52Frames – 2020-43 – Reflections

I knew I wouldn’t have much opportunity to take my 52Frames picture this week, so this one is kind of placeholder. The theme was Reflections, with “Mirror” as extra credit – which I claimed. We were traveling by car earlier this week (a fairly rare thing), and I snapped this on the Autobahn. And, for a phone snapshot without edit, I think I got lucky. The electric lines that lead to the mirror feel PARTICULARLY lucky.

It’s not a great or even a good shot, but it’s a shot, I still have my streak, and getting closer and closer to get the full streak for 2020, which would be nice ๐Ÿ™‚

#balisebooks – Wine Dark Deep: Book One – R. Peter Keith

I got intrigued by the pitch of Wine Dark Deep: “Equal parts The Martian, Star Trek, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Expanse”. Of these four, I love 3, and I’m neutral about the fourth (I probably read it at some point, but I don’t remember anything about it). That, plus an intriguing title, made me ask for a review copy on NetGalley, and be happy when I got it.

In Wine Dark Deep, some parts of the solar system are somewhat settled; Ceres is used as a refueling base for ships that go for a longer journey. The Ulysses is such a ship – destination Jupiter, for a scientific mission, and gets quite annoyed when the Ceres base refuses their refueling, for reasons that are initially unclear. A tug of war ensues between the two factions and we follow in particular Cal Scott, the captain of the Ulysses, and Helen Donovan, who’s part of the Ceres colony.

I usually see myself as someone who loves all the “space details” that make me feel like a book is believable and well-researched – that go beyond the handwavy “yeah, we have cool engines and we can go to space today”. I will admit that the level of these details in Wine Dark Deep was too much for me, especially since it seemed to come at the detriment of character development. I had a very hard time caring for any of these characters and what they were doing, and no amount of nerdy details could compensate for that.

Wine Deep Dark is the first part of a three-part story, and it’s possible that the following parts alleviate the issues that I have with the first part, but I also regret to say that I will not try to find out by reading them.

Scavenger Hunt #29 – Round

CameraPentax K-1 II
LensPentax DA 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 AL
Focal length18 mm
Exposure time1/8s

Round is the last image I got for this Hunt, and it’s my favorite one! It’s weird, it’s nerdy (there was a strong HAL 9000 inspiration.) And I could take bets on people having no idea how I made that image, and…. that makes me weirdly happy ๐Ÿ˜›

The whole process started, funnily enough, with the lens. It kind of popped in my mind that my camera is a full-frame camera, and that I do have a couple of lenses that do not cover the whole sensor. Hence: very strong, round, black vignetting. I started playing with what I had, and came to the conclusion that the strongest vignetting I could get was with the 18-55 at 18mm. This made things a bit awkward, because it’s a wide aperture… and at this point, I also had vaguely in the idea that I wanted to use my crystal ball – which is not that large (but which is round) too.

I then rummaged into my collection of random stuff, and I ended up with the following props:

A tube that’s a bit bigger than my crystal ball, a couple of tape rolls that are EXACTLY the right width to serve as crystal ball support, and one of my faithful Lume cubes with color filters. Well. It actually started with no filter, and then a green filter, and when I looked into the first images, I excitedly went “WAIT IF I TAKE A RED FILTER I CAN DO HAL”, so from there I had a precise direction.

It also took me a few attempts to setup everything in a way that made sense (I initially didn’t have the tape supports either) and to finally just plop the camera on top of the tube to make a tunnel and see what I would get there.

The final hurdle was the strong magenta reflection that’s still a bit visible in the image I submitted, but that I decided I could live with. I tried to fixed that one by trying to orient things differently and playing with the white balance, but without much success.

I had a lot of fun making this image; and it might actually only completely make sense in the context of a SOOC challenge! Still, I couldn’t resist the temptation to do an edit from RAW to see what I can get from my image source ๐Ÿ˜‰ And to see that that stupid magenta fringe was an artifact of processing of my camera! I hadn’t expected that. And if you think I wouldn’t take the opportunity of the postprocessing to edit a brighter spot in the middle, think, think again ๐Ÿ˜‰

And for the final album of the reveals on the Scavenger side: Round.

