HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

Archive for March, 2011

New horizons

First off I just wanted to thank everyone who gave their input on flickr and Explore in my post yesterday.  I really enjoyed the feedback and hearing some different views on it.

Yesterday’s post was a bit long in verbiage so today I’ll give you a break and make it a bit longer but in pictures.  Every so often I like to put up a whole series of action shots that I took before the Pens games and today is just one of those days.  Originally I was thinking about doing this for today’s post because I thought that we would have pulled out a great win last night against our hated in state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and pull even with them for the division lead.  The Pens were looking great to, all over the ice, help two one goal leads, but the Flyers proved the luckier of the two teams last night, with pucks bouncing over, around and under Marc Andre Fleury for a 5-2 win by the men in orange.

So where does that leave the Pens?  Probably in fourth place at the end of the season, which means that we will have guaranteed home ice advantage, at least for the first round and that our like opponent will be Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  I like this matchup for Pittsburgh, as the Pens are a much deeper team than the lighting with a lot more playoff experience.  However, anything can happen at any time in the playoffs.

On to the shots.  The first one above is Mike Rupp, and I thought that this one was appropriate to start off with as it was one of the first pictures I took from last Friday’s game.  All the images you see here today are from that contest between the New Jersey Devils and the Pens, which the Pens won in a 1-0 thrilling shootout victory.  I was able to capture this one right as Rupp skated on the ice, and I was lucky enough to get the spot light right on top of him, which has never happened before.

Next up is winger James Neal, one of the players taking the Pens to the new horizon.  He came over from the Dallas Stars along with Matt Niskanen back at the trade deadline for Alex Goligoski.  Neal is a hardnosed, physical player who has a lethal wrist shot.  He’s got speed and puck handling ability and was a very valuable add to the roster this year.

Above is Ben Lovejoy, a right handed shooting defenseman who has certainly made his mark in the NHL this year.  Lovejoy is a shutdown d-man who has a decent shot too, and always willing to jump into the offensive play.  I’m posting this more for the funny expression on his face than anything else.

Here we have Mike Comrie, another new Penguin this year.  He was signed as a free agent, and although he has missed most of this season due to hip surgery, has put up 30 goal seasons in his past.  I happened to catch him right as he was spitting in warm ups, which made for an interesting shot.

Taking a shot during warm ups is winger Pascal Dupuis.  Dupuis is a high energy player, very quick, always flying around the ice.  He gets a minute here or there on the penalty kill, but strength other than his speed is his killer slap shot.  He may not be able to maneuver around you, but he can definitely rip it past you.

Last but certainly not least is a name that is near and dear to many people in Pittsburgh and that is Alexei Kovalev (right in the above shot), or Kovy.  Kovy is on his second tour with the Pens, reacquired at the trade deadline this year for a conditional 6th round pick from the Ottawa Senators.  Though he has only put up two goals (and two more in the shootout), Kovalev can still wheel and deal the puck with the best of them.  The game is certainly faster than the last time he played for Pittsburgh and was in his prime, but it’s still so much fun to watch him play.  He showed off some of that stick handling ability in the bottom shot here, where he bounced the puck on his stick from the red goal line all the way to center ice.  Just awesome.

Today’s shot is a view from our new office building that my company moved into on Monday.  We have a great view of the sunrise, which is much better than the view we had before, which was none, as we were smack in the middle of our last building with no windows at all.  I know you can see the reflections of the lights in the window, but I just wasn’t able to clone them out.  If you look directly to the right on the bottom part of the reflection, you can see the moon as well.

This was a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting.  No masking in this one, just adjusted overall curves and then added a green curves adjusted layer to enhance the grass.  Cloned out a few dust spots, increased overall saturation and finally added a Tonal Contrast filter to everything but the sky.

Well, that ended up being longer than yesterday.  I’ll try to keep it shorter tomorrow.


