HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello


Seems like so long ago

Living in Pennsylvania and only a few hours from Punxsutawney, home of the famous groundhog Phil and “back drop” for one of the top 5 most boring movies of all time (the real town used in the film was Woodstock, IL), a lot is made of Groundhog Day.  This year Phil got everyone all excited that spring would be coming early this year, however it looks like he attended the same meteorological school as the rest of the weatherman in Pittsburgh, because it has been far from an early spring.  We had snow last weekend and were supposed to get more today and tomorrow, however the temperature inched just above freezing so we have nothing but rain.

It seems like last summer was so long ago in a whole other world after the past six months of weather.  We’ve had huge snow storms, torrential down pours, one nice day followed by a week of clouds.  I’ve found myself looking back on the pictures that I took in July and August last year, spending time on a friend’s boat, having a few beers and trying my hand (somewhat) successfully at wakeboarding.  There is something about being out in the middle of the Ohio River, with the city out of sight around the bends and corners that is just so relaxing.  The above shot is from one of those days, when I was waiting for some friends to show up and I was just sitting on the dock, listening to the breeze rustle the leaves, not even thinking about winter.  I can’t wait for those days to be back!

I will be posting both of the shots you see here on flickr today, but since it is still pouring down rain this morning I figured I would start with this one.  This is one that I took a few weeks ago at a bar in downtown Pittsburgh before the Elton John concert on a night that we were seeing golf ball size hail.  I actually saw a woman come into the bar with a bruised knuckle because she was hit with a falling missile, crazy.  Pretty simple processing on this shot from my S95; increased both the contrast and saturation, as well as added a Contrast Only filter in Color Efex.  In iPhoto I also increased the definition, just to give it some extra pop.

Last Pens home game tonight.  Let’s make it two in a row against the Devils at home.


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.

South Side Attractions, Part 1

I’m going to start being a better blogger…I know, I know, I’ve been VERY lax lately (this is my first post in a month!)  Anyways, I will be starting a series here that will give everyone a little tour of the South Side of Pittsburgh.  These will not be in consecutive order (I wouldn’t want to bore you!), but over the next couple weeks I will showcase a few South Side locations!  So to start off today we have…


The Rex Theatre was built in the South Side in 1905 and was originally designed for vaudeville performances and shows.  Over the next 90 years it became a movie house for all in Pittsburgh to enjoy.  However, the theatre fell on some hard times and had to shut it’s doors.  It reopened about a decade ago, and now plays host to concerts, cabaret style shows and movies, as well as offer a full service bar.


Barry’s Pub will always hold a special place in my heart, as that is where my fiance and I had our first date!  It was a Tuesday night with $2 Coronas, and I think they had some 3 Olives Vodka promotion going on as well!

Barry’s used to be known as Joyce’s Celtic Pub until a name name about 5 years ago.  It is basically the same bar as it was then, with the addition of a stage in the back.  This is a popular hangout for Duquesne University students in Pittsburgh, as it is within walking distance of the campus.

Stay tuned for the continued tour!

“Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?”

Ok, ok, so everyone who lives in Pittsburgh has heard of Primanti’s, and probably some of you who haven’t been to the ‘Burgh have heard of it. But it is still work posting a shot of one! This is the one in the South Side of Pittsburgh, and it has a pretty nice bar attached to it as well. I have seen lines around the building on this place before! And for a steak, cole slaw and french fries sandwich! So well work it, hahah

“I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.”

So this is from the same night as my shot of the Hofbrauhaus. I had my tripod in my backseat, and thought that I would take a walk through the South Side and see what I could capture. It was a Monday night, so it wasn’t that crowded, which it made it kind of ideal for shooting the HDRs. I would like to go back eventually and take some shots on a Friday or Saturday night!

The shot is of Fat Heads, which is an AWESOME bar/restaurant. They have a TON of beers and sandwiches, and if you are ever in Pittsburgh, I HIGHLY recommend a visit!


“To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”

I found it pretty amusing that the supposedly “upscale” S Bar in Pittsburgh was right next to a little family owned Christmas store, haha

I have never actually be here, but then again I am no much for the South Side anymore. It seems like it is just a bunch of 22 year olds running around, who can’t handle their liquor and are puking in the sidewalk!

Don’t get me wrong, when I was 22 I loved it down there!!!

You can read more about the S Bar at: