Palm House Cone Tree

In the Palm House area of the Conservatory is this Tropical Christmas Tree. It is an amazing tree with tropical plants and flowers. Very colorful to photograph but difficult with all the visitors trying to take in all the colors and textures. A fun photo subject!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Distant Landscape In Setting Sunlight

When we were walking out of Longwood Gardens after photographing Christmas displays, I noticed in the distance, the setting sun casting interesting sun rays in the clouds on some homes. I liked the “warm” light and the opening in the clouds for the sun to cast the rays. Because my subject was quite distant, I shot at 95mm with my 14-140mm m43 lens for 2 images to combine in a panorama. If I just zoomed out I would have too much dark clouds above and too much foreground below so it would have lost some of the highlighted sun rays impact on the image. Using Adobe Camera Raw enabled me to pull even more detail and tones from the raw digital file.

Christmas Lights At Longwood Gardens

We went to Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, PA, for their annual Christmas light displays. These are just a few of the outdoor displays at night. There are also many other displays throughout the Conservatory and other buildings. One of the other very interesting displays was a room full of decorations with amazing ornaments made from books and other paper pages. They must have been cut/fabricated maybe by laser cutting. But it was amazing to see the intricate cutting & fabrication. I will post some of them next. Most of the images I shot with an Olympus OMD-1 mk I with a 14-140mm Panasonic lens (with the lens stabilization turned off). I was also using a Canon body with a 12-24mm lens,  but was relying more on the OMD for in-body stabilization. Much lighter to carry and with the stabilized body worked well for the images in early evening. I found the Olympus in-body stabilization worked better than the Panasonic lens stabilization. Plus if you stop down to f/22 you can get some really cool motion blurs or spins with the Olympus OM-D. I saw a few tripods being used, but you usually have to get a free permit for them and cannot use tripods after 2:00. Plus it was so crowded it would have been in the way, so they probably would not allow it for this time.

The featured image above was at 22mm with the 4/3 Olympus OM-D mkI.

We had to get there early, before 2:00 in the afternoon, otherwise, even being members, you had to have a timed entrance because of the huge crowds that come to see the night displays. Also getting there later you have to park off site and take shuttles to the facility. But there is plenty to see before the evening lights up! It takes hours to go through the Conservatory, which is all decorated for Christmas, and you still probably will not see everything.



Late afternoon along the walkways, getting ready for the full impact of the lights at night.


Fountains set to music – when darker they would have colorful lights


Along the path to other fountains & displays starting to get dark.


3 image panorama @14mm- assembled in Photoshop


Birdhouse Display early evening before dark, 18mm, f/10 @ 1/5 sec


Bird house display in the dark, f/ 5.6 @ 0.3 sec


3 image panorama – 14mm. Also these were cascading lights, so in a way it is also an Image Stack that included the cascading lights as they “fell”.  14mm, 1/3rd of a second each exposure, handheld. Pano & stacked in Photoshop. f/8 @ 1/8 sec, handheld


2 image vertical panorama & stack. Panorama to show reflections in water and stack to include more of the cascading lights.


Single image, m43 15mm, 1/8 Sec to show green lights before changing to another color, handheld.


Christmas Tree Changing Color of Lights, 1/13th sec, handheld, m43 @ 32mm

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Tree with Lights and Color Spotlights on Tree Trunk. f/ 4.5 @ 12mm Canon, 1/30th sec

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Another Tree with Lights, 12mm Canon, f/ 4.5 @ 1/13 sec. handheld

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3 image Panorama, 24mm Canon, f/ 5.6 @ 1/8 sec. handheld

Longwood Gardens Fountain Panoramas

I enjoy doing multi-image panoramas. It is sort of a challenge and I am usually trying different techniques to see what comes out the best. These are all shot with a m43 Camera @ 14mm with a series of handheld images. I tried a few different versions, a series of images shot with horizontal images for the pano and another with vertical images for a taller horizontal panorama. Then I also tried different ways in Photoshop to blend the images. Some I tried “Auto” for blending the different layers which usually works well. Photoshop tries to do what it thinks best for the assembly. In addition I also did the series with “cylindrical” assembly.  I think I liked the pano done with 11 Vertical images. It usually works pretty well as long as you try to overlap your images quite a bit and try to keep a level horizontal line as you shoot the series. When you combine the layers of your pano in Photoshop, I usually also click on the box for content-aware-fill. It does a pretty good job of filling in blank areas that happen when Photoshop aligns everything and might have open areas on the borders or edges. Also it seems a little trickier with the m43 format instead of a regular DSLR. The more panos you try the more you seem to know if it is going to work in the end. It takes trial and error to get a feel for doing these and be somewhat confident it will turn out. I started doing these because I wanted to “travel” lighter without carrying a lot of lenses with me, Plus they are fun to do. So give it a try and do not get discouraged. After a few tries it gets easier to do and more predictable.

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11 vertical images @ 14mm, m43

LW Fountains Pan0 6xLW Pano v2

9 horizontal images @ 14mm, m43



A Different Kind Of Bird

While at Longwood Gardens last year, in the meadow, I heard a loud plane going over. Many times Military aircraft fly by, jets or helicopters. But it sounded different than a usual plane. Looking up I was surprised to see an old Ford TriMotor flying over. It made several passes during the time I was there. I only had a 150mm Macro lens with me at the time, so this is a pretty heavy crop. Longwood Gardens Meadow Garden is 86 acres and offers guests a chance to see wildlife, native wildflowers and grasses, and a historic Colonial home that tells the story of how the land has evolved from the 1700s. It is great for walking and looking for flowers, plants, butterflies, bugs and basically a wide variety of photo subjects. From landscapes to macro. It is sort of a challenge or treasure hunt to see what you can find to photograph. Or more what you can do to make the most interesting images from what you do find.

Years ago I used to do a lot of Aviation Photography. It became “Old” though, same planes, baking on hot tarmacs looking up at the sky. And at Airshows everything was overpriced, even a bottle of water was $3 to 5. Then after 9/11, many of the military events limited you to 1 camera, 1 lens. So I moved on to birds and other subjects. Definitely more challenging and for me more fun and satisfying.

Being curious, I looked up registration number of the TriMotor that had flown overhead, and it had quite a history:

This Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor (c/n 4-AT-69), registered as NC8407, was the 146th off Ford’s assembly line and first flew on August 21, 1929. It was sold to Pitcairn Aviation’s passenger division, Eastern Air Transport, whose paint scheme is seen on the aircraft today. In 1930, it was leased to Cubana Airlines, where it inaugurated air service between Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The airplane was later flown by the government of the Dominican Republic, and in 1949 returned to the U.S. for barnstorming use. In 1950, it was moved from Miami to Phoenix and was refitted with more powerful engines for use as a crop duster – with two 450 HP engines and one 550 HP engine, it became the most powerful Model 4-AT ever flown. In 1955, it was moved to Idaho and fitted with two 275-gallon tanks and bomb doors for use as a borate bomber in aerial firefighting. Then in 1958, it was further modified for use by smoke jumpers. After working for a variety of crop spraying businesses, it was moved to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1964, where its new owner flew barnstorming tours. In 1973, a severe thunderstorm ripped the plane from its tie-downs, lifted it 50 feet into the air, and smashed it to the ground on its back. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) subsequently purchased the wreckage, and it was restored over a period of 12 years. It was displayed in the EAA AirVenture Museum until 1991 when it began annual tours during which rides are offered.

Hummingbird Moth – Longwood Gardens Meadow Gardens


Closeup Eagle Portrait

I finally found a bird I cannot scare away. Usually I am cautious to not get too close. Also I do not want to scare them off. I found this one that did not care how close I got! Plus it did not fly off! It just seemed to ignore my presence as if I was not there. I am not sure of the specific species, but I think it was in the Granite Eagle family. I have seen many at a distance, but this is the first one I found that I could get close to. Others I have seen were on top of government buildings. So I moved on, not to disturb it anymore than I did.

Longwood Gardens Tulip Display

We had gone to Longwood Gardens for their massive Tulip display. There were over 240,000 Tulips in displays around the gardens. We went on the peak weekend and there were plenty of flowers to photograph. I was trying to travel light in the morning so decided to use a close focusing 300mm lens for smoother backgrounds instead of one of macro lenses.

Here are a few from the start of my walk through the Gardens. Some of the close-ups are 2 or 3 Image stacks, shot at f/4, handheld, for more detail of individual flowers but keeping a softer background. The featured image is a 3 image stack, handheld.

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3 image stack, handheld

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2 image stack, handheld

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3 image stack, f/5.6 handheld

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4 image stack, handheld

64 Image Stacked Panorama

While I was photographing some of the Tulips at Longwood Gardens, Kathy asked me to photograph this wall area that kind of looked like a still life image. The problem was I was using a Canon 300mm f/4 lens. I like using this lens for flowers because it has extremely close focus for a 300mm lens and I do not need extension tubes, plus shooting wide open, or even f/5.6, I get cleaner looking soft backgrounds behind the main subject. I was traveling light concentrating on closeups of flowers and my other gear was in the car. So, up for the challenge, I decided to try an image stack. The problem was it was very crowded because it was the peak weekend for the tulips, so people were everywhere. I had to get close to avoid the people which increased the number of shots I needed. I did not know how many I had until I went to assemble it in Photoshop. I shot 64 shots, handheld, trying to overlap images in a series of rows. I did an overall adjustment in camera raw and then loaded all the images in a layered Photoshop file. Than I did an auto align and then merge which took over 2 hours to process. I was surprised how good it came out, just requiring minor touch up here and there. The final file in layers is about 3 gigs and when flattened is 85 inches x 75 inches at 300ppi.

10 Shot Pano Of Main Fountain Garden At Longwood Gardens

The Main Fountain Garden at Longwood Gardens is about to reopen this month. We were there for the Tulip Gardens with more than 240,000 Tulips blooming around the gardens. The Main Fountain Garden has been closed for years during the renovation, but they were testing some of the fountains while we were there. This is a 10 shot panorama taken handheld at 14mm with a m43 camera. It was blocked off since it is not open to the public yet so there were no people in the way. I shot more overlapping shots than usual since it was such a long structure and it helped to avoid more distortion with the wide angle lens and the extreme length of the building. Processing the images in CC Photoshop 2017 seems to have less distortion at the edges than my old standby Photoshop CS6 Extended.

Bee On Milk Thistle

I liked the blue behind this Milk Thistle. While I was working on this shot, a bee flew in. I thought it looked more interesting with the bee, adding another element to the image.



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