Chester County Creeks Downingtown HDR Nature Pennsylvania Photo Journal Photography Tone Mapping Weather

Post Hurricane Irene Nature Walks

About an hour ago, we finally got our power back!

We lost it Saturday night around 10:32pm during “Dr. Who”… I mean Hurricane Irene.

I was monitoring my various networks, watching for things related to the storm that was all around us.

The TV was nothing but an Emergency Broadcast transmissions for tornado warnings all over the area.

The first alert was described as strong storm, with possible circular rotation for areas to the south, starting in New Castle and heading towards Kennett Square.

About 5 minutes later, there was another warning that included the King of Prussia area.

We are right in the middle, and needless to say, I was a little nervous.

At 10:31pm, I posted to Facebook that our lights were browning…

Then the Power was gone…

I turned on the radio and listened as I paced the house, moving from the front to the back, and occasionally into the garage to look out into the night from one of the opened doors.

Sometime around 3:30am, I finally laid down and continued to listen to the radio before I falling asleep.

I was woken up by my wife, as she prepared snacks for the kids, who were upstairs watching a movie on the iPad.

They were happy.

Walking around the house, I surveyed out all the windows to see what the outside looked like, and how many branches would I be picking up later.

I also watched for cars to gauge how the roads were, and as I saw more, I wanted to go out to see for myself, and so did Madison.

We got down to Kerr Park around 11:30, and saw several other people already exploring what Irene had left.

Kerr Park 003 - Small Bridge
Kerr Park 003 – Small Bridge

After parking, both Madison and I walked across the water-logged grass, and headed toward the Brandywine creek, which was well over it’s banks.

Kerr Park 013 - Flooding
Kerr Park 013 – Flooding

The small little stream and bridge in the middle of the park were covered with several inches of water.

Kerr Park - Fallen Tree - Hurricane Irene
Kerr Park – Fallen Tree

One could also see that one of the older trees and fallen over during the heavy winds from the night before.

Madison on top of fallen tree root ball
Madison on top of fallen tree root ball

After walking around some more, we headed back to the car, and off to the Dam along Struble Trail.

Kerr Park 096 - Trees and Flooding
Kerr Park 096 – Trees and Flooding

When we got to the small little parking area, there was another family already investigating the dam and all the water that was flowing over it.

Struble Trail Dam 01 - Downingtown
Struble Trail Dam 01 – Downingtown

We finished taking our pictures, walked back to the car, and on to home.

Once there, Logan was now ready to see the outside world also, so we jumped into the car, and headed to the Dowlin Forge Road entrance to the Struble Trail.

I was actually a little surprised to see as many folks walking the trail, but considering that the power was still out, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

As Logan and headed West, we found our little trail that leads down to the edge of the Brandywine, but were confronted with a large puddle from earlier flooding. Logan jumped on my back for a piggy-back ride across and we continued on.

It was loud and many of the ‘normal’ creek-bed features, were covered in several inches of deep water.

I wanted to find the “Creek Claw“, but with all the water, I knew that it was not going to be, but I was able to find the “Hobbit House” tree.

110828 Struble Trail - Hobbit House Tree
Struble Trail – Hobbit House Tree

As I took several different angles, I reminded Logan that when the water was lower, he was able to stand inside.

He looked at me with disbelief, and then went back to lightsabering the tree branches.

We continued down the dirt trail, and back up to the main paved trail.

On the way back to the car, we only saw one tree laying across the trail, which was a surprise.

Fallen tree across Struble Trail
Fallen tree across Struble Trail

From the parking lot, we drove along Creek Road (Rt. 282) back into Downingtown, and on to Kerr Park for a quick stop, and no camera.

As we walked around, I pointed out where the water had been earlier and told him I would show him the pictures later, once we had power again.

– Andrew
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Blogging Chester County Downingtown Facebook Fields Flickr Glenmoore HDR Nature Online Life Photo Journal Photography Tone Mapping Weather

Cloud Hunting

As many locals will tell you, the past three days have been filled with some awesome looking clouds, and finally, I got a chance to go out and shoot some…

I had to stop at home to grab my gear, and I also jumped on Google Earth to get a quick idea of areas I wanted to check-out with the clouds being as inspiring as they were!

My first stop, was just East of Shamona Creek Elementary School, which is rather close to where I live, and having just photographed a similar scene just over two weeks ago, I knew that there was a nice overview both North and South.

Cloud Hunting hdr 04 (08/16/2011)
Cloud Hunting hdr 04 – South

The biggest thing that you notice missing, is the big bails of hay, which were one of the focus point in the previous Black and White image conversion.

From this scene, I walked across the street and up a small hill to capture the next image, and I am very happy to have been able to capture one of the birds that was out souring with the various up-drafts.

Cloud Hunting hdr 07 - North (08/16/2011)
Cloud Hunting hdr 07 – North

After this shot, I got back to my car, and headed toward the other side of the school, where I set-up and took some more shoots. (Note: I have decided to wait and HDR process those images when there is real snow on the ground!)

Backing up again, I continued West down Dorlan Mill Road to Creek Road (Rt. 282).

For those that have been following my blog closely, yes, this is the same Creek Road I explored on a Friday in the 101°F heat earlier in July, and very thankfully, it is much cooler this time!

As I drove North West on Creek Road toward Glenmoore, I looked at the Brandywine creek, making metal notes of how the water has risen some, and where I want to explore in the up coming months.

I continued through Glenmoore, and as I was driving and looking, I spotted the following cumulus thunderhead developing, and pulled over to the side as quickly as possible to capture this (7) image HDR capture:

Cloud Hunting hdr 28 (08/16/2011)
Cloud Hunting hdr 28

I took a couple of different angles on this, and as I was, an adult heron fly from right to left in this image, and disappeared into the woods behind the cat-o-nine-tails.

Jumping back into my car, I continued toward Elverson on Creek Road, crossing Manor Road (Rt. 82), and as I started up the small hill, I noticed a group of cows, laying on the ground resting with wonderful clouds in the background.

I quickly turned around, pulled over, and grabbed my equipment.

My fear as I approached the fence, was that all the cows were going to get up and head toward me.

Cloud Hunting hdr 33 (08/16/2011)
Cloud Hunting hdr 33 (08/16/2011)

But alas, the cows seemed content to stay were they were, and I was able to click a few frames before my camera just stopped working.


I wanted to continue, so I headed home to grab my AA battery pack, but by the time I got there, and back out my car, the clouds had changed into pending rain, which the area needs, but is no where nearly as interesting as it had been.

I called it a day, and started the process of transferring my images from the camera on to my computer for further processing.

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After working on the second image, “Cloud Hunting hdr 07 – North”, until 3am this morning, I woke up to find that it had been selected as “Image of the Day” by Parkesburg Today!

Chester County Downingtown Nature Photo Journal

Changes in the weather…

Storm Clouds - UHES 266 tm
Storm Clouds - UHES 266 tm

It was another Saturday in the later winter, and there were reports that some rain was on it’s way, but by mid afternoon, the kids were too filled with energy to spent any more time inside.

So we packed up the car with Madison’s scooter and Logan’s bike, and we head up to Uwchlan Hill Elementary School to get some fresh air and exercise.

When we got there, we noticed two other families also had the same idea, and were enjoying the usually warm day.

As we walked around the school, playing on the various pieces of equipment, I was continuously pointing my camera to the sky, to capture all the dark storm clouds that were crossing our area.

At first, I let the camera’s sensors take care of the exposure, but in reviewing the images on the little LCD screen, I decided to switch into manual mode, with some setting as high as 1/4000 at F16 ISO 100, which was definitely underexposing the my captures bu 2-3 stops, but at the same time, giving more depth to the clouds as the flew by.

During the outing, I took around 350 images, and when it came time to edit them, I had to look very carefully, 1) because the images were very dark; 2) there were only subtle differences between some of the frames.

I was really surprised to find so few images with lens flair, especially considering that in many cases, I was shooting directly into the sun. What I found very intriguing, was some of the color halos that I was getting around the sun. It was easy to see that I was pushing the limits of the CCD on my camera!

After making my initial selections, I used basic Lightroom corrections to try and enhance the images, which worked in many cases, but I wanted to get a little more.

I then imported some of the images into Photomatix, where I applied mostly default settings in the enhanced tone-map section, plus added a little color temperature warmth to some of the captures.

Looking forward, I plan to use this underexposure technique again when faced with similar scenes, I only hope, that I will be able to hold the foreground detail…

If you are interested, more images can be found in my Flickr Photostream, under “Uwchlan Hills Elementary School (110305)

Andrew (SDC) - View my 'Uwchlan Hills Elementary School (110305)' set on Flickriver

Thanks for stopping by

– Andrew
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Nature Photography

Lighting Photography + Fulgurites

Talk about a game a patience and being in the right place at the right time.

Yesterday on Flickr, I connected with Steven Maguire, aka “The Eye of the Storm Photography“, who happens to me a native of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania that has now moved out to Sierra Vista, AZ.

What really impressed me, was his collection of “Lighting” captures that he has taken, and if you happen to be as interested in this type of photography, I would encourage you to take a look at his collection!

