Archive for the ‘Tucker’ Category

More HDR Panorama – Honolulu At Night

I’ve been pretty busy lately doing video/photo shoots as well as continuing work for the High Museum, and when you combine that with the epically long time it took to edit this, you end up with the reason that I haven’t posted in a while. It’s worth it though! This pan is one of the largest photography-related projects I’ve undertaken, and that’s the main reason I put off editing it when I got back from Hawaii. The original photographs were taken around 10pm from the balcony of a cousin’s house in Honolulu. As you can see, the balcony had an absolutely unmatched view of the entire city of Honolulu, and the only reason I didn’t extend this further left was that it would have caught the house and deck in the frame and I wanted the focus to be on the city, houses, mountain, and clouds. Always clouds! The setup wasn’t hard, the only annoying thing was that the long exposure shot of each bracket was hitting the 30 second ceiling, so the overall process took about half an hour to get all of the brackets I wanted. I’ll go ahead and post the final shot for those of you who just want to see pretty pictures and don’t care about the text (I myself am guilty of this!)

The final product, after a week in Photomatix and Photoshop. It came out OK for what it is; I can't wait to do even more experimentation with HDR panoramas!

 

I really, really wish I’d been there about 2 hours earlier for this. HDR and night photography do not mix well (there are exceptions, but they are rare) and generally result in less than awesome images. This is because at night, there is no sun (…….) to create scenes with ultra-high contrast. Usually when you’re shooting at night, the lighting is pretty even (non-existant) and bracketing doesn’t add anything. Still, I bracketed away for this and thought to myself “meh, I may not end up even processing these because they’ll just be orange.” Sure enough, when I processed them, they were all that awful sickly orange color of the sodium lights that are on every single street around the world at night. The first few times you do long-exposure night photography in a city the lights are cool, but very, very quickly they become ugly and unwanted. Still, you sometimes have to make do. That would have been another benefit of being there earlier; the streetlights would have been off, allowing for a real difference in contrast between the sunset (bright) and the houses and mountains in shadow. Oh well. To give you an idea of what I had to work with, here’s an example of a single RAW file (unprocessed) and the HDR version of the same shot (processed only in Photomatix):

This is the neutral (0ev) exposure from the first bracketed set in the panorama.

This is the same shot, with the 3 bracketed RAWS processed into an HDR image in Photomatix.

So, admittedly, the HDR does help here as it gives me much greater tone in the houses and trees, and adds a bit to the sky and clouds but not much. The overwhelming problem here was the ORANGE… something had to be done. I processed the rest of the shots in Photomatix and began piecing it together in Photoshop. The orange problem became even more apparent at this stage:

 

Orange! Yuck!

It was flat, not dynamic and contrasty and “wow-inducing” like HDR should be. I hate sodium streetlights. It can’t be said enough. It’s one of the best things about night photography in places like Maine, because you can get just the tones that are there naturally. Anyway… At this stage, it would seem as if the hard work is over, in that I’ve pieced the 5 shots together and blended them so it looks like a continuous shot. That is usually the hardest part of doing the whole pan process, but it was not the case here. I then embarked on a crusade of de-oranging the shot, a process that took me all week mostly because I’d work on it some, get fed up, and come back the next day. I used a combination of selective color, color balance, and layer masks to slowly remove the orange from the places I didn’t want it, which was 95% of the panorama. A few days later, I had something like this:

 

Less orange, but less color in general... still not dynamic... getting there, but not done.

With the orange having been banished (or at least somewhat tamed), I was able to claim the first major victory. It still wasn’t right though, because in the process of de-oranging the image the clouds became white which they normally are, except when there’s a sunset, and that was half of the point of this picture to begin with. I made the decision to attempt to recreate the sunset that night by whatever means necessary, and that ended up meaning using much more Photoshop than I usually employ. I usually post-process my HDRs in Photoshop in order to add a bit of selective contrast and saturation, but for this I ended up having to do a ton of coloring, shading, and just generally breathing some life back into the shot. You can see the final result above but I’m finally pleased with it. Man was it a process though! The final shot is just how I like it: a bit over the top, a bit over-saturated, and bit over-contrasty, and a lot “wow!”

