Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Modest Holdings Short Story: "An Evening With Company"

Some nights you crack open the spigot and nothing comes, like the pipes are frozen. Other nights, you turn the valve and find an unwieldy fire hose in your hands, threatening to break free. Last night was one of those sorts of nights. Photos of the Day will return sometime, soon I hope, but until then, here is a short story. (Continue reading...)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Orange and Blue"

Nikon  D90, 17-35. ISO 200, 17mm, f13, 1/125 sec. -1/3EV exposure compensation, auto white balance, matrix meter, landscape scene mode, SB-800 manual at 1/32 with orange gel. Shot in NEF (RAW). Post processing included vibrance, clarity, recovery, sharp contrast, orange hue and saturation work. Sharpening.

The 17-35mm is also a blistering sharp lens, alongside the 18-70mm from yesterday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Put Your Face in It"

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-70. ISO 200, 46mm, f8, 1/500 sec. 0EV, auto WB, matrix, standard, SB-800 slow-sync fill. PP: Crop, recovery, light clarity, vibrance, blacks.

I shot this while I was on a kick with the 18-70, a swell, small, light, sharp lens. Note how sharp this photo is compared to the one I shared yesterday.

Now, the technicals work, but does the image? I don't think so. I suspect that your eye will be drawn to the bow on the far left, looking at the watermelon eater center. That would be OK, if he weren't so far to the left, and if he had some sunlight on his face. If your eye sticks with the boy in the center, with the shadows and highlighting from the sunlight, then maybe this image isn't as bad as I think.

Also, this is what fill flash should accomplish. Without flash, the sunlight would have been too much brighter than everything else. The flash lightens the shadows and makes the image look more organic.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Photo of the Day: "Safe Sports"

Nikon D90, 18-135. ISO 200, 135mm, f8, 1/800 sec. Meter in standard (neutral) scene mode didn't need any exposure compensation, and also selected the right white balance. For some reason I was shooting in center weighted mode. Post: crop, tone, recovery, clarity, vibrance, sharpening.

Note, again, the inherent softness in the 18-135, especially shooting at the long (or short) end. This is even stopped down to f8! Oi vey!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Better than Lawn Darts"

Nikon D90, 70-300VR. ISO 200, 122mm, f10, 1/500. -1/3EV, auto white balance, matrix meter, standard scene mode, no flash. Post processing included some cropping, recovery, clarity, and green color correction.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Tree in Light Redux"

Nikon D90, 18-135. ISO 200, 35mm, f7, 1/160. -1/3EV, auto white balance, matrix meter, landscape scene mode, no flash. Post processing: I just copied the settings from the previous Photo of the Day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Tree in Light"

Nikon D90, 18-135. ISO 200, 18mm, f8, 1/200. -1/3EV, auto white balance, matrix meter, landscape, no flash. Post processing: crop, white balance fine tuning, +.2EV exposure, 73% recovery, sharp contrast curve. Clarity 100, vibrance 21, green and blue color correction. Sharpening.

This photo was taken in the Wind River Canyon, and I've tagged it as such. See the next POTD for a contrast...

A Message from the Modest Holdings Ministry of IT

Well, I suppose it's pretty clear I've been suffering from some connectivity issues these past few days. I wish I could say I'm doing something about it, but really, I'm limited to the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities deciding they're ready to put the road back together so Bresnan can fix whatever the problem is.

That said... I've snuck out to my local tavern to siphon off some of their sweet intertube goodness. I'm going to load up a few Photos of the Day now. Please stay tuned and check back from time to time: I'm going to set a few to self-publish, operating under the assumption I may remain cut off for awhile yet.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Photo-of-the-Day Review

Well friends, I've been running a photo of the day fairly regularly for about two months now, and I thought a quick review of my work might be instructive. This post is partly for me to think about how things have gone, but it will hopefully also serve as a catalyst so some of you might share your thoughts with me.

