Tuesday, September 30, 2008

tuesday play of the day no 13 ...

i'm not sure what i was thinking but when i saw this picture, i went with this approach. don't ask, i just went with it plus i wanted to be bright and cheery since lan's was scccccccccaaaary ;)

- cropped the bottom off
- create new duplicate layer to set the planks to yellow (haha!)
- create new duplicate layer to get the trees a lot greener
- create new duplicate layer to make the hand rails golden instead of brown
- sharpen x2
- flattened

here's the straight out of the camera:

Monday, September 29, 2008

my take/comments on hdr photography ...

... so recently, well, more than recently, people always ask what's up with my photography.

"it's hdr" i respond.
"i don't know what that is" i usually get back
"dot dutta wonka wonka dot dutta bakka lakka dot dutta blah blah" the story goes.

... so i am deciding to just blog about it, without pictures (the irony) to give all you readers an overview, express my own personal opinions on the subject matter and maybe, just maybe insight some knowledge without having to repeat myself ;)

to boil it down, hdr photography is just a simple technique that you can employ in the post-processing of your photography. you take (3) or sometimes (5) or (7) of the exact same image, over- and under- exposed, then in the post processing of those images, combining to show the true dynamic range of colors and intensities available.

i.e. take one perfectly exposed shot, one over exposed, one under exposed, combine the three and you get the brightest of the bright, darkest of the dark and an insanely colorful, sometimes cartoon-y picture that makes you warm and fuzzy inside (ok, sometimes). read wiki on hdr photography for more techno-history-garble

why take hdr photos? why not? it's your own personal preference, i just absolutely love the range of colors, shadows, and highlights that are produced from the processing.

here's my take on things. it's not that simple. you need to have a lot of patience and control. it's not that simple. did I mention, it's not that simple?

once you get the hang of things, it is, but it does take a lot more work than just a plain simple image and some photoshop post-processing. one can argue that it takes the same amount of time.

here's what i usually do when i take hdr photos:

  • mount camera to a good solid tripod (this is key, i mean seriously!)
  • frame a shot
  • check your iso, shutter, aperture settings
  • take the shot again, modify shutter and/or iso settings
  • repeat the above a few times, until you get a shot you actually think is almost perfectly exposed.
  • the above two steps usually takes me 6-7 frames
  • set your auto-exposure bracketing settings on your camera, i usually do (3) frames, +/- 1/3ev up and down, or sometimes +/- 2/3ev
  • do not move your camera do not shake your camera do not move your camera ... get a remote trigger release
  • take your (3) shots
  • turn off your bracketing
  • take a picture of the ground, your hand, something or anything to segregate the set you just took from the next set you're about to take

after this, I sometime tweak the iso or shutter a bit, and then re-shoot the hdr frames again. as you can see, it takes sometimes up to 10-frames to get a 3-shot hdr setup. is it worth it? you can make your own judgment as you try it yourself, it's not for everyone.

what if your camera doesn't have auto-exposure bracketing (aeb) settings/controls? get one that does. ok seriously ... try not to move your camera. learn the menus and how to configure aeb or change your exposure settings quickly and efficiently so you induce as little camera shake as possible. to get the most crisp, precise images possible, do not move the camera. another option is look into tethering your camera to your laptop and control your camera settings and snapping from the laptop. bibble labs makes great software for this for the major camera brands.

did i mention not moving your camera? yeah, don't do it. don't touch it, don't shake it, don't press the buttons, do not move it. this gets more and more important as the light gets less and less and the shutter times increase. you'll just get a bit of a mess. the concept of hdr is combining three identical images at different exposures. if you move or shake your camera even in the slightest, it'll show in the final hdr images. things will not line up, or simply you'll just get a lot of ghosting in the picture. sometimes, it's a neat result, say for example grass or water, because it adds the sense of rushing movement, but for most things, not so good. i got myself a phottix n8 remote trigger, it was cheap ($35) from ebay (they only sell on ebay) but it's got great reviews and i've had a lot of luck with it. no camera shake. that's the key.