Scavenger Hunt #29 – Boats

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100 mm
Exposure time1/100 s

I’m lucky enough to live near a lake that sees a fair amount of boat traffic, so I was not too worried about the Boats theme – I knew it wouldn’t be the most original shot, but I knew I could probably get a decent shot at least. I went on a walk during the Hunt time specifically to get a few shots that I knew I could get along the way. I ended up walking more than I thought I would, but it was a very pleasant walk, so win-win.

I ended up with A Lot of candidates for my Boats shot. For the SOOC constraint, I liked this one best: it’s colorful, there’s a nice reflection, the framing is… reasonable – although I don’t like that I see a bit of the nearby Badi on the top-left corner, and I think cropping would have helped getting the shot I wanted.

If not for the SOOC constraint, I probably would have tried to get a “cropable” image of this one with a shorter focal length and hoped for the best. As it is, it is still one of my favorite shots in the multiple that I have for this theme; I would either have gone back to get a better framing or more probably gone for a tighter crop in post, and probably been somewhat unsatisfied with the shot in general ๐Ÿ˜€

And the Scavenger album is here: Boats.

Scavenger Hunt #29 – Metal

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mmF2.8 WR
Focal length100 mm
Exposure time1/50 s

Metal is an instance of a picture that’s somewhat weak on the theme, but that I couldn’t resist including in my Hunt set because I loved it so much. I’m not even sure WHY I love it so much – but when I reviewed the set for that day, there was definitely an audible “oh!”.

The annoying thing is that I had a FANTASTIC find for the theme, but none of the pictures were remotely as good, at least in SOOC. There’s a botanical collection of succulent plants in Zรผrich, and this picture was taken behind that building. And a few meters away, there’s a bunch of metallic cactus sculptures. I spent a significant amount of time trying to get a good shot of these – but they’re stuck in an awkard place not far from a fairly busy road, so I didn’t manage to make a SOOC image work ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Not to mention that it was a very bright day and that there was literally no shade around at all, which didn’t help either.

If not for the SOOC constraint, I may have submitted this one:

I think it’s a better fit, but the non-edited version felt fairly bland. I also think that I may have shot differently without the SOOC constraint: I would have trusted that I could crop and turn things around, and I would probably have gotten larger angle shots with the hope of getting SOMETHING that I could use. I might go back to that place at some point, because these were fun to photograph!

And, for more pictures of the same word, the Scavenger album: Metal.

Scavenger Hunt #29 – Path

CameraPentax K-1 II
LensPentax D FA 24-70mm F2.8
Focal length24mm
Exposure time1/20 s

Path is probably one of the pictures I like less for this Hunt. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s a bad picture, but it’s somewhat uninspired and bland. This is a path near the river not far for my place, and it’s actually fairly rare to manage to catch it that empty: there’s usually a large amount of pedestrians and bikes trying to share it with or without grumbling ๐Ÿ™‚

That’s mostly the reason why the framing is slightly “offset” compared to what I’d try to usually do (I think) – I didn’t want to be in the way, so I settled on the side on the path and started shooting. I took a fair amount of pictures, trying different combinations of depth of field and focus; I ended up liking the ones with the smallest aperture best, because the tree in the foreground was sharper and it felt better to not focus explicitly on said tree, so, there.

With the SOOC constraint, my major difficulty was to manage both framing and a picture that’s not crooked; I had pictures that I liked better in my set but that would have required some editing, so they were out by definition.

If not for the SOOC constraint, I might have gone for this:

This one is actually a composite. The person is in another picture – for which the whole picture was softer and the framinig was meh-er, but I really liked the idea of having someone there; and I also liked that the person was looking at the water (that I know to be behind the trees ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and not simply walking. It was a no-no as it was, but comp’d with the one I submitted, it would have made it better ๐Ÿ™‚

(Hi, my name is Balise and I’m compositing pictures for “what ifs” in a SOOC challenge ๐Ÿ˜€ )

And for the album of my fellow Scavenger fellows, follow the Path ๐Ÿ™‚

Scavenger Hunt #29 – Broken

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mmF2.8 W
Focal length100mm
Exposure time1/2 s

With the list of words that we had for this round, the idea of a broken egg took place in my mind and never moved away from it. So I broke an egg on a reasonable surface, and I started shooting. I had started shooting hand-held, but after a few shots it became obvious that I wanted more depth of field than I could shoot handheld (and not compensate for in post), so I sighed, got the tripod out, and continued shooting.

