HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

Archive for February, 2011

In different directions

There’s something about Monday morning that just feels so wrong, especially on days when there is a torrential rain/thunderstorm going on outside.  Especially after a weekend where it was starting to warm up, got a chance to relax, the sun was out.  Ugh.  That’s all I can say about that.

Today I’m going to fall into the category of typical photoblog as I have some catching up to do in regards to pictures that I’ve posted on my flickr photostream.  Since I like to walk through how I do my processing, and with three pictures that I spent a decent about of time on, I want to make sure that I cover everything.  In conjunction with that thought, I will be putting together a Photoshop Effects Tutorial Page where I go through some of the most common processes that I do, like High Pass Sharpening, the Orton Effect, to name a few.  Yes, some of them are pretty simple, but when I was first figuring out what the heck I was doing when it came to Photoshop, I always had a ton of browser windows open because no one website seemed to have them.  I’m not saying that mine will either, however, it will give you a place to go to if I say I used a certain effect in my processing, you can jump to that page and see how it was done.  I’m hoping to have it up by next week.

So on to some shots.  No not that kind.  Although Monday morning probably would be a good time to start taking some.  Might make the day go by a bit quicker.  The first one is something that I don’t normally do, one that I’ve posted only seven of them as the subject in the 1,040+ of the pictures I have on flickr.  Flowers.  Yep.  I don’t mean multiple Marc Andre Fleurys (he’s called the Flower because of Fleury, fleur-de-lis, ok, ok, you got it).  I got Dana a bouquet of flowers for her birthday a few weeks ago (lucky for me she doesn’t like red roses) so I thought I would see if I could have some fun with them.

Through on the 50 mm 1.4 and shot away.  No HDRs, just a single exposure.  First I cropped the image, as there was a chair in the bottom right hand corner.  Put it in Color Effex and added a Glamour Glow Filter and then ran it through again and added a Pro Contrast filter.  Even though the focus was on the center flower (nope, don’t ask, have NO idea what it is), and I did get some nice bokeh (we’ve talked about that already, out of focus part of the picture), I still added a vignette to bring out the center.  At first I was a bit upset that I got the window (blue part) in the back of the frame, but that I unded up doing a curves level on the window to help bring out the blue even more.  Increased the vibrance and the purples in the image, and I liked the way it turned out.

Image number two of the day is from the early Saturday morning photowalk I took last week.  I haven’t really been too successful getting pictures of the moon in HDR, they always end up very blown out.  Well, on this  particular morning, the moon was huge in the sky, so I thought I would give it the old college try.  First attempt (which I will post in the a few days because I still like the shot) was no good.  Second attempt (which I won’t post), was worse.  Finally, I decided to head over the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, as I wanted to get the sunrise from the North Shore.  The moon was hanging in the valley between the two hills of Mt. Washington, with Heinz Field on the right, and I thought that I would go for one more.  Seven exposures later and I got what I wanted.

Merged the images using HDR Efex, using the Clean HDR Method.  I ended up masking in the entire sky from the -2 exposure, as I didn’t really like the colors that I was getting from the HDR, they weren’t what I remember seeing, and this was.  I also took the -3 exposure and masked in just the mood, just to the point where you can see the darker parts that you can see with the naked eye.  Added an overall saturation layer to the entire image, and then I had to go to work on the grass.  Grass and winter really don’t mix, and the section below the stadium was pretty brown.  I did a Color Select on the shades of grass, then did a Curves adjustment on the greens to bring them out to add some pop to the image.  I also did a Color Select on the yellow seats of the stadium to bring them out a bit more.  Added a Tonal Contrast in Color Efex and finally a High Pass Sharpening Filter and I was good to go.

Lastly, today’s shot.  So after I took the previous shot, finished walking across the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, got a few shots right off the bridge, I made my way up past PNC Park, where I wanted to get the sunrise.  They are currently doing construction on the Riverwalk, so I had to divert and actually walk past the stadium.  The glow of the sun was just coming up in the corner by the home of Pirates, and the wide angle gave it almost a fish eye look.  I set up shop right in front of JP “Honus” Wagner and snapped away.