It’s criminal

I know that a few posts ago I had a little rant about flickr in general and just touched on Explore quickly.  I haven’t been checking Explore that much in the past year or so because of how frustrating some of the pictures I have seen on there have been.  Yesterday I hit a bit of a breaking point though and just wanted to share some thoughts, get some opinions from some of you and maybe vent a little.

For those of you who are not familiar with Explore I’ll give you a quick overview.  Explore is a collection of the top 500 pictures on any given day on flickr, judged by the flickr “interestingness”.  Things that influence (or at least used to influence) getting into Explore were views, comments and faves in a short amount of time, not being in too many groups and not having all kinds of flashy rewards.  Certain groups were also said to hurt or aid hitting Explore.  Then in August of 2009 there was a monumental change to the algorithm that would ban certain users from getting on Explore.  Apparently some folks even got messages from flickr saying that they had been “blacklisted” and other people “needed a chance” to get on Explore.  While I never got that message, I haven’t had a photograph on Explore since then, and I used to hit it every day or so.

Now, I have a few problems with this.  First, if Explore is supposed to be the most interesting, the cream of the crop on flickr, how can you purposefully ban photographers who you previously deemed to have the most interesting photos on flickr?  It doesn’t make sense that everyone doesn’t get a fair shake at it.  Second, and this is a more philosophical question, why are the editors of flickr deciding what is “interesting”?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to get feedback from the flickr community (since flickr is a social network) to give a better overall representation of what people in flickrland find attractive in photography?  I know that everyone has different tastes (and that’s what makes photography great) and it would make sense to incorporate that into the Explore area. 

This leads into my third and, in my opinion, most important point.  Let me first say that while I used to get annoyed that I was not hitting Explore anymore, I am completely over it.  I have made some great contacts and friends on flickr that mean much more to me that having my picture be #247 in Explore.  What I find completely ridiculous are some of the pictures that are currently on Explore.  To call them interesting or some of the best is almost an embarrassment.  I have five pictures as quick examples, and although I will not be posting them on here because they all are “All Rights Reserved” images, I will post the link to them.

  • First off is Explore #4 for yesterday, March 28th.  It’s a picture of someone’s retirement cake at work.  Panda bear with green cupcakes taken with an iPhone.
  • Next is a Front Page Explore of a rock holding a sign in different positions.  Ok, fine, maybe it is remotely creative, but to be on the Front Page to say it is one of the most interesting pictures on flickr?  Really??
  • The next one is a picture of someone’s vintage cameras and their camera bag.  The cameras may be interesting if you are actually using them, but a picture of them?  And to be #4 on Explore?
  • Next up is a group shot of people in a Lightroom workshop.  Again, Front Page.  Really embarrassing.
  • Finally we have a Front Page from today that combines three pictures of someone’s eyes in a green glow.  How is this interesting?

Again, I am not saying that these are not ok shots.  Everyone has their own style and I can certainly respect that.  What I have a slight problem with is these shots being paraded as some of the best on flickr.  What I am not saying that these people are poor photographers.  I did take the time to look through all of their streams and they all have some work that I like and am interested in.  I’m also not saying that the shots above are bad shots…just curious as to why they made Explore and myself and others have not seen it for over a year and a half.  Don’t get me wrong, there are TONS of great pictures on Explore; incredible landscapes, dramatic portraits, breathtaking views and so on.  Those certainly deserve to be up there.  It’s shots like the above ones that just have me scratching my head.

I know this has been a long post, so I’ll make this quick.  Both shots from today’s post are from the Times Square Police Station in New York City.  I didn’t get a chance to photograph it the last time we were there and didn’t want to miss the opportunity again.  Both were processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting.  I had to do a fair bit of masking in both of them to get rid of the people and then added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex.

Big game tonight for the Pens against the Flyers.  We got this.


