Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Galapagos Day 6

Day 6 - May 29

Today was our last full day in the Galapagos. It started with a 7:30 AM pick up to go snorkeling on Tintoreras. We were supposed to do that yesterday but the tour company changed the itinerary on us because they thought doing the volcano and snorkeling in one day would be too much. This change had a domino effect on the rest of the itinerary, because it also changed our flight out of Isabella to San Cristobal which affected the things we where to do on San Cristobal. So I was picked up at 7:30 AM to go snorkeling. Jim did not go because he was having stomach issues, and just didn't feel like it.
Snorkeling around Tintoreras was ok. The water was not as clear as in the other two locations I went snorkeling on this trip. However on this snorkel I got to see sea turtles up close and personal while in the water, swim with a penguin, and have two sea lions swim right under me. I was too slow to get a picture of the sea lions swimming under me. Also the water was colder in Tintoreras than other places, and considering this was a longer swim, I was rather tired afterwards. At the conclusion of the snorkeling, they took me back to the hotel where they were supposed to have a room for me to shower in. However they didn't, so I didn't get to shower, but I was at least able to change in the restroom into dry cloths.
Our guide picked us up at 11:45 AM to have lunch before our 1:30PM flight out of Isabella. Lunch was ok. From lunch we drove to the airport, which is more of an air taxi staging area. They weighed our bags, and checked them for fruit, from there we were good to go. It was a 45-minute flight on a 9 seat turboprop airplane. We flew at an altitude of 5,500ft, I was surprised that it was a smooth flight. Once arriving at the airport we took a taxi, which is just a pick-up truck, to the hotel, where we met our guide. After checking in and getting situated we had our little adventure on San Cristobal.
The guide took us sea kayaking. We launched from a sandy beach that had a bunch of sea lions on it. The launch was a bit wet since the water was getting a little rough closer into shore. Once we were out on the sea paddling it wasn't too bad. It was a double kayak, so hopefully I contributed to the paddling effort. We kayaked over to Darwin Cove and saw a few birds, several snorkelers, sea lions, and a sea turtle. After floating around for 10 minutes in the cove we paddled back to the starting point. That was basically the end of our adventure. We went back to the hotel, changed, and then went out to get something to eat. 


We head home tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Galapagos Day 5

Day 5 - May 28
Today we had a 7:15 AM pick up today to go hike the Sierra Negra Volcano. The hike was 17 kilometers (about 9 miles) round trip. We only did the first portion of the hike up the side of the volcano and round part of the caldera, we did not do the second portion into the lava field. We decided against doing the lava field because it was very rocky, my knee was bothering me, and I already fell once on this vacation.  I might have done the lava field walk if we rode horses up, the main trail like one couple from the group did. They met us at the top of the trail.  The cute thing was the one of the horses, was a mom and her little foal followed her all the way to the top. That was one tired little foal when they got to the top. 


The hike up the volcano and around part of the caldera was misty when we started. Due to the fog we couldn't get a clear view of the caldera or across it. Apparently, the caldera is 26 miles around, but the two trails up the sides don't meet so there is not a complete loop trail. It took about 2 hours to hike up the side of the caldera and part way around it to the little shelter. We stopped at the shelter for a snack break, before the rest of the group traveled into the lava field. We only went about 10-minute walk into the lava field, to the first major viewpoint there before turning around and heading back to the starting location for the overall hike. On the way back along the trail the fog cleared up and you could see across the caldera and part of the valley below. Overall, it was a nice hike.






After the hike we stopped for lunch at Campo Duro Restaurant. We had some nice roasted chicken, vegetables, rice, and lentils. Dessert consisted of fruit (banana, watermelon, peach). From there we were taken back to the hotel. We got back to the hotel around 2:30 PM. Because we were back at a reasonable time, we walked along the main street, which doesn't have much, and stopped at a store to pick up some drinks, munchies, and ice cream. So far I haven't found any good souvenirs to bring back from the trip.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Galapagos Day 4

