FALLS AND FALLEN FARMS

Our South Jersey Camera Club recently organized a weekend field trip to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.  Aside from the great camaraderie we also enjoyed working several scenic locations.

We began with Dingman’s Falls which is up a road west of Dingman’s Ferry on U.S. 209. The road leads to a visitors’ center where the trail to the falls begins.  One curmudgeonly observation: Why can’t the destinations be closer to the parking areas? It’s always, “Oh, we’ll park here and then it’s only a mile in.”  I pack at least fifteen pounds of camera, lenses, tripod, filters, spare battery, water, and etc. and those one mile hikes seem much longer.  On several of the field trips I’ve taken with pros I’ve always suggested caddys.

But, I get there eventually. Our first stop, Dingman’s Falls, seen here, wasn’t showing in its best light. There was too much sun and too bright a sun, causing too much contrast between lighted and shadow area. It then becomes a post-processing challenge which requires software either to resolve multiple images with different exposures, or for judicious post-processing of single images.* Never mind all that, it’s still a dramatic scene.

Image 01

 

I first photographed Dingman’s in the summer of 2008.  Maybe the lower left was dark then, too, because I focused just on the upper third as shown here.  I also chose a 1/4” exposure then, providing the creamy look in contrast to last month’s exposure of 1/64″.

Image 09

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There is something to be said for both of the above images but I seem to gravitate towards the scene-filling milky water.

From Dingman’s we headed up 209 to the Raymondskill Falls area.  Without my caddy I didn’t go all the way down to photograph the main falls.  There was, however, running water and cascades along the way.  I enjoyed sitting on the edge of the embankment and shooting into the water on its way down.

Image 02

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We finished up the late afternoon in the Childs Recreation site which features … guess what … more falls.  By now I was somewhat desperate for an interesting falls scene; I spotted this and brought it home.

Image 03

 

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A late, great dinner at the Apple Valley Family Restaurant in charming Milford  finished the day.

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The next morning we were out early in search of fallen farms.  In the late 50’s Congress initiated a project to dam the Delaware near Tocks Island, north of the Delaware Water Gap.  The primary purpose was for flood control but also for power generation and water supply.  Over the ensuing years the government acquired a great deal of land on both shores of the Delaware, in part land that would be flooded by backing up the river, and in part for recreational area.  The projected 37 mile-long lake project was vigorously opposed by residents and environmental activists and, as a result, by the states’ governors, and it was disapproved in the 70’s and reviewed and rejected again in ’97.  In 2002 it was officially de-authorized.

Our day would take us to three of the old farms, alive and productive before Tocks Island but now fading and deteriorating.  Here was the first … foreboding and squishy from the previous night’s rain and morning mists.  I was drawn first to the remaining wall of the old barn.

The barn that was.

The barn that was.

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The night’s rain and the morning mist gathered as droplets on the rambler rose branches which were just beginning to sprout leaves, the drops capturing the trees beyond them.

Image 06

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The early morning light on this deserted place of former life led me to see these trunks in a dark way.

The hanging tree.

The hanging tree.

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At this point I felt a compelling need to think about and plan the rest of my shots here.  A colleague captured my meditation.  (After all, we had started at 6:00.)

Image 12

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Moving on, another forgotten farm included this left-behind, peeling canoe.  How many happy times was this enjoyed on the Delaware?

Image 10

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Our final farm visit was to the Zimmerman Farm, the summer home from 1944 of the New York City artist, Marie Zimmerman.  The farmland was originally acquired by her father in 1882 and she grew up there, frequently camping and fishing alone.  The family home on the property is being maintained and some of the farm buildings remain although they are under siege.  (This was another of those spots where we parked and walked “Only about a mile in.”)

The invasion of the vines.

The invasion of the vines.

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The pig barn stands although the doors and windows are memories as are the pigs.

Image 11

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There is a gallery of these and other images from the trip.  Click here.

