Friday, January 07, 2011


For new years my wife and I spent the cold days here in Portland at a hotel near the Loyd Center Mall. I got up early despite the cold (about 20 degrees Fahrenheit) and snapped (or rather opened my shutter and lens cap) for a number of long exposures after I finally found a good spot overlooking a bridge. We can't afford a car so I was on foot the whole time and really got chilled for these shots. This was a 25sec expsosure. These shots are not easy to do, especially in the serious cold.

Here is another 25sec exposure done with the D90. I was a bit concerned about it being so cold. With windchill the camera was totally frozen by the time I took these shots but she did well and I did not have any problems. Luckily, it's the only camera I've got! I was truely having a good time despite mild hypothermia while I took these shots. The first time you can make an image you have been wanting to do for a long time is quite a high. I was lucky to find such a great spot to capture both city lights and the cars going in and out early in the morning on foot.

These were also semi-long exposures taken at high ISO. Most of them I keep under 3200 to avoid serious problems later. The D90 is really good at dealing with noise however all the way up to high iso levels. This was the scene at Pioneer Courthouse Square in down town Portland just moments after the new years countdown.

The group of people on the right were doing countdowns every several minutes or so. It seems not everyone's clock was set right. With cellphones today most people are aware of the exact time. My wife and I really wanted to be down here for the moment but at the exact moment according to the atomic clock in Colorado (Coordinated universal time) we were on the train. Everyone was actually nice and lots of cheering on the train was captured by me in HD video but it's too large to post here for now.
This is the kind of train we were on, a long exposure of it going by. I think this was about 10sec exposure or so. Making the train seem transparent as lights made an impression on the sensor before the train arrived to put it's own imprint there. This is the light rail system here in Portland. Usually a great way to get around the city as long as it's not crowded.

The same morning I shot those highway overpass long exposures I also shot this exposure also probably 20-25sec of the area. Simple lights turn night into day and darkness into light. When doing very long exposures (30sec+) one can almost turn night into day anywhere with a good digital SLR. Often the white balance will be a compromise to this making for off colors. You can compensate sometimes with lots of work but I usually just try to make pics as I actually see them as best as I can. To me this early in the morning cold and by myself for this walk--these artistic statues seemed a bit creepy!

Skipping back to downtown Portland Oregon--here you can see a funny but real situation that happened. I have to admit I did not see quite as much drinking as I thought I would, these guys however spilled a beer can out the back of there SUV and there was even a man riding inside it as well when they took off without latching there back door. A low profile cop car they had clearly not noticed beeped at them when they did this but there was too much traffic and stuff going on so I guess the cops let it go. I wish I'd got it on video but a series of stills showed what happened. Drinking and driving is serious no matter what time of year it is. They are really cracking down everywhere. In California it is now as 12,000 dollar fine for just your 1st offense. I am glad they are clamping down on it. The only way to beat the Breathalyzer test is to not drink and drive.

Here are some of the lights in Portland with my lens at 18mm wide angle. They were beautiful but it's a white balance nightmare sometimes. I generally try to make it look as much like what I actually saw when I was there as possible. Some photographers go to great lengths to balance everything to white for an unrealistic view of how the lights really look. Learn how to use your manual settings. White balance is actually not new to photography. Film cameras also have to deal with color variations caused by electrical and artificial lighting situations. I also shot some pics downtown with my Nikon FE 35mm SLR.

This was a 25sec long exposure I walked into and then stood still for so that I would get imprinted by lights behind me into the shot. This makes for a ghostly image that looks like a double exposure. That was a cold morning!

Another ghostly effect created by the lens and long exposure. People walking through blocking light in some places and just being in certain places for slightly longer times can make for interesting art. No modifications were done to this photo--it's straight off the camera and it's sensor. Take a closer look at the strange creations both on the left and in the middle by clicking on it. Use your browsers <--back arrow to return to my blog site.

Another 18mm wide shot of Portland streets. It would have been brighter and lower ISO (thus higher definition) had my tripod not been found to be broken when we arrived at the hotel! That was a big bummer holding back many of the night-shots I wanted to do for the 1st of 2011. I was lucky to find a good tripod that can handle a heavy camera for less then $30 at the local Ritz Kits Camera store at the Loyd Center Mall and thus able to take those overpass pictures. It's almost impossible to shoot exposures slower then about 1/8th sec. even if your in a meditation state of mind (and even with image stabilization in lens or camera) without a tripod. Essential gear for exposures lasting half seconds or longer. $25 or so can get you a solid good tripod for all kinds of shots. Beware of really cheapo stuff.

Another Portland shot downtown of the lights and light-rail (Max line) with people in the distance. It was cool that night but I took over 300 exposures. At the time I shot these I had no tripod so I improvised as much as I could and used an image stabilized lens. I got pics to turn out ok occasionally as low as 1/5th a sec but that's rare and after years of learning how to hold a camera very still.