Eye of the Storm Photography - View 'My Best Lightning Photography' set on Flickriver

During my viewing of his captures, there are several where one can see the Lighting striking the ground, which reminded me of an article I read years ago in Scientific America on Fulgurites, and ever since then I have always wanted to see one, and maybe even find one!

Well, today, in looking up info on Fulgurite, I found the “Mineralogical Research Company”, which sells them!

I can not wait til my kids are older… From what I have read, fulgurites are VERY difficult to dig out of the ground, and have to be handled very carefully!

That being said, if you are looking for a unique gift for that “someone that has everything”…

– Andrew
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Chester County HDR Nature Photo Journal Photography

I drive by every day… add snow and ice…

110204 Rt 401 Field 001 - Cross County ski tracks
Cross County ski tracks (001)

Tuesday night (2/1), we got struck with an ice storm that came in from the mid-west and headed up to New England, and in the morning, many people and business were delayed, if not closed.

Both my kids were home from school, and we watched as the thick ice that had accumulated over night on the branches, slowly melt during the day.

By Thursday morning, the sun was out, and life was getting back to normal.

While driving to my client along Conestoga Road (Rt. 401) in Chester Springs, I noticed the bright sun was creating many interesting patterns and shadows in the ice glazed fields, and I was kicking myself for not having brought my camera.

This morning, my camera bag was packed and walked out the door with me, but the conditions were much different.

It was now an over cast day, with the anticipation of some more snow, changing into rain for the rest of the weekend.

After getting my kids off to school, I started off to the clients, hoping to salvage something from what I saw on Thursday’s commute.

As I traveled by the first field, some of my hopes had be dashed. The flat light from being overcast gave no texture to the scene, so I continued.

110204 Rt 401 Field 013
Cross County ski tracks (013)

When I got closer to the second shoot area, I noticed that some of the incoming storm clouds where lining up with the sun rise in a very interesting fashion, so I pulled up ???? Road, and quickly parked with my flashers going.

Getting onto the field was very interesting, especially in Business Casual Work clothes! – It was Friday… Dress Down Friday (DDF)

Anyhow, I was barely able to get in far enough to get into clean snow, because of what had been plowed into banks…

Also hoping that I was not going to lose a good shoe, made the whole experience, it all the more interesting….

Note to self – Next time, wear different shoes in deep snow!

In under 10 minutes, I was done, and heading off to my clients with very wet cuffs on my pants…

I did take a passing look at Shoot #3, but had to continue…

For the rest of the day, I was trying to figure out when I was going to be able to return for Shoot #3.

It HAD to be today!

Between the forecasted weather, and family life at home… When was I going to do this…

Then around 3pm, I was driving back home to meet my daughter, as she got of the bus.

As I got closer to the Shoot #3 location and was looking for a parking spot.

Guess who was sitting there…

The Townships finest.

How dare they take my Parking Spot!

I needed to get this shot!

Finally, I got home, greeted my daughter, and got her afternoon snack.

After about a half hour or so of unwinding, I mentioned that we needed to go out for our Friday afternoon errands, and that I needed to do something special.

110204 Rt 401 Field hdr 01 - Cross County ski tracks
Cross County ski tracks (hdr 01)

Blah, blah, blah… Some time passes…

I’m walking down Conestoga Road, camera attached to tripod, trying to plug in the remote trigger, waiting for traffic to clear…

The traffic clears, and I am able to cross the street.

From there, I scaled some minor snow plow hills, and into some fresh snow, where I place my tripod down, and at first, it was stable, but as I aligned the head some more, the whole tripod settled…

I made corrections by means of pushing deeper into the snow, and was finally ready to “expose film”…

Where was my remote my remote shutter release!

Reaching into my pockets… Nothing…

With camera/tripod in place, I back tracked my steps, and it was not until I got to the plow drifts, that I noticed my remote trigger in the middle of the road!

Checking traffic, I was able to retrieve the unit and see it had not be run over.


I got back to camera/tripod location, plugged in my remote, and did a series of exposures with both Single HDR (HDRs) and Multi-Exposure HDR (HDRm) in mind, which were all captured in Canon RAW (cr2) format.

I was done within 5 minutes and we were off on the rest of our errands…

Publicly, again, I want to thank Madison for putting up with her father’s insanity.

Tech Talk

The following paragraphs are more informational in manner.

Hardware –

  • Camera: Canon XTi
  • Film Rating: ISO 100
  • Aperture: F22 (or Max-ed)
  • Time(s): Varied (Hand Held and Tripod)

Software –

  • Adobe Lightroom (cr2 > dng + psd > dng)
  • Canon EOS Utility (WinTel)
  • Photomatix
– Andrew
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