I’ve been using the pan as a dual-monitor desktop wallpaper which is pretty fun as it’s the first one that I’ve ever made. I’m adding it to the Desktops section now. Enjoy!

Paradise on a Mountain

The Hawaiian islands themselves were formed by lava, burbling up from underneath the Pacific over millions of years, and even after that lava rises to the surface and hardens into the islands, the “lava tubes” underneath remain active for many years. It is for this reason that the Hawaiian islands are so mountainous and hilly, as they are all (or were at some point) volcanoes. The newer islands (new from a geological standpoint, anyway) still feature live volcanoes, but Kaua’i, at the northern end of the archipelago, is the oldest of the main islands and its volcanic roots have been dormant for millions of years. This particular mountain is part of a long range stretching across Kaua’i but I cannot for the life of me remember the name… ah well. We walked for a few hours on the beach the first day we were there just to get to the base of this mountain, which we could see from where we were staying. The clouds obscure the top of it but I actually like that. This is about as simple as landscapes get, with your sky, mountains, sand, and water, but I really like the shot as it reminds me of the paradise that we were in, and it’s been my desktop background for a while now. It will soon be available in our desktops section, but I wanted to post it on the blog first and making it into a desktop takes a bit of time, with all the cropping you’ve got to do. I’ve shot a bit of HDR in the galleries of the High Museum and also some from Calloway Gardens, at a recent wedding that I shot, but in both cases I need to make sure I’m able to post them here. Rest assured they will make it up if I can wrangle it.

The water looks calm and wonderful but underneath that aquamarine beauty there are incredibly strong rip-currents, waiting to snare the unwitting tourist.

Islands in the Pacific

It sounds almost stupid, but saying “Well, Japan and Hawaii are both relatively small islands in the Pacific, so they probably have a lot in common!” is not actually THAT far off the mark. Hawaii is essentially in the middle of the ocean, with nothing around it for hundreds of miles, and Japan is one of the closer land masses to it if you look at a map. The Hawaiian islands are essentially the midpoint between California and Japan, making Hawaii an important refueling point during the WWII, and also a destination for Asian tourists (and residents) including many Japanese. It is for this reason that this authentic Japanese temple is located not in Japan, but on the island of O’ahu, tucked away in the mountains. This is actually another thing that Hawaii and Japan have in common; both are mountainous and feature volcanoes, with the most famous on Japan being Mt. Fuji. We had some time to kill on our way back to the airport and decided to stop off and see this even though it was raining and I’m quite glad we did. They had a huge old bell out front (not in the picture unfortunately) and you could swing a huge log-hammer back and let it go, causing a huge booming ring to echo throughout the mountains. A truly picturesque scene that showcases once more Hawaii’s ability to make you really have to try hard to convince yourself you’re in the United States.

There is a huge pond surrounding the temple that is literally packed with what seems like millions of goldfish, squeezed next to eachother with almost no room to move.

HDR Panorama!

In keeping with the idea of branching out from the norm, I’ll follow up the HDR video from Andrew with an HDR panorama. I know Giacomo recently posted a shot from this same day, but I  wanted to try my hands at processing a panorama with the added twist that each segment of it was an HDR shot and this is the only one that I’ve shot so I was stuck with it. This is the same old skyline, nothing special about the shot really, but it was one of those rare days with really dramatic skies that makes the picture worth taking, and the texture and type of clouds was so varied that it actually justified doing the whole pan! I hope to find a more suitable location soon, one that will really lend itself to something like this… if I could get closer to the city perhaps? Definitely something I am keeping in mind. This is composed of 4 separate HDR images stitched together, which really wasn’t too difficult because the lighting was fairly even and I’d zoomed in to 24mm to help minimize distortion from the 16-35mm. This is probably one that you’ll want to click through to the full-resolution image just to zoom around and see it, well, bigger!

We honestly only have a few days like this every year in Atlanta; skies like this are "just" average in places like Maine.

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..."

USS Arizona – A Reminder of Pearl Harbor

As most probably know, the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a crucial turning point in World War II, as the Japanese attack left America little choice but to enter the fight. More than nearly 70 years later and the hulking remains of the USS Arizona stand as a semi-submurged reminder of the devastation that came upon the quiet harbor on O’ahu so many years ago. In fact, it is still leaking oil, up to a quart a day, which is nearly unbelievable, but you can see it very clearly on top of the water and it would be pretty if it weren’t, well, awful. Still, it definitely added an aspect to this picture that made it worth posting. You can see the ship’s real bulk spreading out underwater if you look closely into the murky depths. They’ve done a great job making a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives that day, and it was a soberingly beautiful place to visit. They also have the crowds well under control; you go in groups every half hour and, after watching a movie that gives you some background info, hop on a boat to take a short ride across to the memorial site. It is only accessible by these boats which keeps crowds to a minimum out at the actual memorial. There was a lot more to see at the national park that we unfortunately didn’t get to because of time but this was still worth the trip.

The oil makes creepily awesome patterns, and although this was a handheld bracket, Photomatix 4 dealt with the water shifting masterfully.

Dalí Till Dawn at the High Museum

Last weekend, I was asked to “provide coverage of the Dalí Till Dawn event” at the High Museum in Atlanta, where I am currently working. This turned out to be a larger task than one person could handle, as they wanted both still AND video coverage of the whole night, which went from their normal closing hour of 5pm until 5am. Luckily I didn’t have to stay till 5am, but I did enlist Andrew’s help to do video and we were there until 2am. Giacomo came as well and he hung out with us towards the end. All in all it was a good time, and the only downside is the 600+ photos and hours+ of video I have is very difficult to edit down to a 3 minute video… it is coming along, but slowly. We were even able to take the time to grab a few night-HDRs of the museum, as well as a time-lapse HDR of the festivities inside which will probably make its way up on the blog soon. I really liked the way this photo turned out, as it shows the density and length of the line, but one thing it does not convey is how cold it was. These people were waiting in line for hours and hours in below-freezing temperatures, all to see the galleries within! Things like this make me feel validated in my love of art, because the Dalí show really was one that was worth waiting in that line to see. Anyway, here is this shot of the museum entrance around midnight.

This shot was taken with Andrew's 24-105mm, which is very likely to be my next lens purchase... that range on the full-frame 5D is so perfect.

Colors!

If there’s one thing HDR does well, it is to showcase all of the colors in a scene in all their saturated glory. This picture stands out to me in this regard, because I do not remember seeing nearly this much red, blue, purple, or yellow in the rocks at the time. It was late afternoon, and the sun was at just the right angle to light up the water all the way down at the bottom, and reflecting off to catch the different hues of the rocks. This scene has it all, every color, texture, and angle you could ask for. There’s one other one from this same spot that came out really well and I processed them both simultaneously but I will wait to post that one. I’m thinking of throwing up another one from my most recent trip to Maine first as I shot a lot there over Thanksgiving and have only posted one of them. I guess the holes in the ground are caused by either volcanic or aquatic erosion… one of the two usually applies on Hawaii! In order to reach this spot we has to drive over some incredibly rough terrain but it was worth it. I do wish I’d had the luxury of time and a tripod, which would have enabled me to get a full, ±4 stop, 5 shot bracket and even more importantly, stability. If you are the pixel peeper type, which I myself am, you will see that this image is not nearly as sharp as the 5D usually provides, mostly because the 3 bracketed images were not quite perfectly aligned, even with all of Photomatix’s magic. This shot is now available in many resolutions over at our desktops page. Enjoy!

You can't see it in this one, but in other holes adjacent to this there are ladders running up the side. The cliffs are so steep that people would haul their canoes up these ladders.

