Category: Virginia

Old Pictures near the Cowpasture River

Well, these aren’t too old.  I took them in April 2016 while my brother and I visited the Cowpasture River area in Virginia.

I spent some time yesterday when it was raining going through some older pictures stored on a hard drive.  I wanted to see how they looked using this style of processing.  By the way, we got almost 4.5 inches of rain yesterday and last night.

Looking Back


I took this picture looking out the window of our hotel while in Virginia.  It was about 9:30 pm and you can see the reflection of me and the hotel room when I took a picture of the hotel parking lot.  It was the last picture I made while on the trip.

After I have been photographing for a while, I like to look back at what worked well and what didn’t work as well.  While driving in my car in Virginia I mostly used my Olympus E-M5 II camera with the Panasonic 12-35 mm F2.8 lens.  I didn’t need the E-P5.  It was the first time that I had used the Panasonic lens exclusively and I found that I really like it.  The image quality is great, it is fast enough, and the spread in focal lengths was ideal for what I photographed.  I was able to photograph in program mode and just think about compositions.  That is ideal for travel photography.

The only negative thing was the size & weight.  I wish the camera-lens combination were lighter but it isn’t too heavy and it is as light as I can get for its particular attributes.  But, it is heavier than I like for the particular strap I had on the camera.  The strap was essentially a round 3/8-inch rope with no neck pad.  I like it for lighter prime lenses since it is very flexible and fits in a case easily, but it gave me neck pains when I used it for longer periods with that much weight.

Another feature that I am thinking about is the camera bag I used: a Think Tank Retrospective 5.  I used it to hold the camera with the lens attached while driving the car and for carrying the camera in and out of the car for overnight.  I kept it on the floor of the car behind the front passenger seat with the top open so that I could reach back and grab the camera when I got out.  Using it that way it worked quite well.  My only fault with that bag is when I use it to walk-about.  It sticks out away from my body more than I like and can get in the way.  When walking with a bag I prefer a messenger bag style that hugs my body better.  But a messenger bag doesn’t work well on the floor of a car or when sitting it on a room floor since it falls over.

As a result of the above issues with the strap and bag, I am currently using a wrist strap and a messenger style bag, either a Domke F-802 or F-803.  Messenger style bags have an advantage in that when walking I have room to put mail, flyers, maps, additional lenses, etc. in them.  My problem is that I haven’t found the perfect all-around camera bag or strap that serves all uses.  As a compromise I sometimes use a Domke F-8 bag.

When I walk in good weather I prefer just a sling strap across my body if I’m using one camera and one heavy zoom lens, and no bag.  If I need a bag, I don’t use a sling strap since it doesn’t fit in a small bag.  I have been looking for a leather strap with a neck pad that is very flexible and easy to put into a bag without needing to remove it.  The strap also needs the ring connectors since I don’t like the triangular attachments since they and the nylon straps and connectors get in my way.

Virginia Hills & Depth of Field

I had many reasons for acquiring the Panasonic 12-35 mm F2.8 lens.  One was that I wanted to get a large depth of field (DoF) and a wider focal length.  These two pictures demonstrate what is possible.  They were both taken at a wide 12 mm focal length with one at F8 and the other at F10.  The wide focal length is nice from a composition perspective but is even better at small apertures since I can get a great DoF with most of the image in focus.  Both the wide angle and the DoF are critical aspects for landscape photographers.

Virginia Hills

My brother was standing next to me taking pictures with his camera as I made these, but I doubt his look like these.  These images were made along I64 east of Staunton, VA.  They had the typical blue haze and lack of definition of the hills along the Appalachians, so I took the liberty to tweak them and make them look like I wanted.  To be honest, I took these pictures to see how the Panasonic 12-35 mm lens performed at the extremes of the focal lengths under these conditions.

More jpeg Conversions

I have continued to work with tweaking the jpegs from the same set of pictures from which the previous post was derived.  Some might not like this degree of tweaking … others might like it; but that isn’t why I’m showing these pictures.  I’m showing them to convince others to try working with their older jpeg pictures using LR4 or a similar program.  The following consists of sets of the same picture.  The first one in a set shows what the original jpeg picture looks like straight out of the camera.  The second in the set shows a somewhat radical adjustment to emphasize details, colors, etc.  The third in the set shows what the previous picture looks like in B&W.

The first set was taken inside a house with no flash.

The second set was taken in one of the barns.

The next set is of another old home based on an Irish style of construction.

The final set is of an early American homestead.

If you would like to have this capability you need Adobe Lightroom 4 or a similar program; and if you would really like to be able to adjust your pictures after you have taken them, get a camera that lets you shoot raw and then develop them in your computer.

You don’t have to like any of these styles.  If you desire, you can make less radical adjustments.  I will use all three of these styles (as well as others) depending upon the subject, mood, message being sent, etc. … but I think I prefer the B&W.  What about the rest of you?  Leave a comment below.

Revisiting Older jpeg Pictures with LR4

I have revisited some pictures I took on June 10 & 11, 2009 when I made a trip in VA and WV with my brother.  I used a Pentax K2000 with the 18 – 55 mm lens and took all pictures as jpegs.

Today I have gone back and tweaked them with LR4 and made slight changes to the style.  I used LR3 before; but, LR4 is far more capable a program and I have learned how to use it better as time has passed.  I mostly cropped these differently, desaturated the greens, reduced the exposures, adjusted the white and black points, and increased the clarity.

I strongly encourage everybody else to go back and see what they can do with their older pictures using the improved LR4 … even if the original pictures were recorded as jpegs and not raw files.  The range of possibilities will probably amaze you.

