On a whim last weekend, my wife and I went to stay at a nearby resort called the Hyatt Lost Pines. It’s a great place set on 405 acres along the Colorado River near Bastrop, TX. Our goal was purely to get some relaxation time and we accomplished that in spades. The rough schedule was eat, read, nap, snack, walk, read…then repeat it all again. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
On a side note, many people who haven’t ever been to Texas think only of plains and tumbleweed (that pretty much sums up my picture of Texas when I lived in Illinois). However, the geography of Texas is quite varied and the eastern portion — starting around the location of this resort just east of Austin — is full of tall pine trees. Bastrop has dense areas of pines and this continues through much of the eastern part of the state. I’ll leave it to the reader to research where the “Lost” reference in the resort’s name originates but now you know why the “Pines” reference is applicable.
I managed a few pictures early Sunday morning. Normally on a trip like this I make it a point not to “do photography”. However, since the goal was to do whatever we found relaxing, I did spend about 45 minutes taking pictures early Sunday morning. There were many interesting things to photograph in the halls and main lobby but there were a surprising number of people milling about at 6am so I was limited somewhat.
The photo at the top of the post shows a table which was made from the trunk of one of six large pines which were removed from the property. It was a nice centerpiece for the main lobby and had a finish with the potential to provide some great reflected images. It wasn’t meant to be though as I didn’t find any pleasing compositions at the correct angles to make use of the mirror-like properties of the table. I tonemapped six exposures in photomatix then masked in pieces from the original exposures. One tricky thing about this image was controlling the white balance because the room was heavily tungsten-lit. I kept a lot of that warmth but found that each exposure had a bit of a different color cast and had to be individually adjusted in order to match the tonemapped layer for masking. I ran a copy of the nearly-finished image through Topaz Adjust and included that at about 60% opacity. Finally I used two curves adjustment layers to tweak parts of the image and selectively used Noiseware for noise reduction in parts of the frame.
This picture below of the main lobby was processed in much the same way as the above image. Note the light fixture hanging from the ceiling. It was also made from one of the pines on the property.
The final image is a panorama stitched from 10 frames. Due to the way I shot the frames I was left with a piece of sky which had no pixels and thus I either needed to crop the image accordingly or clone in some sky. I chose the cloning route and it turned out reasonably…I’m not overly skilled with the cloning tool. I increased the exposure of the buildings with an adjustment layer and mask. Then I increased the tonal range of the sky with a curves adjustment layer and mask. “Increased the tonal range of the sky” makes me sound really smart but I have to admit that I got that from David Nightingale’s tutorial on curves (see here: http://www.chromasia.com/tutorials/online/curves/). This really helped to sky out a lot. I added some noise reduction here and there and voila…a panorama of the main lobby area of the resort. It’s nothing too exciting but it was good shooting and post-processing practice. It really has to be viewed large to appreciate it (click on the image to view on flickr).
One can have many valid reasons for taking a particular photograph. It might be a subject which interests you. You might just think it’s pretty. It may be something you don’t even like but a client has hired you to do it (I don’t have clients so I don’t have to worry about that!). Maybe it captures a special memory.
The way you take a photograph can enhance or detract from the message of the image. Aperture, shutter speed, framing and all that. The choice of lens and focal length has a big impact on your final image as well.
There are all sorts of “rules” like the rule of thirds, placing open space in front of moving objects to give them someplace to go, etc but in the end it only matters what you (or your paying client) is happy with. I have many photos which would never stand up to a general critique, yet they are some of my favorites because of what they mean to me. I also get complimented on some images which I think are very blah, yet they seem to be the favorites of many others. Just this week someone who keeps an eye on the photos I post told me what their favorite image was (this one here). I chuckled at the choice because, while it was kind of a fun image to try, I wasn’t happy with it and only posted it to show what I was experimenting with. I find the background too cartoonish (I used the euphemism “dreamy” for it) and that wasn’t what I was going for. Of course, their opinion is every bit as valid as mine regarding that photograph — they really enjoyed it. I’ve been reading through David duChemin’s ebooks (which I recommend BTW) and have been thinking about some of these things in conjunction with his “Chasing the Look” ebook.
The handheld photograph above was taken in a dimly-lit Paris Metro station. I just love that picture. I love the lines, the composition, the slight bit of motion as the train started its journey, the green opposing the orange, and the darkness that waits at the vanishing point. Most of all, it brings back memories of a trip to Europe with my wife (we went all over on the Metro). As all three of my faithful readers will remember, this trip was about romance (cue the Ricardo Montalban voice for “romance”) and not about photography, so my images were mostly about capturing memories. It may not appeal to everyone, but it captures all that I was after.
Check out David duChemin’s blog here.