There have been some good entries, and some excellent ones, with others not quite hitting the mark. In the beginning, I wrote a Photography Case Study twice a week, more in-depth than the brief comments I offer on Photos of the Day. I made it though five of those, plus a guest contribution from my very talented brother, before giving them up. They seemed -- well, they were -- an awful lot of work for a limited audience. I received some worthwhile comments on several of them, but mostly they didn't seem like they were worth the time. (Hint: if you enjoyed them and learned something from them, and want me to resume writing them, I'd consider it. I am here to serve you, my reader.) Instead of abandoning the concept altogether, though, I have incorporated parts of PCS into POTD when appropriate. If a particular shot was only possible because of creative flash use, I will note that and discuss why.

Now, what I really need is a camera. I've got material enough to keep doing these for some time, but I'm ready to share some fresh material with you. I've moved since most of these shots, and the Cheyenne area offers a whole new plate of opportunities. Indeed, if I hadn't been so busy killing elk last week, I would have had some excellent opportunities at Battle Mountain, near Savery. Maybe next year?

So, I've offered a few thoughts. Now, constant reader, what say you? Feel free to comment here, email jonathan.e.green@gmail.com, or find me elsewhere.

Sunday Photo of the Day: "Balance and Contrast & Earth and Sky"

Nikon D90, Nikkor 17-35mm. 17mm, f8, 1/1000 sec., ISO 200. Matrix meter, aperture priority, -2/3EV exposure compensation in scene picture mode.

Although not as clean a ying/yang as an earlier POTD, there is still a strong symmetry between horizon and cloud. This was taken at about the same time, also in Hot Springs State Park.

Post processing work included the usual: strong contrast, bump up vibrance and saturation, and a few other tweaks. I'm still looking for a high enough quality version of the original to share here, but suffice it to say it looks like most of my other "before" images: a little duller. While I prefer to get things right in-camera (as a JPEG shooter), saturation is one of the few things best done in post, most of the time. Too much in-camera and things can get out of control in a hurry, but you can always crank it up, quickly, in post.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Photo of the Day: "At the End of Day"

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-55 I, 18mm, f6.3, 30 sec. (not 1/30 sec.). ISO 200, landscape scene mode, matrix meter with aperture priority program and -2/3EV exposure compensation. Post processing included turning down the lights a bit, some color work and the application of a strong contrast color curve. Unfortunately, the straightening nixed the one star, top center below. This was taken about here, looking almost due south. The original:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Photo of the Day: "(Many Colors) In Twilight"

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-135. Other details lost, or at least not immediately handy. If I find them -- or an original of this image -- I'll pass them along.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On Holiday; Photo of the Day: "Out There"

Modest Holdings will be closed for a week-long elk hunting holiday beginning this afternoon. Blogging and photos of the day will resume next Thursday, Oct. 21.

Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-70mm, 27mm, f9, 1/320 sec., ISO 100.

I'll be out there...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Photo of the Day: "One Road"

Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-200mm, 200mm, f5.6 (wide-open), 1/2000 sec., ISO 1600. Don't ask me what I was on about shooting at 1/2000 sec., when even 1/200 sec. would have been enough to freeze the cars in the image. Resorting to ISO 1600 on the D80 also pretty much spoils the image: there's NR blocking, JPEG artifacting and lumi noise all! Ugh. Sunlight white balance, -1/3EV exposure compensation with the overexposure-prone D80 matrix meter engaged.

Post processing: color and saturation work, as well as a failed attempt to get something useful out of those poor trees. Oh, well.

This, by the way, marks the first Photo of the Day from my Yellowstone National Park series. I don't know if I'll run through all of them all at once like I did with the Highway in the Sky series. We shall see.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Rocks in Contrast"

Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-70mm, 18mm, f10, 1/400 sec., ISO 400. Matrix meter, -1/3EV exposure compensation and shade white balance. JPEG, no flash. (Interestingly, those are the exact same settings as the previous Photo of the Day.)

Post processing is the same, as well. Here is a copy of the image without sensor dust removal: ugh.

And, of course, the original. The dust spots aren't so noticeable until I start cranking up the contrast, as I am wont to do.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Photo of the Day: "Little Storm on the Prairie"

Nikon D80, 18-70mm, 18mm, f10, 1/400 sec., ISO 400. Matrix meter with -1/3EV exposure compensation and shade white balance. Shot in JPEG, no flash.