Walking on Mars

There really is no way to describe how weird/awesome/freaky it is to walk on hardened lava, in a location that, a few years ago, would have been entirely full of millions of tons of molten lava. The crater of Kilauea-Iki is still riven with cracks and chasms caused by the hardened lava breaking, and some of these reach thousands of feet down into the mantle where the lava still bubbles. When water reaches these depths, you get billowing columns of steam on the earth’s surface. It is actually kinda hard to see in this shot, but there is steam coming out of the crack toward the top. The different minerals that combined with the lava as it flowed over the earths surface created many awesome colors upon hardening. Reds and oranges are most common, as you can see here. The reddish haze in the clouds is actually called “Vog,” which is short for Volcanic Smog, caused by the combination of water vapor and poisonous gasses that escape from vents leftover from previous eruptions.

The vapor here is water, however in other places it can be sulfur dioxide, which is not nearly as harmless.

Famous Kahuku Shrimp

Located inside a trailer that looks like it might have been able to run 50 years ago, Famous Kahuku is one of many Kahuku shrimp places along the Kamehameha highway on O’ahu. These places are really authentically Asian, serving shrimp just about any way you want it, tempura, coconut, spicy, garlic, you name it… and it’s a delicious thing to bring back to the house and eat while watching the sunset. Famous Kahuku is, well, famous, and although we liked a different place better, the whole appearance of Famous just called out to be photographed, so I did, of course, in a bracket so that I could HDR it later. I’m not exactly sure this place has an A+ FDA inspection rating but ummm the shrimp was good!

We’re leaving today, which is sad, and we get into Atlanta at 7am which will be so rough (8.5 hour flight leaving at 4 or so in the afternoon, and we lose 5 hours on the way…) but all in all it was an amazing trip. At home I’ll be able to really dig into these HDRs and new content from Hawaii, from Andrew’s current trip to Orlando, and from whatever Giacomo decides to do in Atlanta will keep the blog fresh in the coming months. Giacomo and I (and Andrew once he’s back from Florida) are going to sit down and make a Facebook page for the site, as we’ve found that a large majority of our visitors are directed here from Facebook via direct links or seeing the blog link in our profiles. Maybe, if there’s time, we’ll work on adding some features/updating the site layout but mostly, our focus will be on new, great HDR content for all to enjoy.

Would YOU buy shrimp from this place? I hate the way the 16 distorts, it is really starting to bug me. See: barrel in the lower left corner.

Wandering Limahue Gardens

Mele Kalikimaka! (Happy Christmas!)

On a decidedly un-Christmasy note, here is an HDR from one of the many magical places we’ve been so far. These botanical gardens were truly something else, climbing high up into the mountains known as the Makano range. It was an overcast day but the bright tropical sun was able to pierce the clouds, giving us an awesome light as we hiked through the gardens. Hawaii is home to a staggering number of endemic plant and animal species, many of which we saw there.

Today we plan on going to the black sand beaches after a morning of presents and good food. It’s so fun to be able to go get new material every day, something that can’t be said about Atlanta (although I bet the 3 of us can get creative once we’re all together back in the South).

It was very much like a jungle, yet we were on a mountain, with a view of the ocean, listening to roosters crow. Truly strange and awesome.