Nothing much to say about this shot – it’s was basically a matter of “taking a lot of them and choose the best one”. If I remember correctly I did add a lume cube (or maybe a led panel? I’m not sure anymore!) as a secondary source of light, but that was pretty much it.

I would have gone for the same base picture if not for the SOOC constraint, but I would have edited a bit to remove the reflection in the back (which I find distracting) and boost a bit the reflection of the egg shell.

And the Scavenger album: Broken.

Scavenger Hunt #29 – Water

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mmF2.8 WR
Focal length100 mm
Exposure time1/125 s

I did a main photo walk during this Hunt that yielded me 5 pictures – which is a great score ๐Ÿ˜‰ Water was actually one that I expected to get, considering where I was going, but I had no strong idea about what I wanted to do. I found the top arches of a ladder going into the lake and decided to play with it for a while. Of all the pictures that I took, this was my favorite under the SOOC constraint.

I have a fondness for images that imply the word by their absence, or that obviously fit the word without making it obvious, or that make the word central but still subtle, if that makes any sense. And because of that, I’m actually very fond of that image, even if it may have fit another theme better (but I think I would have liked it less for the other theme ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

My own edit from the RAW file is much bluer.

And the Scavenger album is here: Water.

52Frames – 2020-42 – Food photography

The theme for this week’s 52Frames was Food photography. I used to do quite a lot of food/kitchen photography-related photography a few years ago; I don’t do it nearly as much now, but I still have some taste (pun intended) for it.

I knew that there would be baking this week-end (it’s my husband’s birthday ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), so I waited for that and followed him in the kitchen with my camera. When it comes to food photography, I always preferred the “action” shots to the “food stylist” pictures – less pretty, for sure, but more realistic ๐Ÿ˜‰

The light in the kitchen this afternoon was fairly bad – although we have great natural light in this room, the weather is pretty gloomy, and our lighting is not up to photography tasks, and I got wayyyy to lazy to add some proper lights in the way of the baking (for which I wasn’t responsible!). I’m still quite happy with the overall mood I managed to get with that shot – and I like the texture of the pie. It’s not an AMAZING picture, but I don’t hate it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Scavenger Hunt #29 – Needle

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mmF2.8 WR
Focal length100mm
Exposure time1.3s

Okay, this was FUN. It took me a little while to remember that we had a LEGO model of the Seattle Space Needle somewhere – so that gave me a direction. (It missed the top part, so I hadto rummage into my LEGO collection to find a way to fix it, that also took a little while, but I think it works.)

Then came the “okay, how do I set this up” question. I wanted some kind of skyline behind it, because it felt right – if only to give the “city” context that may help with the “Seattle” context (because otherwise the whole “Needle” part may be hard to see!). It turns out that Zรผrich is not exactly rich in skylines view. I might have been able to pull it off somehow, buuuut. If it hadn’t been a SOOC challenge, I might have gone for a composite of some kind… but, well, SOOC means no composite.


A few months ago, I had seen a video about the filming of The Mandalorian: the green screen had been replaced by huge screens and… pretty much used as it was filmed. I suppose it popped back in my mind when I went “waaaait. I could have that skyline displayed on my monitor, that… should work, right?”. I never went to Seattle, but I do have skylines pictures – get a bit of Boston, as seen from Cambridge ๐Ÿ˜‰ I actually quite like using the skyline from another city: it’s my kind of cheeky, I guess. Here’s what the setup looked like:

You’ll note the creativity in the pile of stuff that I put under the Space Needle ๐Ÿ˜‰

Then came the second guessing – was that… cheating? The Boston picture has definitely been taken a long time ago (and outside of the Scavenger Hunt dates, obviously), and that one HAD been processed. But, hey, it’s an original picture that uses practical special effects to achieve a SOOC picture within the theme ๐Ÿ˜‰ And, as a nice bonus surprise, the reflection in the tower in the back works pretty well with the Needle in the front

Now, I’m not COMPLETELY happy with that image – in particular, the Needle is a bit crooked, which is unfortunate. I had images with a better verticality, but the border of the screen was visible… which I only saw after I had put everything back in its place ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Still, that’s… very much the same concept, with a tiny bit of cropping and cleaning up.

And for the album of my fellow Scavengers: Needle (careful, some of these are scary ๐Ÿ˜€ )