night

The Bean – 2012

Cloud Gate On A Rainy Evening

Cloud Gate On A Rainy Evening

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.

The Bean Earlier In Day

The Bean Earlier In Day

Sky Blends With Sculpture

Sky Blends With Sculpture


The Lone Kite

Lone Kite

I’m not much for the minimalist thing in general but I’ve always liked this picture.  It was taken from the beach — looking inland over the dunes — in Port Aransas, TX.  While swimming and fishing with the kids one evening I happened to look back and see this kite all by itself in the sky.  I’m not sure what else to say other than “I though it was kind of cool”.  Adding to the cool factor IMO was the clear sky.  Normally we photographers like dramatic skies but that would take away from this scene in my estimation.


Happy Independence Day!

Love 24mm, f/13, 20s

I wish I had a photograph with some deep meaning behind it (maybe I’ll come up with one tomorrow), but all I have is this shot taken two years ago.  My wife was out of town over the July 4th holiday so I sent this to her.  This was my 2nd or 3rd try — kind of challenging to write backwards neatly in the air.

Hope all my U.S. friends have a great holiday!


Harbor Hotel At Rowes Wharf

Harbor Hotel Entrance 17mm, f/8, 5 exposures, ISO 100

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).

One of the Original Exposures


Honda

Honda 30mm, f/7.1

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.


Boston Skyline…Blue Hour

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Boston Skyline At Blue Hour 23mm, f/8, 6 exp, ISO 100

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.


Colorful Fish of the Sea, Boston

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Fish of the Sea, Boston 17mm, f/6.3, ISO 200

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…


Milky Way, Central Texas Skies

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Milky Way, Central Texas, 17mm, f/4, 30s, ISO 1600

Our family went on a great camping trip in Central Texas this past weekend.  I woke up at about 5 am on Saturday morning and stepped outside to amazing skies.  I thought to try my hand at some night sky photography but had no idea where my camera, tripod, and wide-angle lens were at the moment.  Of course I was not about to shine a light and go looking for things, especially with our 4-month old soundly asleep.  So, Saturday night I set the appropriate gear out in case I woke up early Sunday morning.  I *did* wake up early and spent a bit of time trying to get some good images of the stars.  I experimented with aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and found some reasonable combinations.  Only later did I hear of the “600 rule” which says that for these night shots you should set your max shutter duration to 600 divided by your focal length if you want to avoid obvious star trails.  My results roughly correlate with that.  A quick internet search yields all sorts of information about night sky photography and post-processing by stacking images…I’ll leave it to you readers to do that research if you’re interested.  I may dig deeper someday myself.

I tried a bit of light painting in an attempt to barely show the trees and add interest to the photo but all I had was a Streamlight brand flashlight (an amazingly bright little pocket flashlight which I highly recommend).  I first of all didn’t want to disturb any campers and then even when I could shine the light away from other campers it was simply too bright to have reasonable control over the exposure.

I believe the glow on the horizon is from San Antonio.  The city is quite far but a long exposure will pick that up quite a bit.  The camera is definitely pointing toward the city.

In the image above you can see a faint shooting star to the lower left of the milky way clouds (kind of tough to see at this size). In the shot below I captured a more obvious shooting star but the overall image is kind of boring.  I did minimal processing on these — noise reduction, slight contrast adjustments.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6894569100/in/photostream/lightbox/

Shooting Star


Party Portrait

My Beautiful Wife 70mm, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 3200

Candids are often my favorites and this is no exception for more reasons than one.  This shot was not posed at all unless you count “Please look over here for a second” as posing.  My wife of 25+ years loathes being in front of the camera so I appreciate that she indulged me this time.  There was nothing to bounce flash off of (outdoors, no roof or ceiling overhead, no wall nearby) so I used direct flash with a diffuser.  I started the evening using a 3′ sync cord and holding the flash off-camera at arm’s length but tired of that fairly quickly.  Lightroom was used for most of the processing and for noise reduction (ISO 3200 was used) but I also cloned out a few unattractive elements around the scene.  I didn’t do any skin retouching or the like.