One really must visit the Thermopolis area to appreciate the vividness of the red rock there.It would additional tweaking to get the color just right: there's actually a little more magenta in them.

I availed myself to tweaking for a unusual look in post processing, especially on the left side of the image. I aimed to add in a little grain while maintaining edge integrity, so it looks like a print on canvas. Other post processing included the aforementioned color correction, sensor dust removal and some other tweaks, but nothing too severe.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Photos of the Day: Three Studies in Smoke and Noise

Since I am running late today, a bonus: three photos.

All three photos are straight from the camera: no post processing. The first is from my former (and flawed but still deeply missed) Nikon D80, Nikkor 70-300VR, 300mm, f5.6 (wide open), 1/60 sec., ISO 1600 — the very bleeding edge of usefulness with the '80.

Sometimes noise is OK, which is good, because there is a helluva lot of it here. Fortunately, newer Nikons (even the old '80) generally manifest luminescence noise, as opposed to chromatic noise. Lumi noise is characterized by pixels recording different brightnesses for the same (or similar) colors. Chroma noise is evidenced when different colors, like a red pixel in the middle of a green field, pop up. Lumi noise is less distracting, and looks more like film grain.

Not as interested in this one: the background is too busy and too light. Hmm...

Oh! This is better. Depending upon my mood, I might prefer this to the first photo; I might not. The color and brightness are better here, but sometimes the darkness is important in its own right... and I generally prefer landscape to portrait oriented photos. Who knows? Your preferences will differ, as well.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Photo of the Day Bonus

As is sometimes my wont, I decided to recrop today's Photo of the Day for use as a desktop background on my 16:10 computer display. I think it may be better than the earlier effort (although I'm not sold on it), so here it is. 

Photo of the Day: "Zenith Cloud"

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-135, 22mm, f8, 1/800 sec., ISO 200. Landscape scene mode, -1/3EV exposure compensation, aperture priority and Kelvin white balance (4950K 5G). Raw (.NEF).

Today is the final shot, probably, from the Highway in the Sky series. Post processing was not intended to capture what the scene looked like, as I tried in the other shots of this series. Sometimes you're not communicating a scene, but an idea.

Post processing included a crop and straighten and color work, mostly. Perhaps I should have added a little additional vignetting (i.e., darkened corners). Perhaps. Original below.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Photo of the Day: "Cloud in God Light (2)"

This works better, I think:

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-135, 32mm, ff8, 1/800 sec., ISO 200. Landscape scene mode, matrix meter with -1/3EV exposure compensation, manual Kelvin white balance set to 4950K with 5G shift. Raw (.NEF).

Post processing was straightforward. Cropped a bit, increased blacks 33, exposure increased .45EV, clarity to max. Color correction was also straightforward: lumi down on the blues, saturation down on yellows and oranges. Grad (desaturate and darken) in the top-right corner. I think I prefer this one to yesterday's effort — the layout and sky color work better. I'm still wrestling with whether I should have removed quite as much yellow.

From the Highway in the Sky series. The original image can be viewed here.

Sunday Photo of the Day Preview

As promised, I'm returning to the Highway in the Sky series today with another God-lighted cloud. Here is a teaser: the original, while I work through post processing. What would you do? Regular readers should have an idea what this will look like in about 30 minutes, because I've got a pretty well-established style. But that isn't the question.

See you in a bit.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Cloud in God Light"

Here is another photo from the Highway in the Sky series, of which I may share a few more yet.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-135, 28mm, f8, 1/1000 sec., ISO 200. Landscape scene mode, matrix meter with -1/3EV exposure compensation, manual Kelvin white balance set to 4950K with 5G shift. Raw (.NEF).

In this shot the distortion of the 18-135 is invisible. Also, 28mm is near the most distortion-free setting on the lens.

Post: ND grad filter to darken the top of the sky, crop. Strong contrast curve, heightened clarity, and increased blue, aqua, yellow and orange saturation values. I also shifted the orange and yellow channel hue settings toward one another.

