HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

Posts tagged “couples sans souci

Just another day in paradise

I try not to recap full Pens games, but I really have no choice today.

Whew.  What a game.  The Pens played the Detroit Red Wings last night at Joe Louis Arena in the Motor City and escaped with a 5-4, shootout win.  They chose to make it as interesting as they possibly could though, having been staked to a 4-0 lead through almost two full periods with two goals from Pascal Dupuis (one a sneaky bag hander and one off of a gratuitous bounce off the boards), a nifty backhand by Tyler Kennedy over sprawling netminder Jimmy Howard and one off a sweet deke by Chris Kunitz.

The run ended with about two minutes to go in the second, when Henrik Zetterberg banked one off Kris Letang’s skate past Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson.  Next thing you know the Red Wings are getting powerplay goals from Niklas Kronwall and ageless wonder Mike Modano, and one more from Valtteri Filppula, who shuffled one between the pads of Johnson that Johnson ended up kicking in his own net.

The Pens got some momentum back though, carrying it into overtime where they had chance after chance against Howard’s replacement Joey MacDonald.  Into the shootout it went.  Both goalies were brick walls until Penguin newcomer James Neal blistered a wristshot over the glove of MacDonald.  Lights out, game over, the Pens earn a precious two points in the standings.

No, the shot above is not from that game, it is from a playoff game in 2008 between these two rivals, the same 2008 playoffs that saw the Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup in the Igloo.  Neither of the players depicted even played last night, as they are both out due to injuries.  Sidney Crosby obviously has been dealing with a concussion since early January and Chris Osgood, the Red Wings goalie has been out for about a week with a sore groin.  Although it’s not from the game, it is one of my favorite hockey shots that I have been lucky enough to get.

Today I’ll be wrapping up the Jamaican honeymoon shots.  I’ve enjoyed doing this series on my blog over the last week and a half, as it has sort of allowed me to relive being there.  I had not gone through all my shots from there in a few months, and it was nice to put myself there again.

Sunset was just an incredible time of day there, more so that in a lot of places.  It was almost as if you waited with anticipation to see what kind of colors were going to appear, what the clouds were going to look like.  These are two of my favorite shots I got right around dusk.  One was taken with my S90, a bracket of three exposures, and the other with my D40X, an eleven exposure HDR.  Both were processed in Photomatix, with some slight masking of the sky to get rid of some noise and colors.

I hope that you have enjoyed the Jamaican series.  I’ll figure out another series to do next.

Thanks for stopping by.


Cloudy flickr future

Yesterday I said I was inspired by Pete Talke of Places2Explore and his recent discussion on flickr and wanted to put my twp pennies in, for what it is worth.  The shots from this post are clouds that I took from our honeymoon.

Back in 2008, right after I got my first dSLR, the Nikon D40X, I was looking up ideas on interesting pictures to take on the internet.  I stumbled upon Trey’s blog on HDR, read his tutorial, started looking into other tutorials on HDR, and well, we know where that led to.  So I had all these HDRs, and my friends and family were fun to show them to, but I wanted a way to share them with a lot more people.  Just by searching “places to post pictures online” I came upon flickr.  Looked cool, so I posted two pictures in September of 2008, then kind of forgot about it until March of 2009.  I purchased my pro account (the first of three) and really started to get hooked.

 I was posting into about 50 groups a day, leaving all kinds of awards and faves on peoples’ shots, Nikon Award, Heart Award, Peace Award, blah blah blah.  I would comment and rate, and then see what people had to say about my work.  I got some good feedback sometimes, but usually it was just the award that was left.  Eventually I started to build up my contact list, and thought “This is awesome”, because I was getting all these comments and faves.  After being on flickr for about a year, I got pretty bored with all the groups.  It was an effort, and I didn’t even really like half the pictures I was awarding.  So, I pared down the contact list from over 600 to around 350, stopped posting in groups, stopped worry about Explore and focused on some of the great flickr contacts that I had made.  Which brings me to today.

Today I usually post one picture a day, and catch up on all my contacts’ work.  I would say I have about 100-150 active contacts, those who are posting daily or multiple times a day, and I try to comment on all of them.  It is about as much work as leaving Flickr Awards on peoples’ work, but I at least give better comments about photographers’ work that I actually appreciate.  But that brings me to a point that Pete brought up.  I comment on some people just because they comment on me, as that is what the flickr commenting community is all about (in my opinion): reciprocation.  You comment on me, I’ll comment on you.  But where does that get me?  I have no problem being a nice guy and throwing a few comments back someone’s way who has taken time to look at my work, but what if I don’t like their work?  I’m not saying that it is bad, just that it is not my style?  I’ve tried to sift through and phase out those kind of contacts, because flickr is a lot of work, especially if you are leaving comments just for the sake of leaving comments.  I’m not saying that this is the majority of my contacts, but it does make up a certain percentage.

