HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

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Illuminating

Thank you to everyone who visited my blog yesterday, I had over triple of my average views for the year.  Not exactly sure how this stuff happens sometimes, but I am glad it does.

On to today’s shot.  I took this one a few weeks ago on a little stroll through downtown Pittsburgh.  This is the entrance to the Steel Building or USX Tower right near the center of town.  I was walking by a bit before rush hour and about 45 minutes after I took this shot, the sidewalk in front of the building would have been completely packed with people waiting for rides or buses to come and pick them up.  I really enjoy being downtown at this time of day, because there are so many different sizes and shapes of buildings, that it really filters the light well and you get cool beams coming through like this one.

Usually the camera police come out and tell you that you can’t take pictures in front of the Steel Building (yep, camera, not just tripod, these guys are crazy) and I saw one of the guards eyeing me up, but he was wither too tired to come outside or just didn’t care.  Guess I didn’t look like much of a threat.

Bonus:  Can you spot the guy who just narrowly missed scoring the lead role in “Multiplicity” instead of Michael Keaton?

Pretty standard when it came to processing this one.  Five exposure handheld HDR, processed with Photomatix.  Did a bit of masking to get rid of ghosting from the car on the right and the people in the center (I thought that Multiplicity man was pretty cool).  I had a few slight halos, so I just masked in the -2 exposure for the sky.  Added a red curves adjustment layer to enhance the building and a blue one for the sky.  Also added a Tonal Contrast filter from Color Efex, and a Progressive Sharpening and Firenze filter from onOne PhotoTools, the former to, well, sharpen the image and the later to give the sunlight some more glow.  Slapped on the logo and exported to blog.

Thanks for all the support and visits.  See you tomorrow, which is Friday, which is good.

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.

Young love

I know that this blog is called HDR Exposed, but that doesn’t mean that everything I post has to be HDR.  Today, we take a break from city skylines and Pirate games.  I’ve taken a bunch of candids that I really like recently and may try to throw them in every now and again.

I used to be really intimidated by taking candids.  Afraid of getting caught, looking weird, and really just not quite sure what the best way to go about them was.  My equipment last year wasn’t the most well suited for it either; while I really liked the 55-200 lens for the D40X, it really doesn’t compare to the 70-200 2.8 on a D700.  I got inspired by a couple people on flickr, mainly DJ Poe, who always has incredible street shots of New York City that just have a dynamic cinematic effect to them.  While I haven’t been yet able to really emulate his style, I found that I started to develop a style of my own, a style that fit more of how I shoot.  I also got more comfortable having people see me taking pictures of them and figured how and at what time of day is the best time to photograph candids.  I still have a lot to learn, but I’m getting better each time I go out.

All that being said, more about today’s shot.  I took this on Mother’s Day as I was trekking around Mt. Washington.  There are usually a few people milling around up there, but on that particular Sunday there were quite a few people milling around.  I was getting ready to head back to my sister’s apartment and had just taken my camera off my shoulder to put in my bag when I happened to look up and see these two sitting on a bench in front of me.  I hurried my camera to my eye, all while dexterously zooming to 200mm, turning the camera on, setting the aperture to 2.8 (I was just taking skyline shots at f13), flip the switch to spot focusing and snap the shot.  A half second after I took this shot, she moved her head to look over the city.  Whew.  Just in time.

Even though this isn’t an HDR I still had some processing to do.  Opened in CS5, reduced overall saturation and kicked up vibrance a bit.  Enhanced the shadows and increased global contrast, as well as giving a closer crop to the couple.  I added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex to help give it some local contrast.  In onOne PhotoTools I added a Golden Hour enhancer and a Turbo Boost, to help give the color a tiny kick and the entire image some punch.  Added the logo and shipped it off to the blog.

I hope you all had a great weekend.  See you tomorrow.

Oh, one more thing.  The lady over the girl’s left shoulder?  Yes, that is her stomach hanging out and yes she is holding an iguana.

Stepping up to the plate

A couple more shots from the Bucco game that I went to this Tuesday this time with some action shots thrown in with an HDR. 

The shot above is the view from the rotunda over left field that leads up to the multiple levels of PNC Park.  We got there a little late, about midway through the bottom of the first, and seeing as I have never had my D700 at a Pirate game I wanted to get this shot.  I was a little disappointed that the sky wasn’t clearer when I took this shot, but that’s the beauty of HDR: It can take a flat, otherwise uninteresting sky and turn it into this.

The shot above is probably one of my favorite from the game.  The Pirate pictured is first baseman Steve Pearce, who I had never heard of before this very at bat.  I know, I know, it’s a bit sad, but my favorite MLB team is the Atlanta Braves, so I can’t keep up with the merry-go-round of prospects/rookies/no-names that the Pirates parade through year after year.  Anyways, Pearce hit a soft grounder up the middle of the infield and legged it out for an infield hit.  I was able to capture him JUST as he was hitting first base, with the ball clearly still in the air.  What I found most interesting however, is that you can’t see a single other player in the frame.  It looks like they are all alone on the field.  Didn’t plan it like that, but that’s how it came out.

The next action shot is of catcher Ryan Doumit, who is having a modestly productive year after a couple of slow ones.  A lot of people were calling for his departure from the Bucs, but they kept him around, and he has been consistent so far.  This was one of the last shots that I took, and it shows Doumit just before he made contact.  He didn’t get a hit on this pitch, but he scorched a line drive to the outfield that was caught.

On to the processing.  The HDR is a 5 exposure handheld HDR processed with Photomatix.  As with the last couple, I masked in the entire crowd to get rid of the ghosting.  I also did a bit of masking on the lights, as I was metered on the dark stands (d’oh) and they were a bit blown out.  I added a blue curves layer to the sky to enhance what little blue sky there was, and also a green curves layer to the field to help it stand out.  In Color Efex I used the Tonal Contrast filter, and in onOne PhotoTools I added a Turbo Boost.  What a cool effect name.  Turbo Boost.

I processed the action shots similarly.  Both were opened in Camera Raw where I increased the clarity and desaturated the images.  Moved them over the CS5 where I added a Tonal Contrast later to both of them, increased then vibrance, and opened them in onOne PhotoTools.  They both got the same Progressive Sharpening, and I added an extra filter to the second one of Ryan Doumit at bat, the Hollywood Intensity.  Pretty happy with how they turned out.

That’s all for this week folks.  Hope you all have a great weekend.  See you on Monday.

The baseball blues

There seem to be very few teams throughout the history of professional sports that have experienced the fall from grace the way that the Pirates have.  And I’m not just talking about missing the playoffs for a few years in a row, or not making it to the World Series.  There are teams with longer World Series droughts than the Buccos 32 years (Indians 63 years, Padres, Rockies, Astros, Rangers and a few others, never).  I’m talking about the fact that it has been nearly twenty longer years since the Pirates have won more games than they lost in a single year.  Nearly two decades since they have finished with a winning percentage above .500.  The closest they have come was in 1997, when they finished 79-83, a mere 2 games away.

There seemed to be a slight glimmer of hope this year, as they have hovered around the .500 mark for most of the year, and that’s where they were the night that I attended this game.  However, they got stomped 10-3 at the hands of the Dodgers, and then were shut out again last night.  The problem with the most recent Pirates teams is they have no star power, no game changers, no one who is really dangerous.  They have young players who show a lot of potential like Andrew McCutcheon, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez, but chances are they will not win you a World Series.  Pirate’s ownership has said that when fans start coming to games they will invest more money in the team.  Well that’s a catch 22, because if they don’t field a competitive team, you aren’t going to get many people to come to game.  While I am not a huge fan of the salary cap in other sports, I think it would be the only way (under the current management) for the Pirates to start winning again.

Anyways, on to today’s shot.  I have a bunch to post from the game, but I wanted to start off with this one.  The seats we had were pretty good, about ten rows off the first base line, which afforded me some great picture opportunities.  I took this one a little bit later in the game, when some clouds had rolled in and the blue hour was upon us.  PNC Park is a beautiful stadium, especially with the view of the Pittsburgh skyline in the distance, which is what I was trying to capture with this shot.

This is a 5 exposure handheld HDR that I processed in Photomatix.  I actually had originally taken 7 brackets, but the -3 and -2 exposures were a bit too dark, so I ended up using the -1 to +3 range.  I tonemapped the +2 exposure to mask in the entire crowd, as you can imagine no one was kind enough to sit still while I took these.  I also used the 0 EV exposure to mask in the players on the field and the coaches, as they were just shifting a tiny bit.  The last mask I added was over the scoreboard so it looked crisp and clear.  I added a curves layer for the blues and greens to help bring out the sky and the field respectively, and also added a Tonal Contrast and Pro Contrast filters in Color Efex.  Logo added, good to go.

More Buccos shots coming tomorrow.  Make sure you stick around.

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.

Bringing your own sunshine

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”
~Anthony J. D’Angelo

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Friday post so I thought it was about time to do one.  This spring we have had 34 days of rain and only 14 without (and even fewer sunny ones), I thought about the above quote and how appropriate it seemed for anyone living in the western Pennsylvania region over the last few weeks.

I took this shot on one of those few sunny days we’ve had this spring walking around downtown, waiting for the wife and some friends to get out of work.  It was actually a perfect day to go on a photowalk, as it wasn’t too warm, there was a slight breeze, the lighting was great in downtown, streets weren’t overly crowded for a Thursday afternoon.  I kind of have a thing for capturing sunflares, and when the reflection of one in the USX Building caught my eye, I couldn’t resist the shot.

This is a five exposure HDR processed in Photomatix, Photoshop CS5 and onOne PhotoTools.  I did a bit of masking in the sky to get rid of a few halos and dust spots, as well as masked in the cars on the lower right to get rid of some ghosting.  Lowered overall saturation and applied the Turbo Boost effect in PhotoTools and called it a wrap.

Thanks for stopping by this week and I hope you all enjoy your weekend.