Steal Nothing But Photographs
25Jun/160

Vancouver BC (Street Photography):

Vancouver is definitely very walking/cycling friendly, a trait that I envy. I would love to ride my bike to work and live in a city that was so connected and less sprawling than St. Louis. There are a ton of little treasures found while walking around the city.  Take this little building I found while walking back to the Fairmont from Stanley park. It was screaming for a high contrast black and white and the Leica didn't fail me.

Glass Houses (Leica M240, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/250th second through Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM

I'm a fan of geometry and I love to find a structure with a ton of it and just tilt the camera. Here is a great example:

Symmetry (Leica M240, ISO200, F/2.8, 1/500th second through Zeiss 28mm F/2.8 ZM)

The one thing that Vancouver is not lacking is odd geometry and awesome structural creativity. Sometimes its fun to just look "UP". Here is a great example.

Look Up (Leica M240, ISO20, f/2.8, 1/1500th second through Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM)

I have a friend that shoots a lot of street photography and his mantra is, "Always shoot a fountain when you find one". Here is my "Fountain" shot:

Always Shoot The Foutain (Leica M240, ISO200, f/8, 1/90th second through Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM)

It may seem cliche for a photog but I love the contrast of an "Old" structure reflected in the windows of a "NEW" structure. When I see it I always have to shoot it. When I can incorporate organic help from a tree its instant awesome:

Old and New (Leica M240, ISO200, f/8, 1/180th through Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM)

When your walking and you see a funky "Space Needle-ish-thingy" you gotta shoot it. and when its just peeking its head through the other structures with trees its perfect. Convert it to high contrast black and white and you nailed it.

Space Needle-Ish-Thingy (Leica M240, ISO200, f/8, 1/180th second through Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM)

Photogs Note:

I am LOVING the Leica. There is something about the manual focus viewfinder that I find forces me to take my time. Manual focus is more work but with the D3s I find myself rolling in, pounding out a bracket of images from -5 to +5 EV and running to the next shot. It's the "Assault Camera" and practically requires a background check before you take it with you. The Leica is my "Art" camera and quickly becoming my favorite. Incidentally, all the B&W images are converted using NIK Silver Efex Pro 2, which is owned by Google or some shit now. Make sure you click on the images to see them in all their full size glory on your monitor.

Until the next image theft,

Enjoy!

24May/150

Jefferson Barracks (Digital Fine Art):

So its been ages since I posted on the blog. SEVEN months to be exact. Its hard to believe that something that was such a part of me has taken a back burner to other things. Its not that I haven't been engaged in photography. Lord knows that I have taken almost 7,000 images during that time, none of which were for me. Nothing artistic that inspired me to write about it. Until today....

Reverence of the Fallen (D3s, ISO200, HDR, f/5, 29mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

This single gravestone caught my attention and I immediately visualized the above image. A simple sepia with the colors of the flag peeking through under the contrast of the amazing God Sky. There was something about how the wind had wrapped the fallen Veterans flag around the side of the stone. It ever so lightly touched the blue and white roses of his Spouses flowers, similar to how a young soldier might lovingly touch his wife's cheek for the last time before he left home to die for his country.  It compelled me to sit down in the grass, on the edge of the sunlight, where I quickly and quietly shot the 5 images that make up the picture above.  Make sure you click on it with your mouse to experience it full size on your monitor.

 

Memorial Day Preparations by the Boy Scouts at Jefferson Barracks:

For 66 years (since 1949) the St. Louis Area Boy scouts have placed a single flag at the base of each grave stone on this hollowed ground. Today, over 4900 people walked quietly and reverently through this National Cemetery and showed their respects for the fallen through this solemn act honoring their sacrifice.  It was an amazing experience.....

Honoring the Colors (D3s, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/4000sec, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70.

You can check out all the images I shot today HERE:

I promise not to stay away so long.

Until the next image theft,

Enjoy!

20Feb/140

The High Desert (Sedona Red Rock):

Last weekend the family and I traveled to Phoenix for a baptism and we took a quick trip up to Sedona for some Jeep riding fun on the Broken Arrow Trail.  I purposely wanted to be there at sundown so I could capture the red rock flat top mesa's with the proper light.  The first image I shot right out of the camera from the Jeep was of the "Twisted Sisters", two trees screwed right out of the ground by the fabled Sedona Vortex Energy.  I thought they would be cool in Black and White so I didn't even mess with looking at them in color:

Twisted Sisters (D3S, ISO200, f/3.2, 1/320th, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8)

The light was fading fast and nothing is sweeter than direct warm light right on the red rocks of Sedona. Except maybe a handheld 5 exposure HDR image of those rocks!

