On a still day Austin’s Lady Bird Lake (still Town Lake to me) is a great spot to shoot the growing skyline (note yet another construction crane gracing the view) and get great reflections off the water. I met an out-of-town friend at Lou Neff Point this morning and was surprised to find that the lake was completely overgrown with a plant called Eurasian Water Milfoil. In hindsight I might have expected it as we had seen a lot of milfoil while kayaking on the lake recently but even then I wouldn’t have expected so much of it on the surface. Adding to the disappointment was that the forecast of “some clouds in the morning” wasn’t to be (until well after sunrise anyway).
Well, we were there and figured we might as well shoot some “stuff”. We fought off the mosquitos and fired away. I decided to shoot a panorama in order to increase the resolution a bit. I shot 3 frames — each bracketed +/-1 stop — and used Nik HDR Efex Pro to create very subtle (IMO) HDR images. Photoshop stitched them together nicely and I used several curves and saturation adjustment layers to tweak the final image.
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.
“If you own a house which faces west on an island in the Indian Ocean and your youngest sibling is left-handed and your primary vehicle is white, then subtract line 21 from line 13, multiply by 0.285, subtract your latitude and longitude and enter the result on line 85.” What’s that got to do with anything? I just did my income taxes and it seems like half the directions are as nonsensical as the one above. So, I’m just venting…our tax code is too complex and MESSED UP. It doesn’t matter what political party affiliation you claim, whether you think the system is fair or unfair, or you think the rich should pay more or less — I don’t see how anyone could disagree that it’s a mess. Solutions? I don’t get into those kinds of debates online
In a previous post I showed a bokeh panorama (or “bokehrama”) from the same place the above picture was taken. The one above was a quick snapshot as we packed up to get out of the rain. I hadn’t planned on doing much with it but as I continued to see it among my photos it grew on me — I like the overall gloomy mood contrasted with the random colors of the skyscraper windows for example. Having a bit of detail and drama in the clouds helps too and I don’t think I would like it as much if the skies had been a flat gray.
This image is from a single frame captured with a 50mm lens. You may note the odd settings used — not typical for a landscape shot. The fact of the matter is that I had just used roughly the same settings for the panorama I linked to above. For this skyline image I sped up the shutter one stop with a flick of the dial (didn’t need quite the length of exposure that I needed for my daughter’s dark skin) and snapped this quickly so we could get going. Something like f/8 would’ve been sharper, etc. but there was no time to worry about that stuff. I cropped to a more panoramic aspect ratio (and cropped out another visitor to the park who was in the left side of my frame) then processed mainly with a bunch of curves and masks to selectively adjust contrast. I tweaked the white balance a bit to move from a completely black and white cast toward having a wee bit of warmth.
On a recent evening I dropped my daughters off at the IMAX theater downtown and decided to poke around with the camera while waiting for them. I had in mind a particular shot of the Capitol (which is only a few blocks away from the IMAX). The planned shot was one of the Capitol’s reflection on another building. I had been inspired to get this planned shot after noticing the reflection on our drive home from the Texas Longhorn volleyball matches. In these drive-by glimpses it seemed like such a cool place for a shot, not so much in person though. It turned out not to be compelling at all and I never even put the camera up to my eye when I arrived at the spot.
While trekking around I noticed this a puddle in the parking lot above and decided to get some images of the Capitol in the reflection. While shooting a car approached at one point. I realized that if I stayed where I was the car would be forced to drive through the puddle, messing up my glassy reflection. So, I quickly grabbed the tripod and backed away to allow the car to go around the water. Turns out it was a security guard and I think I aroused his suspicions after grabbing my stuff and running off a bit. He quizzed me a bit but was satisfied that I was up to no harm and let me continue.
The shot above was a single exposure which was tweaked a bit in Lightroom. I shot this with several apertures — f/16 in hopes of awesome starbursts from the lights (f/22 was beyond my 30-second manual exposure, I did not have my remote along, and I was not going to hold my shutter button in bulb mode), f/2.8 in case I liked the bokeh of the background. I decided that I liked the background (parking lot) mostly in focus to make it clear what the scene was about.
The following shot started life as a 7-exposure HDR but I bet I masked in enough from the original exposures to make it more of a composite in the end.
To do this image justice it really needs to be viewed large. Click here for the full-res version.
On a photowalk last weekend (see previous post) I shot some frames in hopes of stitching a panorama of the Austin Skyline as viewed from the SRV statue on Auditorium Shores. I bracketed my shots with a mind toward using HDR and/or compositing to capture most of the dynamic range. I had no intention of filling in the deep shadows of course — It was getting dark after all.
