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Welcome to Jay in VA

This is my spot in the blogworld to rant and rave and ramble - three things I do extremely well - and to just talk about my life in general. My blog has opened up a whole new world to me, and I hope you enjoy reading and commenting! Please feel free to do both. I appreciate your feedback.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#GlobalSelfie (and how to use Fill Flash)

In Monday's post, I promoted the cool NASA project, #GlobalSelfie. I decided I was going to go a step further and make a self portrait. What, you may ask is the difference between a selfie and a self portrait? In my mind, a selfie is a moment in time, a glimpse of someone. Nothing special, just a blip. A self portrait means a bit more, I think. To me, it's intended to show a person in their environment, perhaps tell something about that person (even when that person - me - generally hates to have their picture taken).

Yesterday, the official Earth Day, was cloudy and spitting rain when I got off work, so I ditched. I had in my mind what I wanted to do, and decent light and no rain was necessary. Today was perfect, and because I had to be into work at 6:30AM, I was getting off way early. Late afternoon light - perfect. I headed for one of my favorite spots in Richmond - James River Park at Pony Pasture. Here's the result.
Here's how I took it:

This is along the James River. I am facing more or less eastward with the sun coming over my right shoulder. I used a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L set to 27mm, and Aperture Priority with the f/stop set to f/22. I let the camera choose the rest: the shutter speed was 1/50, ISO 400. I used a circular polarizing filter to bring out the blue in the sky and add contrast to the clouds, as well as take some of the glare off the water in the river (which was roaring along at about 6.3 feet - a couple of feet above normal pool of about 4 feet). The interesting part about this photo is that I can be seen! That was accomplished by using fill flash. I knew the camera would try to meter for the large amount of bright sky. And if I metered for me, the sky would be blown out with no pretty blue and puffy white clouds. I put my Speedlite 430EX on the 6D and turned it on. On modern cameras with a newer flash, that has a TTL or ETTL mode (meaning Through The Lens exposure metering), the camera will fire the flash and expose the scene properly by measuring what comes back to it. It's a good way to bring out a subject when lighting is not ideal, or you want nice backlight which generally flatters subjects of portraits.

Here's a few pictures for comparison.
 (above) Just a normal shot. See how dark I am? 27mm, f/18, 1/60, ISO 400. Because of the brightness of the son on my head, shoulder and butt, even the sky is a bit bright.

 (above) This time, things stayed almost the same with 27mm focal length, f/18, 1/60, ISO 1000. Wait a minute! ISO 1000? Why? Because I set Exposure Compensation (often called Exposure Bias when you look at EXIF data) to +1.3 stops. Doubling the ISO to 800 is 1 stop, another 200 is about .3 stop. This causes the camera to brighten (or darken if you wish) the picture by however much + or - EC you dial in. This brought out a little more of my face, and helped maintain the blueness in the sky. 
 
(above) Now I've added the fill flash. Note that the sky and water are nearly perfect, and I can be seen! For some reason I closed the aperture 1/3 stop to f/20 (all these high f/stops mean deep depth of field, from just in front of the camera out to infinity - I manually focused just before infinity ∞). Shutter speed was 1/60, ISO 400 (no EC this time), at 24mm with Flash. PERFECT!!!

Side note: All the pictures with me in them were taken with an infrared remote trigger. It sure beat scrambling over the rocks between the camera and the boulder

Even many less expensive DSLRs and some point-and-shoot cameras can do fill flash. On the DSLRs with a pop-up flash, pop it up and it usually functions as a fill flash, firing when you take a picture and metering the return to properly expose the scene. On the point-and-shoots, get out the book (ARGH, READING?!?!?!) and see if there is a "forced flash" or "fill flash" setting that you can turn on. Oh, and you can use it to just make a picture better when you take it.
(above)  f/22, 1/80, ISO-800 (+1 stop EC, trying to bring out the trees bark patterns), focal length 42mm
(above) f/22, 1/40, ISO-400 (interesting that the camera, with +1 EC lowered the shutter speed, and the ISO because of the flash), focal length 40mm, flash

OK, this got long, but here's two I took just because they were pretty.

And if you'd like to see EXACTLY where these pictures were taken, and you have GoogleEarth, download this JamesRiverPark_GlobalSelfie.kmz file and choose "Open with Google Earth".

Monday, April 21, 2014

Earth Day 2014

I know this is late, but I hope some of you will participate and share your pics here, too!

NASA Promotes Global Earth Day Selfies

NASA wants you to step outside on Tuesday and send them an Earth Day selfie.
For the first time in more than a decade, five NASA Earth-observing missions will be launched into space in a single year. To celebrate this milestone, NASA is inviting people all around the world to step outside on Earth Day, April 22, take a "selfie," and share it with the world on social media. Designed to encourage environmental awareness and recognize the agency's ongoing work to protect our home planet, NASA's "Global Selfie" event asks people everywhere to take a picture of themselves in their local environment. On Earth Day, NASA will monitor photos posted to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Flickr. Photos posted to Twitter, Instagram or Google+ using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie, or to the #GlobalSelfie Facebook event page and the #GlobalSelfie Flickr group will be used to create a crowd-sourced mosaic image of Earth – a new “Blue Marble” built bit-by-bit with #GlobalSelfie photos.
I know where I'm headed. Thanks to Sean at Just a Jeep Guy.

For more information on getting involved in the #GlobalSelfie Earth Day event, visit:

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit: