Tag Archives: Photography

Super Moon Fake

The Super Moon Spectacle

“Supermoon wows sky-gazers for only time this year” – Fox News. “Stunning pictures show the spectacular phenomenon, which has only occurred once this year, rising across the world’s skies.” so reported NBC-NEWS. The super moon mania is a rather new phenomenon. Only in recent years has there been this craze about an astronomical event that has recurred a few times each year for eons. And you find it only in the popular news media. For astronomers and sky fans it’s just a big yawn. Here is how the next super moon event, January 1, 2018, is covered by Sky & Telescope magazine: “The first full Moon of the year (for viewers in North America) coincides with its closest perigee of the year.” – Nothing special there. For the super moon of December 3, 2017, the one so breathlessly described by Fox and NBC, this astronomy fan publication had just this to say: “The last full moon of the year floats about 2° to the lower right of Aldebaran. The Moon, which is at perigee, will occult the star near dawn for Alaska and Asia.”

Photographers and artists, however, seem to have taken to the fad. For photographers, however, there is one big problem. There is no spectacle there. The “super moon” is only about 14 percent larger than the minimal-sized full moon. Oh, you can see the difference if pictures are pasted next to each other, like here, but up in the sky, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.

“Super moon” compared to “minimal moon” – Photo by Ludwig Keck, December 3, 2017

Super moon across the Herb River – Savannah, GA

Is the super moon brighter? Not really, although it appears so to our eyes, as you can see here, but that is just an illusion. The popular media might say otherwise, but they are misinformed, or worse, “misinforming”.

Here is an old photo of a super moon that I took several years ago near Savannah, Georgia. I never shared this picture, it just isn’t very impressive. The moon is invariably over-exposed, washed out, if the landscape is exposed to have detail showing. Other photographers, no doubt, have the same problem. So what can you do? Fake it! Make it look bigger than it really is! It is easy enough to use a telephoto lens and take a bigger image then paste it into some other, nice photo. It is done all the time. The internet is replete with such images. Many are embarrassingly badly done.

A poorly done fake “super moon”

A “close-up” of the moon, processed to show detail, will be too dark to match a landscape photo with some detail and some glow around the moon. It will look obviously fake like this image here. Hint to would be fakers: The darkest part of the moon will always be brighter than the brightest part of the surrounding sky – including clouds! Hint Two: The moon is never in front of clouds! Visually such a fake will look like the moon is a big beach ball tossed into the air. Even our colleagues who create with brush and paint get this often wrong. What can be even worse is a huge moon pasted into an obviously wide-angle photo. Even unsophisticated viewers will recognize the unrealistic perspective.

If you must be “creative”, stick to being close to what is real. I tried to do this with this, my last offering here.

A semi-realistic fake “super moon”

First published in Our Arts Magazine on December 4, 2017

Internet Down

Internet Down

Outside the wind is driving the torrential rain sideways. The howling is frightening. Lights flicker a few times then go dark. My laptop is the only source of light in the room. No point going on typing, the indicators on the router also went out, the internet connection is down.

It lasted just a few minutes, but here I sit in the dark. Hope the power comes back quickly, it did the last couple of times in the past half hour. The storms are over quickly, but the power was out for six hours just a few days ago.

Yes, that’s our plight around here. Cold air from Canada races across the plains, meets up with warm moist air from the Gulf and wham, a vicious cold front races across the east and southeast of the United States. Tornadoes are spun up this way often enough. These fronts pass quickly, sometimes within minutes, but these quick thunderstorms, and wind, and rain, do plenty of damage.

Our neighborhoods have grown up quickly here, and so have the trees. Atlanta prides itself on being a sea of green. Take my “memorial oak”, for instance. I brought home a shiny acorn from a fall hiking trip in northern Georgia about thirty year ago. I put it into a flower pot and came spring there were a couple of shiny green leaves. It seems to like the spot I transplanted it to, next to my driveway. That concrete must fell like the rocky sites in North Georgia that are its natural home. Now my chestnut oak has grown into a towering tree easily three times higher than the house. It would be quite a specimen were it not for the older trees all around that reach even higher for the sky.

My oak doesn’t play the fall tradition very well. It starts losing its leaves before any turn color and they fall, wrinkled and brown. Mostly from the top of the tree so it looks like most of the leaves are still on, even though I have raked and raked. Now, finally, the lower leaves have started to turn golden. Glorious hand-size leaves in their unique shape looking like chestnut leaves from a distance. Now they have turned yellow, starting at the edges and filling in day by day. Fall at last.

Other trees play the slow tease as well. The bigger than hand-size sycamore leaves are everywhere. The gigantic sycamore next door stands in a sunny spot and has made itself into an overarching umbrella. So much so that one large branch hung over the power lines. The arborist crew took care of that just yesterday. Unfortunately the thousands of trees in the area grow much faster than trimming crews can clip.

That is our problem. Jut about every storm brings down branches and whole trees. Most of them fall on power lines. Our neighborhood is especially vulnerable. The area grew up very fast and many power lines are above ground on poles. The trees grew even faster. Our power reliability is rather poor, as a consequence, every storm brings outages. It doesn’t help that most internet cables are strung along-side the power cables. You can see that in my photo. So I sit here, hoping the power company crews solve the outage quickly.

Ah, salvation! The power is back on. The router lights are flickering. The internet is up. Those crews work hard, in any kind of weather to keep us fussy neighbors – and internet users – content.
I can post!! Better get to it before the next squall comes through. Isn’t it great, living in the South!


First published in Our Arts Magazine on November 25, 2017

Steel worker carrying steel rods in construction site

Black and White Photo

A Black and White Photograph

Everybody knows what a black and white photo is. It is an image devoid of color, just grays in shades from black to white. So why isn’t it called a gray-scale photo? Well, it is. It is also called a monochrome. But somehow the term black-and-white has caught on. If you look up “grayscale photo” most likely the term will be explained by calling it a “black and white photo”.

In its first half century of existence photography was monochrome. Not until the mid-190os did color photography become popular. I tried looking up how the term “black and white” got started, but with not much luck. Granted, I didn’t work all that hard at it. It seems the terms is so ingrained that there is little need to explain it.
For much of my photography I have used black and white images. There is the abstraction of the subject into form and tones that allow creating a message more directly, with more clarity, that has always appealed to me. Yet in recent years color has taken over much of my work.

It was a neighbor who just a week ago gave me a nudge by challenging me to a black and white image a day for a week. It is my habit to take things to extremes. And so I did with the black and white photograph here.

Steel worker carrying steel rods in construction site

Click image to see higher resolution photo at Flickr

Ludwig Keck – Self-Portrait

This is truly a “black and white” in every sense of the term. Just black areas and white areas. None of the traditional grey tones in between. I had a small collection of photos from a construction site that I took that afternoon. I decided to make some black and whites.

My editor, Photo Gallery, offers several B&W conversions. I picked the yellow filter effect. For eliminating the grays I used the simple approach of just moving the histogram sliders together.

The black slider up so the darker grays would be rendered black, and the white slider down to turn the lighter tones to white. I selected the point where the sliders met to provide the effect that I liked.

Just for fun I also dug up an old selfie that I had turned to “real” black and white.
Go ahead, feel challenged to do some really, really black and whites!


When is a Photograph Not a Photograph

When is a Photograph Not a Photograph?

Our illustration here shows an image of a worksite with some shovels stuck in dirt on the left. Clearly that is a photograph. Then it blends into some colorful “satin tiles”, digital art, on the right. It is even signed. Clearly not a photograph. Yet the right part was derived from the photo of the work site, it is a digital manipulation. It would be quite a stretch, and unacceptable by most, to call the right part a photograph.

We have wonderful digital tools these days that permit us to do magical and imaginative things. These tools allow us to use an image as if it were just paint on a brush and let our creativity roam. An art form usually called “digital art”. Let’s take a look at a couple more images.

Here we have another photograph and a, well, digital art. We are getting closer to the question of our topic. Any doubt in your mind as to the distinction? Would it matter if I told you that I spent more time on post-processing the image of the building than the one of the dancers? Would it matter that I removed a sign in front of the bushes and a gutter grate from the drive to avoid those distracting elements? Is the image of “The Little White House” still a photograph?

Since the earliest days of photography the artists have processed, post-processed, edited, retouched, enhanced, and changed the images produced by their cameras. Rarely is an image straight from the camera fit for publication. A photographer plays her camera like a violinist plays his violin. The setting, the subject, the time of day, the light, the arrangement of the details, the camera settings to control what is sharp, what is blurred, all play into what will become a photograph. Once the shutter is snapped, a whole other process begins. In the early days that was done with chemistry in film processing and repeated in the printing process that also involved many other tricks.

Nearly seventy years ago I was an apprentice to a master photographer. He taught me the details of camera operation, managing the setting, the art of the chemistry and much more. He also taught me to use a brush, sometimes with just a single hair, and the mixing of the dyes to retouch the image. Small defects and distracting details, especially in portrait work, had to be removed or modified to produce a pleasing and natural image. He always stressed that my retouching work must be so perfect that no one will ever notice it. There was never any thought that our work was anything other than photography.

Nowadays photographs still require the master’s touch. Sometimes we soften the wrinkles in an aged face, because when we see the person in life, we do not really notice them. Sometimes we remove a distracting blemish because it is temporary and not truly a part of the parson. That goes for landscapes and other photographs as well.

A photographer captures not only an image with his camera, but also with his mind. We see things that others experience differently. We want to share what we saw, and how we saw it, with the viewer. The camera, no matter how finely crafted the optics, how precise the sensor technology, does not match our eye and our vision. Yet, in the final image the photograph takes the viewer to the place, the subject, the moment in time, and sees what the photographer saw. The expert photographer brings the viewer to the subject so directly that there is no hint of the photographer’s intervention. It is as if she had stepped aside, behind the curtain, and left the viewer all alone with the subject. That is what I call a photograph.

Yet the tools of the trade permit us to go beyond reality and bring our dreams to life in our images. Here are two more of my art.

You can no longer identify the dancers. The identify of the individuals has been replaced by their art. I have tried to present not the dancer, but her art, her embodiment of music. The rustic Spanish scene is no longer a specific place, no longer a moment in time. but a feeling, an experience of joy. Clearly these are no longer photographs. These images make subject, place, time, vanish. The viewer is taken into the artists dreams.

I have shown and described photography and I have explained my feelings about digital photo manipulations. A photograph takes the viewer very directly to a subject, digital art presents the artist’s interpretation of a subject. Since the latter is derived from the photograph there is a boundary between the two forms of art. The question, “when is a photograph no longer a photograph”, is a valid one, but is it relevant? When does that transition from reality to vision happen? What guards that border?

For most artists the question is not relevant until the work is presented to a curator of a gallery, to an editor of a publication, and has to answer, “what is the medium?” The creator may feel that she is a photographer, who are we to argue? Can you make the call?

Allow me to present one more variation on the shovels. With this work I do not see a photograph.

First published in Our Arts Magazine on September 28, 2017

News for August 2014

Photo Exhibit “Images of Nature”

August 15, 2014 to September 8, 2014

The City of Norcross Cultural Arts and the Northeast Atlanta Chapter of the Georgia Nature Photographers Association will present an exhibit of nature photographs at the Rectory in Norcross, Georgia


Images of Nature

Please see the GNPA Announcement. You are most cordially invited to come to the opening reception on August 15, 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Rectory in Norcross, Georgia. Please come and enjoy the exhibit.

The exhibit will include two of my photos, including one of my favorites: Hover Fly. I also used this image on my Calendar 2014 and as the July 2014 calendar page photo.