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Mount Washington Hotel 9068 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 21:30

In Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," we experience a concoction of music and breathless primal sounds that swirl around the room, building a dizzying ecstatic sonic orgy via masterful audio mixing.  Envision the producer running the audio mixing board, sweeping the guitar pick scrapes left and right in the stereo mix, over the escalating grunts and moans, then bringing up the level of the drums for the thunderous climax.  Love it or hate it, he precisely mixes, matches, and places the raw ingredients of a multi-track recording into a stereo mix, assembling his vision, and taking us for one hell of a ride.

Photographers too have such tools on their workbench.  Not every song should be as ambitious as "Whole Lotta Love," nor should every photograph be worked with such vigor.  But I often pre-visualize an image as an assemblage of raw ingredients to be mixed into a final product.  This photo of the Mount Washington Resort Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire is such an assemblage.

I deliberately wanted the streaks of the car headlights on the windy road.  That's easy to obtain at night.  But I also wanted detail in the hotel facade and roof, separation between the layers of mountains, detail in the mountain surfaces, and good separation between the mountains and the sky.  All available only  during the day.  I also wanted an indigo sky - not daylight blue or nighttime black.  No combination graduated neutral density filters would isolate the tones of the sky, mountains, roof, siding, window lights, headlight streaks, street lamps, and foreground greenery to map their tones all in a single exposure.  The image I had in mind demanded multiple exposures made at different times of the day. 

I set up on a good sturdy tripod, in a place where I could leave it undisturbed for hours.  That way, I could make my multiple exposures, all in registration, analogous to different instruments on their own audio tracks.

I started shooting exposures at 3:30 on this chilly October afternoon, before the sun went behind the mountains at my back.  This recorded detail in the hotel and mountains.  More shots at dusk recorded the wispy clouds over the mountains and the indigo sky.  As soon as cars started using headlights, I added a 10 stop neutral density filter.  This allowed me to record streaks of headlights a few minutes long, even though the scene was still relatively bright.  As it got darker, I removed the neutral density filter, and continued making exposures.  Lights appeared at various times in the hotel windows.  I recorded several combinations of lit windows.  With all the pre-planned types of exposures recorded, I stopped shooting at 8:15pm.  I'd made more than 100 individual photos, my raw ingredients.

In the digital darkroom, I assembled selected elements of many of these photos by layering them, and masking off the parts where I did not want a contribution from that layer.  For example, I wanted the indigo sky from dusk, so I masked off the bright sky from the mid afternoon images.  Further, I made extensive use of a "lighten" layer blending mode which took only the brightest, unmasked point from each layer.  That built up multiple headlight streaks, and collected all the lit windows from all the frames I used.

In all, this image was made from a selection of about 10 individual photos, layered, masked, and blended to give me the results I had envisioned.

The scene is the Mount Washington Resort Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Mount Jefferson looms in the background, with the slope of Mount Washington to the right of the frame.  Click here for info about obtaining prints or gifts with this image, or to instantly license and download it.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 October 2014 00:03
Inspired Holiday Cards from Artists, Not Box Stores PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 29 November 2013 19:49

It's Christmas card time!  Are you looking for more than the same forgettable look-alike cards from the big box store?

Consider cards offered by independent artists.  The independent artist will only produce passionate artwork.  It will be the finest they have to offer, executed with every bit of skill they can muster, because their pride is on every card.  Their soul is in their work - it will not be an impersonal generic design.

Your town probably has somebody offering cards featuring local interest.  Check your local art gallery.  Or see if an artist that you follow on Facebook or elsewhere on the web may offer designs that will appeal to you.  After all, you do share enough interests that you follow them!

Since cards from independent artists are produced in small quantities, and often on demand, they are sure to be pretty unique!  Your loved ones will not receive this card from multiple people.

By purchasing greeting cards from independent artists, you will encourage them to continue producing art reflecting their unique vision, and thus providing you with choices that are anything but ordinary.  Rather than augmenting a CEO's bonus, the money you spend will benefit the artist.  It will help fund the training, materials, and equipment necessary for them to execute their craft and pursue and share their passion.

I have assembled a gallery of Christmas images, suitable for Christmas cards.  Some are specific to Christmastime on the Outer Banks.  These, or any of my images, are available as high quality greeting cards.  You may order directly from my web gallery.

I would grateful if you chose my work to share with your loved ones.  But whether me, or somebody else, please support a deserving independent artist!

Kite Handler 3485 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Sunday, 25 November 2012 23:04

Silhouette of man handling a large red white and blue kiteEach year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Kitty Hawk Kites presents its annual Kites with Lights festival for residents and visitors to the Outer Banks.  The store staff bring their largest kites to the top of the East Coast's largest sand dune, Jockeys Ridge in Nags Head, NC.  With power generators ready, they fasten Christmas lights to the kites, and send them soaring for an airborne celebration of the start of the Christmas season.

