Posts tagged “water

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

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.


Pool Monster

Pool Monster 70mm, f/13, 1/125s, fill flash

My son leaping out of the water pretending to be a monster.  I love how the motion makes his hands look like claws.  And the mask?  Well, nothing needs to be said.

It was in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon — terrible time for photographs.  I used a flash so that I could dial down the ambient a bit.  We took several shots like this, using a fast-ish shutter speed but not so fast that it froze all motion.  In post I processed things pretty heavily in Lightroom — lots of contrast and clarity.


Ruined Reflections

Ruined Reflection, Austin Skyline, Panorama stitched from 3 HDR frames, 45mm, f/8

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.


Rowing On Town Lake

Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, TX (formerly Town Lake, which is still how I think of it) plays host to some serious rowing and for a good part of the year several parts of the lake have lanes set up for practice and competition. I don’t know if this group was part of a private club or part of the University of Texas team but I managed to catch a shot as they rowed away from the dock to embark on a practice run. It’s really quite amazing how synchronized the team members are with each other.

Town Lake is also a favorite recreation spot for canoes, kayaks, and the latest craze, SUPs — stand-up paddle boards. My family and I took advantage of the beautiful day today and kayaked on the lake. What a great way to get a couple hours of exercise and relaxation at the same time. Kudos to the Texas Rowing Center who only charged us for a single hour of rental. As always, we tried to pay what we fairly owed but they said, “It’s on us”.

Any opinions on how the photo above should be framed/cropped? They’re heading out of the left side of the frame…but backwards. I like this centered-ish framing the best (I tried several) although I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer.


Gone Fishing

Rod and Reel 50mm, f/1.4

Fishing is what I’d like to be doing today…or any other day.  I’ve been quite under the weather today and am feeling sorry for myself for not being able to get out shooting photos downtown tonight with my buddy Pete Talke. Life is still good though! 🙂

Photo taken at sunrise on the beach in Port Aransas, TX with a 50mm lens @ f/1.4.


Missing The Beach Now…

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Sharkfest, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas 250mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s

I’ve gotten over my thing about missing the snow and am now thinking about getting back to the Texas coast.  My 7-year old son brings it up constantly so we’re just going to have to set a date and do it.  The shot above was taken on our last big trip which was during Sharkfest at Padre Island National Seashore.  When we scheduled our trip we weren’t aware of Sharkfest and on arrival were very surprised by the crowds.  This 63-mile stretch of beach has one way in and out (via land) as is mostly limited to 4×4 vehicles so it’s generally rather empty.  Of course “crowded” is a relative thing and even with 10x the normal crowd there were still plenty of places along the seashore to fish and play in the water without crowding anyone out.  Normally you can pick a place where you have at *least* 1/2 mile between you and your nearest neighbor.  We had to settle for 1/8 – 1/4 mile this trip (once we made it 30 or 40 miles)…first-world problems.  Unfortunately we saw no sharks being caught.  On our “normal” trips we often see them and thought that with all these shark fishermen we’d see several.  No luck.

For those of you not familiar with shark fishing in the surf, here’s the very rough description of how it works.  Gear consists of short-ish, stiff rods with reels capable of holding hundreds of yards of approximately 100# test line.  At the terminal end there are leader rigs made out of materials ranging from 400# test monofilament to stainless steel cable.  Hanging from those are huge hooks (the size of your hand).  For bait something like a big chunk (even half) of a jack crevalle is used.  Once the rig is ready, the bait is generally paddled out with a kayak and placed beyond the third sand bar.  Then you wait, and wait, and wait.  When you get a decent sized shark on the line the fight often lasts well over an hour.  It’s pretty amazing to watch.  On a side note, it’s extremely interesting to witness the various vehicular rigs that people come up with for their shark fishing — giant platforms on top of trucks, etc.  If I’d known how unsuccessful our fishing was going to be on this trip I might have just spent time photographing the shark rigs.