In processing I set off to try the HDR route (I believe this is my first ever pano in HDR) and based on advice from Dave Wilson I first tonemapped the separate frames (3 exposures used for each) using the same settings in Photomatix. I used something on the order of 60% “strength” and tried to keep the HDR look toned down (FYI, the original exposures really do have this much blue in them). I tweaked the perspective of the individual frames a bit in Lightroom then merged to a panorama in CS5 using the ‘cylinder’ setting for the stitch. I could write an entire post about my perspective and stitching issues but suffice it to say that using the ‘auto’ setting was giving me very skewed perspectives from my wide-ish angle frames (30mm on a full-frame body). The automatic blending of the exposures after the stitch usually does a bang-up job of matching colors and creating a seamless stitch but I did have to manually tweak one area to make it match. Hopefully it’s not too noticeable…I won’t point it out of course. The HDR was a bit too saturated for my taste (it still kind of is…can’t make up my mind how I want this to look) so I used the vibrance adjustment to tone it down. Curves adjustments were used in various places for some final tweaks. No original exposures were masked into the final image.
Sunday night I enjoyed an evening photowalk with Todd Landry and several of the local “HDR Mafia” in Austin (Atmtx, Dave Wilson, Jim Nix, and Pete Talke) . I played around with some framing under the First Street Bridge and liked the sideways ‘V’ formed by the shadows under the bridge and on the water. I shot lots of brackets for this but I only used enough to give a hint of light under the bridge. I started down the path of masking in some of a lighter exposure but in the end preferred the deep shadow and how it draws more attention to the skyline and its reflection.
I tonemapped 7 exposures in Photomatix and blended pieces of the original exposures back in. This was followed by a few curves adjustments masked in here and there, selective sharpening, and noise reduction in much of the image. I had some chromatic aberration issues which I couldn’t get to go away via Lightroom adjustments so I used a trick I learned a while back: duplicate the final background layer, do a gaussian blur of 10-15 pixels, change the blend mode to ‘color’, and selectively mask into the problem areas. Works great for the most part but can cause a little of that blur to show sometimes.
We walked over to the SRV statue on Auditorium Shores to take some panoramas of the Austin skyline just after sunset. I got some cool shots but am frankly unable to get a stitch with a decent perspective (so far). I’ll keep working on that. Meanwhile, I decided to post a couple shots I took while the guys were shooting the skyline. Both were taken with my 50mm f/1.4 lens but I experimented a bit. One image used f/1.4 in order to get extreme bokeh while the other used f/8 to tone the bokeh down and show the skyline better.
I decided to process something different today. This shot of the “bean” — more properly known as the Cloud Gate in Chicago’s Millenium Park — is unique to me because of the way it interrupts the sky. It almost appears as if some weird time/space warp is going on. I also liked the gradients in the sky and the sky’s reflection in the bean. The original exposures were taken during our family’s annual trip to downtown Chicago last fall.
This image is a 2-exposure handheld HDR which was tonemapped in Photomatix then brought into Photoshop for masking and curves. Lots of masking and curves…and a little sharpening thrown in as well. The people were moving which presented some challenges…lots of masking. I did not add any saturation or other color mods other than what curves does.
I mentioned the gradients in the sky and it may appear that those are an artifact of the tonemapping step. Us HDR fanatics have all seen (and processed) images with various kinds of halos around objects. However, the original exposures contained these gradients/halos as well (one of the original exposures is shown below).
My wife, myself, and two other couples visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial last night. We had been told that it had the most impact at night so after dark we took the walk from OKC’s Bricktown to the memorial. We chatted loudly as we walked the streets but naturally became somber and hushed in tone as we arrived at the city block where the bombing occurred.
Our entrance was through a 4-story tall bronze “gate” which led to a 1″ deep reflecting pool which replaced the street along which the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood. There was a bronze gate at the other end of the pool as well.
Shortly after our arrival we were approached by Tucker, one of the National Park Service employees. He was quite friendly and asked if we had any questions so one of our company asked him to explain the various pieces of symbolism contained in the memorial. Tucker did a fantastic job explaining the memorial with great enthusiasm — I will be writing the park service to commend him. As I recall there were 8 major elements in the memorial. The bronze “Gates of Time” represented the minute before the life-changing event. One gate is marked “9:01″ — one minute of innocence before the blast. The other gate is labeled “9:03″ to mark the first minute into the healing process after the blast. The reflecting pool is there to allow one to look into it and see a life forever changed by what happened.
The “Field of Empty Chairs” was the most significant part of the memorial to me. The field itself is the footprint of the former building. Each chair has the name of a victim and is placed in such a way as to indicate the floor of the building where the person was killed. I attempted some pictures — all I had was a basic point-and-shoot camera — but none are good enough to post .
Other symbols included the Survivor Wall, Survivor Tree, Rescuers’ Orchard, Children’s Area, and the Fence. Tucker explained each one and even gave us insight into why the memorial’s designers chose to represent things as they did. However, I’ll leave it to you to read about these on the internet if you are interested.
Despite the poor quality of the night-time point-and-shoot pictures I decided to post them anyway and I encourage each of you to take a bit of time to remember the victims of this horrible tragedy. We marked our remembrance by doing something Tucker suggested. We dipped our hands in the reflecting pool and placed them on the bronze gates for a few seconds. This leaves a lasting hand print on the bronze — a lasting mark of our visit.