Happy (Belated) Independence Day

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Texas Capitol at Night 65mm, f/22, 1/8s, ISO 400

When we told my sister-in-law — twenty-two-ish years ago — that we were moving to Texas the first thing out of her mouth was, “Oh great, now your kids are going to have big heads!”.  Turns out she was right as most of us pretty much love living in Texas.  Truth be told, we would be happy living anywhere since life is more about the people around you than the place itself.  In fact, not many years ago we passed on an opportunity to move the family to a place my wife had always dreamed of living.  Her words: “This [Austin] is home now.”  The pride of Texans is manifest in many ways.  First, I’ve never been to a state where the state flag flies as much as it does here.  People sport “Native Texan” tattoos and bumper stickers.  Some transplants (not me) display bumper stickers which say “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as quick as I could”.

So, March 2nd was Texas Independence Day and I really didn’t plan on posting anything.  However, in the wee hours of this morning — wide awake after a 2 am run to Walgreens for chicken pox relief potions for my son — I found some unprocessed pictures like the one above that I had taken on the way back to my truck after a recent photowalk on the University of Texas campus.

Some brief tidbits: Six national flags have flown over Texas (the origin of the “Six Flags” amusement park name).  They were the Spanish, French, Mexican, Republic of Texas, Confederate, and now the US flag.

Texas is a huge state in land area — far larger than California which is the next largest in the lower 48.  My big Texas head is not so large that I don’t get a good laugh at an Alaskan saying, “We were going to divide Alaska into two states but we didn’t want to make Texas the third largest”.  That’s a pretty good put-down for too-proud Texans IMO 🙂

Texas also has very distinct geographical areas.  When we lived in Illinois we constantly saw TV ads which used a slogan along the lines of “Texas — It’s like a whole other country.”  Frankly, it’s true in many ways.  We grew up equating Texas with tumbleweeds but I probably lived in Texas 15 years before I ever saw one.  The regions range from plains in the north to hill country in the middle to plains and river valleys in the south.  There are piney forests in the east to mountains in the west.  The coastal plains with their fertile black soil are pretty much like the fields in Illinois.

I think we’ll stay a while.


Texas One And Indivisible

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6782341852/in/photostream

Texas One And Indivisible 17mm, f/14, ISO 200, 6 exp

Some of my friends are involved in “HDR Tennis” where one of them posts a set of bracketed shots and they all process them in their own way.  Once the processed HDRs are posted the public can vote on their favorites.   All that to say that when the latest HDR Tennis brackets were posted — from the interior of the Texas Capitol building — it reminded me of some bracketed shots I had yet to process.

On the same night I took these shots, I walked inside the Capitol and grabbed some shots inside.  The building is beautiful and one could spend weeks taking a range of pictures from the standard rotunda images to abstracts of fancy railings, floors, windows, door knobs and hinges.  I took a few bracketed sets that I hadn’t done before then had to run off to pick up my daughters nearby.

Both images were processed from 6 exposures in Nik HDR Efex Pro.  Minor tweaks were done in Lightroom after that.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6782343316/in/photostream

Texas Capitol Extension 17mm, f/8, ISO 100, 6 exp


Fire Dancer…Capturing Motion

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6833628735/in/photostream/

Fire Dancer 50mm, f/7.1, 1/15s, ISO 1600

My wife and I (and several in her family) attended a luau while in Hawaii last week.  I have no idea what an old traditional luau was like or how authentic the festivities were but in any case it was immensely enjoyable.  Knowing that the main show would be after dark, I fitted my camera with my 50mm f/1.4 lens.  Night photography has never been something I’ve been good at (maybe that can be said about all my photography 🙂 ).  I’m always going back and forth with myself on the best combination for getting good exposures — shutter/aperture/ISO.  Noise is always a consideration (not so much now that one of my bodies is a 5D Mkii).

For much of this show I wanted to mostly freeze the motion (like in the second shot above) so I shot in manual mode with an aperture between 1.4 and 2.8, shutter speed in the 1/500s – 1/640s range, and ISO 1600-3200 (the stage lighting varied from act to act and I tweaked settings accordingly).  Depth of field wasn’t much of an issue because my focus point was quite far.  However, I also spent time trying to capture some of the motion in the dances.  I was shooting handheld so I did have to consider that when deciding how long to open the shutter.  I played around with various shutter speeds and came out with some fun shots.  For the fire shots I had hoped to be able to reduce the exposure enough to avoid blowing out the highlights of the flames completely but in doing so I ended up underexposing everything else much more than I liked.  In the shot above I like the balance between capturing motion in the flame yet keeping some clarity in the dancer.  Some shots blurred things more (see image below) and that’s interesting in its own right but I prefer the balance in the shot at the top of the post.

