HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

Archive for January, 2011

Tropical Escape

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a picture from Jamaica on my blog.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever posted a picture of Jamaica on here or even talked about it.  Well, either way, one is making an appearance today!  I thought that this was a great time since it was 14F this morning, and freezing rain is in the forecast for the next few days.  Awesomeness.  Can’t wait.  Anyhoo, how about a little warmth?  Just talking about it makes the cold a little less tolerable!

We made the trip to Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios, Jamaica for our honeymoon.  There were a few places on our list, like St. Thomas, the Bahamas, Aruba, but we settled on Jamaica just because we wanted a nice, relaxing time, and didn’t want to have to feel pressured to join in resort activities or do excursions.  Well let me tell you, it was an excellent choice!  It was eight days of sitting on the beach, drinking glass after glass of whisky and tequila, and the wife have pina coladas, mudslides, margaritas and every other fruity/nauseating drink you could think of.  Don’t be fooled by the nauseating part…I mean, I like a margarita just as much as the next guy, but after three or four of them in the hot sun, all that sugar sitting in your stomach, you’re just asking for a bad day!  I stuck with the good stuff and felt great!  I don’t want to go through our entire trip (could be the longest blog post ever if I did, but I will go in more detail in future posts), so on to today’s shot!

This is one I took on our last night there after we ate at the nice restaurant on the resort.  There was one helluva storm brewing out over the water, and I was able to capture decent lightning for the first time (see below).  The above shot was taken about twenty minutes after that.  It was really cool to see the glow of the beach bar and the different shades of green being reflected in the water.  Since there was a storm moving in (or at least around), there was a fair amount of wind, which caused all the motion blur on the branches.  I kind of liked the look, gives you a sense of being there!

Technically, this shot was a bit more of a pain than my last couple.  Since I didn’t take my D700 on vacation I just had my D40X, where the noise control is not nearly as good.  This is a 7 shot HDR, processed with HDR Efex and then kicked over the Color Efex.  I added a Tonal Contrat filter on the whole scene except the sky, then added an additional Tonal Contrast Filter on the water.  Did some Selective Coloring to brighten up the green at the back of the shot, and toned down the highlights since the beach bar was too bright.  Finally, did some noise reduction in Topaz Denoise, and there ya go!

Exciting news, I will be unveiling a new tutorial later today on HDR Efex!  Stay tuned to check it out!

Thanks for dropping by and have a great week everyone!

The best and the rest

First off, I wanted to thank all of you who read and commented on my article yesterday.  I couldn’t believe so many people stopped by and it ended up being my most heavily trafficked blog day ever!  I really appreciate it!

This weekend is All Star weekend both for the NFL and NHL.  One I don’t care about at all, one I was really excited to watch, but probably won’t even tune in now.  The one that is completely meaningless in my eyes is the NFL Pro Bowl.  First off, they have it the week before the Super Bowl, meaning that the players from the top two teams remaining (notice I didn’t say best) aren’t going to be there.  To me that was half the fun of the Pro Bowl, watching the Super Bowl champs play against the other all stars.  Not anymore in the NFL.

The NHL All Star game I was really excited about a few weeks ago.  Sidney Crosby (pictured above) was leading the league in points and goals and beat the rest of the league by over 150,000 all star votes.  I mean that is just insane.  Center Evgeni Malkin was voted it, goalie Marc Andre Fleury, and defenseman Kris Letang was voted in as a write in.  But, since Sid and Geno (Malkin) are still out with injury, only Fleury and Letang will play.

I had a quick question too for all of my Canadian friends.  How come when Pittsburgh plays in Ottawa and Montreal, Sidney Crosby gets booed worse than anywhere in the league outside of Philadelphia?  I know he is competition, but he won the gold medal in the Olympics for you!  I mean, I was rooting for the USA, and while I am sad we lost, I will take a loss by the hands of Sid any day.  He’s the greatest player in the world, and before his career is over, he will be mentioned as one of the top three hockey players of all time, up there with Gretzky and Lemieux.  I completely understand that I am biased seeing as he plays for my team, but he’s a clean player, a class act, took the team on his shoulders after Mario retired when he was only 20.  If the USA would have won in dramatic fashion on an ovetime goal, I think it would be hard for me to boo the player that scored it, even if he played for the Flyers or the Capitals.  Just wondering.

So, finally, today’s shot.  I took this last Friday evening before a happy hour with some friends in Station Square.  I got there a little early to do some shooting, but I ended up with just a handful of shots because it was about 0°F, with a windchill that made it seem like -10°F.  Seeing as I was on a bridge and the wind just whips down the river, it was all I could do to wait for the seven brackets and run back to my car.  Which I parked in a garage that was a good ten minute walk.  Genius I know.  The bridge I am on is the Smithfield St. Bridge that is right next to Station Square in the South Side.  It’s one of the classier bridges in downtown, with great iron work on the top that I’ve showcased a few other times.

Let’s get technical, technical, I wanna get technical.  Sorry about that, I don’t normally break out into song during my posts.  Like I said earlier, this is a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex.  I kicked it over the Color Efex and applied a Tonal Contrast filter on the buildings and water (left the sky alone) and then applied a Low Key Filter to the entire image.  Burned a bit of the sky in spots and added a warming filter to tone down some of the blues.  I had gotten there a bit too late to get the sunset and a bit too early for the blue hour.  Oh well there’s always next time!

Thanks for stopping by, and if I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!

Distorted Times

Well after a little over a month of posting shots from New York, I think that I am going to be wrapping them up pretty shortly.  Which makes me a bit sad, because I really enjoyed processing them, posting them, giving you all the back story behind the shot.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have literally over a thousand that I haven’t touched, but it terms of the cream of the crop, I think that’s it for now.  I’ll probably shuffle through the folder in a few weeks and find one that I didn’t process that I really like and post it.

I actually find that kind of weird.  So, you take a shot, whether you love it in the camera or not is always difficult to tell.  But then you get home, through it on your computer, and think, “Why did I take this shot?  I don’t even like it!”  Then, a few months later, you accidentally open up that folder instead of the one you meant to, see it, and love it.  Happens to me all time!  Well, not all the time, but it does happen.  For instance, I posted a whole bunch of shots from Punta Cana early in my flickr career.  Then, almost a year later, I ended up posting about twenty more, and they are some of my favorites.  I think that processing has something to do with it.  As better and cooler processing techniques and programs come out, it can make that “It’s okay” picture to “I need to print this out right now and hang it on my wall” picture.  But the whole processing vs. SOOC discussion is for another day.  Maybe tomorrow.  We’ll see.

As for today, we have another shot of Times Square.  I know, I know, I may have taken too many shots of this place.  But how could you not?  You have so much going on, so many different things to see, all in one place!  Restaurants, Broadway shows, a police station, a Walgreens, tourists, New Yorkers, cars, taxis, buses, street performers, musicians, the subway, clothing stores, an M&M store, I mean I go could on.  And that’s all in a two block stretch on one street!  I took this one on our last walk back through Times Square back to our hotel.  I knew that I hadn’t gotten a shot yet in portrait orientation of Times Square and I wanted to get that cool distorted look to the buildings.

If you were just thinking to yourself, “Dave, I’d like to know how you processed this shot”, then you are in luck my friend.  I started with five handheld images, shipped them to CS5 and ran them through HDR Efex (tutorial in the works, I promise).  Played around with the sliders until I got something I liked, then shipped it off to CS4, because for some reason Color Efex won’t work in CS5 for me.  Opened up the zero exposure compensation shot, tonemapped it and masked in all the moving people/car.  Then applied a Tonal Contrast Filter, Pro Contrast Filter and a Low Key Filter, adjust the curves, toned down the saturation, straightened it out a bit (it was reasonably crooked to begin with) and shared it with you all!  Enjoy!

Make sure to check back tomorrow for…I haven’t decided yet.  Guess you’ll just have to check back then!

Meet and greet

So yesterday I had the chance to meet some of the Pittsburgh Penguins at an autograph session at one of our local malls.  You donate to charity and then get to stand in line for a few hours to get some autographs.  It’s the third year that I’ve done it, but it is still pretty cool!  I know I’m not a little kid, but it’s hard still not to be a little star struck around these guys.  I mean here there are, world class, Stanley Cup champion athletes, sitting right in front of you!  You see people getting jerseys, pennants, flags, shirts, hats, pucks signed, which is all well and good, but for me, one of the most exciting parts is having them sign a picture that I took.  Then I know that no one else has an autograph like mine!  Just wanted to say thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins for putting the event on and of course Pascal Dupuis, Eric Godard and Tyler Kennedy for taking the time out of their day to sit down and sign autographs for their fans!

Today’s shot is a bit different than my last couple weeks worth of posts, because it is not an HDR and it is not a busy New York scene (though it kinda still is); it’s me!  This is a shot that my wife too on our last day in the city when we were on the Brooklyn Bridge.  She has a nice eye for taking pictures and I keep trying to get her to come out shooting with me, but she won’t!  One of these days I’ll get her out!  Anyways, every once and a while she will ask for my S95 and say “Let me get a picture of you.”  On this occasion I thought sure, why not, struck my best action pose, and this is what she got!

Now, just because she takes good pictures doesn’t mean she edits them.  I wanted to do something a bit different with this one and not just a tonemapped single exposure HDR.  So, I plopped it in Photoshop and the first thing I did was recover some of the blown out sky.  And this point in the day it was a bit overcast, so the sky was a little “Eh”.  Then I thought, “Why don’t I just do the whole thing in B&W?”  So I did!  Ran it through Nik’s Silver Efex, used a veryyyyyyyyyyyyy slight sepia color filter, a bit more structure and the vignette and was feeling pretty good about it!  Back to CS5, blurred the background a bit as I was taking a movie before this shot and forgot to switch back to Aperture Priority and f2 (I think she just used Auto) to give a nice depth of field.  Added a bit of grain for a film effect too.  So there ya go!  That’s me!

Look at that, you got to meet three professional hockey players and a very amateur photographer today…we’ll work on the greet another time!

In the thick of it…

Back after a couple days off of posting over the weekend!  I guess for the city of Pittsburgh it was a great weekend, at least in regards to our professional sports teams.  I can only take joy in one of those wins and that is obviously the Penguins.  The Steelers (somehow) managed to win the AFC Championship game, even after they tried so desperately hard to lose it in the second half.  Of course, when you have that pathetic of a first half as the Jets did, you don’t really deserve to win.  Give Mark Sanchez some credit though.  He was able to bounce back and at least semi-make a game out of it.  It seems that every team I root for this postseason loses, but I’m gonna say it anyways…Let’s go Packers in the Super Bowl!

Today’s shot.  Well, yesterday’s shot, but I like it so I am going to post it today.  This is one of the last HDRs that I took while we were in New York on Sunday on our way back to our hotel.  I was actually surprised at how busy it was for a Sunday evening there.  I would have thought that most of the people (like us!) were getting ready to pack up and leave.  That being said, we were getting ready to leave and we still were out and about.  Don’t you love it when you think of the perfect example of something that just completely destroys the argument you just made?  Anyways, I wanted to get this shot of the West Side Story billboard as that is the musical we went to see and it was the first one I had ever been to, which is reasonably exciting.  It was a great shot and next time we are in New York we will definitely be going back (not to West Side Story, but some kind of show).

Technical time.  This particular HDR is a 5 exposure handheld one at ISO 500 and f4.  I went 16mm on this to make sure that I captured the whole scene, from the signs on the buildings to the guy taking a picture in front.  Put it through HDR Efex (which a “Bright Soft” HDR Method for those may ask) then over the Photoshop.  Decreased overall saturation then bumped up the red in the signs a bit.  Masked in pretty much the bottom ¼ of the scene with the 0 exposure compensation shot to get rid of the myriad of ghosts that had invaded this picture.  Added a Tonal Contrast Filter in Color Efex and last, but certainly not least, a high pass filter for a bit of sharpening, and there ya go!

Pretty excited about tonight by the way!  There is a Penguins autograph session at one of local malls that I signed up for.  This is the third one that I will be going to, and it’s always cool to meet some of the guys!

I hope that you all have a great week!

Say it’s not snow!

Another day, another 7 inches of snow.  Above is a shot I took out my car window this morning.  Not that I mind it all, I really don’t.  Ok, maybe a little bit.  It’s kind of a pain to put on boots, then put on gloves, then a jacket, a hat, heat up the car, scrape the car.  Summer is nice in that you can throw on sandals, a t shirt shorts, hop in the car, put the windows down and crank “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry instead of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey because you really have to believe that winter will end.

 What really gets me chapped (pun intended) is the wind.  It blows the snow around that you just shoveled, it makes it feel 20 degrees colder than it is, and just is plain annoying.  This morning I was shoveling and I went to throw a shovel full over our retaining wall when a gust of wind decided to kick up at that exact second and blow it all back onto me.  I couldn’t have been more happy.

 Anyways, onto to today’s shot.  If you remember yesterday I said that I took a little walk around Times Square early in the morning because my better half got out of bed.  This was the last shot I took before I went back to the hotel.  A bit touristy (I didn’t know that that was actually a word until spell check didn’t catch it…wow!) I know, but I had to.  I got the night shot, had to get the day one.  Well, morning at least.  So I made my way to the top of the little bandstand/bleacher type thing in the middle, braced myself against the back railing (careful not to fall over or, more importantly, not to drop my camera over…I have insurance…the D700 doesn’t) and click-click-click-click-cliick, five exposures later, I had my obligatory TS shot.

 Now the processing.  I was happy with the shot in camera, nice shadows and highlights for the HDR.  Put in onto the iMac, ran it through HDR Efex (tutorial coming soon, I promise) and said “Eh”.  I mean, it’s ok.  But nothing that wowed me.  So I took it over the Color Efex, added a Tonal Contrast Filter, a Low Key Filter, a Warming Filter in CS5 and some definition in iPhoto, and now I like it!  Of course, I had to mask in just a touch of a halo around the top of the buildings and the people/cars (though not so much the cars, as they weren’t really moving).  And this is what I got!

Oh, Pens lost last night.  Shut out by the last place Devils.  That’s embarrassing.  But, no Sid or Geno to speak of, so it’s not all that bad.  They had never played a game where both of them were out of the line up at once.  Now they have, and let’s hope they never do it again.

 One more thing.  I know I’m from Pittsburgh, but I have one thing to say…


 I hope you all have a great and Pittsburgh Steeler-less weekend!

Fast food at its finest

Like I said a few days ago, it’s time to head back to New York!  I haven’t posted some of my better shots from our trip on the blog yet, but don’t worry, I’ll put together a little gallery of our trip.  In the meantime (in between times) you can check out the whole set on flickr or the new website.  (My apologies for the “Welcome to Atlanta” by Ludacris reference.  Anytime I say/hear/read “In the meantime” I can’t help but bust into song).

Have I mentioned yet that I really like this new theme?  I was going crazy trying to figure out how to post bigger pictures than just though little thumbnail ones you see below and on all my other posts, just browsing new themes and saw this one.  Liked the way it looked and went with it, not realizing how serendipitous it would turn out to be.  Ok, enough rambling, on to the shot.

This is one that I took on the Friday we were in New York.  I had gotten up early (7:00, which isn’t early for me, but early for vacation) and headed out to brave the cold and NYC morning commute.  We were staying in Times Square, so I was able to be in the thick of it right away.  Walked around for a few hours, saw Kevin Spacey, bought a coffee at McDonald’s (which before that times I had NEVER done) just to keep warm, swung by to pick up the wife at around 9:30, then it was off to enjoy our day.  We hit up the Plaza Hotel from Home Alone 2, Central Park, FAO Schwartz and Ray’s Pizza (awesomeness) before walking back along 5th Avenue, which is where I got this shot.  I did not buy anything from this particular vendor, however the pretzel guy outside our hotel sure was glad to see me…I think I bought 5 pretzels from him in the 4 days we were there.  They weren’t even that great, but for some reason, I just had to have them.  Weird, I know.

Technical stuff about the shot.  This is a 5 exposure handheld HDR, processed with HDR Efex for CS5 then applied some filters in Color Efex.  It was a little difficult to manage the sky, as I was metered on the stand itself, so the sky was fairly blown out.  Shooting in RAW I was able to edit the most  underexposed file (-2) to help recover some of the lost highlights.  I also took the 0 exposure compensation and masked in all the people.  Don’t you wish that people would understand you are taking a picture and just stay still?  That has always bothered me.  Anyways, after masking in the moving people and the portion of the sky, I added a Tonal Contrast Filter in Color Efex as well as a Pro Contrast Filter.  In CS5 I bumped up the Saturation (which I don’t normally do, but wanted to cart to pop), adjusted the shadows, applied a crop and last, but certainly not least, high pass filter, just to sharpen it up a tinnnnnnnnny bit more.  And viola!  Here it is!

One more day til Friday!

Wounded Wings and Candid Captures

Woo hoo, Pens win!  Went to the Pens-Red Wings game last night as we emerged victorious 4-1.  Penalty shot goals, more awesome penalty killing…all around a great game.  Although let’s be honest: it’s hard to say this was a REAL rematch when they had 7 guys on the injured list, including Datsyuk and Howard.  Doesn’t matter in the win column, if they had the Pittsburgh Pirates playing for them, still counts as win. 

 It’s really not right to bash the Pirates I guess.  I live here though, have watched this 18 year collapse, so I think I’m allowed…I mean 18 straight years of sub .500 ball?  Are you kidding me?  Oh wait, that’s right.  They’re rebuilding.  Rebuilding what?  The Pyramids?  Ancient Rome?  A full size Empire State Building with toothpicks?  The Pens rebuilt in 4 years.

 Speaking of the Pens, the shot above is from the game last night.  It’s a shot of Craig Adams taking a shot in warm ups.  In case you ask, no, those are not my seats, I just sneak down there for practice.  He’s one of my favorite players, vital to the #1 ranked penalty kill the league.  Not the most well known, but we never would have won a Cup without him.


On to today’s shot (finally).  We’re heading back to New York!  This is another one that I took from the Brooklyn Bridge on the last day that we were in New York, Sunday.  As you can imagine, there are plenty of other people trying to get pictures at the same time.  I thought that I would try to get a shot of one of these photographers.  This guy was pretty serious, and he never took his face away from the camera.  Took a ton of pictures, never looked at the viewfinder.  Not sure what he was shooting, but he had no idea we were even there!  Rattled off 5 handheld exposures, and away we went!

I’m liking this blogging everyday type thing…I’ll think I’ll keep up with it!  No weekends (well, maybe Sunday, depending on how my Saturday night was), but I think I can do everyday!

Until tomorrow!

On the right track…

Well, finally posting again!  I mean, how many times can I say that I will be posting more but never do?  I think that I am finally on the right track though.  I signed up and created a site on zenfolio to start selling my work there.  it has been a great experience (just one day so far!) but I am really happy with how the site works and looks.  If you have a second, stop on over and check it out!

I’m going to be doing a few feature posts in the next few weeks.  I’d like to get a gallery up of both shots from Jamaica as well as our recent trip to New York.  For now though, we’ll stick with this shot of a trolley station in Dormont.  I took this last week while waiting for the trolley to come to whisk me downtown for the Penguins game (maybe I should have just stayed home, as they blew a 2 goal lead with 3 minutes left).  It was nice to shoot with the 50mm 1.4, as I’ve developed WAA or Wide Angle Addiction since I got my new camera.  I was trying to wait for a train to come to get some bokehed lights, but no such luck.

Anyways, this is me, back on the wagon again!  Let’s see if I can keep the ball rolling!

Take care guys (and gals)!