Red Rock of Sedona (D3s, ISO200, f/3.2, HDR, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

The View From Submarine Rock (D3s, ISO200, f/6.3, HDR, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

Cupcake Rock (D3s, ISO400, f/6.3, HDR, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

Sedona at Sunset (D3s, ISO800, f/6.3, 66mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

And the final image was of a Tree I believe our driver referred to as the Persistence Tree. This poor creature was thousands of years old, had been struck by lightning thousands of years ago, and was still hanging in there. It was screaming B&W as well to finish off the set.

Persistence Tree (D3s, ISO800, f/3.2, 1/100th, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

Remember to click on the images above to view them full size on your monitor. You'll be glad you did!

Until the next theft (Most Likely New York City).

Enjoy!

14Jun/130

Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Image Restoration):

I grabbed an old army image of my Uncle Bill Wayne off of facebook and restored it.  He was killed by mortar fire in Vietnam years before I was born and I never had the pleasure of meeting him.  Everything I have heard about him has been that he was an amazing young man that served his country with the same passion and commitment that he had for his family.  I figured that such an amazing young man that was taken from us too soon in the prime of his life deserved a picture that was not weathered and aged.  It was an honor to restore his photograph.  Spending an hour with him at my PC made me feel as though I almost know him, even though we never met.

God Bless you Uncle Bill Wayne.

Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Fallen Hero / Paratrooper) Restored

Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Fallen Hero / Paratrooper) Before

Photoshop is such an amazing tool!

I hope you enjoy!

11Mar/130

Strathalbyn Road (B&W Fine Art):

The other day I had an event planning meeting at a wonderful private shooting club called Strathalbyn. I'll be doing shoot there in the spring for a Sporting Clays event brochure for the Saint Louis Council of Construction Consumers (SLCCC) so stay tuned! On the way out, I stole the following image of the road leaving the farm for the forgotten roads series. I knew I was going to convert it to black and white and do some Tilt-Shift effect so I setup for it. I wanted kind of a different crop for the road and tree and here is the result:

Strathalbyn Road (D3S, ISO200, HDR, f/9@18mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

I took a bracket of 9 images, imported them into Nik HDR Efex Pro 2.0 and then converted it to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. To get the Tilt/Shift effect I used OnOne's Focal Point 2.1 and tweaked the image until I got the balance of blur and contrast I wanted.

Enjoy!

20Feb/130

John Hancock Building (B&W):

A trip to Chicago is not complete without having brunch at the Signature Room of the Hancock Building. This trip was no exception!  On the way in it was absolutely freakin' polar and I managed to snag this handheld 5 image HDR exposure from the base of the tower.  I was pretty happy with how sharp it turned out considering a couple of the images were at around 1/20th of a second in wind gusts of 20 miles per hour! I got one chance to frame it and nail it. The family was not interested in standing around waiting on my artistic juices to flow. Although, as cold as it was it would have been more like an artistic slushy!

Hancock Building

Hancock Building (D3S, ISO200, f/10, HDR, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

Remember to click on it to view it full size on your monitor! This image was a 5 exposure HDR processed in NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 and converted to B&W in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2. Two minutes of processing for my signature black and white look....

The view from up top is just as impressive!  The tall tower in middle is the Trump tower and the Willis (Sears) Tower is on the far right.  This shot was from our table.  I didn't even have to get up to see that!

Signature View

Signature View (D32, ISO200, f/10, 1/30th, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

Enjoy!

12Nov/120

Lost Soldiers (Thank You Veterans):

I haven't had an opportunity to just "GO SHOOT" in several months.  I thought Veterans Day would be a perfect time to make an excuse to shoot a few images and to pay tribute to the fallen.  I shot the following image at the Veterans Memorial in O'Fallon.  I thought that Black and White would be the best media to do it justice....

The Lost Soldiers

The Lost Soldiers (D3s, ISO200, 24mm @ f/2.8 through Nikkor 14-24mm, HDR)

There have been numerous family members who have served and fallen. This photograph is a tribute to all of them....

Remember to click on the image with your mouse to experience it full size on your monitor!

Enjoy

4Jul/120

The Lovers Nook in Seiwa-en (B&W Fine Art)

In continuation of my photographic study in the Japanese garden, I finally captured the following black and white image of a cool little lovers nook on the edge of the lake. I call it that because I purposely went there with the mission to steal a B&W image of it but my task was derailed (TWICE) by a couple engaged in a serious make out session! It was already 107°F out that night and it was pushing at least 137° in that little joint! I had to come back twice to try and shoot this image, each time looking like a total perv voyeur, seeing the lovers enjoying each others various assets. I was positive that the place was going to be a pile of ashes after the almost beyond Rated R action going on in there.  After what I witnessed, this is the perfect post for the 4th of July.  Perhaps instead of B&W I should say its actually fifty shades of Grey.....

The Lovers Nook

The Lovers Nook (D3s, ISO400, HDR, f/6.3 @ 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm)

I shot the next image of one of the dozens of lanterns around Seiwa-en after one of my failed attempts to get the shot above.

The Lantern

The Lantern (D3s, ISO400, HDR, f/6.3 @ 24mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

Photog's Notes:

Both images are straight up HDR in Nik HDR Efex and a B&W conversion in NIK Silver Efex 2. A little tilt shift effect was added to the lantern with some gaussian blur in Photoshop CS6 and then it was sharpened and transmitted to Zenfolio out of Lightroom.

I hope you Enjoy!

25Jun/120

Waters Edge (Digital Fine Art):

An old friend was in town this weekend and when they mentioned that they would like to hit the Missouri Botanical Gardens, obviously I obliged.  This was my chance to do some advance recon of the "Lantern Festival" in the daylight for this Thursday when I do some night HDR shooting there.  When I saw this image I immediately thought HDR and Black and White.  I think it turned out pretty cool.

Waters Edge

Waters Edge (D3s, ISO 200, f/10 @ 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

I think you gotta admit, it has a kind of peaceful orient to it. Heck, it should because it was taken in the Japanese Garden! Stay tuned for some really cool night HDR images this weekend! I blasted a bracket of five handheld images from (-2 to +2 EV), dropped them into NIK HDR Efex Pro, converted to B&W with NIK Silver Efex Pro 2, added some vignette and sharpening in Lightroom 4 and uploaded. Grand total of about 2 minutes of Photoshop work.

Here is a recon shot of one of the Lantern Festival scenes. I can't wait to shoot this bad boy at night all aglow!

Going Fishing

Going Fishing (D3s, ISO200, f/10 @ 35mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

Oh and by the way, I also stole this fun image of my buddy Mark releaving himself in the garden.

Freakin' Hoosiers....

Freakin' Hoosiers....

You can take the man out of Indiana but you can't take the Hoosier out of the man.....

Until the next image theft,

Ralph.

3Jun/120

Carnival (B&W Digital Fine Art):

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Dardenne Prairie had their annual picnic and the Carnival was in full swing.  Naturally, the family attended and had a wonderful time.  Two years ago I had hopes of riding this damn Ferris Wheel but it just wasn't in the cards.  Those of you who have been following the Image Blog for some time know the story but if you would like to revisit that post, you can check it out here:

The Temptation of Ferris:

The Temptation of Ferris:

Last year I had hopes of shooting it again but it was so blistering hot, we opted for a cookout at home.   This time, two year later I might add, I decided that payback would be a Black and White study of Mr. Ferris' Confounded Wheel while standing in line and riding it of course.  Here are my favorites thefts from the shoot:

Waiting to Dismount:

Waiting to Dismount (D3s, ISO400, 1/640th, f/8 @ 45mm through Nikkor 24-70mm):

Through the Wheel:

Through the Wheel (D3s, ISO200, HDR, f/22 @ 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm) :

Stop Rockin'

Stop Rockin' (D3s, ISO200, HDR, f/9 @ 26mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

Top O' the Wheel

Top O' the Wheel (D3s, ISO200, HDR, f/22 @ 27mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

All of the images above were shot handheld and are brackets of seven images for HDR from -3 to +3 EV.  I used NIK HDR Efex and NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 for the HDR and Black and White conversion.  I used Photoshop and Lightroom for cleanup, sharpening, and upload to this site.

If you would like to see all the carnival images you can go HERE:  Remember to click on the images with your mouse and you can see them full size in your monitor!

Until the next image theft, Enjoy!

