I was experimenting with silhouettes early one morning in Kauai, HI. The camera was triggered with a wireless shutter release (was thankful I didn’t have to scramble back and forth through the sand and rocks using the self-timer). I’m sure that someone thinks that there’s only one right way to shoot silhouettes but my preference is to error on the side of slightly overexposing relative to a completely black silhouette. This varies based on the background but I want to make sure to get enough detail in the non-silhouetted portions of the photo. Of course I could composite multiple exposures but I find it simpler to use Lightroom and/or Photoshop to reduce the exposure in the appropriate areas to get a complete silhouette if that’s what I’m after. Often there’s no need for this extra work though — I usually can get I what I want in-camera (I did with this one). Shooting brackets isn’t a bad idea either if you’re unsure. The textures were added via OnOne Perfect Photo Suite.
My family and I try to get to downtown Chicago every year and we almost always visit the Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park. We take goofy pictures in the reflections and pictures of other people taking goofy pictures of themselves. The shot above was taken at the end of our last visit to Chicago. It was cold and rainy but we were prepared with jackets, umbrellas, and a rain cover for the camera bag. The forecast for the day was sunny and warm early, turning to cold and rainy in the afternoon and for once the weatherman was completely correct. The shots below were only taken 5-ish hours earlier in the day. I liked how the blown-out sky and top of the bean blend together in the last shot. Someday I’ll get through all the photos and post some of the goofy ones.
Last weekend in Orlando I shot my first wedding as the primary shooter and thought I’d share this picture of one of the bridesmaids (my daughter). I was fortunate enough to catch this candid moment as she walked down the aisle with this groomsman. It’s perfect IMO that she was looking at him when he did his little pointing gesture.
Some of the shooting situations were challenging as the ceremony was held in the afternoon as the sun set — the light constantly changed, the sun streaming through the trees caused a lot of mottled sun and shade (as seen in the photo above), the bridal party was a mix of very dark and light skin (see photo above again), the clothing was a mix of brilliant white and jet black which doesn’t leave a lot of latitude for exposure errors on either end (glad I wasn’t shooting film!), and there wasn’t a great choice for locations to shoot the bridal party.
Most of the pictures turned out quite nice. I’ve dealt with the skin color issue before — my own children are a mix of four ethnicities — so I was (somewhat) prepared to deal with it. With the changing light I couldn’t just get my settings dialed in once and fire away, but I knew to be careful about exposing the dark skin enough while avoided blowing out the exposure of the light skin. I also attempted to avoid blowing out the highlights on the white tuxes but was willing to give that up if necessary. The recovery slider in Lightroom was able to compensate for most of those highlights in the end. I used some amount of fill flash for most of the pictures — on-camera for the ceremony, off-camera for the bridal party pictures, and a mix of each for the reception.
Logistically there were many issues. I’ll spare you the boring details but we ran out of time to get all the bridal party pictures that we had listed (got the most important ones though). I didn’t have an official second shooter (but did have another photographer who agreed to capture the groom as the bride walked in, while I concentrated on the bride).
A sampling of things I learned while shooting this wedding: Shoot more (in some situations). In particular, when shooting groups of people during the ceremony, shoot enough to ensure that there are at least one or two frames where everyone looks good (in a pinch you can replace a head or two in Photoshop but that eats a lot of time). I ended up with some sets of group photos where I’m not certain I have an acceptable image due to someone looking “bad”. If shooting multiple cameras make sure the time stamps are in sync. This isn’t absolutely critical but makes things easier. I forgot to do this and things have been slightly painful when sorting in Lightroom. Positioning…too much to explain here (maybe will go thru them someday) but I learned that some of the positions I thought would be ideal for certain shots weren’t so ideal after all and I was forced to make do.
While in Chicago a couple of months back I hoped to get some sunset pictures of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Instead I got cloudy sky shots as it began to rain. Earlier in the day the sun was shining brightly on a 80-ish degree day. By late afternoon cold winds were blowing and it began to rain. We were prepared since this was precisely the weather forecast we had been hearing. However, I had held out hope that the transition from sunshine to clouds would occur more near sunset so that I’d be able to capture something dramatic with the fountain. It wasn’t meant to be.