so now that i've taken the pictures now what? well. the first 6-7 frames i've shot to test out settings, i look at see how i could have taken them better, see what works, what doesn't. the (3) frames that are set to be combined, i put them on my mac and into photomatix raw (no processing what so ever). photomatix combines the images and then i tweak the saturation levels a bit and output my hdr file. i've tried abobe photoshop cs2 with mixed results, photomatix always produces great mappings with my raw images. i rarely, and i do mean rarely ever have to process any of my hdr images after this and i am usually happy with the results

so long story short, i love shooting hdr. it's a bit of a challenge, but it's a lot of fun to see the results. i also find that hdr works best in low-light situations or shots that have a lot of contrast between shadow and light. then again, i enjoy the hdr's of random things sitting on my desk. i personally think it gives some pictures a lot more depth although some argue that the same result can be had with filters. you can make your own conclusions.

hdr won't make you take better pictures though. i still believe you need to be proficient at taking one good, properly framed and exposed picture. hdr is just setting your camera to take two more. you still need to practice and understand the basic principles of photography, otherwise you're going to be shooting a lot of throw-away shots because you'll just be tripling your badness.

fall weddings in new england ...

one of the best things about new england and fall are the colors that spring up just as the air is getting brisk. it's a perfect time to shoot as well as practice some hdr photography also.

f/2.8 @ 24mm, 1/60sec-exposure, iso400, +1/3ev

f/4.5 @ 50mm, 1/80sec-exposure, iso400, 0ev

f/2.8 @ 24mm, 1/10sec-exposure, iso400, 0ev

i was also fortunate enough to catch a few random bits of hdr moments ... none were photoshopped, just straight out of the camera into photomattix to be combined. 3-frame +/-2/3ev.

f/2.8 @ 18mm, 1/10sec-exposure, iso400, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: +2/3ev

f/2.8 @ 35mm, 1/10sec-exposure, iso400, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: +2/3ev

Saturday, September 27, 2008

some of my favorite dishes ...

this month's entry for kitchen doorknobs ... mozzarella fritta and penne con pollo. see doorknob's link for recipes.

f/4.5 @ 50mm, 1/20sec-exposure, iso400, +1/3ev

f/2.8 @ 40mm, 1/30sec-exposure, iso400, +1/3ev

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

tuesday play of the day no 12 ...

spooky spooky fall is coming, as is halloween and it's spooktacular evil possibilities.

- created new layer
- de-saturate to b&w photo
- boost brightness and contrast to deepen blacks & shadows
- rendered lens flare at 150%
- flattened


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

catching the light ...

i have my camera almost every day, but a lot of the times, the clouds aren't that interesting, or the lighting is off, or frankly i miss that block of time during sunset where the moment can be caught with just the right lighting as the sky teeters between early evening and night. i got lucky tonight and as i was leaving the building, i caught the last glimpses of light, a great orange, pink, then blue sky. very happy with the results as i composed eight, yes eight, actual usable hdr shots.

also note, none of these images were processed in photoshop. these images were shot directly from the camera raw, exported onto my mac and then run through photomatix hdr processing (to combine). no tweaking, no changes in ps. click on image for larger version.

first four shots were from the top floor of the parking garage of my building. the second four are from memorial drive looking across the charles river into boston.

f/22 @ 32mm, 1/80sec-exposure, iso200, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: -2/3ev

f/22 @ 32mm, 5/8sec-exposure, iso200, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: -2/3ev

f/22 @ 18mm, 5/8sec-exposure, iso200, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: -2/3ev

f/22 @ 18mm, 5/8sec-exposure, iso200, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: -2/3ev

f/22 @ 38mm, 2sec-exposure, iso400, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: -2/3ev

f/22 @ 38mm, 6sec-exposure, iso400, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: -2/3ev

f/22 @ 38mm, 6sec-exposure, iso400, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: -2/3ev

f/22 @ 18mm, 8sec-exposure, iso400, -2/3ev :: 0/6ev :: -2/3ev

tuesday play of the day no 11 ...

i actually have a few thoughts for this week's what's your play, but this was the first that came to mind. just a simple de-saturation and then a hue layer mask to remove the b&w and bring up the pink in the shoes, very slight bit of blur to mute out a bit of stroller too. and of course i cropped it a bit.

here's the original shot of the week ...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

nyc at night ...