All-in-all, pretty straightforward. As I said, perhaps I'll have another for you tomorrow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Highway in the Sky"

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-135, 18mm, f14, 1/200 sec., ISO 100 (Lo1). Matrix meter, -2/3EV exposure compensation, landscape scene mode, raw (.NEF). Manual flash at full power, Kelvin white balance (5,200K with 4-green tune).

Frequent readers will recall how I've often complained about the 18-135mm Nikkor, and here is an illustration of one of the reasons why. With some heavy work in post processing I'm able to save an image, but it isn't the one I wanted. I've had to crop in too close on the left, when I wanted to leave some breathing room. (See the original below.) Unfortunately, because of the complex and severe distortion of the 18-135, such a crop doesn't work. The vertical lines on the mile marker aren't even close to parallel — and this is after significant tweaking with Photoshop's lens correction module. Perhaps if I had DxO...

I took several versions of this shot, trying to bring a number of different things together. First off, there is the need for depth of field, which forced me to get close and shoot at 18mm. (The wider your shot, the greater the depth of field.) I tried shooting without flash, and the mile marker was flat. This was returning from vacation, so I didn't have my external flash, limiting me to 1/200 sec. sync speed, which forced me to drop to ISO-e 100, or "Lo1." f14 is one stop beyond max sharpness with the D90/18-135 combination, but I thought it was a fair compromise, and I needed the depth of field, anyway.

Post processing is pretty significant. I tweaked the white balance a hair, increased saturation and did some serious color correction. The green channel is hue-shifted from blue toward yellow (look at the sign in the original below), while I've shifted yellow toward orange. I've increased the yellow, orange, blue, green and cyan saturation levels, and played with the luminescence values on the yellow and orange channels to get the ground color right. (Lumi values are how bright a color is, saturation is how much color there is. I have increased the saturation and decreased the lumi of the blue sky from before to after.) I also cropped, rotated a hair and used some advanced sharpening, along with the crazy lens distortion correction attempt. (Note how the vertical line on the inside of the mile marker remains convex even after correction.)

Whining aside, this is one of my favorite photographs. I would like very much to return to this place with a wide lens possessive of more correctable distortion.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who does Gov. Dave want to succeed him?

This week, Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D-Wyo.) held a presser with Leslie Petersen, the former chairwoman of the state Democratic Party and Democratic candidate for Wyoming governor.

Freudenthal did not endorse Petersen. He said she is experienced and qualified, but Freudenthal had previously promised not to endorse a candidate.

I participated in a conversation with some political folks during and after the event. Everyone involved thought Freudenthal’s non-endorsement was a snub at Petersen. Some argued it was a de facto nod for Matt Mead, the Republican candidate for governor. I disagree.

(Disclosure: I was Gov. Freudenthal’s press secretary from November 2009 – March 2010. That said, I didn’t meet the Governor until shortly before he hired me, and I haven’t had much in the way of contact with his staff since I departed earlier this year. I have no insider information.)

I think Gov. Dave was, in fact, endorsing Petersen, although he didn’t say he was doing so, for several reasons.

First of all, it gives him an opportunity to stick his finger in the eye of the national Democratic party, with which he has never held a great deal of friendship. It also allows him some cover: as Petersen is a significant underdog in the race, if she still loses it will be difficult to say Freudenthal failed to exercise influence, because he will be able to say he didn’t try.

Second, well, I’m still talking about it, aren’t I? Making the political observers of the state sit back and scratch their heads keeps us talking about it. This goal seems mostly to have failed, as the chattering classes seem secure in their conclusion this was a stealth endorsement of Mead.

A few words on Matt Mead, who I do not know. While a Republican, many in the state are arguing he is insufficiently orthodox, although serious infighting among the party elite seems limited. Nevertheless, a write-in candidacy launched by Dr. Taylor Haynes threatens to split the GOP vote, as Haynes is considerably more conservative. (Haynes fell just short of appearing on the ballot after he failed to submit enough petition signatures several weeks ago.)

Mead is similar to Freudenthal. They are both moderates, both former U.S. Attorneys in Wyoming. (Mead succeeded Freudenthal in the USA’s office.) Mead has shown some of Freudenthal’s willingness to buck his national party. So it is feasible that Freudenthal would prefer Mead, I’ll grant that.