I was able to get some shots off quickly before the rain got too heavy but I was very limited on my composition options due to the seemingly millions of white tents and blue porta-potties set up nearby in preparation for the Chicago Marathon which was being held a few days later. I chose to post an image without all that stuff, but unfortunately that meant not posting the best view of the fountain either.
Nothing fancy on the processing — Lightroom tweaks.
I’m headed to Seattle next week and that put this picture in mind (a rerun on the blog). During our last Seattle trip the weather consisted of cold temperatures (50-ish) with rain — *every* day. The sun partially peaked out *one* afternoon for a couple hours. The picture above is a good reflection of that I think. To be fair, we knew in advance that the weather would stink that time of year but visiting family (with 3 new babies among us) was worth it and we had a great time. I have hopes of someday getting a clear-weather shot from Kerry Park with Mt. Rainier in the background but it’s not likely to happen next week as I doubt there will be much time for photographic adventures. In fact, I might not even pack more than the camera body, a single lens, and a flash (for the baby snapshots of course). We’ll see though — my tripod might sneak into the luggage.
Aside from a family photo shoot a couple of weeks ago (which I’ve been asked not to post online) I haven’t taken any pictures. Work at “work”, work at home, and family this and that have consumed all my time. That’s not a bad thing necessarily — those are the right priorities — but I hope to get out shooting sometime soon.
Harbor Bridge flies high over the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and whenever I’m in this parking lot (Texas State Aquarium) I find this vantage – and vanishing — point rather interesting. I finally snagged a picture of it on our last trip. It wasn’t prime time for photography but the cloud cover helped. There are probably many interesting views and compositions to be had here. The title comes from the Red Hot Chili Peppers song…I always think of it when I’m here.
The image is an HDR made from 3 frames. Using HDR helped keep the sky in check somewhat and bring a *little* out of the shadows. I always try to keep plenty of “dark” (i.e. shadows) in my HDRs.
Sometimes a wide-angle lens isn’t quite wide enough. I took this shot at the wide end of my 17-40mm lens and it just couldn’t capture it all. The entrance to this hotel is amazing and is visible from across Boston Harbor (see here).
I used 5 exposures to make this HDR but I honestly could have gotten by with only two or three. As always I wasn’t trying to eliminate the shadows by using HDR but rather attempting to bring out some depth and tone down some highlights. Notice that the building on the left out by the harbor just disappears into shadow — that’s how it should be as it really looks that way. I used Nik HDR Efex Pro to create the starting image, then used a dark exposure to tone down a few of the bright lights. There was a bit of masking for the couple standing near the left, a couple of tonemapping artifacts fixed up, and basic contrast adjustments. One thing that bothers me a little is how the lights near the left doorway have quite a green tone while the lights on the right are rather white (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it). I decided not to balance them out — for whatever reason that’s just the way they were (see original exposure below).
I’m making arrangements for another trip to Boston and it put in mind some of the photos I took on my last trip. While taking this photo of the Boston Skyline, a young couple pulled up on a motorcycle, parked it, and walked off to enjoy the view of the skyline across Boston Harbor. The bike had all sorts of accessory lights which cast a deep reddish-orange glow around it (see below but note the white balance isn’t quite right on the color version). I took some photos of it and generated this B+W HDR. There was a bit of noise in the result…I left it in, I kind of like it.
I was headed to my trolley tour stop in Boston when I spotted this picture. Sun peeking from behind the building, moderate interest in the sky, sky and cloud reflections in the windows of the tall building, and dappled reflections of light in the short one. As I took the shot I got a bonus lens flare and guy crossing the street. It’s not an *amazing* scene, but pleasant enough IMO.
This is an HDR and naturally it bugs me that there’s a slight halo around that tall skyscraper. The thing is, that halo is present in the original exposures too. Despite the fact that there will be those who attribute the halo effect to “bad HDR”, I decided to leave it as is. For those of you interested in one method of fixing this (particularly in difficult, detailed scenes), see Dave Wilson’s handy tips here.
The bright portion of the street (and the guy walking across) were masked in from a single exposure. That exposure (fast shutter speed to freeze his motion somewhat) was tweaked a bit to match the scene as I saw fit. Given that it was a bright, sunny day I wanted it to still look “bright” and I wanted the portion of the street at the left to remain in shadow. One could argue that I should have used a slower shutter speed to show his motion but that’s simply a matter of personal preference — neither one is more correct than the other IMO. Various curves were masked in all over the place as usual.
Fishing is what I’d like to be doing today…or any other day. I’ve been quite under the weather today and am feeling sorry for myself for not being able to get out shooting photos downtown tonight with my buddy Pete Talke. Life is still good though!
Photo taken at sunrise on the beach in Port Aransas, TX with a 50mm lens @ f/1.4.
Stairway to nowhere…looks kind of eerie down there. HDR of an outdoor staircase in Snohomish, WA. One of many random(ish) shots I took while my wife was enjoying a massage in town. In keeping with my view that many HDR guys (and gals) go too far and bring out too much detail in the shadows, I tried to process just enough to give a sense of what’s down there without bringing it out completely.
All I could think of when I saw these two conversing on the street in Boston: “One if by land, two if by sea! C’mon, lady, how hard can this be to remember?!” Heavily cropped, but not much processing on this photo otherwise.
A recent picture of two of my girls strolling in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Looking forward to getting back to Seattle soon.
I loved the contrast between the blues in the windows and the oranges/yellows in the flowers in the next shot.
I liked the possibilities in the next shot but didn’t execute it very well. The water and buildings made a cool backdrop through the windows IMO. I used manual mode and stopped down to f/14 to get a lot of depth of field and used a shutter speed fast enough for my shaky handholding yet slow enough for flash. It was a dark place relative to all the light streaming in the windows so flash was a must if I was going to keep the rainy mood in the background. I had no way to get the flash off-camera and bouncing didn’t work well so it’s not a lot better than a point-and-shoot. I’m sure I could have improved it with some effort but I didn’t want to stretch the girls’ patience too thin.
In the burbs around Boston I occasionally came across a “Thickly Settled” street sign. It struck me as rather funny and while I expected that it had something to do with it being a more crowded residential area, it really was meaningless. After all, I could see with my own eyes that I was in a residential neighborhood.
I looked it up and found all sorts of humorous comments about this and other street signs. “Slow Children” elicited a comment along the lines of “When I see a Slow Children sign I always wonder how all the slow children all ended up living in one neighborhood.” The best I can gather (I did not bother to dig into the MA government sites to verify this) is that the Thickly Settled sign is an indication to observe a speed limit of 30 mph even if it is not posted. I’m not entirely sure why they don’t just post the speed limit itself if they’re going to bother with putting up a sign at all. Maybe I’m wrong about all this…
On a semi-random note, I’ll give a shout out to Enterprise Car Rental since you can (barely) see the hood of my rental in the picture above. I typically rent from Hertz through my company. I have Hertz #1 Gold which allows me to bypass the rental car checkin. Having #1 Gold means I just show up in the Hertz garage, find my name and parking spot on the display, and the car is waiting in that parking spot with the keys and paperwork in it, ready to go. Pretty convenient. This time my admin set me up with Enterprise which was only $17 per day for an “intermediate” car. I arrived at the Enterprise counter in Boston sometime around midnight and after checking in asked if I had any choices regarding cars. The agent asked what I drive at home — a 4×4 crew cab pickup truck. Upon hearing that she said that since it was midnight I could pick anything in the lot at the $17 price, but mentioned that the sweet, black 2012 Chevy Tahoe might be best suited to my tastes. True enough…nice! Especially nice because I had added some personal time to my trip and was paying some of the days out of my pocket. I’ll pay $17 a day for a new Tahoe anytime.
