Archive for the ‘Hawaii’ Category

Grand Wailea

I was shocked to only just now discover that Tucker has a full-on monopoly on our Hawaii page. Had a monopoly.

I’ve worked up a bunch of images from my trip last May but I keep coming back to one from the hotel lobby. Ordinarily, that would be the lamest, most egregious thing to say about a trip to Hawaii, but when you see the lobby I think you’ll understand.

Most folks say Maui is the touristy island and I guess I’m inclined to agree. The southwest coast is awash with ludicrous resorts, to be sure, but I did get a chance to do some off-the-beaten-trail hiking later on that yielded other kinds of Hawaiian greatness. More to come on that front later I suppose.

Nuff said. This place was kind of crazy. One of the few pictures on this site to contain family members! Wailea, HI

Nuff said. This place was kind of crazy. One of the few pictures on this site to contain family members! Wailea, HI


Hawaii Revisted

It’s crazy that it was over a year ago that I was in Hawaii, and I was thinking about what to post I realized that I still had a ton of unprocessed brackets from that trip that could be fun to run through Photomatix, so that’s what I did! There is really nothing to shoot during the winter up here; snow makes for really gray and dismal looking HDRs, and beyond that it’s really hard to get motivated to go exploring around town when its -3° outside. So, to help make up for my inexcusable lack of posting I’ll post two shots here, both from Hawaii but that’s about where any similarities end. The first shot is from our walk across the interior crater of the volcano Kilauea-Iki. The volcano was active sometime in the ’90’s I think, but when we visited the lava had hardened into a black desert that enabled us to walk across it. It took the better part of a day to make the journey, and the landscape was truly alien. Along the way, and not surprisingly seeing as we were standing inside a volcano, there were many fissures where boiling steam would hiss up out of the ground. This seemed to be a good subject for a picture, and the dramatic clouds, as ever, add to the effect. The craziest part is that the volcano has erupted massively since we visited, meaning that most of the foreground in this shot is totally different now. I’d love to go back and see what changed!

The minerals that were in the lava that hardened give the rocks all sorts of interesting colors.

The next image is again from Hawaii, but in a stark contrast to the barren volcanic landscape, this shot is from the Limahuli botanic garden on Kauai. As you’d expect a botanic garden on a tropical island to be, the scenery was fantastic, with countless plants and animals that were foreign to me. As we got to the top of one of the hills, this fantastic view presented itself and, well, you know the rest!

After we visited the park, we walked along the beach and were able to see the mountains from a totally different angle. I’ll post those shots some other time!

TAG is One Year Old!

That’s right! Just over a year ago we decided that we should “create a blog already” mainly as a way to show each other what we were working on. Seeing as how I was in Williamstown, Andrew was in LA, and Giacomo was in ATL, it had become a bit of an annoyance to email huge pictures constantly, and a blog seemed like the logical way to solve our problem. It’s been really fun, and grown into a way to show our friends what we’re up to as well. I would love to say I have big plans for the one year anniversary but sadly, it is all I can do to just keep posting! I’ve been working Monday-Saturday, which leaves little time to go take pictures. However, I know my two weeks in Maine (and Giacomo’s extended stay in Australia!) will lead to some fresh content in the coming months. Andrew has some more fantastic stuff from NZ to post (which he has ironically shared with us over email…) and it seems that the other side of the world refuses to stop being beautiful. The same simply cannot be said for Atlanta… (can’t wait for Wednesday)









It seems as if the next few days are probably NOT the ideal time to go and look for pictures… so I’ll sit in my air conditioned room and poke back through Hawaii, a lot of which is still unprocessed.

I posted a shot from this same location a month or so ago, and it was definitely one of my favorites in terms of showcasing what HDR can really do.





I know I’ve made this point a lot, but I figured why not again… especially because it is so apparent here. The “Neutral” image, in the middle, is the one that the camera would have spat out had you just taken one picture. An essentially useless picture on all counts… no detail in the sky whatsoever, and you lose nearly all of the rock texture in the shadows… really just an unappealing image. When you bracket it, and take the two additional shots, you suddenly see “OH! there’s a sky!” and the same for that great rock texture and the little green pools in the shadows. None of the shots really do that well by themselves. In the overexposed shot you can’t see the wooden docks, the volcano or windfarm in the distance, and in the underexposed image you lose nearly all of the foreground rocks and can barely tell that you’re staring down a 30 foot hole into the ocean. When you let Photomatix work its magic, however…


In this case, the HDR process really turns an unusable image into one of my favorites.