Combined the seven exposures in HDR Efex with the Natural setting and then kicked it over to Photoshop.  Once again, I wasn’t overly pleased with the sky, so I masked in the entire -2 exposure.  I also had to mask in a little bit of the top of the stadium, mostly the steel beams on top, to bring back some of the detail.  Again, I increased overall saturation, and also added an extra blue Curves layer for the rest of the sky.  Applied a Tonal Contrast Filter in Color Efex and another High Pass Sharpening Filter and called it a day.

Well, I know that was more than I usually go through, especially on a Monday morning, but I wanted to make sure that I had everything covered.  I also know that I made no reference to the title.  I really did mean to.  I was trying to play on the Steelers and Pirates stadiums, Pirates worst in the league for 18 seasons, Steelers made it to the Super Bowl again, etc., etc..  Also for the fact that I posted something other than a wide angle cityscape.

One more thing.  Alexei Kovalev of the Pittsburgh Penguins?  A goal in regulation and then the shootout winner on Saturday night.  Welcome home Kovy.

See you all tomorrow.

Bridging the gap

As I sit here consuming my favorite morning caffeinated beverage (Coke Zero) I was thinking about the whole idea of blogging in general for a couple of reasons.  First, I never thought that I would be blogging at all and now I am posting five entries a week.  Kind of a big jump.  Second, this started out as purely a photo blog, and if you look back at my first posts (actually, don’t look back at my first posts), you’ll see I posted a mini picture and about three lines of text.  I started to get a little better, sharing sights of Pittsburgh and the Penguins, but those were few and far between.  Like months between.  But, I was still photo blogging.  Then I had a sort of blogging epiphany and decided to post every weekday.  My idea was to just post the picture on my flickr website (if you haven’t checked that out yet, head on over) and put the long description on here.  But I know that only a small percentage of people will visit both, and I didn’t want to leave my flickr folks in the dark.  So I kept posting medium length descriptions on there and full length write ups on here.  But who wants to read about the same picture twice?  Not sure I would, and they are my pictures.  So I try to post something interesting (blizzards galore, Pittsburgh Penguins, random pontifications) to spice it up a bit.  Which brings me to my third caffeine inspired thought.  This is stuff is not easy to come up with.  I know I’ve said it before a few weeks ago, but every day that I sit down and think about what I’d like to share with you, I have more and more respect for those of you out there who do some more of daily journalism (newspaper columnists, other bloggers, etc).

All that being said, I know that this has turned into a hybrid of Pittsburgh Penguin news and photography information.  For right now, I’m okay with that, as the Pens have had some big news this year, and as the playoffs get closer, it will probably get even more exciting.  I will write about other stuff that seems relevant/pops into my head, but with so much going on for the Pens it’s difficult to not write about them.

And they had more big news yesterday.  Alexei Kovalev, who spent parts of five seasons with the Pens, will be back in the black and gold on Friday, as he was traded to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon for a 7th round pick (6th round if the Pens win the first round of the playoffs and Kovy plays half of the games).  He was a fan favorite when he was last here almost a decade ago, and I’m sure he will be again.  Will he be able to bridge the gap in the Pens offensive woes as of late and be a key to the Pens’ success over the next few months?  I think that if he has a great last third of the season, that the Pens will do.  With the acquisition of James Neal and Mat Niskanen, we really beefed up the offense heading into the home stretch.  If Sidney Crosby, out since January 5th with a concussion, can make it back into the lineup, then there is no doubt in my mind that we will be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup once again in May.

Since the primary purpose of this blog is photography, how about we take a look at a picture?  Like I said yesterday, last Saturday I was up and about early, walking around downtown, trying to get the sunrise.  Once I got the shot I wanted right as the sun came over the buildings, I shot a few different angles of it and decided to call it a day, err, I mean morning, and head back to the car.  I trekked across the Clemente Bridge and halfway there, I came across a spot where the sun was just cutting through the buildings and lighting up the bridge.  Pulled the camera back out of the backpack, set up the tripod, and fired away.  It’s shots like this that make me want to get up and go shooting every morning.

I processed this one pretty similar to the last one.  This is another seven exposure HDR that I processed with HDR Efex under the Clean HDR Method.  Removed all the dust spots, masked in a bit of the buildings on the right, as they were a little dark for my liking.  Didn’t have to do any work on the halos, because, although it looks like there is one, it is really just the light shining from behind them.  I masked it the -1 exposure, but it looked exactly the same, so I took it out.  Desaturated the whole shot then did a bit of enhancing of the yellows on the bridge.  Added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex and some High Pass sharpening at the end.

That wraps up another week at HDR Exposed.  Pens play the Canes tonight, should be a good one.  Hope you all enjoy your weekend, and I’ll catch you on the flip side.

A flash of brilliance

I really can’t help but at least talk about the Pens for a little bit after a game.  Although they lost again last night, which is getting to be a common theme with the rash of injuries they’ve had, there were some sparks in the lineup that certainly give you some optimism.  Tyler Kennedy, on a bit of a tear as of late, scored two goals, and Marc Andre Fleury looked absolutely brilliant in the loss.  The goals, a one timer from behind the net on a power play, a bad bounce that game right to a Shark who jammed it home, and a scrum in front of the net with Fleury down, can be easily forgiven.  The offense has to get going though, averaging only 2 goals a game since the departure of Sidney Crosby, last in league by a long shot.  I’m not giving up on the season yet.  Let’s go Pens.

Some shots from the game last night.  The first one is a thirty image panorama that I took with the iPhone and stitched with AutoStitch.  I think that it game out pretty cool.  The second one is a tilt shift that I took with the S95, as that is a custom scene on the phone.  Also not too shabby.

30 image panorama

Canon S95 Tilt Shift

Like I said a few days ago, I was finally able to get out shooting this weekend.  Got up real early on Saturday at 6, grabbed the gear, and rolled out downtown.  I had this vision of the sunrise coming up over the city and me standing at the Point, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio.  However, I got downtown, which was eerily empty, seeing as it was 6:30 on a Saturday morning, and realized that that just wasn’t going to work.  There are still doing construction at the Point, and it really detracted from the picture.  Ok, on to Plan B.  I headed over the Fort Duquesne Bridge towards Heinz Field, and the view down the river was stunning.  The moon was huge in the sky, the colors were all kinds of shades of pastels and the water was nice and calm in the river.  Got a few shots, then headed over my destination, right below the Clemente Bridge.  Set up the tripod, snapped a few pre sunrise shots and waited.  I saw the sun starting to come and thought, “It has to peak around the buildings soon.”  I look behind me, and see it is already shining on the building that I was standing in front of.  So I back up 10 feet, and lo and behold, there is the sun, streaming through the Rachel Carson Bridge.  “Um yeah, I’ll take an order of sun flares, no thanks, no halos for me today.”

This is a seven exposure HDR processed under the Clean setting on HDR Efex.  After cleaning up all the dust spots in the sky (yes I forget to clean the sensor before I went out.  Come on, it was 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday.  Gimme a break.) I could go to work.  First, I selected the tree and recovered some of the shadows on it.  I wanted it to be silhouetted, just not as much as it was.  I added a green curves level to enhance the grass and the bushes, as well as did selective coloring to give the sun a more reddish tint, as it was a bit too yellow for my liking.  Kicked it over the Color Efex where I added a Tonal Contrast layer on everything but the sky, and finally added some High Park Sharpening.  I really like the result, one of my favorite shots that haven’t been from New York in a while.

That about wraps it up for today.  One more day til Friday.

Turning the page

Even though it is so bitterly cold out still, we have eight inches of snow on the ground and more wicked weather seems to be coming, we are certainly drawing closer to the end of winter.  Spring is almost here, flowers will bloom, jackets will go in the closet, windows rolled down, baseball season starts and everything seems to come alive again.  To me, THIS is the time to make your New Year’s resolutions (you did make them, right?)  I realize that we just had New Year’s last month, but it’s difficult to distinguish one year from the next in the middle of winter, especially when winters here in Pennsylvania last from November until March.  But when the seasons change, and new life is breathed into everything around us, it seems like an appropriate time to make those changes in yourself as well.