Day 4 - May 27
Today started out with a 6:30 AM pick-up to go over to the pier to catch our speed boat over to Isabella Island. You have to take a water taxi out to the boat, there is no other way, and they charge you 50-cents per person to get to your boat. The speed boat over to Isabella took about 2 hours. And it was worse than sitting in an airplane, since 25 people are smooshed together with their bags and life jackets in the main body of the boat. To top it off there is little ventilation, unless you are sitting in the back of the boat, so the air gets hot and stagnant. Three people got seasick including myself. I was doing really well sitting in the back of the boat with the breeze, until the breeze changed and all I got was boat exhaust. So I got sick with about a half hour left of the ride, thankfully the nice Australian couple next me was kind of enough to give me some tic-tacs after I stopped being sick.
After arriving at the port at Isabella, we took another water taxi to the pier. That water taxi charged a dollar per person. We met our guide at the pier who took us to our hotel, which is not as nice as the first two hotels we stayed at. After checking in we had about 90-minutes to relax before lunch. Lunch was warm potato soup, a pork chop, rice, large cold vegetables with dressing, and potato wedges. Dessert was some form of custard. After lunch we had a couple hours to relax and nap before our 3-kilometer bike ride tour.
Our bike ride tour was conducted in a tropical rain. The ride itself was on a compacted sand path up four hills to the wall of tears, which was built by a penal colony. Our guide is actually a descendant of one of the original guards of the penal colony. We did not attempt to go to the overlook because visibility sucked due to the rain. We did stop at one of the beach viewpoints and saw some more marine iguanas and a pelican. Along the ride, we did see two tortoises fighting, which let me tell is a very slow fight, and a male tortoise trying to mate with a very unhappy female tortoise. By the end of the ride we were soaked through. Overall, it wasn't a bad bike ride, might have been better if it was dry, the steering on the bike wasn't so loose, and the seat was more padded. After the bike ride we went back to the hotel to dry off and changed before having dinner at the Endemic Turtle.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Galapagos Day 3

Day 3 - May 26
Today started off with a 6:00AM pick up from the hotel, to make the 40-minute drive down to the dock to board our boat for our trip out to Bartolome Island. The excursion usually had 20 people, but this group was small and only consisted of 7 people including ourselves. Which was nice, because we could spread out on the boat and not feel crowded. Due to the early pick up time we were served breakfast on the boat which consisted of tea, bananas, yogurt, granola, cheese, bread and butter. Overall it was a nice simple breakfast.

The trip out to Bartolome Island takes about 2 hours, including the small detour around Daphne Major. The trip out was relatively smooth, with small 1-2 foot waves. We also saw several sea turtles swimming in the ocean along the way. When we got to the island we boarded the RIB to over get onto the island and walk up the very long path to the top of the island. Fun fact, according to our guide the walkway on the island was put in place by the film crew of “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” since part of the movie was filmed in the islands bay. The walk way has large square lookout points where the cameras were placed. We went up over 200 stairs to get to the top of the island, which is about a 40-60 minute hike. There are only small lizards on the island that turn cannibalistic during the dry season. That truly is survival of the fittest. After the hike, we came back down boarded the RIB and went around to the major feature of the island called Pinnacle Rock. Near the rock we saw two sea lions, and three Galapagos Penguins. The Galapagos Penguins are tropical and are the second smallest penguin in the world. The smallest penguin is the fairy penguin, found in Australia. I have seen it in the wild. I’m just slowly working up the penguin size chain. After the trip around Pinnacle Rock, we went back to the main boat to change for snorkeling.


Snorkeling in the Bartolome Bay was nice as there were a lot of fish. Sadly neither the sea lions nor the penguins we saw got into the water while we were snorkeling. I did see several types of starfish, a small stingray, parrot fish, some small orange/red fish, an angel fish, and a bunch of other fish I should know the name of, but have forgotten. I am using the small underwater camera Jim bought for kayaking, for photos while snorkeling. After snorkeling it was back on the boat for lunch. We had fish (or maybe chicken), a chunky tomato type sauce, rice, a mixture of beans and corn in cream dressing, and small salad of mostly red cabbage. For desert it was white pineapple and papaya. After lunch we headed back to Santa Cruz.

 

The first hour of the trip back was slightly rough with 3-4 foot waves. Apparently in the afternoon the sea gets rough until you are in the area protected by Santa Cruz Island. I was up on the top deck and really felt the boat sway side to side. Once back on Santa Cruz we had a 40-minute bus ride back to the hotel to conclude the day.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Galapagos Day 2

Day 2 - May 25
Today started out good, but ended poorly. We had breakfast in the hotel, which was a decent buffet. I learned from my trip to Costa Rica don’t eat the eggs, so no runny scrambled eggs for me. But they did have an OK selection of lunch meats, cheese, fruit, fried bread, some odd little pancake thing, and regular bread. So breakfast was OK.
Our guide met us at the hotel at 7:30 AM to walk over to the meeting point for our tour. We then boarded a bus for a 40 minute ride to the boat. Once at the dock area we donned life-jackets and got on a rigid hull inflatable boat (RIB) boat to go over to the main boat which took us over to North Seymour Island. We boarded the RIB again to go over to the island and do a guided nature walk. We saw several frigate birds and blue footed boobies. We even saw some baby boobies. We also saw several seals, and land iguanas. The walk took about 2 hours, and it was in the sun the whole time, so it was important you had a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and plenty of water. From there we boarded the RIB again back to the main boat.


