A brief reminder that winter does come to an end. At the end of last summer, I went to visit a friend’s beach house on the Georgia coast, and brought my camera out on a walk one day. Hopefully the sand and the sea can help ward off any winter chills…
A lonely conch shell in the sand. Many of the ones I saw had little inhabitants, but they were all too shy to let me take pictures of them
Unfortunately I didn't have my tripod, so I couldn't shoot a bracket. However, I liked this boat enough to do a single-shot process on the photo. I especially like the name, "Rip Tide"
So while I was still in New Zealand…Andrew and I saw some stuff. I’m actually in Australia now, but I still have shots left over from NZ that I wanted to post. I’m still working on the panorama…(I hope I can work something good enough to post with it ever)… I think I lack Andrew’s finesse with the panorama stuff (I guess that’s his specialty). One of the things I CAN do, however, is 1-shot HDRs and the standard type. Andrew and I went around the Otago Peninsula, which is near Dunedin, and saw/photographed some awesome wildlife, including sea lions, penguins, and albatross. We were spectacularly lucky to see this pair of sea lions playing together at Sandfly Bay, which we later learned from a local were a male/female pair. Then, we went to the end of the peninsula at Taiaroa Head and saw two Royal Albatross within minutes of each other, which we later learned was a fairly rare sight. Next we went to a penguin reserve and saw this juvenile yellow-eyed penguin, which uniquely was unafraid of humans, unlike normal yellow-eyed which are extremely shy. Overall, we were exceedingly lucky and fortunately were able to take some pictures of this amazing wildlife.
Hopefully Andrew will post some of the stunning video footage we got of these two playing...We didn't realize how fortunate we were to see them until later when we learned that there are only approximately 20 sea lions living in the entire Otago Peninsula area.
I admit freely I processed this somewhat heavily...I really wanted to focus on the penguin and the somewhat epic pose it was in. I was fortunate enough to steal a few shots with Andrew's 70-200 f/2.8L IS, which I discovered is an awesome lens. Perfect for this kind of wildlife photography where you don't want to get close but still want to get a close up kinda shot.
I’ve been busy, and I will continue to be in the coming weeks, working on several film projects that some of my friends are doing. Although I too frequently have my hands full on set, sometimes I can find the time to get a few brackets in between scenes. As Andrew has said before, it’s fun to take pictures on set. I think so because firstly there is plenty of light around, but secondly and more interestingly, I like seeing how video lighting and photo lighting are different. Maybe its because I’m not taking pictures from the perspective of the camera shooting video (I like the more “behind the scenes” type stuff) but either way I think its cool seeing where all the light comes from and how it strikes things that were not intentionally lit.
This particular location we were shooting at was plain freaking awesome, and you wouldn’t have expected it at all either. The house from the outside looks like a standard 1-floor square house, but once you take a look at the landscape you see that (like most of Atlanta) the house is draped over a steep hill. Thus, to keep the first floor level, the house sits on a tall oddly shaped basement. The dirt floor followed the contour of the hill, sloping upward steeply to the front of the house and giving us a very cool cave-like set for our film. The basement also contained a seemingly random assortment of completely indecipherable items dating from the early 1900s. I also felt like trying out some B&W HDR on this first picture, just to see what it would look like.
That mass of dangling arms on the left side of the picture turned out to be a seriously old school hair curler, which we only found out by looking up the patent number on it. If I remember correctly, it was made in 1906!
There was also this random pipe outlet in the wall, maybe part of some old ventilation system? Who knows...
I’ve had a few pictures floating around that I’ve been working on the flow of, and I think I’ve gotten all the ripples out. Whew, ok, d’you think I killed the water metaphor enough yet? 😉 I took the water lily picture at the Botanical Gardens, always a good source of flower photography, which although not the most original, is not overdone without cause (flowers are pretty!!! yay). The mallard came upon me as I wandered around Lullwater Park at Emory University, probably expecting bread crumbs or something. I had no such gifts to offer, which probably explains the indignant look he is giving me. Oh, and, both are single-shot HDRs. Admittedly, I exaggerate the HDR processing on single-shot HDRs, or else I don’t feel like I’m getting enough out of the picture. Too much? Either way, thanks Photomatix 4!
