Archive for the ‘O’ahu’ Category

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.

 

Underexposed

Neutral

Overexposed

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.

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!

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.

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.