It’s pouring rain again tonight. Lots of lightning and thunder too…awesome. Last night after the rain I noticed some clouds to the east so I shot about 20 handheld frames along the horizon. The above image was cropped from the resulting stitched panorama (probably about 10 frames worth). I did some basic contrast adjustments in Photoshop after the stitch then went back into Lightroom. I’d recently seen a very cool cloud/lightning image done in black and white and decided to go that route with this one. I used the channel mixer in Lightroom to adjust the image to taste. In very rough terms that meant darkening the blues and brightening the reds.
On a still day Austin’s Lady Bird Lake (still Town Lake to me) is a great spot to shoot the growing skyline (note yet another construction crane gracing the view) and get great reflections off the water. I met an out-of-town friend at Lou Neff Point this morning and was surprised to find that the lake was completely overgrown with a plant called Eurasian Water Milfoil. In hindsight I might have expected it as we had seen a lot of milfoil while kayaking on the lake recently but even then I wouldn’t have expected so much of it on the surface. Adding to the disappointment was that the forecast of “some clouds in the morning” wasn’t to be (until well after sunrise anyway).
Well, we were there and figured we might as well shoot some “stuff”. We fought off the mosquitos and fired away. I decided to shoot a panorama in order to increase the resolution a bit. I shot 3 frames — each bracketed +/-1 stop — and used Nik HDR Efex Pro to create very subtle (IMO) HDR images. Photoshop stitched them together nicely and I used several curves and saturation adjustment layers to tweak the final image.
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).
My daughters and I went to downtown Seattle today to hang out and on the way we stopped in Kerry Park (thanks, Jim Nix for suggesting it). I had low expectations regarding the weather but did hope to grab a skyline panorama in any case. Long story short, the rains came and other visitors got in the way somewhat so all I managed was the quick, handheld bokeh panorama (from 16 frames) shown above. I look at it as making lemonade out of lemons — we did what we could given the conditions. I gave up on my plans for a high-res (zoomed in and in-focus) panorama since the rain was hard and blowing directly on to the lens. We headed to lunch at Pike Place Market and afterward the clouds broke and the sun peeked out. We headed back to Kerry Park on our way back home but by the time we got there it was raining hard again — could barely even see across the water. I didn’t bother trying any more photos. I may try some black and white treatments with this one someday…
I’ve just got to get out and try this bokehrama thing (see my first post on it here if you have no idea what I’m talking about) in a better setting but I’m posting this quick experiment for my friend Pete Talke (check him out here, here, and here). At lunch today Pete was asking how this compared to just a straight shot with f/1.4 for example so I grabbed a couple of shots out in the yard to experiment. For starters, you’ll just have to trust that my subjects were standing in the same place for each photo. That’s not obvious given my differing position in the shots. The top image is a bokehrama created from a stitch of almost 20 frames. The second image is from a single frame. Both were shot in manual mode with the same exposure @ f/1.4. I bumped the exposure of all frames up equally but they are otherwise straight out of the camera. I’ve made them a bit smaller in this post in hopes of allowing them to be viewed together on most screens.
I really don’t intend to scientifically analyze the shots. I design microprocessors for a living and I get enough technical stuff at work and am not interested getting too deep into the techie stuff with photography. Some random qualitative observations: You’ll notice that the bokehrama (top) has a wide-angle look and that’s simply because my panning around from a position close to the subject mimics what a wide-angle lens would do. I cropped both shots to get make the subjects roughly the same size and you’ll note that the subjects in the single frame are super soft — the 50mm isn’t known for being all that sharp at f/1.4 and being cropped from a single frame it’s not a big surprise to see this. The subject in the top image is very sharp (at least when viewed outside this post — hopefully you can see that on WordPress too). Even if I zoom in quite a bit he’s still sharp because his image comes from a single frame where he filled much of the sensor. Finally, with respect to the depth of field you’d be hard-pressed to get this bokeh out of many wide-angle lenses. Note how the tree trunks have completely lost their detail in the bokehrama at the top image compared to the bottom one (which was also shot at f/1.4).
As I said, I want to try this in a different setting. I also want to experiment with longer lenses (toward the longer end of my 70-200 f/2.8) to see what this does to the perspective and DOF. There are probably different looks that can be achieved and your mileage may vary on how much you like it (both the bokeh effect and the wider perspective), which is of course one of the cool things about any art — it’s all subjective and personal.
