Archive for the ‘Indoor’ Category

Happy Chinese New Year (From Vegas!)

I’m not sure what it is about Vegas but there always seems to be something interesting to photograph there… It’s a pretty crazy place I suppose, a bit heavy on the visual stimuli so I guess it’s not all that surprising that I like bringing a camera when I go. At any rate, we had a couple things that needed celebrating last weekend so we did something truly irresponsible: an evening in Disneyland followed by a midnight push up to Vegas. The drive was simple enough, doable in under 4.5 hours but we were shocked to look up and find ourselves plunging along through a desert snowstorm! We rolled up to the Hard Rock Hotel’s parking deck around 4am and passed out in the car until morning.

If I haven’t mentioned it already, the Hotel Tonight app is a game changer. If you don’t mind a little drama, you can wait until noon on the day that you need a room and the app will release an assortment of incredible deals for the area. In Vegas, there’s literally no telling what could come up but there’s so many amazing hotels you’re likely to find great values. A room at Caesar’s for $69 last Easter, for example. This time we pulled the trigger on a room at the very small and off-strip Artisan Hotel for $45… not bad at all for a Saturday night. With a very out-of-the-public-eye vibe, it seems to cultivate a massive after-party scene with a spectacularly dark club that really only cranks up after 2am or so. In fact, upon checking in, the front desk warned that no room in the hotel would be “quiet” that evening because a DJ was playing (loudly) up until 10am the following morning…

The Bacchanal at Caesar’s was in full form. Crab legs, veal, sushi, and I was more than happy to help myself to the lava cake and gelato on the dessert buffet. As we sat there recovering and planning our hunt for $5 blackjack at reputable casinos, I reflected on the ridiculous decor we’d seen earlier that day. Most striking were the Bellagio conservatory, always a crowd pleaser, and the lobby at the Wynn, both decked out to celebrate the coming of the Chinese New Year last Sunday. While the Bellagio had actually placed a massive boat in their exhibit, I was still won over by the Wynn’s straightforward dragon dance costume. Suspended among their light-wrapped trees under the skylight, it really made for an impressive welcome sign at the Wynn.

This place exudes lavishness. Look at this walkway. Lavish: Las Vegas, NV

And as it happens I really couldn’t decide which of these two pictures to post. Fortunately I know the site’s administrator and we worked it out where I could just do both.

The amount of detail in the costume is awesome, in particular the texture of the teeth. I’d never really looked at one of these things for long until I was working with these images… Happy New Year! Las Vegas, NV


The Conservatory at the Bellagio: Las Vegas

In a sudden burst of concentrated irresponsibility, my roommate and I decided to go have Easter dinner at The Buffet at the Bellagio. Now, there are several arguments to be had about why this was an unorthodox decision, but easily the most questionable was the fact that we were literally eating lunch at Bubba Gump’s at Universal CityWalk when the idea went from conversational joke to finalized plan in less than 10 seconds. On a whim we quickly looked into staying the night (since driving 4 hours in the ultimate food coma is simply not a good idea) and thanks to the Hotel Tonight app, we locked in a room at Caesar’s Palace for a paltry $69 less than 8 hours before check-in.

The Buffet itself did not disappoint: bottomless Kobe beef, lamb shank, sushi, king crab legs, manicotti, and beef Wellington were among my favorite items on the menu. We decided to eat until the moment when it actually becomes uncomfortable, put in an extra 20 minutes, and then headed around the corner to the Conservatory to decompress.

The Conservatory is a seasonal showcase but I have no idea what those tiny shoes are about. Stuff gets reused of course, I think the umbrellas on the ceiling actually hung above the Via Bellagio shops last year: Las Vegas, NV

LA Architecture: Bonaventure Hotel / Bradbury Building

I went on a downtown field trip with my Art History class last semester. It’s a good thing we didn’t do anything that charged admission because 4-hour parking managed to rack up a healthy $20 charge… but I made the most of it and used the opportunity to scout locations for a 4×5 project in another class.

It's a maze in there. Later that week I took the 4x5 to shoot a similar angle. I got what I needed but got so lost in there the only exit I could find was on the opposite side of the building.

We met in the lobby of the Bradbury Building and it didn’t take long to realize why it was worth visiting! It’s been used in TONS of films over the years and, inspired by the recent scene in The Artist, I set to work on combining the set I’d taken.