But I think everyone who sees Freudnethal’s failure to endorse Petersen as a stealth endorsement of Mead is missing the point. Several of them have argued that Freudenthal’s opinion of the Democratic Party might keep him from endorsing a Democratic candidate. I would argue that is correct… but, assuming that to be true, the governor would have endorsed Mead if that’s where his heart was.

Freudenthal also made a few remarks at the presser, which we chattering folks have mostly interpreted to be pro-Mead. Again, I think if Gov. Dave wanted to endorse Mead, he wouldn’t have hesitated to do so.
Instead, he stood with Petersen, even if he didn’t call it an endorsement.

A good deal of attention was deflected by one off-tone statement: “This isn't North Korea,” he said. “I'm not going to pick my successor.” More than a few people remarked this was arrogant. I agree, although I suspect the governor was also making a sly joke that he realizes his endorsement might move the election outcome a point or two, but not much more than that.

At any rate, I don’t think Freudenthal’s non-endorsement-endorsement of Petersen was meant to be a poke in her eye. The governor has never shown any anxiety about telling it as he sees it: if he wants Mead to win, he would say so.

Further, I suspect most people will fail to appreciate that Freudenthal didn’t endorse Petersen. Instead, they’ll hear he said the race is one of “money (Mead) versus experience (Petersen)” and that Petersen “is quite prepared.”

I asked a friend in Thermopolis – Gov. Dave’s hometown – to read a story about the press conference in the Tribune Eagle. I didn’t tell her my thoughts, but asked her to read the story and tell me hers. While a savvy media consumer, she hadn’t even been aware of the press conference or heard any reportage of it. Once she read the story, she said she thought Freudenthal was offering an endorsement-not-in-name-only.

With just over four weeks to election day, I would guess Mead’s chances are about 75%, although they may be as low as 60-65% if Dr. Haynes write-in campaign makes inroads. Whatever Gov. Dave’s intent, I doubt his press conference moved the sticks more than a point or two. If he wanted to help (or hurt) Petersen, he would have endorsed closer to the election, as people are paying closer attention.
And I’m sure Freudenthal knows that, too.

Photo of the Day: "It is Coming."

What is coming? Find out after the jump...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Dismount!"

Nikon D80, Nikkor 70-300VR, 240mm, f14, 1/500 sec., ISO 800. Center weighted meter, standard image mode, auto white balance. VR on.

No post processing today, not even the cropping this could use. An early digital image, it shows in the settings. Dynamic range would be better if I had used something sane like ISO 200, or even ISO 100, and opened up from f14 to something reasonable like f8 or f7.1. I could have maintained the high shutter speed with both those adjustments, reduced noise and increased sharpness. Oh, well.

Actually, let's throw in a few other photos of this guy. Reminds me of riding in my truck. Tech specs are similar enough I won't dwell on them here.

There's only one way off this horse.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Sunset near Thermopolis"

Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-70 (a great lens!), 56mm, f8, 1/500 sec., ISO 400, auto white balance. Aperture priority mode, center-weighted metering with, amazingly, no exposure compensation. Sometimes the D80 got it right, but not usually. Regular image capture mode (i.e. not vivid).

Sometimes it just isn't possible to use fill flash to reduce the dynamic range in a photo. There are simply too many steps of EV (exposure value) between the sun and the dark foreground. In this case, it was made worse by shooting at ISO 400: I could have fired at ISO 100 (the best case with the D80) with the same settings except a shutter speed of 1/125, still easily within the realm of handholding. (I didn't have a good reason for not doing so; I just didn't know better at this point.) Still digital capture, save for a D700 or better FX, probably couldn't have captured what I wanted.

That said... I'm happy with this. Somehow, the D80 managed to get a color-correct capture at blowout, which is a fancy way of saying the sun is the right color, not toasted white-white. The clouds also increase along a color-correct path.

