Archive for the ‘Tucker’ Category

Sedona Sunset

It’s been a whirlwind of a year, with my graduation in December followed by my starting a full time job, and it has left me with very little free time to shoot. I now have a lot more time, however, and so I thought I’d post something that I took recently. After I finished school, my family took a trip to Arizona as a way to celebrate both the holidays and my graduation. We stayed in Sedona, which is about two hours from Phoenix, and we arrived very late at night, driving to our house in the pitch dark. We had absolutely no conception of what it was going to look like, and while I’d seen pictures on the internet, I knew enough to know that it would be nothing like seeing it with my own eyes. I was entirely correct, and I’ll never forget seeing that Martian landscape the first morning we were there. The red rocks, shaped by countless years of wind and water erosion, are incredibly strange and beautiful, completely dominating the landscape. The place that we stayed had a fantastic view out over Red Rock State Park (the naming conventions are all along these lines, with landmarks such as “Submarine Rock” and “Bell Rock” the norm. I suppose calling something “The Grand Canyon” should have tipped me off to this naming scheme…!) and the first night we were there we were lucky enough to have a fantastic sunset, courtesy of some great clouds. This is the view from the balcony of my room, and is one of only a few HDRs that I shot there that was done on a tripod. I took over 4,000 photos there, but a lot of that was handheld 5-shot brackets that have yet to be processed. So fear not, for in the coming days I will post plenty more shots from this amazing trip.

 

Sunset over Red Rock State Park in Sedona, AZ.

Sunset over Red Rock State Park in Sedona, AZ.

Storms, Site Problems, and the Future

It’s great to be back up and running! Thanks to a bit of help from a friend, we fixed the (embarrassingly simple) problem with the site and are back in business.

I can’t believe that the last time I posted a picture was almost a year ago. That is… simply unacceptable. It was mostly due to being very busy at school and unable to travel to new locations to get new material, but luckily I’ve had the pleasure of spending the summer in LA and Maine, and have come up with a few good images from my trips. I have processed a few images from my trip to LA, but that hard drive is currently sitting in a bag on the floor somewhere and I don’t feel like unpacking until I’m home so… I’ll start off with two shots from a more familiar location, my house in Maine. This was taken back in June, and I’d just taken delivery of my new 5D Mark III. I really wanted to test it out, but it looked like it was about to rain, so I dashed down to the dock just in time to fire off a bracket before the big drops started coming down. The Mark III lets me do five shot brackets from ±5, which is a big improvement from the Mark II, which limited me to three shot brackets that were ±3 stops. The extra dynamic range of my new camera will certainly add to the HDRs that I take, especially in cases where there is a huge contrast between light and dark. I’ll update my bio page with all of my new equipment as I’ve recently picked up a lot of upgrades.

These images are interesting for me, because they are almost entirely “straight” HDRs; in other words I simply took the bracket, threw the images in Photomatix, and found myself satisfied. Rarely does this happen, and most of the time I find myself spending a lot of time in Photoshop color correcting, dodging, burning… not so with these two. The sky just spoke for itself.

In the future, I plan to post at least three images from my trip to LA, as well as a few from the most recent TAG expedition to Acadia National Park in Maine. We are going to be working on a Smugmug site that will allow for more e-commerce integration (if you want to buy prints or images, etc.) as well as simply improving the site, hopefully with a new theme and new look in the coming months. All in all, it’s great to be back!

 

The ominous clouds of the oncoming storm from an all-too-familiar vantage point.

The ominous clouds of the oncoming storm from an all-too-familiar vantage point.Maine Storm 1

 

 

A long-overdue taste of the Northeast

As the title says, it’s clearly been too long since we’ve posted. It just seems like when we started this project over two years ago, we all had a lot more time on our hands and a lot less on our plates. Now we’re all finishing school and looking for jobs, making it that much harder to devote the time needed to post on any sort of regular basis. At any rate, I recently took a trip up to the Adirondacks to do some rock climbing with my girlfriend, and I of course had my camera with me the entire time. We spent the weekend out climbing, but at night we came back to a cabin belonging to one of my girlfriend’s best friends, affectionately called The Hut. I do have some HDRs to post that I took while out on the mountains themselves, but I thought I’d start with these because it seems hard to choose which one is the best. We were relaxing after a day of climbing, playing some boardgames and listening to music, when I looked out the windows in the back of the house and saw this tree just shooting up like a lollipop into the landscape. Up north, as some of you probably know, when the light starts to change toward the end of the day, it changes fast. There is no “twilight” really, like we have down south, so you have to be quick. If you see light you like, you’d better hope you’re within running distance of your camera. I kept mine by my side and every half our or so would go out and shoot some brackets of the scene. The issue I came across is that I really wanted to have the “lollipop tree” in the center of the composition (yes, going against everything they teach you in beginning photo classes… but hey, rules are meant to be broken!) but I would then lose the really nice reddish-brown color of the fallen pine needles and leaves in the foreground. But, in order to get that extra color, I had to contend with this large unsightly rock that was just off to my left…. So I just did what I always do, make sure to shoot every angle possible and ask the tough questions later during processing! I’ll post three here so you can see not only the changing light but also the different compositions.

 

Oh.. also, we got a nice comment a few days back in which the suggestion was made that we start posting the “original” shots along with the final, processed HDR versions. I really like this idea, so I’ll talk with Andrew and Giacomo to see how we should do this (i.e. should we post all 3 from the original bracket or just the middle exposure). Anyway, thanks for the comment and we’re going to take it into consideration for sure.

 

The initial view, around 6pm just as it was starting to get cloudy. No foreground here, just the mountains and trees.

This next one was the toughest, as it was much later in the night with much less light, meaning the exposures were just about at the limits of what’s possible to hand-hold. Because of this, the final shot is amazingly blurry… do not zoom in on the full-resolution image! You have been warned! You will see no details!

The view about an hour later, as the sun was setting and making some nice colors in the foliage and clouds. This one’s a compromise, cutting the top of the tree in order to get a bit of the foreground while not having the rock here at all!

The final image that I think I settled on as my favorite.. although this is easily debatable! It wasn’t an easy shot to frame. I’m still not even sure this is my favorite…

 

The Critical Moment: Half Dome at Dusk

Getting a unique shot of a subject like Half Dome in Yosemite is no easy task. Millions of tourists, many carrying good cameras and armed with a good grasp of photography, visit this location every year. The plethora of photographs taken from all angles at all times of day really does make this a challenge, but Andrew, Giacomo and I set out to do it anyway. In doing some night photography on the previous nights, we noticed that there was a window of about 10-15 minutes where the light “lingered” in the sky; the sun had officially set, but there was still a decent amount of light left, enough to provide depth in the foreground and a gradient of color above. Timing, however, was critical, as it wasn’t always obvious exactly when to start shooting, and we only had one shot as we knew we’d need close to a 30 minute exposure to achieve the star trails we wanted. The second we pressed the shutter, we were committed to that time window for that night. Too early and we’d have too much light in the sky and be unable to see the stars; too late and we’d have a normal star trail image which would lack any detail in the foreground. We knew we were going to be at Mirror Lake the next night, and the view of Half Dome from that spot is perhaps the most awe-inspiring and iconic, so we wanted to have the perfect shot lined up, which would require learning precisely when this window of light would occur. That final shot came out well, but it was thanks to our observation the night before that we were able to get that critical window of light. This shot, from Glacier Point, is another single shot HDR, and as such required a good bit of Photoshop to get it the way I wanted it. Other byproducts of these ultra-long exposures include sensor-level noise, as you can see in the lower left corner of the shot, as well as a distinct loss of detail in moving objects, which can be seen in the “clumpiness” or softness of the tree. Despite all of this, the final shot is just how I like it: surreal but not insane. It makes people stop and say “wait a minute…” and you get to explain to them why it’s not just a photograph. At that point they either write you off as a talentless hack or beg you to teach them how to use Photomatix…

The band of yellow light just above the horizon is what we were going for by waiting for that moment just a few minutes after the sun set directly behind us.

