HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

night

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.


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.


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.


Looking back

What a season.

The Pen’s quest for a fourth Stanley Cup ended last night with a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, a real heartbreaking loss.  Not that all playoff losses aren’t heartbreaking, but you just had the feeling that the Pens were just one lucky bounce away from moving on to the next round.  I do have to give Tampa Bay some credit.  They played a solid series, fueled by 41 year old Dwayne Roloson in net and by all accounts derserved to win the series.  They capitalized on chances nearly every time they got them and Pittsburgh didn’t.

The lone goal was scored by Sean Bergenheim, on an absolute identical play that they scored on in Game 6.  With Dominick Moore going around the net, he dropped a blind pass back to Bergenheim who, with Marc Andre Fleury moving to the far post, slammed it into a half empty net.  Not that the Pens didn’t have their chances.  They finished the game 0-5 on the powerplay, including a six on four for the final two minutes of the game, making them an abysmal 1-35 on the man advantage in the series.

I don’t want to talk too much about last night, just wanted to touch on it.  This has been one hell of a season with a lot of ups and downs along the way.  CONSOL Energy Center opened this year, replacing the Civic Arena, where the Pens called home for over 40 years.  Although we lost the inaugural game to hated cross-state rivals the Flyers, you could just feel the excitement in the building.  The consecutive sellout streak also rolled on, eclipsing over 200 at the end of the season.  That just shows the support and the dedication of the fans in Pittsburgh.

We hosted the Winter Classic this year at Heinz Field against another rival, the Washington Capitals, as well as being featured in the HBO special, “24/7”.  Again, the game didn’t turn out exactly as hoped, as the Pens were handed a 3-1 defeat, but that was an experience like no other.  The game was supposed to be played in the afternoon, but inclement weather pushed the game into the evening, underneath the lights, and with 68,000 plus fans screaming, it didn’t matter if there was a monsoon, it would have still been incredible.

However that game will live in infamy, as that is the game where Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion after he took a blind side hit from David Steckel that ended his season.  The injury most likely occurred during that hit, but ironically, it was a hit the following game by Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning that sidelined him for the next three and a half months, the same Lightning that just ended the Penguin’s season last night.

Sid wasn’t the only one to get hit by the injury bug this year.  Evgeni Malkin took a hard hit by Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres that tore a ligament in his knee.  Jordan Staal, out the first few months after recovering from foot surgery from an injury suffered in last year’s playoffs, got sidelined again in late October by a broken hand in practice.  Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey suffered knee injuries as well, and Arron Asham and Eric Tangradi both, like Crosby were victims of concussions.  The final count in man games lost due to injury was nearly 400, yet they were still able to get within 13 victories of the Stanley Cup.

All in all, it was a great season, a fun season to watch and be a part of as a fan.

About the shots in this post, all taken last night.  The top shot is one that I’ve been trying to get for a while, and I finally got it last night.  I had been trying to get a silhouetted fan waving their rally towel and I think that this one game out pretty good.  The next one is someone holding up a beer toasting the Pens, and this one will be my post on flickr today.  The next two are both from after the game, one during the handshake between the two teams after the series and the other of the Pens holding up their sticks in salute of the fans after the game.  Lastly, I threw on in there from the walk back to the car, because I like how the bokeh turned out.

One more time…Let’s go Pens.


Rollin’ into the weekend

It doesn’t get much better than Friday.  Pens hockey on tonight and Sunday, casual day at work, finally getting at least a one day break in the weather to spend some time shooting tomorrow, it’s going to be a good weekend.  Going to be a bit of a post and run catch up day, as I am finishing up all the month end activities that I started on Monday at work today.

First off my shot from a few days ago which I took two weeks ago whilst roaming the South Side.  Like I said before, that day just seemed to bring all the interesting people out of the woodwork, and I was more than happy to oblige by taking pictures of them.  As I’m walking down East Carson Street, the road that runs right through the middle of the South Side, I came up to the Birmingham Bridge, which crosses the Monongahela River over to Fifth Avenue.  Now this is a pretty busy intersection, as it is one of the main ways from getting from downtown Pittsburgh to the South Side, and this day was no different.  Then, out of the blue (well, more like gray, it was pretty dreary out), I just see a head bobbing over the cars.  I take another look and there is this guy on a scooter with pink handle bars and pink wheels.  Now, this would have be strange to see if he was, say 12, but he was at least 25.  He was singing to himself, looking around, completely oblivious that he was crossing the street in the middle of rush hour traffic with cars coming, who had to subsequently stop and wait for him.

The processing on this one was pretty light.  Desaturated the entire image, then enhanced just the greens and reds with layers of curves.  Added an over adjustment curve to boost the contrast as well as a Tonal Contrast layer.  Finally added a warming filter to give a bit of a cinematic tone, put it in a pill box and then on display for you.

