Archive for the ‘Indoor’ Category

A Well Designed Space

I’ve been really, really busy with photography work lately, and it’s basically all between Rick and J Young! But that is good, as they involve two areas of photography I am not as familiar with, portraiture/fashion and architecture. To top it all off, both involve even more aspects I am not familiar with; shooting J Young has involved lighting heavily, causing me to learn how to use/position a reflector to bounce my flash, while balancing that with the natural light, and Rick’s stuff has involved a lot of indoor HDR, which I have very little experience doing. Both have proven a further challenge for the same reason: my gear is set up for landscape photography, as that is what I have felt most at home doing and honestly really enjoy the most. The 16-35mm is at home doing landscapes, as it is extraordinarily wide, but when things are closer to the lens, it distorts. A ton. That makes it tough to use in both areas of work, as you don’t want people to appear stretched and you don’t want crazy weird angles and distortion in architecture. I have had to use Photoshop’s Lens Correction tool a bunch for doing Rick’s work, and I have used mostly the 70-200mm for doing J Young. However, I have had to switch to the 16 for a few of the shots of J, especially the shoot today that involved J’s friend Koleone and a Maserati. They were scheduled to shoot a video that Paul and I were supposed to shoot stills during, but that didn’t end up working out that well… hopefully soon though. Anyway, the point of all this is I have realized that the ideal lens for the work I am doing would be the 24-105mm f/4L IS. That range covers EVERYTHING I need for doing J’s stuff, as I never need wider than 16 and never honestly go in all the way to 200mm on my current telephoto, and I would therefore never need to change lenses. The 24-105 also doesn’t distort at all, and also has built in Image Stabilization, making it a truly ideal all-around lens. I am most likely going to sell my 70-200mm and pick up a 24-105 fairly soon. Anyway, here are two shots, one of Rick’s kitchen, and one of his bathroom, both designed and art directed by the man himself. I’m currently editing 3 shoots of J Young, the 60-something HDRs of the Tidwell poolhouse, the HDRs of Rick’s upstairs bathroom, and the HDRs of Rick’s kitchen… I’m really not sure when it will all get done….

Rick's kitchen in all it's glory. And distortion.

And Rick's upstairs bathroom, an equally gorgeous space. The amount of textures, light, and detail really show with HDR.

1906-2010: Remodeling in Grant Park

I’ve been busy in Grant Park it seems. Rick Jones, my good friend and architect, and I have been shooting a lot at the park itself, which is all work that will hopefully help push the Conservancy to fund further improvements around the park. However, Rick is also working on a project in the Grant Park neighborhood, nearby the park. The house was built in 1906, and a store added on in 1925. Rick acquired the house in 1996 and has been working on remodeling and restoring the place from the ground up… literally. The original basement was used for storage, and had a ceiling that was maybe 6′ tall. Over the past few years, Rick not only designed an entirely new basement and supervised its construction, but he did so using materials that really make the space a welcoming, warm place to be. By taking the original bricks from the exterior and recycling them for use in interior spaces, such as the basement, and using hand-hewn wooden beams for supports, the atmosphere is at once fresh and new, yet evokes much of the building’s past. The ceiling was raised to 9’3 to accommodate people comfortably, and a fireplace was added which only furthers the sense of homeliness in the place. As Rick said, he envisions a pub or some other restauraunt-type setting there, but it is ultimately up to the eventual buyer/renter as to what will fill the space. It’s just a place that you want to stay in, exploring the texture of the old bricks, the beautiful wood, and the nice touches such as the keystone over the fireplace. I can’t wait to see it fully finished, with real lights and actual windows, and two matching doors flanking the fireplace. Rick has come up with plans for the entire rest of the building, which has two stories on top of the basement, and his ideas and vision are going to transform the place into a truly incredible space. I hope to go back soon and get some “in progress” HDRs of the space under construction; it looks really cool with just the frame of the house up in places, all of it in different stages of construction. This is also some of the first (successful…) work I have done with HDR indoors. It’s kinda cool! For now, here is what the contractors have dubbed “The Wine Cellar.”

