HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

New York

Policing the ice

So my goal of this blog was not to become a Penguins centric blog, as there are already multiple Pens’ blogs out there.  The original goal was to post some pictures and talk a little more in depth about the shot than I do on flickr.  However, as I am trying to blog everyday (well, every weekday), it can get a bit boring and repetitive if I am just saying “Here’s this shot, this is how I took it” and so on, and that it is.  That being said, I’ve tried to add a bit more commentary to my posts to hopefully keep those of your who make the daily (or weekly or monthly) trek to my blog a bit more enjoyable, because if it was just the same pictures I posted on flickr, then you wouldn’t have any reason to come here.  I will say this.  I have a ton of respect now for newspaper columnists, who have to write every day, though it is a bit easier for them, as the majority of the time they are reporting on news.  They are still writing everyday for their job.  I do it just for fun.  Which I think makes it a bit easier.

Anyways, moving on to more exciting topics: Geno (Evgeni Malkin) is back tonight for the Pens.  Oh wait.  I realized I never finished my though on the Pens’ blog thing.  See that’s what happens to me when I write these.  I get off on one tangent and forgot where I parked the firs tangent to get back in and keep going.  I think that if you are going to write every day about something, it should be something you are passionate about, because otherwise it won’t be interesting.  I am passionate about the Penguins and my photography, so it is very easy for me to write semi creatively about these two things.  So while you won’t see Pens’ stuff up every day on here, you will see it.  Like yesterday and today.

So Geno’s back, but our stellar rookie center, Mark Letestu, is out four to six weeks for a damaged meniscus from catching an edge on the ice at Madison Square Garden in New York before the Ranger’s game on Tuesday.  With Sid the Kid still out recovering from a concussion, it’s great to see Malkin back out there policing the ice (reference to title #1).  It means that the opponent has to plan for a superstar and match their lines up accordingly, and just makes it more difficult to get the matchups they want.  I’m not saying this demean anything else any of the Pens have done, quite the contrary actually.  The depth that we have is some of, if not THE best in the NHL, which has allowed us to gain points in the standing even without the “two headed monster” (Sid and Geno) in the line up.  One quick note on the aforementioned phrase.  HDR Exposed (aka me) does not condone the use of this saying…actually it is quite discouraged.  Just wanted to use it once, get it out of the way, and never use it again.  ‘Nough said.

Even though I foster incredible disdain for the Steelers, I would remiss in my blogging duties if I did not at least MENTION the Super Bowl in a few days.  Packers vs. Steelers, NFC vs. AFC, the game of all games, the big game, Super Sunday, and all that jazz.  I will be attending a party with a whole lot of Steeler faithful.  I will also be wearing a Dallas Cowboy jersey.  Probably Tony Romo…maybe Miles Austin.  Not sure yet.  But I will say this.  Steeler fans are in for a rude awakening.  Their beloved defense (which is incredible) is going to fall hard.  Prediction: Packers 31, Steelers 10, Aaron Rodgers throws for 320 yards and is MVP.  Ben Roethlisberger throws two picks and fumbles, and the Packers defense lives up to its billing.  Let’s go Pack.  Now, where is my cheesehead?

Almost forgot about today’s shot with all my other rambling.  More from NYC.  Another one taken on our last day there, which I think I got my most shots from.  I had been trying to get a shot of Bryant Park that I liked; I was trying to use the reflections in the buildings and had tried three other times and got nothing.  This was my final attempt, and as we were walking across the street, I stopped to grab this five exposure HDR.  Of course, the light turned green right when I stopped and this cop car was right in the middle of the road (reference to title #2).  I just said ok, forget, I got a ton of other shots.  But…

…then I got home and processed it.  Did my usual settings in HDR Efex, and thought to myself, “This isn’t too bad”.  Took it back into CS5, masked in the moving people and the police car, applied a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex, burned the sky right about the horizon to give it that orange glow, boosted the blues to make the police car stand out, and while it isn’t one of my best, in the end, I like it!

That’s all for this week guys!  I hope you all have a great weekend!

Did I mention Go Packers yet?  I did?  Ok, well, GO PACKERS!!!!!!!  Yes, I’m done now.

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Theatre like no other

I know not everyone who reads this blog this is a hockey fan, but I just have to take a second to talk about the Pittsburgh Penguins game last night.  First off, we won, which is always positive, a 3-0 shutout of the lowly New York Islanders (sorry NY fans).  It was a bit of a scrappy game from the start, and it just so happened that our scrappy guys got our goals.  Tyler Kennedy opened the scoring in the first on a great power play goal from a sharp angle, Chris Kunitz banked one in off Rick DiPietro on a 2-1 with Pascal Dupuis.  DiPietro got caught cheating back to Dupuis’ side and Kunitz made him pay.

No scoring in the second, but things got a bit scrappy.  Mike Rupp won a fight, there were hard hits all around, with Matt Cooke and Max Talbot really flying around the ice.  Max, who was on a 25 game scoring drought, hit two goalposts, got robbed on a seemingly open net, and just couldn’t seem to buy a goal.  That was until 40 seconds left when Max, with the Islanders having vacated their net for a sixth attacker, took a backhand pass from Craig Adams and buried a 70 footer.  3-0, Pens up, game in the bag. 

But, this piece is called “Theatre like no other” for a reason.  Well, two actually.  The first reason is what happened next.  With 20 seconds left, Cooke raced down to try to beat an icing call.  Skating past the net, DiPietro, who had taken some hard shots from Cooke in the last meeting between these two teams, stepped out of his crease and through a blocker to Cooke’s face.  A scrum ensued in the corner, when all of a sudden, the coolest, most awesome, rarest, exciting things that can happen in a hockey game, happened.  Out of the corner of the screen you see DiPietro start skating away from the pile towards center ice.  Then you see a referee skate at full tilt after him.  Brent Johnson (pictured above), the backup for goalie Mar Andre Fleury, was at the Islanders blue line, gloves off, helmet off, ready to take on DiPietro.  The referee did everything he could to stop Johnson, but he was on a mission to repay the Islanders netminder for the cheap shot he had just delivered.  Both goalies grabbed the other one’s jersey, and Johnson, who is right handed, landed a left hook to DiPietro’s jaw, sending him to the ice in a heap.  Brent then knelt over to pof him, one had holding him down, the other raised in a fist, not ready to punch, just showing his vanquished foe that these Penguins are not who you want to mess with.

You don’t seen goalie fights hardly ever anymore, especially now since Patrick Roy is out of the league, who was famous for fights with both Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek.  But to see the soft spoken Brent Johnson, drop the gloves against some like DiPietro, who deserved everything he got from Johnnie, it was just a sight to see.  I may have to get a Brent Johnson jersey.

Sorry for the recap, but it was just too awesome not to talk about!  Today we go back to New York and take a look at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street, right outside of Times Square.  This theatre was right next to our hotel, the Marriott Marquis, and I knew I had to get a picture of it at night.  The first night I took my five handheld brackets, but the last two were a bit blurry, something I discovered back in the room.  I didn’t want to lug my drop out for a night on the town, so I bumped up the ISO the next night and gave it another shot.  This time I got five crisp exposures.  Perfect!  We actually debated about maybe going to see the Addams Family, which you can see was playing there.  Maybe next time.

On to the processing.  Like I said, this is a five handheld bracketed shot that I processed with HDR Efex.  The lights on the front of the building were kind of throwing me off, as they make the front of the building different colors with different light sources.  I ended up just decreasing the saturation the oranges, and that did the trick!  I had to mask back in the people on the street and a bit of the blown out highlights from the Times Square signs as well.  Added a Tonal Contrast filter to everything but the sky and recovered some of the dark shadows, added a bit more color to the blue sky, saved, uploaded!

See you tomorrow!


Distorted Times

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

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

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

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

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


Meet and greet

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

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

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

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


In the thick of it…

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

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

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

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

I hope that you all have a great week!


Say it’s not snow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!!!!!!

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


Fast food at its finest

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

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

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

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

One more day til Friday!