Today’s shot, which I will be posting a little later, is from a photowalk I went on with Brad Truxell before the holidays.  It was such a frigid cold night, and this was one of the last shots I took before the blood in my fingers froze solid.  This is a view down the parkway from just off the Clemente Bridge.  On the right, you can see PNC Park and Heinz Field in the distance.  What I didn’t realize I’d captured until I got home was the smoke coming out of the top of the building on the left, which I thought looked pretty cool.

I was going for a little bit different processing here, a bit more extreme than normal.  Since the sky was such a deep blue, I was trying to get the tones on the road and the city to contrast it and I liked the way it turned out with almost a diagonal line of color separating the two.  And of course you can’t go wrong with reflections.  This is a 7 exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Clean” method.  I had to do some heavy selective coloring adjustments to get the look I was going for.  I also added a Pro Contrast filter in Color Efex.

Wishing you all a great weekend, see you on Monday.


Yeah, you too

Just going to be doing a quick post and run today.  It is our monthly financial close and work, and this impacts me since my current title is senior financial analyst.  Bit busy at the quarter end, but back in the swing of things tomorrow (hopefully).

Don’t you wish sometimes you could just tell off something that you couldn’t possibly tell off?  Like a Monday?  Or maybe the toaster that burned your bagel?  Or the pen that ran out of ink just as you sat down for a meeting?  Or a Monday?  Whoops, already said that one.  Well, this one is dedicated to all those things in life, though I’m pretty sure that if this girl wanted to tell me off she could.  I was on a photowalk with a buddy Ty Sharp and we were shooting some Pittsburgh cityscapes from atop a garage in downtown.  All of a sudden a bus lets out and all these people start walking across the street, some boring, some interesting, some ignoring us and some pointing and waving.  Or flipping us the bird.  These girls spotted us and while most of them seemed nice and friendly, one, um, wasn’t so much.  She subtly expressed her displeasure by flicking us off from five stories away.  I believe that this is the first time that I have ever been caught shooting a candid, and the complete range of reactions is present here, from a jovial hello to a rude middle finger.

Processing was light here, just a quick white balance adjustment, desaturation and Tonal Contrast filter.  Added the pill box for the cinematic effect.

Just to get you all caught up, above is my post from last night.  This is a shot of one of the buildings on the North Shore of Pittsburgh, right next to PNC Park.  I took this one during a photowalk with Brad Truxell, as he had shot it before, and I knew that it was a perfect candidate for HDR.  It is a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting.  Added a blue curves layer to bring out the glass and a red one to bring out the lobby.  I masked in the little piece of the sky, as well as added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex.

Sorry again for the post and run, catch you guys 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.


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.


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!


City of Champions…and lights!

Ok, I know that it’s been a long time since I posted anything on here, but I am really serious about starting to update my blog more regularly!  I just need to sit down and commit to doing it!  Hope you enjoy today’s installment

So one of the best parts of being a photographer in Pittsburgh is being able to capture the city at night.  No matter what way you look at it, the city is always shining and beautiful, whether you are downtown, on the North Side or on Mount Washington, which is one thing that makes Pittsburgh so unique.  A lot of city have high vantage points or elevated areas where you can get a great wide angle shot of the city; however a lot of them are downtown, inside the actual city.  We have an area where we can see the entire city in one frame!  Pittsburgh is the perfect combination of being not a huge city and being big enough where when you see it from Mount Washington it is awe inspiring.  Below are a couple shots that represent that!

 

Like I said though, you don’t have to be on Mt. Washington to get a great shot of the city.  Sometimes being right in the middle of downtown is the best place to be!  The Steel Building at the heart of the city provides an amazing night scene, with vibrant colors and so much to see!

Right down the road there is the Renaissance Hotel, which has a unique design in that the center of the hotel is hollow.  They shine bluish lights in the center, which contrast beautifully with the warm red tones of the building!  This place was made for being photographer at night!

 

Then of course there is the South Side, more specifically down in South Side Works.  There are so many restaurants and stores, including, but not limited to the Cheesecake Factory, Hofbrauhaus, a movie theatre, McCormick and Schmick’s among others.  At Christmas time they put a huge tree right in the middle where there are usually fountains, and it just radiates energy and light!

 

And of course who could forget our beloved Mellon Arena?  She won’t be standing for too much longer, as the new Consol Energy Center opens in a few months, but the memories that took place there will never be forgotten!  The view from above the arena with the city in the background is truly a sight to behold.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the little stroll through the city at night.  Feel free to check out my other night shots on my flickr site!