The stacked stairs at the far end of the atrium should look familiar. You can't shoot something in this building and not include them: Los Angeles CA

Almost New Years: LA Auto Show 2011

We usually start a post by admitting fault for how much time has passed since the previous post… I’m not about to change that. Since we’re dangerously close to not having a December entry, I think I ought to slip in something I nabbed at the LA Auto Show back around Thanksgiving (on Thanksgiving, actually). We kind of flew through the exhibition and I don’t quite remember the details of the Volvo pictured below — Audi had a blindingly legit display so the e-tron and R8 GT Spyders may have distracted me — but I saw this angle of the Volvo display and loved how the glass and other reflective surfaces played havoc with the sense of space in the Convention Center ballroom. We spotted six manufacturer logos in this image; at the risk of sounding campy… can you find them too?

If not for the glass separator between the frontmost windows, this would be a really cool concept image advertising the Volvo of tomorrow, today! Or something... Los Angeles CA

Lunch at the Blue Bayou, Disneyland

As our road trip came to a close this summer, Disneyland was our final stop before the family headed to LAX and made a break for the East Coast again. For us, Disneyland has a handful of very special places (not a super unique claim, no doubt you’ve got your own favorite nooks) and the Blue Bayou restaurant may just be at the top of that list. Situating its guests in a simulated New Orleans evening on a back patio, it is the end-all be-all of how to do dining atmosphere with style. I may have been here eight or nine times in my life and pretty much each time I’ve tried to take a picture of it that I liked… and I finally have one. Just after being seated, I spotted a freshly cleared table overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Knowing the table would be vacant for less than five minutes, I quickly built my tripod and framed up. I realize not everybody in the world is a 30 minute drive from the Happiest Place on Earth, but next time you plan on visiting, call ahead and make a reservation at the Blue Bayou for a classy lunch or dinner. Order the gumbo. Regarding some technicalities, the 16-35mm on the 7D is really a 26-56mm and though that means my wide angle lens is not being fully realized, it keeps me honest with my framing. Whereas a full frame body would have given me the easy option of including the entire seating area, this 26mm view allowed a “wide but not obnoxiously so” composition that I like very much.

The Blue Bayou restaurant is far and away my favorite dining experience at Disneyland (Disney World just wishes they had one): Anaheim CA

Vegas Extravagance: The Venetian Lobby

Before Tucker and Giacomo came to visit LA a few weeks back, my family embarked on a classic road trip to get me and my car back across the country for the fall semester. As such, we saw it fit to stop by a few places “on the way” from Atlanta to LA: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Las Vegas. Needless to say, Vegas was the only one of these stops that was even close to being “on the way.” I’d like to eventually make my way back up to Vegas when I get a chance, most of what I was shooting while we were there was a spur of the moment, “I wonder what this’ll look like” kind of deal. Now that I’ve got a better sense of the area, I feel like I would be able to get some better material with a more planned out return trip.

As it happens, there are some casinos in the town. And these casinos tend to go… overboard in the theming department. One of the most impressively themed properties I wandered around was The Venetian, complete with functional canals (outdoor and indoor), St. Marks-esque plazas and archways, and generally awesome Italian Renaissance imagery. A long time ago, I saw this image over at stuckincustoms and was stunned that a hotel lobby could ever be so ludicrous. Naturally I decided to take a crack at the same shot, albeit with a tighter framing to cut back on the Footceiling effect that wide angle images usually suffer from (in which the photographer’s feet and the room’s ceiling are able to simultaneously squeeze into frame). In all seriousness though, I am very pleased with how this turned out. The white balance certainly took some after-the-fact loving to coax it back into normalcy but hey, that’s why you shoot in RAW. In the spirit of Las Vegas showmanship and general extravagance, I let this one sit on the tone mapping burner a little longer than normal. It’s a jaw dropping room to experience firsthand and I’d prefer to remember it as the crazy, colorful, and extravagantly themed surprise that my mind first encountered.

This entrance atrium is circular and (as evidenced by the stuckincustoms image) is therefore very susceptible to glaring lens distortion that can make some of the room’s upper arches look twice as big as others despite their being the same size. Actually, it’s probably better that I don’t shoot on a full frame body right now because my 16-35mm is never truly any wider than 26mm, lessening that disconcerting distortion while making me put a little more consideration into composition. Super wide angle (true 14mm or thereabouts) naturally draws an initial “wow” reaction because it’s so shockingly wide… but if you’re not careful it can turn into a shallow “wow” crutch for an otherwise unremarkable shot, giving you an freshly distorted but still unremarkable shot. Just my two cents.