Processing was quite simple for all these shots.  I shot with daylight white balance so that I effectively captured the colors consistently.  The color turned out rather well.  I used a bit of clarity and sometimes bumped the exposure up a hair in Lightroom.  Finally, I exported from Lightroom with a preset that ran the images through a noise reduction action (using Noiseware) in Photoshop.


Capitol Reflection

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6688125973/in/photostream/

Texas Capitol Reflection 70mm, f/16, 13s, ISO 200

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.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6688122011/in/photostream/

Texas Capitol And Reflection 40mm, f/16, 7 exposures, ISO 200


Main Street Bethlehem

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Sewing Girl, Main Street Bethlehem 50mm, f/1.4, 1/180s, ISO 3200

Each year in Burnet, TX, the First Baptist Church opens Main Street Bethlehem to the public.  The church has a permanent town of Bethlehem built near the church and for a pair of weekends it comes alive with shepherds, blacksmiths, bakers, rope makers, candle makers, tax collectors, Roman soldiers…and bazillions of visitors from all over Central Texas.  All these actors take on their full character and as you walk through the town they treat you as if you are actually in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  They ask you if you want to buy their products, taste their bread, and “Did you hear about the Messiah?!?”.  If you try to get them out of character by talking about some modern thing they do a remarkable job of acting as if they have no idea what you’re talking about and they quiz you back with questions fitting the times.  Our children’s favorite spot in the town is the tax collector’s table.  As the townsfolk come to pay their taxes there’s the occasional person whose taxes are delinquent.  The children like to watch the Roman soldiers haul them off to jail.

Most importantly, there is a manger where Mary and Joseph hold a baby to remind us of the gift of Jesus Christ that God gave us many years ago.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6552581771/in/photostream

Baby In A Manger, Main Street Bethlehem 50mm, f/2.5, 1/60s, ISO 3200

Shooting in the low light was difficult as the 50mm f/1.4 lens has a terrible time focusing.  With the place being so crowded I really didn’t have time to fiddle around so I tried to quickly find high contrast points to focus on and snapped away in aperture priority mode.  I also used between minus 1/2 to minus 1-1/2 exposure compensation so the camera properly captured the night scenes.


Merry Christmas!!!

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Phil 2:5(b)-11


Christmas Lights, Circle C Ranch

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Christmas Light Portrait 65mm, f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 1000, flash with blue gel

Circle C Ranch is a development near our house and the neighborhood is known for its great Christmas light displays.  I took three of the kids out last night and drove the streets (along with lots of other cars).  We stopped at two locations to grab a quick portrait.  I brought red, blue, and green gels in hopes of matching the flash to the lights somewhat — I had mixed success but since our purpose was to view the lights I didn’t spend any extra time attempting to perfect the shots.  I dialed down the flash way down in hopes of making the images look more like they were lit by the surrounding Christmas lights.  There’s a tell-tale shadow of course but I’m not trying *hide* the fact that flash was used, just match the lighting (and its brightness) to the environment.

The kid’s favorite house is one they call “the jungle”.  The displays (front and back yards) are walk-through and have all manner of decorations from a nativity scene to Elvis to the Grinch to Winnie the Pooh to…everything you can think of.  For as long as I can remember, the neighbor to the jungle has put up a “Ditto” sign.  Funny.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6557988085/in/photostream

The Jungle 27mm, f/5, 1/40s, ISO 1000

The next shots were taken in the backyard of “the jungle”.  The nativity scene used bare flash handheld on a sync cord and the other shot used a red gel on the flash to match the lights.  I could have used a different color — the main idea was to prevent the flash from lighting the kids with daylight (bare flash) while they were standing in the middle of the colored lights.  I wish I’d had a red gel which was slightly weaker…

