Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A trip to downtown Portland Oregon-- NIGHT SHOTS

"Just after dawn" 122nd and Burnside st. Portland Oregon
The following set of images were captured on three trips my wife and I took on the Max light-rail line here in Portland.  I wanted to show both what it's like to ride at night as well as some of the Christmas lights and other lights in downtown Portland at night.   Since I can't shoot RAW with my FUJI S1500.. this was the best I could do with my color temp settings.

A lot of people do not know how to set white balance or "color temperature" means.  Color temperature is a standardized scale that can be used to set, basically..what "white light" actually is in a photo or video camera.    The term is actually more commonly known by those firmilar with professional video cameras only recently becoming important because of digital photography.  With a digital camera you have simple options, unlike in film cameras.  If this setting is not properly set, (especially if your not shooting in RAW format or don't have a camera that can) the colors will not look natural or worse. This is an often all too automated setting but it's just as important as f-stop or ISO.   Digital cameras use CCD chips, sensors.. which only pick up colors in certain ways with white light being a base reference for all the other colors that are available.  White light is not just made up of most of the colors but it also can be effected by frequencies used in it's creation.  Such as 60hz.. in the case with florescent and incandescent lights.  This can have an effect on the CCD chip.  Without sounding too complex.  It is very important in both digital and film photography to have your camera set for the correct white balance.   My Fuji like most higher end superzooms has a custom white ballence setting.  It's very easy to use to insure that you will have the correct color temperature (and thus see the colors how they were intended) or to create things like the image above.   When setting white balance on a digital camera, the color temperatures will vary and the idea is to get the most white with the available light you are using to take the picture.  Often cameras have settings for bright sunlight, cloudy and florescent bulbs as there flickering creates a change in the color temp.  If you have a more professional camera that can shoot in RAW.. you can adjust these color temp situations later.   However.. if you can't shoot RAW be sure to have a camera that can make your own white balance settings.   It's easy to do.. just aim the camera when in the correct mode (in your manual) at something white while the area your in is lit by the light in intend to use (and this only applies if your not going to use a flash for the most part) and push the button on a very white surface such as a peace of notebook paper or printer paper with no color in it.   If on the other hand you custom set your white balance wrong or off on purpose.. you can create all sorts of bizarre images.   This was taken after I shifted my entire white balance to another color.   I forgot which.. this is easy to do.  In a bright light source instead of setting your white balance to have correct color temperatures with a peace of notebook paper.. try using a red soda can.. or maybe a green one.. or you get the idea.   Thus the camera gets shifted past the color that you used for white.  So the image will come out very strange.  Sometimes these can be really cool but be sure you know how to go back to your original settings.  Most cameras have a custom white balance setting that can be quickly changed to florescent 1.2.3 and incandescent as well as bright sunlight and cloudy day color temperatures pre-programed so this should be easy.   When selecting a point and shoot or superzoom camera.. make sure it has a CUSTOM WHITE BALANCE or color temperature setting.. this way you can take advantage of lots of creative settings.   Another important thing to look for when getting a new digital camera is MANUAL SETTINGS.   A mode either on the dial or in a menu that lets you select the F-stop, shutter speed, and ISO MANUALLY.  This is very important if you want to take creative images.  A camera that's "too smart" and thinks all auto.. will not do if you want to get the image you like.   I hardly ever use automatic modes, I usually take the time to set the f-stop, shutter speed and ISO myself for nearly all my pictures and often it's very important as the camera is automatically ready to take pictures like the one's below.. long exposures lasting up to several seconds.   Most of the higher end compact cameras have manual functions.. but be sure to check because you don't want to be disappointed with a camera that thinks too much for you if your trying to be creative.

On the way I happened upon a common telephone pole.   I can only imagine what each one of these nails, staples and other items used to tack on signs might have said.. lots of stories to tell from garage sales to missing pets.

This is an example of using creative manual modes.  The camera would usually set a f-stop of 5.6+ for a shot like this.  However.. I stopped it down to 2.8 in order to give depth to the image.   This way the foreground is in focus but the background is not.  It is always best to capture the image in field as close to as you want it as possible.  Using Photoshop, Gimp, or Picasa later to try to get some effects will never replace a true image taken correctly.

 I alsmost did not include this amatureish shot I took of the park.  I just loved the colors of the leaves and the building in the background and how it kind of captured the scope of the park.  Although the image is screaming for a wider angle lens!  I will be really glad when I get a professional camera again!

I may have overblown the color here but for a while the leaves were incredible and I wanted to capture that. Only a few images were possible because it was raining when I took these shots in the park.   When I had my digital SLRs (more professional cameras) I had a peace of gear which covered the camera for work in light rain and other stuff.  They are not cheap but well worth getting to protect your expensive camera.