I processed the image to make it appear a bit like an old print from film.  Kept the colors reasonably saturated (via the vibrance slider in Lightroom) and made the image warm like prints in the “old” days.  In Lightroom I added grain to taste.  I rarely use additional grain in images but really like it for this beach scene and if it weren’t for the vehicles it could pass for a pic from the ’70s.  I wasn’t “into” photography in my film days so I can’t wax nostalgic about this film or that film or tell you that I mimicked a certain film.  I bought whatever was cheap.


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.


Seattle Skyline…Rained Out

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Kerry Park, Seattle, Bokeh Panorama 50mm, f/1.4, 1/2000, ISO 200, stitched from 16 frames

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…


St. Regis Hotel, Kauai

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St. Regis Hotel, Kauai, Hawaii 17mm, f/16, ISO 200, 8 exposures

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.


Trying Out Nik HDR Efex Pro

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Kauai Coastline (Nik HDR Efex Pro) 17mm, f/22, 7 exposures, ISO 400

I recently downloaded a trial version of Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro.  I’d been semi-disappointed in many HDRs I’d created in Photomatix and had heard many people say they’d made the switch to Nik.  If you’re hoping for a complete review of Nik HDR Efex Pro I apologize in advance — I’m only going to give some impressions here.

First, a bit on Photomatix.  It’s great software in many ways and I’ve used it to make many cool (IMO) images.  However, in many of my HDRs of late I’ve ended up doing so much masking in Photoshop after tone mapping in Photomatix that I’m practically producing a composite of the original exposures.  Photomatix often doesn’t handle motion to my liking — leaving way too much work to do afterwards.  I’ll readily admit that it could be the user — I’m no wizard with Photomatix.  It could also be that I’m getting pickier as time goes on.  On the plus side, I find Photomatix to be much faster than Nik but I don’t process all that many HDRs so that’s not a huge factor.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6866428629/in/photostream

Pictures in Glass 24mm, f/2.8, 3 exposures, ISO 100

I used Nik HDR Efex Pro to process all but one of the images in this post.  For my own comparison purposes I processed another Hawaii coast photo — similar to the one at the top of this post — with Photomatix.  It’s not completely apples-to-apples since I didn’t process the *same* photo but I ended up having to spend a ton of time in Photoshop fixing up the Photomatix image (basically ending up with a composite as I mentioned above).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6866594001/in/photostream/

Horse 30mm, f/11, 6 exposures, ISO 100

As for the mechanics of using Nik HDR Efex Pro, it’s quite simple.  In each of the images (5-ish?) that I’ve processed with it I’ve started out with a preset and tweaked from there.  Of course I’m still learning all the sliders, etc. but I’m happy with it so far.  I find the “control point” concept useful (it defines circles in which you can separately tweak portions of the image) but I would prefer that it worked more like the adjustment brush in Lightroom where you can choose exactly where the effects are applied.  The final images here aren’t completely to my liking (some spots would get fixed if I were to spend more time on the images) but are illustrative enough for this post.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6866431907/in/photostream/

28mm, f/14, 7 exposures, ISO 400

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6866568557/in/photostream/

Kauai Coastline (Photomatix "composite") 17mm, f/22, 7 exposures, ISO 200


View From Ke’e Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

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Ke'e Beach, Kauai, Hawaii 40mm, f/9, 3-exp, ISO 250

We’re having a great time in Hawaii.  Scenes like the one above abound here on the island of Kauai.  This shot was taken at Ke’e Beach which is at the end of the road on the north shore of Kauai.  The land beyond is only accessible by trail, boat, or helicopter.  Jurassic Park was filmed somewhere in those mountains so many of you have had a glimpse of what it’s like.

As much as I like to take (and process) photos, I *try* to limit it when on family vacations.  We went all over the east and north shore the other day but I only dragged my tripod out of the car once.  When we walked along Ke’e Beach I didn’t have a tripod so I put the camera down on some mossy rocks and used the timer to fire off 3 exposures.  I didn’t quite eliminate the blown-out highlights in my exposures but I didn’t want to be a drag on the group and spend a bunch of time fooling with the camera.  I used Photomatix to tonemap the exposures then Photoshop to play with some curves adjustments.