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6557986527/in/photostream

Nativity Portrait 30mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 1600, bare flash

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6557984839/in/photostream

In The Jungle 30mm, f/2.8, 1/200s, ISO 1600, flash with red gel

Finally, an out of focus shot in the back yard of “the jungle”.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6557983417/in/photostream

Obligatory Bokeh Shot


Coastal Sunset

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Coastal Sunset 20mm, f/4, 1/45s, ISO 400

While setting up camp last weekend in Port Aransas, TX we saw the most amazing colors in the sky.  I’m usually in mission mode when setting up camp and wouldn’t normally stop for pics, but this was too cool.  Given that we were in an RV park there weren’t a lot of great foreground elements to choose from but I think the palm tree silhouette does the trick in a pinch.

This was shot with daylight white balance and post-processing consisted of noise reduction and bringing the luminance of the blues and oranges down a notch to get the colors looking like the actual sky.  I also dropped the exposure of the lower part of the frame (the campground) about a stop.  This image could use a border to keep it from blending into the background of the page…maybe I’ll update it later.


The Next Generation

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The Next Generation 24mm, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 3200

We had a great bunch of little ones (three of whom are my children) gathered at a recent graduation party.  I grabbed a hastily posed shot of some of them who happened to be playing near me.

I shot this using shutter priority and on-camera flash.  I started out the night shooting with some off-camera lighting but it really got unwieldy due to try to take shots from all different directions (with no assistant).  There was nothing but open sky above (and walls were too far behind me) so fixed bounce flashes was out of the question.  I also tried a second remote flash for additional light and backlight but wasn’t satisfied with the results I was getting so I abandoned that.  If I had the ability to bounce that flash I likely would’ve been happier with the second flash.  Sometimes I use a 3′ sync chord and handhold my flash to get it off-camera but my cord went AWOL for a few weeks (it has since been located).

Since I was casually recording the event as a favor I wasn’t under pressure (except my own) to have “perfect” shots.  This picture — and most of the rest — turned out fine IMO.  Blue hour was just ending so I was able to retain some color in the sky even with the fast-ish shutter speed.  A back light or rim light would have been really nice to separate the heads from the background but this was a quick candid afterall.

My camera was a Canon 5D mkii so high ISO was an available lever.  I shot most of the evening using an ISO between 1600-4000.  In the RAW files there is some noise — especially in the underexposed areas — but Noiseware is great at fixing that up.  I can’t recommend Noiseware enough although I hear good things about programs like Noise Ninja and Topaz DeNoise too.


Austin Skyline, Final Light of Blue Hour

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6034766054/

Austin Skyline, Blue Hour. 5-frame HDR Panorama, 30mm, f/8

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.


Austin Skyline, Lady Bird Lake

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6028099238/in/photostream

Under the First Street Bridge, Austin, TX 15mm, f/11, (7 exposures), ISO 100

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.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6027971516/in/photostream/

Todd Landry Against Skyline Bokeh, Austin, TX 50mm, f/1.4, 1/45s, ISO 1600

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Skyline Silhouettes (Atmtx and Todd Landry), Austin, TX 50mm, f/8, 1/4s, ISO 400


Cloud Angel In The Night Sky

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Could Angel In The Night Sky 10mm, f/3.5, 30s, ISO 400

Last summer I took my 6 year old son camping for the weekend at Padre Island National Seashore (PINS…see this post, and this post).  I didn’t do a lot of photography but managed a few shots to document the weekend.

The night shot that I recently posted from Big Bend National Park brought to mind some of the pictures I took at night at PINS.  The shot above had some really cool clouds and it looked to me like an angel with its wings spread across the ocean (kind of sappy I know).  The surf is always pounding down there but I like how the long exposure gives the Gulf a smooth look.

I can’t explain why, but the view of the stars from the beach is every bit as clear and amazing as the view in the middle of west Texas (which has some of the darkest skies in the US).  Depending where you are on the beach you may be as close as 15 miles from Corpus Christi — a decently-sized metro area of about 430,000 people according to wikipedia.  There’s a lot of glow from the city but on a cloudless night the Milky Way is as clear as ever (looks like clouds in the sky).  Obviously this picture was taken with a bright moon which kills much of the view of the stars so there were no Milky Way pictures that night.