I have made some great contacts through flickr, including Pete, and for that I am glad that I joined.  I also made my first sales through flickr from people finding my work.  But I think that it is fast losing its appeal to me.  First off, I have a blog now, where I go into more details about my work and can post larger viewable images.  I also have a website, where I have the vast majority (or will soon) of shots that I have on flickr on there as well.  I enjoy spending time updating my website and writing these blog entries, but flickr just gets so tiresome a lot of the time.

Another thing about the actual flickr site is that it rarely updates.  It looks basically the same since when I first signed up in 2008.  For a photo sharing website, it certainly doesn’t make the pictures very appealing.  The images are small, it usually manipulates the colors somehow or makes the image darker.  The stats don’t really provide that much insight into your views, because a big chunk always seems to be “Unknown Source”, so I have no idea who is even looking at my uploads.  This is important to me, because while I will usually let someone use a picture of mine on their blog for personal use, if they do not contact me and request permission first, I ask them to take it down.  If I don’t know where the incoming links are coming from, how can I monitor who is using my images?

How about Explore.  This is supposed to be the best of the best, the cream of the crop of flickr.  Instead, flickr changes the algorithm so much that I haven’t made Explore in over a year and a half.  Yet pictures of cats can.  I mean, come on.  Not saying I have the best work on flickr, but it’s better than a picture of a cat.

So will I stop using flickr?  Probably not.  Will I drastically reduce the time I will spend on the website?  Yes.  I will be reducing my contacts who only comment after I comment on one of their uploads, I will continue to not post in groups and generally spend less time on the site.  I may start uploading more, because I won’t be as concerned with receiving comments and faves.  I still think that flickr is a great medium to get yourself found, and I do get a fair number of incoming links to my blog from flickr.  But other than pure traffic, I think that flickr may have run its course as a social/photosharing medium, especially with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

So that’s my rant on flickr.  I’d love to hear what you guys have to say about it.

For today’s post, we go back to New York.  I’ve posted a shot of the West Side Story billboard at night, but I wanted to make sure that I posted one from during the day as well.  This is a five handheld exposure HDR, processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting.  I had to do a lot of masking of the video sign, the sky and the people on the street.  I also added a slight Tonal Contrast and Cooling filter, as it was a bit too warm for my taste.

Enjoy your Thursday, happy St. Patty’s.


Having the winter blues

I don’t want to scare anyone with the title, I’m not really sad.  Well, just sad that I’m in rainy Pittsburgh right now instead of sunny Jamaica.  There’s a saying “No one needs a vacation like the man who just got back from one” and I could not agree with that more.  Even though I didn’t just get back from vacation I had a day off on Friday, and coming back to work can be so difficult after a long weekend.

I will probably be wrapping up the Jamaican pictures sometime this week, but today I wanted to post a few shots that focused on the actual beach.  It was so incredible to just sit and lounge around in the sand all day, as it was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  The sand was golden and soft and not so hot that you couldn’t walk on it, the water was crisp and clear for a vibrant shade of aqua and the sky was just a shining blue all the time (well, except for the one hour it rained).  Usually you are lucky enough to get one of these beach attributes, but the fact that Jamaica had all three was perfect.

What made it even more picturesque were the banks of clouds that would continually roll through during the day.  Don’t get me wrong, there is little that I like more on vacation than a clear blue sky, because at least then you know it’s not going to rain.  But it was kind of just the icing on the cake that made Couples Sans Souci the most relaxing place we have ever been.  I think it is the only place where we have said that we may go back one day; we usually like to vacation in different cities and countries, to make sure we experience as much as we can.  But Jamaica sure had a compelling argument to lure us back.

From the warm beaches of Jamaica to the cold highways of Pittsburgh.  This is one of the last few shots from my early morning photowalk back in February.  What I’ve come to realize is, that I REALLY need to get out shooting soon.  I mean, I have a ton of shots in my archive, but I’m not thrilled with all of them.  Maybe I need to create a second flickr stream so that I can most my not-top-quality work.  Because let’s face it.  Not every picture you take is going to be your best, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to display it.  We’ll see.  Anyways, this is a view down the parkway along the Allegheny River.  You can see PNC Park on the right, as well as Heinz Field in the distance, as well as the moon, which I just have a terrible time with.

For the processing, this is a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Subtle” method.  I ended up masking in the whole sky, but instead of using the exposure that had the trees frozen, I used the +1 exposure to give them that waving feeling.  I also had to do some work on the reds, as the street lamps were really glaring through the shot on the left had side of the scene.  Boosted the yellow on the railing that serves as the leading line, added a blue curves layer for the sky and water and applied a very slight Tonal Contrast filter to the entire image.

Check back tomorrow for a discussion on flickr.  Pete Talke of Places2Explore recently did a post on this and I felt inspired to do the same.


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.


Seat with a view

I’ll tell you what, it has not stopped raining for almost 48 hours now.  I need to see the sun soon.  Until then, how about Jamaica overload today?

One of my favorite parts about being on vacation at an all inclusive resort (other than the fact that I am at the beach, off work and don’t have to worry about a thing except what I want to get next to drink) is the food and drink.  I realize that that is why people attend an all inclusive resort, and I don’t know how I can ever go back to going to a non all inclusive.  I’ve been to plenty of open bars before, at weddings, parties and the like, but to be able to go to a restaurant or a bar at the resort, order a drink or food and just leave a tip for the whole week?  It makes going back to a restaurant in the States that much more difficult, because when you are finished eating, you’re like, “Oh wait, you want me to pay??  I can’t even think about food now!”.  I know, I know, you already pay for the food at an all inclusive, but since we normally book our trips about four months in advance, I feel like I’m getting it all for free.

The food at Couples Sans Souci was some of the best we have ever had on vacation.  It wasn’t like some of the other all inclusive resorts that we have stayed at, where they try very hard to cater to the different tastes of their guests, and have Mexican, Italian and American food night.  While they did have a pasta night at one of the restaurants, it was pasta with a Jamaican kick, something that you probably would not even find in the States.

The other great thing about the food at these resorts is where you get to eat it at. At one of the restaurants, we got a table right on the beach twice, and ate by candlelight listening to the sounds of the ocean.  It couldn’t have been more relaxing.  We also ate breakfast overlooking the courtyard/main lawn area in front of the resort and had our “formal” dinner overlooking a walkway that went to the beach.  Then you come back home, go out to dinner, and have a table of screaming kinds next to you.  Awesome.

Anyway, today’s shots are from some of the different restaurants around the resort.  The first two are from the buffet style restaurant, Pallazina, and the view from one of our table.  The one of the actual restaurant was processed with Photomatix, before I discovered the beauty of HDR Efex.  Standard processing on that one, just had to mask in the sky, as there were some crazy halos going on.  Also had to reduce the noise in some of the wicker work on the tables and chairs.  The second one was taken with my Canon S90 at breakfast during our last day at the resort.  There was a nice breeze blowing, and that hammock you see in the tree was swinging back and forth, begging someone to lay on it.  Processed that one with HDR Efex, had to mask in some of the tree branches that showed some motion blur.  Also added a vibrant green curves layer to give the whole image some pop.

My upload for today is the view from one the beach bar, a view that I’ve posted a few other times, but this one was a little different.  I also took this one with my S90, single shot, no HDR this time.  Processed it with Color Efex and first added a Tonal Contrast filter to the sand, railing and tree.  Then I added a Glamour Glow filter to the entire image, gave it a nice inviting, um, well, glow.  Increased saturation of the sand, straightened the horizon, added pillbox borders, and shipped it off the HDR Exposed for your viewing pleasure.

As long as it keeps raining, keep looking for more Jamaica on HDR Exposed.  See you guys and gals later.


Getting warmer

Ok, ok, so I know that it isn’t getting that much warmer around here, but we are supposed to have three straight days of 50+ degree weather, which is pretty excited.  Granted, there is the western Pennsylvania spring rain that will come along with it, but I’ll take what I can get.

Since we are about to have a bit of a warm spell, I thought that I would warm up HDR Exposed with a shot from Jamaica, another panorama.  I won’t be posting this one to flickr (at least not right now), but I still think it is a pretty cool shot.

Like I’ve mentioned a few times before, we stayed at the Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios Jamaica and could not have been happier with our choice.  The last couple tropical vacations we took to Punta Cana and Cancun, we certainly more of a party atmosphere.  After planning a wedding for almost two years, especially dealing with the last couple months before the wedding, we were just looking for someone nice and quiet to relax and take some time off.  That’s exactly what we found at Couples Sans Souci.  Sure there was some  partying at night, but with no kids running around and the average age of the other people at the resort a good ten years older than us, we found a nice mix of fun, sun and relaxation.

I’ll be posting a few shots from our trip everyday this week to try to encourage the warm weather to get here faster.  Who knows, maybe it will work.  As for the processing on the panorama, it is a twelve shot pano/vertorama, with six shots for the top and six for the bottom.  Photoshop CS5 did a great job of blending the sky, so I just had to do some minor shadow adjustment.  This is the view of the entire resort, so you can see how small and secluded it is.  It doesn’t share beaches with other resorts, so you didn’t get the peddlers or random people walking through what you were trying to lay on the beach.  Very nice.

Today’s “official” upload is a far cry from the beaches in Jamaica.  This is the Portal Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that is near the Point in downtown Pittsburgh.  I took this the day I took most of my previous uploads, on that Saturday morning that was cold and windy.  I’ve been wanting to capture this bridge for a while, but all of the construction that they’ve been doing around the Point has made it a bit difficult, and I even had to move some signage and construction barrels out of the way for this shot.  It was built in 1961 and connects the tip of downtown Pittsburgh to Point State Park.

On to the processing.  This is a seven exposure HDR processed with HDR Efex under the “Clean” Method.  The lighting was a bit tricky to handle, as, like I’ve said before, the D700 gets a little confused sometimes with white balance from different light sources.  I had to tone down the warm lights coming from the side of the bridge and added an overall desaturation layer.  Applied a Tonal Contrast filter, added some definition in iPhoto and shipped it off to the blog.

Thanks for your visits everyone, they are much appreciated.