[Update: By popular demand I cropped the original image (which is now at the bottom of the post) to remove the railing. Once I did that crop, I really felt like the fountain was too close to the edge of the frame so I cropped that out too. Hated to lose it, but it needed to go. I also used Lightroom’s healing brush to get rid of a few heads and such which were on the edge of the frame due to the crop. Finally, I cropped out the top of the sky to get an aspect ratio I liked and added a touch of vignette. If I were reworking this image I’d probably do some cloning in the sky to make it “fit” better on the edges of the frame but I’m not going to go through that effort for this shot. Thanks everyone for the input!]
My wife and I are planning a trip this summer with three of our older girls. We haven’t settled on a destination yet but in the process of thinking about the upcoming trip I couldn’t help but reminisce about our trip to Paris two years ago. I would happily go to Paris again — so many things I didn’t get to see last time (and so many I’d like to see again).
I took the shot above (an HDR processed from three handheld exposures) on our first day in Paris. This one is almost impressionist in feel. The edges are soft and I only partially masked in some of the ghosted people from the various exposure. It would be unacceptable as a print but makes a nice, moody image when viewed at the appropriate size (smallish).
Sometimes you find yourself in a photographic situation where you don’t have a good shot. You may not be able to find a good angle, there may not be enough light (and you don’t have a tripod), or you may not have your preferred lens on hand. Many purists would tell you not to take a shot if it isn’t a perfect situation but in this digital age I don’t buy into that.
If the angle or framing isn’t just what you want, try it anyway. You may very well find something (a certain crop for example) in post-processing which actually works. “Do everything in-camera” is a great idea but some take it nearly to the point of “if you can’t do it in-camera, don’t do it at all”. For pros it surely makes business sense as they are very sensitive to efficiency in their work. However, I disagree that it should be a black-and-white mantra for everyone. I say take the shot and throw it away if it’s clear you can’t do anything with it later. It *is* a bit of a pain to cull the day’s shoot when there are a lot of pics, but I’ve found it worth it to take extra shots most of the time. That said, I don’t want to give the impression that I fire away blindly — there are lots of shots that I pass up because I don’t think the situation measures up.
The shot above was one that I almost didn’t take but it’s one that I personally enjoy seeing come up on my screensaver and background regularly. First, it reminds me of a great trip to Europe with my wife. Secondly, I “just like it” — quiet, somber scene of a couple worshippers, impressive stone walls, beautiful wooden pews. The light was tricky — very bright from the windows, very dark in the shadows. I had no tripod and wasn’t going attempt to get 6-ish (minimum) handheld exposures for an HDR or composite. So, I just took the shot. The exposure was 1/4s but with the wide angle (10mm) it turned out relatively good. Sure, the windows and floor are blown out but I wasn’t after a nice architectural shot after all.
The location is All Hallows by the Tower Church in London. It claims to be the oldest church in London (a claim which I have no reason to dispute) having been established in 675 AD (!). My wife and I popped in there after touring the Tower of London. Much of the church has been reconstructed over time for reasons of expansion and damage but it still retains a doorway from the 600s. Cool place. My wife and I were two of the five people in the church (us, two in the pews, and a caretaker/receptionist of sorts). That was a refreshing difference from the crowds at places like Notre Dame and St. Sulpice.
For the last 4+ years, my main drive (or “sled” as a former neighbor used to say) has been a 2000 BMW 540i. Awesome V8, 6-speed manual transmission, sport package, and sport suspension . One note of trivia is that it’s one of the few cars where you actually had to pay *extra* for the stick. At 10 years old with over 150,000 miles it still runs perfectly and handles like a dream. The car is tight. However, the maintenance is getting to be a real headache. I generally like to do my own maintenance when I can (water pumps, radiators, alternators and such) and BMWs — at least the three that I’ve had over the years — are quite easy to work on. There are so many resources available in print and on the internet which can tell you what every last bolt on the car is for. These days it’s really hard to find the time so “maintenance” has degraded into “take it to the shop”. I haven’t even done my own oil changes lately. My 6 year old loves to change the oil and I’m robbing him of a great chance to learn to work on cars…
A couple of months ago I bought a truck to replace the one I gave my oldest daughter when she got married. That truck has become my daily drive for various reasons (maybe someday I’ll write a post about trucks, 4-wheeling at the beach, and just being manly). Occasionally I’ll drive the 540 and I still enjoy it, but it’s time to sell it (anyone in the market?).