             

The main boat then went further down the island to the snorkeling location. We changed into swimsuits, and got masks and flipper before getting into the RIB again to go the snorkeling start point. I had my camera in its waterproof housing but apparently I did not install it correctly, but I wouldn’t know this till the end of the snorkel portion. I did see several colorful fish to include parrot fish and angelfish. I also saw a 3-foot reef shark. When I got back to the RIB that is when disaster struck, I noticed the waterproof cover was fogging up, and my worst fears were confirmed by Jim once I got back to the boat. The cover filled with about a ½-inch of water. Which looks like it got into the main body of the camera, basically killing the camera. I’m really sad and mad at myself. I shouldn’t of trusted the waterproof house and not taken my actual camera snorkeling the first day. I realize my camera is 7-years old, completely insured, and could be replaced but I was so looking forward to doing photography on this trip. This basically made the rest of the day sad for me. 
 

After the conclusion of snorkeling, we had lunch on the boat which was tuna steak with sauce, a beet and tuber side, and asparagus. For dessert we had cantaloupe. After lunch we went over to another area of North Seymour Island where we boarded the RIB and did a wet landing on the beach. The beach was nice, we saw some marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, remains of a barge the US sunk off the coast when it gave land back to Ecuador, and three flamingos. The flamingos were a lucky see, because there are very few on the islands. After that we got back into the RIB and headed back to main boat to journey back to port and the town.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Galapagos Day 0 & 1

Day 0 - May 23
We flew from Cleveland to Atlanta to Quito on May 23. We left out of Cleveland, so Teddy could stay with his Grandma while we were on vacation. The flight from Cleveland to Atlanta was uneventful. We had a four hour layover in Atlanta so spent part of that time in the Delta Sky Club since Jim gets free entry. The Delta Sky Club had a nice “free” buffet layed out with several types of salads, pulled chicken, and a few other warm sides. We also had free drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). I felt sitting in the Sky Club, was a much better option then just sitting at the terminal gate.
The 5 hour flight from Atlanta to Quito was uneventful. We landed in Quito at 10:30PM Central time and went through customs and immigration fairly quickly. The tour company representative met us past customs, and had a gift for us two Panama hats. (Side note: Panama hats are actually invented and made in Ecuador, but are called Panama hats because they were handed out to the workers building the Panama Canal. Thus are called Panama hats) We got to the hotel around 11:30 PM which gave us about 4.5 hour to shower and sleep before our 5:00AM pick-up to go back to the airport for our flight to Baltra in the Galapagos.
Day 1 - May 24
The tour company representative picked us up at 5:00 AM, and since we were checking out so early the hotel had a box breakfast made up for us. The breakfast included a yogurt like drink, yogurt, an apple, and a ham and cheese sandwich. It was ok. The tour company representative, personally took us through the Galapagos travel process, which includes getting a special visa, (which the tour company got for us ahead of time), getting our luggage scanned and tagged, and then actually checking in for the flight. The flight consisted of one stop on our way from Quito to Baltra Island where the only Galapagos Airport is. Fun fact: the Galapagos airport code is “GPS”. Second fun fact: The reason the Galapagos has an airport is because the US Military built an air base there during WWII, and when they were done using it turned it over to Ecuador.
The total flight time from Quito to Baltra was about 3 hour to include the short layover, were we did not leave the plane. When you land you end up going to the end of the runway, the plan then has to turn around and taxi all the way back up the runway to the airport to unload. You then go through the Galapagos immigration process and pay your $100 per person park fee. (The cost was included in our tour price.) From there our carry on bags were x rayed, and the contraband sniffing dog gave everyone’s checked bags a once-over. When done the dog got to play with his tennis ball and everyone got to get their luggage. After collecting our luggage, we met our tour guide for the day and boarded the bus to take us to ferry to get us to Santa Cruz Island where we’ll be for three nights.
Once on Santa Cruz we went to see lava tubes and one type of tortoise and have lunch. So contrary to my husband’s teasing, the tortoises did not all go on an off-island vacation. I got pictures of the tortoises. Lunch was good. It consisted of baked chicken, rice, roasted tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, and roasted asparagus. After lunch we checked into the hotel, to drop our bags off before walking to Charles Darwin Station.


