Archive for the ‘Night’ Category

Tart

I’ve been here a couple times now and I think I just made up my mind… it’s my favorite place to eat in LA. I haven’t been very many places of course, but Tart is easily my favorite. They’re famous for their amazing outdoor atmosphere on their back patio and of course their food is exceptional as well — make sure to stop by Restaurant.com to check for coupons, they usually have them. We lived within walking distance of Tart over the summer and I happened to have my camera with me when we came over here one night. This is a questionable final product. Typically, I really love the “unghosting” process incurred when moving objects make blurry, indistinct objects in the final composite. But for a place like this, I didn’t really have to do much with the colors to get it to turn out like this… the place really is this gorgeous out on the patio. Because the HDR process exaggerates this a little, it’s nearly impossible to do a straight-faced image of Tart… the patio atmosphere just makes it such a fun place to eat. So, in the spirit of keeping Tart’s outdoor patio lively and full of action, I am leaving Karl and Krishen to be free to move around and enjoy the evening as they may see fit. Hopefully we can head back over there sometime soon.

I am allowing myself a ghosting exception in the spirit of Tart's vivacious atmosphere... Los Angeles CA

Moonrise and New Desktops!

So I’ve finally had time to sit down and begin work on the site (beyond the occasional blog post, of course) and have gotten a very early version of the “Desktops” page online. The purpose of this page is really simple: to provide some of our favorite images in the most popular desktop sizes, ready for you to download and use as wallpapers. Right now there are only 3 images up, one of them being the image in this post 🙂 It takes a seriously long amount of time to make the crops of each image, mostly because the aspect ratios change from 16:10 to 16:9 and the worst is the 4:3, non-widescreen because it usually involves chopping off a significant portion of the image and ruining the composition. But, those of you with resolutions of 1280×1024 or 1024×768 will be able to use them, and that’s what counts. It takes me a long time to decide what to get rid of in the crops, and then I have to upload them and create all of the different links… Expect more images to show up there over time; I will probably put a note in my future blog posts when there are new ones to be had. As always, if you want the full-resolution image, just click on it on the main blog. I have no idea how much time or energy Giacomo or Andrew has for this, so it may just be my imagery for a while, but you never know.

Here’s yet another one of Maine, a place that has given me a wealth of material to work with in just the two short visits I’ve taken there recently. This is from the familiar location of my dock, but at a different time and in a different direction. The moon is rising on the left, but the sun has just barely set, so there’s still a lot of ambient light giving definition to the trees and clouds. I really like this one, and it is the second to last image from Maine that I had left to post. The last is my favorite! Anyway, here’s the moonrise, and be sure to check it out in desktop form as well.

Usually it is hard to capture the moon, as lack of light results in long exposures which show the moon's movement, but luckily there was enough light for fast exposures.

Even More Atlanta Skyline

So I am suffering from “lack-of-new-material” syndrome again, which means you get to see more Atlanta skyline! In my ideal world, I’d be able to post a picture every day from a different shoot, basically exactly what Trey Ratcliff does… unfortunately I do not make a living traveling the world taking HDRs, so I must make do with what I have. Speaking of Trey Ratcliff, I have recently become a part of his spinoff-website, HDRspotting. It is, as you might guess, a community for people who like creating and looking at HDR in all forms. Members can upload one HDR a day, and editors review the submissions, essentially admitting everything, but choosing to “feature” some and even designate some as “editors picks.” If you want to see a TON of HDR (both good and bad…) check it out, its well worth browsing. The editors seem to favor church interiors, as literally ever single one that gets submitted ends up being featured, if not an editor’s choice. Maybe they are afraid of provoking divine wrath if they do not show their adoration for houses of worship….? No church interiors for me, but you can see what I have submitted here.

