1250 second – all set by the Icon’s camera.

I ended up with a quality image of something fresh and different, and that’s what makes time behind the camera meaningful.

Shoot often and shoot well!

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).