What legends are made of

Yeah, I know, I know, I missed a post yesterday.  We have been a bit busy at work lately, as we are moving to a new building, and we are currently the last ones in the old building, so there is a lot to get done.  Back on the wagon today.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Elton John concert at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.  Now, I am a huge classic rock fan, and while I do enjoy Elton’s music, he wouldn’t be in my top 10 of favorite musicians, but let me say this:  It was awesome.  I mean, he really rocked the stage, it was incredible to watch him play, overall an immensely entertaining show.  He kept the crowd engaged, standing up and acknowledging all four sides of the stage after every song and even took the time to sign autographs before his encore, probably about fifty or so people that he let come up and stand by the stage for his last few songs, which included Bennie and the Jets and Crocodile Rock, along with his encore of Your Song.  Shots from this concert were taken with a Canon S95.

Tried out the Tilt Shift function on this one

I did find the concert very enjoyable…except for the eight songs that he did with Leon Russell right in the middle of the show.  I know that Russell is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, but it just really seemed to detract from the energetic vibe of the rest of the show.  The songs were slow, very few people knew them, as they were from the collaborative new album between Elton and Russell.  Other than that, awesome show.

Back in August, on opening night of the CONSOL Energy Center, before any hockey game had been played, I was in attendance to see former Beatle Paul McCartney.  In regards to entertainment, Sir Paul most definitely put on the best show I have ever been to.  It also helped that I knew the majority of the songs played and could sing along (not that anyone would want to hear that), but being able to see a legend like McCartney, that is a once in a lifetime thing, at least at this point in his career.  For this concert I had my Canon S90.

Finally, last March we attended an Eric Clapton concert at the old Civic Arena.  I know that I just said McCartney put on the best show ever, but Clapton’s music was just mesmerizing.  When they showed his hands making that guitar sing like it wasn’t anything at all was truly something special.  Clapton is not the same kind of entertainer as Elton and Paul, but he put on one hell of a show and I would gladly go back to see him again.  Didn’t have a great camera with my this time though, so just iPhone shots for this one.

I am very fortunate that I was able to see three of the great rock/pop musicians of our time in my hometown.  I don’t go to many concerts, but when I do, I make it worthwhile.

Speaking of these Pittsburgh hockey arenas and to go along with the nighttime Pittsburgh skyline, here is a shot of both.  I took this a few weeks into the season form the upper parking lot above the Civic Arena and had to hold up a lot of traffic to do so.  People honking, yelling, screaming while I just threw up my hands and said, “It’s bracketing nine exposures at night, it takes a lot time, what do you want me to do?”  One way to shut people up is just to confuse them!

Tomorrow’s Friday.  Woo hoo.


Just another day in paradise

I try not to recap full Pens games, but I really have no choice today.

Whew.  What a game.  The Pens played the Detroit Red Wings last night at Joe Louis Arena in the Motor City and escaped with a 5-4, shootout win.  They chose to make it as interesting as they possibly could though, having been staked to a 4-0 lead through almost two full periods with two goals from Pascal Dupuis (one a sneaky bag hander and one off of a gratuitous bounce off the boards), a nifty backhand by Tyler Kennedy over sprawling netminder Jimmy Howard and one off a sweet deke by Chris Kunitz.

The run ended with about two minutes to go in the second, when Henrik Zetterberg banked one off Kris Letang’s skate past Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson.  Next thing you know the Red Wings are getting powerplay goals from Niklas Kronwall and ageless wonder Mike Modano, and one more from Valtteri Filppula, who shuffled one between the pads of Johnson that Johnson ended up kicking in his own net.

The Pens got some momentum back though, carrying it into overtime where they had chance after chance against Howard’s replacement Joey MacDonald.  Into the shootout it went.  Both goalies were brick walls until Penguin newcomer James Neal blistered a wristshot over the glove of MacDonald.  Lights out, game over, the Pens earn a precious two points in the standings.

No, the shot above is not from that game, it is from a playoff game in 2008 between these two rivals, the same 2008 playoffs that saw the Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup in the Igloo.  Neither of the players depicted even played last night, as they are both out due to injuries.  Sidney Crosby obviously has been dealing with a concussion since early January and Chris Osgood, the Red Wings goalie has been out for about a week with a sore groin.  Although it’s not from the game, it is one of my favorite hockey shots that I have been lucky enough to get.