i've always loved being in nyc, regardless of what i say out loud, secretly it's a great place to be at night, during the day, there's always something to look at and it's amazing the diversity that can be seen from one block to the next. i can't say i was in the nyc for fun, as it was a terribly hectic weekend of which i spent a total of 22.5 hours behind the wheel hurling from boston to dc area back to nyc and then home back to boston. all for the sake of some digital data.

i was able to take about 20 mins to snap a few shots from my hotel room before completely passing out ...

two-frame stitch out the window (original is very very wide)... lighting dramatically changes as the camera is turned from one angle to the other side of the window ...

both shots of this composition were taken at f/8 @ 18mm, 30sec-exposure, iso200, 0/6ev

at the same time, i decided to also try a long exposure hdr shot ... i like the result, may be my new background for the week ...

f/8 @ 18mm, 30sec-exposure, iso200, +2/3ev :: 0/6 :: -2/3ev

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

tuesday play of the day no 10 ...

tuesday play of the week ... mask layers ... (click on picture for 1024pix)

- color balance mask to bump up red rust colors
- selective color mask to add depth in green
- selective color mask to brighten the blue flowers
- layer mask to bump up contrast across the board, remove excess contrast from box
- layer mask to add snap to green grass
- layer mask to darken all the blacks
- sharpened

here's the original:

Monday, September 8, 2008

walk through the woods ...

took a walk through minuteman national park yesterday, snapped a few un-interesting things ...

f/4.5 @ 50mm, 1/80sec-exposure, iso200, 0/6ev

can't decide whether i like the color or b&w version better ...

f/5 @ 50mm, 1/100sec-exposure, iso200, 0/6ev

Saturday, September 6, 2008

stop on the ride home ...

was riding home last night as the sun was setting. had to stop and snap two shots of the church steeple with the great cloud coloration in the background ...

here's the church ... f/3.2 @ 50mm, 1/40sec-exposure, iso200, 2/3ev

here's the steeple ... f/3.2 @ 50mm, 1/40sec-exposure, iso200, 2/3ev

view from the office ...

a view out the window of the conference room across the charles river to boston/beacon hill ...

photoshopped slightly to add some contrast.

f/6.3 @ 50mm, 1/160sec-exposure, iso200, 2/3ev

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

julian's tuesday play of the day ...

so julian saw this and asked me to post his version of what's your play ...

he used the dragonizing filter in photoshop ...

tuesday play of the day no 9 ...

so my cousin lan got me hooked onto another blog this week, what's your play?, great idea, post up someone else's picture and ask the community what would they do with the picture in photoshop ...

here's the original ...

and here's what I did to it:
... applied motion blur
... applied layer mask to remove blur to boat
... applied sepia filter
... cropped

(click on image to see larger version and better detail)

Monday, September 1, 2008

a drive up to lynn at sunset ...

it's been a crazy weekend, but in keeping with my previous post with boston at night, this afternoon i took a ride into boston for dinner and brought along the camera gear. after dinner, i took a ride up through nahant and up to lynn right in the nick of time for sunset. i was able to take a number of non-hdr as well as hdr shots and am very happy with the results. a few notes:
  • not specifying settings for each shot ... posting a lot of pics today, you can see the full-sized images as well as additional images in my flickr set
  • the wides with a slightly blurred background is probably due to me swapping out the sigma for the straight nikkor 50mm. it's all manual, and the highest f/stop i can get with the d300 and the lens is f/13 ... am thinking about getting a 2nd one, or maybe a 60/65mm to supplement
  • the last of the non-hdr images are long-exposures with the shutter on bulb and released for 1-min+; streaks of light in the sky are ufo's ... aka ... flights landing at logan
  • hdr images are 3-shot bursts, -1/3ev, 0, +1/3ev ... all shots at iso200, f/22 (or f/13 on the 50mm), various shutter times
  • no ps post-processing was done on the hdr's (before or after hdr'ing) ... photomattix took the raw images and this is the result ... i tried a second attempt at photo-adjusting and then hdr'ing and the results were an /epicfail (over-saturation, highlights and shadows were all off, it was an utter mess) ... don't mess with perfection

this shot is a tribute to my cousin lan ... 'cuz thats how she rollz

(there's even one taking off)

and then similar shots, except this time with 3-frame hdr ...