Wide shot of the "Wine Cellar" with the windows covered.

Tighter shot of the basement, with windows open.

More Mass MoCA and Maine

Back from Mass, I sat down and processed a few more of the shots. I did a TON inside the Sol Lewitt exhibit; going hand-held and just simply bracketing everything made it so that I ended up with way too many HDRs… but I will keep sprinkling them around as I am happy with them all. It was a really fun place for composition, and the phrase “be responsible for everything in the frame” kept popping back in my mind all the way from 9th grade photo class. You’ve gotta keep all the angles, lines, and elements in order to make it all come together. When I got back, I went outside our house and took a few quick shots… I’ll be posting more when I get a better sky (ie go out more towards sunset…) but these were fun enough. (On second thought, I just looked at the other image I wanted to post, and I like the composition but I’m going to wait for a better, non blue sky and then I’ll put it up. So just these two for now :D)

Another of Sol Lewitt's wall paintings. This one comes free with cool clouds!

Reflection off the door on the side of our house.

A Visit to Mass MoCA

We took a road trip from Maine to the great state of Massachusetts today, and one of the places we stopped to see was the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, MoCA for short. It’s an awesome old building right up my alley, an old industrial factory or mill, I’m not sure which, that’s been converted into a wonderful modern art museum, leaving most of the original structure intact. One of the newest parts of their permanent collection is a 3 floor exhibition of the work of Sol Lewitt. I won’t go into Lewitt’s work because, as is the case with most modern art, it is rather theoretical and hard to explain. The basic idea is that the museum buys instructions for how to make a particular work of his. The exhibit at MoCA is all wall drawings and paintings, and the instructions are printed next to them all. They all read something like this: “One large square bisected by a curvy line, with matte paint on top and glossy paint on the bottom.” All involve simple geometric shapes, and bold, bright swaths of color, and all are actually created by the staff of the museum; what you actually buy is simply the instructions, his idea. It’s a cool concept, and there is actually a Sol Lewitt installation a few blocks down from my house in Atlanta that I was unaware was his, it’s the kind of thing I drove by every single day on the way to school from first grade all the way through senior year before I knew who created it. I plan to go there and shoot when I get back. For now, here’s a shot from inside the museum, of some of Lewitt’s wall paintings, and one of the outside of the museum itself. I shot a ton, and for the first time, it was all hand-held! I had shied away from doing hand-helds up until now but decided to give it a try, as they allowed photography but not tripods inside the museum. I’m pleased with the results!

One of the many wall paintings designed by Sol Lewitt at Mass MoCA.

One of the many parts of the building itself, which was originally an industrial mill or factory.

Elephant for Sam

Here, as I promised Sam, is the second in a series of elephant pictures… this elephant is so teeny and full of awesome details that you can only see with the macro that he makes a really fun still life subject. Don’t think you’ve seen the last of him…! I used my new Trek Tech T-pod that I’ve been talking up over the past week or so to get really close on the table. The thing is awesome! Supports my 5d, batter grip, and the 100mm macro with ease, very sturdy lil’ thing. Speaking of sturdy, I also got my Pelican 1520… with all my gear inside it weighs 27lbs! I got my wish today, and we had another huge thunderstorm… but it lasted all day, and kept me inside, so it didn’t really help  me get out and shoot. Hopefully some of the weather will carry over tomorrow. The second shot is one I ran across on my computer and realized I’d never bothered to put up, partially because so much of me wants to go back and reshoot it… it was done quite a few months ago at this point, when we were really just figuring out the basics of HDR still… and I shot it in JPG! With awful framing, and the sky moved so much in between the brackets that it got all blurred and weird at the edges… but you know, I can’t deny a sky like that, and I’m not sure I want to pay another 5 dollars to get on top of the Lindberg Center parking deck; maybe if Giacomo and Andrew are back in town sometime it will be worth it. I like the way the HDR process turned what were the brake-lights of cars into black strips that resemble tire tracks. Makes it look a lot more hardcore than it is… anyway, here are the shots.