Now I’m not saying you have to make resolutions.  Especially since they are so difficult to keep.  It’s not that we make way over the top, unachievable goals that we want to reach in the new year.  For me, and I don’t want to speak for everyone, they just kind of get forgotten about, unless you make a conscience effort to drive towards them.  I read an article (and I can’t remember where now) that said that if we share our resolutions and goals that we are less likely to achieve them.  I think I agree with this (I think).  At a previous employer, we had to write goals out, read them in front of the office, hang them on our wall and review them every two weeks.  That’s a lot of pressure to achieve them, and it’s not the kind of pressure that really motivates you.  It’s the kind that says, “Wow, everyone knows what I have to achieve, and if I don’t, I’ll look bad to everyone”, which has the potential to put you in a bit of desperation mode.  Keeping them to yourself can give you that self empowering, self motivating attitude that can get you to where you want to be and achieve what you want to achieve.  So I look at spring to a fresh start to the year, a time to take one more look at those New Year’s resolutions and make them happen.  I know I will.

Today’s post is my last from the New York Public Library.  I couldn’t go there and not get a shot from the one of the reading rooms.  This is the Rose Reading Room, and I wish I could have gotten more pictures of it, but my wife was a little embarrassed at how loud the five exposures were, so I just got this one shot and moved on.  I will say that they did kind of echo throughout the room, and you can see the look I got from someone on the left side of the screen.  This shot is one reason I love HDR.  You are able to see the outside skyline as well as all the intricate details in the ceiling.

The processing wasn’t too difficult, just a bit time consuming.  Like I said, it is a five exposure handheld HDR processed in HDR Efex.  I obviously had to mask in all the people, the lights because they were a bit blown out, as well as outside the windows.  For the outside, I opened up the -2 exposure, recovered the highlights, reduced the exposure, and then masked in just the windows.  Boosted the color a bit to make the blue pop.  No Color Efex to this one, just added a High Pass Sharpening filter to it.  I think that this is my favorite of the library series.

Pens are playing the Sharks tonight, and we will see the Penguins debut of James Neal and Matt Niskanen.  I’ll be there cheering them on.  Let’s Go Pens.

A bitter night

One of the great things about living in western Pennsylvania is that we have four very distinct seasons.  Unlike a lot of the northern or southern states where it either states cold or warm for most of the year, we see a gradual transition from winter to spring to summer to fall.  We get to experience a white Christmas, flowers blooming, barbeques and fireworks and beautiful fall foliage that is painted throughout the region.  However, one of the worst things about living in western Pennsylvania is that we have four very distinct seasons.  Summer and fall I’m more or less okay with, it’s just the end of winter/beginning of spring that really get me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love snow as much as the next guy, but when it dumps eight inches during rush hour on a Monday night in late February, that I can do without.  It’s not so much all the snow we got, but the fact that yesterday morning it started out as a torrential downpour of rain.  Then, eleven hours later, we have a little blizzard that locks up most of the city.

There is something eerily calm about the snow.  I spent the better part of two hours last night unburying both my driveway and a few of my neighbors and when the wind died down it was a very serene mood.  The street lamps were glowing warm light that was being diffused by the falling snow, there wasn’t anyone on the road and it was just quiet.  You could not tell where one person’s yard ended and another began.  You couldn’t even tell where the yard ended and the street began.  A plow truck hadn’t been through in over an hour, so the road was completely covered again.  I found myself just standing there, with ice forwards on my hair and gloves, taking it all in.  And for as much as I do not really like to spent until midnight shoveling and being freezing cold, it was oddly peaceful.

Some shots from the storm, all taken with the S95.

View down my street

Before shoveling

Front walkway

Shoveled path in HDR

Now to completely switch gears.  Yesterday’s post was all about the Winter Classic and the matchup between the Penguins and the Capitals.  Well, the Pens lost (title reference #2), in a hard fought, 1-0 game.  I can’t be too upset, as the goalie for the Capitals, Michal Neuvirth, played an outstanding game.  Since I talked hockey, I didn’t get a chance to post my picture from flickr.  I’ll make up for that today, since they are the same subject.  Heading back to New York.  On the Friday we were we spent a lot of time doing some of the touristy things,  like Grand Central, Central Park, FAO Schwartz and the New York Public Library.  I hadn’t planned on stopping at the library, but since we were so close and we hadn’t been there before, I thought that it would be worth a quick peak.  We made one lap around and then headed on our way.

The first shot is the front of the library.  It was a bit of a pain to process because of all the people walking around in front.  I just wish for one second I could get everyone to stand still so I could take the picture.  I think for all the HDR photographers out there, we should be given a remote to stop people as we please.  Just a thought.  Anyways, it is a five shot handheld HDR, and HDR Efex did a decent job of cutting down the ghosting.  I had to tonemap the +1 image to mask in all the people, and I also did a 100% mask of the -2 exposure for the sky.  Desaturated the reds a bit, added a blue curves layer to the sky and applied a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex.  Lastly did some high pass sharpening.

For today’s flickr post, we have one of the hall ways inside the library.  Same issue with the ghosts here.  Five exposure handheld, tonemapped the the +2 image for the people and masked them in.  Then I tonemapped the -2 and masked in the window at the back of the scene, as I was metered on the shadows and the window was very blown out.  Added a slight blur around the edge of the frame to put the focus on the center and finally added a Tonal Contrast filter.

That’s all for today my friends.  See you tomorrow.

A Classic rematch

Heinz Field the day after the Classic

Usually coming up with a title is one of the more difficult parts of writing these blog entries, but today was easier than most.  If you stopped by on Friday, you read that this evening will be a rematch between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.  This is not the first time the two teams have played since that cold, rainy New Year’s Day game, but it’s the first time the Caps have been back in town since then.  The make up of the Pens is vastly different this time around, with the ranks still being depleted by injuries.  It’s going to be a good show none the less, as it is always is when two rivals face off.

Rivalries are one of the best things about sports.  Of course every fan dreams about their team winning a championship, as that is the ultimate prize for any league.  Individual player awards are nice, but they don’t do a whole lot for the fans.  Rivalries though, that is what really gives sports that edge, that intensity, that can’t miss game appeal.  It’s amazing how rivalries in games can transcend into the culture of an entire city.  Take my hometown, Pittsburgh and their football team the Steelers (notice I said their, not our) and one of their most hated rivals, the Cleveland Browns.  The competition between the two teams has spread from the football field and into the streets of the cities, with Cleveland being called “The Mistake on the Lake”, t shirts that say “The only sign of intelligence in Cleveland is ‘Pittsburgh – 170 miles’”, and general ridicule for all things Cleveland.  It doesn’t really help that the Browns haven’t been able to really field a competitive football team in years, but I think if they had, it would only fuel the rivalry further.

There will also always be those classic rivalries, like Lakers-Celtics in the NBA, Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, Packers-Vikings in the NFL and Duke-North Carolina in college basketball.  But it can be really exciting to watch rivalries grow, like the one between the Pens and Capitals.  Sure they have been Eastern (or Wales back in the old days) Conference competitors for decades, but with the emergence of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as the two best players in the world, it has taken the feud to an all new level and makes them the most exciting two teams to watch in the league, especially when they play each other.  No matter what happens with for the rest of their careers, Sid and Ovechkin have left their mark on these franchises that will last a lifetime.

On to the shots.  I won’t be going through the processing on these, just wanted to share a few sights from the 2011 Winter Classic.  Check out the caption below each for the description.  You’ll have to excuse the quality on the close ups of Sid, Geno and Ovechkin.  We weren’t allowed to bring in big cameras, so I had the S95 at full zoom, which doesn’t giving the most crisp shots.  The other in game action shots were taken with it as well, and they turned out great.