Today I’ll be wrapping up the Jamaican honeymoon shots.  I’ve enjoyed doing this series on my blog over the last week and a half, as it has sort of allowed me to relive being there.  I had not gone through all my shots from there in a few months, and it was nice to put myself there again.

Sunset was just an incredible time of day there, more so that in a lot of places.  It was almost as if you waited with anticipation to see what kind of colors were going to appear, what the clouds were going to look like.  These are two of my favorite shots I got right around dusk.  One was taken with my S90, a bracket of three exposures, and the other with my D40X, an eleven exposure HDR.  Both were processed in Photomatix, with some slight masking of the sky to get rid of some noise and colors.

I hope that you have enjoyed the Jamaican series.  I’ll figure out another series to do next.

Thanks for stopping by.


Igloo overload

Monday morning: back to work, back to blogging, and only three more days until the iPad 2 is at my door.  Cannot wait.

Today, as the title suggests, is going to be a bit of an Igloo overload.  For those of you who are from Pittsburgh or may have read one of my previous posts, the Igloo is the nickname that was given to the old home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Civic Arena.  This is an appropriate name because, well, it looks like an Igloo.  Even more appropriate that the team who (whom?  nah, who) it was built for are the Penguins.

What inspired this Civic Arena kick?  Not too sure.  Just been going through a lot of my old shots lately, and I came across a whole series that I did last year.  The Penguins had an employee skating party to celebrate the end of the season and the closing of the iconic building, and since my wife falls into that category I got to attend.  I knew it was going to be my last chance to take pictures of the inside of the Arena, so I snapped as many as I could before we left.  With the hockey playoffs fast approaching, I have been reminiscing about the Civic Arena, and will be posting the pictures both on my blog (that’s here) and flickr.

The last post that I did specifically about the Civic Arena focused on pictures of the outside, while today, you’ll get a tour of the inside.  We’ll start out with the entrance to and view from our seats for almost every game.  Located in C3, the single attack side (meaning the Pens only shot towards us once), they had a great view of the entire ice.  You could see plays develop, pick up on opportunities, and the play was never really blocked or shielded in any way.

Another place that had a great view was from the club seats or the press area, way at the top of the building.  This is something that made the Igloo so unique, the domed roof made the whole place seem twice as big as it really was.  Watching a game from that high up was something special, because although you could barely read the players’ names on the back of the jerseys, you could hear everything they were saying, and it really gave you a different perspective on the game.

Then of course there was the ice level, where I was lucky enough to have my camera and tripod to get these shots.  The first one above is from one of the goal creases, and this too gives a sense for the vastness that was the inside.  The second one above was taken from one of the penalty boxes looking towards both benches.  You can see Penguin employees milling around, enjoy the last few hours of public access.

Of course I had to get a picture (after waiting in line) of the locker room.  Well, not actually the locker room, but the door to get in to the locker room.  In the new CONSOL Energy Center, like most of the arenas around the league, the entrance to and from the locker room is behind the bench area, which is more convenient for intermissions and to handle injuries.  The Civic Arena had a separate entrance however, off to the corner of the ice.

To wrap it up, how about a few new pictures of the outside?  This is the sign located at Gate 3 at the bottom of the Arena, welcoming fans entering from the city.  If you walked up the side of the arena, you would see Gate 2, where staff and players entered, and finally Gate 3, one of the more popular gates, as it gave easy access to fans coming from above the arena as well as 5th Avenue.

That’s it for the tour of the Igloo today.  Let’s hope this walk down memory lane will bring them some luck against the Red Wings tonight.


Cloudy flickr future

Yesterday I said I was inspired by Pete Talke of Places2Explore and his recent discussion on flickr and wanted to put my twp pennies in, for what it is worth.  The shots from this post are clouds that I took from our honeymoon.

Back in 2008, right after I got my first dSLR, the Nikon D40X, I was looking up ideas on interesting pictures to take on the internet.  I stumbled upon Trey’s blog on HDR, read his tutorial, started looking into other tutorials on HDR, and well, we know where that led to.  So I had all these HDRs, and my friends and family were fun to show them to, but I wanted a way to share them with a lot more people.  Just by searching “places to post pictures online” I came upon flickr.  Looked cool, so I posted two pictures in September of 2008, then kind of forgot about it until March of 2009.  I purchased my pro account (the first of three) and really started to get hooked.

 I was posting into about 50 groups a day, leaving all kinds of awards and faves on peoples’ shots, Nikon Award, Heart Award, Peace Award, blah blah blah.  I would comment and rate, and then see what people had to say about my work.  I got some good feedback sometimes, but usually it was just the award that was left.  Eventually I started to build up my contact list, and thought “This is awesome”, because I was getting all these comments and faves.  After being on flickr for about a year, I got pretty bored with all the groups.  It was an effort, and I didn’t even really like half the pictures I was awarding.  So, I pared down the contact list from over 600 to around 350, stopped posting in groups, stopped worry about Explore and focused on some of the great flickr contacts that I had made.  Which brings me to today.

Today I usually post one picture a day, and catch up on all my contacts’ work.  I would say I have about 100-150 active contacts, those who are posting daily or multiple times a day, and I try to comment on all of them.  It is about as much work as leaving Flickr Awards on peoples’ work, but I at least give better comments about photographers’ work that I actually appreciate.  But that brings me to a point that Pete brought up.  I comment on some people just because they comment on me, as that is what the flickr commenting community is all about (in my opinion): reciprocation.  You comment on me, I’ll comment on you.  But where does that get me?  I have no problem being a nice guy and throwing a few comments back someone’s way who has taken time to look at my work, but what if I don’t like their work?  I’m not saying that it is bad, just that it is not my style?  I’ve tried to sift through and phase out those kind of contacts, because flickr is a lot of work, especially if you are leaving comments just for the sake of leaving comments.  I’m not saying that this is the majority of my contacts, but it does make up a certain percentage.

I have made some great contacts through flickr, including Pete, and for that I am glad that I joined.  I also made my first sales through flickr from people finding my work.  But I think that it is fast losing its appeal to me.  First off, I have a blog now, where I go into more details about my work and can post larger viewable images.  I also have a website, where I have the vast majority (or will soon) of shots that I have on flickr on there as well.  I enjoy spending time updating my website and writing these blog entries, but flickr just gets so tiresome a lot of the time.

Another thing about the actual flickr site is that it rarely updates.  It looks basically the same since when I first signed up in 2008.  For a photo sharing website, it certainly doesn’t make the pictures very appealing.  The images are small, it usually manipulates the colors somehow or makes the image darker.  The stats don’t really provide that much insight into your views, because a big chunk always seems to be “Unknown Source”, so I have no idea who is even looking at my uploads.  This is important to me, because while I will usually let someone use a picture of mine on their blog for personal use, if they do not contact me and request permission first, I ask them to take it down.  If I don’t know where the incoming links are coming from, how can I monitor who is using my images?

How about Explore.  This is supposed to be the best of the best, the cream of the crop of flickr.  Instead, flickr changes the algorithm so much that I haven’t made Explore in over a year and a half.  Yet pictures of cats can.  I mean, come on.  Not saying I have the best work on flickr, but it’s better than a picture of a cat.

So will I stop using flickr?  Probably not.  Will I drastically reduce the time I will spend on the website?  Yes.  I will be reducing my contacts who only comment after I comment on one of their uploads, I will continue to not post in groups and generally spend less time on the site.  I may start uploading more, because I won’t be as concerned with receiving comments and faves.  I still think that flickr is a great medium to get yourself found, and I do get a fair number of incoming links to my blog from flickr.  But other than pure traffic, I think that flickr may have run its course as a social/photosharing medium, especially with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

So that’s my rant on flickr.  I’d love to hear what you guys have to say about it.