It looks like most people did not like 2010 much. It was another year, lots of people suffering. This popular news paper was all over town.

I didn't want to upset this guy who was watching me take pictures so I only took 2. I had to take long exposures at this point because of low light and lots of people in the area so not enough time to get my settings perfect. If you have a DSLR with auto ISO this might be a good time to use it--I find that comes in very handy but only if you turn it on! This guy was trying to catch some sleep just a few moments after the new year started. Showing the reality of so many people's lives these days. There is a recently publicized conception that giving money to panhandlers is not a good idea--I disagree. These people have nothing and no control over there lives--I think if you can it's always a good idea to give to them. If you have lived a life without living like this you can't understand what it's like or what it means and the truth about why people end up like this you won't ever really see unless you do yourself.

I lacked a working tripod at this point so I put my camera on a news paper box and managed to catch a few shots of cars passing by on that new years night. It was nice, everyone was talking to strangers and the spirit in the air was good. Why can't we make every day that hospitable to strangers??

Another long exposure with a ghost image. Honestly, I'm not sure who this is. Me, or maybe someone walking by. Or maybe a ghost--who knows. I was not aware this would be in this photo which I shot to capture the subtle effects of passing cars and there lights as you can see in the background.

After we got there just about 3min after 1200midnight the countdowns continued and I just went into taking as many night exposures as possible without a tripod.

I lit up the whole area with my SB-600 Nikon flash. I actually could have done a brighter shot had I noticed that my flash was not stopped down to -2.7 as it was flashing on it's display. I did not notice until later that I forgot to get those settings right in all the stuff going on. A large flash and the right settings can light up a very big area of people.

They turned the tree off and my flash was not fully charged when I took this shot. They turned if off only about 5min or so after midnight. Maybe 10 at the most. One guys shirt reflected my flash so much he looks like he's got a glowing suit on. Once again my flash settings were low as I did fail to check them before shooting during these. On a complex camera there's a lot you have to get right and when lots of stuff is going on its' easy to do everything from leave the lens cap on to forget a simple setting change you made. I make it a point (usually) to set everything back to a sort of "neutral" state for "general photography" when I'm done shooting and backup my gear so that I am ready as I can be and nothing is stopped down or offset in a way I may not expect. It's always a good thing to do. Also--when shooting in cold temperatures bring your camera back inside in a plastic bag so that it warms up without serious condensation. Most of all do not ever remove the lens or change lenses when going from a cold or warm environment very quickly. The last thing you want is condensation on the sensor.

Yes payphones are still around, being used, and incredibly going strong. But what shocked me most about this was the entirely un-protected Trimet LCD HD TV screen! Sadly vandalism of such devices or attempted theft is very common. This TV was very vulnerable and not enclosed in anything. And since when did you need an LCD HD TV to show bus schedules??! Jese--my wife and I don't even have the money for one of those. And we have spent more then enough to buy one on tickets since we moved here yet we have not been checked once. Not even once. So we could have gotten away with riding without a ticket and actually bought one of these HD TVs! I just think there is something wrong with this whole situation. I get upset when they don't check after I spend what builds up to 100s and then 1000s of dollars slowly in bus passes and nobody checks when your riding the Max. Then this is what they spend it on?? Come on. This high end TV is just being used to show bus schedules-- it won't last a year like this with the kind of vandalism that goes on. Why spend that kind of money especially without an enclosure to protect it from jerks?? Every time we get on that light rail it costs about $5 because there's no way to buy ticket that will last long enough or cover all "zones" to get where we usually need to go. I hate to see technology and money wasted. This TV does not stand a chance out here.

This is one of the first shots I took when we got to our hotel. The Portland skyline. I love doing night-shots but shortly after I took this one and planned to do longer lens shots I realized my tripod was broken and just in time. Had I not figured out what was wrong the camera could have been damaged.

Another 25sec exposure I took when I got to the bridge showing traffic going into and out of Portland. I was hoping I'd get a place like this to take pictures and I got lucky just by getting up early enough and taking the time despite the cold to take the shots. Full resolution shots and prints are available of all these shots if anyone is interested. Just email me. I only post 640 res. on here.

And here was a shot I took with remote. This was 1 of 3 tries needed. I had to stand still without moving at all in the cold for 25sec or the exposure got blurred. Yes it was cold but it was well worth it!

Again full sized high resolution files and prints are available of these shots-- just email me if your interested. All in all we had a good trip and New-years day morning these shots made it well worth while for me when it comes to photography.

At different apertures I can control the brightness and other factors all the way up to nearly turning night into day. Long exposures are fun but require some knowledge of photography and gear. We had a great time and hope everyone enjoys looking at these pictures as much as I do! Happy new years to all and lets make it a better year! --G.Beasley