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*[A tech note on image processing. Cameras don’t produce good (for viewing) images right out of the sensor. Although there are several million pixels worth of detail the camera still has to integrate all their outputs to make some sense of the scene. Most cameras will produce a so-called jpeg image which is the result of applying internal software to the colors and to the brightness and sharpness of the pixels. For point-and-shoots the results are enjoyable and that’s good because there isn’t any alternative. For Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras, however, one may choose to shoot in the so-called raw mode, or raw plus jpeg. The raw mode captures all the signal from each pixel such that the original image data can be processed by a raw editor in one’s PC. The raw file is unchanged by this processing and is always available for re-editing later if desired.]

FOCUS STACKING FUN

SPOILER ALERT:  This is a techy post aimed at my fellow gear-head photographers.  No landscapes but, hey, there’s a couple of flower pictures.

I experimented with focus stacking this past weekend and I’m psyched about the results.  A colleague, Mike Riddle, gave a presentation on this a few years ago at a camera club meeting.  It was impressive but not enough to become a part of my life.  Now, that’s changed.  Too bad I can’t remember what he said.

Focus stacking is a procedure in which one takes several shots of a scene, each focused on a farther part of the scene.  Software is then used to blend the several images into one in which the entire scene from front to back is in sharp focus.  The technique is applicable to closeups as below, or meadow-to-mountain landscapes.

Camera lenses are able to render some or all of a scene in fine focus depending on the scene, the aperture, the distance to the elements in the scene, and the lens and its quality.  (The aperture is the opening  through which the light from the scene enters the camera.)  Depending on all of these factors there will be a range that will be well-to-perfectly focused but beyond which the image will be soft to fuzzy.  The in-focus range is called the depth-of-field, abbreviated as DOF.  In general the smaller the aperture (i.e. the higher the f/ stop number) the greater the DOF.  The DOF is also shortened as the focal length of the lens is increased as with telephoto lenses, and as the magnification is increased as with macro lenses.

A long DOF is usually desirable with scenic landscapes; a shorter DOF can provide a pleasantly fuzzy background in certain shots which are emphasizing something in the foreground.  That fuzzy or blurry background is referred to as bokeh (bo’-kah where the second syllable rhymes with hah!)

The first image below was not focused-stacked.  It is a single exposure made at f/16 through a 100 mm macro lens.  It’s not bad as far as sharpness but you should be able to sense some softness on both the closest and farthest petals.

_MG_9026 f-16 unstacked 680

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Next below is the result of stacking six shots of the scene at f/8.  In each shot I focused on a “plane” farther into the scene.  When the rear petals were in focus I stopped shooting.  I then loaded the images into Photoshop (CS5) and used Edit/Auto Align Layers and Edit/Auto Blend layers.  The result surprised me with its punch and clarity from front to back.  The white edges on the petals suggest some sharpening.  Not so.  They are naturally slightly white at the edges as revealed by the sharp focusing.  As witness a couple of insect holes here and there, there was no post-processing of the blended image.

Stacked 9027-32 680

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I used my CamRanger to help me determine the starting plane and the end plane.  CamRanger is plugged in to my camera and connects to my tablet thru a wi-fi connection.  An app on the tablet enables me to see the live view from the camera.  Focusing controls in the app enable me to determine the starting and ending planes.  Within the app I then select the number of shots I need for the focus increments I decide on, and I then initiate the sequence.

Now, do you need a CamRanger and a tablet with a control app?  Absolutely not.  If you have a good eye you can selectively focus within the scene.  If you have live view on your camera it makes it much easier and provides better control.  Set the focus to sharpen the nearest elements and fire the shutter;  then focus on the next farther plane and shoot and continue as many times as needed to get the farthest elements in focus.  How many planes?  As many as you find you need in order to get everything sharp in the scene.

Do you need Photoshop?  No, but it helps.  You’d need at least editing software that supports layers, one for each image plane.  Without Auto Align and Auto Blend tools you’d have to figure out how to do these manually with masks and brushes.  There are several programs dedicated to blending stacked images, including a couple of freeware packages.

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Here’s another pair for a closeup of a single flower.  Both images were shot at f/8 with the 100mm macro lens.  The second, however, is the product of four stacked focus images.  The resolution is compromised for web display.  On my monitor and on a print one can see the hairs around the style (i.e. the tube from the pistil) at the flower’s throat.

_MG_8964 680

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Stacked 8964-67 680

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I’m looking forward to trying focus stacking on landscapes.

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