HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

Mt. Washington

Taking it all in

Happy Monday everyone, I hope that you all had a great and relaxing weekend.  Even if it wasn’t relaxing, I hope that it was still great.  We had two beautiful days in a row here in Pittsburgh, which hasn’t happened for months.  More storms to come this week, but for now, we are enjoying the nice weather.

I was thinking about maybe starting some kind of a theme day on the blog, given that I have posted candids on consecutive Mondays.  I’m not sure how many I will be able to post in a row, as I have a very limited backlog of them, but I’ll give it a shot.  Today, I introduce Candid Mondays.

Back to Mt. Washington we go, to continue with shots from Mothers’ day a few weeks ago.  Like I’ve said before, I had the telephoto lens on for most of the day/evening, trying to branch out from my current wide angle addiction and this is one of the results.  I was heading back down Grandview Avenue, the main drag through the hill top community to get some HDRs from the very overlook that these two were standing on.  Unlike the candid I posted last Monday, which was a hurry up and get the camera up as fast I could shot, this was a little bit easier to capture.

Simple processing here.  Opened the RAW in Photoshop, desaturated the entire image and increased the vibrance.  Brought back some of the saturation of the reds and greens, and increased both the black levels and overall contrast.  Added a very slight Tonal Contrast filter to everything but the sky, a Pro Contrast filter to the entire image, and the Hollywood Effect in onOne software to polish to it.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the inaugural Candid Monday.  Back to the HDRs tomorrow.

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Centurial

Well, today is my 100th post on my blog.  Of the last 99, 26 of them were from 2009 and 2010 combined with the rest coming this year, which is kind of crazy, given the fact that I just started really committing to my blog in late January.  Daily traffic to my blog has tripled since then as well, so I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who is a regular visitor and also those of you who just mosey on by every once and while.  I really appreciate all the support I receive from everyone.  Here’s to another couple hundred.  Or thousand.

 

Today’s shot is one that I really don’t even remember taking.  I mean, I can believe I took it, but as I was looking through my pictures from Mt. Washington I saw it and thought, “Huh”.  So I went ahead and processed it and really liked the way that it came out.  This is a view up the Monongahela River, one of the two rivers that meet at the Point to form the Ohio River.  You also get a view of some of the distinct bridges we have in the city (from bottom to top, excluding the second from the bottom which is the trolley bridge):  Smithfield Street, Liberty, 10th Street and Birmingham.  In the center of the shot you can see the Allegheny County Jail (which you also saw a few posts ago) and in the foreground is the top of the Grand Concourse in Station Square.  Off in the distance is the top of the Cathedral of Learning, the iconic building on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland.  All that being said, I think my favorite thing about this shot is the shadow that is created by the city lights of the trolley bridge on the water.  You would normally expect to see reflections, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the shadows.

On to the processing.  This is a seven exposure HDR processed with Photomatix.  It was a bit flat coming out of the tonemapping, so I applied an S curve to bring back some of the contrast.  I applied a Pro Contrast filter in Color Efex, as well as a warming filter in Photoshop to cool the entire image.  In onOne PhotoTools I used the Progressive Sharpening filter to being out some details and the Firenza filter to also cool down the blues.  A bit of spot healing in the sky to get rid of some dust specks and that was that.

Again, thank you for all of your support on my last 100 posts.  I hope that you all will continue to follow me in the future.


Blinded by the light

You know how sometimes when you are out shooting you get home and say to yourself, “I literally do not like any of shots”?  Some may be ok, but most are just like “Eh”.  But then there are the times (at least for me being a primarily HDR photographer) that it’s almost like I want to hurry up and get home and cut the photowalk short because I just want to start processing my images, I am that excited about that.  My little walk on Mt. Washington a few weeks ago was like that, and this shot in particular.

So my last post featured a candid I took as I was wrapping up the early part of my walk, before dinner and this one wraps up the end of the night.  I have been on Mt. Washington countless times since I got my camera and never once noticed this glowing red cross on the church on Grandview.  I’m not sure if it’s because I never really am down this far on Grandview or if I just never looked at it, but when I was walking back to my car, I knew I had to get a shot of it.  Luckily there was still a fair amount of traffic coming through, so I was able to get a nice light trail going through the frame as well.  One of my favorite parts of the shot is the reflection of the light trails along the railing on the right.  I didn’t even notice it at first when I was looking at the shots on the LCD, but as soon as the HDR popped up I noticed them.  I’ve included the selective color version below and am open to suggestions and opinions as to which one you like better.

This a 5 exposure (-1 to +3) HDR processed with Photomatix with all additional edits done in Photoshop CS5.  The first thing I had to do was tonemap the +3 exposure to help lighten the church and then do a light mask on it (25%), as the HDR process made it a little too dark for my liking.  I also used the +2 exposure to mask in some of the light trails, mainly on the left had side of the frame, to give them a more continuous look.  The bright yellow sign was blown out from the +3 exposure, so I used the -1 exposure to recover some of the lost details there.  Next, I added a Pro Contrast filter in Color Efex and a blue curves layer to make the sky a little more vibrant.

To get the selective color, I did a SelectàColor Range and picked all the reds, oranges and yellow, minus the sign in the foreground.  I then used Silver Efex to convert to do the black and white conversion.

That about wraps it up today.  See you again tomorrow.


Permanent residence

So I went to my second Pirates game of the year last night, actually it was my second in less than a month, which hasn’t happened in years.  The first game I went to was great; there was a beer tasting before the game, they Buccos jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first and they ended up winning.  Last night?  Not to much.  Got stomped by the Dodgers 10-3, and looked very much like the sub-.500 ball club that they’ve looked like for the last 20 years, taking up permanent residence in the bottom half of the standings.  I did, however, get a ton of great shots, which I will share with you in the next few days.

For now, how about another view of the city?  This is more of what I was talking about yesterday in taking a different approach to shooting from Mt. Washington.  In the center of this shot is actually the new Allegheny County Jail (by new I mean newer), which is right along the parkway that leads you out of the ‘Burgh to the east.  I thought that it was pretty cool how you can see four different levels of streets, two above the jail and two below it, and light trails on all of them.  The street that I find the most interesting is the one that is directly behind the jail, as it is one continuous streak all the way along the road.  The three bridges you see here are (in order from bottom to top) the Liberty Bridge, which takes you to the South Hills (where I live), the 10th Street Bridge (which takes you from the end of the South Side to downtown) and the Birmingham Bridge, which also connects the South Side to the bottom of Oakland, where the University of Pittsburgh is located.  The bridge at the very bottom of the frame isn’t a bridge for cars; it connects the trolley line from Station Square to downtown Pittsburgh.

This is a seven exposure HDR processed in Photomatix and Photoshop CS5.  I first tonemapped the +2 exposure to get the light trails I wanted and masked in all the roads.  I did a color cast removal of the blues/purples in Color Efex as well as add a Tonal Contrast layer.  In onOne PhotoTools I added a sharpening layer and another filter tha cooled the reds and warmed the blues.  Finally, I did some selective coloring on the reds (decreased saturation) and the greens (increased vibrance and saturation).  Added the logo and uploaded.

Halfway there guys.  Friday will be here soon.  Until tomorrow though, adios.


Streaking through town

Ok, so nobody thought that I was really going to post something about me or anyone else streaking through down, did they?  Probably wouldn’t be the best move to try to drive more traffic to my blog, trust me.

Anyways, more from Mt. Washington.  For those of you who haven’t been to Pittsburgh or who don’t follow me regularly, it is a neighborhood above the South Side of the city that provides an excellent view of the Steel City.  Originally named Coal Hill for the coal seam that ran at its base, the name was changed to Mt. Washington in 1876 and has been ever since.  One area of Mt. Washington that I have yet to photograph are the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, which are the oldest continuous running inclines in the world.  I actually haven’t even been on one in probably 15 years, when I was just a kid.

You can get so caught up in the view of the skyline and the bright lights of the city and the various stadiums that sometimes you tend to look at interesting areas that you can’t see that with a wide angle lens.  Like I said yesterday, I put on the 70-200 2.8 on this particular trip and tried to capture some of the more intricate workings of the city from a unique vantage point.  Above is one of them.  This area is known as the Point and immediately to the left of the busy roadways is where Fort Pitt, named for William Pitt who also gave his name to the city, used to stand.  You can still see its outline at Point State Park.  This is an HDR that I’ve taken twice before, but never with the D700 and never with this kind of glass, and I really like how the light trails turned out.  It was Sunday night so that traffic was kind of intermittent, but I plan to go back during rush hour to see if I can get any more extreme light trails.

This is a 7 exposure HDR processed with Photomatix and then kicked over the CS5.  I did some shadow adjusts and then tonemapped the +2 exposure in Photomatix so that I could mask in the better set of light trails from the brackets.  Did a curves adjustment on the greens and reds and then put it through Color Efex to apply a Tonal Contrast filter.  Finally, did some sharpening in onOne PhotoTools and called it a day.

Thanks for stopping by.  See y’all tomorrow.


View from the top

First off, happy belated Mother’s Day to all you moms out there.  I didn’t get a chance to post anything yesterday, so I missed the chance to actually send the wishes on the actual holiday.

 

I spent the afternoon yesterday with my family at my sister’s apartment on Mt. Washington, which is featured above and many other times on this blog and my flickr page.  I hadn’t planned on taking very many pictures, as it seems like I have every conceivable view from the various overlooks that watch over the city, but there is just something about being up there that you can’t help but take a few brackets.  I did try something a little different (which you will see in a few days), which was put the 70-200 2.8 on and get some HDRs at 200mm.  That is an incredible piece of glass, and I think that I may start using it more often.

I also tried to do something a little different with today’s shot in terms of composition.  Most of the time that a photographer is up there (myself included) they get so mesmerized by the skyline that they forget about Station Square, which is right below the far overlooks.  In the summer, the trees grow so thick that you can’t really see through them, but they aren’t quite at that point yet, so I thought that I would give a view both of the far end of Station Square as well as the skyline.  It was pretty cool how the entire city was glowing, even Station Square, and how the parking lot looked like some kind of spaceship ready to take off.

This is a seven exposure HDR processed with Photomatix with some touch up work done in CS5.  I masked in the entire +3 exposure, as there wasn’t a whole lot of noise in the sky, but I wanted to even it out a bit.  I also used the -3 exposure to mask in all the names you see on top of the buildings, as the HDR process really blew them out.  Adjusted the red tones down slightly, as they seemed to be too warm for the rest of the shot, and then ran it through both Color Efex (Tonal Contrast and Color Cast Removal) and onOne PhotoTools (sharpening) to give it more punch.

I was going to post the shots that I posted over the weekend, but I don’t think that they really fit the other shot.  You are more than welcome to head on over to my flickr site to check on my posts from Saturday and Sunday.

So for some reason last week, my e-mail address associated with my blog was not allowing me to comment on any other blog, no matter the host site.  I’ve since updated my e-mail so I should be back to commenting as normal.

Hope you all had a great weekend and have a happy Monday.