Capitol Reflection

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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


Gulf of Mexico Sunrise

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Gulf of Mexico Sunrise 50mm, f22, 1/60s

A recent sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico along Padre Island National Seashore.  The image was processed with 4 or 5 different textures in OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite.  After that I did a few Photoshop curves adjustments…that’s it.


Searching

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Searching 90mm, f/8, 1/320s, ISO 200

I posted this picture a long time back in a post about candid shots but I decided to re-post since it’s one of my favorites.  We were visiting friends in Rockport, TX and my son spent much of his time picking up little things on the waterfront.  As the sun headed toward the horizon one afternoon I spotted him intently searching the beach again and grabbed this shot.

What have I come to like about this one?  For starters, parents just like pictures of their kids. Second, he has that cute little look of concentration on his face.  Third, from a photographic standpoint I like that there’s just enough of his face showing to include him personally in the picture as opposed to some faceless “subject” (umm, yeah…I planned that…sure).  Finally the light and surroundings are just nice IMO.  As always, there are a few things I’d change if I were planning/posing this but I won’t dwell on those 🙂

I processed this picture differently this time.  I first cloned out a few things (a piece of plastic on the shore, a pole in the water, and a tiny clump of grass).  I then used several curves layers to selectively adjust areas of the shot and to add some vignette.  These layers were in luminosity mode since I wanted to pretty much leave the colors (which were very warm due to the setting sun) intact.  In Lightroom I did a few more minor tweaks with clarity and very specific exposure adjustments.


Last Light At The Lake

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Last Light At The Lake 70mm, f/2.8, 1/750s, ISO 200

A few weeks ago our family and some friends camped at the Vineyard Campground in Grapevine, TX (while attending the Alliance Air Show).  Snapped this shot of the girls watching the sunset from the dock behind our campsite.

Did some basic adjustments in Lightroom (mainly crop, contrast, clarity and some desaturation) then pulled it into Photoshop and combined it with a couple of subtle textures from Jerry Jones at Shadowhouse Creations.


Strolling on the Beach

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Strolling On The Beach 50mm, f/2, 1/4000s, ISO 100

I was very surprised to find that one of my (not-so-freshly-pressed) posts was featured on WordPress Freshly Pressed. I started thinking about what post I should follow up with to hopefully meet the expectations of any new followers, etc.  I’m humble enough to realize that I’ve got nothing but photographs that *I* like — and hopefully others will like many of them.  What’s the Ansel Adams quote?  Something like “There no rules for good photographs, only good photographs”.  And of course “good” is defined by personal taste.  So…I’m just posting the next picture I had already planned to post in hopes that others like it too 🙂

On a recent trip to the Texas coast I was setting up for some bokeh shots with the 50mm f/1.4 and noticed this couple approaching.  I quickly focused on the sand and recomposed to catch them as they passed in front of the camera.  I said a quick ‘hello’ but otherwise pretended to ignore them and clicked off a couple of shots as they were in the frame.

My camera was already at what I considered a good aperture for this situation — f/2.  From experience I knew that anything larger and the background would be too blurred to provide enough detail to give a sense of where the shot was taken.  I had already experimented with some f/1.4 shots taken at a very close distance from the subject and the background was completely lost.  For all you could tell, I was in a bright room inside my house as opposed to the beach.  Sometimes that’s a nice effect but when I’m at the beach I typically want to show, or at the very least hint strongly, that I’m at the beach.

I knew my focus wouldn’t be perfect.  With such a shallow depth of field it usually doesn’t work to recompose your image since you end up swinging the whole plane of focus away from the subject [see below for a short, lame-ish explanation of that].  I had no time to worry about that nor did I care for this shot since I didn’t really want to capture any detail of the couple — I was going for the overall scene of “some couple” walking on the beach.  With the blown-out highlights and backlighting a precise point of focus wasn’t going to matter much anyway.  I’m not wild about the composition but again, this was a hurried, serendipitous shot.  The almost-opaque frame around the image was something I added while experimenting with OnOne Software’s Photoframe.  I’m not sure if I like it but I’m considering this one “done”.

About those depth of field issues when recomposing a shot…When you focus your camera on a particular point, imagine a plane that is perpendicular to line between your lens and subject.  Everything on that plane (including everything near the plane within the range of your chosen depth of field) will be in focus.  Taking that further, if you focus on a subject 10 feet away it will obviously be in focus, but so will anything on the flat plane (NOT arc) which goes left and right from that point.  [Here’s an illustration — not sure how helpful]  When you focus and then rotate the camera (recompose) that whole plane moves.  If you have a large depth of field (ie small aperture and/or fairly large distance to the focus point) that may not matter because the subject remains within the in-focus region even when you rotate the plane.  If the depth of field is very narrow there’s a good chance that you end up moving the subject out of the in-focus region (actually you move the plane of focus away from the subject as you rotate it).  I’ve seen a great illustration of this somewhere…I’m not able to find it with a couple quick internet searches though.


Rising Sun Reprise

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Rising Sun Reprise 20mm, f/16, 1/60, ISO 200

I don’t ever get tired of beautiful sunrises…like this one I recently witnessed on the beach in Port Aransas, TX.

I used two versions of the same exposure to create the image above.  One version used daylight white balance while the other used (nearly) a tungsten white balance.  A gradient mask blended the two, keeping the golden light in the lower portion of the frame and gradually transitioning to the blue sky above.  Four or five curves layers were used to touch up portions of the image and create a vignette.  Some minor cloning/healing was done to get rid of some birds zipping across the screen and a few other tiny elements.


Hitting the Beach Again

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Sunrise at the Beach 17mm, f/4, 1/2000, ISO 400

Our family was supposed to spend last weekend in Rockport, TX but were unable to go to at the last minute due to medical reasons.  As a consolation I’m taking a few of the kids to the beach this weekend.  The shot above was taken on our last trip.  We had just watched the sunrise and my daughter shed her shoes and went wading. On a whim I got down low and took a variety of shots.  I wanted bokeh for the artsy look, yet enough detail to still see my daughter and the pattern in her dress.  Turns out that the widest aperture on my Canon 17-40mm (f/4) just did the trick.  I made a quick attempt at cloning the letters out of the shoes but it was soon clear that it would take a lot of work to make it look realistic…above my skill level.

This was the second shot I took (out of maybe 50).  In the subsequent images I framed the shot in all manner of ways — no sun or reflection from the sun, put the sun at the 1/3 point in the frame, showed my daughter completely, etc.  I like this one best.  In particular, I like the leaning subject (partially due to taking a step and partially due to the distorted perspective of the wide-angle lens) and the motion implied here.  I also like the extreme highlight in the left corner fading into the darker sky on the right.


Bees, Flowers…and Wind

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Bees, Flower, and Wind 60mm, f/4.5, 1/2000s, ISO 200

These bees are hanging on tightly to this windblown flower on the bank of the Stillwater River in Nye, Montana.  The shimmering river provides some nice highlights in the bokeh.  The earthy tones in the background also contrast nicely (IMO) with the brightly colored flower.

Processing: A couple selectively masked curves (including the vignette).  Selective sharpening here and there.  Noise reduction on the background just to add to the creamy look.

For various reasons I couldn’t decide what crop I liked best.  Opinions – above or below?  The top is my favorite but I’m not overly keen on how the leaves are cut by the frame.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6105019451/in/photostream/

Bees, Flower, and Wind...Alternate crop


Beach Silhouette, Port Aransas, TX

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Beach Silhouette, Port Aransas, TX 40mm, f/16, 1/45s, ISO 100

My daughter and I watched the birds and the sunrise last Saturday on the beach in Port Aransas, TX.  The weather was perfect and the Gulf was the calmest I’ve ever seen it.  While I was playing around with photo stuff, my daughter waded out.  I told her to freeze for some silhouettes and captured many photos like the one above.   I underexposed a bit to be sure to produce a dark silhouette — the goal being to avoid any detail in the subject of course.  Processing consisted of basic adjustments in Lightroom, including some purposely heavy contrast/clarity.  I debated whether to clone out the birds streaking across the frame…I obviously elected to leave them in.  There were a lot of interesting looks I could have gone for in this image and I had trouble deciding what I liked best.

One consideration in shots like this is the height of the camera.  Low to the ground results in a lot more sky as opposed to beach and water.  It also places the silhouette mostly against the sky which is generally nice IMO.  Camera placement high off the ground — say standing height — gives more water and beach, plus a longer reflection/shadow of the subject on the water.  There’s no “right” choice.  In a beach situation I prefer to show more water in the shot but you have to be careful about having the horizon cut through the subject’s head and things like that if you place the camera too high (see image below — it’s OK, but not my preference).  I think the shot above strikes a reasonable balance.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6096047753/in/photostream/

Silhouette From Higher Angle 17mm, f/16, 1/60s, ISO 100

Later I played around with flash in the mid-day sun while taking pictures of the kids playing on the beach.  I’ll post some of those soon.


Sioux Charley Hike

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6048346888/in/photostream

Group Portrait, Sioux Charley Hike (Nye, Montana) 24mm, f/13, 1/180s, ISO 100

Friends, food, hiking in God’s beautiful creation, relaxation, card games — good times!  I recently spent a 4-day weekend in Nye, MT with my wife and friends.  What a great time.  One afternoon we hiked up the trail along the Stillwater River toward Sioux Charley Lake and took the group portrait above.  Located in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, this little hike is a tiny portion of a 700-mile network of trails — amazing.

We did this hike together a couple years ago and got the standard mid-day, harsh facial shadows group photo.  I didn’t plan to take many photos in the mid-day light so I decided not to lug the tripod up the trail just for the group shot.  However, knowing ahead of time that the one shot we did want was a group photo from this hike, I’d brought my flash along (a friend was kind enough to keep it in his pack).  Without flash, I had the choice between blowing out half of the scenery in order to properly expose the group or underexpose the group in order to properly expose the scenery.  I didn’t ever consider HDR for this.  Maybe I should have clicked off some brackets and just tried it, but I didn’t want any hint of that “HDR look” for our shot. I found some rocks to prop the camera on and framed the shot in such a way to maximize the amount of scenery captured while not making the group so small as to be unrecognizable.

I put the camera in manual mode and chose an exposure which didn’t blow out the sky.  I may have blown out a tiny section here and there but I also wanted some detail in the portions of the mountains which were in shadow.  I used the on-camera flash (Canon 580 EXii) in E-TTL mode with -1/2 stop flash compensation…seemed about right based on a test shot.  Post processing was a series of curves to selectively adjust portions of the image.

I’m pretty happy with it.  I wasn’t trying to make the *best* shot (wouldn’t have used on-camera flash of course) but I was trying to get a shot in which people and scenery were reasonably balanced with a minimum amount of gear and I think I accomplished that.


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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/6027422535/in/photostream/

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


Vacation On The Brain

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5717564310/in/photostream/

Sunrise Reflections, Rockport, TX 28mm, f/3.5, 1/1600s, ISO 100

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5716998379/in/photostream

Original exposure straight from the camera

xxxxx My post the other day mentioned that I’m excited to go to Montana soon but I’m also looking forward to visiting Rockport, a small town on the Texas coast. Friends of ours have a place on the water in Rockport and are gracious enough to invite us for a weekend every year. Our annual trip is coming up so I was inspired to look through some old pictures from previous visits. Temptation struck and I pulled a couple into Photoshop and started working on them. The photo shown on the left of a shrimp boat in the marina was processed by using 4 curves adjustment layers and some masks. A bit of sharpening and noise reduction was applied and voila! The original is on the right and you’ll note that it’s rather flat compared to the processed version — the difference in the reflections in the before/after versions is a good example of that. Someday I’m going to learn how to do one of those cool sliders where you can slide a bar across the image to hide/reveal the original and new versions…