Yellowstone is an oddity. The geysers and bizarre geothermal features are the big ticket attractions but you find yourself forgetting about the “tamer” brand of landscape features that one comes to associate with National Parks. Really awesome waterfalls and crazy big yellow canyons would be examples of such. The next day, I went back to this lookout with a longer lens and punched in to see a bit more of the brink in a *gasp* non-HDR shot of the falls and the start of the gorge. Frankly, I’m appalled that none of my stuff from Yellowstone has made it onto the site yet so I will be working in the coming weeks to get more National Park material out of my Aperture library and onto TAG. Also, I’m working on putting together a ghosting walkthrough that should hopefully help you make sense of how to solve movement-heavy scenes in HDR (or at least how I like to do it, I’m sure there’s half a dozen different ways that work). Until then, enjoy the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park.
Archive for the ‘Landscape’ Category
Admittedly, It’s been far too long since my last post, and for once I cannot attribute this to a lack of material, as I still have a lot from Hawaii and TONS from Yosemite to process. My problem now is time, as classes have started and I’ve got lots of work for those, in addition to beginning an internship at the Clark Art Institute here in Williamstown. I’m excited to continue working at a museum, as my experience at the High was incredible. Anyway, here’s a shot from Yosemite, from the first day we were there. We trekked out to Happy Isles, an easy walk, and spent hours composing shots and just generally taking HDRs. We waded out into the river after a while, and set up the tripod rather precariously on some rocks to get a neat vantage point. The HDR process really lets the color of the sunlight underwater shine through, something that is hard to see even with your own eye. I was afraid that this image would be a a pain to process because of the rapidly moving water, but I didn’t end up having to do anything with it and am pleased with the result. I will try my best to find time to process more images over the next few months, but for now, here’s this shot.
Although I was mostly unsatisfied with many of the HDRs I tried to take in Australia, there is one glaring exception. First, I should explain. Part of the reason I was unhappy with many of my pictures from Australia was the fire control practices there. The Australians prevent massive, out-of-control wildfires by continually doing small controlled burns that partition the unburned land into small harmless fuel deposits. This results in a constant haze and smoke in the air, which made me dislike all the pictures I took (kind of like in another city I know). On to the exception: the very last night I stayed in James Cook University, where I was studying, my friends and I decided to stay up all night and go for a hike. That very night, the controlled burns were raging in our very back door, on the slopes of Mount Stewart which overlooks the university campus. When I realized this, I knew this was a rare opportunity so naturally I busted out my tripod and camera. Here’s what I saw.
This will be the first of many posts from our recent trip to Yosemite! This was a particularly fun trip as it was the first excursion that all three members of TAG have ever undertaken together; all of our other content on this site has been generated individually or in twos as we capture images from our travels. It was very fun to be hiking around with Giacomo and Andrew, each with their own backpack full of lenses/tripods and camera slung around their neck, and to come to a great lookout site and say “Ok, lets post up here for some HDRs.” Normally whoever you’re traveling with will roll their eyes and say “ok, but just don’t take as long as you did LAST time…” but we must have spent hours just setting up and shooting wherever we felt like it. We spent a particularly long time at the outlook on Glacier Point (we were there from about 5pm to 11pm or so!) Andrew and Giacomo had done the Yosemite trip last year around this time, and you may recall some shots they posted from that trip, but the Glacier Point overlook was one spot that they hadn’t come to, so we decided to check it out. It was a bit of a drive, but once you’re there you have an incredible panoramic view of Yosemite Valley and all of the mountains surrounding it, including, of course, the iconic peak of Half Dome. We plunked down all our backpacks, tripods, and cameras in a little corner, and literally sat there eating sandwiches, photographing chipmunks, and taking the occasional HDR as the light changed. The point of the whole thing was to get star trails and night photography, but this shot I’m posting to kick off the Yosemite HDRs is actually one from minutes before sunset. This was taken in that 1 minute span of time where the sun has just a sliver remaining above the horizon, and it cast this amazing red glow that hit just the top of Half Dome and a few other mountains. I will post at least 2 or 3 more from Glacier Point in the coming weeks, but the star trail images take a lot longer to process, particularly if I want to make pseudo-HDRs out of them, which I intend to at least try. Anyway, here is the view of Half Dome right before sunset, from Glacier Point.
Haven’t posted anything for a while! Now that my computer has caught up to me in LA I finally have some time to sit down and look back at the last month or so of my life: Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Las Vegas, Disneyland. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot to sift through. This first one I’ve chosen to share is easily one of my favorites and it comes bundled with plenty of neat historical relevance. In case there was any confusion out there, NO I was not the first person to take a picture of the Teton Range from this convenient little pull off. Most notably, perhaps, would be Ansel Adams’s work from the Snake River Overlook, though his most famous image from here was framed to only include the Grand Teton (the largest and most golden mountain in my picture below) and the strip of the Snake River right in front of it. Adams is a fun topic of discussion by himself – actually, I like to think of him as one of the pioneers of the HDR mindset. His Zone System allowed him to measure the range of exposure “zones” within his frame, useful for determining the number of stops between the darkest and the brightest parts of the image. Based on that, development times could be tweaked to stretch a fairly flat image (with a small zone range) into a more contrasty image via careful overdevelopment or to compress an image with unavoidable over/underexposure into a smaller and more manageable zone range via underdevelopment. I have no intention of judging myself against Adams but the mindset and final goals are similar: tweak an exposure after you’ve taken it in such a way that the greatest amount of detail can be simultaneously shown in the highlights and shadows. He used darkroom magic, we use software magic.
Enough about him though, let’s talk about me.
We left the Jackson Lake Lodge about 5:15am and sped up the road a few miles to get to the overlook. Over the next 45 minutes or so, the mountains began to glow as the sun cleared the eastern horizon directly behind us. Half an hour later we were all asleep at the lodge again. It was summer after all and I was determined to get unhealthy amounts of sleep.
Last weekend, Karl and I took a quick jaunt out to the Fiordlands to see what we could find. I’d been maybe 5 or 6 weeks earlier but the weather then was on the unremarkable side so I was hoping for a little bit of sun. What we found was rather stunning.
It’s a pretty amazing place in and of itself and it’s very easy to lose your scope of how huge it actually is. Simply walking around near the car park, you’re thinking, “wow I’m surrounded by these big mountain things jutting up out of nowhere.” So you walk over closer to the smallish harbor where they have 3- or 4-story cruise boats designed for touristy day trips. But, it’s only when those boats head out onto the sound and draw up even with the cliffs that you realize that the large boat from earlier was now a minuscule little dinghy in comparison to the mountains. It’s helped along by the fact that on each of the two times I’ve been, the mountains rise up and disappear in thick cloud cover, giving the very believable impression that they extend upwards into infinity. All in all, it’s one of the most surreal places I’ve ever seen and I’m happy to say I was able to return with a couple images that I’m very pleased with. Though it would be physically impossible to fully communicate how awesome this place is, I certainly had a decent attempt.
In light of a recent birthday around here, I’ve been thinking about where I’ve come from in terms of ability. I shall now wax philosophical for a little bit. How would the above have looked if I had processed it last May when I thought Photomatix’s “grunge” preset was a really cool place to start at with my brackets? If I recall, the first thing I ever posted on T.A.G. was a cramped shot of a staircase outside the Disney Concert Hall in LA — how would that have turned out if I had worked on it last week? Recently I’ve noticed that, whether I’m meaning to or not, I’m taking a great deal of time during processing to try and steer the final “look” of an image in a more and more subtle direction. Sometimes it’s fun to do something crazy every once in a while, sure, but making the software fingerprint more and more invisible can be a very rewarding challenge. It’s no secret that HDR doesn’t exactly have a good track record in terms of respectability and I would be the first to admit that most of the first shots I was happy with came out looking like the exact same stuff I find today when I Google search “flagrant misuse of HDR.” A lot of people unfortunately came to associate the worst of HDR as the best that HDR had to offer. I think it’s taken me a year to figure this out, but I definitely think that it has its place in the toolbox of techniques. And, like any technique, it can either be used to improve or overused to detract from the image.
I was working on another picture a few days ago when one of my friends who was in the shot dropped by and saw the work-in-progress HDR right next to the 7D’s original image. After looking at it for a few seconds, he concluded that even though the original image had a “truer” feel to it (in terms of the camera’s capabilities, complete with blown out skies and murky foregrounds), the HDR was much closer to how he actually remembered the scene. With the Milford Sound shot, my intention was to recreate the scenario as I saw it, how I remember it.
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…
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.
Well, my time in NZ is drawing to a close. As I thought back to some of this semester’s adventure, I went looking through some of my stuff from the trip to the food festival on the west coast. Recalling that the drive back to Dunedin along the coast had been nothing short of spectacular, I pulled out the shots from the Knight’s Point pull off along the road back. It’s essentially this outcrop of rocks way down the hill that sit just off shore. I imagine they’re significantly larger when you get right down on them — I think puttering around this cove in a little boat would be the best way to appreciate Knight’s Point, but we don’t own a boat so that didn’t happen. At any rate, I’m running over to the Fiordlands this weekend for a quick camping trip with a visiting friend from LA…hopefully the weather will cooperate just a little bit and Milford Sound will be a bit more visible than it was earlier this semester.
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…
…and now, I will show you a 100% crop of some…. people.
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.
Well since it seems the burden of keeping the site fresh has fallen squarely on me, I will be happy to oblige with more stuff from the North Island trip a few weeks ago. After touring the Te Puia geothermal area in Rotorua one fine morning, we hopped in the rental and moseyed 70km south to the town of Taupo. It wasn’t our initial plan to head due south from Rotorua, but a weather scare earlier in the week led us to rethink driving way east out to Gisborne. Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do there and the novelty of being among the first 20 or so people on the planet to see the sun come up would have worn off pretty quickly. Instead, we made a beeline to Wellington from Rotorua and stopping a night on Lake Taupo seemed like a good idea. We didn’t realize it at first, but Taupo happens to be the location of these really interesting-looking Maori rock carvings we had read about before leaving Dunners. So, before heading on to Wellington we chartered a couple spots on a small replica steamboat to take us out to the carvings since they are only accessible via boat or kayak. The boat took us right up to the carvings — we could almost reach off the boat and touch them actually. We were feeling pretty special right up until when the boat’s captain informed us that the carvings were done in the 70s. Despite not being the centuries-old relics we were initially led to believe, the carvings were actually a cool example of how the Maori culture is still a very active one. As we learned earlier at Te Puia, they don’t see their heritage as something of the past to be proud of because it’s still something of the present to be proud of.
Oh right, so the picture.
This is from the night we arrived in Taupo. We were initially banking on asking the people running the hostel where a good place to see the sunset would be… until they straight-facedly recommended the hostel’s balcony. Which faced east. We smiled and nodded and opted to drive around the lake until we found something nice…
Well, this past week on the North Island was nothing short of awesome. The sun sure did a lot of shining despite rain being forecast for the entire island for an entire week… just goes to show how completely unpredictable New Zealand’s island climate can be when it comes to weather. Our road trip ended in Wellington, right at the southern end of the North Island. By far my favorite city in NZ so far, Wellington has an awesome vibe that strikes a really nice balance between hardcore city life (it’s the nation’s capital after all) and natural beauty. I was particularly impressed by the Botanical Gardens, accessible from the immediate downtown area by a 5 minute ride on a vintage cable car. In fact, I straight up fell asleep for the better part of an hour when we sat down to relax in a grassy clearing on our walk through the garden back down to the city. And, there’s no way I could write this travel blurb on Wellington without mentioning the amazing “Zealandia” habitat only 15 minutes out of downtown. It’s an incredibly ambitious attempt to restore a large section of land (an entire valley actually) back to the original tropical rainforest environment it was before humans first came to the area, involving the placement of dozens of endangered species back into the valley and a careful attention to guiding the flora back to prime condition. I only had an hour and a half there but could have easily spent the whole day.
At any rate, after Zealandia closed at 5 o’clock I went across town up to the top of Mt. Victoria to catch the sunset…
Well it’s about time I shared this one. It’s been in the works since we got back from Mt. Cook and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. In fact, it’s definitely my favorite panorama I’ve ever put together. From Mueller Hut we went about 20 minutes further up Mt. Ollivier’s ridge to get to a suitable vantage spot to see the sunrise at about 7am. One of the most utterly jaw-dropping experiences of my life. This panorama represents 11 bracketed sets, processed and stitched together to form a single 86 megapixel image.
Next week is our mid-semester break and I am spending it on the North Island. Can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store up there…
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.
Greetings once more from NZ! I had a few images from a few weeks ago that I’ve been working on and was planning on posting… until we returned from a fantastic weekend in Mt. Cook National Park. So while I do a bit more housekeeping with those older pictures, I’ll throw up a brand new (literally, this shot is from this morning) Mt. Cook image to make up for the 19-day delay since my last post!
Mt. Cook… the tallest peak in New Zealand. It’s only four hours away from Dunedin and is absolutely stunning. Intending to stay overnight in Mueller Hut near the summit of Mt. Ollivier, we arrived at the Mt. Cook National Park Visitor Center at 8:15am to secure four bunks in the first-come-first-served-style system. However, there was already a throng of people waiting for the doors to open (even though we’d left Dunedin at 4:15am to get over there!) and we were within two people of the cutoff. Undaunted, we brought a 4-man tent to the top of the trail and camped under the hut — It was easily the most difficult hike I’ve ever attempted and I wasn’t even carrying the tent!
Beyond the hut, the ridgeline continued up to the summit. Looking back towards the hut shortly after sunrise the following morning offered the below vista…
I know it’s been forever since I last posted, and I promise to get back on track! Giacomo and I are going to hopefully be able to take advantage of these few, fleeting days in Atlanta that are beautiful, bug and (mostly) pollen-free to get some photographs before the summer kicks in and we are locked indoors. For now, here’s a simple but pretty sunset from almost a year ago at this point. I’ve got lots more from Hawaii to put up but I wanted to break up the volcanoes and mountains with a serene seascape and some fire in the sky. I chose a rather unorthodox crop on this one because there was a lot of uninteresting sky and water that contained very little in terms of interesting color or texture, and I think it helps. The completely windless night caused not a ripple on the surface of the ocean, allowing for perfect axial symmetry. I noticed afterwards that there was lots of mist, and with no wind to speak of the fog was able to hover just above the surface of the ocean. It looks pretty cool and gives the classic sunset shot a bit of a twist!