When I sat down at the dinner table this evening I found this grin staring at me. How could I not get the camera out? I used my Canon 5D mkii with the 70-200mm f/2.8 — shooting wide open to blur the window frames and scenery outside as much as possible. I bounced a flash off the wall behind me. There was no posing, very little attention to what was in the frame, and only minimal attention to composition. I spent most of my efforts on catching my daughter’s eyes in focus. With the shallow DOF and my daughter’s constant motion it was tough and I missed it a lot. How could I not love the pictures anyway? I took 60-70 shots and ended up with quite a few keepers.
Editing was all done in Lightroom — white balance, slight crops, exposure, contrast, vignette, and a tad bit of noise reduction. I did none of the typical overdone baby skin stuff. In fact, I did no “retouching” at all (it would have been a lot of work to fix all those healing chicken pox marks anyway). No skin edits, no eye enhancements. They are cute enough the way they are 🙂
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:
On a recent trip to Seattle my daughters and I paid a visit to the first Starbucks. I’m not usually very interested in something like this but thought, “Hey, we were right here so we might as well do it.”. While the place isn’t that interesting or unique when viewed as just bricks and mortar it becomes a bit more when you think of what Starbucks has become. This location also operates in a different manner than your typical Starbucks — and that gives the place some charm. Upon entering the door an employee welcomes you, inquires where you are from, and directs you to the next available person to take your order. Once your order is taken, your cup is tossed across the room to the barista. We witnessed a couple of misses…maybe they were rookies. They were all having fun though.
Of course I had to take a few pictures. Using my 50mm @ f/1.4, I quickly figured out an exposure and fired away. There were a lot of people so I limited my shots a bit. For the image at the top my hope was to frame the counter, barista, the neon “Espresso…Cappuccino” sign, and Starbucks sign such that they were all completely readable but I never quite got it. Unlike some photographers, I’m not willing to sit there in everyone’s way, holding up the crowd, etc. just for my shot…just not that important to me. I could have waited for an opportunity but when I’m hanging with non-photographers (especially family) I try not to push their patience *too* much by spending all day taking pictures.
I processed the image at the top with the intent to make it look rather vintage and I added some grain to top it off. The rest were straightforward edits — basic tweaks.
There’s something amazing about a building which is still standing after nearly 1000 years. This is St. John’s Chapel in the White Tower…in the Tower of London. This image is from 3 handheld exposures — part HDR, part composite. The dynamic range was extreme here with the dark shadows and the bright light streaming in the windows.
The shot above didn’t turn out quite as cool as I’d hoped but it’s fun nonetheless. While out on a photo walk on the University of Texas campus I set up my camera on my tripod as the photographer crowd gathered on the steps of the UT Tower. As people milled around I captured shots in a semi-regular cadence. My idea was to capture people in different positions and mask them together in Photoshop. When I uploaded my photos to my computer it turned out that I really didn’t capture enough frames. For example, look at the guy in the red jacket. He probably wandered all around the scene but in reality I only capture him in a few spots. There are a couple of people who did appear in widely varied positions around the scene.
The photo above was captured at the base of the UT Tower, a prominent 307-foot building on the University of Texas campus. A couple other views of the UT Tower are shown below.