Mordor Condos

This is some early morning light coming in from the east. An overactive imagination would say those are condos from Mordor. Not that I have an overactive imagination.

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Mordor Condos
Dramatic light and clouds over a condo on the Manatee River in Bradenton, Florida

I’m usually up early, but I’m busy going to the gym and getting dressed, not necessarily in that order. But often I’ll manage to look east and see some fantastic light. The problem is I’m too wrapped up in the daily routine to do anything about it, like stop and take a picture.

see the sunset/sunrise gallery

But this time it was a Saturday, and I met a friend, and I didn’t have to go to the gym. I’ve been sitting on this image, but now it’s starting to grow on me; if for no other reason than the light and drama it holds. And, after a week of daily routines, I could use a little drama.

Cool Hot Tub

In the solarium is this cool hot tub. I took this on the last night when everyone was in their rooms packing.

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Cool Hot Tub
From the solarium on Royal’s Symphony of the Seas

Even when the ship is completely booked, it’s large enough to find quiet spots if you know where to look. The solarium with its cushy lounge chairs and the Vintages wine bar are my favorite spots.

architecture photography from the gallery

For this shot, I used a 12mm wide-angle lens and mounted the camera on the ground with a Platypod. The Platypod is like a tripod for low perspectives. This is a long-exposure that would have been difficult to shoot any other way. With the Platypod it was a breeze.

Lost Lagoon

On one side of Lost Lagoon is Stanly Park and on the other is the big city of Vancouver. You can walk from woods to towers in about ten minutes.

Lost Lagoon
Lost Lagoon
There is nothing “lost” about this lagoon in Vancouver, BC.

The name “Lost Lagoon” comes from a poem written by Pauline Johnson and laments how she lost the use of the lagoon for canoeing when the tide was out. I looked up that bit of trivia, so now we all know the origins of the name. The lagoon is now a lake cut off from the bay, so presumably, you can canoe without worrying about the tides.

more from Vancouver in the gallery

Usually I might try to frame a shot like this using the rule of thirds, but in this case, the reflections produce a beautiful symmetry. In my mind its a kind of urban dreamscape.

Summer in Wisconsin

I know it’s the middle of winter now, but all the more reason to look longingly back on the days of summer. This is a friends house in Wisconsin.

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Summer in Wisconsin
A summer scene at a former horse ranch in Wisconsin

On our summer holiday, my wife and I drove up from Florida. It was July, and we thought we’d get a break from the heat. Silly idea; it was just as hot and humid as way back in Florida. We even had several thunderstorms that rolled in and out, just like back home.

see the landscape gallery here

This used to be a horse ranch, but Dave and Janey have since retired. There’s a large barn and still a few horses on the property, but mostly it’s surrounded by farmland and these idyllic rolling hills. We enjoyed our time here and now have a new appreciation for Wisconsin. I even did a little video for them with my drone so they can use it if they ever decide to sell and move south.

Pigeon Portrait

Here’s a common pigeon from Plaça de Catalunya in the heart of Barcelona. It’s a fun place to watch the craziness in all directions.

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Pigeon Portrait
A common pigeon in Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya.

It had just rained, and that’s when the reflections are best. I used the Platypod to get a low perspective and shot this at f2.0 which creates big colorful bokeh balls in the background. It’s a technique generally used in portraits, so I guess this we could consider this a bird portrait.

more birds from the gallery

The pigeons are used to people feeding them they’ll come right up. They have almost no fear of humans. A little boy next to me caught one in his hands and then released it. I only had the desire to capture one with my camera. I got several shots, but I think this is my favorite.

St Marks Water Level

Walking back to the ferry late at night I stopped in St Marks Square to capture reflections. To get this shot, I held the camera right above the water.

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St Marks Water Level
Taken at water level in Venice, Italy

Nowadays, days I use a Playpod which is similar to a tripod with a small base you attach to the camera. The first time I saw it I didn’t know what to think, but I’ve had it for a few months now, and I take it everywhere. I like doing low perspective shots, and the Platypod excels at that, and it saves both time and the camera body. Before, I would use whatever I had in hand like a strap or iPhone to prop the lens up, and that takes time and patience to get it right. But the Playpod it’s like having a mini tripod at ground level.

more from the gallery

Anyway, we had a late meal along the canals and walking back there were fewer people than during the day. The next time I go back, I’ll probably sleep all day and walk around taking photos all night. And you can be sure I’ll be carrying my trusty Platypod.

Hometown AI

I hope you don’t mind if I use a little AI in my sunset photos, I certainly don’t.

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Hometown AI
A sunset from my hometown of Palmetto, Florida

I did a bit of processing on this to bring up the shadows and reduce the highlights, I do that quite a lot. One thing that’s a little new, however, is that I’ve started using artificial intelligence (AI) software. The AI is in Luminar 3 from Skylum. As AI gets better, it shortens the time it takes to get good results out of a photo. These days, AI is increasingly being built into everything, including your phone and camera. Computational photography is where we’re heading.

visit the sunset gallery

What AI does is interpret scenes for us and then make choices on how to improve it. It’s not always right, but it’s getting better. Sometimes it’s no help, but more often than not it gets a bunch of stuff right. I then fill in the gaps with the vision that I had in my head, but the AI helped get me off to a good start. It’s like having an apprentice do the prep work before you begin mixing the magic brew. I suppose that as long as the sorcerer’s apprentice doesn’t get too carried away, it should be all good.

The Swamp

This swamp is in Florida and is a good thing, meaning we don’t want to drain it; instead, we want to protect it as a national resource.

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The Swamp
An image from the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida

The swamps, marshes, and bogs are quite beautiful. I did not expect I’d ever consider the swamp as beautiful before visiting, I was wary of what I might find. But once inside, I was struck by its vastness, rich biodiversity, and remoteness.

my favorites from the gallery

I am not a naturalist and know very little about the ecosystem of the Big Cypress National Preserve, but if you want to know more, one recommendation is to visiting Clyde Butcher’s site. Not only is he a passionate advocate for maintaining our natural habitats, but his photographic legacy is considered a national treasure.

Village Across the Water

This is the back side of Bradenton Beach, the front side is, uh, a beach.

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The village of Bradenton Beach as seen from across the inter-coastal waterway.
The village of Bradenton Beach as seen from across the inter-coastal waterway. 

The little beach town is surrounded by water because it sits on Anna Maria Island. The back side faces the intercoastal waterway and is the place where all the boats dock. It’s also where you’ll find a lot of fun things to explore, like restaurants, galleries, and fishing piers; not to mention other little villages like Cortez.

more from Anna Maria Island in the gallery

I shot this picture at water level using a Platypod on a remarkably calm night; usually, there’s a little chop. This is also a prolonged, thirteen-second exposure, so it makes the water appear even smoother. Then I stretched the lights a little downwards to accentuate them. But at the end of the day, if you squint your eyes a little, this is exactly what you would see on most evenings along the inter-coastal waterway. But if that doesn’t float your boat, there is always the beach on the other side.

Dawn on Deck

Every morning the ship’s crew hoses down the deck before sunrise. It’s the perfect time to capture reflections.

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Reflections on a freshly washed deck before sunrise aboard Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas.
Reflections on a freshly washed deck before sunrise

This is another shot where I used the Platypod. Doing so enables me to include the textures of the deck in the composition. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s a slightly unusual perspective that adds a little something extra.

more travel photography

I took a ton of these types of photos. I would post them all, but that would get pretty boring. Be forewarned though, I will post at least one or two more. But, if you like this kind of thing, then it’s cool, if not, I’m sorry in advance.