A water lily blooms in on of the ponds in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
A Mallard glares at me after I don't give it anything to eat. He left shortly after.
In the spirit of the season, here’s a 1-shot HDR from the Botanical Gardens. The gardens were all dressed up for Halloween when I went a few days ago, and yielded some cool pictures. More to follow…
A scarecrow dozes on his perch at the Botanical Gardens
I’ve been holding back on some of these pictures I took at the Palio because how much extra work single-shot processing generates…between exporting out, noise reduction, and my computer slowness (which crops up randomly despite the SSD I installed). Well, as you may have heard, Photomatix 4 is kind of a game changer in terms of 1-shot HDR processing. I feel like the ease of its workflow would legitimately allow for Sports HDR, with RAW format images and Photomatix’s batch processing capabilities. However, most of the single-shot HDRs I’ve processed have less of the surreal feel to them, and look more like really well lit pictures. Which is great. Most people would probably prefer just having their pictures look better without looking strange, which is now super easy. For example, it would be (nearly) impossible for me to shoot a bracket for this picture, but now I was able to process this in less the 30 minutes…
The rider from Torre dashes by
Although I may still not have a completely functional computer again, that won’t stop me from posting HDRs. I was looking back through my photos and I realized I had posted far too few from the day Tucker and I shot at Krog street. One of my favorite things about that area was the many unique objects decorating the alcoves and openings around the long, open hallways that spanned the complex. Most of them had me wondering what their original purpose could have ever been, but I suppose I’ll never know. However, I didn’t complain, since they were fun subjects. That day produced many awesome pictures, and so while I wait to be able to process more from my time with Andrew and any left over from Italy, here’s a one that I’m glad I didn’t forget about.
I feel like the reflective surface lets me take two pictures at once: one of the ball, and one of the scene (and even me!)
While in Siena, I frequently went running on the ramparts of the fortezza Medicea, an old for near the middle of the city. Since I usually went running in the evening, the light was usually good and I always thought to myself, “I should really come and take some pictures here.” I almost never did. One evening, while running, there was a storm rolling in, and the clouds were fantastic, and the light was great, and as I ran I thought, “This is that time! I need to do it or I never will.” So I ran back to the hotel, grabbed my stuff, and still wearing my running clothes and shoes went to the fort and shot what I could. Here’s one
The fort overlooked the surrounding countryside and the historic center of the city. Not a bad place to get some exercise...
Siena has an ancient and awesome tradition of bareback horse races between the various contrade (city districts) called the Palio (also the name of the banner awarded to the winning district) which happen twice a year, and was featured in the most recent 007 movie. Anyways, I was too worried to bring my camera to the actual Palio (the scene right after the intro sequence is of the Palio to give you a sense of the insanity) but fortunately there are trial races held every morning and night in the days before the race. I went to several of these trials and took a bunch of pictures, in RAW, and am trying out some single-shot HDR processing. Things I have discovered: 1. My camera is still really noisey (not really a surprise) especially when I pump up the ISO to get fast shutter speeds on these horses 2. Single-shot HDR processing makes them a lot noisier (ugh). I can’t do my usual de-noising stuff in Photoshop with my laptop (I have the plug-in for windows since my PC is substantially more powerful than my laptop), so I guess I’ll have to do what I can….take a look…
A jockey riding the Leocorno (Unicorn) district's horse decked out in their colors at the Palio horse trials
My window looks out over a valley in the middle of Siena which gives me a good view of the Duomo over those roofs.The other night I looked out my window at the Duomo and saw the moon rising silently beside it. The moon was so beautiful right next to the belltower, and the sky was so clear, I got excited and forgot all my HDR scene guidelines and just shot. I shot so many different brackets I told myself I would be able to make something work from them, and the results pleased me. Although I was sure my pictures were fast, I was amazed at how quickly the moon rises even between 30 seconds of picture taking. I understand now why Tucker (grumbling) waits for moonset before even thinking about shooting stars in the night sky.