Anyway, these are from a few weeks ago, shot from the ever popular location of Paul’s roof. I had posted a cityline HDR taken with the 70-200mm zoom, but from a different location. Usually, HDR does not work well very low light (ie, night) like this because the long exposure ensures that most areas of the shot are exposed, but with a city there are so many different light sources that it actually works pretty well to get tone in the sky and from all of the artificial light. Using the 200mm lens allowed me to really pick a part of the skyline and, well, zoom in on it… but this can make composition hard. I prefer the 16-35 for HDRs, but occasionally, different can be fun! I’ve been seeing a lot of black and white HDRs on HDR Spotting, so I decided maybe I’d give it another shot. There are also a lot of great HDR panoramas, but I haven’t yet found the perfect scene to attempt this feat… perhaps when I am in Hawaii for Christmas break I will be lucky enough to find just the perfect place.

That odd line in the fog to the upper left was really there, it is not an artifact of the process! I was tempted to remove it but I kinda like its oddness.

The black and white version of the same image. I like this one better, it reminds me kinda of something out of Sin City.

Little Red House on the Coast of Maine

On the same night that I took this shot of the lighthouse on Pemaquid Point, I wandered down even further, out onto the point itself, and the small red house caught my eye. It wasn’t the greatest sunset in the world, but it made for a tranquil scene. One of the many things I love about Maine, and I’ll say it again, is that scenes like this are ubiquitous up and down the coast; if I were living in Maine full time you would probably not see me post shots like this! But as a city-boy it is places like this that get stuck in my head. I reprocessed this a few times trying to get the white balance right; straight out of the camera the rocks were really, really blue, but I may have overcompensated a bit in this edit? I like it nonetheless.

I have been working furiously on my room these past few weeks, and as of today I am putting the finishing touches on it, including a second coat of the dark red paint and window hardware, a ceiling fan, etc. Possibly as soon as tomorrow I will (finally) have a place to properly sit down and do some real work in the internet world. I plan to do a few things:

Short-term:
-process a bunch of HDRs that I have sitting around and post them; recently I have been posting things that I processed months ago and haven’t been working on new stuff as much as I should
-experiment more with the macro-HDR side of things (more elephants for sam! and I want to do things with water/droplets,etc)
-create a “Desktop Background” page that will link from the sidebar so that you can download your favorite images from the site in a variety of screen sizes
-finally finish off the long-time coming in-depth HDR tutorial, which has been put on the back burner since the inception of the site.

Long-term:
-completely re-theme/re-design the site. This is proving to be quite a challenge, and will require lots of time messing with back end code and things like that. I want to eventually have a landing page, with a rotating set of images in the center that we will update frequently with our favorite shots. Upgrading to a WordPress 3 compatible theme will allow us to have a menubar across the top, and have much better organization for what is currently on the sidebar. I want to also have a place at the bottom of the main landing page where three “random posts” from the past will come up every time you go to it, so that newcomers who may only look at the contents of the first page or so won’t miss out on what we’ve been done for the past few months. The site is quite functional as it is; I just want to make it a bit flashier, and more accessible. The blog will, of course, remain the main attraction of the site.
-depending on viewership trends I may consider adding a system to order prints. I have had several requests in person, and recently got a great photo printer that can do up to 13×19, but who knows. It really depends on how popular the site becomes over time, and if we can keep adding content like we have been able to do. Currently we are getting about 70 views a day and that has been rising drastically; it was only 50 a day a week ago! Yes, these numbers are literally nothing in the big wide world of the web, but to a few college kids with a website, it’s kinda cool to think that a few people around the world come here often to see what’s new.

The bottom line is, don’t be surprised if you see some changes in the coming weeks! Ok, enough of my rambling. Here is the photo!

The red house stands out at sunset on the rocky Maine coastline.

Sunset and Moonrise under the Stars

This is the second of the two shots that I took a month ago in Maine, while waiting for the Northern Lights to appear (which they never did). I had no idea how they would turn out, and I was definitely pleased, especially after I processed the single file into three differently exposed ones, to simulate a ±2 stop, three shot bracket that is normally used for processing into an HDR. The 814 second exposure was long enough to capture the clouds receding, lit by the rising moon (directly behind me opposite the clouds, not in the shot) as the stars began to show. The result looks like something between a sunset and a sunrise, which is really just the clouds receding over time. The dock moves constantly with the water, and it is that movement that causes it to appear fuzzy in the shot.

The reddish orange light on the wooden posts of the dock is coming from our house, all the way back up the hill behind me.

A New Vantage Point

When Giacomo and I set out to shoot some HDRs tonight, we quickly realized the location I had in mind was not going to work. I remembered it being a lot cooler a few years ago, but the area around Arizona field by Dekalb avenue is now relatively built up and modern. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it was all rather bland, fenced in, and boring. Still wanting to get some shooting in, we drove for a bit until I remembered my goal of getting on top of the bridge that goes across Ponce de Leon, the bridge that we must have driven under thousands of times. Now that it is part of the Beltline, I knew it was possible, but wasn’t sure if there was easy access. Turns out, all we had to do was park close by, walk down an alleyway, and we were behind Paris on Ponce and the other shops there with easy access to the bridge and the Beltline in general. The huge brick building is the now-defunct City Hall East, where some government stuff used to take place. It is ugly, and it is large, so it is in the picture, but it is also part of the landscape that defines this area. I do like how there are lights on in some of the windows, despite it being technically closed. As we are still in the middle of a string of storms, we also had a great sky… the part the picture does NOT convey is the nearly unbearable humidity. It was probably upper 80’s, which by Atlanta standards is rather cool, but we were literally soaking because of the awful air. Tolerating it for a few minutes, I was able to grab some brackets while Giacomo messed around with the 70-200 looking professional as always. For those of you from Atlanta who haven’t been up to this location, it’s worth a visit; it’s really cool to look down on an area that has been a part of my life in this city for as long as I can remember.

All in all, a really cool location to watch both the traffic and the oncoming storm.

Stormy Summer Night

It had been threatening to thunderstorm for the past few days and it finally let loose today, with really cool lightning, clouds, and rain form the late afternoon on into the night. After spending far too little time at the Dalí exhibit at the High Museum (I will be back…) and a great dinner at Tierra on Piedmont, I headed over to Paul’s condo with my gear and braved the rain and humidity to get some pretty cool stuff. Yet another test of the weather sealing on the 5D Mark II, again passed with flying colors although the camera was literally dripping when I was done. Incidentally, the header image from the site is a crop from an HDR I took from this exact location, (looking out at the skyline, of course) a few months ago and during the day. I will (I promise) edit it, post it, and change the header soon… Anyway, the coolest shots from tonight were the ones that I did with the 70-200mm of the clouds passing in front of the many scyscrapers; they were also the first HDRs I’d attempted with that lens which was an experience, to say the least. I will edit those soon, but for now I have a wide one, taken with the trusty 16-35mm f/2.8 with distortion to prove it. When I first got up on the roof, I immediately began shooting out towards the skyline, but I noticed the lights from the pool out of the corner of my eye and decided I needed to get a closer look…

I love the way the HDR works together with the long exposures, bringing together the purple and red in the skies and detail in the shadows that were literally impossible to see with the naked eye.

Going Downtown

Giacomo and I were bored and in I was in desperate need of new material (Giacomo’s computer has been out of commission for a few weeks now and I’m assuming once he gets it working he’s still got a ton from Yosemite and Italy to process and post) so we decided to drive into the heart of downtown Atlanta, to Centennial Olympic Park. The area itself dates back to the 1996 Olympics here, and I hadn’t been there since the games when I was 6 years old… I’m fairly positive of this, because it seemed entirely transformed to me. It’s not the World of Color show, but it’s still pretty cool. The park contains a lot of grass for running, picnics, and events, as well as monuments, and other fountains, but the main attraction is the olympic ring fountain, that well-known logo with five interlocked circles. Each circle is made up of small fountains that create different synchronized patterns, and as the sun goes down they begin to light up different colors. All in all it makes for a nice place to sit and actually enjoy being in the middle of the city, something that is hard to do in Atlanta, especially during the summer. The sky wasn’t awesome, but the fountain is the main attraction anyway 🙂

The fountain in Centennial Olympic Park begins to light up as the natural light fades away.

Disneyland: Minutes Before the Fireworks

Before heading over to California Adventure for World of Color, we had enough time to see the fireworks show in Disneyland. However, this shot is obviously not aimed at the fireworks area. Remembering a shot I had seen a long time ago on stuckincustoms, I decided that I really wanted to try something similar. We quickly saw that ghosting would be an issue and I’ve tried somewhat to retain the details of the seated people nearest me by pulling that data from whichever of the three shots was clear and masking it in. The areas to the right and the immediate bottom of the frame are places where I wanted to preserve the motion present in the scene since getting a single clean shot was impossible due to the people rushing to find a place to sit and enjoy the fireworks. I believe Trey’s shot was from DisneyWorld but I really like was Disneyland was able to offer up here. Main Street in CA is still just as magical at night (maybe more, actually) as its bigger counterpart across the country.

It's not uncommon for crowds like this to form two hours in advance for the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland: Anaheim CA

Cafe Verona, @ La Brea and 2nd

We’ve loved Cafe Verona ever since we moved to the Park La Brea area and have tried to go there about once a week. Excellent outdoor dining experience with awesome food and a there’s-something-special-about-this-but-I’m-not-sure-what atmosphere on the patio. As far as we know, it’s owned and operated by Celestino Elice and his family and you can tell in just one visit that they love having the place. In fact, they’ll be the ones taking care of you. Elice has been there every time we’ve gone, either playing seating host, delivering entrees, uncorking wine bottles, or simply tidying up. If you’re looking to have a nice Italian meal one night and are sick of Olive Garden-level establishments, please please please go visit our friends at Cafe Verona sometime. I promise you’ll want to go back as often as we do.

Amazing outdoor dining, I love coming here to enjoy the fettucini al salmone: Los Angeles CA

Sunset Envy

*UPDATE* I have recently launched a desktops section of the site, and it features a touched-up, cropped version of this shot that is even better than what I had originally put here! Head over there to check it out.

I have had a slew of fairly underwhelming sunsets while in Maine this time around… so I decided to go back in time a month and look at what I’d shot from my previous visit, during which there seemed to be an endless supply of colorful nights. (And also because we all know that sunsets are the ONLY subject to HDR, ever. No other options exist so we should all limit ourselves to sunsets only. 😀 ) We’re just going to pretend this shot is from tonight…. This shot posed an interesting problem to me. The framing is fine in camera, and the shot processed well and came out as a good-looking HDR. The issue was that there seemed to be no good way of cropping it in Photoshop. 80% of the time I spent post-processing this picture was cropping and un-cropping trying to figure out how to frame it for the final shot. I was (and still kind of am) stymied by this one. The problem came as I was editing it at 100% zoom; I kept noticing how cool each individual piece of the scene was all on its own, and how it lost impact as you zoomed out to take in the overall scene. I love the reflections of the trees on the water on the left, I love the illuminated flagpole over the house with the sun and reflection in the middle, I love the two docks with their reflections, I love the silhouettes of the trees with the sun glowing behind them on the right… The final crop had to be a balance of being able to see everything, yet not lose the details in the process. This is an almost unreachable balance in this case. Here is the original, and two crops that show some of the possibilities…

The original, un-cropped image. Click through to examine all of the details yourself!

The final "overall" crop that I decided on, relying on the rule of thirds. I saved out a few of the other closer-in crops too just in case. They are almost like different pictures!

One of many possible crops of this image... I would love to add the glowy trees to the left of this but then I lose the close-up feel that you get at this near 100% crop...

