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.

Defying Gravity, but Not the nearly Purple Haze

By Mark

Last Saturday, my friend Jeff invited me to go flying with him.  I leapt at the opportunity and so we headed up, up and away into the VA and MD skies. 

I learned quite a bit about trying to shoot in a small aircraft.  The first thing that I learned is that there is not a heck of a lot of room for a big lens in a small cockpit.  I wound up taking off my lens hood and really wished I had one of the rubber ones. You will see that not being able to press my lens to the glass means that for some angles, you get to see your own reflection in the image. The second thing which I learned, or at least recognized, is that most plane windows are a little bit tinted, which helps keep the plane cool, but which does add both a tint and reduces the light a bit.  Next, it was very interesting to see the level of haziness that hangs over this region.  Here is an untouched image as we approached Baltimore. 

Baltimore?

Baltimore?

It’s that greasy smear in the left center.  Last week at Adobe Max, they showcased some new technology which may appear in future releases—it is called Dehaze and man, do I wish it was out now. http://prodesigntools.com/adobe-photoshop-defog-dehaze.html  All of these pictures required the clarity slider be pushed almost to the max. 

There are a lot of airway restrictions around this area-which is no surprise. With 3 major airports and the Nation’s Capital they control the air pretty tightly. For some reason they don’t want people flying over the White House???  It was impressive to watch Jeff communicate with all of the ATC zones and not get us shot down.  What is pleasantly surprising though is where you can fly. 

Inner Harbor

Inner Harbor

We headed east and fly right over the inner harbor of Baltimore.  We looped around so I could get shots of both Raven Stadium and Camden Yards. 

Foosebal

Foosebal

Still one of the best fields in baseball

Still one of the best fields in baseball

We then checked to see that “our banner still waved” over Ft. McHenry before heading over to the Eastern Shore of MD.  

Mid day sun, not the dawn's early light at all

Mid day sun, not the dawn's early light at all

We stopped for lunch in Cambridge, MD.  Although I didn’t get a shot-something about whacking Jeff in the head while we were on final, didn’t sound smart; we were accompanied for a little bit by a Bald Eagle.  

One other thing about flying over a city, is that your cell phone keeps looking for the towers, which are all below you.  This eats your battery.  I had been using an app-Motion-X GPS to capture our track.  That stopped at lunch time when I had no power Captain.

Half of our track.  Note the loop around B'allmer

Half of our track.  Note the loop around B'allmer

Flying back we cruised over the picturesque waterfront towns of Oxford and St. Michaels.  Sailboats and powerboats out enjoying a glorious day.  

St. Michaels, MD

St. Michaels, MD

We headed over the Naval Academy in Annapolis and then found the winner of the best house award.  

There a lot of huge, gorgeous, really, really expensive houses out along the water.

Finally we headed back to Leesburg and found the only spot of real turbulence for the day.  It was a blast and we are going to do it again—Maybe even at night.   

Lined up, with a bit of rough air

Lined up, with a bit of rough air

Final approach

Final approach