Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oat Rentals

Trident Electric Boat Rentals - Baltimore Inner HarborThe thing that first attracted me to this scene was the neon sign, slightly crooked, within the black and white frame of the window. But then the attendent, who had been out of my view on the other end of the dock, walked into my viewfinder, his shift almost over, and made a phone call. I thought his dark skin and white clothing complemented the non-color scheme of the rental shed in the background.

I held down the shutter button to shoot a lot of pictures with him sitting right there, but in this one, his body English and facial expression was the best of the lot.

Back at home on the computer, I noticed that the red life vests could make a nice design element, a triangle right into the left lower edge of the frame.

But only if I cropped the image to "OAT RENTALS."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bromo Tower and ... Beatles

Holiday Inn & Bromo Tower - Baltimore, MDOn one overseas business trip in 1978, I got to spend a weekend in Florence, Italy. At one point during a stroll around that beautiful city, I looked up and suddenly saw a familiar sight - the Bromo Tower of Baltimore!

Actually, it was the Palazzo Vecchio, but architect Joseph Evans Sperry used the tower of this 14th-century structure as inspiration for the 1911 Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower. Sperry's client was Captain Isaac Emerson, a sea captain and inventor of Bromo Seltzer.

The 15-story tower was originally topped by a 51-foot revolving replica of the deep-blue Bromo Seltzer bottle. Brightly illuminated at night, ships sailing up the Chesapeake to Baltimore would navigate by it. Until the Baltimore Trust Company Building claimed the title in 1924, the Bromo Tower was the tallest structure in Baltimore.

Since 1936, the Bromo Tower has been bottle-less, and by the sixties, the building itself had deteriorated.

The Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts did a great job renovating the Bromo Tower just a few years ago. The former office building is now leased out as studios for artists.

In the photo above, the curved shape is the revolving rooftop restaurant of the Holiday Inn. Well, it doesn't revolve anymore, and the restaurant, Circle One closed in 1974, but there it is. It's only claim to fame is that the Beatles, on September 13, 1964, played a concert at Baltimore's Civic Center, just across the street, and then stayed overnight in the then-brand-new hotel. By the way, they did get to dine in the revolving rooftoop restaurant, and back then, it did revolve.

One West Pratt

Baltimore Convention CenterHere's a closeup view the newer, western section of the Baltimore Convention Center. The repeated triangular truss design elements make it a very strong-looking building. Another exception to Baltimore's unfortunate dearth of fine examples of modern and post-modern architecture.

Taken with Ben's Canon A630 digicam. This is from this morning's walk to work from the Light Rail. My stop is right across the street from this part of the Convention Center. It was a dull morning, so I bumped up the saturation, which also bumped up the noise in the sky. So even though this is an 8MP sensor and the exposure used ISO 80, noise can still be a problem in these little cameras.

I pretty much cropped in-camera for this one, but then I cropped just a little more to get the little blue (sky) triangle as negative space at upper left. See all the positive and negative space triangles in this image? Do you think it worked here?

Little Gators

Shoe Stall - Baltimore, MD

Friday, June 20, 2008

More Canon XSi (450D) Photos

Yes, nothing like a New Toy to get the Old Boy out of a photo-slump. Pretty soon you'll be tired of seing these.

The rainbow picture was just a grab shot through my windshield on the way home Wednesday. The rest are from my walk from the Light Rail to work via Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Rainbow Commute
Baltimore Convention Center
Meyerhoff Fountain, McKeldin Square - Baltimore, MD
Duck Scratch
Lightship 'Chesapeake'- Baltimore Inner Harbor
Ladders - Market Street, Baltimore

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Canon XSi (450D) Photos

I got up an hour earlier today so that I could slowly wander the 3/4 mile from my Light Rail stop to work and take photos along the way with my brand-new Canon XSi.

Although I had my other two lenses with me, I stuck with the new kit lens, an 18-55mm EF-S IS (image-stablized) lens, in order to see how it performs.

I was very pleased with both the camera and lens; no doubt, some of this was due to the New Toy Effect. But several things jumped out at me:

First and foremost, compared to my old "original" 2003 Digital Rebel (D300), the camera comes to life instantly. The D300 took 2-1/2 seconds to "wake up." That is, when you first turned it on, it would take that long to be ready to shoot. Also, whenever it went to sleep to save power, usually after a minute or two of inactivity, it would again take 2-1/2 seconds to wake up. The XSi, on the other hand, comes alive instantly, both from a cold start and after a period of inactivity. All it takes is a half-press of the shutter button.

I've missed quite a few good shots, especially doing event photography, with the D300 because of the wake-up time. Now, it turns out this isn't something you need to buy the XSi for - each model subsequent to the D300 has had this: the XT, XTi, and now the XSi. It's a function of the improved image processing electronics since the D300.

On the other hand, one thing that is new to the XSi is Auto ISO. This means that I can walk around and the camera figures out, from the lighting conditions, shooting mode, and other factors, where to set the ISO "film speed." Before, I would usually set it at 400 and leave it there; for the sunny morning today, the XSi set it for me at 200. If I had continued taking photos indoors, it would probably have bumped it up for me as necessary. Very cool! This feature is something Nikon has had for a while, and it's about time Canon adopted it (I believed it first showed up in Canon's 40D.)

Savings Bank of Baltimore Building
Door Detail - NationsBank (Baltimore Trust Company Building)

Old Skyscraper, New Skyscraper - Baltimore
Light Street - Baltimore
Inner Harbor - Baltimore
National Aquarium Service Building, Baltimore

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Canon Digital Rebel XSi

After almost five years of using my Canon Digital Rebel (the original model,) I just replaced it with a new Digital Rebel XSi (also called 450D.) Ben now has my hand-me-down Rebel, which still works fine.