At any rate, there’s PLENTY more to come from the Yellowstone/Tetons/Vegas/Disneyland cornucopia — And that’s just me! I left 90% of the Yosemite stuff to Tucker and Giacomo so there’s lots more goodies around the corner…

Great hotel, great lobby. Unfortunately, the canals were drained and the gondolas were being serviced while we were there... an excuse to go back some other time: Las Vegas, NV

Maine Update

I recently got back from two weeks in Maine, but it was not nearly as fruitful photography-wise as my previous trips have been. This is mostly because I’ve all but exhausted the nearby locations, and we live very much in the middle of nowhere up there, so to get anywhere else you need a car, and I’d have to be 25 to drive the rental car…. so I end up kayaking, reading, and generally enjoying getting away from the city. That’s not to say that I didn’t shoot at all, however. A few years ago we built a little website for the house so we could advertise it in various places for people to rent during the summer. It’s been successful, but the images were outdated and featured furniture (or the lack thereof) that has since been changed or added. Because of this, my mom asked if I’d be willing to reshoot the house but in HDR and I was of course more than happy to oblige. Making ANYTHING look accurate with the 16-35, especially architecture, is an exercise in patience and compromise, but the final shots were pretty fun. Here’s just a few of my favorites. I have one or two other unrelated HDRs from Maine that I’ll post soon, but I don’t want to overload one post with pictures so I’ll save them for after the other two post (because I KNOW they each have things to get up here…!)

The second of the two upstairs bedrooms.

The dining room table, which up until recently was literally a picnic table that the builders made for us after construction finished.

A view down the house longways. It is honestly my favorite place on earth.

On Set HDR

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...



Knobs and Pretty Lights

I was at Paul’s the other day and wanted to mess with the macro, and his rack of recording equipment seemed to be the perfect subject. This was originally meant to be paired with another HDR as a dual-screen wallpaper kinda thing, but I am still processing the other one and will post it at a later time or perhaps not at all; I’m having some pretty severe issues with it due to the long exposures (30 seconds) causing lots of light to bleed where I don’t want it. Wasn’t that much of an issue in this one, although I did do some pretty severe levels adjustments that purposely clipped my shadows to mitigate the hazy light (you can still see how the textured surface, which should be black, is slightly orange, and badly green in the bottom right. Oh well.) I hadn’t originally planned for the light stars and in fact I was going to shoot these at f/2.8 to go for a soft-focus on the knobs, but I’d left the camera on f/8 accidentally and upon seeing the results thought duh, this is awesome! So I went with it.

Paul has cool audio stuff and I have cool photography stuff, when you combine them, you get cool photographs of audio stuff.

On Set: Beverly Hills

As I mentioned in a post from a while ago, I love it when it becomes necessary to un-ghost moving objects that can crop up when processing an HDR. This happens when available light is insufficient for the overexposed image(s) in a bracket to attain a fast enough shutter speed to freeze motion (unless long exposure is deliberately called for in which case you have something else entirely). However, if you are lucky, the underexposed images will be fast enough to freeze the motion. In the below image, every single person was moving to begin with. Why is there enough light to see underneath the desks but still have these people frozen in place? Ordinarily that’s impossible without a flash, but if you know a little Photoshop you can get the best part of all possible images. Each person was selectively taken from the darkest exposure of my 3-shot set (which had a shutter speed of 1/40) and masked into the initial HDR composite. Mess with their levels a little to approximate the light levels in the rest of the image and you get the below result.

And yes, like the two other “On Set” posts, this has been deliberately sparse on details about content 🙂 So you’re not completely in the dark, the three people on the left are our actors chatting about the previous take and the middle three people are (left to right) one of our cinematographers and our Key Grip and his assistant. In the white shirt is the assistant director, communicating between the camera and lighting crew behind him and the director, producers, and editors as they observe on monitors in the room behind the frosted glass. Finally at the extreme right is our second cinematographer as she steps back to take in the scene from a distance. Everyone has a job and there is a hierarchy to it… it’s always a pleasure to see an image like this where you can clearly see everyone working together to make something really cool, one of the reasons I love set photography so much.

In between takes the camera and lighting department ask to make a small adjustment, relayed through the assistant director (white shirt) to the director in the adjacent room: Beverly Hills, CA

On Set: Van Nuys

As a tribute to our dedicated production designers, I’m putting up this image I took before the room was loaded with our dozen party-going extras. I’m a fan of the tiny amount of cables, the C-stand,  and the Kino on the extreme right side of the frame and did not crop them out of the final image as a reminder that this is still a set. As much as we will be making you believe it’s actually someone’s apartment that has been dolled up for a surprise party, it’s only possible with smoke and mirrors… and a really talented camera department with an incredible gaffing crew.

I love the way the light plays with the couch... makes me want to take a nap right now: Van Nuys, CA

Good Old Days

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!)

Finally, HDRs in a lit environment…

It’s not often I get a chance to shoot an HDR with deliberate, planned lighting. I filled in for a friend of mine today by being the gaffer on a music video shoot downtown. It’s a nasty area to be in at night… At any rate though, the surrounding three or four blocks all appeared to be empty buildings like our own, devoid of furniture and clearly angled at small productions in need of a gritty-looking flat. It was a stop-motion shoot so progress was slow and tedious. Lighting changes were fairly spaced out and so I fulfilled my other role on set by taking production stills for them. Set photography has gotten to be one of my favorite hobbies because you aren’t tied down as a coffee-grabbing PA, you generally aren’t asked upon by the camera department to move anything you don’t want to, and you basically have free reign to simply strut around the set and take pictures wherever you want.  Everyone involved in the production wants to walk away with some great shots of them working a music video shoot so it’s generally fairly easy to get along with everyone. It’s a good gig and I hope to photograph several upcoming student films this semester… That being said, set photography is an excellent place to shoot HDRs because of the deliberately constructed visuals all around. It’s a naturally cinematic place with things that are pleasing to look at and because HDR works best in environments where there are really dark darks and really light lights, sets are an excellent place to shoot thanks to the many lights that selectively stylize the scene. I took several HDRs on set here, and this is definitely one of my favorites…

Deliberate lighting makes a world of difference... Because he was playing the guitar while I was taking these, I masked in his hands from the middle exposure to prevent ghosty appendages: Downtown Los Angeles CA

More from Castello Ricasoli

After we toured the vineyard, we rushed through the barrel rooms of the Castello Ricasoli, but even as everyone left, I hung back to get this shot because the room was so epic. I would have posted this earlier, but I had to wait to get back to Atlan

ta to post this one: I needed Tucker’s advice on how to crop… I’ve never been as good as he is at composition, and I think his recommendations push this picture into my favorites list.

Some Classic Chianti ages in the dungeons of Castello Ricasoli

Quiet, Unsaturated, and Empty

In contrast to what Andrew has recently posted, I have been doing work that lacks crowds, crazy colors, and all that is Disney… but what he’s posted is awesome! I especially like the California Adventure Main Entrance; it’s just an awesome picture that really pops in the right way and is framed perfectly. Bravo on that. I have been busy with work and life in general, so I haven’t been able to post for the past few days. Again, most of the work I have been doing is for Rick, so here is another post from that endevour… it seems likely that by the end of this you will have seen every room in Rick and Pete’s house! That is also partly because every room in the house is gorgeous, simple, welcoming, warm, well designed, and worth photographing! Rick has complimented my work, but in all honesty I just take pictures of what is already beautiful. I would love someday to be able to live in a space to which he has applied his uncanny skill and design sense. More is sure to come, as I have yet to photograph the front and back of the outside of the house. Giacomo got back today, so there is sure to be much HDR before I leave for Maine once more. Here is a shot from the downstairs bathroom in Rick’s house, and just for fun, a hand-held HDR of the current state of my room… we are putting in the trim and baseboard tomorrow, and all that will be left to do after that is paint! Hopefully that will get done when I am home from Maine, and I can move back in. I have been trying my hand at indoor HDR whenever I get a chance… it is much harder than outside because issues of color balance/white balance crop up in nearly every shot, requiring much more processing time.

On a different note, I have discovered why some of the pictures that we upload are huge, requiring much more time to load and therefore drastically increasing the time that the entire blog itself takes to load. This is mostly the fault of the WordPress uploading system itself, and one that we can now work around… I have begun to correct it in all of my images, so that the ones that appear small on the main page are very tiny in file size, and the click-through image is the full-resolution 21 megapixel file. Andrew and Giacomo still have to correct theirs, but once it is done the site should load much faster, especially for those of you on dial-up connections 😉

One side of Rick and Pete's downstairs bathroom. So much texture!

I spent about a month stripping the paint off of the 108 year old trim...........