Photog's Note (Sun-Bursts / Lens-Flare):

I get asked all the time how I get the sunburst in my images.  You know, that big 'ol star in the image above.   The good news is that all you gotta do is set that camera at f/22 and point it at the sun.  Viola, sunburst.  The bad news is that unless you have awesome glass with great coatings (Think Nikkor Nano Coat) you are also going to get lens-flare which is NOT what you want.  Lens-flare is that series of multi-colored prismatic action caused by the refraction of light off the elements inside your camera.  Often you can avoid the flare by recomposing but shooting into the sun you are going to get them no matter how much money you spend on glass.  I deal with them by doing the following:

  1. Buy good glass:  If your lens is less than $1,000 its not probably not good glass.  For those of you who aren't stupid about your photography hobby like I am and actually care about your kids future college fund, just use the best you can afford.
  2. Remove all filters:  Filters are additional glass elements and often their quality is crap.  I've gotten to the point where I don't run with a UV filter on my lenses for protection because they cause more problems with flares etc.  I only shoot with Neutral Densities and Polarizers when needed.  I don't just leave them on all the time to be lazy.
  3. Install the Hood and Use it Properly:  Don't be one of those idiots that toss the lens hood or leave it installed turned around.  Its there for a reason.  It reduces lens-flare and protects the outer glass element.
  4. Keep the lens impeccably clean:  Extra grease, grime, and dust on your lens can reflect light and cause issues with your images like lens-flare.
  5. Leave it in:  Sometimes a little lens-flare is considered artistic.  Like everything artistic, moderation is the key.  You don't want a lens-flare in every image.
  6. Re-Compose for a Photoshop Fix:  Most likely if your shooting into the sun at f/22 your going to be going into Photoshop to clean up a few dust-bunnies off your sensor.  When you shoot at uber tiny apertures like f/22 the critters on your sensor can be almost in focus.  I could do a whole other topic on keeping your sensor clean and the issues that landscape photogs have with dust on sensors but I won't go there here.   I often re-compose so that the lens-flare is in a place to easily Clone Stamp it out.  Try to get the flare in open sky or in the grass etc.  Try not to have it on something difficult to clone like the trim around a window or sombody's face.  If you don't know what clone stamping is or you don't have Photoshop you probably stopped reading this blog after bullet number one!

I hope the items above help you to get the best sun-burst possible in your next images.

Please note that the better the direct sun the better the effect.  If the sun is being diffused through haze or clouds it won't be as sharp.

19Apr/120

The City Garden (Digital Fine Art):

I've driven past it 1000 times.  I've walked by it 100 times.  I've photographed it once.  I'll be going back, at night, with a tripod.  The City Garden is a funky little area on Olive Street in Downtown St. Louis located in the shadow of the Peabody Energy Building.  I had a few minutes before a Cardinals game with collegues so I managed to run through and shoot a few images with the intent of doing a little HDR.  Here is the result....

Eros Bendato Statue

Eros Bendato Statue (D3S, ISO 200, f/9, HDR, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8)

The severed head is a statue called Eros Bendato by Igor Mitoraj.  I thought it was screaming B&W HDR.  Too bad the sky sucked.

Big Suit

Big Suit (D3S, ISO200, f/14, HDR, 40mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

Big Suit is a huge painted aluminum statue by an artist named Erwin Wurm.   I decided that B&W HDR with selective color for the pink was the ticket.

City Garden Fountain

City Garden Fountain (D3s, f/14, HDR, 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

And finally a simple HDR of the fountain.  I'll be going back to shoot this bad boy at night.  Each one of those fountains has pink and blue lights.  It will be a cool HDR image.

Remember, you can click on an image and it will be displayed full size on your monitor.

Well, until the next image theft.  Enjoy!

8Apr/120

Hiking, Boyz, and Black & Whites:

I was born way too late.  I think black and white images have a certain character to them.  Add the texture of tree bark, rocks, and sky and I absolutely love them.  The boyz and I went hiking today and I managed to steal some portraits of them along the way. 

Balance Beam

Balance Beam (D3S, ISO 400, 1/160th, f/5.6@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

Cliffside

Cliffside (D3S, ISO400, 1/60th, f/6.3@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

JD on the Trail

JD on the Trail (D3S, ISO200, 1/4000th, f/1.4@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

Natural Bench

Natural Bench (D3S, ISO200, 1/1250th, f/1.4@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

Tree Throne

Tree Throne (D3S, ISO200, 1/1250th, f/1.4, 50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

And of course, the gratuitous color shot just to remind me that it wasn't 50 years ago....

Blow!

Blow! (D3s, ISO400, 1/640th, f/3.5, 50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

All images were shot with ambient light and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex 2 with minor sharpening and vignette added in the new Lightroom 4.  Make sure you click on the images to see them full screen on your monitor.

