Too Late for Fall Color? Catoctin Furnace, Thurmont, Maryland

I've been in a slump and a funk for quite some time because, other than my recent trip to New York for PhotoPlus Expo, I haven't made a photograph in months. I've barely even taken a picture! So it was decided that, no matter that I played a gig last night and didn't get home until after three, I would be getting up early to go make some photographs. I decided, too, that the direction headed would be west, to the area around Thurmont, Maryland, and one of my subject choices would be pretty uncharacteristic for me: fall color, assuming there was any left. The other "target" was to try to shoot some of the waterfalls in the area.

I managed to get up by 7:00, with surprisingly little difficulty. After I got myself ready to go, I dragged Donna out of bed, informed her that she would be "kidnapped," and that she needed to get ready to go. And, we were out the door by around 9AM. We stopped a couple times along the way to Thurmont, but once there, we spent our time at the Catoctin Furnace, and on the nearby walking trail.

Here are my results from the day:

A few shots are of particular interest:

First, it seems to be a requirement of nature/landscape photographers to get a picture of a yellow leaf. Maybe it's even the law. I don't know. At any rate, here's a yellow(wish) leaf:

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It's heavily backlit, so it looks more orange than yellow. But orange contains yellow. So there it is. Really, though, I think that being limited to only yellow leaves is somehow discriminatory against other-colored leaves. So, in the interest of at least a little bit of equality, I felt it important to include a red one:

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For the purists, it should be known that I did not place the red leaf. That's just how I found it.

Seriously, though, we saw a gorgeous Pileated Woodpecker at work on a dead tree. Of course, neither of us had the correct lens at the ready, and by the time I even got my bag open, the bird had ducked into a hole in the tree. Apparently, Sunday is interior decorating day for woodpeckers, because he/she/it commenced to banging away inside the tree. When we held our hand on the side of the tree, we could feel the banging! Very cool, and something we'd never experienced before!

After leaving the furnace, we took the road up around the State Park in search of places to shoot waterfalls. While we saw a couple of likely candidates, there were no places to pull over. So, we decided to head into Cunningham Falls State Park. Apparently, everyone else in the area had the same idea, because the place was mobbed! We decided that we'd save waterfalls for another day, and started home, sorta, by way of Blue Ridge Summit and Gettysburg, PA. We had a nice drive, but didn't stop anywhere else to shoot. And, by the time we got close to home, I was beat! Getting only three-and-a-half hours of sleep and finally caught up with me.

For the techies: Of course, everything was taken with my Fujifilm X-E1. For most of the shots, I used the excellent XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens, although I did use the old Mamiya-Sekor 55mm f/1.8 on a few. For a lens made in 1968, there's still a lot of magic there! Everything here was processed in Lightroom CC 2015.

Monochrome on the Shore

We drove across Maryland's Eastern Shore this morning. The sky was dull and overcast and sullen, spitting rain and cold. In short, it wasn't a day for taking pretty pictures. Still, we finally stopped and detoured a little and made the best of it. I'm wishing now I'd made a few more detours.

All of today's images were captured with the Fujifilm X10, and edited with either Photos or Snapseed on my iPhone 5.

At The Zoo

They tell me it's all happening at the zoo,I do believe it, I do believe it's true...

On Sunday, we went to join an iPhone meetup group for a photo walk at the National Zoo in Washington. While  I did shoot with the iPhone, I also shot a lot with the Fujifilm X-E1.

Here are my iPhone shots:

There are a lot of times I find using the iPhone camera(s) to be really frustrating. It's great for shooting when you can get in tight, or when you're looking to get a landscape, or for quick grab shots of friends in a pub, or for quick documentation. And using it to take pictures and "mess them up" is a lot of fun. But, dang it, there's a reason for interchangeable lenses -- or cameras with decent in-built zooms.

Here are my shots with the Fujifilm X-E1:

All of the shots were with the XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS, although I did use the XF 18-55 f/2.8-4 R LM OIS for other shots where appropriate.

Shooting at a zoo can be a significant challenge, as often, the animals are far away. In a lot of zoos, especially for smaller animals, the old-style barred enclosures have given way to natural barriers and fences with a relatively tight "weave." This is especially true for birds. While we can tend to look through without noticing, our cameras cannot. The trick is to get the lens as close to the fence as possible, and hope for some good separation between the fence and the subject. Even so, the fence or screen often has the effect of reducing contrast in our pictures. Finally, in a lot of cases, the backgrounds for the enclosed animals is, necessarily, less than attractive.

I continue to be impressed with the quality of the 55-230. The sharpness and contrast, coupled with its superb image stabilization, make it a great go-to lens for me. The only gripe I think I have is that when moving in and out of aperture priority mode, I have to scroll through all the aperture to reach the "A" setting. It's a little more cumbersome than on the XF lenses with aperture rings, because the control is not as readily accessible. Maybe if Fujifilm could release a firmware update that allowed the scroll wheel "push" to be set up to jump between the manually selected aperture and "A", or maybe allow it to be set on another button...

Westminster Memorial Day Parade

Captured today with the Fujifilm X-E1 and either the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.8 or the XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7.

Fuji X-E1 First Shot

20140401-DSCF0022 Shopping at B&H is probably the next best thing to supporting a local camera shop. I ordered my new Fujifilm X-E1 on Monday at around 3:30 in the afternoon, and last night, I was sitting at my kitchen table, eating dinner and fooling around setting the camera up.

The picture is certainly no award-winner, but I was just wanting to see what real-life, crappy lighting conditions could yield. The image is a JPEG straight from the camera, including the 1:1 crop. The only thing I did in Lightroom was to add the copyright, and re-size to 1080 pixels for the blog.

The picture itself won't win any awards. But it does demonstrate how usable an image the camera can make in bad lighting at ISO 3200.

Fujifilm X-E1, ISO 25,600, 1/100, f/4, 55mm

For giggles and grins, I did take one image at the camera's maximum ISO of 25,600. The result was an image that probably wouldn't hold up to print, but would be okay for web use (the thumbnail is gorgeous, and the enlarged image looks better than my Sony at ISO 6400). In other words, I should not be afraid to really push the ISO with this camera, as I have been with all of my previous cameras. While most of my work won't call for doing that, it's nice to know I can if I need to.

Fujifilm X-E1, in-camera double-exposure

And, here's another cool thing: I can now do double-exposures in-camera! I haven't been able to do this since I stopped shooting film. Actually, the last camera I had that I could do a double-exposure with (if you don't count Hipstamatic on the iPhone) was my Canon AE-1! I don't necessarily have a lot of use for it, but I could conceivably create "Orton images" in camera, which could be fun.