 My wife stands to the left side of this image I took in the park next to Llyod center mall.  These were really hard because I was shooting long exposures without a tripod.  Usually I always use a tripod when shooting long exposures.. this time however I winged it and got a couple of shots I liked.

 "Park of lights"
Another long exposure impromptu in the rain.   This took a really steady hand.  I'm not sure exactly how long I had the shutter open for but it was probably about 1sec or so.

 The train comming"
It is important to remember to STAY OFF THE TRACKS a kid and several other people have been killed this year saddly because they thought they could beat the train.  A subject I will get back to later.  You can't stop even a light rail train on a dime.. it takes quite a while to stop any kind of train and you can't assume they will stop.

"Rush hour max"
Lloyd center max station going westbound was PACKED when I took this shot.   Rush hour seems to start around 3pm and runs until about 8pm+  I'm not really sure.   It's important to note however.. I like riding the max and usually it's not standing room only!  Just be sure and pay for your ticket.  You may not get checked but if you do and you don't have one you will be fined something like $200.  There are no excuses for this, you can't say that "I forgot" or "I did not know I needed a ticket" unless your in the fairless square in downtown Portland.

 I had a lot of fun taking these shots and had about 2 dozen of them I wanted to post but in the interest of not boreing people.. I chose to post these few.   I love night-shots because they are difficult and show things you don't see normally.   Night photography almost always involves long exposures with no flash.  These can last so long that a care passing by or a person walking by will just be a blur as you will see.

"Here comes the train"


A police car sits while another car comes into view as the exposure ends.  That is the blur of lights on the left next to the police car.   The blur of a long exposure can most interestingly be seen by the person walking through the frame.  In the old days of photography nearly all shots were long exposures.  That is often why the people in very old photos are not smiling as it often took up to a 60sec to capture a picture.

 "The shadow"
A man walks on the right side as the train comes and cars with different color headlights light up the scene. 

 Buildings can be very interesting with long exposures.. this one captures them as well as cars passing by.

I liked the way this one brought out the train coming and the shadows I found in the image later.

 The train is not out of focus.. it's in motion.   The exposure lasted less then a second but that's still an eternity for the camera.. the slightest bump and the shot would have been a blur.

 "The tracks"
At first you might thing this is some kinds of Photoshop setup.  Nope.  This is a pure image captured directly with the camera and is not a double exposure or anything.   The car reflected light in only some areas thus we are able to see the road behind it since the car passed through the frame while the shutter was open.  We see what light reflects off of it as well as the lights on it.. this is what I love the most about long exposures.  It is that "bullet time" when you miss so many images that are there to see but too fast for the human eye without the aid of a camera.

 "Reflections of a cyclist"
A bicyclist comes through this long exposure with a bright blue headlamp.   I really like the way the light happened here.  This was one of those awesome moment "YES" photos.   The cyclist once again appears blurred and not even fully on the road because only the parts of the cycle that are lit up or reflecting light are exposed in this long exposure.  

"Old town sidewalk"
We were in Old town Portland.  The buildings in this shot were built back in the 19th century.   A man walks by, light reflects on the ground from a shop.   These schenes especially at high-resolution can be very interesting.

"Sitting in the dark"
Despite the fact that it was almost too dark for me to see the subject of this photo.. the person sitting next to the convenience store is illuminated by streetlights while the store itself gives off lots of light.  This is our station stop and we will soon be catching the rush-hour light-rail.

 "Waiting for the Max"
Street photography takes guts.  Even at night.  One thing you have to have is self confidence.  Act like you know what your doing and your supposed to be there.   If you hide and are evasive you might get trobble.  Meet people.. ask them if it's ok for them to be in your pictures.   It is not illegal to photograph people like this although the ethics of selling and or posting such pictures is hotly debated.  I try to be a considerate photographer and even though I'm the kind of guy who would take a picture while falling off a cliff.. I still consider what other people think and get the gyst and feel of a situation before I start shooting.   Some people do not want to be photographed and you should always respect there requests.. while others will beg you to photograph them especially if you have a serious camera on you and look professional.   One thing is for sure..when I do shoots like this I am armed simply because at night or even during the daytime someone with a camera can be a target.   This goes without saying.. but if you don't have a CCW permit do not carry a gun!!! And if you do carry a weapon carry something that is legal in your area in case you get questioned by the police. I've been questioned more times then I can remember just because I had a camera and I was in a place that was a bit odd.   So don't carry illegal stuff.  In most places a good can of Pepper spray such a Sabre in your pocket is a good idea.  Another good one is a tazer or stun-gun however I feel people who carry such devices should have some training.  I was a security guard in Seattle and learned how to properly use a stun-gun and mace.   Always remember.. use of these types of weapons for anything but self defense is an instant felony.   If you get a warning your best weapon is probably your cellphone.  Even a deactivated cellphone will dial 911.  That is required by law.   If your on one chances are your less likely to be harassed.   By being considerate to people and watching the signs. being street smart.. you should not have allot of trouble.  For my most dangerous places I used to take less expensive cameras for the obvious reason that you never know what might happen.   Be prepared but don't be stupid or too paranoid.  Being sure of yourself and being aware of your surroundings is your best defense.  I've got quite a few close-call stories but they are a bit long to go into here.    There are some areas I would not go at night for sure no matter what I had on me.  If someone screams at you to put away your camera it's a good idea to do so.   No picture is worth getting shot or something over.