I didn't get my hands on my new camera until arriving home from work today, so I charged the battery while I mowed the lawn, had dinner, and then took a few test shots.

Here's one of my first test shots. I wanted to see how well the Image Stabilization (IS) works - and it seems to work fine. This is the whole .jpg, untouched, shot at 1/20 sec and f/7.1 zoomed out to 55mm. This is equivalent to 90mm on 35mm, so normally, you'd want to hand-hold at 1/90 sec or higher, so shooting at 1/20 sec represents about two f-stops. The Auto-ISO function picked ISO 800 for this one.

Here's a 100% crop centered on the point of focus. Bear in mind that this looks much larger than the writing is in real life. Note that you can see the half-tone pattern in the background. I'd say the IS eliminated shake completely.

Here's the classic self-portrait-in-mirror that every photographer, from rank novice to professional, seems compelled to take.

I set the camera for ISO 1600, the camera's highest setting, to see if the images would be usable at this level of sensitivity. In this case, I adjusted levels in Photoshop to improve the color, but I did no sharpening. In general, I'd say this image is very usable. Exposure was 1/40 sec at f/5.7, with the lens at 36mm.

Here's a 100% crop of a portion of the ISO 1600 photo. Notice that even with the levels adjustment, the noise isn't all that bad. Don't forget, if this were an 8x10 print, you'd have to look with a very strong magnifier to see this level of detail.

For comparison, here is a 100% crop where Auto ISO set the ISO at 800. Exposure was 1/16 sec at f/5.7, also at 36mm. Here, I adjusted levels and used unsharp mask to first do contrast sharpening and then general sharpening.

So far, so good! I'll take some real photos over the next few days and report back.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Quackers - Riding the DUKW in Philly

Ben & Leah Going QuackersSandy, Mom and I headed up to Philly yesterday to visit our babies, Leah and Ben (now 26 and 22.) The kids wanted to go on a "Ride the Ducks" tour of Philadelphia for their recent birthdays, so that's what we did.

The "Ducks" are really WWII DUKW amphibious trucks - you can read all about them here. Several cities, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, and Bramson have commerical operations that take people on street-and-water tours. The Philly tour is excellent at 70 minutes long, with 20 minutes in the Delaware river.

DUKW Under Ben Franklin BridgeHere, another DUKW off our starboard bow passes under the Ben Franklin Bridge as we head back to shore. Now, if you imagine the bridge not being there, the DUKW painted in olive drab, the sunshade gone, the DUKW being full of troops instead of tourists, hundreds more DUKWs instead of just the one, the weather being much, much worse, the water much choppier, shells exploding all around, and machine gun fire raking the water, why it would be just like D-Day.

Larry Fine Mural - PhillyAs a child of the late '50s and '60s, I'm a big Three Stooges fan. So you can bet I was impressed when our DUKW tour guide pointed out the birthplace of Louis Feinberg, aka Larry Fine.

Being, to borrow a phrase from John McCain, "old as dirt," I actually saw the stooges, including Larry, live in 1962 at Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore. The Stooges by then were already in their 60's but put on a fully animated show for us kids that, to our delight, showed no respect for their age.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Capitan Miranda

Capitan Miranda - Baltimore Inner HarborCapitan Miranda is a Uraguayan naval training ship currently visiting Baltimore.

Monday, June 9, 2008

That's Southern for Seder...

Andi's Seder TableYes, this post is almost two months late - this seder was on the first night of Passover, April 19th. But I wanted to show off Aunt Andi's seder table - definitely the nicest one I've ever seen.

The exquisite job of napkin-folding was courtesy of my wife, Sandy, who flew down to Birmingham, AL, a day early to help Andi with preparations. The rest of us (Mom, Leah, Ben and I) came down Friday afternoon.

It was a short trip, but worth every second, since we got to see Andi and my Cyber-Uncle Joe, first cousin Brian and his lovely wife Lisa.

Leah and Ben at SederTo mark this as an official seder, Mom supervised the baking of one of her famous mandeltorten; you can see Leah and Ben here as Ben takes a bite. It's amazing - covered with a thick layer of chocolate and raspberry jam between the two layers. The cake itself is made from almond meal, and therefore strictly Kosher for Passover.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Baltimore's Best Street Performer - Charles Lee

Singer Charles Lee - Baltimore Inner HarborOn the way back to the Light Rail tonight, I stopped by the ampitheater at the Inner Harbor to listen to and watch Charles Lee.

I've seen Mr. Lee a few times before here, and he absolutely deserves his title as Baltimore's Best Street Performer.

He performs with a high-end karoke system and top-notch karoke disks (good arrangements, well-performed,) adding his excellent vocal renditions of mostly Motown oldies. There isn't a clunker in his portfolio - they're all classic hits that you gotta just love, and you'll love the way he handles them. In I Can't Get Next To You, he pulls off the neat trick of doing a very credible imitation of each of the five Temptations - quite a vocal range, if you remember that song.

Mr. Lee's website is here.

And if you stop to listen and enjoy him at the Inner Harbor this summer, don't forget to leave a generous tip!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Found Pattern

Pratt Street Tree Grate - Baltimore, MDYes, it's a found pattern, but is it worth anything as a photographic image?

I really liked it when I saw it on the LCD of my Canon A620 digicam. I think I still like it, but I'm not so sure anymore.

I'd appreciate any of your thoughts.

By the way, this is the corner of a metal tree grate within a nicely-paved stretch of East Pratt Street in Baltimore. I was inspired a few years ago to look for photos like this by Carl Root's rust and paint folder on You should check out all of Carl's amazing photos here.