My mother lives close to Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School in Bradley, IL. Their band performed in a parade we watched last year and I caught this shot. I don’t know what this guy’s title is though — I just call him Big Red. The kids enjoyed the fire trucks and candy most of all of course.
I never thought I’d say it, but after the heat today I wouldn’t mind being back in the snow (grass is greener thing). In March we enjoyed some tubing at Snoqualmie Pass in Washington. Some of us really didn’t have the clothes for it but we made do and decided to tough it out — it was great. Given our snow activities I only brought along an old point-and-shoot for the actual tubing part, but the portrait at the top was taken with my DSLR on a tripod. The idea with the tripod was that I would be in the picture as well, using the remote to trigger the shutter. I couldn’t get the remote to work, however, and it was too far of a run around the snow piles to use the timer…AND I really didn’t feel like explaining to any passers-by how I wanted the shot composed (rarely seems to work out). The little ones were freezing and were just ready to be done anyway. For the other shots the point-and-shoot worked fine — mostly. The main problem I had was that the white balance was all over the place and made each shot look like entirely different light. I got a few “action” shots but just liked the “environmental portraits” better.
This sign just cracked me up. Driving in Redmond, Washington almost two months ago I came across this doctored sign and without the iPhone camera handy I wouldn’t have been able to share it with you. I’m not a big fan of iPhone photography necessarily. It’s a fine camera but I’m not enamored with it to the point some seem to be and it’s frankly a pain not to have control of the various settings most of the time. That said, in a pinch it’s very handy to have around. The only edit was a crop done in one of my iPhone photo apps (don’t remember which).
This building, in the heart of downtown Boston amidst very modern skyscrapers, was once the home of Chadwick Lead Works (obviously). Given that it was built in 1887 it was amazing (and rather charming) to see it standing in a modern downtown area.
This shot is a panoramic stitch of five frames taken from the sidewalk across the street. I would shoot one frame then move down the sidewalk a bit to take the next shot. Having been stitched from several frames you can zoom in and see quite a bit of detail (click the image to get to flickr where you can view the larger size).
Last weekend, after spending the day touring Boston, I walked across the pedestrian bridge (near the left side of the above image) next to Seaport Blvd which connects downtown to the old seaport district. The bridge is part of the South Bay Harbor Trail. I stopped for dinner and waited for the sun to set behind the city. As I neared this photo spot I found that four photographers were already sitting there — tripods and cameras already set up. I walked toward them and without a word stopped 10′ in front of them and pretended to set up my tripod. Silence. After a few seconds I turned and said I was just kidding and relieved laughter set in. I asked if it was OK to set up just behind them and they were nice enough to extend an offer to make room in the middle of them if I wanted (I just set up behind and above them).
My intent was to bracket a bunch of exposures as it got darker using f/22 to get a starburst effect. I switched to f/8 because (1) I really wasn’t getting much of that effect, (2) f/8 is good and sharp, and (3) my exposures were getting longer than 30 seconds and I was too lazy to start timing the exposures manually even though I was using a remote White balance was set to daylight. That’s somewhat arbitrary since I always shoot in RAW but it helps keep things consistent when viewed in the LCD. I included a couple of straight-out-of-the-camera exposures below so you can see a sample of what I was working with.
On my flight home I plugged six exposures into Nik HDR Efex Pro. My personal default is to use the realistic-subtle preset as a starting point 99% of the time and I tweak a bit in Nik. Tweaking and saving complete, I took the Nik output into Photoshop along with a couple of the darker exposures and masked in a few spots which were still over-exposed after the HDR junk. I toned down the colors in the water and burned the sidewalk darker a bit (more on the dodging and burning below). Relative to colors, I did want an “HDR look” to this image but I sometimes find the reflections and colors on the water to be a bit overdone for my taste in these skyline shots. I also dropped the overall saturation by 20 points to bring it back to realistic colors as tools like Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photomatix tend to saturate everything a lot.
