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 posting another HDR that I processed in my Photomatix vs Nik HDR Efex Pro evaluation war. The subject here is the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. There was a multi-level water feature (a bit of which you see in this image) which provided all sorts of reflections and begged to be turned into some HDRs. I didn’t have a tripod with me so I simply plopped the camera down on a ledge and fired of 9 bracket exposures in several locations. This limited my composition choices but I was able to get the main thing I was after — the reflections in the water. The hotel is situated in a beautiful spot on the island and commands a gorgeous view the mountains across a small bay. If I’d had a tripod I would have taken shots from other positions to include a nice view of the ocean and mountains through the windows.
In this case Photomatix was dramatically better for quickly coming up with a result I liked. The photo above is almost straight out of Photomatix — I only added some clarity/sharpening/noise reduction after that. Nik gave some interesting results but did a lousy job keeping the clouds outside from being blown out. Whenever I used the more realistic presets (realistic HDRs are generally my preference) the view out the windows was completely blown out. No doubt I could have figured out how to get an acceptable result but it was taking a lot of time to begin to match what I got out of the Photomatix effort.
You’ll note the large shift in color cast across the image. This was due to the prominence of daylight through the windows on the left side versus the interior tungsten lighting on the right. It bothered me at first but it’s more realistic this way so I decided to leave the color as-is.
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.
Littlefield Fountain is a World War I memorial at the University of Texas created by Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini and financed by George Washington Littlefield. There’s some great information on the fountain here. While researching a bit of information about Coppini I ran across a quote by J. Frank Dobie who said of Coppini, “…he has littered up Texas with his monstrosities”. I find that quite funny given that Dobie’s namesake (Dobie Mall) is located practically across the street. Coppini did many works in Texas — they’re worth checking out.
For photographers in Austin playing with HDR, Littlefield Fountain seems to be one of those required shots — analogous to the required elements in figure skating or gymnastics. The State Capitol and a skyline shot along Lady Bird Lake are among the other “required elements”.
Friday evening I took my friend and daughter to the University of Texas campus for a short photowalk. We got a parking space right by the Littlefield Fountain and it became our first stop for pictures. On a personal note, as soon as we stopped in front of the fountain we were face-to-face with my sister-in-law. She’s a visiting professor in the business school for the spring semester and just happened to be headed home for the day…great to run into her like that. Seeing our cameras, she commented on how someone is *always* taking a picture of the fountain.
The water is full of algae…it’s really the green color seen in these images. I frankly don’t care to ever see green water but I’ll be nice and say that it “adds to the images”. There are many great perspectives and angles to be had around this fountain but I stuck with a couple “safe” and standard shots here.