This evening I photographed my youngest boys in the backyard with the goal of trying out something called the Brenizer Method, or bokeh panorama. I first heard of it in a post by Brandon Brasseaux. The goal of the Brenizer Method is to create an image with extremely shallow depth of field. If I were to take the shot above using a single frame I would either (1) use a very wide-angle lens or (2) use a “normal” lens and stand far back from the scene. In either case it would be difficult to get much bokeh in the image. I’ll let you consult a depth-of-field calculator for the exact details but suffice it to say that the wide-angle lens — even at an aperture of f/1.8 — doesn’t result in much bokeh when focused at any reasonable distance. A lens like I was using in this shot — a 50mm f/1.4 — would require such a long focus distance (i.e. I’d have to stand so far back) that the depth of field would large enough to eliminate a lot of bokeh. The Brenizer Method uses multiple frames to form the image — using a much shorter focus distance resulting in much shallower depth of field than if you shot one frame standing further from the subject.
The process goes as follows: Instead of standing far away, stand close (I roughly filled the frame with the two boys). I used an aperture of f/1.4 to get the shallowest depth of field and set a shutter speed in manual mode to keep the exposure consistent in all the frames (I also set the camera to daylight white balance). I prefocused on the boys and switched the lens to manual focus. The first frame I took was the one with the boys in it (took many tries to get something decent). I then let them run off and proceeded to shoot overlapping frames (with the camera in the same location) of the rest of the scene you see above. I used 14 straight-out-of-the-camera frames to stitch the panorama in Photoshop but in the end I cropped the image quite a bit. It took all of two minutes to shoot the frames, even with the boys’ goofing off. Since my goal was to try out the method itself, I didn’t stress about background, lens flare, etc.
After stitching I warmed the image a bit, added vignette, tweaked the exposure/clarity on the boys, and removed some of the color fringing on the branches so it wasn’t *so* prominent. Pretty simple stuff. I want to try more of these but next time I’ll find a prettier background. I believe I’ve given enough info for one to start playing with it but if not, an internet search will turn up a lot more information in a hurry.
Here’s a link to posts by the man behind it all: http://www.ryanbrenizer.com/category/brenizer-method/
Today I’m posting an HDR panorama of the Hanalei Valley in Kauai, Hawaii. The main crop in the valley is taro. I mentioned in another post that I rarely lugged the tripod around while out with the family but I did usually have it in the car. When we stopped at this lookout I went ahead and used to capture images for a pano of this valley. As you can clearly see the dynamic range was quite large, especially with the bright clouds. I quickly picked an exposure (using manual mode) and fired off 3 exposures per position. I didn’t want to hold the family up so I didn’t take the time to capture the whole dynamic range. As such, the clouds still are blown out in spots but it’s still a picture worth having from the trip.
I tonemapped each set of brackets using the same settings then used Photoshop to stitch them together. After that I simply tweaked the contrast. One obvious improvement would be to clone or crop out the branch sticking into the top left part of the frame but I haven’t yet taken the time…
This shot was cropped from a 19-shot panorama in the desert of Big Bend National Park. It was taken late in the afternoon — horrible light — but I still like the view and the subtle rays from the sun shining from behind the clouds. A neutral density filter would have been handy to balance out the exposure of land an sky but I don’t one so I picked the exposure I liked best. HDR would have been an option but I’ve never been happy with my HDR pano attempts.
Processing consisted of the pano merge in Photoshop, 3 curves layers (and associated masks), exposure tweaks in a few spots, and noise reduction in the sky areas.
This is a high-resolution panorama — stitched from 12 individual frames — of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park at sunset. The sharp V-shape on the left is called the Window as it is the only gap in the mountains which allows a view out when you’re in the mountain basin. It turned out that I had one chance to get this right before the mountains were in shadow. I put the camera in manual mode, metered the side of the mountains using partial metering, and quickly shot the frames at about 60% overlap. I’ve found the large overlap to be helpful in eliminating any distortion. You can get by with only 20% but I occasionally get burned by that. When I completed my first group of frames I double-checked my settings and prepared to shoot another set. I always do this until the light’s gone because (1) it’s insurance against having messed up the other images and (2) as the light changes I may end up liking the light at one point in time versus the other. Just as I was about to shoot my second set of frames a ranger showed up. He stopped to chat and then asked if I could take a couple of pictures of him standing in front of this view with his iPhone and point-and-shoot camera. I thought to myself, “People are more important than pictures”, and obliged. We chatted a minute more before he left and the mountains were in full shadow by that point. Fortunately, I’m quite happy with the pano I ended up with.
