Monday, November 18, 2013

Pick Up Your Toys

Hard Working Crew on a Cold, Windy Day.
Every kid gets told to put away their toys when they are through playing with them. I guess it even happens in the adult world.

Well, I'm sure they didn't think of it as "playing." It looked much more like hard work.

These guys are removing the train tracks from a short bridge near the parking lot of the Nebraska Furniture Mart. An older industrial area is being converted to retail space and the train tracks are in the way.

They were earning their pay. It was a very cold, windy day. It didn't look like fun. It looked like the job would take a while, they were moving one or two ties at time to the back of a large truck.

I snapped this photo with my phone from the NFM parking lot while sitting comfortably in my heated car.


Monday, November 11, 2013


These hopper cars are about 1" tall.

While I was in the hobby shop buying a circle of track to go around the Christmas tree I spotted these little N-scale coal hopper cars.

They are painted and lettered for our local power company. Since I had worked there for so many years it would have been wrong not to buy a couple. I only bought two, even though there were several available, each with different road numbers. I rationalized the purchase by telling myself that these little trains would make great subjects for macro photography.

Taking a quick photo of that exquisite little lettering for this article was interesting. The camera (yeah, it was my phone) was only about 4" from the car sides. Even so, it's a fairly severe crop of the original image. Given that the photo was taken with the built in flash of the phone, it's not horrible.

So why did I use the phone? It was in my pocket and I didn't want to take the time to set up a tripod or lights for a larger camera. Think of this photo as a sketch. Artists and designers often make pencil sketches of their ideas before committing time to a bigger project. In this case, setting up the camera, tripod and lighting would take a while. "Sketching" several ideas with the phone (or a small compact camera) is quick and involves little setup time. There are obvious differences in lens focal length, minimum focusing distances and lighting angles. But, it's a quick way to test a concept. It's a technique I've used quite often in the early stages of projects.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Working High

I'm not sure what these guys were doing, but the job must have been made more difficult because of the height.

The base of that lift truck is about 4 stories lower than you see in the photo. It's in an alley behind the parking garage.

In the detail photo you can see the fellow on the lift passing what looks like a pipe to the fellow on the roof.

This all took place several years ago and I never did hear what they were doing. It must have been necessary, you don't go through that much trouble on a whim.

The original photos aren't very good. they were taken through an office window with an old compact camera. The sun had not fully risen and the photo was a bit dark and very noisy.

I used Lightroom to make it a bit lighter, reduce the noise and highlight the two workers. L
ightroom couldn't do anything about the dirty window that I shot through.

Like so many of my photos, these are not fine art, I'm glad a took a minute to make a couple of snapshots to remind me of the unusual activity of the day.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Christmas Train

A small switch engine with the Christmas Train in tow.
I decided to run a train around the base of a small Christmas tree this year. Rather than wait until the Christmas Rush, I stopped by a local hobby shop and picked up enough track to make a small circle of the appropriate size this weekend. The newer tracks are much nicer than what we had when I was kid. The solid roadbed is built-in and the connectors actually hold the track firmly together. It went together quickly and I spent a few minutes "testing" the whole setup. It's going to work very well.

While I had a moving target I decided to shoot a few short video clips. I hadn't used the video editor in Photoshop CC yet and this looked like a good chance to give it a try. Normally, it takes a while to learn something new in Photoshop, but this was unusually straight forward.. Here is a combination of three clips from the iPhone. (For a higher resolution version that opens in a new window,  click here.)

Notice how the brightness changes as the white car goes by. That is the iPhone auto-exposure system reacting to the sudden change. The shakes have nothing to do with the phone. That was me trying to hold things steady without a mini-tripod.

Not great art and nothing to write home about, but it only took a few minutes to put together. I'm pleased enough with the simple video tools in Photoshop CC that I won't be upgrading my video editing software. Now I guess I'll go back and read the manual.


Monday, October 21, 2013


September, 2005
I'm not sure if this guy was heading to the game or just wanted to be prepared for a grill emergency.

This fellow was in front of me for about a mile. Eventually, we stopped at a red light and I pulled the camera out of the glove box. (2005 again, pre-cell phone cameras) The lights turned green just as I snapped the shutter.

The Lightroom spot removal tool works for more than just spots. It didn't do a horrible job of removing the license plate number. 


Monday, October 14, 2013

Over Two Billionaires Served...

Here's one from 2005 I almost forgot about.

As the story is told, both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are bridge players. Gates was in town for a tournament and the two billionaires decided to stop by this restaurant for lunch. Take that MacD.

Petrow's seems to be doing well. They've been around for over 50 years but they're not stuck in the past. The building has been remodeled since this photo was taken. Now you can order on-line and they even have an app for your phone.

Grab shots like this were the reason I always carried a camera. It would be a couple of years before the first iPhone was released and camera phones of the time were pretty bad. These days I'm more like everyone else and just use my camera phone.


Monday, October 07, 2013

Signs of Winter

Building a Christmas Tree
Like they say on HBO, "Winter Is Coming." With wind, rain and an overnight low in the 30s I actually turned on the furnace yesterday.

I was at local shopping center last week and snapped this photo of the Christmas tree being installed. I guess if the Halloween candy hits the store shelves before Labor Day it only follows that the Christmas decorations go up before Halloween.

This is a fairly severe crop from the center of a cell phone photo, so the quality is less than great. Lightroom did a fair job of removing the noise, but you can still see it if you look at the full screen version. With a bit more work I suppose this photo could actually look pretty good. But, in this case a snapshot isn't worth the trouble.