Opening faceoff


Puck behind the net


More board play

Sid and Geno

Alex Ovechkin


Center ice, the day after the game


View towards the open end of Heinz Field

Winter blues

Well, it’s Friday, and is any day better than Friday?  Ok, Saturday is equally as awesome, no work to look forward to the next day, a whole day to do nothing.  Sunday is okay until around 5, when you realize you have to go to work in less than twelve hours.  But Friday.  There is just something about getting in your car and heading home on a Friday afternoon, knowing that a weekend of infinite possibilities lies in front of you.  And hopefully some photography time.  My goal is to motivate myself to be out of bed at 6:00 tomorrow morning to catch the sunrise in downtown Pittsburgh.  We’ll see how that turns out.

We’ve had a bit of a warm spell these last few days, with temperatures hitting the upper 60s yesterday.  However they are calling for more snow on Monday, as temperatures are going to continue to fall throughout the weekend.  This is probably my least favorite time of the year.  Don’t get me wrong, I love winter, snow, seeing the ground covered for months, I think it’s great.  Winter starts out great, because although it doesn’t officially start until December 22nd, right after Thanksgiving at the end of November I feel that the seasons are changing.  Then you have Christmas (my favorite holiday) and New Years, and then in the Northeast US we get most of our snow in January and February, although this year it was pretty much the whole country.  Then the weather warms up to low 40s, all the snow melts, it rains a lot and there is just nothing enjoyable about the end of February through late April.  I don’t normally look forward to spring and summer so much, but this year I definitely am.

This Monday the Penguins will have the Washington Capitals at home in Consol Energy Center for the first time, and it will mark the first time the Caps will have been in Pittsburgh since the Winter Classic, which the Capitals won on New Year’s Day.  It may end up being a bit of a tough one, as the Penguins ranks are still relatively depleted with injuries.  In honor of that meet up, today’s post is a shot from the day after the Winter Classic, right outside Heinz Field.  Being the spouse of an employee, I got the chance to skate on the ice from the Winter Classic the next day, and had my camera to take as many pictures as I could.  I didn’t want to miss the opportunity, because those signs, that ice, will never be there again.  It’s not like a simple playoff game, when you know your team will probably make it again next year.  This had the possibility to be a once in a lifetime event.  I’ll more than likely be posting a few more pictures from that weekend on Monday.  For now, this is a shot of North Shore Drive, and you can see the Winter Classic banner hanging from the lamp post, with a bit of the city in the background.

Nothing groundbreaking in terms of processing for this shot.  Five exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex.  Masked in the entire sky from the -2 exposure as well as the tree branches that were swaying and created a few ghostly looking branches.  Added a Tonal Contrast Filter in Color Efex as well as an S Curve in CS5 to give it a bit more contrast.  Since it was early afternoon on a sunny day, the whole scene had a very blue tint, so I added a sepia filter to help warm it up a bit.  Lastly, did some High Pass sharpening to give it a crisp look.

Thanks for all your visits this week and I hope you all have a great weekend.

Bokeh with a chance of a Fleury

For those of you who live in Pittsburgh, the title to today’s post is one of many times we’ve heard (insert hockey term/any other noun here) with a chance of Fleury.  And for that I apologize.  However, I have never used it anywhere on my blog, or I don’t think ever in my life, so I feel we are all entitled to one use.  I also understand that there may be some non hockey folks who read this blog, so I should at least tell you that Mar Andre Fleury is the goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and a guy with a last name as cold as Fleury couldn’t have ended up on a better team than the Penguins.  One more thing to explain to any non photography readers out there.  Bokeh describes the appearance of the out of focus areas of a photograph.  All those little circles you see in the back of pictures, in the out of focus areas?  Yep, bokeh.  It’s a result of using a shallow depth of field that comes from the maximum aperture (or smallest f stop) on a camera.  Ok.  Enough of that.  On to the post.

