A View from Above

By Mark

Last week my blog focused on the recovery process required to overcome the haze of summer.  In an ironic note of timing, today Adobe announced a new feature for an upcoming release of Lightroom- DeHaze.  Take a look at the link from Terry White here bit.ly/1KoKzXO 

But that is not what this blog is about.  This is a look at the destination and not the journey.   It boggles my mind that pilots are allowed to fly as we did around the city. Now, Jeff really knows what he is doing and we had to report our location almost continuously, but there we were flying below the tops of the skyscrapers at 1000 feet up and down the Hudson River.  

Here is a look at our flight path.

We made two trips up the West side and then crossed over and flew down the Harlem River and then down the East River. It’s pretty cool when you start out flying over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as you approach the city.  

Heading up town, seeing the newly opened Freedom Tower and the 9-11 memorial, reminds you how far we have come. 

Continuing up the river, we passed directly over the USS Intrepid museum.  Looking straight down on the aircraft on the flight deck was an interesting perspective.   

From the ground, it is difficult to appreciate, just how big Central Park really is. 

Unfortunately, at least for this Dodger’s fan, you can also get a good view of the home of the true Evil Empire—the new Yankees Stadium in the Bronx.

Further North there are some impressive cathedrals and this Tomb. 

Grant's Tomb

Grant's Tomb

If you’ve traveled through NYC, you probably have spent some time sitting on the GW Bridge.  It looks peaceful from this angle.

It’s no secret that my favorite building in the city is the Chrysler building. 

Usually I get shots of it from the top of the Empire State building, but I like this angle.  

As we left the city we had a much different view of Ellis Island and Lady Liberty than I got last summer. 

I am ready to go back again and next time we are going to try to go at night.   

It’s Just a Little Bit Hazy

By Mark

Digital Photography can do some amazing things in post processing.  This past Saturday, I got to go flying again with my friend Jeff.  We decided that it would be cool to fly up to New York City and then home again.  It gives him some good cross country time and would allow me to hopefully get a few interesting shots.   Last fall we went to Baltimore and the Eastern Shore and it was a blast.  We took off from Leesburg with an eye on the weather.  Thunderstorms and small airplanes do not mix.  Things looked pretty good, but there was definitely the early summer light haziness in the air.  The further north and closer to the coast we got, the more the haze thickened.  We had good visibility for flying, but details on the ground were just seemingly slightly out of focus.  It helps to understand what components make up haze.  Thanks to all of the wonderful trees breathing there is a lot of moisture in the air.  Plus we have had quite a bit of good old rain so the air is saturated with tiny water particles.  Mix in a healthy bit of human exhaust from cars, buildings and the like and voila-haze.

As we approached the city, this is pretty much what we could see.  

Pretty sure there is a city there somewhere??

Pretty sure there is a city there somewhere??

Not good picture taking conditions.   When you look at the histogram, you can see that it is pretty condensed.  I wasn’t certain how much information I would be able to recover, but I knew I had to try.  

That narrow range from the histogram and the very powerful Clarity slider were what gave me hope.   There are a few plug-ins which claim to help, but honestly you don’t really need them. 

Switch over to the Develop Module. To start with I find that reducing the exposure slightly-around a half stop or so; -.5, really helps.  The water reflects the light and makes the camera believe it is brighter than it really is.   The next step is pretty universal and is one you should be doing for almost all of your images anyway-setting the black and white points for your image.  In reality you are deciding where you want the darkest and lightest points to be without driving them out of printable range.   If you hold down the ALT Key as you move the black or white sliders an amazing thing happens.    For the Blacks slider, the screen turns all white.  Drag the arrow to the left and watch the histogram as it expands to the left.  When you start seeing little black pixels appear and before the little arrows at the top of the histogram turn solid white, let go and your image will have transformed.  For the Whites slider, drag the arrow to the right.  You can see how much more range you have created. 

You can then move down into the Presence panel and make some additional adjustments.  For inanimate objects like cities and landscapes you can crank up the Clarity all the way to 100.  I find that if you do that, you probably need to add a little Vibrance as well to bring back those mid-tone colors. Finally you get to this.  Still not “great”, but much better. 

Anyway, most of the shots started out needing a lot of work, but that didn't make the experience any less interesting.  Not many people get the privilege of angles like this, starting as we flew right over the Verrazano-Narrow Bridge.

New York-The 9-11 Museum

By Mark

We took some time off last week for a family trip to NYC. One of the top things on our collective list was a trip to the new 9-11 museum.  We were all very impressed with the exhibits and the impact they still convey.   The two fountains now mark where the old foundations for the north and south towers once stood.  The museum blends in very well with the architecture. 

In the summer of 2001 our graphic artist/admin assistant had moved with her son back to Long Island. She had just started her new job in Manhattan in the South Tower in Sept 2011. We got a postcard from her a few days later with her new office circled high up on the 88th floor.  Michelle Lanza’s name is now inscribed one of the panels lining the memorial fountains. 

Engraved around each fountain are the names of all the people who worked in the buildings, the first responders, the passengers on the planes as well as the names from the Pentagon and from Pennsylvania. Inside the museum is a room where all of their photos line the walls and an interactive electronic display.

Lining the lobby and throughout the building are twisted columns of two inch steel. 

Looking back up as you move down the escalator you can see the almost completed World Trade Center building. 

.  As you head down the ramp into the main part of the museum the side wall is the original slurry wall built as part of the original foundations for the towers.  It helps keep the Hudson out and was the backdrop for most of the excavations on site.   

The two story tall steel beam in the center of the room was the last piece removed during recovery.

Each of the crews working signed it and left some memories behind. 

The stories of the first responders still are inspiring. Looking at the wreckage of the trucks and ambulances destroyed in the collapse helps drive home how powerful it was.

They have on display a two foot tall section where 5 floors have been compacted into layers.  They don't photograph well.   In the timeline section of the museum, no photographs are allowed.  Lots of personal stories and items are shown there. We planned to spend a couple of hours but stayed about four.  Tickets are a must before you go and I can say that everyone should make the trip.  The rest of our trip was much less somber and we had great weather.  It made for some good pictures which I will save for next week and beyond.