I know I make this point very often (indeed, as often as I can!) but here, yet again, is an example of why I value HDR as much as I do. Take a peek at the original shot… at best it is “eh, kinda cool.” Definitely not blog post material. But with a lot of tweaking, all that data in the 30MB+ RAW file can be turned into, well, my new desktop background anyway 🙂

 

Those streaks in the sky that are clearly not stars are airplanes... unbelievably annoying to remove! Next time I do this I will set up AA guns next to my tripod...

Finally, Winter in Williamstown!

I mentioned in my last post that there’s very little to shoot in the dead of winter this far north. I was proven wrong, however, and I could not be happier about it. I was leaving the Clark Art Institute a few weeks ago at around 4 when I noticed some unbelievable colors in the sky. I decided it would be worth the cold, snowy hike up Stone Hill (in my gym shoes, no less!) to capture the sunset in all its glory. I arrived at the top of the hill with my feet literally soaking wet and numb, but that didn’t concern me as much as the sight that I was greeted with. I’ve been up the hill many times before, and the last time I went up there was during the fall, where I did a bracket of this exact same tree and the ending shot captured all that is autumn in Williamstown quite nicely. I normally would not return to a place like this, much less post the shot on the blog, but in this case it’s different enough to warrant a post, and I think it’s a fitting representation of just how different and beautiful each season is up here.

 

This one took a TON of editing to get right. There was a flag waving from the large branch that was ghosted horribly and ended up needing to be removed altogether.

Hawaii Revisted

It’s crazy that it was over a year ago that I was in Hawaii, and I was thinking about what to post I realized that I still had a ton of unprocessed brackets from that trip that could be fun to run through Photomatix, so that’s what I did! There is really nothing to shoot during the winter up here; snow makes for really gray and dismal looking HDRs, and beyond that it’s really hard to get motivated to go exploring around town when its -3° outside. So, to help make up for my inexcusable lack of posting I’ll post two shots here, both from Hawaii but that’s about where any similarities end. The first shot is from our walk across the interior crater of the volcano Kilauea-Iki. The volcano was active sometime in the ’90’s I think, but when we visited the lava had hardened into a black desert that enabled us to walk across it. It took the better part of a day to make the journey, and the landscape was truly alien. Along the way, and not surprisingly seeing as we were standing inside a volcano, there were many fissures where boiling steam would hiss up out of the ground. This seemed to be a good subject for a picture, and the dramatic clouds, as ever, add to the effect. The craziest part is that the volcano has erupted massively since we visited, meaning that most of the foreground in this shot is totally different now. I’d love to go back and see what changed!

The minerals that were in the lava that hardened give the rocks all sorts of interesting colors.

The next image is again from Hawaii, but in a stark contrast to the barren volcanic landscape, this shot is from the Limahuli botanic garden on Kauai. As you’d expect a botanic garden on a tropical island to be, the scenery was fantastic, with countless plants and animals that were foreign to me. As we got to the top of one of the hills, this fantastic view presented itself and, well, you know the rest!

After we visited the park, we walked along the beach and were able to see the mountains from a totally different angle. I’ll post those shots some other time!

Half Dome Under the Stars

This has to be one of my favorite shots that I’ve taken over the past few years. It was one of those times when “everything came together” as they say, and as Andrew mentioned it was in a large way a group effort between the three of us. Knowing we wanted to get a night shot of the iconic Half Dome with star trails behind it, we scoped out the location early on in the day, while there was still plenty of light. We spent hours taking test shots to get the framing we wanted, and as night fell we had all 3 of our cameras constantly taking images, comparing exposure times, apertures, every variable really, trying to do our best educated guesswork as to what the final settings should be. We knew we had about a 15-minute window to get the “perfect shot;” there is a very small period of time right as the first stars begin to show before the sun truly sets, leaving you some light in the sky that we knew would reflect off the mountain and give some detail to the foreground as well as give the sky a much bluer hue. As luck would have it, the setting sun cast a reddish orange hue directly on the face of Half Dome, which translated really well in the long exposure that I ended up finally taking. That exposure was 868 seconds long, at an aperture of F/4, ISO 200, and 16mm. Of course, it was just a single shot, and I had to process it out in Photoshop to create the light and the dark images needed to make the final HDR image. If I could go back and do it again, I’d bump the ISO to 400 and go for about 1000 seconds, but overall this came out pretty well! It took a huge amount of time to get right, as I had to remove a ton of pixel-level noise manually, especially in the foreground trees (if you zoom in on the full-rez image you can still see there’s a lot of it!) but needless to say, this one’s been my desktop background since I got back from Yosemite! Now we need a new banner image….

