Archive for the ‘Handheld HDR’ Category

Paradise on a Mountain

The Hawaiian islands themselves were formed by lava, burbling up from underneath the Pacific over millions of years, and even after that lava rises to the surface and hardens into the islands, the “lava tubes” underneath remain active for many years. It is for this reason that the Hawaiian islands are so mountainous and hilly, as they are all (or were at some point) volcanoes. The newer islands (new from a geological standpoint, anyway) still feature live volcanoes, but Kaua’i, at the northern end of the archipelago, is the oldest of the main islands and its volcanic roots have been dormant for millions of years. This particular mountain is part of a long range stretching across Kaua’i but I cannot for the life of me remember the name… ah well. We walked for a few hours on the beach the first day we were there just to get to the base of this mountain, which we could see from where we were staying. The clouds obscure the top of it but I actually like that. This is about as simple as landscapes get, with your sky, mountains, sand, and water, but I really like the shot as it reminds me of the paradise that we were in, and it’s been my desktop background for a while now. It will soon be available in our desktops section, but I wanted to post it on the blog first and making it into a desktop takes a bit of time, with all the cropping you’ve got to do. I’ve shot a bit of HDR in the galleries of the High Museum and also some from Calloway Gardens, at a recent wedding that I shot, but in both cases I need to make sure I’m able to post them here. Rest assured they will make it up if I can wrangle it.

The water looks calm and wonderful but underneath that aquamarine beauty there are incredibly strong rip-currents, waiting to snare the unwitting tourist.

St. Clair Beach

Well, I made it safely to New Zealand and so far the prettiest thing I’ve seen has been the flight in. Weather is pretty touch and go in Dunedin (pronounced Du-KNEE-din) and I have a feeling I’m going to be battling total cloud cover for most of the time I’m going to be here. On Saturday, I went with an international student from France to a farmer’s market type thing that happens every Saturday morning and asked her how many sunny days she’d seen over here since she had already been in New Zealand for about 7 months. “I’ve been here all winter… do you really want to know?”

Fortunately, yesterday was about halfway clear for most of the day and we decided to take a bus to the nearest beach, St. Clair. Very windy. Water was very cold. The blowing sand was very painful. Other than that it was gorgeous! We walked up the beach a ways and after a few hours we got back on the bus and headed back, stopping for an outrageously good ice cream snack along the way. Below, a few of my friends climbed on some long-abandoned posts that must have been part of a pier at some point. Weirdly, there’s a small island (not pictured) that looks to be a few miles off the coast and the line formed by these posts points straight to it.

Biggest challenge here? Holding the camera steady in the gusting wind while it snaps off three quick ones: Dunedin, NZ

Tribute to A-Town

Well I’m almost set to head down to New Zealand for a semester abroad! Amidst the packing and preparations I’ve realized that between school in California and only a handful of brief visits home, I haven’t really done much in terms of shooting in Atlanta. So, this week I went out and did my best to put together some material that would stand as THE Atlanta shot or shots when I think of work from home. The result is a 2-for-1 post!

The first image is a bit cliche with the long-exposure highway blur but the more I thought about it the more I realized “I’ve never actually done one of those before…” This image is also available in the Desktops section of our site if you feel so inclined.

The fast moving red blurs on the right side of the southbound lanes quickly becoming individually discernible cars tell a pretty truthful story about Atlanta traffic on the Downtown Connector: Atlanta, GA

And the second is from about 50 stories up in an office building at sunrise. I’m looking North here, so the light from the East was just beginning to hit the right sides of these buildings. Eventually I think I want to try this building again, there may be a better place on the floor to try this from. Actually, by the time I get a chance to try this again, the sun will be rising in a slightly different place — which might turn out to be better anyways!

To address the large building dominating the left side of the frame, I actually wanted this to come off as being taken from a building, not as some helicopter aerial view. Besides, the large interesting buildings only really extend to the North from here so there isn't much to see on the other side of the foreground building anyways: Atlanta, GA