I was tempted to bring more light into the shadow areas, but I think in the end this darker version helps preserve a bit of the harsh dynamic light that midday sun brings to a scene, while taking full advantage of the HDR process to get great detail back into the highlights and shadows. While we are all guilty of using HDR for the sake of HDR, in other words applying the technique to scenes or photographs where one shot really COULD capture the whole thing… I think it’s fitting to celebrate TAG’s one year anniversary with a photo that truly could not exist were it not for the HDR process. Whether you’ve been checking in periodically for the past year, or you’ve just recently stumbled upon us, we hope you like what you’ve seen! Rest assured there’s another fantastic, photography-filled year ahead.

Above The Crater

As Andrew rightfully pointed out, I have dropped the ball (and then punted it away!) in terms of posting lately. My hours have been extended at work, and on top of that I’m shooting a wedding every Saturday for the next six, so my free time is limit

ed. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any though, and will definitely try and keep posting what I’ve got left from Hawaii until we leave for Maine at the end of June. Get pumped… cliché sunsets, boats, ocean, and coastlines are in the near future! Back to this post though. This was truly an incredible sight, and it rather hit us over the head as we walked into Volcano National Park. We’d parked the car and walked over to an area marked “scenic overlook” (photographers read those signs as “attempt to take unique picture here”). What we saw was a vast canyon, and at the bottom an unending sea of hardened, black lava. It was the scale of the thing that really blew me away, however, and to demonstrate this, I will show you the full picture…

Truly a spectacular view. If you look closely, you can see the billowing steam in the distance from an active volcano.

…and now, I will show you a 100% crop of some…. people.

Yes, those blurry noisy little dots are in fact humans, wandering across the lake of hardened lava. In the full image, you can see the lighter colored trail that most people use.

We started at the far end after walking around the rim and then down a steep slope into the crater. It took us all day to walk across the bottom but I’ve done few things in my life more breathtaking. It sounds corny but every 5 seconds you look around and say “ok… I am, in fact, walking across a volcano. That could theoretically still erupt.” And then you smile, grab yet another 3-shot bracket and keep walking.

In The Clouds

This is probably my first or second favorite shot from Hawaii. It was one of those moments in life that I hope to have many more of, when you stop, and think to yourself “this is something that I have legitimately never seen before and will probably never see again.” In case you are confused by the picture, as some who have seen it so far seem to be, I’ll try my best to explain how it came about. We spent some time on the Big Island while in Hawaii for Christmas, an island famous for its active volcanoes. It is the newest of the Hawaiian islands and is thus still forming as the volcano burps over time. We took a road trip up to Volcano National Park, where we were able to hike along the rim of a volcano that had erupted less than 10 years ago, as well as a road trip along the tops of a few mountains (read: dormant volcanoes). The road trip gave us a good idea of what a truly alien landscape is, driving through incredibly thick fog (we were up in the clouds after all) with an endless expanse of hardened lava all around you, and in complete silence. We would get out ever hundred feet or so to read signs, examine craters, and just try and make sense of where we were. Right before we began our descent, I saw the sun peeking through the clouds, and (for the millionth time) asked if we could stop the car so I could take some pictures. It turned out that what I was seeing was in fact the sun reflecting off of the Pacific Ocean, gleaming up at us from underneath the clouds! The layer of clouds abruptly ended at a certain altitude, revealing the grand landscape below. The mountain cascades down into what are known as “lava shelves” or land that forms when molten lava hits the ocean water and immediately hardens. You can see that plant life has actually grown on some parts of the shelves way over to the left. These newly formed landmasses are very dangerous though, as they are quite brittle and do not attach to the seafloor but rather simply stick to the pre-existant shore. Because of this they have a high tendency to break off and sink rapidly, so you cannot go out on them. Nevertheless, viewed from almost a mile up in the air and inland, they make for an unforgettable sight.

The mountain turned into a sheer cliff about 20 feet in front of me. I did not really feel like stepping off the observation platform to get a better shot!