In addition to noise, I also had to Photoshop out about 5 different airplanes that cut across the entire image... Yosemite may be far from LA by car, but the planes never stop flying over!

Fall in Williamstown!

So I did as I promised! Fall is so unbelievably gorgeous up here in the Berkshires that I just had to go out with my camera to get some shots. I took a short hike up to the top of Stone Hill (by short I mean a 200 foot walk…) which is located behind the Clark Art Institute where I’m currently interning. It was an overcast day, and lacking interesting clouds I decided I’d focus on the amazing natural beauty up on top of the hill. It really speaks for itself, but every single tree goes through the fall season at slightly different time, and the staggered colors let you see the entire process at one time. It’s truly breathtaking and I’m certainly not used to it as we have nothing like this in Atlanta! This particular tree caught my eye, as it was essentially done shedding its leaves, while the others around it were in the various stages.

This one was very tricky to process, as Photomatix kept wanting to make the different areas of sky in between the branches vastly different tones.

I also took a quick shot of the Clark a few days later when the skies were clear. The building is iconic, and although they are about to begin an incredible construction project that will really transform the place internally and allow for even more incredible art to be displayed, the front will remain the same. I love spending time at the museum and the surrounding grounds and trails; I’ve taken to bringing my homework with me and sitting on a bench in the middle of the woods. It’s just a wonderful place to be.

 

The darker stone building that you can barely see to the left is the Manton Research Center, home to a vast library that will soon be even more accessible to the public.

Finally, More from Yosemite

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.

 

A series of fallen trees and well-placed rocks allowed us to walk above the river nearly endlessly, providing many cool places to shoot.

Half Dome from Glacier Point

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.

About half an hour later all of the lights come on along the streets and in the houses on the valley floor.

Maine Update

I recently got back from two weeks in Maine, but it was not nearly as fruitful photography-wise as my previous trips have been. This is mostly because I’ve all but exhausted the nearby locations, and we live very much in the middle of nowhere up there, so to get anywhere else you need a car, and I’d have to be 25 to drive the rental car…. so I end up kayaking, reading, and generally enjoying getting away from the city. That’s not to say that I didn’t shoot at all, however. A few years ago we built a little website for the house so we could advertise it in various places for people to rent during the summer. It’s been successful, but the images were outdated and featured furniture (or the lack thereof) that has since been changed or added. Because of this, my mom asked if I’d be willing to reshoot the house but in HDR and I was of course more than happy to oblige. Making ANYTHING look accurate with the 16-35, especially architecture, is an exercise in patience and compromise, but the final shots were pretty fun. Here’s just a few of my favorites. I have one or two other unrelated HDRs from Maine that I’ll post soon, but I don’t want to overload one post with pictures so I’ll save them for after the other two post (because I KNOW they each have things to get up here…!)

The second of the two upstairs bedrooms.

The dining room table, which up until recently was literally a picnic table that the builders made for us after construction finished.

A view down the house longways. It is honestly my favorite place on earth.

TAG is One Year Old!

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.

 

Underexposed

Neutral

Overexposed

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…

 

In this case, the HDR process really turns an unusable image into one of my favorites.

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.

Above The Crater

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…

Truly a spectacular view. If you look closely, you can see the billowing steam in the distance from an active volcano.

…and now, I will show you a 100% crop of some…. people.

Yes, those blurry noisy little dots are in fact humans, wandering across the lake of hardened lava. In the full image, you can see the lighter colored trail that most people use.

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.

In The Clouds

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.

The mountain turned into a sheer cliff about 20 feet in front of me. I did not really feel like stepping off the observation platform to get a better shot!

More from Maine – Summer Sunset

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!

I also love the way the islands and spits of land recede into the distance. It is fun to explore the many coves during the day.