 "The doors are closing"
The train arrives, this Max line is going to the airport.  Ours is next.  The intercom can get annoying but it's a great way to travel.  And as I say.. usually, it's not nearly as packed as it is during the rush hour that I took the shots below on.

"Packed to the Max"
When I was in Thailand I saw a train with people riding on top of it.  This was darn near close.  Talk about no Personal space.   We had none.   During the worst of it people crowd in and are so packed together that your forced to get really up close and personal with the person next to you.   It might be a good excuse to get close to your date! :)  Otherwize as I say.. rush hours 3-6 or so are pretty bad but it lightens up quickly.

"Personal space"
Maybe I should have rode a bike.. oh..did you notice the sign above her head.  Maybe not.  Taxes on bikes!  Frightening. I don't want to know what they are going to think of next.

OF all the shots in this entire sequence I think this is the most important.   Unfortunately I did not get this guys licence number.  However, he obviously thought he could out-run the train.   I'm not sure what the stastistcs are but people die every year trying to do this and just because it's light-rail does not make any difference.  Trying to beat the train like this is illegal, wrong and really stupid.  If this truck had been hit, not only would the driver been killed but the driver of the Train would have also been killed.  It would have been a nightmare.  Nobody should have to be in such a hurry that they need to take this kind of risk.  They have clear warnings for a reason so there is no excuse for this.   I have a ham radio friend who was injured in a seirous train accident.  It's not funny, or cool to try to beat a train.   The light rail will go by very quickly and theres never any excuse for this.   I've watched cops in persuit stop for the train for good reason. Yet this guy seemed to think he had the right to take people's live's in his hands. 

I wish I could put  this picture in our local news papor.   I'm still working on re-building and dealing with the aftermath of the fire in my hart and soul, but my wife and I have been doing better.   For those of you who are ham radio operators I plan to be on the air more often and I am interested in talking about photography.  Since my wife and I don't have a car.. any time to take a trip to take pictures would be great.  I have a lot to learn about photography and feel that it is my future.   I really am praying that someday I will be able to afford a professional camera again and be back to where I was before the fire here in Portland.  Dispite my life-challenges and dissability, I want to rize into photography and make the best of my situation.  I am very interested in many kinds of photography as my website shows.   I want to sell my pictures and possibly someday make money doing something in photography that will be able to support my wife and I.   I really feel I have a future and with determination and shear will power I go forward into a new year with high hopes.  I want to thank all the ham radio operators who have welcomed me here in Portland and especially Jeff Damn (WA7MLH) for all the gear he's given me.  I also want to thank everyone who's prayed for us and been there for us when we've had hard times since the fire.   We are making the best of what we have and planning for what we can to be able to do more.   Happy Holidays to everyone and please comment on my photos by clicking on the mailbox.  I like to get fanmail or feedback.  Thank you-- Gabe Beasley

It has come to my attention that my email address is hard to understand:
I used o/l/n/g/w/b@yahoo.com to keep the web-crawlers from spaming my e-mail address.   To e-mail us you must remove the / slash marks from the address.   So my email address is shown as o/l/n/g/w/b@yahoo.com then my email address would be olngwb@yahoo.com.  <--not my email address just an example here.
So take the slash marks out and you will get our email addresses.
primary= a/l/i/n/a/n/g/a/b/e@yahoo.com
sec= olngwb@yahoo.com <--I get so much spam on this one that i don't care anymore!  Please use the above one first as I don't check the old one very often.
We still need things so if anyone out there has any ham radio gear or camera gear they don't want please let me know by email and maybe we can work something out.   See previous articles for my wishlist and other info about the fire.
Thanks again to everyone for the help and support we have gotten.   HAPPY HOLIDAYS! and as we say in the ham radio world 73s to all!

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