As I prepped to sell the car, I thought back to this image taken on the streets of Paris last spring. I was poking around with the camera and spotted a Mini Cooper speeding toward me. I was fairly fresh off a workshop taught by Raul Touzon and one of the things he had taught us was his method for capturing motion like this (see this post). I attempted a panning shot of the Mini and this 5 series followed soon after…grabbed it too. The shot of the car headed away symbolizes my 5 series leaving the family (sniff). Just kidding, how sappy would that be? — it’s actually just a cool shot IMO! No symbolism in this one 🙂 It would have been great if the entire car was sharp but I can live with the look here — it gives an additional sense of speed like the car is just headed into some sort of a time warp.
I started with a single exposure and I tonemapped it in Photomax. Then I blended it at about 50% opacity with the original exposure. I used overlay mode for the blending. Topaz Adjust, curves, sharpening, and Noiseware were used selectively in the image. I left in lots of the noise to give the motion-blurred portions a bit of grain and texture. Finally I brought it into Lightroom and touched up a few things before exporting.
I hope you think this is a cool scene too.
(HDR from 3 handheld exposures)
In my old age I’ve come to love classical music over anything else. If I *had* to pick, I’d say that Vivaldi’s cello concertos are my favorite in the genre. Another favorite piece is Handel’s Organ Concerto #13.
I think pipe organs are pretty cool and I love to here them in person. A few years back we attended a wedding in a huge San Antonio church and the beautiful organ was used for preludes as guests arrived. Quite enjoyable…
My wife and I were fortunate enough to listen to an organ recital at Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris (organ is pictured above). There are regular Sunday afternoon recitals which are typically performed by an American organist named Daniel Roth. There is another organist who occasionally plays and we never did find out who was playing that day. The organ is approximately 150 years old and is nearly the same now as when it was first installed (an electric blower being the most significant addition).
The church itself is quite amazing. The current building was mostly constructed in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. However, even the today the church is technically not finished as one tower was replaced in the late 18th century but its planned twin was never built (an old mismatching tower remains). Saint-Sulpice is comparable in size to Notre Dame Cathedral (barely smaller) and we found it just as interesting inside. The image below gives a view of one small portion of the interior.
Since our trip to Paris it seems that I’ve never been able to catch up with “things”. Photography has certainly been a temporary casualty but I’ve managed to process most of the photos from the trip. Most pics got the quick exposure/contrast treatment but I managed a few HDRs as well.
We spent our six nights in Paris but included a day trip to London during the week. I booked us in “leisure select” (effectively what we’d call business class) on the earliest Eurostar between Gare du Nord (Paris) and London St. Pancras and then the latest train back to Paris. Frankly the train rides were quite enjoyable and relaxing. The image above was taken in the St. Pancras train station and shows a statue called The Meeting Place by Paul Day. The architecture (interior and exterior) of the train station alone would have made for a decent day’s photowalk. I read somewhere (probably wikipedia) that the station underwent a $1 billion+ renovation in the last decade. There are still some construction fences around portions of the exterior — I only noticed because they ruined some photo opportunities.
The pic below was taken on the bridge at the entrance to the Tower of London. A catapult sits in the long-ago drained moat surrounding the walls. While this image doesn’t really capture the essence of the Tower itself, it certainly helps me re-live that single day we spent in London. Sunny and warm, blue sky with awesome clouds — such a rarity in London. It seemed that everyone we met made some comment to the effect of “You sure got some of our best weather for your visit”.
The Tower was amazing. The history of the place is SO interesting. The Beefeaters tour was quite entertaining as well. We spent about three hours inside and that was skimming a lot of the text on plaques and such. We’d certainly go back and spend more time if we visit London again.
The HDR above was created using three handheld exposures. Tonemapped in Photomatix with some typical contrast, sharpening, etc…no blending with original exposures.
One of the important shots from Paris…my wife and I on a bridge over the Seine.
Paris is amazing. Almost everything was more impressive than my expectations. The Louvre — to my wife and I the building itself was more impressive than the art itself. Even though I had read many times how big the place was it still exceeded my expectations. Notre Dame — bigger and more impressive (inside and out) than pictures can possibly convey. We were really impressed by the architecture of Les Invalides (where Napoleon’s tomb is) which was a place we’d never really heard of before. The average building along any street might have sculptures and immense, impressive doorways. Etc, etc, etc. As much as we like Washington D.C. we’ve decided that Paris makes D.C. look like a kiddie park.
Here’s a shot of my wife in one of the rooms of the Louvre. Very cool.
We ended up in Paris by planning a trip to Italy. Paris wasn’t even on the list of places that I necessarily planned to visit in my lifetime. Long story short we found out that flying to Paris would use 40k frequent flyer miles each vs 120k each to fly to Rome. Then the plan became “fly to Paris, spend a day or two, then night train to Milan to begin our Italy adventure”. As we planned the “day or two” in Paris we discovered a couple month’s worth of stuff we wanted to see and do there…it became a Paris trip at that point. No regrets. Lord willing, an Italy trip will happen at a later date.
As I mentioned in a previous post this was *not* a photo trip. I took plenty of photos (probably 1000-ish) but only a handful were thought-out shots. Shot mostly jpeg. Never once used a tripod. In reality this made it a much better trip because in “photography mode” I could have spent hours at about every street corner. I found that I used my 10-20mm about 90% of the time…getting pretty addicted to that lens (Raul Touzon’s doing) but I wish it were far sharper.
The shot below is the entrance to the Paris Opera (or Palais Garnier or a host of other names). This was taken after we got off the bus from the airport — great place to start hitting the streets of Paris. The people on the balcony give a sense of size. Inside Musee d’Orsay there’s a cutaway view of this building which is really cool to see.
We had an incredible time together visiting the sights, walking the streets, hanging out at cafes. Worth every penny we spent. We found the French very friendly and willing to suffer through our pathetic French phrases before they answered in (usually) excellent English. It was a positive experience all around and I can’t wait to go back.
So — I finally found a camera bag that I like and am not going to return for a refund. Mind you, it’s not the perfect bag for all situations (no such bag exists IMO), but it fits my immediate need for a bag to carry some gear in a manner I’m comfortable with. Bags are such a personal thing but I thought this little review might give someone an idea of what to expect from the Domke F-2.
The type of bag I was searching for was something to carry on photowalks and also transport my camera and a lens or two in the trunk of my car (keep gear from rolling around and be available so I can just grab the bag if I decide to stop and take an impromtu photowalk). I was also hoping to find a bag which would do double duty and serve as a half-camera/half-general-purpose bag on an upcoming trip to Europe. Since I’m fortunate enough to live in a city which has a full-blown camera shop (Precision Camera in Austin, TX) I was able to take my gear into the store and try packing it in various bags — that helped eliminate many possibilities up front. I also had a friend who allowed me to borrow a Kata sling for a month or two.
I ended up really liking the Domke in the store and when I first used it “for real” I just loved it. The image below shows the bag along with the gear I’ve recently been carrying in it. I could easily fit more if I chose to stuff every corner. Please excuse the lousy product shot using on-camera flash and taken with no thought regarding setup or background.
I had the following gear packed in the Domke F-2 with room to spare:
Canon 50D with Sigma 10-20mm and hood
Canon 24-70 f2.8 L with hood
Canon 70-200 f2.8 L with hood – sticks up into the top flap a bit but isn’t problematic
Canon 50 f1.4 with hood
Canon 580EXII in its case
Lens cleaning stuff
Hand strap (for the bag)
Black Rapid RS4 strap
coiled flash sync cord
cable shutter release and a wireless remote
batteries, mem cards
Granted, the bag was heavy with those items but they easily fit and I still found the bag easy to work out of. The shoulder strap is a couple inches wide and is quite comfortable. Note that I wouldn’t normally carry all that gear but I wanted to put the Domke through its paces.
The bag itself is extremely lightweight and forms to your body. There are removable inner compartments (velcro) but even when those are used, the outer shell of the bag remains flexible and allows the bag to effectively collapse and shrink into a smaller bag when you don’t stuff it full. This is a big plus in my book — I don’t like the stiff, permanently-shaped bags. A downside to this is that there’s no outer padding (just the internal compartments are padded).
The four outer pockets (two in front, one on each end) have no padding whatsoever. Advantage: pockets collapse small when not used. Disavantage: if you’re putting delicate items in those pockets you need to be extra careful with your bag.
Zippers…the only zipper on the bag closes the pocket on the inside of the top cover. I wish there were zippers on a few other pockets because the loose flaps make me a bit nervous that something small might fall out or that someone with a small hand might be able to grab something out unnoticed when in a crowd. The top cover includes two metal clips in addition to velcro to keep it securely closed.
I’ve tried shoulder/messenger bags, a sling, and backpacks. Each has certain advantages and disavantages but I found none to my liking before I tried this Domke. Of course, when it comes time to haul all the camera gear along with a laptop and other items, I’ll be shopping for a second bag and writing a second review…
The Domke is available in a regular canvas material or a waxed canvas. I chose the wax for a little protection.
[Follow-up: Attended a photo workshop after posting this…both our instructor and another pro in the workshop were carrying this bag]
[Follow-up #2: Lugged this bag all over Paris and London. Carried my 50D, 10-20mm Sigma, 18-200 Sigma, batteries, cards, etc. and still had plenty of room for maps, my jacket (had to stuff it when both the jacket and camera were in the bag at the same time), phone, water bottle…still love this bag. I would have liked a shoulder pad for those days I carried the bag for 12+ hours, but the strap is wide enough that it wasn’t really a problem.]