The Eeny Weeny Brass Elephant on a clay dish of some sort. He will rise again!

Yet another night HDR of the Atlanta Skyline, this time from the top of the Lindbergh Center parking deck.

Tasty Wine

The reason I’ve been slow to process my Siena pictures has been legitimate, though, I feel: the very next day was a field trip to a vineyard and olive grove for some excellent wine tasting and olive oil tasting (superior, in my opinion. I could drink that stuff any/every day of the week). I got an overview of the whole process of winemaking from growing the vine to decanting fresh bottle, and it was informative and highly enjoyable (and delicious). Anyways, many things have been said already about the beauty of winemaking in the Tuscan countryside but allow me to say them again using HDR:

Where the crushed grapes (aka must) is initially distilled

This is where the magic happens - the cellar where the wine is aged in those barrels

A fine chianti is slowly born

My First Foray into Macro HDR

I decided to try the inevitable, combining my two current loves: my new 100mm f/2.8L macro, and, of course HDR photography. Macro HDR is harder simply because your field of view is so much narrower than a wide angle (…duh) that you end up having much fewer subjects with high contrast, as macro shots tend to be evenly lit and do not include the sky. Because of this, I decided to shoot at midday, in an area where the sun directly hit the flower but the background was in complete shade.

An HDR of a flower on my porch, done with the 100mm Macro.

That came out ok. Not the “oh wow!” that HDRs usually give me, but I do like how much punch it gives the flower. I will try more of this “straight” macro HDR stuff later. I say “straight” because of what I did tonight. I was bored, and house-locked due to the awful humidity/storms/grayness/grossness that was located outside. I wanted to make it over to the Jimmy Carter Center to shoot their rose garden and get some overall HDRs of the place, but I’m saving that for a day with good clouds… hopefully soon. Today was not that day. So, I decided to make a still life that would have the ultra high contrast I’d need for HDR, while being minute enough and having enough detail to be done with the macro. I decided that since I was bored, I would combine this with another technique I’d been considering: taking a series of macro shots from a tripod of the same scene, focusing on a different part of the image in each shot, and then editing together all of the shots in Photoshop in a way that would create an impossible depth of field. So, I shot four 3-shot brackets of the same scene, focusing on a different aspect of the scene in each bracketed set. This was the result, after (very quickly because I am tired and want to eat some ice cream) compositing them together in Photoshop:

A macro-HDR composite; 4 different HDRs with different focal planes all fused into one image.

For this, I shot an HDR focusing on the 9 in the LCD, one focusing on the upper right screw on the clock, one focusing on the America on the gold dollar, and one focusing on the teeny brass elephant. The 3 HDRs were processed with similar settings in Photomatix (not identical, I did change some things as the images varied a bit in exposures and obviously what I wanted to be in focus) and then pasted over each other one at a time and erased away with a really soft eraser.

Right off the bat, I can list some mistakes I made, almost entirely due to the fact that I had simply never done this before/wasn’t thinking ahead:

  • Shooting at f/3.5. I initially thought, oh, I am editing these together so it won’t matter. WRONG! The extreme bokeh, while nice in a single shot, impedes details when edited together. See for example, the way the coin’s “halo” intrudes in on the elephant, the way the out of focus light from the cup intrudes on both the coin and the elephant… Shooting at f/8 or even f/11 would dramatically reduce this effect and make the editing process easier.
  • Simply not shooting enough different planes of focus. I would love to be able to get more of the overall image “in focus,” in other words I wish I had shot one with the orange spot on the cup in focus, one with the lamp in focus, and one with the back of the wall in focus. The room has a great wood panelling pattern that would work well to fill all that white space. The downside of this is of course more time composing, and much more time editing them together.
  • Not looking at the clock. The time changed from 9:01 to 9:02 during the bracketing… enough said! My next attempt at this will probably be something similar but exclude the darn clock. It takes so much time between focusing on new areas and waiting for your bracketing to finish (the longer exposures at macro focal length at f/11 are going to be 10-20 seconds; I was already hitting the 1 second mark at f/3.5) that the time is bound to change.

Something else that I found interesting came up immediately, and that is the issue of the Hybrid IS that I have been praising so highly. Don’t get me wrong, it is pure awesomeness when you are handholding shots. Absolutely incredible, allowing tack sharp, 1/30sec macro shots that you just couldn’t do otherwise. But, when I had the 5D on the tripod and Live View enabled so I could accurately compose and focus my shots, I noticed something: I was being perfectly still, and yet the image was “swimming” on the viewfinder. I could hear the IS continually going, something I had noticed and liked when handholding movies, as it helps reduce the shaking of your hands. On a tripod, it seems to be too enthusiastic and correct for motion that just isn’t there. It will be good for me to keep this in mind in the future; it probably wouldnt show up at all with ultra-fast shots but when your exposure times are around the .5-1sec range, it results in very blurry images, something this lens should NEVER do. Turning it off solved my problems.

So, this was an interesting experience. I think I will try more of each side of this separately, doing macro HDRs of flowers and other things I find, and attempting to do varying planes of focus with just straight shots. If I’m feeling ambitious again I will attempt to combine them, and this time I will make sure to shoot more than I think I need, and I will do the photoshop work on my PC with the Wacom tablet instead of on my laptop, half asleep on the couch with my trackpad, bemoaning only having 4gb of ram. Anyway, just wanted to show you what I’d been experimenting with. I feel like, when implemented correctly, it will result in some awesome, totally weird images.

Monastery of the Holy Spirit

For Cistercian monks who choose a life of solitude and silent worship, Conyers, GA is probably one of the best locations I can think of to simply “get away from it all.” Mostly because, to put it mildly, there ain’t much there. These monks have built a beautifully simple place to live through the years, and make a point of welcoming photographers as they even have a special retreat program geared toward photography! Not sure exactly what that would entail, but it is interesting nonetheless. I had the interior of the church entirely to myself and went up to the balcony to get this shot. Not quite as grand as some of the cathedrals elsewhere in the world (as I’m sure Giacomo is currently seeing…) but it is the first church I’ve ever been able to get a tripod inside to do some HDR, and the stained glass made some pretty light. They also had a banzai farm outside, along with a huge bakery and kitchen devoted entirely to the making of fudge. Reclusive monks who wake at 3:45am, worship, grow small trees, and make rich sweets… it was very interesting.

Interior of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA

Closeup of the stained glass windows inside Holy Spirit Monastery

Setting the Scene in Kennesaw

Another one from the wedding I recently shot in Kennesaw, GA as a second photographer for David Murray, this shot was taken from under the roof of the newlyweds’  poolhouse. I am still editing my favorite shots from this shoot, but this came out ok, especially due to the high contrast nature of the scene, with indoor and outdoor lighting. A lot of initial Photoshop work went into making this shot come out. More details will be posted in our upcoming HDR tutorial, but if you haven’t played around with Photoshop’s RAW Converter it is worth your time; the “Recovery” and “Fill Light” sliders are nearly magical in their ability to transform an HDR image due to their ability to really bring out detail in the highlights and shadows in your bracketed images before they go into the HDR program. All of this will be explained as soon as we finish our tutorial, and once we do it will be linked all over so you can learn more about how to make these images.

Looking back, this one could really have benefitted from a 5 shot, ±4 stop bracket.

Upwardly Mobile in Inman Park

The area around the Inman Park neighborhood used to be a lot of abandoned factories, but recently much of it has been demolished or renovated. One such factory on Krog Street has been transformed into a little mall type thing, but the old walls and sliding doors remain right next to the modern compact fluorescent light fixtures and clothing stores. Tucker and I spent a long time there since there were so many awesome details to shoot.

Indoor HDR of a Light Fixture in the renovated factory on Krog St. in Atlanta