Star Trails

This is something I never thought I’d attempt, but rumors that the Northern Lights were supposed to be visible tonight had me out on the dock at around 11pm with my camera… and no lights in sight 🙁 there were, however, some great clouds that were partially covering the stars, lit by the lights of far-away East Boothbay, so I decided to kill some time while waiting to see if the Aurora would appear by doing some star trails. This is a technique that requires use of the Bulb mode on the camera, which means that the shutter stays open as long as I have it pressed, and it closes when I release it. I have a wired remote that I attach to the camera that can lock the shutter open, so all I have to do is lock the remote and wait around. This particular exposure was 815 seconds, but I have done some much longer, around 2000 seconds. I find that that just results in more noise and not a huge improvement in the star trails, so I keep it to just over 10 minutes (the exception to this would be if you were in a particularly dark place, with ONLY starlight and no man-made interference… a rare occasion, even for Maine). I did two of these, and I actually like the second one better, but this first one took about 2 hours to clean up in Photoshop after doing the initial HDR processing in Photomatix…. ugh. This is of course a single-shot HDR; it would be nearly impossible to do an actual, 3 shot HDR of a scene like this because you would need to have approximately an hour, and the clouds and stars would have changed so much during that time that it just wouldn’t work. I used the Raw Converter in Photoshop to simulate a +2 and -2 exposure, and then merged those in Photomatix for the HDR that then was processed in Photoshop. I’m quite pleased with the results, and I can’t wait to process the second one!

Single-shot HDR of an 815 second long exposure, resulting in star trails and cool moving clouds.

HDR for the sake of HDR

I have been bored, and that leads to long photo walks. Photo walks inevitably lead to HDR, and I found myself at poorhouse cove with a rather tame sunset (once again, no clouds…. I am still waiting for a good night!) and a profusion of flowers. It was low tide, which further provoked me to use depth of field to my advantage and cause the sunset to be merely background color, while focusing on the flowers in the front. Not my favorite work ever, and yes, it goes against my rule of “not making HDRs when the original, straight photo isn’t great…” but hey, I am having too much fun with HDR to not do some every day! I still have yet to photograph the little fishing town of South Bristol, which is right down the road from our house here. The village contains a swinging drawbridge called the “gut”  but I am waiting for a particularly good night as it is truly a picturesque town that needs a great sunset to really do it justice… with the right light, the images I take there could well be some of my favorites ever. Maybe I will get lucky in the coming days 🙂 for now, some more cliché.

Some flowers and out of focus sunset....

...followed by some flowers, and some out of focus sunset.

Disneyland: Paradise Pier Prior to World of Color Show

As Giacomo and I spent the better part of the day goofing off and hitting the main attractions (the sack of Fastpasses certainly didn’t hurt) of both parks, there was a constant concern that stuck at the back of the mind throughout the day: where were we going to get put for the World of Color Seating? I had seen the show once before (well, twice but the first time shouldn’t count since it was from behind) with my family and realized all too late that I was too close to the water to get enough of it in frame. We knew we would have about 60 seconds to find a spot and stay there once the gate opened as the mob for the 11:15 showing poured into the reserved area. We settled on a spot and took a shot in the few minutes before the show started…

The show takes place on the surface of Paradise Pier and is unlike any other type of show I've ever seen before... Stunning. Anaheim CA

Iconic Maine Lighthouse

It seems that every single mention of Maine in the media, books, movies, etc has to include a lighthouse. This may be due to the fact that Maine is home to many of them… and they are much like the windmills of Holland, a big part of the landscape and an icon of the place. This one in particular is on Pemaquid Point, on the other side of the point from the shot that I posted yesterday. Another mediocre sunset, but this one was greatly aided by the presence of the lighthouse 🙂 It is really a tranquil place to spend some time and I have really good memories of it going back to childhood.

On another note, I have joined MobileMe, Apple’s web-based service that provides, among many other things, an easy way to upload photos and make online galleries. Check it out! I will be adding TONS more over the next few days… this will be the main space where I put my “straight” photography, be it the work I am doing for J Young, family-related photos, vacation shots, high-school independent study work… lots will go there. I will also have an “HDR” album that will include JPGS of all that I have posted here, as well as some ones that didn’t make it to the site. It is mainly a place for me to put large bodies of work that are non-bloggable… blogs are great for a single image that you write about, and so it is perfect for HDRs as they usually take lots of time to plan, shoot, and process, so by the end of it you feel like it’s really special. With normal photos, especially in the digital age, it is easy to take 500 photos and choose 200 of them that you think are good… and not want to write about any!

An iconic lighthouse in Pemaquid, Maine.