And each year, I climb to the top of Jockeys Ridge, armed with lenses, cameras, and a tripod.  I enjoy capturing images of the backlit kites before the sun sets.  After the sky darkens, I capture time lapse light traces as the Christmas lights dance in the breeze.

Just as I reached the top of the second ridge, about 30 minutes before sunset, I noticed a young man about to pick up a flag-themed kite.  Since he was between me and the low sun, I immediately thought of a silhouette.  As he lifted the kite, the color intensity of the backlit kite struck me.  I got five shots in less than two seconds, then the opportunity was gone.

I didn't set out to make this image.  It just happened when I was in the right spot, but I will take credit for being there with a ready camera, and the vision to see it taking shape.  Luck favors the prepared mind.

It only happens once in a while - where I know I have a killer shot waiting on my memory card.  This was one of those moments.  I made hundreds of images that evening, more backlit kites, more dancing lights.  But those few seconds of the silhouetted young man handling the backlit kite was burned into my mind.

And fortunately, the images that popped onto my monitor when I downloaded the card didn't disappoint.  I succeeded in recording in bits and pixels what I recorded in my mind's eye!

Click the photo for licensing opportunities, or prints or gifts with this image.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 13:27
Making "Nighttime Airshow" PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 16 August 2010 20:42

Light streaks traced by lights on planes in nighttime airshowDuring a nighttime airshow, pilots affix extra lights to their planes and fly aerobatics, just like a daytime show.  The planes disappear into the darkness, glare, and smoke.

A conventional photo of this scene would just show hazy spots of light in the black sky.  I wanted to artistically record the patterns traced by the planes' lights as they fly their maneuvers.

To record some significant activity, it's necessary to use a very wide angle lens, and hold the camera still on a tripod, making an image spanning several minutes.

There are several problems with this approach.

It's difficult to guess exactly where the planes will be flying.  They fly wide patterns, and it'll push the coverage limits of the widest angle lenses.  I had to guess where they may be.  If I exposed for several minutes, it'll be a long time before I can verify my guess at the composition.

It's also necessary to determine the correct exposure.  The exposure of the lights on the ground will be determined by the sensitivity (ISO), the amount of time the shutter is open, and aperture.  The exposure of the light trails is insensitive to the time the shutter is open, since the traces to not overlap for any significant amount of time.  Only sensitivity and aperture matter for the light trails.  These two types of light must be balanced in the final image.  Metering will not work.  Again, it's necessary to guess the exposure. This is a huge problem if each exposure takes minutes, and I must wait to see the results.

With a digital camera, the longer the exposure at a given sensitivity, the more noise there will be in the photo.  This noise looks like a combination of a sandy texture and/or a weak TV station's snowy picture.  With the long exposures necessary to capture some significant airplane light trails, this noise will surely be a problem.

And with a long exposure, I must hope nothing moves between my camera and my subject.

Time was limited.  The show would not go on forever.  There wasn't time for many long exposures.  I had to make them count!

Instead of making one long exposure, I decided to make relatively shorter exposures and combine the results.

I made a couple of exposures to get the camera and lens aimed at the imaginary "aerobatics box" that defines the limits of where the pilots are allowed to safely perform.

I then made a few exposures to determine the correct exposure, capture some significant motion, yet control the noise.  With a bit of watching and lots of airshow experience, I could see that a pilot, depending on the maneuver, needed 30 to 60 seconds to enter my frame, turn, and exit back out.  After a few experiments, I found that at ISO 100, f/5.6 at 30 to 60 seconds appeared to properly expose both the light traces and the ground lights.  I favored the light traces, since the planes would go away, but the ground would be around a bit!  I could later make an exposure to properly record the ground lights, but coincidentally, that was unnecessary. I also knew from experience that my camera was not too bad on noise at ISO 100 up to a minute or so.

With this, I ensured that my autofocus was disabled, and my lens focused at about infinity, as determined by focusing during the test shots.  I set out to make as many exposures as I could of the performers, at about 60 seconds each, ISO 100, and f/5.6.  If the pilot flew out of the frame and wasn't going to return immediately, I ended the exposure early, at about 30 seconds.  I got five such shots, then the show moved to a different phase.

The five exposures I got were rather empty, with just a streak or two in each.  But I could overlap them!  I opened all five in Photoshop, put each on a layer in a new image, and blended them in "lighten" mode.  This took the lightest parts of each photo, effectively using the brightest single exposure of the ground lights, then combining all the light streaks.  Since the camera was locked down on a good tripod for each exposure, they overlapped perfectly.