Islands in the Pacific

It sounds almost stupid, but saying “Well, Japan and Hawaii are both relatively small islands in the Pacific, so they probably have a lot in common!” is not actually THAT far off the mark. Hawaii is essentially in the middle of the ocean, with nothing around it for hundreds of miles, and Japan is one of the closer land masses to it if you look at a map. The Hawaiian islands are essentially the midpoint between California and Japan, making Hawaii an important refueling point during the WWII, and also a destination for Asian tourists (and residents) including many Japanese. It is for this reason that this authentic Japanese temple is located not in Japan, but on the island of O’ahu, tucked away in the mountains. This is actually another thing that Hawaii and Japan have in common; both are mountainous and feature volcanoes, with the most famous on Japan being Mt. Fuji. We had some time to kill on our way back to the airport and decided to stop off and see this even though it was raining and I’m quite glad we did. They had a huge old bell out front (not in the picture unfortunately) and you could swing a huge log-hammer back and let it go, causing a huge booming ring to echo throughout the mountains. A truly picturesque scene that showcases once more Hawaii’s ability to make you really have to try hard to convince yourself you’re in the United States.

There is a huge pond surrounding the temple that is literally packed with what seems like millions of goldfish, squeezed next to eachother with almost no room to move.

USS Arizona – A Reminder of Pearl Harbor

As most probably know, the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a crucial turning point in World War II, as the Japanese attack left America little choice but to enter the fight. More than nearly 70 years later and the hulking remains of the USS Arizona stand as a semi-submurged reminder of the devastation that came upon the quiet harbor on O’ahu so many years ago. In fact, it is still leaking oil, up to a quart a day, which is nearly unbelievable, but you can see it very clearly on top of the water and it would be pretty if it weren’t, well, awful. Still, it definitely added an aspect to this picture that made it worth posting. You can see the ship’s real bulk spreading out underwater if you look closely into the murky depths. They’ve done a great job making a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives that day, and it was a soberingly beautiful place to visit. They also have the crowds well under control; you go in groups every half hour and, after watching a movie that gives you some background info, hop on a boat to take a short ride across to the memorial site. It is only accessible by these boats which keeps crowds to a minimum out at the actual memorial. There was a lot more to see at the national park that we unfortunately didn’t get to because of time but this was still worth the trip.

The oil makes creepily awesome patterns, and although this was a handheld bracket, Photomatix 4 dealt with the water shifting masterfully.


At one point while I was at Disney World with my family over New Years, we were waiting for a parade on a curb at Main Street and the sight of a balloon vendor reminded me of a shot I had seen Trey put up of balloons at Disney. For the record, they still cost $10. At any rate, the vendor came right over next to us to sell a balloon to a kid and I decided that my curbside vantage point would make for an interesting balloon shot for myself. This may be the most ghosting work I’ve ever done on an image but I really like the result. Why not single shot it and save the effort? The range in the shot is just a little too much to rely on RAW tweaks but I was determined to have this one turn out. It’s a 3-shot bracket of balloons blowing in the wind and Photomatix 4 did an unbelievable job of figuring out which balloon goes where on its initial de-ghosting effort. It wasn’t perfect of course, but it turned Photoshop hours into minutes for me. And while I’m applauding PM4, why not also give a shout-out to the 7D’s 8fps shooting which undoubtedly assisted PM4’s creation of a clean image.

Can't decide whether I wanted to be able to see the vendor's face or not... either way I didn't really have time to wait around before this moment would have passed: Orlando, FL


If there’s one thing HDR does well, it is to showcase all of the colors in a scene in all their saturated glory. This picture stands out to me in this regard, because I do not remember seeing nearly this much red, blue, purple, or yellow in the rocks at the time. It was late afternoon, and the sun was at just the right angle to light up the water all the way down at the bottom, and reflecting off to catch the different hues of the rocks. This scene has it all, every color, texture, and angle you could ask for. There’s one other one from this same spot that came out really well and I processed them both simultaneously but I will wait to post that one. I’m thinking of throwing up another one from my most recent trip to Maine first as I shot a lot there over Thanksgiving and have only posted one of them. I guess the holes in the ground are caused by either volcanic or aquatic erosion… one of the two usually applies on Hawaii! In order to reach this spot we has to drive over some incredibly rough terrain but it was worth it. I do wish I’d had the luxury of time and a tripod, which would have enabled me to get a full, ±4 stop, 5 shot bracket and even more importantly, stability. If you are the pixel peeper type, which I myself am, you will see that this image is not nearly as sharp as the 5D usually provides, mostly because the 3 bracketed images were not quite perfectly aligned, even with all of Photomatix’s magic. This shot is now available in many resolutions over at our desktops page. Enjoy!

You can't see it in this one, but in other holes adjacent to this there are ladders running up the side. The cliffs are so steep that people would haul their canoes up these ladders.

From Cinderella Castle

Our trip to Disney World was fairly last minute and caught my mom and I completely off guard. I must admit, my sister must know her way around some sort of system because I have no idea how she wrangled dinner reservations in Cinderella Castle on New Years Eve… with about two days notice. However it happened, it was very cool to dine inside the castle. I took this shot through a window in the restaurant, right next to the table where we watched a proposal take place not minutes earlier. It’s certainly a feel-good place and I’m looking forward to putting together a lot more material from this trip.

This was more difficult to process than it should have been and I think it was because I was using a circular polarizer on these which seems to have done things to the sky that confused Photomatix somewhat. The learning process continues... Orlando, FL

Walking on Mars

There really is no way to describe how weird/awesome/freaky it is to walk on hardened lava, in a location that, a few years ago, would have been entirely full of millions of tons of molten lava. The crater of Kilauea-Iki is still riven with cracks and chasms caused by the hardened lava breaking, and some of these reach thousands of feet down into the mantle where the lava still bubbles. When water reaches these depths, you get billowing columns of steam on the earth’s surface. It is actually kinda hard to see in this shot, but there is steam coming out of the crack toward the top. The different minerals that combined with the lava as it flowed over the earths surface created many awesome colors upon hardening. Reds and oranges are most common, as you can see here. The reddish haze in the clouds is actually called “Vog,” which is short for Volcanic Smog, caused by the combination of water vapor and poisonous gasses that escape from vents leftover from previous eruptions.

The vapor here is water, however in other places it can be sulfur dioxide, which is not nearly as harmless.

Famous Kahuku Shrimp

Located inside a trailer that looks like it might have been able to run 50 years ago, Famous Kahuku is one of many Kahuku shrimp places along the Kamehameha highway on O’ahu. These places are really authentically Asian, serving shrimp just about any way you want it, tempura, coconut, spicy, garlic, you name it… and it’s a delicious thing to bring back to the house and eat while watching the sunset. Famous Kahuku is, well, famous, and although we liked a different place better, the whole appearance of Famous just called out to be photographed, so I did, of course, in a bracket so that I could HDR it later. I’m not exactly sure this place has an A+ FDA inspection rating but ummm the shrimp was good!

We’re leaving today, which is sad, and we get into Atlanta at 7am which will be so rough (8.5 hour flight leaving at 4 or so in the afternoon, and we lose 5 hours on the way…) but all in all it was an amazing trip. At home I’ll be able to really dig into these HDRs and new content from Hawaii, from Andrew’s current trip to Orlando, and from whatever Giacomo decides to do in Atlanta will keep the blog fresh in the coming months. Giacomo and I (and Andrew once he’s back from Florida) are going to sit down and make a Facebook page for the site, as we’ve found that a large majority of our visitors are directed here from Facebook via direct links or seeing the blog link in our profiles. Maybe, if there’s time, we’ll work on adding some features/updating the site layout but mostly, our focus will be on new, great HDR content for all to enjoy.

Would YOU buy shrimp from this place? I hate the way the 16 distorts, it is really starting to bug me. See: barrel in the lower left corner.

Wandering Limahue Gardens

Mele Kalikimaka! (Happy Christmas!)

On a decidedly un-Christmasy note, here is an HDR from one of the many magical places we’ve been so far. These botanical gardens were truly something else, climbing high up into the mountains known as the Makano range. It was an overcast day but the bright tropical sun was able to pierce the clouds, giving us an awesome light as we hiked through the gardens. Hawaii is home to a staggering number of endemic plant and animal species, many of which we saw there.

Today we plan on going to the black sand beaches after a morning of presents and good food. It’s so fun to be able to go get new material every day, something that can’t be said about Atlanta (although I bet the 3 of us can get creative once we’re all together back in the South).

It was very much like a jungle, yet we were on a mountain, with a view of the ocean, listening to roosters crow. Truly strange and awesome.

Halema’uma’u Crater

Try and say that name without either laughing or messing up… it took us literally all afternoon to get it right. Hawaii is, of course, full of these impossible to pronounce names (the native language is a spoken language, and all renderings of it into text are purely a Western construct to begin with…) but this is one of the better ones. We left the island of Kaua’i yesterday, hopped on two 20 minute flights, and were on the island of Hawaii (not to be confused with the state itself, some refer to the island as “The Big Island” so as not to be confused) staying in a cottage literally on the border of Volcano National Park. You know you’re close when the city you are staying in is “Volcano, Hawaii”. We got up early in a (failed) attempt to beat the (other) tourists and spent the day walking the Kilauea-Iki trail, which is a ~5m hike that goes around the rim of the Kilauea-Iki volcano, and then descends down and you trek straight across the bottom of the volcano, across a Martian plane of cracked black volcanic rock. I’ve never done anything like it; it was truly an alien experience. This shot is of a “crater” nearby that is part of the vista as you look out over Kilauea-Iki. Halema’uma’u continually belches steam and SO2 gas, making it not so fun to go near but really pretty. The HDR is from pretty far away, across the crater, using the 100mm macro (one of the first on this site to use that lens, incidentally) and the accompanying Youtube video is just something fun I shot with the 16-35 while we were at the visitor’s center, which is REALLY close to the steam-belching crater. There are, of course, HDRs from that as well… to be posted later… with the other 1100-odd HDRs I’ve gotten so far. It’s great and all, but when I think of the fact that we’ve still got half the trip ahead of us… let’s just say you’ll be seeing Hawaii shots for a while 😀

Right below the frame is the crater of Kilauea-Iki; it will be featured in future HDRs in all of its pitch-black glory.

In other news, Andrew sent me some shots he took with his newly acquired set of Nikon lenses using the Canon adapter. I cannot wait to get home and mess around with 14mm on the full frame 5D! Fun and, of course, HDRs, will ensue.

First from Hawaii

Here’s one from the very first few hours we spent on Kaua’i. It was rainy and overcast, but by now you know what that means for HDR… great clouds! Everything I’ve shot so far has been handheld as a tripod would be too cumbersome to take on hikes, walk miles on the beach with, etc, and Photomatix handles this like a champ. The tricky bit will be when I encounter a scene that would benefit from having the 5-shot, ±4 stop bracket (a scene with ultra-high contrast, in direct sun) but so far everything has been rather evenly lit. I don’t even need to get into how awesome of a place Hawaii is but in brief, in the past two days we’ve walked on the beach, hiked through a botanical garden in the jungly-mountains, and snorkeled amongst fish that I thought could only exist with David Attenborough talking in my ear. The coming days will bring even better photography, but here’s a simple shot from the beach 5 feet outside the back of where we are staying. The black rocks are, of course, lava rocks. There is some actual name for them but it is escaping me. So for now, lava rocks, beach, and nice clouds.

It is darn near impossible to edit HDRs using only a trackpad... also I have no idea if the color/brightness is right as I am not used to this screen. Oh well.

As an aside, I’m excited to see what we can do with the time-lapse stuff when I get back to Atlanta, however I for one will not be editing thousands of RAW files into HDRs… Giacomo and Andrew can do that if they really want to make a pseudo-HDR video 😀 I just want to experiment with doing a time-lapse normally, perhaps set up on a tripod as we shoot HDRs (either a time-lapse of us, or of a scene off to the side of wherever we happen to be) after all, we will have the 5D, the 7D, and the 50D at our disposal, along with tons of great glass… gotta make use of it somehow!

Leaving Amarillo

We crunched through 750 miles on Day 1 and 825 on Day 2 but just as the sun started to set behind us making our way out of Amarillo, TX, I leaned out the passenger window to check out the view. Definitely one of my favorites. The absolute nothingness along the New Mexico highway was  behind us and things would gradually become more and more populated the farther east we got. Highlight of Amarillo: we kept seeing billboard advertisements for “FREE 72oz. STEAK” with a picture of a sketchy cowboy holding a dinner plate.

The west is great but you never get clouds like this in L.A. Amarillo, TX

And now for some new material…

Oh man, it’s been crazy. I think Tucker, Giacomo and myself have all been outrageously swamped with work and other obligations as school semesters and seasons have come to a close and it’s gotten to the point where new material is hard to come by shy of reaching into the past to rework old shots. I just completed a 2,270 mile journey from L.A. back to Atlanta and let me say I will not be doing that again anytime soon. The three of us will all be in town at the same time for the better part of two months so there is guaranteed to be some amazingly fun stuff to go around in the next few days and weeks. To get things rolling again I have a shot from the road trip, around the California/Arizona state line at a rest stop on the side of the highway. I love this picture but even still I don’t think I’ve done the scene justice. You just kind of had to be there I guess.

Highway rest stops never felt so gorgeous... Needles, CA