Natural Bridge, VA

I have two purposes in putting these pictures up.  First, it was the first time for quite some time that all three of us “kids” and spouses have all gotten together just to enjoy an outing together.  On 29 April – 1 May, we drove to, and stayed in, Roanoke, VA and then went to see the Natural Bridge and a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Second, I used this opportunity to try my latest cameras and prime lenses in what turned out to be a very trying situation.  It was a very bright day and most of the time we were in and out of shade, and it exercised the dynamic range of my E-PL2 while using the 14mm and the 20mm prime lenses.  In addition, there is a reason they call it the Blue Ridge Mountains … they have extensive blue haze.

I used LightRoom to develop these pictures and I shot all of them in RAW format.  Since I was using only my two prime lenses I also did some significant “zoom cropping” on some of them.  I was trying to see how well that worked so that I could determine whether I could “get by” with just one prime lens while traveling; i.e. my ultimate lightweight travel setup.  The following are a sample of pictures taken.  With one exception they were all taken with the Olympus E-PL2.

The first picture was at Luigi’s restaurant for our evening meal.  If you look carefully you will see all six of us in the picture, but since I was taking the picture you will only see my reflection.

ISO 1600, 20mm lens, f/2.8, 1/50 sec.

The next was taken on the drive back to the hotel.  This is the only picture in this set that was taken with the Canon S95.  The S95 did quite well.  I did take some other pictures using both cameras and you would not be able to tell them apart.

S95, ISO 80, 6mm, f/4, 1/80 sec.

The next two pictures were taken at breakfast the next morning in the hotel.

ISO 1600, 14mm, f/2.8, 1/40 sec.

ISO 1600, 14mm, f/2.8, 1/50 sec.

The next picture was taken on the walk down to the Natural Bridge.  It is a picture of the trunk of an ancient Arbor Vitae Tree.  When the tree died in 1980, it was 1600 years old and the oldest and largest in the world.  It is 56 inches in diameter.

ISO 320, 14mm, f/5.6, 1/80 sec.

The next photo is of the Natural Bridge.  It is a solid limestone arch, 215 feet high, 40 feet thick, 100 feet wide, and spans 90 feet.  The U.S. Route 11 highway runs over it (we drove over it).  The Monacan Indians called it “The Bridge of God.”  It was first surveyed in 1750 by George Washington and then purchased on July 5, 1774 by Thomas Jefferson.  He purchased it from King George III of England.

ISO 200, 14mm, f/5.6, 1/640 sec.

When you continue on the path under the bridge, you arrive at a reconstructed Monacan Indian Village which is based as close as possible on archeological information of how they actually lived.  The following is the inside of one of their homes.  The homes are dome-shaped structures covered with bark.

ISO 1250, 14mm, f/5.6, flash, 1/60 sec.

The next is of one of the docents who described how they lived around 1700.

ISO 1250, 14mm, f/5.6, 1/80 sec.

The next is of a gentleman with whom we discussed at length what they ate in the 1700s.

ISO 200, 14mm, f/5.6, 1/100 sec.

When you continue on up the path, it eventually ends at Lacy Falls.  The observation point is some distance from the falls so the following picture is a significant “zoom-crop”.

ISO 200, 14mm, f/5.6, 1/250 sec.

After we returned to the visitor center we drove a short distance up to the Natural Falls Caverns.  The caverns are not large, have a few small rooms, and are mostly a narrow passage way deep, down into the mountain.  It is the deepest cavern on the east coast.

ISO 1600, 20mm lens, f/4.0, 1/8 sec.

After touring the caverns, we drove on to the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at the Peaks of Otter lodge.  The following picture was taken on the path around the lake.  You can see a peak in the background.

ISO 200, 20mm, f/4, 1/250 sec.

The path passes by the Polly Wood’s Ordinary.  An ordinary is a travelers rest stop where they could get a hot meal, a bed for the night, and a place to stable their horse.  Her ordinary was moved to this site in 1964.

ISO 200, 20mm, f/4, 1/250 sec.

After we left the Peaks of Otter area we traveled on south back down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Roanoke, VA.  The first picture was taken at an overlook looking west towards WV (the far ridge line).

ISO 200, 20mm, f/8, 1/400 sec.

The next was taken at another overlook further south looking east.

ISO 200, 20mm, f/8, 1/500 sec.

We all had a good time and have decided to try and make such trips an annual event.

From a camera perspective, I found that the E-PL2 with either prime lens to be quite acceptable for similar types of travel.  I had a zoom lens in my bag at all times but never found a need for it.  Relative to:

  • Focal length:  I think that the 20mm prime lens would have served me well for all of my scenes and I will probably use it most of the time in the future and only switch to the 14mm when I need the wider view angle which might be needed when touring small town streets and markets, etc.  I will probably only use a zoom when taking pictures of wildlife, etc.
  • Dynamic range: I think I noticed for the first time that I would have gotten better image quality from my previous Pentax K-7, but I found it acceptable considering that I was shooting in an environment which severely stressed the micro 4/3’s sensor.
  • S95:  It turned out to be the most pleasant surprise.  I think that I could have gotten adequate pictures if I had only been using it … not as good, but possible in a pinch; therefore I will continue to take it as my back-up camera..
  • Carrying the camera:  I found that my neck strap was not comfortable.  It was a heavier one that was a carry-over from the K-7 that had been modified so that I could easily switch back and forth between wrist and neck straps.  I found that for this type of touring, in and out of cars, etc. that a neck strap worked better than a wrist strap.  This is especially true since the E-PL2 with a prime lens is very light and I did not notice the weight.  I will be changing back to my Domke cotton neck strap for future touring and only use a wrist strap when I’m always working out of a bag or pocket for infrequent shooting.