My goal was to make this image rather dramatic given the cloud formation and the processing steps to get there were rather simple.  In Lightroom I removed a couple of stars within the angel shape with the spot removal tool.  They detracted from the aesthetics of the overall image because they were too bright. [My opinion is that one is free to do this kind of thing as long as they don’t dishonestly portray the final result as 100% accurate].  Then in Photoshop I used the channel mixer to tone the image to a blue-ish monochrome — I didn’t want a straight black and white image.  [David Nightingale’s tutorials have inspired a lot of experimentation with things like the channel mixer and with “dramatic” images in general]. I used a vibrance adjustment to back off on the blue a bit (couldn’t quite figure out the channel mixer settings to get the color just how I wanted it).  I added one general s-curve and then another curve masked in to provide a touch of vignette.  Some noise reduction and sharpening for the stars topped that off the Photoshop work.  Once I was back in Lightroom I tweaked the color a tiny bit more because I wasn’t quite satisfied upon a second look.


Big Bend Night Sky

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Stars and Clouds at Night, Big Bend National Park 24mm, f/2.8, 40s, ISO1600

I spent an enjoyable weekend with my oldest son in Big Bend National Park.  It was hotter than blazes in the desert (110 in the shade the first day) but this was our only available weekend for many months.  Frankly the heat wasn’t a big problem.

On past trips we’ve backpacked into the high Chisos Mountains but so far this summer all the mountain backcountry sites are closed due to extreme fire danger. So, we camped out in the Chisos Basin campground — enjoyed it very much actually.  It was nice not having to lug a 50# pack full of water up into the mountains.

Before heading to bed one night I experimented with long exposures of the skies.  I never did seem to find the “right” settings but got some fun shots nonetheless. The above shot of the mountain known as Casa Grande gives a sense of what the sky was like.  That night there were clouds moving across the sky which annoyed me at first but they do add another dimension to the shot.  This photo needs a frame to make it stand out from the page background…maybe later.


Water Fountain

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Fountain and Traffic Bokeh 50mm, f/1.4, 1/30s, ISO 100

I made another dark o’clock airport run last week and brought the camera along to catch the sunrise blue hour on my way into the office.  There were no clouds in the sky (boring) so I decided to swing by the Texas Capitol to take some shots of it against the colors of the sky.  It turned out to be a gray hour rather than blue — no color at all so I was about to bag it completely.  However, I did notice the reflections in this fountain at the corner of Congress and Cesar Chavez and stopped for some pictures.  The above image was taken on the NE corner of the intersection looking east down Cesar Chavez.  As the traffic lights (and the traffic) changed it provided many variations in the colors and this was my favorite.  Processing was a handful of curves adjustments mainly.

The image below was a 3-second exposure at the same fountain but on the other side of the wall where the water cascades down into the courtyard.  Processing was done in Lightroom — so minor that I really don’t even remember what I did 🙂

In truth, this fountain has endless photographic possibilities both as a subject and as a background.  I’m sure I’ll be back some day.

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Cascading Water 51mm, f/2.8, 3s, ISO 400


Austin Skyline “Candid”

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Good Morning, Austin 4-shot panorama 70mm, f/2.8, 0.3s, ISO 100

I took my wife and daughters to the airport at dark o’clock yesterday morning so I decided to hang out and catch the sunrise.  One of my favorite spots (due to ease of access) to shoot the Austin skyline isn’t far out of the way to my office so I hopped over there for 5 minutes to grab this 4-shot panorama.  I would normally shoot this with more frames zoomed in with the 70-200.  However, I only had the 24-70 with me so I made do.  Turns out that I didn’t have my tripod mounting plate either so I commandeered a concrete wall.  The shot’s kind of soft but it’s still a beautiful pre-sunrise sky.  The bands of clouds add a natural texture to the scene as well.

I’m calling this a candid landscape shot even though I did shoot 2 test frames to dial in my settings before shooting the final 5 frames targeted for the pano (one of which went unused).  There was a visible vignette in the original shots and they show up in the stitching somewhat when the photo is viewed small like this.  However, I didn’t want to make the effort to clean them up.  It is a candid after all…