The brush in the foreground is annoying but this was as high as I could get unless I was in the bed of my truck. I’ve tried that before and the suspension moves around too much and the frames don’t turn out very sharp.
View the original size on flickr for some amazing detail. I didn’t sharpen the image with the large size in mind but it’s still pretty cool.
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).
There’s a spot near my house which has a great vantage point for watching the sunset. Yesterday I noticed the clouds were forming up nicely as the sun got lower in the sky so I decided to pop over to that spot and catch some pics of the event.
I shot four sets of images — two sets of brackets for some prospective HDRs, some shots of other cloud formations with some of the local vegetation blowing in the wind, and one set of images for a panorama shot. For the panorama I shot in manual mode so the exposure remained consistent throughout the shots. If you shoot in Av or any other automatic mode the camera will meter every time you press the shutter. As you sweep the camera from a light part of the sky to a darker part, the camera tries to compensate by increasing the exposure. When you stitch the frames the sky won’t match from frame to frame. I also bracketed the panorama frames +/- 1 stop…just in case.
After stitching the center exposures in Photoshop I applied a couple of curves adjustment layers — a separate curve for the blue and red channels. I then added an exposure adjustment layer, set it to +1.8 stops, then applied a gradient mask so that only the right side of the image was actually increased by 1.8 stops. Pretty simple treatment and quick to apply.
Here’s an 8-exposure HDR taken earlier in the evening. Tonemapped, applied two sets of curves, blended a Topaz Adjust “Photo Pop” layer at 50% opacity. I wish there was an interesting foreground subject or feature to have included, but the sky makes it worth the shot IMO.
This shot looks much better large so after reading click on the image to view it on flickr, where you can view in a larger size.
I thought I’d post a semi-old panorama of the Austin skyline (taken 9 months ago). It’s already out of date given that the cranes are no longer part of the scene, but I hope to capture a new one soon. The sun was completely gone but there was just enough orange left in the western sky to reflect some sunset color off some of the buildings.
A wide panorama like this can be a bit tricky when the light is changing. When you shoot images for a panorama you ideally use manual mode to keep the same exposure for each individual image. This makes it easier to generate smooth, consistent exposure and colors when you stitch/blend the images. However, one must shoot quickly around sunrise/sunset so that the colors don’t change between the beginning and end of the final image. This is especially true if your exposures are long and you’re overlapping each image by 50% (my typical choice, although it generally works well even with only 20% overlap).
Processing was pretty “normal” by my standards. I used Photoshop to stitch the image from nine exposures (each at 90mm, f/5.6, 1/2s), bumped up the exposure about 1/2 stop, played with curves, reduced the noise with Noiseware, and selectively sharpened (via layer masks). I had bracketed my images so I used the underexposed frames to get a couple blown-out areas back, notably the top of the Frost Bank Tower (the one that looks like a nose trimmer).
I spent last weekend in the Seattle area and had the privilege of second-shooting my nephew’s wedding. Maybe I’ll post some pics from that later.
Got to bed at 1:40am after the wedding and got up at 3:50am to take my daughter to the airport (she had another wedding to go). The skies had been quite clear during our visit so I had hopes of capturing some dawn shots of Mt. Rainier since I’d be further south toward the mountain.
After dropping my daughter off (at 4:30) I drove up to the 7th floor of the SE parking garage at SeaTac. There was a great vantage point so I abandoned my initial plan of driving further south toward the mountain — didn’t want to end up missing the first sunlight hitting the mountain.
Shot a bazillion images. Bracketed some of them +/- 1 stop to be sure to get something decent. Captured the pano at the top of the post after sunrise, and this one above before the sun hit the face of the mountain. The sky was a bit hazy but I’m quite happy with what I got. In several other visits to Seattle over the years Mt. Rainier was only visible for a brief period one Sunday morning — never saw it again. I was fortunate to see it for several days last weekend.
Surely these aren’t the best panos you’ve ever seen but they do look quite a bit better when viewed large on flickr (click the images to go to flickr then click the “All Sizes” button above the image).