Photogs Note:

Incidentally, this is the first time I've bolted the old Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 prime onto the D3S.  After shooting exclusively through my new Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 for the last 2 or 3 months, I'm a little disappointed in the sharpness of the 50mm wide open. There may be a 24 or 35mm f/1.4 prime in my future! I hear it is RAZOR sharp.  If your gonna have an f/1.4 lense you gotta shoot it there.  If it doesn't make you happy, UPGRADE!  Dang Nikon Acquisition Syndrome is hard to cure!

10Oct/110

The Old Courthouse (Saint Louis):

If you've followed the blog in recent times, you know that "The Old Courthouse" has been the subject of my camera on a couple of occassions from the outside (See The Old Courthouse, Yogurt Inspired).  Last week I got the opportunity to learn a little more about the historical significance of that building and take a few images of the inside of the building.  I've been in there before but not with the camera.  Here are the images I stole during the event.

I stole this image of the outside of the building.  I thought the fence gave you a sense that you were almost being kept from the justice within.

 Obstacle from Justice

Obstacle from Justice

The following image was captured from the exact spot that Pulitzer stood in 1872 when he purchased the St. Louis Post Dispatch for $3000. I thought the contrast between the old roman architecture and modern was pretty cool.

Old vs. Modern

Old vs. Modern

Once inside, you can stand in the very center of the dome and look up.  If you whisper ever so slightly, everyone on all levels of the dome can hear you perfectly.  It's pretty amazing.

The Courthouse Dome

The Courthouse Dome

As you can see, there are several levels within the dome and the colors and natural lighting are fantastic.

Courthouse Dome

Courthouse Dome

I thought the lighting on this view was pretty amazing.  Just a few moments earlier or later and the lighting would not have been right on the flags.  Better lucky than good....

Flags of the Dome

Flags of the Dome

One of the most important civil rights cases in history was the Dred Scott decision which happened in the courtroom below.

Dred Scott Courtroom

Dred Scott Courtroom

As we were running from level to level in the courthouse, the following stairway presented itself to me for an image. I thought the detail on it was fantastic.

Courthouse Stairwell

Courthouse Stairwell

As we were leaving the courthouse, the sun was blazing down on the face of the building and the arch was slightly visible.  I imagined that this would be the view that Dred Scott saw 160 years ago when he walked out of the dark courthouse after a long battle for his freedom and looked up to the sky, thanking god.  Less the arch of course!   I cranked up to f/20 to create a sun-star and burned this image.

Thank you freedom!

Thank you freedom!

The old courthouse certainly is a valued Saint Louis Treasure.  I was honored to capture some great images.

Enjoy!

7Oct/110

One Hundred Image Blog Posts (Favorite Photographs):

It's been 22 months since I got the inspiration to do an image blog and here we are with our 100th post!   The driving purpose of this site was to  force me to integrate photography into my daily life. Practice makes perfect and if you don't have a need, there is usually no drive to practice.  What an incredible two years it has been!   The urge to keep this site up to date with fresh content has pushed me to not only improve my photography skills to a level that I would never have dreamed but it has also given me a reason to see new things within St Louis.  And man do I see differently.  I rarely look at anything anymore without taking a second peek at it through the lens. 

So.  I really wanted to photograph something epic for this artistic milestone and I did.  This week I had the opportunity to photograph the inside of the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica and the images turned out great.  You'll get a chance to see them in post 102! However, after some consideration, I decided that post 100 should give a recap to the readers and I would share my favorite images from the past 2 years.  Believe it or not, this was not an easy task.  From August of 2009 I have captured over 38,000 images on over 250 separate occasions.  Thank god for digital.  In the fillm days that would have been about $17K for film and processing.  Makes the return on investment of my Nikon gear seem a little more justified.

Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite blog images in no particular order.....

23Sep/110

Matson Hill Road (Digital Fine Art):

I went mountain biking today at Matson Hill, a fantastic singletrack trail between Defiance and Augusta.  During my drive up Matson Hill Rd I came across a pretty straight stretch of gravel road that immediately said B&W to me.  Here is the third B&W image of the "Forgotton Roads" Collection that I am doing.....

Matson Hill Road

Matson Hill Road (D3s, ISO200, 1/250th, f/5, 66mm through Nikkor 24-70)

I shot this image naturally with the new 24-70 Nikkor.  Its a requirement to leave a new lens bolted onto the front of your camera for at least a month to help justify the purchase! I edited the image in Photoshop CS5 with some basic curves, burning, and sharpening.  I converted it to Black and White with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and added the frame with OnOne's PhotoFrame 4.6.  I like the way it turned out,  I hope you do as well.

Only 2 more posts and we reach ONE HUNDRED blog posts.  I need to plan something special for the 100th blog posting.......

Until the next image theft......