Like I’ve said in prior posts, I usually like to post pictures from the Pens game that I was at the night before.  Well, there was a Penguin game last night, but it was not in Pittsburgh.  In fact, it was Denver, and while I’m sure that I could have been there, taken this picture, flown home and started writing this in the time since the game ended, I’m not sure I’d be so much writing now as I would be sleeping on my desk.  Since I am awake at my deks, we must assume that I didn’t go the game, and I took this shot at last Thursday’s game in the ‘Burgh.  I did feel compelled to post a picture of our great goaltender Marc Andre Fleury as he was spectacular last night in net for the Pens.  As you may or may not know, the Pens have been decimated by injuries this year, with the list of players currently out:  Sidney Crosby (concussin), Evgeni Malkin (knee), Mark Letestu (knee), Eric Godard (suspended), Matt Cooke (suspended), Chris Kunitz (lower body), Eric Tangradi (concussion), Dustin Jeffrey (lower body), Arron Asham (lower body) and Mike Comrie (hip).  This includes a league MVP (Sid), Rookie of the year (Sid), scoring champ (Malkin), playoff MVP (Malkin), top goal scorer (Sid) and Stanley Cup champion (all but Jeffrey, Tangradi and Letestu).  It’s been a tough road the past few games, as we had lost four of our last five.  But last night Fleury showed up big time, making big save after big save to keep us in the game, killing off power plays and giving us the chance to take the game into overtime.  With time winding down both in the overtime period and on the power play for the Pens, Tyler Kennedy ripped a rebound past Peter Budaj (pronounced Boo-die…a bit weird, but a cool name none the less) for the game winner.  3-2 Pens win.

While there is bokeh in the Fleury shot, that’s not the bokeh I was referring to in the title  I mentioned yesterday that I was trying to step out of my element a bit more in terms of photography and not just post wide angle cityscapes and sunflares.  Today is another attempt to do that.  Staying strong today with the 50mm 1.4 (there’s that large aperture that allows for that big bokeh), I was out and about before a Pens game a few weeks back and happened upon this railing with some people walking towards me and some cars in the background.  Dialed it down to the 1.4 aperture, crouched down low, waited for the people to get a bit closer and snapped away.  I was going for a bit more of an abstract feel here, and I thought it was an added bonus that you can see the reflection of the path and where it meets the grass in the reflection.

Just because it’s not an HDR doesn’t mean that I didn’t process it.  I don’t think that I’ve posted an unprocessed picture to flickr in years.  Literally years.  More than two for sure.  Seeing as this just over my second year on flickr, that tells you how much I love to process pictures.  Opened in Camera RAW, moved the clarity way up, decreased the saturation and increased the vibrance and contrast.  Kicked it over the Color Efex where it got a Low Key Filter and a Pro Contrast Filter to get rid of the color cast that I didn’t like.  Enhanced the red lights in the background and added a bit of a vignette.  That’s all she wrote.

And that’s all I’m going to write today.  I’ll be back tomorrow though, for those of your who were worrying.

P.S. – Yesterday’s beer?  Guiness.

Have a drink on me

I’ve been trying to switch it up a bit more lately and not give just wide angles of cityscapes for your viewing pleasure.  Don’t get me wrong, there is very little I like to photograph more than a city skyline at night, or along the rivers in Pittsburgh, or the bright lights of New York.  I’ve thrown in some sports action shots, some legendary rock band tributes and even some candid couples.  My problem (one of the many) is that I never really have a great idea for different photography ideas like that until they pop up in front of me.  Once that happens, then I’m all in, it’s just getting the ball rolling is the hard part.

On that same note, that’s something that I really like about photography, that they are so many different kinds, i.e. portrait, candid, macro, still life.  I’m content (for now) doing what I feel I’m good at, and that is capturing HDR of pretty much anything.  There is certainly something to be said for being the photographic equivalent of the jack of all trades, but the worst thing you can do is be the master of none.  When I go through my flickr contacts every day, I get to see such a variety of shots that I would never even think to take, and it’s not because I am not a good photographer.  It’s just that I am focused on making the style that I am best at and that I am most interested in even better.  Remember, chances are I am never going to make my living as a photographer, which means that I take pictures for fun, so I should choose a photography style that suits me and that I enjoy.  In line with that, I always like to reference photography back to the arts, because I feel that photography is one.  If Dali and da Vinci and Picasso and Van Gogh and Monet all painted the same style of pictures, yes they would all be masterpieces, but we would get no variety, no real sense of the limits of art.  That’s the beauty of photography.  We have our own van Goghs and Picassos who can help open our eyes to new ways to shoot the world around us.  I propose a cheers to them (ahhhh, there’s that reference to the title).