Finally, since the perspective wasn’t too bad I decided to fix it by stretching out the top corners a bit and aligning the buildings with rulers to make them more upright on the edges (the SOOC images above do not have that correction). If you do too big of an edit like this it can degrade the image but it’s fine for this one. The final image turned out crisp and sharp at high resolution.
This screenshot shows my dodging and burning layer. A trick I learned watching a Joe Brady video (something about Photoshop for landscapes sponsored by Xrite) is to create a new layer, fill it with 50% gray, then dodge and burn on that with black/white. There’s no real need for that but the layer gives you a visual to show where you’re doing your adjustments.
Had lunch at the basement bar in Cheers on Beacon Street in Boston — the inspiration for the TV show and the place you see when they would show the outside shots. It was a tiny little place and spots at the bar were coveted but I happened to come in at just the right time to get a spot. There was also an upstairs bar which mimics the set of the show but frankly the room had none of the feel of what the show looked like…not very impressive. Downstairs was the place to be. While waiting for my food I set the camera on the bar and fired off some brackets. Even though I used f/10 the DOF is really shallow due to the close focus distance. I didn’t want super long shutter times given the movement of the bartender and the people seated on the other side. f/10 was a decent balance (I shot brackets at f/4 and f/22 also and later picked what I liked the best).
In the gift shop they had this infant onesy. Pretty funny when you think of the words to the theme song.
While I’m still wallowing in sorrow over the Red Sox / Yankees game getting rained out — the game for which I held a ticket for a seat behind home plate — you’ll have to suffer through more Fenway Park pictures. On my trolley tour of Boston one of the stops was Fenway so I spent a bit of time taking pictures and watching people as they gathered for Saturday’s game. I had tried getting tickets for this game but it was sold out.
I asked the guys above if I could take their picture together and they obliged with commentary on how they didn’t like each other. The guy on the left (jokingly) wanted to make sure his picture wasn’t going to be on the cover of Guns and Ammo — he didn’t want the government putting him under surveillance. The vendor below also willingly allowed himself to be included in the shot of his wares.
For the shot of the crowds on Yawkey Way I put the camera on a 2-second self-timer and held it up high by lifting my tripod high overhead. After 4-5 tries I ended up with a decent perspective.
On the day of my scheduled game I stopped by the park again and found an open gate. I later learned — after being educated by the nice security guard who asked me to leave — that it was open in order to let a tour exit the park. The guard (he really was nice about it) did agree to let me walk to the nearest entrance to the stands and snap a few pictures. It wasn’t a great photo spot and the rain was starting to really come down but I took what I could get. The thick white line at the opposite end of the field is the infield tarp. They were just getting it out to cover the field when I arrived.
The sea and seafood are big attractions in Boston and for most of my meals during my visit I’ve tried to get some sort of fish and/or chowder. Fitting with a seaside theme, I discovered this bit of art near the Boston Harbor Hotel on Atlantic Ave. while walking back to my car the other night. In hindsight I should have taken a close-up shot of how this was constructed. Essentially, it was made of a bazillion rough pieces of colored glass / acrylic — rather cool IMO. I found the colors and the glow on the sidewalk rather interesting as well. Oddly enough, I had walked right past this in the daylight and didn’t notice it at all. After dark, however, it was very prominent. Maybe some of you have seen this before but I hadn’t and that gave me the perfect excuse to post it — something out of the ordinary from Boston.
I used a tone mapped version of the image to get the sidewalk portion then (mostly) masked in the underwater scene from one of the original exposures. I shot at ISO 200 because with ISO 100 I could never quite complete my exposures before people walked across the scene. I had a thought to purposely catch passers-by at various shutter speeds but it had been a long day and I was ready to get back to my hotel. Next time…
I frankly haven’t been very impressed with the iPhone’s HDR feature until yesterday. The image at the top was taken with my iPhone 4S with the HDR option turned on, then edited quickly with Lightroom to add some contrast and clarity mainly. I often try the HDR feature and don’t see a ton of difference. This time the HDR option just happened to be left on from the last time I’d tried it but as you can see, the results are impressive for a phone camera.
Here are the straight-out-of-the-iphone images: