Archive for the ‘Sunset’ Category

Composing a Winter Sunset in Maine

This shot was really tough. I still have many problems with it, but the main reason I am posting it is so I can discuss them here, as many photographers run into these problems a lot (especially those trying to shoot architecture accurately, or really anything with an ultra-wide angle lens). Many things were going through my head as I stared at the LCD screen on the back of my camera. Ever since I was exposed to the work of architecture photographer Julius Schulman (some would argue that he is THE expert in this area) I find it nearly impossible to compose a shot in which all parallel lines are not, well, parallel. This was the first and foremost thought in my head as I was trying to get this shot just right. I knew I needed the side of the building on the left, for example, to be completely parallel with the side of the frame, which limited the amount of the sailboats that could be included and I was forced to cut off the tops of the masts. Already making some sacrifices, but honestly it would have looked worse to have a distorted building popping out of the corner rather than something that is at least somewhat perspectivally accurate. Since the masts were parallel with the side of the building, I knew that the verticals in the image would all line up nicely with the sides of the frame. By doing this however, I created another problem for myself: My image was not anywhere close to the traditional “rule of thirds,” which states that a good composition, landscapes in particular, will have some combination of 1/3 sky and 2/3 foreground, or vice versa. Putting the horizon smack in the middle of the frame is usually regarded as a visual no-no, but here I can almost get away with it because of the amount that is going on in the foreground, and the fact that the foreground objects, the boats, interact with the sky because of the tall masts. I still think there’s a bit too much foreground, but if I’d tilted the camera up a bit to capture more sky, I would have immediately turned all of my nice verticals into distorted diagonals. It would have been nice to get more of the building on the left (which is in fact a cool old abandoned boathouse that partially burned down) but if I’d moved the frame a bit that way, I would have lost the back of the rightmost boat that reads “Boothbay, Maine” which I love because it is an identifier, and it would have cut into the sunset reflecting off the puddle. All in all, I had to continuously adjust the frame both in camera and in Photoshop to get it the best I could, but there’s a lot to be wanted.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean by “distorted verticals” or lines that should be parallel but are not due to the use of a wide-angle lens and the framing chosen by the photographer. Don’t get me wrong, I love Trey Ratcliff and the work he does, but pictures like this make me wonder if all that distortion could have been avoided. Looking back on my work from even 6 months ago there are definite instances where I chose to do similar things, and I still sometimes have to, but these days I really try my best to avoid it. I also don’t like it when verticals, especially walls and doors, are cut off, as he does in the corners of this shot… Again, love the guy and he’s an inspiration to the three of us and tons of other HDR photographers, it’s just interesting to compare my way of looking at things to his, and realize that there’s more to work on in both cases. Maybe if he would just switch to Canon… 😀

This is another one of those "well, it's 4:00pm, better get shooting before the sun sets... in 15 minutes..."

Snowmageddon 2011

So it may not be a big deal for the northern half of the country, but 6 inches of snow is bad news for Atlanta. The city has been shut down since Sunday night and the roads were largely impassable until yesterday. I saw on the news a trucker from Chicago who was stuck on the highway for 29 hours in the ice who said “Back home this wouldn’t have been such a big deal…” True. Atlanta has absolutely no infrastructure for dealing with snow and thus it has largely remained where it fell and then frozen there. Tucker, Andrew, and I finally got out yesterday when it warmed up enough for us not to die while waiting for a bracket, so we tried to shoot some pictures of the sunset from on top of a nearby parking deck.

Of course we had the eternal problem of "Oh that sunset looks beautiful, let's go take pictures," then by the time we get there it's almost gone...

From Cinderella Castle

Our trip to Disney World was fairly last minute and caught my mom and I completely off guard. I must admit, my sister must know her way around some sort of system because I have no idea how she wrangled dinner reservations in Cinderella Castle on New Years Eve… with about two days notice. However it happened, it was very cool to dine inside the castle. I took this shot through a window in the restaurant, right next to the table where we watched a proposal take place not minutes earlier. It’s certainly a feel-good place and I’m looking forward to putting together a lot more material from this trip.

This was more difficult to process than it should have been and I think it was because I was using a circular polarizer on these which seems to have done things to the sky that confused Photomatix somewhat. The learning process continues... Orlando, FL

Tough Competition

With Tucker off on some gorgeous island chain in the Pacific, Giacomo and I will be hard pressed to generate some competitive material. I can only guess as to what Tucker will be posting in the coming days because Hawaii tends to be a picturesque location… In the meantime however, Giacomo and I will continue to figure out the best approach to HDR time-lapse video in addition to posting the occasional image or two. Earlier today I stumbled across a 5-shot bracket I did of Splash Mountain around sunset when I was in Disneyland a few weeks ago — why had I not processed it? Whatever the reason for my delay, I have finally sat down with it and I am really pleased with the result. California has its sunsets, yes, but that rarely guarantees anything in the sky but beautiful colors, let alone the really awesome clouds we had a few weeks ago. I give you, Splash Mountain at Sunset. I will now set up a batch in photomatix and will see the results of our latest test HDR time-lapse test shoot in the morning!

I mean, how could I have passed this one up? You've got the tripod, you've got the camera, and you're standing right here. Every time I hit Disneyland I find something great to shoot... what a place: Los Angeles, CA

Leaving Amarillo

We crunched through 750 miles on Day 1 and 825 on Day 2 but just as the sun started to set behind us making our way out of Amarillo, TX, I leaned out the passenger window to check out the view. Definitely one of my favorites. The absolute nothingness along the New Mexico highway was  behind us and things would gradually become more and more populated the farther east we got. Highlight of Amarillo: we kept seeing billboard advertisements for “FREE 72oz. STEAK” with a picture of a sketchy cowboy holding a dinner plate.

The west is great but you never get clouds like this in L.A. Amarillo, TX

And now for some new material…

Oh man, it’s been crazy. I think Tucker, Giacomo and myself have all been outrageously swamped with work and other obligations as school semesters and seasons have come to a close and it’s gotten to the point where new material is hard to come by shy of reaching into the past to rework old shots. I just completed a 2,270 mile journey from L.A. back to Atlanta and let me say I will not be doing that again anytime soon. The three of us will all be in town at the same time for the better part of two months so there is guaranteed to be some amazingly fun stuff to go around in the next few days and weeks. To get things rolling again I have a shot from the road trip, around the California/Arizona state line at a rest stop on the side of the highway. I love this picture but even still I don’t think I’ve done the scene justice. You just kind of had to be there I guess.

Highway rest stops never felt so gorgeous... Needles, CA

Maine in the Winter

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!

Clear Sunset on Downtown

I feel like there has been a severe lack of posts recently. The problem is that this is busy season for schoolwork and outside projects and as everyone winds their way towards a well deserved Thanksgiving break, any extra chunk of spare time you find often ends up turning into a nap. Nothing wrong with that of course, unless you’re supposed to be contributing to a photo blog on a regular basis. Regardless, on an afternoon not too long ago I decided that in my two hours before my last class before break I would steal up onto the roof of a building and see what I could see from there. It rained just a few days ago so I knew the sky would be uncharacteristically clear-ish… fortunately, the stars aligned and there were also some interesting clouds hanging in the background. This never happens. I was more than happy to record a copy for myself. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Downtown from the direction of campus, about 150 feet up: Los Angeles CA

Spectacular South Bristol Sunset

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!

Updated HDR Overview and More from Maine

In the spirit of tweaking things on the site, I decided to revamp the HDR overview that I’d written a while back. It’s mostly the same, giving readers who don’t know much about the process an idea of the theory behind what we are doing and why it works so well. The old image I had used for that was OK, but not great, and I decided to root through my photo library to find a bracket that really showed what HDR is for. It’s still not perfect, but way better than it was. Hopefully I will have the time to really lay out a tutorial on how to do HDR from start to finish, but that is a very time-consuming task. The image I used in the overview might look familiar as I posted one from that same night a few weeks ago. This beautiful sunset was in Rockland, Maine, and the dramatic clouds and train tracks complete the shot. This is one of those “the photo wouldn’t be remarkable at all if not for the sunset and the HDR process” images, but that doesn’t bother me as much any more because part of what makes HDR so great is that it can do just that, turn something that would otherwise not have been worth photographing into something worth looking at.

This was a great little spot and I wish I'd had more time to properly explore it with a tripod, instead of going hand-held. Still, you can always count on Maine for great sunsets.

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.

Footpath near Mulholland Drive

So I was digging through old material since I don’t have a ton of new stuff and I came across a handheld bracket I did near the end of May. This is a footpath at a turnout about a mile further up the road from the main overlook that offers a view of

Downtown from above the Hollywood Bowl. Later on this summer when my family came to visit me for a few days, we went up on this footpath again with them and were seconds away from being locked in. It would have been an interesting evening up there by ourselves… At any rate, this is a cool little spot that’s looking down on the foothills of Mulholland Drive’s twisted real estate towards Burbank to the north. I do plan on heading up here again for some shots of the city when the weather is clear… but that never happens.

Wouldn't have been a very comfy place to spend the night 🙁 Los Angeles, CA

Clouds over the Quad

Clouds, clouds, and more clouds! It has been brought to my attention that there are, in fact, other types of clouds in the world besides the cumulus variety, but I think it is clear from my photographs that it I prefer the fluffy, billowyness and re

sulting drama and contrast that cumulus clouds bring to HDR. While looking for an entirely different photograph in my library, I stumbled across a few RAW images I had taken of the Williams College campus sometime during second semester of my sophomore year. My good friend Sam and I decided to take a walk on that interesting night, and I brought my camera with me and grabbed a few pretty cool shots of the oncoming clouds scudding over Greylock Quad. Of course, these were not meant to be HDR’d; in fact, these were really not meant for much at all… but they were taken in RAW, and had just enough dynamic range in the single image for me to pull a +2 and -2 version out of the RAW converter and throw the 3 into Photomatix. The original shot was taken at ISO 800, as it was rather dark outside, so the resulting HDR was quite noisy, but nothing a little Topaz DeNoise couldn’t handle. It was also shot at f/2.8, which is really not ideal due to the heavy vignetting and loss of sharpness, but again, I was hand-holding in low light. At any rate, the final shot is kinda cool, and one of the few HDRs I have of that gorgeous campus. There were a few I took as actual brackets during my freshman year, but I don’t like any of them so they will not see the light of day on this site. Perhaps when I finish my year off, I will have the chance to really explore that campus and the surrounding landscape with my tripod and do some proper HDR!

My dorm was on the bottom right, a few buildings back. I love the patterns of the receding buildings, as well as of the lights in the rooms.

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.

Cityline Reflection in Centennial Olympic Park

This is another handheld from a few weeks ago when Giacomo and I wandered around downtown ended up in Centennial Olympic Park, which is essentially in the heart of Atlanta. I liked the way the Westin Hotel, one of the iconic buildings in the Atlanta skyline, is reflected in the pool of water. People have commented on this shot, telling me that it looks more surreal and processed than normal; perhaps it is because of the different vantage point on the skyline, or the reflection in the water, but I think most likely what people are reacting to is how blue it came out. This is mostly because of the time of day that we were there, right after sunset when there is no longer the warm sunlight , and that particular day was relatively cloud-free, so the remaining light was quite cool, and the blue of the water, the glass on the Westin building, and the sky all come together to be quite strong in the image. I considered reprocessing it to be more warm but honestly, I like the occasional image that screams, “ok, that is clearly not straight photography.”

I love the transition from blue to yellow on the glass on the Westin building, reflecting the sunset behind me.