Di raggio in raggio, io vorrei salire, e con te venire, a rischiarare il ciel...
And to round things out, here’s a (slightly smaller) church ;). The clouds were too good, I couldn’t resist…
This church is the religious center of the Selva contrada (Forest district)
While at the Castello Ricasoli, we stopped off on the fields and I had just enough time to snap off some handheld shots of the countryside, which was lovely. It was cloudy and rained later that day, but as we stood looking at the fields I noticed off in the distance islands of moving sunlight, gaps in the clouds on the faraway hills. I took so many pictures hoping to be able to capture these, but try as I might none of the pictures I took could capture what I could see. Next time.
When we toured the castle, we also saw the Baron’s private chapel which had many pretty but poorly lit things in it. Sadly, I couldn’t take many pictures there since we sort of rushed through it, but I did manage to snag one that I really like.
The whole Ricasoli vineyard had a very medieval look with the castle overlooking the grounds
Under the chapel many generations of the Ricasoli Family were buried. If you look carefully you can see their ghosts in the bokeh of this picture...
Trying to go around and take pictures in Siena can be exhausting, because Siena is an extremely hilly city, and in going from place to place there is either the flat way or the quick way. Since when I was wandering, I ended up on far too many hills and also completely lost. Fortunately for me there are usually signs that point back to landmarks, but it took me a while to get my bearings and while I was looking up and around trying to spot a sign I spotted some other things. After seeing this first shrine, I’ve seen many around the city and wonder what special significance they hold and why they are placed so high up out of sight.
This shrine was tucked into the wall of the apartments lining the streets about 15 feet up. Why was it hidden?
Last week I was in the real Venice, which is a beautiful, but dying, city. I say dying because every time I’ve gone there it has seemed fragile and fake. Although buoyed up by the heavy tourist industry, it lacks the life imparted by a real native p
opulation, and it still is literally sinking (sorry, couldn’t resist the puns…) Venice has many beautiful things (especially St. Mark’s Cathedral) but to see them you have to fight through a crowd of other camera-toting tourists (who sometimes lack picture taking etiquette, in my opinion). Anyways, I had a fun time there and took many pictures, but found little that I thought would make a good HDR. Luckily, I got bored at one point and took this of what I thought would be nothing.
A peek down one of the many beautiful canals of Venice
Although I only shot a few HDR brackets, I took a gondola ride (for the first time!) which was pretty fun and took me near some really pretty back alleys/canals:
Everyone should ride a gondola at least once. Actually, just exactly once, it was really expensive...
So my adventures on my day of shooting here in Siena inevitably brought me to the beautiful Duomo di Siena, whose dominance of the skyline is only rivaled by the Torre on the Campo (when visible – the streets are so narrow here and the buildings are often tall enough to leave only a sliver of visible sky). The crowded nature of the city left little opportunity for me to get really majestic wide shots of the church, and I honestly did not spend enough time with it that day. I observed the beautifully decorated interior during mass the previous Sunday, but since they do not allow pictures, I can only urge you visit and see it for yourself. Italy is full of these beautiful cathedrals, each one more beautiful than the next, but they mostly remain an eyes-only experience.
The majestic façade of the Duomo di Siena
Dome of the Duomo
STILL have HDRs to post from Rome. I was walking around Rome with my friend Gucci Mane, aka Victor, and I happened to catch sight of this little lizard sunning itself in a random alcove. Anyways, I love the way the 85 makes the out of focus light look at f/2, and also I love lizards.
Lizard sunning in an alcove somewhere in Rome