The walk over to Charles Darwin Station, think of it as park headquarters, was easy and we got to see our guide direct a small sea iguana out of the road and back towards the water. At Darwin Station we got to see other types of tortoises and the taxidermied “Lonesome George” who was the last of his species of tortoise. I thought the exciting part was going down to beach area to see a few sea iguanas. The sea iguana are black and blend into the black lava rocks on the beach. I got a few nice pictures, and one ran right towards me as it was getting out of the water. The guide said the seals can be worse and will get right up to your nose if you are sitting still. I kind-of hope that happens, I think it will make a good picture. Jim got a few pictures of the iguanas swimming. After that we headed back to the hotel. It is now time to shower, eat, and sleep.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Silver Goddess

On April 20th,  I got to work with Valtinen to shoot a silver headpiece I made several months ago.  This shoot was inspired by the headpiece and a version of the “Lady of the Lake”.  The goal of the image was to be rather soft with a lot of light and silver tones. The post was held back till I found out if I was published. I had eight images from this set published in the May 2019 issue of Jazzy Magazine 
For the shoot I used the following items: 
Set Up

·                  Canon 70D
·                  18- 200 mm lens
·                  Strobes with power supply
·                  7-foot reflective umbrella
·                  C-stand with boom arm
·                  RF-transmitter
·                  Tether line
·                  Desktop
·                  Silver garage insulation
·                  white tulle
·                  Step stool
·                  Props: sword, and three large peonies
·                  Handsome assistant

The set up for this was rather simple (See image right).  I placed the large umbrella with the strobes in front and slightly above the mode. Because the background was silver a good portion of the light bounced back for a glow. I started with two speed lights off to each side pointed directly at the background, but due to the reflectivity of the background, I ended up with competing light sources.  Thus, I turned the speed lights off and only used one light.

Now onto the image descriptions.  I shot 199 frames, edited 106 frames, and delivered 52 final images. I shot using ISO 100,  with an aperture of F8, and a shutter speed of  1/250s. My focal length ranged from 18 mm to 60 mm with the most common focal lengths being 28mm and 24mm.

I edited all these images very similarly, to ensure they maintained a glow to them. To achieve the glow, I used a preset called soft glow a starting main edit, after completing the white balance, exposure, and luminosity base edits to ensure consistency within the set.  I then blurred the background slightly, which also reduced the texture. I also ensured the models face was properly lit compared to the background.  Because the outfit for this shoot was sheer draped fabric, held together with a few pins, I did have to do some photoshoot edits.  I did the photoshop edits to cover gaping holes in the fabric drape,  I also did do some frequency separation on a few of the up-close images to ensure the model’s face kept a nice soft glow.  I did also adjust the color slightly on a peonies to bring the pink color out, because they were slightly getting washout out by all the light and white in the image.  Overall the shoot went well and the images turned out how I expected once the light was dialed in appropriately. 


ISO 100, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length 18mm
ISO 100, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length 50mm



Revenge of the Fifth - Cosplay Meet Up


On May 5th I hosted a meet up of the Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati Cosplay Photoshoot group at Oaks Quarry Park in Dayton.  We had a meet up last year in this same location, which turned out well. This meet-up was Star Wars and space themed, in honor of “May the Fourth” and “Revenge of the Fifth.” The location overall is very versatile, and can lend itself to a variety of cosplays.

I worked with all 8 cosplayers in attendance, which resulted in me shooting 292 frames. Of the 292 frames I edited 176 images and delivered 128 final images. I shot the whole meet using a light from a single bare off camera speed light on a light stand. I shot with a bare speed light to compensate for the sun. I shot using ISO 100 with an aperture of F8.0.  My shutter speed varied from 1/200s to 1/800s with the most common speed being 1/400s.  Finally, my focal length varied from 18mm to 60mm, with the most common focal length being 18mm. The use of a focal length of 18mm allowed me to capture the background  which really set the tone for several of the images.

Two of my favorite images from the shoot are of Izzyquinzilla as Jedi Belle.  For those unfamiliar, Jedi Belle is a mash up Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” and Star Wars Jedi.  There are several versions of fan art of this mash up.  The reason I like this image is because the wind cooperated for once, thus giving the skirt a billow effect.



Now you can’t have a Star Wars meet up, without shooting a fight scene. Luckily, there was a Rey portrayed by Nonsense Noah and Kylo portrayed by Robert in attendance.  In the movie the fight between Rey and Kylo would have happened in the snow; I figure a barren looking quarry is close enough considering it is spring time here.     