I guess I got off on one of my rants again, as I was starting to say that I’ve been trying to do stuff just a bit different now and again to keep you interested.  Today’s shot is still an HDR, but it’s got alcohol and bokeh in it too, and it was taken with my 50mm.  I took this one before a Penguins’ game a few weeks ago while sitting at the bar waiting for my company to arrive.  I’m always in a tough spot, because I get out of work much earlier than most of my friends, so I am always the first one at the bar before games, and at least two drinks ahead of anyone I am going to the game with.  Notice I said tough spot, not bad spot.  My only complaint about the 50mm is no vibration reduction, so handheld shots can be a bit tough.  I set the camera on the bar, put it on five bracket exposures, set the timer, and off we go.  Oh, and first round is on me to anyone who can tell me what I was drinking.  Just to be clear, I do know what it was, seeing as it was only my first one.  Later in the night could be a bit sketchier.

As for the processing, like I said it is a five exposures merged in HDR Efex under the Granny’s Attic preset.  I changed the HDR Method to Natural and bumped up the structure to get it s bit more clarity as well as toned down the saturation.  In CS5, I ran it through Color Efex and gave it a Pro Contrast filter.  Adjusted the S Curve for even a bit more contrast, then added a warming filter to give it the glow it has.  That’s about it.  No need for any sharpening on this one.

That’s it for today’s ramble.  Check back tomorrow to see if I can stay on topic for more than a few sentences.

One more time

It’s so difficult when you go to a place that’s been photographed as much as New York has been to find some way to make it your own.  Not just by the random guy with a P&S that he’s had for five years snapping away either.  Obviously you have professionals, professional amateurs, regular amateurs, artists, everyone you can think of.  And really, it’s not just New York, it’s any place you go, even Pittsburgh.  I’ve fallen into the trap myself of taking the “obligatory” shot of the Pittsburgh skyline (ok, I’ve down this many times), and the shot in the middle of Times Square, and the Brooklyn Bridge at night.  It’s equally as difficult both when you live in a place and when you are visiting it.  I live in Pittsburgh, so I am constantly shooting in and around the city.  Like I said in yesterday’s post, I feel like I need to take a fresh look at the city, and I do have a few ideas for the next couples weeks.  As for when you visit somewhere, like New York or Boston or Chicago or LA, you want to make sure you get THE shot: the Brooklyn Bridge in NY, Fenway in Boston, Navy Pier in Chicago, the Hollywood sign in LA.  The question is, once you get that picture, now what?

For me, I didn’t want to leave New York without putting my spin on at least a few of the typical shots.  So I scoured flickr for hours looking at hundreds (eh, probably thousands) of shots from around the city in places that I knew we were going to be going, especially the aforementioned Brooklyn Bridge.  I wanted to make sure that we were there in the afternoon, because I knew I wanted to incorporate the sun in the shot.  There are surprisingly few pictures of sun flares and the bridge, so I knew I had it.  It was a sunny day on the day we were heading there, so I thought I was in luck.  I got “the shot”, standing right in the middle of the bridge then kind of climbed onto the railing.  I couldn’t just lean over, because the way the bridge was bouncing from the cars I wouldn’t have got five clean exposures.  Unfortunately, clouds had moved in by this time, and I didn’t have a crisp shot of the sun, as the clouds were diffusing all the rays, preventing me from getting the sunflare I wanted.  I still like how it turned out.

I think it is very important to do some research on where you are going before you get there.  You don’t have to spend hours looking at pictures, but take a look at a few, that way, when you get there you aren’t surprised at what you find.  You will have an idea of where you need to be and what will work for your photography style.  

Technical time for the shot above.  We know it’s five shots and handheld and it was processed with HDR Efex.  I needed to mask in the cars, the people walking and just tiny halo around the bridge.  I added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex, just to the bridge and the road, to give it more of a gritty feel.  I also selectively adjusted the reds to give them more of an orange look.  Added an S curve to give it some contrast finally, but certainly not least, a high pass sharpening.

Until next time.