I did not use in-camera noise reduction.  That technique automatically makes a second exposure, the same length as the previous, energizing the sensor, but not opening the shutter.  That records only the sensor noise.  It then subtracts the second image from the first, removing much of the recurring noise from the first image.  But, the technique doubles the amount of time until the camera is available to make the next shot.  With the show on and the clock running, it was a luxury I could not afford!

With "lighten" blend mode, the lighter parts of the noise in each photo will accumulate in the blended photo.  To minimize this problem, before blending, I applied some noise reduction to each individual image.  Then, just a touch of noise reduction was needed on the final image.

The original images had a biplane parked down the taxiway in the lower right hand corner.  I would have loved for it to be larger and filling that empty spot in the lower left.  Can do in Photoshop!  I extracted the parked plane to its own layer, scaled it up to make it a significant part of the composition, and lowered it in the frame.  It created the illusion that it was parked on a taxiway that is closer than actual.  Then with some patching, I covered and put runway lights where the plane used to be.

I had a good idea what I wanted the image to look like before I started working on shooting it.  I pre-visualized it, and through carefully planned shooting and some digital darkroom work, made it happen with this successful photoillustration.  I pleasingly captured the motion inherent in the show, achieving my goal!

Huge thanks to photographer Kevin Adams.  Several weeks before I made this image, Kevin shared his masterful thinking about nighttime digital photography.  He helped me to see how to conquer the problems and assemble my image.  He saved me many trial and error sessions!  Also thanks to photographer Dan Waters for helping me imagine the results while chatting over eggs and coffee.

Licensing, prints, and gift info available here.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 November 2010 13:45
Memorial PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 31 May 2010 10:05

Headstone at National CemeteryThe memorial headstone of World War II veteran Clarence P Harrison is isolated from the endless but vague repetition of identical shapes.  While we may reflect on Harrison's legacy, we are reminded us of the multitudes that have risked and even lost their lives to defend our country.  National Cemetery, Salisbury, NC.

This image was made with a long telephoto lens.  A telephoto makes the subject appear closer, but also makes items appear closer together, front to back.  It compresses distance.  Using a wide aperture, only a narrow range is in sharp focus, yielding an abstract quality to the other headstones, and calling attention to the one in focus.  A low camera angle permitted several overlapping stones in the composition.  And by carefully selecting what is in my composition, I omitted fences at the cemetery borders, creating the impression that this  pattern of headstones repeats forever.

Please visit my gallery for this and many more exciting images.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 August 2010 23:22
Found Photos and Rimshots PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 05 November 2009 23:08

Sometimes, great photo opportunities just happen.  Too many times, my camera was at home when I stumbled upon a perfect image, and I'd have to settle for recording it in my mind's eye.  I've never found that to be a satisfying substitute.  Have you?

Pattern in a row of bicyclesI now try to bring a camera and a lens or two with me every time I leave the house.  Even to buy shoes.  How exciting a photo can you make on a shoe buying trip?

Sharing the building with the shoe store is vacation equipment rental agency, stocking everything from blenders for that poolside margarita, to beach umbrellas.  And right next to where I parked my truck was a rack of rental bicycles.  The rack forced the bikes into a pattern.  Not being perfectly aligned, and some suffering a little "use" by tourists, the pattern of bicycle headstocks and tires had an organic feel to its rhythm.  But there, in that long row of orange and red bikes, somebody placed the green one, breaking the pattern.  A cool tone among that pattern of warm tones.  A rimshot in the rhythm.  And it's what made my image catchy.  It just wouldn't have been the same without that break in the pattern!

Sing along with me.
One of these things is not like the others.
One of these things just doesn't belong.

A perfect photo found me.  And this time, my camera wasn't home in the closet.

This image is offered for sale at http://gallery.danbeauvais.com/p/details/bicycles5009-13tmdisplay_10.


Last Updated on Thursday, 12 August 2010 23:31
Light Dance PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 13 July 2009 22:36

Photo of lights on kite strings tracing patterns in timeHave you ever daydreamed about sending lights into the sky to watch the effect?  The folks at Kitty Hawk Kites share that dream in a holiday treat for the Outer Banks!  Every year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the company rigs the leads of their biggest kites with strings of Christmas lights.  They haul the kites and several portable power generators to the top of the east coast's tallest sand dune, Jockey's Ridge.  As the sun goes down, they turn on the lights, and let the kites elevate them for a dance in the sky.  The wind and clever kite handlers choreograph the movement high over Nags Head, NC.  Bundled up against the November wind, residents and visitors climb the dune, or watch from parking lots or from the side of Routes 158 and 12, enjoying the holiday spectacular, Outer Banks style.