Halema’uma’u Crater

Try and say that name without either laughing or messing up… it took us literally all afternoon to get it right. Hawaii is, of course, full of these impossible to pronounce names (the native language is a spoken language, and all renderings of it into text are purely a Western construct to begin with…) but this is one of the better ones. We left the island of Kaua’i yesterday, hopped on two 20 minute flights, and were on the island of Hawaii (not to be confused with the state itself, some refer to the island as “The Big Island” so as not to be confused) staying in a cottage literally on the border of Volcano National Park. You know you’re close when the city you are staying in is “Volcano, Hawaii”. We got up early in a (failed) attempt to beat the (other) tourists and spent the day walking the Kilauea-Iki trail, which is a ~5m hike that goes around the rim of the Kilauea-Iki volcano, and then descends down and you trek straight across the bottom of the volcano, across a Martian plane of cracked black volcanic rock. I’ve never done anything like it; it was truly an alien experience. This shot is of a “crater” nearby that is part of the vista as you look out over Kilauea-Iki. Halema’uma’u continually belches steam and SO2 gas, making it not so fun to go near but really pretty. The HDR is from pretty far away, across the crater, using the 100mm macro (one of the first on this site to use that lens, incidentally) and the accompanying Youtube video is just something fun I shot with the 16-35 while we were at the visitor’s center, which is REALLY close to the steam-belching crater. There are, of course, HDRs from that as well… to be posted later… with the other 1100-odd HDRs I’ve gotten so far. It’s great and all, but when I think of the fact that we’ve still got half the trip ahead of us… let’s just say you’ll be seeing Hawaii shots for a while 😀

Right below the frame is the crater of Kilauea-Iki; it will be featured in future HDRs in all of its pitch-black glory.

In other news, Andrew sent me some shots he took with his newly acquired set of Nikon lenses using the Canon adapter. I cannot wait to get home and mess around with 14mm on the full frame 5D! Fun and, of course, HDRs, will ensue.

First from Hawaii

Here’s one from the very first few hours we spent on Kaua’i. It was rainy and overcast, but by now you know what that means for HDR… great clouds! Everything I’ve shot so far has been handheld as a tripod would be too cumbersome to take on hikes, walk miles on the beach with, etc, and Photomatix handles this like a champ. The tricky bit will be when I encounter a scene that would benefit from having the 5-shot, ±4 stop bracket (a scene with ultra-high contrast, in direct sun) but so far everything has been rather evenly lit. I don’t even need to get into how awesome of a place Hawaii is but in brief, in the past two days we’ve walked on the beach, hiked through a botanical garden in the jungly-mountains, and snorkeled amongst fish that I thought could only exist with David Attenborough talking in my ear. The coming days will bring even better photography, but here’s a simple shot from the beach 5 feet outside the back of where we are staying. The black rocks are, of course, lava rocks. There is some actual name for them but it is escaping me. So for now, lava rocks, beach, and nice clouds.

It is darn near impossible to edit HDRs using only a trackpad... also I have no idea if the color/brightness is right as I am not used to this screen. Oh well.

As an aside, I’m excited to see what we can do with the time-lapse stuff when I get back to Atlanta, however I for one will not be editing thousands of RAW files into HDRs… Giacomo and Andrew can do that if they really want to make a pseudo-HDR video 😀 I just want to experiment with doing a time-lapse normally, perhaps set up on a tripod as we shoot HDRs (either a time-lapse of us, or of a scene off to the side of wherever we happen to be) after all, we will have the 5D, the 7D, and the 50D at our disposal, along with tons of great glass… gotta make use of it somehow!

Aloha!

I am not dead, I promise! I am just in Hawaii without a laptop. I have my little netbook which is good for browsing the internet and checking email, but at the merest mention of “photomatix” or “35MB raw file” it cries and melts into a little pool of plastic. My dad has his Macbook Pro here, so I will hopefully be able to use that in a day or so to at least get one or two shots up on the blog. I’ve been here two days and have already filled up two 16GB cards…. there will be so much work to do when I get home it is almost not worth thinking about. We are currently staying on the island of Kauai, in Hanalei Bay in a house right on the beach, literally 10 steps from it, so when we’re not out seeing the sights we are probably in the water or reading by the water. Such a nice break from the (unnaturally cold) Atlanta winter! We spent the morning at a botanical garden up in the mountains, and have plans to visit volcanoes, black sand beaches, and Pearl Harbor as we island hop over the next week or so. More updates will come as soon as I get my hands on a copy of photomatix. I would post some iPhone-HDR I’ve been taking along the way but it just doesn’t do it justice.

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!