For today’s post, we go back to New York.  I’ve posted a shot of the West Side Story billboard at night, but I wanted to make sure that I posted one from during the day as well.  This is a five handheld exposure HDR, processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting.  I had to do a lot of masking of the video sign, the sky and the people on the street.  I also added a slight Tonal Contrast and Cooling filter, as it was a bit too warm for my taste.

Enjoy your Thursday, happy St. Patty’s.


Having the winter blues

I don’t want to scare anyone with the title, I’m not really sad.  Well, just sad that I’m in rainy Pittsburgh right now instead of sunny Jamaica.  There’s a saying “No one needs a vacation like the man who just got back from one” and I could not agree with that more.  Even though I didn’t just get back from vacation I had a day off on Friday, and coming back to work can be so difficult after a long weekend.

I will probably be wrapping up the Jamaican pictures sometime this week, but today I wanted to post a few shots that focused on the actual beach.  It was so incredible to just sit and lounge around in the sand all day, as it was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  The sand was golden and soft and not so hot that you couldn’t walk on it, the water was crisp and clear for a vibrant shade of aqua and the sky was just a shining blue all the time (well, except for the one hour it rained).  Usually you are lucky enough to get one of these beach attributes, but the fact that Jamaica had all three was perfect.

What made it even more picturesque were the banks of clouds that would continually roll through during the day.  Don’t get me wrong, there is little that I like more on vacation than a clear blue sky, because at least then you know it’s not going to rain.  But it was kind of just the icing on the cake that made Couples Sans Souci the most relaxing place we have ever been.  I think it is the only place where we have said that we may go back one day; we usually like to vacation in different cities and countries, to make sure we experience as much as we can.  But Jamaica sure had a compelling argument to lure us back.

From the warm beaches of Jamaica to the cold highways of Pittsburgh.  This is one of the last few shots from my early morning photowalk back in February.  What I’ve come to realize is, that I REALLY need to get out shooting soon.  I mean, I have a ton of shots in my archive, but I’m not thrilled with all of them.  Maybe I need to create a second flickr stream so that I can most my not-top-quality work.  Because let’s face it.  Not every picture you take is going to be your best, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to display it.  We’ll see.  Anyways, this is a view down the parkway along the Allegheny River.  You can see PNC Park on the right, as well as Heinz Field in the distance, as well as the moon, which I just have a terrible time with.

For the processing, this is a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Subtle” method.  I ended up masking in the whole sky, but instead of using the exposure that had the trees frozen, I used the +1 exposure to give them that waving feeling.  I also had to do some work on the reds, as the street lamps were really glaring through the shot on the left had side of the scene.  Boosted the yellow on the railing that serves as the leading line, added a blue curves layer for the sky and water and applied a very slight Tonal Contrast filter to the entire image.

Check back tomorrow for a discussion on flickr.  Pete Talke of Places2Explore recently did a post on this and I felt inspired to do the same.


Reflections of the times

Picking up where we left off last week with some more shots from Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where we spent our honeymoon.

One of the really interesting things about the resort was how it was laid out.  Part of Couples Sans Souci used to be apartments that were converted into hotel rooms at some point and this made the entire grounds seem like more of a little village than a resort.  There were winding staircases, hidden staircases, so many levels and different areas to explore, which means that you could walk to the same place five different ways, instead of just walking by the pool to get to the restaurant.  You could walk up a staircase, around a bank of rooms, by the mineral pool, through the hammock area, or up an entirely different staircase, around two other restaurants, through the lobby and end up at the same place.  One of the little hidden treasures of the CSS was the Mineral Pool (pictured above), which was kept at a certain balance of natural minerals to give you a relaxing swim.  You had to shower before you even got in it, and there were strict rules about what you could and could not do it.  I’ll just leave it at that.

There was also another pool (non mineral, just regular) attached to one of the bars at the resort called the Balloon Bar.  The only person I saw swimming in it the entire time we were there was a big tattooed guy who had one too many Red Stripes.  During a show that was going on directly next to it.  I’m pretty sure that that was also the only time where “No problem mon” turned into “We have a problem mon”.  At the Balloon Bar they had nightly shows where the performers were right on the little patio area that you see the above picture.  Guest interaction was highly encouraged and by the end of the performance you were almost always up dancing with them.  On a side note, this was also the only place on the entire resort that served Guiness, and it was only on the weekends, and they usually were out of it in a few hours after they got the shipment in.

So today’s shot.  I said yesterday on flickr that I am going to try to do some more street photography and candids.  The only problem is actually getting out and taking them.  I also want to have my wide angle out to give a better sense of the beauty of our city of Pittsburgh, but this week I am going to make an effort to go out shooting with just the 70-200.  Not taking the tripod, not taking the 16-35, just the 70-200 and see what I can do.  I have a few candids I will be posting from the archives and this is one of them

I was meeting up with my wife and some friends last fall for a happy hour and decided to get some shots before I had to be there.  This is one that I captured in South Side Works in the South Side (obviously) of Pittsburgh.  There is a little area right in front of the Cheesecake Factory and movies theatre that has a fountain and some benches that people just sort of mill around in.  I saw this guy poking away on his phone and couldn’t help but get a shot.  As in my shot from a few days ago I think he has an iPhone, which I thought was great, because you don’t see a lot of people his age with iPhones.  Definitely a reflection of our times.  (Sorry, had to do it).

I think I’ve found my groove in terms of processing these.  Opened in up in Camera Raw, reduced the overall saturation, added a standard S Curve to bring out some contrast, and finally added a slight Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex.  Pretty happy with the result.

I really appreciate the visit everyone.  See you tomorrow.


Back on the wagon

Well, after a long weekend off from work and celebrating my little brother’s 21st birthday, I make a return to the blogging world.  It was a fun weekend but I certainly needed yesterday of just sitting on my couch watching basketball to help recover.  I think I’m starting to get a bit old.

As my Monday posts are typically a recap of my weekend uploads to flickr, I won’t stray too far from that path on this particular Monday.  I actually won’t stray from it at all.  Although one of my posts you have already seen on my blog (the panorama of our honeymoon resort), so I will not be posting that one.  You are more than welcome to check out that post though if you are in some need some warm weather.

We’ll start with Friday’s post.  This is one that I took a few months back at the end of November on a photowalk I did on Mt. Washington.  Now I have photographed the city from that location a couple dozen times, but this was definitely a sight that I had not seen in any of those previous visits.  I usually like to make the trip up there at night, as the Pittsburgh skyline from that high is just breathtaking.  However on this particular trip the sky at a certain rainbow quality to it that was just awesome (that’s “awesome” as in full of awe, not awesome like in Wayne’s World).  On Mt. Washington there are a handful of overlooks that stretch out from the main road that you can view the city from.  I was a bit farther down than normal, and I had a great view along the river of the main part of Pittsburgh.  Set up shot, bracketed and fired away.

Processed this one in HDR Efex under the “Subtle” method from 7 bracketed exposures.  I masked in the entire -3 exposure, as it had the best color for that I was going for.  Added a curves layer to enhance the red of the red and then a second blue layer to enhance the, well, blue.  Did some selective coloring on the top of the PPG Building (the shiny one with spires on top) to bring out the golden tones of the sunset reflecting off of it.  Finally, added a Tonal Contrast filter to the city as well as some high pass sharpening to the skyline.

Next up is another candid from our trip to New York in December of last year.  I was walking around early Friday morning and caught some iPhone photographers trying to capture the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.  I’m always intrigued by pictures of people taking pictures, so I thought I would give it a go.  I had dedicated this one on my flickr page to Kurt, aka Ian Sane, as he wrote me a very kind testimonial.  Kurt is a master of candids and street photography, and like I said on my flickr page, if you haven’t visited his work, check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.

Not too much to speak of processing wise here.  Lowered the overall saturation in Camera Raw and increased the saturation of the reds and greens.  Straightened the shot and applied a Tonal Contrast filter (very slight) and the pill box.  Voila.

Today’s upload brings us back to that early morning photowalk I went on a few weeks back.  Like I’ve said before, the one thing that I have not had much success capturing is the moon, and this is an example of that.  I was walking between two hotels new the Point in Pittsburgh and saw the moon glowing over Mt. Washington.  I set up the tripod and took the brackets, but wasn’t really happy with the result of the moon.  I did however like the overall scene, with the warm glow from the hotel restaurant, the pastel colors in the sky and the motion blur from the tree branches, as it was incredibly wind, so I thought I would process it anyways.

This is a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” method.  I had a bit of a tough time with the white balance, as I was getting incandescent light from the hotel, halogen from the street lights and the natural light from the moon.  I had to do some heavy adjustments to the reds, as the whole shot was just too warm.  I also increased the saturation of the sky to help bring out the pastels.  I didn’t mask in the entire sky, because like I said, I really liked the motion blur from the trees, it gives to scene a sense of being there, in my opinion.  Added a very slight Tonal Contrast filter and call it a day.

Thanks for sticking with me through this  long post.  I’ll catch everyone tomorrow.


Seat with a view

I’ll tell you what, it has not stopped raining for almost 48 hours now.  I need to see the sun soon.  Until then, how about Jamaica overload today?

One of my favorite parts about being on vacation at an all inclusive resort (other than the fact that I am at the beach, off work and don’t have to worry about a thing except what I want to get next to drink) is the food and drink.  I realize that that is why people attend an all inclusive resort, and I don’t know how I can ever go back to going to a non all inclusive.  I’ve been to plenty of open bars before, at weddings, parties and the like, but to be able to go to a restaurant or a bar at the resort, order a drink or food and just leave a tip for the whole week?  It makes going back to a restaurant in the States that much more difficult, because when you are finished eating, you’re like, “Oh wait, you want me to pay??  I can’t even think about food now!”.  I know, I know, you already pay for the food at an all inclusive, but since we normally book our trips about four months in advance, I feel like I’m getting it all for free.

The food at Couples Sans Souci was some of the best we have ever had on vacation.  It wasn’t like some of the other all inclusive resorts that we have stayed at, where they try very hard to cater to the different tastes of their guests, and have Mexican, Italian and American food night.  While they did have a pasta night at one of the restaurants, it was pasta with a Jamaican kick, something that you probably would not even find in the States.

The other great thing about the food at these resorts is where you get to eat it at. At one of the restaurants, we got a table right on the beach twice, and ate by candlelight listening to the sounds of the ocean.  It couldn’t have been more relaxing.  We also ate breakfast overlooking the courtyard/main lawn area in front of the resort and had our “formal” dinner overlooking a walkway that went to the beach.  Then you come back home, go out to dinner, and have a table of screaming kinds next to you.  Awesome.

Anyway, today’s shots are from some of the different restaurants around the resort.  The first two are from the buffet style restaurant, Pallazina, and the view from one of our table.  The one of the actual restaurant was processed with Photomatix, before I discovered the beauty of HDR Efex.  Standard processing on that one, just had to mask in the sky, as there were some crazy halos going on.  Also had to reduce the noise in some of the wicker work on the tables and chairs.  The second one was taken with my Canon S90 at breakfast during our last day at the resort.  There was a nice breeze blowing, and that hammock you see in the tree was swinging back and forth, begging someone to lay on it.  Processed that one with HDR Efex, had to mask in some of the tree branches that showed some motion blur.  Also added a vibrant green curves layer to give the whole image some pop.

My upload for today is the view from one the beach bar, a view that I’ve posted a few other times, but this one was a little different.  I also took this one with my S90, single shot, no HDR this time.  Processed it with Color Efex and first added a Tonal Contrast filter to the sand, railing and tree.  Then I added a Glamour Glow filter to the entire image, gave it a nice inviting, um, well, glow.  Increased saturation of the sand, straightened the horizon, added pillbox borders, and shipped it off the HDR Exposed for your viewing pleasure.

As long as it keeps raining, keep looking for more Jamaica on HDR Exposed.  See you guys and gals later.