More HDR Panorama – Honolulu At Night

I’ve been pretty busy lately doing video/photo shoots as well as continuing work for the High Museum, and when you combine that with the epically long time it took to edit this, you end up with the reason that I haven’t posted in a while. It’s worth it though! This pan is one of the largest photography-related projects I’ve undertaken, and that’s the main reason I put off editing it when I got back from Hawaii. The original photographs were taken around 10pm from the balcony of a cousin’s house in Honolulu. As you can see, the balcony had an absolutely unmatched view of the entire city of Honolulu, and the only reason I didn’t extend this further left was that it would have caught the house and deck in the frame and I wanted the focus to be on the city, houses, mountain, and clouds. Always clouds! The setup wasn’t hard, the only annoying thing was that the long exposure shot of each bracket was hitting the 30 second ceiling, so the overall process took about half an hour to get all of the brackets I wanted. I’ll go ahead and post the final shot for those of you who just want to see pretty pictures and don’t care about the text (I myself am guilty of this!)

The final product, after a week in Photomatix and Photoshop. It came out OK for what it is; I can't wait to do even more experimentation with HDR panoramas!


I really, really wish I’d been there about 2 hours earlier for this. HDR and night photography do not mix well (there are exceptions, but they are rare) and generally result in less than awesome images. This is because at night, there is no sun (…….) to create scenes with ultra-high contrast. Usually when you’re shooting at night, the lighting is pretty even (non-existant) and bracketing doesn’t add anything. Still, I bracketed away for this and thought to myself “meh, I may not end up even processing these because they’ll just be orange.” Sure enough, when I processed them, they were all that awful sickly orange color of the sodium lights that are on every single street around the world at night. The first few times you do long-exposure night photography in a city the lights are cool, but very, very quickly they become ugly and unwanted. Still, you sometimes have to make do. That would have been another benefit of being there earlier; the streetlights would have been off, allowing for a real difference in contrast between the sunset (bright) and the houses and mountains in shadow. Oh well. To give you an idea of what I had to work with, here’s an example of a single RAW file (unprocessed) and the HDR version of the same shot (processed only in Photomatix):

This is the neutral (0ev) exposure from the first bracketed set in the panorama.

This is the same shot, with the 3 bracketed RAWS processed into an HDR image in Photomatix.

So, admittedly, the HDR does help here as it gives me much greater tone in the houses and trees, and adds a bit to the sky and clouds but not much. The overwhelming problem here was the ORANGE… something had to be done. I processed the rest of the shots in Photomatix and began piecing it together in Photoshop. The orange problem became even more apparent at this stage:


Orange! Yuck!

It was flat, not dynamic and contrasty and “wow-inducing” like HDR should be. I hate sodium streetlights. It can’t be said enough. It’s one of the best things about night photography in places like Maine, because you can get just the tones that are there naturally. Anyway… At this stage, it would seem as if the hard work is over, in that I’ve pieced the 5 shots together and blended them so it looks like a continuous shot. That is usually the hardest part of doing the whole pan process, but it was not the case here. I then embarked on a crusade of de-oranging the shot, a process that took me all week mostly because I’d work on it some, get fed up, and come back the next day. I used a combination of selective color, color balance, and layer masks to slowly remove the orange from the places I didn’t want it, which was 95% of the panorama. A few days later, I had something like this:


Less orange, but less color in general... still not dynamic... getting there, but not done.

With the orange having been banished (or at least somewhat tamed), I was able to claim the first major victory. It still wasn’t right though, because in the process of de-oranging the image the clouds became white which they normally are, except when there’s a sunset, and that was half of the point of this picture to begin with. I made the decision to attempt to recreate the sunset that night by whatever means necessary, and that ended up meaning using much more Photoshop than I usually employ. I usually post-process my HDRs in Photoshop in order to add a bit of selective contrast and saturation, but for this I ended up having to do a ton of coloring, shading, and just generally breathing some life back into the shot. You can see the final result above but I’m finally pleased with it. Man was it a process though! The final shot is just how I like it: a bit over the top, a bit over-saturated, and bit over-contrasty, and a lot “wow!”

I’ve been using the pan as a dual-monitor desktop wallpaper which is pretty fun as it’s the first one that I’ve ever made. I’m adding it to the Desktops section now. Enjoy!

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.

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.


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.

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!