While fun to watch in real time, further magic is revealed when you can witness the patterns the lights make over time.  This photo was made with a camera held steady on a tripod, and the image exposed for 15 seconds.  Each bulb from the string of the Christmas lights on four kite leads traced its web-like path during the 15 second exposure, allowing us to see how them moved.

More info about this image can be found here.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 August 2010 23:40
Making "Inside The Pipe" PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Sunday, 15 February 2009 00:33

Inside The PipeSometimes, you find photos in the most unexpected places.

One afternoon right after Christmas, I had to drive to Nags Head for an errand.  Whenever I have time, I take the Beach Road rather than the Bypass.  Sure, the Bypass is quicker, with the 50 MPH speed limit generally ignored.  But, one can take the time to notice life along the slower, two lane Beach Road.  Since it's off-season, there was hardly any traffic, great for just looking around at how some things change, but some stay the same.

Along the way, I had to stop for a road construction project.  A crew was installing a new water main alongside the road, and flagmen restricted travel to one lane, alternating northbound and southbound traffic.  While waiting for the flagmen to wave me through, I noticed that there were stacks of 16" blue plastic water pipe in a beach parking lot on the east side of the road.

After I was allowed to proceed, I noticed more stacks of this big blue plastic pipe in other parking lots, waiting for the crew to reach that section of the road.  At some point, it hit me to pull over and try to make a photographic something of the patterns of pipe ends.

A stack of 16 inch plue plastic water pipesA composition of partial circles formed by pipe endsA composition of partial circles formed by pipe endsOn this day, I had an 18-200/3.5-5.6 Vibration Reduction lens, my favorite walk-around lens, but no tripod.  The pipe ends were staggered, so I needed some longer depth of field.  With the VR on, I closed down to a smaller aperture to get that depth of field, and bumped up the ISO to allow me to use a fast enough shutter speed to avoid most blur. I tried a few compositions of the circles of the pipe ends.  It was ok, but not exciting.

Rain droplets cling to the bottom of a blue plastic water pipe in a stackWhat could I do with the outside of the pipe?  One end of each pipe was flared, and had a nice Coke bottle curve to it.  And water droplets clung after the rain the previous night.  Nice, but without a tripod, I was struggling to get enough depth of field to keep everything in sharp focus, front to back.  Wasn't enough in the photo to make it work.

Variations of tone on the inside of a 16 inch water pipeWhile walking around, looking for inspiration, I noticed the variations of tone on the inside of the pipe!  Now, that was cool! I played for many minutes.  Depending on the focal length I chose, I could change the apparent distance to the "light at the end of the tunnel."  Water droplets from the rain formed a leading line to the light.  But again, depth of field was a struggle.  I simply had to come back another time soon, with a tripod.

A few days later, I had the luxury of a full day to devote to making photos.  After driving 90 minutes, I arrived at Cape Hatteras Light before dawn, and shot the sun rising behind the lighthouse.  I slowly worked my way back north, exploring pull outs, side roads, and dune walkovers.  I shot patterns of repeating cottage soffits in Hatteras.  I worked some kite boarders in Canadian Hole.  I shielded my eyes and gear as the day's fierce winds sandblasted everything east of the dune line.

By late afternoon I was back on Beach Road in Nags Head, then Kill Devil Hills.  And there were the pipes again.  I had a tripod this time, and a full complement of lenses.  I took another look in those pipes.  Looked in the end nearest the road, the low afternoon sun cast my indiscernible shadow down the length of the pipe.  Wasn't working.

Gold light form late afternoon sin reflected in a 16 inch blue water pipeWalking to the other end of the pipes, that low, late afternoon sun became magic!  The inside of those blue pipes reflected the sun in golden colors.  A ridged texture was apparent because of the micro-shadows cast by this low-angle light.  Each pipe had a different look, depending whatever was beyond the end of it.  And as luck would have it, there were multiple stacks of these pipes, end to end.  In some cases, beyond the end of the pipe were more pipes!  The blue circles of the ends of the next pipes were a stark (and complementary) contrast to the golden light!  Now it was happening!

I like this vertical composition, to the right here.  But I especially like the horizontal composition that opens this article.  The blue circles of the ends of the next stack of pipes is well defined, and creates a fortuitous center of interest to the shot.  It's the horizontal, which I call "Inside the Pipe" that I've presented in the Details section of my photo gallery.

I took away two lessons from this subject.  Don't forget to look from a bunch of angles and viewpoints.  And if the light isn't working one day, try again another.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 August 2010 10:41

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