Post processing was thorough but straightforward: color correction and exposure tweaking, mostly. For the technically interested, note the near-total absence of ghosting in this image: the 18-70 DX really is a gem of a lens. It remains priced that way, too, even though it's now six years old — originally the D70 kit lens. Don't let it's lack of features (VR, mostly) dissuade you if you find one for less than $250.

UPDATE: A technical note. The reason the sun blows out to the correct color is because, under most circumstances and with most digital cameras, the red channel tanks first. With a pre-ADR camera (or any Sony, Pentax, Canon or others), try this with either a blue or green blowout, such as the sky: you will likely notice as the bright areas of your image approach toast they take on a weird reddish hue.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Photo of the Day: "It's Purple."

Nikon D80, 70-300VR, 185mm,f6.3, 1/640 sec., ISO 100. Center weighted metering (remember the D80 meter deserved a recall) in manual exposure mode. Normal capture mode (the scene modes don't appear until the D3/300/700/90 and later). Vibration Reduction on the Nikkor on. Shot at "Point 00" range, or as close as the lens can focus (4.5 feet from the sensor).

Note the generally pleasing bokeh. (Bokeh is the characteristic of out-of-focus stuff.) I should have moved the blade of grass, or whatever it is, just to the top-left of the flower.

While it looks like there's a lot of post processing going on here, there really isn't. I've dialed in light sharpening, applied a strong contrast curve and tweaked exposure a bit to get some rid of the veiling. Of course, my trademarked punch vibrance and clarity are turned up, too. I like the colors, I like the lighting and I like the contrast.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Photo of the Day Bonus, Getting There is Half the Fun Edition

Gashed differentials, busted axles, smoked clutches and stripped front hubs: getting to the photo is certainly, at least, half the fun!

Here is a photo facing back toward where today's Photo of the Day was taken, although this photo is from another trip. Click after the jump to see a section of the road up the bluff and an arrow to where the shot was taken.

Sunday Photo of the Day: "Highpoint at Boysen"

Today's Photo of the Day required more time in post than any I've shared so far, mostly for one reason, which I'll discuss below. More time yet is required before this image becomes salable.

Here is the final product. Nikon D90, Nikkor 17-35mm, 17mm, f9, 1/320 sec., ISO 200. Program with matrix meter with -1EV compensation and shift to the wider (f9) aperture. Preset white balance (gray card), landscape scene mode with high in-camera sharpening. Nikon NEF raw file.

Here is an alternate post-processed image I ultimately rejected:

This was a quick-and-dirty post, if I had decided to stick with it I would have needed to do some additional work. This image was washed through Lightroom before I did some manual dodging of the right cliff face in Photoshop. Before the PS work, we had:

And finally, the original image:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Photo of the Day: "Big Spring in the Afternoon"

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-105VR, 18mm, f7.1, 1/200 sec., ISO 200. Landscape scene mode, matrix meter with no compensation on program exposure mode.

Post processing: increased saturation and contrast, and lots of recovery. You will note that I used no exposure compensation even though I was shooting in landscape (ergo, high-saturation) mode. I should have. Even with in-camera software working to tame the image, there's just too much dynamic range here, from the deep blue water to the brown brush in the lower right of the image, which is blowing out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Photo of the Day: What is it? (UPDATED)

I would be interested if anyone can guess what this is a photo of. I will give several hints: there is no post processing involved. The rest of the hints, such as they are, are in the shoot specs below, and they'll be crucial to working this out.

Nikon D80, Nikkor 17-35mm, 35mm, f2.8, 1/60 sec., ISO 400. Spot metering (on red circle), manual exposure, built-in flash manually fired at 1/64 power.

I'll avoid getting too cute and giving anything more away. Sometime Friday I will post another photo and maybe another clue or two if no one has worked it out.

UPDATE: I must begrudgingly admit that I am nowhere near as clever as I thought I was, with two (correct) independent guesses coming less than 12 hours after I posted this... in the middle of the night. Congrats Kathie and Sarah. As I mentioned to some, the prize is a 375ml bottle of Makers Mark, winner must only pay S&H. There is only one bottle, so which of you wants it? (I am intent on getting the last laugh here.)

It is, indeed, a lamp, shot from below.