Bet you’ve never been coast-to-coast in under 5 minutes. Me neither, but this post should hopefully accomplish something similar.
St. Simon’s Island has been a staple get away for my family for as long as I can remember. Growing up, summers were filled with 6 hour drives from Atlanta to Georgia’s Golden Isles to visit with grandparents. Sandcastles were built, lighthouses were climbed, and french fries were tempura-battered. Thanksgiving was synonymous with the island for a long time for me. Most years we’d use the holiday as an excuse to load up the White Chrysler Town and Country LXI and make our way down to the beach. Thanksgiving lunch was always at the sumptuous King and Prince and dinner was usually the comatose affair of living off our fresh fat reserves from earlier in the day.
Unfortunately, going to college in and ultimately moving to Los Angeles makes rocking up at St. Simon’s on a whim significantly more difficult. Thanksgiving has often been forfeited the last several years, opting instead for a longer Christmas home stay, but last year I was able to do both. To celebrate my first Thanksgiving at home in ages, we arranged for a return to the Georgia Coast. A fantastic few days of relaxation, unhealthy southern seafood, and trying to play tennis. One of the highlights of the weekend was waking up extra early the day after Thanksgiving to see a proper East Coast sunrise. I walked down past East Beach around 6:30AM and found a bench between the King and Prince pool and the nearest public beach access at the end of tiny Neptune Road.
A very peaceful morning to ease into a day full of digestion: St. Simon’s Island GA
And woosh. Fast forward three months and 2,500 miles to arrive at a sunset on the other side of the country at my other favorite beach. I must exclude Hawaii as it would be like allowing a dictionary to compete in a spelling bee.
In Los Angeles, March’s idea of coming in like a lion is a balmy 80 degrees at Manhattan Beach. Ice cream cones and beach frisbee… sounds a lot better than the snow my sister was getting in Alabama. Surprisingly, we arrived on the beach to find the ocean full of sail boats, something I’d certainly never seen at Manhattan Beach before. Unfortunately they had all moved south down the coast by the time I set up shop under the pier for the shot that evening.
I’ve seen this angle executed many times before but I’d never done it myself. Not an extremely flattering angle for the iconic pier but a textbook example of when HDR might be considered an appropriate tool: Manhattan Beach CA
The day after arriving in New Zealand (it feels like just a few days ago-it’s been over a month!) Andrew and I got up early to go on a boat ride, but first we went out to the beach in front of our hotel and I shot a panorama with his camera. The view from the east coast of the south island, from the Kaikoura peninsula where we were, was pretty much amazing, and I tried to capture it with this picture. I lack Andrew’s finesse in processing these HDR panoramas, so it took me a while to get it into good shape. Now that I know how, I want to do more!!! Argh. Unfortunately I’m on my way back to Atlanta now, so I may not have a huge amount of picture opportunities in the near future. Fortunately, Andrew, Tucker, and I just got done with a trip to Yosemite, and I have some pictures from my trip to Australia, and Andrew also has been around to several other national parks, so we should have some serious HDRs in the pipe.
The beach wasn't actually so curvy, the panorama just distorts perspective some.
Once a year, New Zealand holds the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika, a small (and I mean really small) town on the west coast of the South Island. It is probably the one day all year in which more than 100 people are within 3 miles of the place. And, as is usually the case in New Zealand, the fewer people there are the more spectacular the scenery. The festival itself was amazing and there were many strange things being eaten… and worn. After everyone had had their fill of ridiculous stuff, the crowds flocked to the beach to watch the sunset and later set their own fires to huddle around. The Tasman Sea lays between New Zealand and Australia and though I’ve seen previous images of the Tasman at sunset (like this one from last August), I tried to come at it with my own idea of how I wanted it to look. I rather like how it turned out so I’ve made seven different flavors of it available over in the desktop section. After the festival we took the scenic route back to Dunedin, heading south down the coast through Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers and then cutting east across central Otago. Suffice to say, there were plenty of other gorgeous places to stop along the way back so I’ll have my hands full of things to process for quite some time to come…
The nearly 30 beach fires that followed produced enough smoke to almost suffocate us but it was absolutely worth it! Hokitika, New Zealand
Well, it’s about time I get some of these up… I’ve lately been working on panoramas of different places I’ve gotten to go to and it has been eye-opening. I’ve been sitting on the raw files for maybe four or five different pans now, trying to tease the best possible results out of the sets, one of which was composed of 11 shots to be combined, or a total of 33 raw images with the minimum 3-shot bracket for each of the 11. Yet, some scenes have been begging for a 5-shot bracket but the amount of work necessary for that is questionable… whereas normally if I’m 3-shotting a scene I will elect for a simple two stops in each direction, for the pans, if a 5-shot is needed I’ve just been skimping and increasing the bracket size to 2 2/3 or maybe 3 and going from there. Anyways, enough numbers — suffice to say that this is one of my favorite end results and quite possibly the image that does the best job of capturing a mood that I think I’ve ever managed. When I see this (and skirt around in its 15,612 x 4,834 pixels worth of real estate) I am very vividly drawn back to this exact moment in time, about 5 seconds before the only battery I had on me went completely dead in the middle of taking the would-be 7th bracket for this scene (on the far right). More so than other posts, I really encourage you to click through to the full 17MB file so you can really get a feel for the view from the Botanical Gardens Terrace. As the Kiwis say, cheers!
Few places in the world like this. Here's hoping I can find as many as I can while I'm here for such a sort period of time: Dunedin, NZ
I have the extreme misfortune of being housed within 200 yards, er, metres, of Dunedin’s Botanical Gardens. Sadly, the weather is only allowed to have one clear day/week over here but it just means I have to take advantage of them when I can. Yesterday was one of those days and happily included a trip up the Taieri Gorge Railway complete with all you can eat BBQ. I’m still sifting through the hundreds of pictures from the train ride through the countryside so I will be adding one or two of those onto T.A.G. soon. For the most part, shooting from a moving train tends to be unhelpful when it comes down to setting up tripod brackets (who would have thought?) so I will do my best to handle a few single-shots in the next few days. As we walked back home from the train station, I decided that even though I was already quite tired, I had to take advantage of the visible sunset and veered off towards the gardens. Spectacularly, they are spread across a small, level area that then sprawls up the side of a large foothill. Finding a clearing in the trees, I set up shop just as the sun found a gap in the sparse clouds…
The gardens are stunning this time of day if you're lucky enough to see sunlight. The University Clocktower is actually visible down the hill: Dunedin, NZ
At one point while I was at Disney World with my family over New Years, we were waiting for a parade on a curb at Main Street and the sight of a balloon vendor reminded me of a shot I had seen Trey put up of balloons at Disney. For the record, they still cost $10. At any rate, the vendor came right over next to us to sell a balloon to a kid and I decided that my curbside vantage point would make for an interesting balloon shot for myself. This may be the most ghosting work I’ve ever done on an image but I really like the result. Why not single shot it and save the effort? The range in the shot is just a little too much to rely on RAW tweaks but I was determined to have this one turn out. It’s a 3-shot bracket of balloons blowing in the wind and Photomatix 4 did an unbelievable job of figuring out which balloon goes where on its initial de-ghosting effort. It wasn’t perfect of course, but it turned Photoshop hours into minutes for me. And while I’m applauding PM4, why not also give a shout-out to the 7D’s 8fps shooting which undoubtedly assisted PM4’s creation of a clean image.
Can't decide whether I wanted to be able to see the vendor's face or not... either way I didn't really have time to wait around before this moment would have passed: Orlando, FL
I have no real excuse for my lack of posts lately other than the fact that I have no new material… until now! I just got back from having Thanksgiving up in Maine, and I was able to take a little time to go exploring and get some HDRs. This was hard for a few reasons, beyond the fact that Thanksgiving is family time and I have a really cute new cousin. The biggest issue is that during the winter, the sun sets unnaturally early in the North, beginning around 3:30 and totally pitch black by 4:30. Waking up early is, of course, not an option, so I have about 3 hours of daylight to play with each day! I made good use of it on our last day, when some awesome clouds rolled in just as the sun began to set. After eating lunch, I went out to a favorite summertime-restaurant (closed for the winter) to use their deck to get some HDRs of the great clouds and colors. The sun also sets in an entirely different place in the winter, so my go-to spots to watch it during the summer are useless. That caused me to have to get creative, but that’s never a bad thing. The objects in the foreground here are floats from people’s docks; the ocean freezes around the edges during the winter, and many bays and coves (like ours) freeze over entirely, and if you were to leave your dock and float in the water it would simply break off because of the strain from the ice. All dock owners have their floats taken up on land as the seasons change, and some were stored on the shore by the Coveside restaurant. The boardwalk that stretches from the shore out across the water to the island doesn’t have a float, so the island remains accessible (albeit private…) during the winter.
There were many other floats around me but I wanted the focus to be as much on that great sky as on the foreground!
Today was a first… a legitimate effort to set aside time to go out with the sole purpose of shooting some new material. Well, almost. My photography class has me lugging a 4×5 view camera around (which is an amazing piece of equipment to play around with if you’re like me and have never handled large format stuff before) the city and I’ve chosen the Mulholland Overlook as my vantage spot for a final project in the class. I arrived there this morning maybe 20 minutes too late because I only just managed to set up the shots on the view camera before the sun got too high. I felt a little rushed but we’ll see what happens when I develop later tonight. Before I left though, I slapped the 7D on a tripod and let it soak up some of the view for a few minutes. It’s a fairly surreal image, but not as surreal as I could have processed it. Typically I dislike having the sun in frame but I rather like how it’s borderline overpowering on this one. The dusty path on the left, the line of bushes that jives with the lens flare, the Hollywood Bowl down in the valley on the right and the city and sun in the right and left upper thirds all combine to make me rather pleased with how this came out compositionally.
Pretty cool spot. Climb up the stairs from the parking lot, hop the little railing, and scoot past the ugly outpost thing and you've got a pretty awesome spot to watch the sun come up: Los Angeles CA
This is quite possibly my favorite HDR I have processed, for a lot of reasons: it was one of the best sunsets I’ve witnessed on an incredibly still night; it is really cliche and I’m all about cliche; and the colors are just all there. The sky reall
y looked like that, just a gradient of everything… it was also pouring rain, which doesn’t come through in the picture at all (except for the drops of water that were on my lens, requiring lots of love with photoshop to remove them…) I guess this shot just really encapsulates a lot of what Maine is to me, great sunsets, calm, open expanses of ocean, far-off islands, docks, lobster boats, buoys…. I’ve been sitting on it for a while and decided to reprocess it and was so pleased I just had to post it. It’s also available in the new desktops section for use as a wallpaper (as are a few new ones that I’ve added recently… check it out!) Anyway, here’s your daily dose of Maine sunset cliché.
The wooden structure in the foreground is a boat launching ramp, where you back your trailer up and unload your boat into the bay. At high tide, of course!
*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...
I haven’t posted for a bit… but It’s great to be in Maine again!
There are times, especially in Maine, when I really want to go shoot some HDR. I head to a location that I have been to before and did some straight photography that I liked, such as Pemaquid Point. Ever since I began doing HDR work, I have wanted to return there and shoot from “Sunset Rock” or whatever it’s called, it’s “Sunset-something-cliché”. As spectacular as Maine sunsets usually are, tonight there was not a cloud in the sky, making for a rather boring sunset. When there are clouds and spectacular colors, the sunset can be the main focus of the image, requiring little thought when you are shooting. I used to get discouraged at times like these, because the sunset itself is not captivating enough to be your subject. Instead of giving up, I have simply begun to explore further, trying to see if some combination of camera settings, focal points, unorthodox framings, and odd shooting positions can come together to turn the mundane into a blog-post-worthy HDR. When I got there, I began shooting at f/16 to exploit the low sun and attempt to get the most pronounced “light stars” that I could… that ended up just giving me massive, ugly lens flare that made the images unusable. I backed down to f/8, and fell back on one of the rudimentary lessons in composition, the so-called “rule of thirds.” In high school I was taught by a teacher who would give you no more than a B- if your image did not follow this rule, regardless of how good your photograph actually was. At the time I was annoyed, but I came to realize that things really do look better when they are off-center, and when you have a landscape it is almost impossible not to use this rule, in fact I think most people see it without knowing it, that it looks better to have either the sky or the foreground take up more of the composition. I shot some with this rule in mind, making the foreground loom large while the sky only took up the top 1/3 of the image… still not what I wanted. Not feeling discouraged yet, I trekked along the rocky shoreline across the slippery seaweed to see if I could get up on a rocky outcropping away from the spectators and the “usual” spot from which people view the sunset. After nearly dropping my camera, I was rewarded when I discovered the sun hitting a random red plant and decided to make use of my last resort, ultra-cliché depth of field. Backing down to f/3.2, I focused on the plant, popped my tripod as low as it would go, and took a ±4 stop, 5 shot bracket that resulted in the image below. I even followed my rule of thirds; France Dorman would have to give me at least a B for this one!
Don't yell at me for being cliché! It was all I could do to salvage the so-so sunset.
Today was my roommates’s birthday so we knew we needed to celebrate in style. We spent the day at the J. Paul Getty Museum (some incredible architecture there, hopefully some stunning shots from my visit to come in the very near future) and took a leisurely drive up the PCH to Gladstones. Ordinarily, we try not to come here too often so as to keep it a “special occasion” when need be; our first choice for the evening, “Tart” near The Grove, closes early on Sundays and we unfortunately had to find out the hard way. However, Gladstones never fails to please and we of course had an excellent dinner overlooking the beaches of Malibu. Of course, in the few minutes before our table was available (and luckily in the last few before the sun completely disappeared behind the Malibu coastline) I nabbed the tripod and attempted my first 5-image HDR. What a place…
My first 5-image HDR. Awesome place to be when the sun's going down... Malibu CA
From the same evening as the above post, I stepped out into the sand on the beach that runs alongside and under the Gladstones restaurant and grabbed another 5-image set. Amazing place to be at this time of day. I used to think I preferred the sun’s position in the winter months (see my post from earlier) but in seeing how gorgeous a sunset looks from just about anywhere out here, I’m not so sure anymore…
The Malibu beaches tend to be awesome. Nuf Sed: Malibu CA
Happy Fourth of July! I am headed off to a dinner party soon where there will hopefully be fireworks for me to shoot… no idea if I’ll be able to pull off an HDR; more likely I will grab a single RAW and save out 3 versions from Photoshop using the Raw converter, one dark, the original shot, and one light. Won’t be like having 3 real shots, but it may do the trick… I’m still processing the HUGE amount of photos from the Grant Park shoots, and was happy with a few of them so I’ll post those now, just in case I’m too tired to post anything later tonight. The tree is really something else, its leaning more precariously than the Leaning Tower of Pisa and there is no lump near the bottom, which means its root structure must be enormous. Really a cool landmark that is also a metaphor for the park, beautiful but in need of new life.
I will never say no to some good ole God Rays.
The circular polarizer can create the most unusual skies... I liked the oddness here.
We surprised my Grandpa for his 80th birthday, and (almost) the entire family made the trip up to Maine to celebrate! He was truly surprised; we had fooled him into thinking we were taking him out to dinner and he arrived at his house to find it entirely decorated, with dinner ready and all of our extended family there. The day after, the families ate a lobster dinner at the Pemaquid Lobster Co-Op, a restaurant that is also a commercial fishing cooperative, and thus has a huge dock out into the bay where the lobstermen come and deliver the day’s catch. I had a few minutes after dinner just as the sun was setting, and, arming myself with the trusty Trek Tech mini tripod, adventured out onto the dock for some HDR fun.
Lobstermen come to the docks of the Pemaquid Co-Op every day to drop off their catch and refuel.
Yet another great Maine sunset. Wish I could have been there longer, but the family was waving at me to hurry up!