Sunday, May 31, 2009

Floating in the Past

A white maple leaf floating in a puddle, filled with decaying and waterlogged leaves.
Waterlogged leaves
You can order a print of this photo if you like it!

This post comes to you from the back side of the Cliffs, everyone's favorite greenstone range running down the spine of the Keweenaw. Kyle and I headed out on a lovely spring day, trying to find an old fire tower up north of Central. We did find it -- or at least its foundations -- and along the way, we found this puddle full of last season's leaves. They were mostly waterlogged and sunk, but just one was holding on hopefully.

Another feature of this particular hike was discovering an old mine, hidden in and among the cliffs. We found several old shafts wedged into a steep and narrow cut in the cliffs. I always love finding hidden, forgotten places like that. It feels like I was the first person to be there since the mine was closed, probably 150 years ago. While that's probably not true, I really love the idea!

Friday, May 29, 2009


Two fiddlehead ferns growing, with many smaller fernlings around them.
Mommy fern, daddy fern, and all the little kiddie ferns

This photo comes to you from Wyandotte falls, which I visited with my parents a few weeks back. Everything was just starting to grow -- the real start of spring in the Keweenaw -- and these ferns were just poking their heads up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rockhouse Abstract

An abstract composition of shapes and textures -- mostly blocks, including lines in corrugated steel, red rusted metal, and decaying cement.
Rust and decay at the Quincy #2 Shaft-Rockhouse

I sometimes like to wander around the Quincy Mine property, especially near sunset. The ruins of the old mine are filled with wonderful textures, shapes, and shadows. This composition comes from the old #2 shaft-rockhouse, where corrugated steel meets the rusty iron rock bin, and the decaying cement foundation.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mesnard Headframe

A complex series of beams, with a ladder and circular cage in the center.
The Mesnard (Quincy #8) Headframe

Here's a shot from one of my recent wanderings: the old Quincy #8 shaft, also called the Mesnard Mine. This photo shows the access ladder on the headframe -- a huge collection of metal beams over top of the shaft. This isn't your normal Copper Country headframe -- this one was put in place in the mid 1970's, as part of an exploration on the old Quincy property. No ore came up through this headframe -- just men going down to scout out the old mine. Nothing ever came of it, and so we are left with this metal beast sitting along US-41.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lift Bridge Time-Lapse (Part 2: Fun with Photo Slicing)

The Portage Lake lift bridge, made up of 36 vertical stripes from 36 photos taken around sunset.
The Portage Lake lift bridge sunset, together in a single photo

Here's my next bit of fun with time-lapse photography: putting it all together in one photo! This photo is made up of 36 vertical slices. Reading from left to right, they span approximately 1.5 hours centered around sunset -- from 8:30 until 10:00 pm. These are the same images that went into my time lapse video of the lift bridge. The sharp edges are a bit annoying, but that could be solved by taking even more photos (something I hope to do shortly).

For those interested -- how did I do this? I can certainly tell you how I didn't do this: I definitely did not slice and assemble 36 photos by hand! Instead, starting with my 36 image files, I used magic -- actually, ImageMagick -- to do this for me. First, I ran the following shell script:
for ((i=2861;i<=2896;i++)) do
convert -crop 107x2385!+$off+0 DSC_$i.jpg Crop_$i.jpg;
off=$[$off + 107];
This script runs through the images, which were named DSC_2861.jpg through DSC_2896.jpg, in order. For each of them, it uses ImageMagick's convert command to crop the image into a single slice, 107 pixels wide and 2385 pixels tall. Each slice is 107 pixels to the right of the previous image's slice, so that the slices would all line up. I came up with these numbers pretty simply: 107 is the width of my images, divided by 36, while 2385 is the height of my images. After that, all I had to do was
convert Crop*.jpg +append bridge.jpg
which stitches the images together horizontally into a single image. (That's what +append does. Using -append stacks them vertically, in case you wanted to do a vertical time-lapse photo.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hungarian Falls (Middle)

The Hungarian Middle falls in the melt.

Here's another spring melt waterfall photo -- this one is from Hungarian Falls, an extensive local system of waterfalls. This is the middle fall -- out of four, so you get to guess which one exactly that means -- towards the end of our spring melt. The lower fall is one of the largest in the entire Copper Country, but I think that this is one of the prettiest -- hidden behind curved stone walls, shaded by trees, with a beautiful pool at its base. Enjoy!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lift Bridge Time-Lapse (Part 1: The Video)

The Portage Lake lift bridge at sunset -- in motion!
You can also view the video on my flickr page.

I've been experimenting with time-lapse photography lately. There are all kinds of cool things you can do, once you've figured out how! This is an example from my first try -- the Portage Lake lift bridge -- a true local monument -- over about an hour and a half, centered around sunset. I have more from this shoot, which I will feature soon.

For the technically minded, here's my process for how to make your own time-lapse photo -- you can modify this based on your equipment, but I warn you: it's not for the technologically faint of heart! The summary is short: get software that lets you control your camera from a laptop, set it up correctly, and then sit back and let your computer and camera take the photos. But the devil is in the details...
  1. Install gphoto2 on a laptop. It lets you control a camera remotely, using a normal USB cable (most camera makers have similar software which you can buy, but I prefer gphoto -- it's free and command-line controlled). There are packages for Mac OS X, Windows, and of course Linux.
  2. Write a shell script which uses gphoto to take a photo every 2-3 minutes (varies, this one was on a 2-minute timer) while slowing the shutter speed by one notch (about 1/3 stop, on my camera) for each photo. The changing shutter speed is important for sunrise or sunset photos! If you are taking a sunrise shot, you will need to change things around to make the shutter speed go faster, rather than slower. My script looked like this:
    for ((i=$1; i<=$2; i+=1))
    gphoto2 --set-config /main/capturesettings/exptime=0$i;
    gphoto2 --capture-image-and-download;
    sleep $3;
    A few technical notes: The first line sets the shutter speed, while the second takes a photo (and downloads it to your laptop, so that you can check it out right away -- no touching the camera, lest you move it and ruin the effect!). This script would be invoked (on OS X or Linux) with parameters: the first is an integer representing the starting shutter speed, the second is the ending shutter speed, and the third is the number of seconds to pause between shots. The numbers you use will depend on your camera: My Nikon D40X runs from 000 (1/4000 second) through 051 (30 seconds). For example, calling the script "",
      ./ 016 030 180
    would cause my camera to take a photo every 3 minutes (180 seconds), starting at 1/100 second shutter speed (that's 016 in my camera's code) and ending at 1/2.5 second (030), for a total of 15 frames over 45 minutes.
  3. Get to your location at least half an hour early. Set up the camera, tripod, and laptop (connected to the camera) with plans to be ready by half an hour before sunset (when the sky is just starting to really darken). Set the camera to full-manual mode, at your desired aperture and ISO settings. Focus on your desired target, and put your lens into manual focus mode (to avoid the camera trying to autofocus when it starts to get dark). Start the script.
  4. [Optional] Call up a friend you haven't talked to for a long time and spend the next hour and a half chatting as your camera and laptop do the work for you!
  5. Batch process your photos however you like (rotate, crop, etc. -- as long as you do the same thing to each photo, so that they are the same size and the images have not been shifted with respct to each other). I used GraphicConverter for this step -- a Mac-only app which has some great batch-processing features. There are many other apps you could use.
  6. Combine the images into a movie. There are many ways to do this. I used GraphicConverter -- others use iMovie, Windows Media Player, etc. This movie is at about 6 frames per second -- I would prefer more, once I polish my script.

Some details:
  • If you don't need to change your shutter speed (for example, if you're shooting during the day), you can have gphoto automatically take photos at intervals without needing a script -- just use
    gphoto2 --capture-image --interval=180 --frames=20
    which would take a photo every 180 seconds, for a total of 20 frames (60 minutes).

  • Having your camera on fully manual setting is essential, so that the script has full control over the exposure -- don't let your camera do the thinking, it will almost certainly get the later evening exposure wrong!

  • It takes some experimentation to get the timing right. This video was made with images taken every 2 minutes, with the shutter speed changing by about 1/3 stop each time. That seems about right for sunset, but if you have finer control over shutter speed, or want a different effect, your timing should be different.

Finally... have fun! Feel free to drop me a line if you want more details or clarifications.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canyon Falls Abstract

A zig-zaggy line at the edge of a waterfall, dividing between dark and light.
The edge of a waterfall.
If you like this photo, you can order a print of it!

Nature provides abstract art too! This one comes from Canyon Falls, a lovely waterfall down on the Sturgeon River. Spring so far has been very wet, and the waterfalls are still running very well. Enjoy!