Overall it was a good meet up, and I think the cosplayers got several good photos from the photographers in attendance.  You can see my complete set here

Friday, May 3, 2019

Gothic Princess


On March 31st,  I got to work with Jinx in Wonderland on a gothic princess shoot. The post was held back till I found out if I was published. Most magazines like exclusive work. For the shoot I used dry ice to create fog, which looked like a milk bath, but no one needed to get wet. (If you are going to use dry ice, make sure your model has no breathing issues and it is in a well-ventilated area.  We were running all the exhaust fans and had the windows open.) I also used purple tulle in several of the images to give them a pop of color but keep with the gothic theme.

For the session I used the following items:
  • Canon 70D
  • 24 -70 mm lens
  • Strobes with power supply
  • Large square soft box
  • Speed light
  • 30-inch shoot through umbrella
  • 7-foot reflective umbrella
  • C-stand with boom arm
  • Light stand
  • RF-transmitter
  • Tether line
  • Desktop
  • Foam core board (to make a corral for the fog)
  • Dark grey backdrop
  • Black backdrop for the floor
  • Purple and black tulle
  • Dry ice and hot water
  • Step stool
  • Props: crown, raven, sword
  • Handsome assistant
I had two set-ups for this session. For the first set up, I did not use the dry ice and focused on standing poses. I placed the large square soft box to the right of the model slightly pointed down onto her.  I then had a speed light with a shoot through umbrella on the left, which was used for a bit of fill light.  I shot straight on to the model. The second set up was simpler. For the second set up the large 7-foot umbrella was placed on a boom arm so it could be placed directly over the model, who was laying on top of tulle on the floor.  I then placed 12-inch high by 24-inch long foam core board round the model to create a little corral to keep the fog from the dry ice in.  I placed a metal bowl in corner of the corral with the dry, which my assistant dumped hot water over to create the fog.  When using the dry ice, we ensure there was plenty of ventilation in the studio.  I shot pointing down at the model by standing on a step stool or directly over her.

Now this was the first time I shot using dry ice, to get that milk bath look but without all the milk.  A few things I learned were, I needed to keep more than a tea kettle full of close to boiling water on hand.  The hotter the water the longer the dry ice would create fog.  I got about two – three minutes of shooting per application of hot water.  Having something for the fog to roll over adds dimension to the image. In the future I will need to use two bowls of dry ice in opposite corners to ensure equal coverage of the area.  With only one bowl I had to wait for the fog to cross the corral to fill it. I will be this technique again, because I like the overall images the process produces.

Now onto the image descriptions.  I shot 306 frames, edited 203 frames, and delivered 144 final images. I shot using ISO 100, my focal length ranged from 24mm to 70mm, shutter speed ranged from 1/320s to 1/1000s, and aperture range of f3.5 to f8.  The most common focal length was 24mm, with the most common shutter speed being 1/640s, and the most common aperture was f8.  While I did shoot several images at f3.5, I did not use  a good portion of them because the focus was just slightly off.  The reasoning is because how I shoot,  I shoot wide so I can crop to 8.5x11 inches (publication size requirement) and still maintain the image I want. Shooting wide with a very narrow aperture is not necessarily the best combination. Overall, I’m happy with the images turned out.  

I have several favorite images from this session. My two personal favorites are below.  I like the first one because of the expression and how the fog rolls around her. I like the second because it is portraying a soft feeling, the skin glows nicely, and the purple tulle pulls image together to make it seem like she is on a soft bed. I did edit the second image slightly beyond removing some little blemishes. I did fill in a few spots with tulle by using the patch tool in Photoshop and when editing the image in Lightroom I used the portrait color module, bumped up the purple slightly, and added a bit of vignetting to the edges.






















This next image to the left,  is a personal favorite because it is different. I like how the image is soft and the purple tulle is wrapped around her, but what I really like is how the tulle is falling over her. When editing this image, I used portrait color mode in Lightroom. I then bumped up the purple slightly, and adjusted the exposure slightly.  I originally tried for 8.5x11 crop, however that did not do the image justice, it had to have length, so the image size is 9x18. I find a lot of the time the 8.5x11 or 17x11 crop sizes to limit my images.

This final image (right) is a simple image, using the first light set up. It simply captures the gothic princess look. This type of shot is part of my style, since I do like to shoot lower key images. I also like in this image how the models face has a nice porcelain look, and how the light falls off in the image.  I did very little to the image during post processing, just enough to ensure the colors were correct and the blacks did not get lost in the background.


Seven of the images were printed in the Issue 47 Volume 2 (May 2019) of Gilded Magazine

You can see all the images from the session here.

I also want to give a special thank you to Jinx in Wonderland for allowing me to experiment slightly and do a slightly longer shoot then planned.  

Pink Flowers

On May 11 th ,   I got to work with Susan, who won a free photoshoot from me.  She won the session by commenting on a post on my Facebook ...